Personal attacks and biased moderating: is this what we want on Metafilter? December 1, 2014 9:17 AM   Subscribe

This is in regards to this thread

(Disclaimer: I’ve linked to several comments in the thread to support my statements. These links are examples, not meant to be exhaustive. I don’t necessarily endorse the views of any particular commenter. It is not my intention to attack commenters personally.)

(Additional disclaimer: I wrote this post last Wednesday but the mods wouldn’t post it til today, which is why I don’t cite any comments made after Wedn afternoon.)

In general, I think moderation on Metafilter is outstanding. I know it’s a difficult and often thankless job. However, it seems that moderation of the Ferguson thread is heavily biased such that people who hold certain viewpoints are being excessively reprimanded and/or censored. I’m someone who likes to examine an issue from all sides and listen to what people think, even if I don’t necessarily agree with them. Some of the posts which go against the majority vibe (e.g. 1, 2, 3 ,4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10) are reasonable and well thought out, and yet they elicited a great deal of vitriol and snark (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8) and were even castigated by the mods (1, 2, 3, 4).

Other members have been allowed to sling personal attacks against those holding the non-majority view (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10), seemingly without any consequences from the mods (with the exception of this). In addition, it seems that some comments were deleted (1, 2) when they ran counter to the accepted tone of the thread.

(I of course realize there may have been other comments I didn’t see, and I’m not privy to the behind-the-scenes work that the mods conduct, so my apologies if I’m not seeing the whole picture here. But as long as the mods delete comments, there’s no way for me to see the whole picture.)

I like to think of Metafilter as a place where intelligent folks can come together for reasonable, cordial discussions and to share and explore viewpoints on interesting topics. As long as nobody’s making nutcase racist asshole comments (which I hope none of us want, and none of the comments in question were anything close to this), it’s unfair to create a hostile environment for certain Mefites. Of course some topics will bring strong opinions and emotions, but can’t we handle it like the rational adults we’re supposed to be? Is anyone else disturbed by this? Can the mods perhaps clarify what is going on? I’ve noticed this sort of bias in a few other threads (although admirably very few) but the current Ferguson thread seems very extreme.
posted by phoenix_rising to Etiquette/Policy at 9:17 AM (1396 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

Other members have been allowed to sling personal attacks against those holding the non-majority view

Umm, I went through all of them and only one really I would consider a personal attack. The others are kinda flippant remarks, but I don't see them rising or lowering to the level of a personal attack.
posted by FJT at 9:27 AM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


online discourse is always at least a little dicey. At the very least, it's like going for a bike ride in your immediate neighborhood without a helmet. Something bad might happen. Other more extreme times, it's like taking your bike off road with a load of pure nitroglycerine in your backpack. Something almost certainly will happen unless you're extremely careful. Anything remotely concerned with Ferguson is like the latter and thus, I'm inclined to go with the initial disclaimer here:

In general, I think moderation on Metafilter is outstanding. I know it’s a difficult and often thankless job.
posted by philip-random at 9:28 AM on December 1, 2014


Won't someone think of the concern trolls?
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 9:33 AM on December 1, 2014 [46 favorites]


(Additional disclaimer: I wrote this post last Wednesday but the mods wouldn’t post it til today, which is why I don’t cite any comments made after Wedn afternoon.)

Which, just want to make a quick note here that we do totally appreciate the flexibility. Mods having ruined Thanksgiving weekends is a matter of site lore at this point, and was where the metatalk queue came from in the first place years back, and this year we have both fewer staff and no one who was in a particularly available "I'm doing literally nothing all weekend, bring it on" situation to try and pick up slack; between that and the inordinately fast-moving and emotionally charged Ferguson non-indictment thread itself, taking on a parallel Metatalk about that and moderation going right into the weekend wasn't doable.

Being able to sit with friends and family and eat and drink and talk without having to constantly check my phone or excuse myself to the other room with a laptop for an hour at a time was a pretty big deal for making the whole holiday thing actually feel like a holiday, so thanks for being patient.

posted by cortex (staff) at 9:37 AM on December 1, 2014 [180 favorites]


I do not want personal attacks and biased moderation on MetaFilter, no.

I do not see any personal attacks (well, one, if you kind of stretch it) or biased moderation in those examples, or in that thread (though I did skip huge portions of it in the middle). I did see moderators trying very hard to keep certain posters from stirring up shit in ways that those posters are well known to stir up shit.
posted by jaguar at 9:39 AM on December 1, 2014 [14 favorites]


First of all, thanks for your patience. Last week was as exciting as we ever want a holiday week to be, and it's really helpful to be able to talk about the moderation issues while we're not actually up to our eyebrows in moderation.

There are a couple of issues here. First, the "other members have been allowed to sling personal attacks" problem. The important thing to know here is that we do not leave a mod comment for every deletion. I personally deleted about a dozen personal-attack-style comments before and after the linked note, and, without reading the whole thread, I suspect that's true of everyone else who had a shift while that thread was super active. Most of the time, that sort of thing doesn't require a mod callout, because the people making the comments know very well that they're on or over the line. We don't get 100% of them, especially in a fast-moving thread, because we simply can't keep up.

For the larger issue of people going against the majority view, there are a couple of issues there. The biggest one is that we have a few people who have a particular position, and come in to any thread that even tangentially touches on the issue and construct a defense of their position whether or not it's relevant to the conversation. You do this once, people engage in good faith. You do this once a week for a couple of years, and people start writing everything you say off as "Oh, it's [x] again, doing the [x] dance." This isn't something that can be managed by moderation, even though it's really frustrating when their position is actually relevant and something that would make sense to talk about. This case is particularly notable because we've had a *lot* of Ferguson threads, and we had a couple of people say basically the same things in all of them, and then when it came to the indictment and they were just repeating the same general arguments, no one wanted to hear them any more. And that's a valid response to that cycle.

We expect people to engage with the thread that exists and the people in it, and when everyone's talking about, say, the moral question of the use of lethal force and someone comes in and says (not a quote) "I don't know why you're talking about this, it's obviously legal in that jurisdiction," it comes off as tone-deaf. When it's part of a years-long pattern, it starts to look (and be received as) actively hostile to the conversation and its participants. And so the flags and snark and snappish responses roll in, and we have to moderate them as best we can. Which is, often, by telling the person with the persistent pattern to give it a rest.

The other thing that's worth acknowledging is that Metafilter is not and has never been a politically neutral site. Like attracts like, and the site tends to be left-leaning, socially liberal, majority urban, etc. If you make an argument that is far off from that, you're going to get a lot more people disagreeing with you than if you make an argument that is middle-of-the-road for this community. Because of the linear nature of the site, that looks like a mob with torches and pitchforks even when it happens so fast none of the respondents could have read any of the others' comments. It's also a really hard problem to solve, and we have found the only reliable way to solve it is by cutting off the argument when it seems to have made the rounds and is getting repetitive. This always feels unfair to the minority-view person, because it never, ever looks like they got the last word, but I don't have a better solution.

I've probably missed some points, but I wanted to get this up as a response ASAP. Again, thanks for being patient with us.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 9:40 AM on December 1, 2014 [52 favorites]


I’m someone who likes to examine an issue from all sides and listen to what people think, even if I don’t necessarily agree with them.

MetaFilter is not the right site for you.
posted by 0 at 9:48 AM on December 1, 2014 [38 favorites]


It's sort of weird that you cite a mod note saying that several comments were deleted (with no specifics to their posters or opinions other than "let's not head straight into an argument") and conclude that it was a biased deletion.
posted by kagredon at 9:49 AM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


:/ I get what you are saying. But given that it's a 1300+ comment thread surrounding a very hot issue right now, 4 moderation admonishments, most of which seem directed towards stopping a steamrolling into back and forth indignation slap fight, 10 links to personal attacks wich are, overall fairly mild for online personal attacks, most fall into snark, which is not great but a notch or two below personal attack, even looking at the 8 'vitriol and snark' links ... eh... there's not a lot there, there, I expected more I guess?

Perhaps we just have a different threshold

Which is not me trying to mitigate against your broader point, rather, if that is the worst that can be pulled from 1300+ comments on the Brown shooting, 10 links to counter arguments and 8 snark replies I think we are, in general, ok.

But still, yeah, in general best to avoid useless snark against fellow members if possible (am guilty myself at times)
posted by edgeways at 9:52 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


and yeah, if those were the worst examples of "vitriol and snark" you could find, the Star Wars trailer thread will burn your eyebrows off.
posted by kagredon at 9:52 AM on December 1, 2014 [16 favorites]


I did not follow that thread, but I did click through what you linked above. I don't have an opinion on the propriety of all of the comments in the context of the thread, but I do as to Ironmouth's comment you link. Ironmouth apparently spent a lot of time looking at this from a legal perspective and concluded that the conduct of the Officer was legally justified (which has a definite meaning) and therefore there is no grounds to indict him.

I find it untenable that his participation resulted in a shouting down by a mod with the comment: "[Ironmouth, you have presented your evidence for the legal side of it. If you're not interested in engaging with the rest of the conversation, please feel free to walk away now.]
posted by restless_nomad at 12:05 PM on November 25
"

This to me is a very problematic comment coming from a mod. It implies that a point of view that the conduct in question was legal or that the grand jury's decision was justified is not permissible in that thread. It certainly seems like a reasonable, neutral point of view for a person to have as to the whole tragedy that the lawfulness of the conduct is of central importance. But from the mod's comment, the implication to me is that Ironmouth is either to make moral judgments about what happened or to leave the conversation. That strikes me as inappropriate to so limit the conversation, and a very problematic view to be espoused by a moderator.
posted by dios at 10:02 AM on December 1, 2014 [24 favorites]


I'm not saying I agree or disagree with the tone of some of the personal comments, but a lot of the people who are getting the biggest backlash have a long history of this type of conflict. Whether it's right or wrong is a fair question of moderation, but it's not coming out of nowhere.
posted by Think_Long at 10:05 AM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


Ironmouth made nearly a dozen comments between that first one and restless_nomad's comment, it's pretty unfair to characterize her as being silencing without that full context.

(I do find it mildly amusing how many personal attack links are ones where the personal attack appears to be being called a lawyer.)
posted by kagredon at 10:06 AM on December 1, 2014 [32 favorites]


I don't think that a comment or comments directed at a poster and noting that the poster has a long history of certain kinds of arguments is a personal attack.
posted by rtha at 10:07 AM on December 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


Ironmouth did that shitty thing that lawyers do on the internet because he thinks (like other lawyers) that the dumb lay people can't distinguish between moral and legal and by gum he's gonna set 'em straight. It's biased horseshit if you look through it a bit.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 10:07 AM on December 1, 2014 [34 favorites]


I think Ironmouth's professional opinion was given a decent airing in that thread. But he doesn't operate without history and his history is filled with contention with the more left-wing members of the site. He wasn't told to stop posting, and I think the conversation did continue from there. Personally I learned a lot from that back and forth, which was 100% less noisy than similar exchanges everywhere else on the web.

What I'm saying is: I read that whole thread, and I think the mods did a great job as usual, given that their bias is toward keeping the peace, not purely furthering debate. Every thread isn't for dudes (it's always dudes) to debate nuances. That one in particular was only secondarily for debating of nuances. If you want that, go to debate club.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 10:09 AM on December 1, 2014 [16 favorites]


If that's "vitriol and snark" then, seriously, what isn't? That characterization is so far off the mark that it really seems like it's either a symptom of a major misperception of what's going on, or an attempt to re-argue an (actual, substantive) disagreement by appealing to some bullshit standard of rhetorical good manners rather than by paying attention to the substance.
posted by RogerB at 10:10 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


I like to think of Metafilter as a place where intelligent folks can come together for reasonable, cordial discussions and to share and explore viewpoints on interesting topics.

I say with much love for the site over the 10+ years I've been here: it's probably worth re-calibrating your expectations. It's a pretty homogeneously liberal site, with a strongly US-centric bent, and (I joke, sorta) largely bi-modal between programmers and librarians. It does what it says on the tin. If you're cool with that, it's a great place to be. I'm cool with that, and I like it here. Don't go looking for lively debate with a lot of different viewpoints; look for rousing choruses (and, sometimes, the pleasantly soft chime when the tines of our pitchforks touch).

We have these dust ups every few months, I think. I think the second to last paragraph of r_n's note above ("The other thing that's worth acknowledging is that Metafilter is not and has never been a politically neutral site....") is great, and I think this should be advertised more officially. Though we might theoretically end up with some more trolls, just making a real statement that the site is a lovely lefty site would avoid some amount of confusion.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:12 AM on December 1, 2014 [34 favorites]


But from the mod's comment, the implication to me is that Ironmouth is either to make moral judgments about what happened or to leave the conversation. That strikes me as inappropriate to so limit the conversation, and a very problematic view to be espoused by a moderator.

Ironmouth kept arguing the legal point with the implication that everyone else was wrong for arguing the moral point. It seemed to be him trying to shut down the larger conversation by insisting that his point was more important than anyone else's.
posted by jaguar at 10:17 AM on December 1, 2014 [40 favorites]


I got the impression that the mods knew there were a lot of heightened emotions on the issue and wanted to let the thread be almost a place for people to vent their sorrow/anger with what is happening in Ferguson, and the US as a whole. I haven't been here as long as most but it was novel for me, and I wished there was a space for people to discuss/argue the nuances because that thread clearly wasn't it, and we need places where people can discuss these nuances in good faith. And yes, while I may not agree with a lot of what they say, I do think that mefites like Ironmouth or Corb do post in good faith on this site.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:19 AM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


To clarify, I consider name-calling ("droog," "racist," "idiot," etc), or calling out specific people to be ignored, and so on are personal attacks. You can use a different label if you like, but that's what I meant. Such things are not constructive.

Full disclosure, since this seems to matter to some people: I'm a liberal, I vote Democrat (less of the 2 evils, y'know) and I think this is a tragic situation that hopefully will lead to much-needed reforms on how police can and cannot engage with people and use force. My post here is strictly about how the thread was handled.

I don't necessarily agree/disagree with corb, IronMouth, or others who were targeted. My beef is with the vitriol and biased moderation that is present in the thread.
posted by phoenix_rising at 10:20 AM on December 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


And Ironmouth was pretty much just echoing the legal views of the DA here, many other legal experts weighed in (maybe not here, but elsewhere) with opposite findings. Matters of law aren't so cut and dry as lawyers making heavy handed points on the internet would like you to believe.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 10:20 AM on December 1, 2014 [36 favorites]


It implies that a point of view that the conduct in question was legal or that the grand jury's decision was justified is not permissible in that thread.

I read the mod note differently. What was problematic wasn't making the argument about legalities. This argument has continued to be made later in the thread. The problem was the repetitive circularity of the conversation that refused to engage the questions raised by others, offering instead reiterations of positions that do nothing to acknowledge those questions let alone explain disagreement.

As for "reasonable, cordial discussions," I think two points are important to keep in mind. First, these standards are not objective and mean different things to different people. Second, appeals to reasonable discussion that do not acknowledge the context of power differentials will get pushback. (Interestingly enough, supporting my first point, the people doing the pushback can see the pushback as reasonable and those receiving the pushback see it as unreasonable). Cordiality and reasonableness are often defined by privileged groups so that people treated unfairly (such as those targeted by racist laws) can be disparaged as unreasonable simply for demanding they get fair treatment (the classic example here is King's "Letter from Birmingham Jail").
posted by audi alteram partem at 10:21 AM on December 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


Sorry restless_nomad, I missed your comment before mine. I think this the point that I find surprising:

It's also a really hard problem to solve, and we have found the only reliable way to solve it is by cutting off the argument when it seems to have made the rounds and is getting repetitive.

Extrapolating from that, I guess your point is that Ironmouth made his case and needed to "be cut off" because people were arguing with him.

Looking back, I find this comment from you to be precisely the type of comment that I would applaud:
[Keep in mind that conflating "moral" and "legal", especially while discussing things with lawyers, usually leads to confusion and anger all around. Please be really clear about what you're talking about, on both sides. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 11:46 AM on November 25

If that was the problem going on there, that comment seems like a great way to handle it. If people are not heeding that warning, I think that seems like fair warning for deletion. If people refused it, I find it regrettable that the end result is to tell Ironmouth to walk away because others couldn't handle the distinction you point out.
posted by dios at 10:21 AM on December 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


To clarify, I consider name-calling ("droog," "racist," "idiot," etc),

Are you fucking kidding me? "Droog" is name-calling?
posted by tonycpsu at 10:23 AM on December 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


Ironmouth and Corb have an extensive history of monopolizing threads with extended back-and-forths with other members. It's not like its the first trip to the rodeo for those two, nor is it likely to be the last. I don't think the site is suffering from an Ironmouth and corb deficiency.
posted by empath at 10:24 AM on December 1, 2014 [58 favorites]


I think the second to last paragraph of r_n's note above ("The other thing that's worth acknowledging is that Metafilter is not and has never been a politically neutral site....") is great, and I think this should be advertised more officially.

Nah, r_n's point is one of demography, not mission statement: Metafilter isn't left-leaning or US-centric as a matter of political will, it just sort of ended up having a lot of folks who fall into that demographic bucket and, as she said, like attracts like. We're not going to start putting "Metafilter: A Place For Lefties" out there in any capacity.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:24 AM on December 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


This is a difficult Meta because on the one hand I do kind of feel like reasonable opinions were being shut down in the thread. (See my comment saying corb's post was fine in the thread.) Here's the thing though, both corb and IM have a history on this site that has been at times a bit problematic so the mods were probably taking that into account a bit.

Ironmouth came in kind of axe grinding about how his comments would be received. There was a big old heap of, "What has happened to this place?" included. He has not been happy about the reception he gets on this topic for a long while now. I think if he hadn't let his frustration come out and maybe slowed down his pace he would have been fine.

The thing is, one of his complaints is that people don't realize he is talking strictly about the legal issues. Sometimes he is right to make that complaint. On the other hand though, there are times where he looks kind of blockheaded when he can't understand the reasons why other people aren't joining him in seeing the topic that way. See the repeated insistence that it was a mistake to rally around Brown when there are less problematic legal cases out there. The protestors did not choose to rally around him because of the quality of his legal case. A lot of people are incredibly skeptical of the police and the legal system and they aren't relying on it to make up their mind. Protests don't spring up out of a good case, they spring out of emotion.

He should work on understanding that not every conversation is strictly a legal one, and as someone who did snark at him in the thread, we should work on more productive engagement. It's a frustrating topic for all sides though, so it's understandable that both commentators and mods will not handle it 100% perfectly.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:25 AM on December 1, 2014 [27 favorites]


Feel free to look back in Metatalk and you can find many similar complaints.

Mods will allow all sorts of derogatory name calling if it supports certain viewpoints. That's just how it is.
posted by Setec Astronomy at 10:26 AM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


The thing is, one of his complaints is that people don't realize he is talking strictly about the legal issues.

He likes to pretend that he's taking a strictly legal, unbiased, just-the-facts view on the matter, because he's a lawyer and so knows what he's talking about, but he's not an unbiased participant. He's a paid defense attorney/spokesman for police officers.
posted by empath at 10:27 AM on December 1, 2014 [56 favorites]


My beef is with the vitriol

Vitriol and snark are going to be categories with a certain amount of grey area in them. For instance, you linked to this comment as an example of vitriol or snark. It's short so I'll quote it in its entirety: As is your focus on that small set of opportunistic looters.

This one is also short: Or Darren Wilson's. Funny that he's credible, but Johnson isn't.

If that's vitriol or snark then I guess we have really different settings for such.
posted by rtha at 10:28 AM on December 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


In other words, his participation here is meant to influence public perceptions of what is legally acceptable behavior for police to engage in. He's not trying to come to a fair conclusion based on the facts at hand.
posted by empath at 10:29 AM on December 1, 2014 [16 favorites]


"Droog" is name-calling?

"Racist" is likewise not an insult. It is not a good thing to be, of course, but calling someone's views racist or saying someone with other views would be a racist is not an insult, and treating calling out racism as a matter of etiquette is a good way to enable racism.
posted by jaguar at 10:31 AM on December 1, 2014 [41 favorites]


I guess your point is that Ironmouth made his case and needed to "be cut off" because people were arguing with him.

I think her point (please correct me if I am wrong) was that after a certain point continuing to grind away on the "But it was legal" argument when people are actively talking about that and other issues is making the thread necessarily be all about your particular arguments and not engaging with other people's arguments. If the only way you can engage in a thread is by continuing to return to your own analysis over and over again without engaging other people except to tell them that they are wrong, you are making the thread more difficult than it needs to be and you are making it about you only. This doesn't scale and it's a wonder this site can even tolerate the small number of people who do continue to do this.

This is a lot less about the factual content of Ironmouth's comments and much more about the way he was presenting them. There are many users who have viewpoints that run against what people would consider "mainstream" for MetaFilter and they engage here with many fewer problems. It should be okay for a mod to say "Hey you're doing that thing again" and have that be a gentle reminder to maybe ease off on that thing without having to step in and delete comments or give people time outs.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:32 AM on December 1, 2014 [42 favorites]


I certainly have no intention of carrying water for Ironmouth or whatever point he was making. Though I have litigated excessive force cases (and have a pending 1983 excessive force case right now in which I represent the estate of someone beaten to death in custody), I have not followed the evidence closely enough to know what happened or form any conclusions specific to the case of Wilson/Brown. So don't assume that I am advocating or defending Ironmouth's position on that. But I certainly have had the experience of discussing the legality of a topic and having people unfairly attack me from a purely moral point of view. Thus, like anyone else, I approach this through the optics of my prior experience in threads in which legal topics arise (as that that thread seemed to be, as its primary link is the grand jury's decision).

He should work on understanding that not every conversation is strictly a legal one

This is true, but certainly the ones that are about courts, laws, grand juries, and criminality are legal topics and ones that benefit from a focus on the law, right?
posted by dios at 10:33 AM on December 1, 2014 [13 favorites]


My beef is with the vitriol

My beef is with the murder.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:34 AM on December 1, 2014 [23 favorites]


This is a lot less about the factual content of Ironmouth's comments and much more about the way he was presenting them.

I think he could have participate in the thread expressing largely the same positions if he didn't approach it in such a dishonest way. If he was clear about his self-interest in the case and similar cases and didn't present it as an authoritative, unbiased answer from On High, and actually responded to specific criticisms of his arguments instead of restating his case in much the same way repeatedly, it would have been far less objectionable.
posted by empath at 10:37 AM on December 1, 2014 [19 favorites]


If the only way you can engage in a thread is by continuing to return to your own analysis over and over again without engaging other people except to tell them that they are wrong, you are making the thread more difficult than it needs to be and you are making it about you only.

Time to trot out my three-strikes rule again: if I repeat myself three times, I need to bow out of the thread. It's a hard lesson to learn, but it's better for both the site and the individual Mefite, because those arguments where one person repeats themself because someone is Just Not Getting It are hella frustrating for participants as well as viewers.

(Also, FWIW, I have been dipping in and out of that thread and other than the IM back and forth, I thought it was going pretty well for a thread on a topic that contentious.)
posted by immlass at 10:42 AM on December 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


This is true, but certainly the ones that are about courts, laws, grand juries, and criminality are legal topics and ones that benefit from a focus on the law, right?

Correcting for time and place and mood and a sense of one's own footprint in a discussion. Talking a little bit in that thread about legal specifics is fine and I don't think anybody would have blinked if Ironmouth had done that in a "here's some context from my perspective, about some of the legal rather than moral question of justifiable force in the law as it stands" way and then left it alone. But that's not what he did, and he did not leave it alone after saying his piece and seeing that people weren't feeling overly receptive, and this is not remotely a new thing for him.

So I think it's an unreasonably narrow read of the situation to treat it as a question of whether legal discussions are relevant to a discussion about a grand jury, rather than as a question of whether how and how much he pursued that angle to the exclusion of everything else that makes up the context of this specific grand jury process, what's been going on in and around Ferguson for the last several months, and how that's played out on Metafilter itself.

To fail to recognize that context and just bull on ahead is to create a strong sense of self-involved "Well, actually..." gameplay rather than thoughtful conversation, even if the skeleton of the comments are based in legal experiences. To fail to recognize that even when it's a huge recurring issue that he's been talked to about previously is frustrating as hell to deal with. That we're not super patient when he starts into it yet again should be understandable, and as something other than general mod hostility toward law-centric comments.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:42 AM on December 1, 2014 [16 favorites]


but certainly the ones that are about courts, laws, grand juries, and criminality are legal topics and ones that benefit from a focus on the law, right?

Sure, and after eleven comments in half an hour, I'd say that part of the topic was focused. Otherwise, what cortex just said. This is a thing he does. He should do less of that thing. He didn't have comments deleted (at that point) he was just asked to ease off.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 10:44 AM on December 1, 2014 [14 favorites]


it seems that some comments were deleted (1, 2) when they ran counter to the accepted tone of the thread.

Yeah, the mods deleted a whole slew of comments responding to Ironmouth. My favorite was probably "Oh look, lawful evil has made its regular appearance", but there were a bunch more that got axed in order to keep the thread from turning into people focusing on the lawyer who decided to pop in and defend the man that shot an unarmed teenager until he bled out on the street.
posted by Greg Nog at 10:45 AM on December 1, 2014 [74 favorites]

Sys Rq: My beef is with the vitriol

My beef is with the murder.
Then you're in the wrong thread. Luckily, there's a Metafilter FPP on it you can contribute to.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:48 AM on December 1, 2014 [19 favorites]


Sorry about all the clauses in that last sentence, please do not try to diagram it
posted by Greg Nog at 10:48 AM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


Sorry about all the clauses in that last sentence, please do not try to diagram it

it's a pretty dedicated lawyer who continues a defense while dying
posted by kagredon at 10:50 AM on December 1, 2014 [32 favorites]


If the only way you can engage in a thread is by continuing to return to your own analysis over and over again without engaging other people except to tell them that they are wrong

I understand this is a difficult moderation conundrum. Perhaps it is unfair for Ironmouth to argue that the legality of the situation is dispositive; surely then it is also unfair for others to argue that the morality of the situation is dispositive? Insisting "But it is legal" is no more or less monopolizing than insisting "But it is morally wrong" as a perspective. It seems Ironmouth has much of a right to focus exclusively on the legality of the situation as other people have to insist that the morality of it is what is important and ignore the legality of it.

It is not surprising that people may approach a difficult topic from a number of angles and assume their angle is the correct one. Short of convincing the person otherwise, each person is going to return to what the perceive to be the correct way of looking at that issue. So, my guess is that the only moderation solution is to insist that others respect other people's right to their opinions and to meet them on their own terms or not at all. restless_nomad's other comment I applauded tries to do that. People should be clear as to what perspective they approach a topic and met on those terms if someone wishes to have a discussion with them. Otherwise it is ships passing each other in the night (though often loudly and disruptingly).

On preview:

This is a thing he does. He should do less of that thing.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:44 PM on December 1

when it's a huge recurring issue that he's been talked to about previously is frustrating as hell to deal with
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:42 PM on December 1


This explanation is more understandable. If this is more about a particular person and a recurring issue as I assume it is based on both of your comments, that's not anything I have an understanding about so I cannot really comment on that. My comments above were addressed outside that context. So perhaps there is no issue.
posted by dios at 10:51 AM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


jaguar: "Ironmouth kept arguing the legal point with the implication that everyone else was wrong for arguing the moral point. It seemed to be him trying to shut down the larger conversation by insisting that his point was more important than anyone else's."

I don't think that was the case at all. Ironmouth, and a few other lawyer types here, have excellent discipline at separating the legal from the moral. This comes across in a very offputting way, I think, because people who approach the legal system from a perspective of rules and processes focus on that, rather than the moral and ethical points.

I stopped getting vexed at these comments because they're essentially saying "of course he got off. That's what the law says happens. Officer Wilson said the words that the law requires him to say in the court to justify deadly force. Once that force was exercised, the law says it doesn't matter if there's one bullet or a hundred. The legal justification is there regardless. Your complaint is with the system. Your complaint is with the prosecutor and the legislators who put these laws into place, and who chose to enact them in the way they did."

I think it's hard for people who are passionate to see that. I don't think there's a good analogy for this type of interaction because the stakes are so high, and people tend to want to express their dissatisfaction in a way that is personally satisfying first and, perhaps, efficacious in reform (or justice?) a distant second. Maybe people realize the Ferguson deck is so stacked against change that the idea of changing the laws and local actors becomes a blind spot. It's also naturally abhorrent to think of this incident and believe that the best we can do societally and culturally is to prevent that from happening again. People who believe in justice want it applied equally and consistently and, sometimes, without concern for the system that dispenses it. Those who work within that system might sympathize with that idea because it looks like complete anarchy from the inside.

I don't know how to calmly disentangle the moral failure of Ferguson with the legal system that made it happen, but I appreciate the people who do that work when they say, however obliquely, that our intents and our passions don't line up well.
posted by boo_radley at 10:55 AM on December 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


oh, hello, dios.
posted by boo_radley at 10:56 AM on December 1, 2014


I think it's hard for people who are passionate to see that.

No, I'm perfectly capable of seeing that. That was not the problem.
posted by jaguar at 11:00 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth's passion definitely blinds him in certain ways.
posted by rtha at 11:04 AM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


The cited personal attacks are pretty mild attacks. If that's going to get someone upset I'd say they shouldn't be on the internet.

I'd delete the comment calling someone an idiot, but the rest are fine. Being critical of someone's views may seem like an attack, but it's not.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:06 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


rtha: "Ironmouth's passion definitely blinds him in certain ways."

zing!

Having caught up on the thread since I started my comment, I see that Jessamyn's shed a little light on some inside baseball. Eleven comments in 30 minutes is a lot and would definitely suck a lot of oxygen out of the room for general chat.
posted by boo_radley at 11:10 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth....excellent discipline at separating the legal from the moral.

I don't know if that's really the case. He sometimes says things that suggest to me he honestly does not see how any other perspective but the legal could be relevant:

I really do not see why this case was picked. It was bad. The decedent had (on video) robbed an convenience store moments before the shooting. Witnesses put forward by the family had him engaging the officer physically. The officer had heard a 911 call regarding the convenience store, called for backup and went to affect an arrest. Brown fought him. He was leaving the scene of a felony.

These facts make for a very poor case to start the national conversation because, frankly, the shooting was justified.


Does he really not understand why this case was "picked" for the national conversation? If so, it seems like a major blind spot to me in regards to this topic, not a conscious choice to focus on the legal aspects.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:10 AM on December 1, 2014 [21 favorites]


>>>My beef is with the vitriol
>>My beef is with the murder.
>Then you're in the wrong thread. Luckily, there's a Metafilter FPP on it you can contribute to.


My point: The vitriol is not difficult to understand. People are very angry for very obvious and very justified reasons.

Bonus point: I don't understand how someone can say the mods are biased against these same actors who seem to show up in every thread about anything contentious to pour gas on the fire. The mods have been incredibly patient and hands off with those users for years. That those users haven't been banned by now is nothing short of a miracle.
posted by Sys Rq at 11:12 AM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


One definitely needed to make the Right Kind of Comment. "Advance Auto Parts is being burned for great justice" was not the Right Kind of Comment, I discovered.
posted by Tanizaki at 11:15 AM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


Ironmouth....excellent discipline at separating the legal from the moral.

I think you're ceding ground that needn't be ceded here. There are plenty of other lawyers and legal experts who have offered differing opinions on the legal issues at stake.
posted by empath at 11:20 AM on December 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


My main complaint about Ironmouth's contributions to the thread is that his objective legal "facts" were verifiably wrong, as was pointed out later in the thread. Forget the "I look at the legal framework, not the moral framework" stuff; his legal framework was nonsense. But that's probably not germane to this particular discussion about deletions.
posted by naju at 11:25 AM on December 1, 2014 [18 favorites]


This is a bit off topic, but I think I should say it. Ironmouth and I do not see eye to eye about most anything. However, we have communicated offline several times. I deal with lawyers nearly every week (alas!) And I can say that, although his rhetoric might need some attenuation, his forensics are exactly the kind of real world counterbalance this sites often needs. Also, he is far more multidimensional and compassionate, at least in his correspondence with me, than most people think. I say this as a card carrying commie pinko lefty (who happens to work in a very right wing industry). Having an attorney functioning at a very high level (something I am extremely capable of judging) willing to chime in here it not something to be taken so lightly for granted regardless of his sometimes less-than-tactful approach.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:26 AM on December 1, 2014 [20 favorites]


Being critical of someone's views may seem like an attack, but it's not.

There was a MeTa a while back in which members of this site said that someone's personal views and ideas were exactly as part of them as anything else, and criticizing someone's beliefs was the same as physical violence.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:27 AM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


I didn't start this Metatalk and I wouldn't have done so, but I do feel like there is a basis for it.

For instance, I was accused of "staking out a single defensible contrarian position in a sea of injustice" which I think is BS. If I post 10 things and 9 of them agree with the majority and 1 doesn't, that doesn't mean I'm staking out a single contrarian position, it means we agree on 90% of things but people don't tend to argue about the things they agree on and you don't notice them as much.

Also I wish people were more careful distinguishing between "this is how I think things are" and "this is how I think things should be".
posted by Justinian at 11:27 AM on December 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


Drinky Die: See my comment saying corb's post was fine in the thread.

And I disagreed with you, and still do. restless_nomad's characterization of it as an effort to drum up sympathy didn't come out of nowhere.

This comment in particular was overt apologia with a thin veneer of cultural criticism. The message is one of moral relativism -- that somehow Wilson and Brown's different upbringings provide a justification for Wilson's actions. She frames it with ridiculous assertions like "Wilson, living a quieter, more middle class white existence, is not culturally aware of normative dislike of the police.", as if he'd just been thawed out from a cryogenic freeze that morning. Then she says "Wilson clearly believes that all law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear from the police - an ignorant belief, but not a malicious one", which ignores the simple fact that it's 100% law enforcement's responsibility, as employees of the communities they serve, to understand the culture they're operating within, and not at all the community's responsibility to adjust to being policed in ways that go against their expectations.

There's a whole bunch of other misleading stuff in there that I'm loath to get into for fear of re-litigating the shooting itself rather than the meta-aspect of how corb's comments were received, but really, I don't think it was a reasonable comment to make, and I think the backlash and moderator intervention were appropriate.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:29 AM on December 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


[Folks, just a reminder, we don't delete stuff in MeTa that isn't pretty egregious, so flagging doesn't do much. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:29 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the mods deleted a whole slew of comments responding to Ironmouth.

Which, if you think about it, kind of disproves the whole "mods are biased when they decide what to delete" argument.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:31 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


It seems Ironmouth has much of a right to focus exclusively on the legality of the situation as other people have to insist that the morality of it is what is important and ignore the legality of it.

And what do you, or phoenix_rising who opened this meta, propose happen when that comes to pass and both "sides" are never the less engaging with the other? Let things degenerate into a back-and-forth with people repeatedly aiming at different targets and then yelling at the other for not hitting the target they themselves were aiming at?

I think the mods did well enough here. There was one corb comment I recall seeing get memory-holed that I thought was a mistake to kill but I was in the pit, not trying to police it from the outside. Since she came back with a similar one with some overlapping content I assumed she didn't lose any sleep over it.

The issue I think the mods are wrestling with here is when those "sides" choose to deliberately shoot at a different target and seem to be very willfully pretending they're talking about the same thing. The thread didn't lack for people discussing the legal difficulty that Ironmouth raised, but he was the one making very deliberate word choices which muddied the water about "justice" and "right." He's not a stupid person by a mile, so after a dozen efforts pushing with angle without acknowledging that it's not exactly the same subject being raised by others it certainly reads like a deliberate effort to make the discourse worse, not better.
posted by phearlez at 11:33 AM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


"Advance Auto Parts is being burned for great justice" was not the Right Kind of Comment, I discovered.

Well...yeah. Jesus.
posted by duffell at 11:34 AM on December 1, 2014 [21 favorites]


which ignores the simple fact that it's 100% law enforcement's responsibility, as employees of the communities they serve, to understand the culture they're operating within, and not at all the community's responsibility to adjust to being policed in ways that go against their expectations.

I didn't see why corb's comment should have been read as a defense of Wilson other then an assumption of concern trolling. It was an explanation of how she thought he went wrong. How is it ignoring his responsibilities to point out how he failed in them?
posted by Drinky Die at 11:34 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Advance Auto Parts is being burned for great justice" was not the Right Kind of Comment, I discovered.

whoever could've guessed?

such silenced all life

very mod bias

wow
posted by kagredon at 11:35 AM on December 1, 2014 [29 favorites]


My main complaint about Ironmouth's contributions to the thread is that his objective legal "facts" were verifiably wrong

Yeah, he has a tendency to present his personal opinions as though they're settled law.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 11:36 AM on December 1, 2014 [24 favorites]


My comment was deleted. I was silenced all my life.

I was critical of concern trolls.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:37 AM on December 1, 2014


Yeah, he has a tendency to present his personal opinions as though they're settled law

There is, alas very little that is actually "settled law." At least not in a country with common law.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:38 AM on December 1, 2014


> He's a paid defense attorney/spokesman for police officers... In other words, his participation here is meant to influence public perceptions of what is legally acceptable behavior for police to engage in

That's quite an accusation. I mean, we all want to influence public perception, but you're implying that he's doing it only for the money and not because it's what he honestly believes.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:40 AM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


he has a tendency to present his personal opinions as though they're settled law.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:36 PM on December 1


Wait, are you telling me someone is wrong on the internet?

If you are making a form or tone argument, that's one thing. But 99.5% of the discussion on this site is people making declarative statements without any concession of the possibility that they might be wrong. Not sure that is a valid criticism to make that a particular person is worthy of derision because he or she states an opinion as if it is absolute truth.

If what he said is legally incorrect and you understand the issue well enough to conclude that and have a desire to discuss it, then meet him on his own terms and do so. Your conclusion that he might be wrong ought not foreclose his right to state his opinion. Nor should you develop or exhibit personal animus for someone because you think their interpretation of the law is incorrect.
posted by dios at 11:42 AM on December 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


There is, alas very little that is actually "settled law."

When it comes to whether the laws you're confidently citing as a legal expert have been ruled unconstitutional, though, that's pretty settled. Kinda important bedrock of this nation's legal system. Oops.
posted by naju at 11:43 AM on December 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


It was an explanation of how she thought he went wrong.

On the contrary, every "Wilson did X" in that comment is supported by something in his "world view" that made it appropriate to do X. His beliefs are "ignorant", but not "malicious", even though those beliefs led to an unnecessary escalation of force. He worked in that community for years, but is supposed to be treated as if he'd never encountered anyone from the community. Hell, she even says "he believes that only criminals run", even though Brown had by Wilson's own account already been shot at by the time he was running! (Again, I don't want to drag this into a derail that will get the "take it to the blue" treatment, but I think these details are important in contextualizing why I feel it wasn't an appropriate comment.)
posted by tonycpsu at 11:44 AM on December 1, 2014


What makes a comment inappropriate rather than simply incorrect?
posted by Justinian at 11:45 AM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


I didn't see why corb's comment should have been read as a defense of Wilson

How was it anything but? It was entirely speculative bullshit in which benefit of the doubt was given to one person: The cop, who is still alive. She did this in the Zimmerman thread(s) as well - came up with increasingly ridiculous scenarios in order to try to show why shooting an unarmed black man is justified. It's tiresome and sickening.
posted by rtha at 11:46 AM on December 1, 2014 [38 favorites]


When it comes to whether the law you're confidently citing as a legal expert are constitutional or not, though, that's pretty settled. Kinda important bedrock of this nation's legal system. Oops.
posted by naju at 1:43 PM on December 1


This is the second time I have seen this in this thread, and I haven't a clue what Ironmouth said or what this constitutional issue is. But assuming what you are saying is true, why is this not the appropriate response:

"Ironmouth, isn't that statute unconstitutional according to Kirschner v. State?"

Something like that is a way to engage in a dialogue on the merits without ugliness.
posted by dios at 11:46 AM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


...are legal topics and ones that benefit from a focus on the law, right?

A productive, focused discussion on the law would require engagement with positions critical of the racism inherent in our legal system.

There doesn't need to be agreement on the point, but part of the problem in these discussions is that people come at them with conflicts in fundamental assumptions (e.g. colorblind law vs. racist law), and these conflicts need to be unpacked and discussed. Instead, those assumptions can remain unspoken and as such contribute to friction especially when assumptions that support a racist system resist open discussion.
posted by audi alteram partem at 11:47 AM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


dios,

The way Ironmouth was behaving in that thread would suggest that the answer to this:

"Ironmouth, isn't that statute unconstitutional according to Kirschner v. State?"

would be "No and there are no lawyers who think it is and they all agree with me, a lawyer"
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:48 AM on December 1, 2014 [21 favorites]


Justinian: What makes a comment inappropriate rather than simply incorrect?

In my view? When it consistently demonstrates sympathy toward one party (the party with the gun) in ways that don't comport with the known facts at the time. The mods' view likely has less to do with the sentiment expressed and more to do with the effect those kind of comments have on the discussion, but I'll let them speak for themselves.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:49 AM on December 1, 2014


(By the way, Kirschner v. State was a made up name. I have no idea is there is such a case. It was placeholder case name for whatever case that is being referred to. Just want to be clear lest someone start googling that case or thinking that I am commenting on the merits of the issue.)
posted by dios at 11:51 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


dios, people were engaging like that. I'm not sure why you keep arguing hypotheticals here, though; I'm finding it confusing.
posted by jaguar at 11:52 AM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


empath: "I think you're ceding ground that needn't be ceded here. There are plenty of other lawyers and legal experts who have offered differing opinions on the legal issues at stake."

People sure love editing that sentence.

naju: "My main complaint about Ironmouth's contributions to the thread is that his objective legal "facts" were verifiably wrong, as was pointed out later in the thread."

This one of the precision and discipline things that I referenced. The "facts" weren't his, they were presented by the prosecutor's office, which he reviewed in a professional capacity. As a professional, he extended in his consideration the courtesy to the prosecutor to suppose the presentation of Missouri law given was timely and accurate. This isn't unusual for professionals to do. The fact that good journalism later revealed this error (malfeasance? malpractice?) doesn't give him the ability to go back and undo his comment. It's kind of a gotcha to claim that he (or anybody not in the prosecutor's office) should know that in his armchair analysis.

Suppose somebody came to me as a professional developer and asked me to examine a server spec for a web server. 32GB of RAM, 16 2.1 GHz cores, fc networking. My assessment is that's a good looking web server. If that person later on implements a web server with 4GB and two 1.1 GHz cores and complains that it crashes constantly, that's not my problem -- I was given invalid data. The onus is on the implementer.
posted by boo_radley at 11:52 AM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Something like that is a way to engage in a dialogue on the merits without ugliness.

Sure, I think engaging is good. I even think most awful comments should be forced to stand in the cold light of day. Though not being a mod, I absolutely defer to their knowledge and expertise about deletions and pruning conversations so that they're productive and readable.

I'm merely offering pushback to the notion that this guy was offering commendable legal analysis and we're all just too blinded by our morals to see his objective, unquestionable truth.
posted by naju at 11:54 AM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


"No and there are no lawyers who think it is and they all agree with me, a lawyer."

Believe it or not, that argument works just fine, globally, when dealing with international bankruptcies and vessel arrests. In fact, it is a feature, not a bug.

However, audi alter partem has it right: the facts of the law are one thing; whether or not the law is just is entirely another thing, and that was the problem with that thread.
posted by digitalprimate at 11:54 AM on December 1, 2014


On the contrary, every "Wilson did X" in that comment is supported by something in his "world view" that made it appropriate to do X. His beliefs are "ignorant", but not "malicious", even though those beliefs led to an unnecessary escalation of force.

I don't know what to tell you at this point, I agree with her that Wilson (And Zimmerman) reacted out of misunderstanding and fear and background cultural racism and not malicious intent. They thought they were doing the right and necessary thing. That isn't a defense, I think they should both be in jail. It's an attempt to identify the problem that needs solving in the same way I will discuss the potential background causes of any other crime.

People assume the worst from corb and make sport of shouting her down even when she makes perfectly reasonable comments. I think this is just another situation where that occurred.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:54 AM on December 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


Believe it or not, that argument works just fine, globally, when dealing with international bankruptcies and vessel arrests. In fact, it is a feature, not a bug.

That's great and all, but this is not international bankruptcy.
posted by kagredon at 11:55 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I honestly don't know if there is another side to this topic, ironically being referred to in this thread as the minority position.

If something is institutionalized, its very probably legally enabled.

Getting on almost 10 years now of watching metafilter, I'd say if the mods are biased, its towards maintaining a semblance of peaceful discourse. Yes, there are times when I've felt censored or silenced all my life, but in today's panopticon, the smaller the target you present to draw fire, the better the chances for your longer term survival on the horizon.

And, uh, firefox, time you added panopticon to your dictionary, its not optician.
posted by infini at 11:56 AM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


As a professional, he extended in his consideration the courtesy to the prosecutor to suppose the presentation of Missouri law given was timely and accurate. This isn't unusual for professionals to do.

That I'm not buying, because Tennessee v. Garner is not some piddly obscure case that an attorney who specializes in police conduct issues would need to have pointed out to him. In the server-spec analogy, somebody has just asked you to examine their plan to run a web server with two abacuses and a S'More as the central processor.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:56 AM on December 1, 2014 [13 favorites]


background cultural racism and not malicious intent.

If acting on "background cultural racism" with a firearm isn't "malicious intent", then yeah, we're at an impasse.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:56 AM on December 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


I don't know what to tell you at this point, I agree with her that Wilson (And Zimmerman) reacted out of misunderstanding and fear and background cultural racism and not malicious intent.
[...]People assume the worst from corb and make sport of shouting her down even when she makes perfectly reasonable comments.


Corb was stating things that were, at best, speculation, in order to paint Wilson in the most positive light possible. She's allowed to do that, of course, and people are allowed to disagree with her, and to my eye, that's pretty much what happened.
posted by kagredon at 11:59 AM on December 1, 2014


> People assume the worst from corb and make sport of shouting her down even when she makes perfectly reasonable comments. I think this is just another situation where that occurred

Taken on its own, any one of her comments is probably reasonable. Hell, I've even favorited some myself. But her comments are always reasonable for only one side, and they often contain things that aren't true, and they continue even after she's been asked to stop restating her reasonable opinion over and over.

For example this one, where she presumes that Wilson had a quiet, middle class childhood, when (if you'll pardon a Daily Mail link) that doesn't seem to be a case and the only reason to think it is is because he's a white cop.
posted by The corpse in the library at 12:01 PM on December 1, 2014 [25 favorites]


That's great and all, but this is not international bankruptcy.

True, I only meant that lawyers gonna lawyer, and sometimes that's morally good and sometimes not. But it is their nature, so best to benefit from the legal aspects per se it when possible.

Also happy almost birthday we share!
posted by digitalprimate at 12:02 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


frankly I'm pretty okay with it if Mefi's commenting culture is less inclined to tolerate the "but looting is the real problem", "Mike Brown was a thug", "it's totally okay to drive a car through a crowd of protestors", "Wilson was fearing for his life from an unarmed teenager". If you are someone who wishes to hear more about these opinions and feel they are not getting a fair hearing here, might I suggest anywhere else on the internet or perhaps cable news.

happy almost-birthday digitalprimate
posted by kagredon at 12:03 PM on December 1, 2014 [34 favorites]


Believe it or not, that argument works just fine, globally, when dealing with international bankruptcies and vessel arrests. In fact, it is a feature, not a bug.

Does it work when many lawyers disagree or we aren't in a fucking courtroom?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:05 PM on December 1, 2014


People assume the worst from corb

I think this is the natural result of a commenting history so consistently dotted with "Well, the slaveowners weren't bad people," "Well, the Confederates weren't bad people," "Well, the Southerners who set up and enforced Jim Crow weren't bad people," and so on. Not to mention that these points are usually argued at length and very poorly. But this dynamic has been discussed many times before and is unlikely to change anytime soon.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:05 PM on December 1, 2014 [44 favorites]


If acting on "background cultural racism" with a firearm isn't "malicious intent", then yeah, we're at an impasse.

Background cultural racism makes people believe young black men are scary. It makes cops think the 12 year old they shot was actually a 20 year old. This isn't a conscious thought, it's just there in the back of the head. I believe that Wilson and Zimmerman shot because they were in fear for their lives. I don't believe their fear was reasonable, and I do believe they irresponsibly put themselves in a vulnerable position. I don't believe they shot out of an intent to do evil, they shot because they were in a state of fear and panic. I don't call that malicious intent because they didn't intend that outcome. That doesn't make it remotely okay.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:07 PM on December 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


kagredon: Oh, I'm totally ok with the moderating and mostly ok with the commenting (although there are some sore spots), but in this particular case, I think ironmouth was held up to be an apologist for a blatantly racist system, which I think he did not intend to be. Just saying that the more we understand the underpinnings of the system, the more we're enabled to change it.

And Misantropicpainforest, despite your username which I've always loved, I'm trying to point out that there's a benefit of understanding the actual legal framework that allows these abominations of justice, so yes, it needs to eventually happen in a, "fucking courtroom."
posted by digitalprimate at 12:10 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


I think this is the natural result of a commenting history so consistently dotted with "Well, the slaveowners weren't bad people," "Well, the Confederates weren't bad people," "Well, the Southerners who set up and enforced Jim Crow weren't bad people," and so on.

Based on what I have seen of how people frame her comments, I would not be surprised if some of the subtlety involved in those comments is not coming through in the paraphrase.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:14 PM on December 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


People assume the worst from corb and make sport of shouting her down even when she makes perfectly reasonable comments. I think this is just another situation where that occurred.

For what it's worth, I've had memail conversations with corb trying to get to the bottom of contentions comments and how they could have been rephrased to be less hostilely read in threads. About race issues. The memail conversation seemed to go really well, and left me feeling like it was productive. In the *very next possible thread* the exact same dance happened again.

I do not think I am alone in this experience. I think a whole lot of us have charitably and compassionately read corb's comments and attempted to reconcile them. There's a reason that many of us don't engage anymore, and a reason that the mods probably have a short leash about these comments from her. It's not because they hate the view point. It's because we have the exact same conversation with corb over and over and over as a site.

I'm not trying to rag on corb here. I'm trying to say that there are reasons that aren't necessarily apparent from one thread that feeds conversation dynamics and mod actions. Each new thread is not a blank slate with no memory of what has come before, nor should it be. At a certain point, we're allowed to say "Hey, we know this pattern. We don't want to do this pattern right now. YOU are the reason this pattern keeps happening. And it's not about view point."
posted by stoneweaver at 12:16 PM on December 1, 2014 [48 favorites]


My favorite was probably "Oh look, lawful evil has made its regular appearance"

Which is funny, because he's clearly Lawful Neutral. There is no god but The System, and Ironmouth is its prophet. I can't even remember if my now deleted comment made reference to this long held opinion of mine...maybe you're remembering it.

For what it's worth (my opinion: Not Much), I am as surprised as anyone that my comment re: corb was permitted to stay. I'm honestly not sure if, given the chance, I would post it again. It is rather in the nature of a "personal attack," in that it doesn't totally ignore a poster's history in favor of "engaging with just the ideas presented," or whatever, but at this point there are certain poster's whose shtick I am completely tired of, and I'm also pretty sick and tired of the way the site's moderation mostly forces us to ignore that sort of history and treat every thread as a Brand New microcosm, divorced from the past.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:18 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't call that malicious intent because they didn't intend that outcome. That doesn't make it remotely okay.

In almost every one of her comments in these threads, she's trying to characterize those attitudes as just differing world views that we dare not cast aspersions on. In her view, we, the majority of society who don't accept racism as being on equal footing as acceptance of others without regard to race, need to work understand the racists, not expect better of them. Citizens of Ferguson need to meet the cops halfway instead of, you know, acting as the municipal employees they are, who ultimately answer to the people. The onus is always on the majority of society that condemns these views to adapt. Sorry, but fuck that. Some views don't deserve to be accepted as equally valid.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:19 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


There was a MeTa a while back in which members of this site said that someone's personal views and ideas were exactly as part of them as anything else, and criticizing someone's beliefs was the same as physical violence.

That sounds like a paraphrase, and, perhaps I'm reading it wrong, but a paraphrase that is deliberately stripped of context to act as a gotcha. If I'm misreading, could you link to the actual quote and make it clear how it relates to this thread?

If I'm reading it right, could I ask that you not do that?
posted by maxsparber at 12:20 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


We're not a happy bunch tonight. There are probably good reasons. In general.

*offers tray of warmed glogi*
posted by infini at 12:21 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


I can't even remember if my now deleted comment made reference to this long held opinion of mine...maybe you're remembering it.

Sorry, I don't seem to have a record of that comment; while I greatly delight in screencapping other peoples' comments in the ephemeral moments between their posting and their deletion, I can't catch every one! Alas!
posted by Greg Nog at 12:22 PM on December 1, 2014


she's trying to characterize those attitudes as just differing world views that we dare not cast aspersions on.

Sorry I'm late to the discussion - I took some time off the internet.

For me, good faith involves trying to understand with empathy why people did the things they did. I think very few people get up in the morning and decide to deliberately do what they know is wrong. They do things, generally, because in their view, it makes sense to do them. And I think understanding those things helps us realize how many other people would do the exact same thing in the exact same circumstance, because they have the same beliefs.

If we want things to be different - and I think we all agree that most of us do want things to be different - then I think it's important to understand those societal, structural problems with isolating worldviews.

Focusing on individuals as though the individuals are just simply bad may feel good, but it doesn't even come close to solving the problems in this country. We need to look macro, not micro.
posted by corb at 12:23 PM on December 1, 2014 [14 favorites]


Oh, yeah, digitalprimate, my comment was more just a general response to the thread, not your comment. I do actually agree with you and, up to a point, dios, is that part of the issue is that lawyers are trained to communicate in a certain way about the law that can come off as off-puttingly dispassionate or arrogant, when really all they're trying to do is put on their lawyer-hat (IIRC, the Hobby Lobby thread also had some issues with this, reaching further back.) It's sort of a cousin to "engineer syndrome", in a way. It's tricky, because I do think that it's not great when people misconstrue what's meant to be a legal-type argument as a moral-type one and I think it's kind of a recurring problem, but at the same time, "read the room" is a mantra for a good reason.
posted by kagredon at 12:24 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


You can make that case without defining racism, excessive use of force, etc. down, and you can do it without making up facts about Wilson's supposed naivete about a community he'd policed for six years.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:24 PM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


Focusing on individuals as though the individuals are just simply bad may feel good, but it doesn't even come close to solving the problems in this country.

Where were people doing this?
posted by kagredon at 12:25 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


For me, good faith involves trying to understand with empathy why people did the things they did.

There are a lot of ways empathy can break. In this instance, my epathy broke with the boy who died, and, if I am to puzzle about anything, I try to understand his behavior in this when it seems confounding to me.

The policeman? He has a vast and well-organized structure of support and reaps the benefit of the fact that it is institutionalized and represents the majority. Understanding him is superfluous from me. He has an entire world dedicated to understanding and defending him, and it is academic to me, as he made it out of the encounter both alive and a killer.
posted by maxsparber at 12:26 PM on December 1, 2014 [15 favorites]


In almost every one of her comments in these threads, she's trying to characterize those attitudes as just differing world views that we dare not cast aspersions on.

She said that it would be totally understandable that Ferguson would be hostile towards police and that the fear Wilson felt has to be totally eliminated. That doesn't sound to me like she believes the fear police feel is just a differing world view. It's a characterization of a flawed and dangerous world view.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:27 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I see corb is here now, so if she wants to defend herself any further I'll let her do it in her own words.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:28 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


And here's the thing. Racism is not hard to understand. It is not some black box that those of us who condemn it aren't privy to. We get it. We ALL GET IT. We don't need to have empathy and seek to understand. I 100% understand that people think black men are scary because they are black. There's nothing more to be gained by going down that path. They don't need my empathy for me to understand their racism. The people who need my empathy are the people who are victims of racism.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:28 PM on December 1, 2014 [50 favorites]


I did notice some weird deletions in that thread, though - as I recall, one comment that compiled contradictory witness statements before we had the PBS chart was deleted, and I found it really weird. It seemed like even really quiet stuff that could be interpreted as supporting Wilson was getting deleted - I agree that it felt like this thread was being interpreted as a vent space rather than a discussion in a lot of ways.
posted by corb at 12:30 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


It seemed like even really quiet stuff that could be interpreted as supporting Wilson was getting deleted

-_-
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 12:32 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Full disclosure, since this seems to matter to some people: I'm a liberal, I vote Democrat (less of the 2 evils, y'know) and I think this is a tragic situation that hopefully will lead to much-needed reforms on how police can and cannot engage with people and use force.

One of the nuances polluting the reformation you hope for is that both the Governor and Jeff Roorda, the State Rep and mouthpiece of the STL POA, are Democrats. You have to account for this.
posted by rhizome at 12:32 PM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


I see corb is here now, so if she wants to defend herself any further I'll let her do it in her own words.

And now that she's here, let's see how long it takes from lots of people discussing corb while she's not here to somebody complaining about corb making this thread the corb show.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:33 PM on December 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


I do actually agree with you and, up to a point, dios, is that part of the issue is that lawyers are trained to communicate in a certain way about the law that can come off as off-puttingly dispassionate or arrogant, when really all they're trying to do is put on their lawyer-hat (IIRC, the Hobby Lobby thread also had some issues with this, reaching further back.) It's sort of a cousin to "engineer syndrome", in a way.

A lot of lawyers do this in bad faith, is the thing - purposely throw a bunch of legalese in to surround a central point that is not watertight or certain, because it makes it harder for a layperson to pick the lawyer's argument apart. Other lawyers can see right through this little charade and call it out. What made Ironmouth's behavior so infuriating in that thread was that his refusal to respond to comments from other lawyers who were disputing the assertions he made -- about the law, not just about morality or "rightness" -- made it seem like he was engaging in bad faith and trying to hide behind legal terminology.
posted by sallybrown at 12:36 PM on December 1, 2014 [27 favorites]


And now that she's here, let's see how long it takes from lots of people discussing corb while she's not here to somebody complaining about corb making this thread the corb show.

Well as far as I can tell this MeTa was framed to be the "why are the mods and other members being so mean to Ironmouth and corb" show, so the people being accused of being mean get to answer for their alleged transgressions.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:36 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]

kagredon: (corb:) Focusing on individuals as though the individuals are just simply bad may feel good, but it doesn't even come close to solving the problems in this country.

Where were people doing this?
I think I can safely say it's done in many threads about race relations, the GOP, the wealthy, etc.

It's self-congratulatory useless, and brainless, but fun, I agree.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:37 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


And about the Ironmouth, et al thing, one of the blind spots is that the law has a moral dimension. Just because you can see that the prosecution executed a path through legal steps A, B, and C that that is a self-valiading process, where few of us are Missouri residents and fewer still legislators, so 99% of the discussion has to do with going beyond "seems legit." Couple that with ongoing developments and analysis of the details of the GJ process revealing flaws, and that these people never seem to return to the thread to account for statements made in ignorance (as I'm sure we all have made). The faultlessness and unaccountability is maddening, and I think that's something that causes ongoing pushback to them.
posted by rhizome at 12:40 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's self-congratulatory useless, and brainless, but fun, I agree.

So is responding to a request for citations with a witless "mefi mean liberals" comment, I see.
posted by kagredon at 12:40 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


After all, this is a community that can debunk a can of beans and peel off the private label to identify the Heinz beneath. Especially on the gray.

What are we defending here again? Free speech? The right to rights? Or the emotions running high among a community?
posted by infini at 12:40 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I guess the real question is though, for MeTa - Ferguson is an extremely contentious issue. There are a lot of people who have a lot of different opinions about it. Some people want to focus their empathy only on Brown, others such as myself want that empathy to be more broadly spread. Some people want to talk about the moral rightness or wrongness of Wilson walking free, others such as Ironmouth wanted to talk about the legal reasoning. What creates a need to restrict one of those positions and thus shape the discussion?

And why is it appropriate to leave comments with mild personal attacks, when personal attacks overall, regardless of their degree, are supposed to be verboten? There were a lot of attacks on Ironmouth for having been on TV, for example, where some were deleted but others stayed. Why not eliminate them all? Why is it considered appropriate to insult people because of their employment?
posted by corb at 12:41 PM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


Jeebus cripes
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 12:42 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


>>There was a MeTa a while back in which members of this site said that someone's personal views and ideas were exactly as part of them as anything else, and criticizing someone's beliefs was the same as physical violence.

>That sounds like a paraphrase, and, perhaps I'm reading it wrong, but a paraphrase that is deliberately stripped of context to act as a gotcha. If I'm misreading, could you link to the actual quote and make it clear how it relates to this thread?


I think this is a reference to the thrashing about that happened in this epic MeTa. (The thread was epic, so here's a possible point of reentry for anyone else who can't stomach rereading the whole thing: this comment, which claims that "Calling someone out for saying something racist means that you are calling someone a racist" and the comments responding to it.) A number of people in the discussion explicitly stated the idea that saying "what you said was Xist" is exactly equivalent and synonymous to saying "you are an Xist". Elsewhere in the thread there's an argument that having people argue against one's position and criticize one's stated opinions is equivalent to maiming.
posted by Lexica at 12:43 PM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


*displays extreme concern*
posted by infini at 12:43 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure those comments were mocking the implication that having been on tv made his opinion somehow more correct or credible. Still maybe not the best comments as far as heat:light ratio, but pretty different from "insulting someone for their employment"
posted by kagredon at 12:43 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


If we want things to be different - and I think we all agree that most of us do want things to be different - then I think it's important to understand those societal, structural problems with isolating worldviews.

Many comments and links in the thread have dealt explicitly, at length, thoughtfully, about these societal and structural problems. This is valuable. Empathy and looking deeper into situations is valuable.

However, empathy doesn't look like this: "If Wilson is telling the truth, he must've been really frightened by this monstrous attack on him. We should understand and empathize with that. We should empathize with him defending himself." This is not what real empathy looks like. This is not looking deeper into structural problems. A comment discussing what irrational, engrained white fear of the black man looks like, and talking about your own experiences and feelings of fright in your life - that would've been insightful. Unquestioningly believing that fear is rational, justified, and deserves our sympathy? That's what's called supporting Darren Wilson (and supporting the larger structures that led him to his actions).
posted by naju at 12:45 PM on December 1, 2014 [51 favorites]


Thank you, Lexica.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:48 PM on December 1, 2014


I'm pretty sure those comments were mocking the implication that having been on tv made his opinion somehow more correct or credible

I'm thinking of comments like this one and this one and this one. All of those seem to be specifically insulting Ironmouth and painting him as camera-hungry. I was surprised those were allowed to stand despite being flagged.
posted by corb at 12:49 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Those were directly in responses to Ironmouth talking about his or her media appearance, which, in the context of the discussion, did sound self-congratulatory and as though the fact of it made the opinion more credible.
posted by maxsparber at 12:51 PM on December 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


Some people want to focus their empathy only on Brown, others such as myself want that empathy to be more broadly spread.

You tend to be a bit selective about who you want to spread your empathy to.
posted by empath at 12:52 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


What creates a need to restrict one of those positions and thus shape the discussion?

The moral dimension of the law and the relative powerlessness of any of us besides limeonaire to do anything about it. What you don't seem to grasp is that the fact that this was all apparently legal, from the shooting to the actions of the DA and his deputies, is a source of anger. This "view from nowhere"-ism where the situation can be seen to be logical is anti-intellectual, "that's just the way it is, baby," because it actually fucking happened. We were all there. That's what we're talking about. I'm not sure what use devil's-advocacy is suppose to be put to. Ironmouth doing nothing more than paraphrasing the DA's press conference isn't really honest participation, certainly not talking "about it," much less not even addressing any aspect of the previous however many comments before his.

Why is it considered appropriate to insult people because of their employment?

I'm not sure I'd phrase things that way, but it may be useful to consider that some users have canned positions, expressed in a vacuum, and not very empathetic.
posted by rhizome at 12:53 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

kagredon: So is responding to a request for citations with a witless "mefi mean liberals" comment, I see.
I guess you could see it that way, but I'm fairly hardcore liberal; just anti-easy-thinking.

This post doesn't seem to add much information or nuance.

Here's a pretty blatant attack on Pomplamoose for nothing more than claiming they aren't wealthy.

And, after going back through the Ferguson thread, I have to admit that the only example I pulled was still not exactly strong.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:55 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Or, think of it this way: people are talking about how and whether a building is ugly and someone comes along and says, "yes, but the roof is on top."
posted by rhizome at 12:55 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Focusing on individuals as though the individuals are just simply bad may feel good, but it doesn't even come close to solving the problems in this country. We need to look macro, not micro.

How do we look at one without the other? They inform and feed off each other. When people don't even believe that a systemic racism exists, then how do we begin discussing something they don't believe exists?

I mean, aside from the fact that you have yourself used personal history examples as a way to talk about larger systemic forces, what is served by acting like only one aspect should be focused on?
posted by rtha at 12:56 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


just anti-easy-thinking.

Just an unrequested word of advice: Nobody who says things like this ever actually sounds like a deep thinker.
posted by maxsparber at 12:56 PM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


And that just sounded pointlessly rude
posted by phearlez at 12:58 PM on December 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


And that just sounded pointlessly rude

As compared to claiming people you disagree with just haven't thought hard enough? Your meter for rude and mine are calibrated differently.
posted by maxsparber at 12:59 PM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


If what he said is legally incorrect and you understand the issue well enough to conclude that and have a desire to discuss it, then meet him on his own terms and do so.

Frequently, it's getting the facts wrong, or asserting that there's no question that the law he's citing even applies to the facts in question, and then just repeating something to the effect of "but it's the law, you see."
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 1:01 PM on December 1, 2014


tonycpsu: I took droog to mean thug, as in A Clockwork Orange. Is that what the cool kids are calling each other these days? ;)
posted by phoenix_rising at 1:01 PM on December 1, 2014

maxsparber: As compared to claiming people you disagree with just haven't thought hard enough?
A complete misrepresentation of what I said. Well done.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:02 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I do actually agree with you and, up to a point, dios, is that part of the issue is that lawyers are trained to communicate in a certain way about the law that can come off as off-puttingly dispassionate or arrogant...

...A lot of lawyers do this in bad faith, is the thing - purposely throw a bunch of legalese in to surround a central point that is not watertight or certain, because it makes it harder for a layperson to pick the lawyer's argument apart...


Yeah, a lot of the lawyers on this site are really badly behaved. (Which might be why some are reading calling someone a lawyer as a personal attack.) It is really frustrating, and it has not all that much to do with the difference between a moral/legal debate. And honestly, it is infuriating to me when people insist on ceding That Which Is Legally Correct to people like Ironmouth who have narrow perspectives and understandings of the law that are clearly filtered through privileged experience.
posted by likeatoaster at 1:02 PM on December 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


The comparison is irrelevant; you can both be rude and there's no ranking system that I'm aware of.

If you'd actually said that specific critique rather than trying to find a clever way to say "you sound dumb" then it wouldn't have been pointless rudeness - it would have been some actual substance, whether or not IAmBroom disputes it as a reading.
posted by phearlez at 1:04 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


just anti-easy-thinking.

Just an unrequested word of advice: Nobody who says things like this ever actually sounds like a deep thinker.

so, you're anti-easy-thinking, too, just wordier about it?

by the way, there's a rumor going around that there really are stupid people in the world - hard to believe, i know, but it's starting to look like it just might be true
posted by pyramid termite at 1:08 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


tonycpsu: I took droog to mean thug, as in A Clockwork Orange. Is that what the cool kids are calling each other these days? ;)

I'm certainly no authority on what the cool kid are calling each other now since I'm in my late 30s, but remember that it was the thugs' name *for each other*. I use it IRL (usually "droogie") with friends in place of "friend", "bro", "dawg", and whatever else. It was certainly not meant as an insult to Drinky Die, a MeFi-ite who I hold in very high esteem to the point that I use a Greasmonkey script to highlight his (and some others') contributions. That doesn't mean we don't disagree a lot, of course, and this is obviously one of those instances.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:09 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, a lot of the lawyers on this site are really badly behaved.

Legal sophistry might win jury trials, but doesn't exactly make for compelling conversation.
posted by empath at 1:17 PM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

*Droog (Russian: друг [drug]) - Russian word which means friend.

*Droog, a Nadsat slang term for "friend" in Anthony Burgess's A Clockwork Orange.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:19 PM on December 1, 2014


I really think it's important for lawyers conversing about issues on this site - or anywhere outside of a courtroom - to speak with appropriate humility and a sense of proportionality. Like: "This is my read of the situation based on some cursory analysis. Here are some citations to legal experts who agree. Here are some court cases and relevant quotes. The standard was probable cause, which requires showing X. And here's why I believe that standard was not met." Leave the grandiosity and ego out. Trust that there are smart people on this site. Trust that you always, always have blind spots. Understand that legal frameworks are informed by systemic biases, and that nothing exists in a vacuum. Stop giving lawyers a bad name.
posted by naju at 1:21 PM on December 1, 2014 [26 favorites]


Your Old Droog.
posted by box at 1:22 PM on December 1, 2014


I'll be up all night reading and driveby snarking and that's not really the best way to deal with this. I'm a part of this community. I don't have the right words or education to speak with confidence on human rights, gender and race so tend to stay quiet. On the other the hand, I might have some exposure to the context and the subject matter so will be speaking from the subjective PoV. Will be speaking out loud, that is.

You ask us for our understanding and empathy for those who swagger around with their weapons and their privileged power pushing people around, knowingly, instilling fear of reprisal? The uniformed know you are helpless and disempowered. Fear? Paugh! I've seen the glee glint in the eyes when you tremble with fear on the side of the road, or on the ground in front of your gate at the airport, or just because. Soft words and rational arguments will not change this wellspring of strong emotion felt by each and everyone who has been barked at or intimidated by an institution.

This is not local or regional or national. This isn't even restricted to this website or community. Poke your head into twitter timelines out of Africa and Asia and the rest of the "minority" world to hear much much stronger words than you will ever see here. FWIW the mods do their job and they keep us in line. For a reason.

What you write down on the interwebs can be read and seen around the world. Its not just a letter to the editor to your hometown newspaper anymore. And yes, over time, patterns of behaviour are indeed observed, noted and recalled.

In the case of one - I debate whether to name names or not, but there's only two under discussion and one is a lawyer so we can leave it at that - in the case of the lawyer, one thing that has always kept me from reading the worst in the textual words in the blue has been the empathy and sheer kindness/niceness I've seen in their responses to questions of human relations on the green. And I've said this before about them too, on the grey.

But in the case of the other, and this is the first time I'm speaking up about it, since it is a callout thread, I've not seen any attempt at generousity of spirit on the green, only a tendency towards the opposite. That additional information also informs me when I read comments on teh blue or the grey.

Is that within the guidelines of this multi-locational web platform? I don't know tbh and I don't know how we can be expected to forget the entire body of our knowledge of a user's history across the entire site.

And it is that streak of mean in the green that adds fuel to questioning of any articulated "good intentions" behind all these reasonable sounding words in teh blue or the grey. I question "good faith" here. And I question why I am being asked to even see someone as a misguided individual who fears the Other. I am the Other. I'm tired of being feared. Where's the equivalent balanced empathy for the grandmothers who must teach their grandsons to put their hands up instantly so that they don't sit in fear wondering if they'll come home that night.

This is not the thread for this discussion. It is a Meta Talk thread pointing out the bias in the system on this website. I've been online since the internets started and if there's anything I've been seeing on the English language interwebs, it is that this is one of the places that counterbalances the biases in the system we hear, see and read daily.

Shall we sit here and discuss that objectively so that you can feel better about what happened and is happening, online and off, instead of being willing to take a closer look at the system which is truly biased? Its easier taking potshots at this site being biased.

I'll be honest. I'm glad this Meta Talk thread didn't ruin my holiday weekend by being published. I don't think it even has the right to exist as a well intentioned rationally posed neutral question. It isn't.

This is my opinion. I'm tired of keeping quiet.
posted by infini at 1:22 PM on December 1, 2014 [32 favorites]


tonycpsu: Ah, I see. I misunderstood your post. My apologies.
posted by phoenix_rising at 1:27 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


empathy and sheer kindness/niceness I've seen in their responses to questions of human relations on the green

Very true.
posted by sallybrown at 1:29 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


So, this thread has become all about Ironmouth and corb (has anybody dropped a line to let Ironmouth know he's being discussed?), but actually the one that gave me pause was jsonic being told to "read the room". jsonic, at least as far as I'm aware of, doesn't have the same history Ironmouth and corb do (and for all I know posted something terrible which was deleted and I didn't see) and in general, being expected to read the room before commenting - i.e., take into account whether or not a comment will be well-received before you make it, with the strong implication that if people won't like it, don't post it - is pretty much the 1-step recipe for Guaranteed Echo Chamber, seems to me.

That being said, I'm not going to take a one-off mod comment made on Thanksgiving weekend in a heated thread as being The New Official Metafilter Site Policy, so I'm not really that concerned. Overall I thought that thread went pretty well, tbh, and I'm glad the mods got to have something resembling a real Thanksgiving holiday. In general I don't think a mod expectation that people should read the room first is healthy for the site but I'm not ready to call it out as a pattern of behavior yet.

As for Ironmouth, eh, he's Ironmouth, the tv appearances thing was kinda ridiculous but if I'd been on tv talking about the [subject of an FPP] I probably wouldn't be able to keep my yap shut about it either. I feel like it oughta be on Youtube somewhere, though, so at least he could link to it - "Hey guys I was on TV, here look see, I said all this stuff" and then we could actually maybe-kinda engage with it, but just saying "Hey I know this stuff, I was on TV" with nothing else there is the definition of Argument from Authority and goes nowhere. But you know, there are worse things to do than make pointless posts on Metafilter that go nowhere. I've certainly gone some rounds in the ring with Ironmouth but I also have no trouble ignoring him when I don't have the time or interest.
posted by mstokes650 at 1:33 PM on December 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


take into account whether or not a comment will be well-received before you make it, with the strong implication that if people won't like it, don't post it - is pretty much the 1-step recipe for Guaranteed Echo Chamber, seems to me

jsonic wasn't saying anything important. what jsonic was saying was 'maybe we should know all the facts before we jump to conclusions'. Which would be appropriate in the period after an event happened, but what people were angry about is that they were denied the right to know all the facts and jump to a conclusion! It was at best tone-deaf and at worst thinly disguised attempts to piss people off.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:39 PM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


But in the case of the other, and this is the first time I'm speaking up about it, since it is a callout thread, I've not seen any attempt at generousity of spirit on the green

As one the harsher critics of corb's arguments on the blue and gray, I have no problem saying that, from what I've read of her Qs and As on the green, she comes off as uncommonly compassionate, knowledgeable, and helpful. (I can only barely keep up with the volume there, so maybe I missed some badness at some point.)
posted by tonycpsu at 1:41 PM on December 1, 2014 [19 favorites]


Unfortunately, I am not familiar with the original thread, which has well over 1000 comments. I don’t think reading a select few when I didn’t participate will actually give me the kind of info to judge what mods did or did not do in that particular case.

Of course, the mods have some bias. They are human. They will never stop having personal bias of some sort. My experience here on Metafilter is that even mods I have felt I had personal friction with have tried hard to remain professional. I know I am a lot to deal with at times. I very sincerely appreciate the high professional standard that the entire staff maintains, even in cases where I felt personally wronged and felt like it was at least partly influenced by mod bias. It is a thing that will never completely stop existing. But I don't think it's a big issue per se on MetaFilter. So I don't have big concerns about that.

I also cannot manage to read fast enough to get caught up on this thread. So I apologize in advance. Having said that, I would like to quote just a couple of things (the second of which is merely one example of multiple comments that said the same kind of thing) and then give my 2 cents:
It's also a really hard problem to solve, and we have found the only reliable way to solve it is by cutting off the argument when it seems to have made the rounds and is getting repetitive. This always feels unfair to the minority-view person, because it never, ever looks like they got the last word, but I don't have a better solution.
And
I'm not saying I agree or disagree with the tone of some of the personal comments, but a lot of the people who are getting the biggest backlash have a long history of this type of conflict. Whether it's right or wrong is a fair question of moderation, but it's not coming out of nowhere.
It is a hard problem to solve and one of the things that makes it a hard problem to solve is that, because of the history, even if the person in question makes a concerted effort to really stop it and be better and so on, other people will continue to take pot shots and the group as a whole will continue to say, in essence, “Yeah, well, it’s corb’s/Ironmouth’s/whomever's fault. Look at the history.”

I think one of the things that would be a step in the right direction would be if the mods made an effort to retire from their own use as moderators phrases like “The (mefite’s name) Show,” “Taking on all comers” and “You against everyone.” All of these phrases implicitly blame the individual at the center and holds them solely responsible for the problem when, in most cases, they are feeling victimized and often wish like hell that they could find some way to stop it (without just walking away while other people continue to take potshots at them). In place of those three phrases, I will suggest that some better alternatives would be phrases like “It has become a shit show,” “You have become the focus of the group discussion” and “It has become everyone against you.”

Sometimes, the mods make a real effort to explicitly say “You (specific person) need to walk away – and everyone else also needs to drop it and let them walk away.” Other times, the mods just stop at “You (specific person) need to walk away.” And then they do little or nothing when comments after that continue to basically harangue the person who has walked away and, essentially, been deprived of the right to defend themselves (themselves, not their point -- that is usually what the real issue is here).

I do not agree with the idea that the person in the minority feels unfairly treated because they did not get the last word. I get accused of that at times and that has nothing at all to do with my reasons for continuing to respond when people take potshots at me or reply to me in specific. I think it feels unfair to the person with the minority view because of this larger group dynamic where the individual who has become the center of attention gets blamed for it, whether explicitly or implicitly.

I have a long history, well before I joined MetaFilter, of being someone who attracts that sort of attention. I almost always attract it when I am absolutely not looking for it and not trying to start shit. I have, in fact, worked extremely hard to try to find ways to reduce the amount of shit-shows that blossom just because I happened to participate in a discussion, without doing anything actually wrong. I not only have worked hard at it and made forward progress (and I don't mean just here on MetaFilter), I happen to be someone who has a natural gift for figuring out solutions to that kind of issue. And I still cannot solve it all by myself – because it is a group dynamic thing and not solely dependent upon the actions of one specific individual.

So I think if the mods would make more of an effort to be consistent in framing such situations as an outgrowth of a group dynamic rather than the fault of someone in particular, that would help reduce the tendency on the site that once someone has a reputation for x, the only real hope of getting people off their back is apparently a Brand New Day. Because, currently, the mods and the group as a whole are all too happy to say it is that person’s fault and not acknowledge that the person is trapped in a social dynamic they did not create all by themselves and don’t know how to solve as an individual and probably cannot solve as an individual without seriously saintly attributes.

/2 cents
posted by Michele in California at 1:42 PM on December 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


Look, IronMouth does this in police shooting threads. This one comes to mind, about the young marine / father / husband who was shot to death in his home by SWAT officers who busted down his door.

Here's an excerpt from IronMouth's 42nd comment in that thread:
IronMouth: For the billionth time, the evidence of crime sought for in the warrant is immaterial to the case.

Notice his use of the word 'billionth'. Even he was aware that he had been extremely active in the discussion, already.

Here's part of my reply to that comment:
syzygy: You're arguing a very narrow case that doesn't really interest me all that much ... Legal culpability is not the only form of culpability.

IronMouth made 24 more comments in that thread, for a grand total of 66 comments, continuing to ignore those who tried to make clear to him that they were interested in issues wider than just the legal technicalities and covering more than just the 30 seconds between the cops knocking on Mr. Gurena's door and Mr. Gurena lying dead, riddled with bullets in his own home, those 30 seconds seemingly being all that mattered to IronMouth.

So it's important to understand people's history here, and IronMouth definitely has a history of being tone deaf and threadsitting in police shooting discussions.
posted by syzygy at 1:44 PM on December 1, 2014 [23 favorites]


Nah, r_n's point is one of demography, not mission statement: Metafilter isn't left-leaning or US-centric as a matter of political will, it just sort of ended up having a lot of folks who fall into that demographic bucket

This doesn't seem accurate. Metafilter is left-leaning because the mods are quicker to delete comments that are insufficiently left-leaning, and more tolerant of attacks on people who are insufficiently left-leaning (for the particular values of "left" that the mods prefer). The entirely predictable result is that commenters with disapproved values get tired and leave, and commenters with approved values feel validated and stay.

The Metafilter we have– social justice left rather than socialist, tending towards the cranky, tightly limited in which views are permitted– is isn't something that just happened spontaneously. It's the creation of the mods. Which is fine---when people have a lot of power over a discourse, they're gonna shape it, and we all paid $5 to play in their sandbox. But it's condescending to pretend that this just whoopsie-daisy happened.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:46 PM on December 1, 2014 [22 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard:

I disagree vehemently that the mods are responsible, and not all commenters who come here initially with 'disapproved' values get tired and leave.

Some of us stick around for the (often) intelligent argumentation, rethink our values, and end up becoming 'sufficiently' left-leaning over time. Some of us are even thankful for that...
posted by syzygy at 1:51 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh great. We are shooting for the trifecta, aren't we ?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:53 PM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


One thing about reputation and history is the existence of a Brand New Day.
posted by infini at 1:53 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Btw my anti-jsonic and anti-ironmouth comments got deleted.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:54 PM on December 1, 2014


I'm about to run out the door so I can't read/respond to this whole thread right now, but I wanted to pop in and say that I tried to post a MeTa about this last week as well. (The mods contacted me and asked me to hold off until after the holiday weekend, and by the time Monday rolled around I knew phoenix_rising had composed a much better post so I deferred to her.)

Although I personally side with the majority on this topic (I think Wilson should have been indicted), I object to how unreasonably hard the mods seemed to come down on the minority viewpoint. Those commenters were participating in good faith and some very innocuous comments -- e.g., corb merely quoting witness statements from the grand jury documents -- were getting deleted, seemingly due to who wrote them instead of what they said.

One of the guiding principles of MetaFilter -- so fundamental that it is at the bottom of all the comment boxes on the Blue -- is "Help maintain a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site." So why are the moderators going against this principle and deleting comments based on authorship instead of content?

Then, later in the day, restless_nomad left the mod comment "Another comment deleted. Seriously, folks, this is not the right place to wander in all wide-eyed and say "but what about [x] testimony?" We've had a large number of threads to hash that out, and it's most likely been covered in this very thread already. Please engage with the discussion at hand. Thanks."

Given that the transcripts of the grand jury testimony had JUST BEEN RELEASED, no, there had not already been a "large number of threads to hash that out" -- what witnesses say to the media does not always match their testimony under oath in a courtroom. IMO, it was perfectly reasonable for people to re-discuss "old" news like witness statements/testimony in that context. Also, given the huge volume of information released from the grand jury, the time it takes to go through it all, and the new analysis popping up about it every day, I don't think that something being discussed earlier in the thread is reason to prohibit discussing it later in the thread. Our understanding of what happened is evolving day-by-day as more people sift through the testimony and there should be room to discuss these new insights as they occur.

Those were my issues with the moderation in that thread. I also think the pile-on against opposing viewpoints was over-the-top -- while I personally disagree with corb, Iron Mouth, etc., the issue of whether Darren Wilson should have been indicted is obviously a subject on which reasonable people can disagree or the grand jury would not have voted to not indict him. Just because someone is wrong on this particular issue does not mean that they're necessarily a fascist-police-loving racist troglodyte, and they don't deserve to be shouted down.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:01 PM on December 1, 2014 [22 favorites]


Just because someone is wrong on this particular issue does not mean that they're necessarily a fascist-police-loving racist troglodyte, and they don't deserve to be shouted down.

We can't be sure about this and as long we don't know this for certain, isn't it better to keep an open mind on the issue?
posted by infini at 2:04 PM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


Those commenters were participating in good faith

Good faith cannot be observed. It's the law around here that we must assume it, but you can't make a positive assertion of it because it's not falsifiable.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:04 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


They act in selective good faith, ignoring cogent refutations or corrections.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 2:06 PM on December 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


Some of us stick around for the (often) intelligent argumentation, rethink our values, and end up becoming 'sufficiently' left-leaning over time....

And some of us, baby-jesus-in-a-brothal find ourselves wondering how we can honestly abide a public Left that seems so proscriptionary, exclusionary, and irascible. If I'm a lost cause to the Left, then god help me 'cause no one else will have me.
posted by digitalprimate at 2:13 PM on December 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


Jacqueline: Those commenters were participating in good faith

Sorry, but IronMouth's history of threadsitting police-shooting threads, as well as the fact that he posted 13 comments in a span of 48 minutes needs to be taken into consideration here. Whether you call that kind of behavior "good faith" or not, it certainly doesn't strike me as "help(ing to) maintain a healthy, respectful discussion".

Some people just have a hard time not making discussions about certain topics all about them. Welcome to the IronMouth show, you are wrong, sir...

And I don't see anything at all wrong with the mods stepping in to nip that sort of behavior in the bud, especially when it's coming from someone with a well-known history of behaving that way.
posted by syzygy at 2:13 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


They act in selective good faith, ignoring cogent refutations or corrections.

To some extent, people holding a minority viewpoint should get a pass for not responding to every counterargument, since they're often outnumbered 5 or 10 to 1, but when everyone in a thread is pointing out some basic flaw and they skip right over those comments to re-assert the same debunked point or to make a different one in an effort to move the goalposts, I think that qualifies as evidence of bad faith. Though, again, because it's not demonstrable that they read each comment and willfully chose to ignore it, the evidence is only as good as, say, the evidence religious folks cite for their belief in their chosen deity.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:13 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


FFS, Ironmouth wandered into a thread where ANOTHER white murderer of an unarmed black kid went unpunished, and his smug ass comes in and flat out says that the shooting of Michael Brown was "justified"

Oh, of course he was using a private definition of justified that he chose not to share with us. But that is what happened here folks.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 2:16 PM on December 1, 2014 [20 favorites]


I think it's different to say:

"If I were arguing this case, I would argue {$This}. And I believe it would win."

Than to just say

"{$This}"
posted by Trochanter at 2:19 PM on December 1, 2014 [14 favorites]


I think having a professional police apologist in threads is very useful. Without that, we'd be making up words that we imagined that a professional police apologist would be making. Sure it can get frustrating, but it certainly can be illustrative.
posted by el io at 2:19 PM on December 1, 2014 [25 favorites]


I vote for a four-comment-per-hour maximum.
posted by waraw at 2:27 PM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


I do not agree with the idea that the person in the minority feels unfairly treated because they did not get the last word. I get accused of that at times and that has nothing at all to do with my reasons for continuing to respond when people take potshots at me or reply to me in specific. I think it feels unfair to the person with the minority view because of this larger group dynamic where the individual who has become the center of attention gets blamed for it, whether explicitly or implicitly.

(a) See "walks like a duck, quacks like a duck." You can say "that has nothing at all to do with my reasons for continuing to respond" but that's an argument of definition, not fact.

(b) Here's the thing: when the one lone constant in a recurrent situation is Person X then the reasonable thing to think is that Person X has something to do with it. You can dispute the why and I am completely sympathetic to that - I dislike attributing motive to other people's unknowable internal lives, and prefer to simply address the reality and how it impacts other people's self-stated perceptions.

But that's the thing when it comes to someone being told something is turning into "the X show." It's not because the mods are trying to crap on one particular person. It's because that person is pursuing an unproductive strategy and creating a worse situation for no point. It doesn't happen when people are having a spirited discussion that might range across political ideologies, it happens when people are just bloviating past each other.

Clearly there's people of a more conservative bent who think they're more likely to get deleted and that it's unfair. I'm not sure I entirely agree they are more likely to be deleted, but I think it might be possible. When someone plays along with the echo chamber their snipes or empty jibes aren't as likely to turn into a big derailing mess. If they're sloppy with their phrasing in supporting the majority view it's less likely to turn into a giant mess.

In the scope of Horribly Unfair Things I'm not ranking that in my top 100, I have to say. Anyone who can't recognize that they should consider their statements more carefully in certain environments is new to life and quite frankly they're being done a favor if this helps them learn this lesson. I have opinions on racial justice and feminism that are largely in step with the majority of MF and I still have to watch my words carefully because I am a white dude. Being a thoughtful citizen of the universe sometimes takes a little effort and some sacrifices. If that means watching your terms or not always getting to be the last person to clarify, even if you weren't actually trying to get the last word, it's not going to keep you from eating tomorrow.

If you need a concrete example, you can go back and look at corb using this rhetorical "I don't understand why" strategy about road blocking. When someone said hey, isn't this kind of your area? You should know it happens for Y reason, she comes back with well yeah, but we don't do it because of Z. Which makes it look like she's being deliberately disingenuous in order to set up some sort of response or rant rather than discussion in good faith. And she's more likely to be perceived that way precisely because of the positions she tends to stake out in general and in that thread in particular.

In that case she got called out on it and it resolved and everyone moved forward in just a few comments. But that sort of thing doesn't always get resolved and it doesn't always avoid taking the conversation down a side road. When Ironmouth decides he's going to plant his flag on the mountain of legal rightness and use terms that sound like he's insisting the legal and the moral must necessarily be identical things ('justified' in the legal not moral sense with no acknowledgement of the difference) then he seems not just to be using a rhetorical strategy but deliberately creating a conversation that's just mutual shouting.

Jsonic wasn't told to "read the room" because s/he was taking an unpopular position but because hir statements were one-line contrary statements that seemed more like they should have been in the initial shooting thread three months prior. They weren't discussion or refutation so much as just incendiary-seeming foot stomping.

So if the point the mods are pursuing is a productive discussion then everyone is going to have to accept some pain along the way - even if they're not necessarily at fault, or because of things beyond their immediate actions in that second. Maybe ThatFuzzyBastard is right and that's Just Too Much for some people to stomach and they leave. Personally I think that if the end result is better discussions and we only get the truly valiant who are willing to deal with the chafe of that yoke, that's okay. But I only speak for myself.
posted by phearlez at 2:28 PM on December 1, 2014 [16 favorites]


If you need a concrete example, you can go back and look at corb using this rhetorical "I don't understand why" strategy about road blocking. When someone said hey, isn't this kind of your area? You should know it happens for Y reason, she comes back with well yeah, but we don't do it because of Z. Which makes it look like she's being deliberately disingenuous in order to set up some sort of response or rant rather than discussion in good faith. And she's more likely to be perceived that way precisely because of the positions she tends to stake out in general and in that thread in particular.

Yeah, that was some bullshit. Offering tactical advice to people you clearly don't sympathize with is already fraught with "beware of Greeks bearing gifts" peril, but when the tactical advice you're offering is "surround the police station", it's particularly hard to take seriously. The purpose of the protest isn't to inconvenience the cops, it's to get your message out to the rest of the world that might not be paying attention, or might not understand how important the cause is to you. I don't know what the best outcome of surrounding a police station is, but I sure know what some of the worse outcomes would be, and they would come with none of the benefits of something like blocking an interstate, which forces people to at least think about why a bunch of people are in their way willing to risk being arrested. Best case scenario with the police station approach you see a quick story on the news about how a bunch of idiots decided to get themselves arrested while everyone else went about their day as usual.

Of course, contra the assertion in the FPP, I did have my response to that point deleted, and for good reason -- I added a bit at the end calling corb a concern troll. That's something that should obviously cause a deletion, and it did, and I shouldn't have included it.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:41 PM on December 1, 2014 [11 favorites]


(b) Here's the thing: when the one lone constant in a recurrent situation is Person X then the reasonable thing to think is that Person X has something to do with it. You can dispute the why and I am completely sympathetic to that - I dislike attributing motive to other people's unknowable internal lives, and prefer to simply address the reality and how it impacts other people's self-stated perceptions.

If you go with that theory, you can justify racism, sexism and all kinds of ugly crap. And I hope others can see what I mean there without me elaborating. Because I am not a fan of arguing about things and I think me trying to clarify that is likely to be deemed by others as argumentative.

I made a suggestion. I think it's a good suggestion. I hope some folks will think about it seriously and not just jump to yet more statements about how, obviously, corb or Ironmouth or whomever totally deserves to be ganged up on, has history, is at fault, etc. That point of view is not at all new on this site and the fact that it exists contributes to situations like this one. I am just saying "If you keep doing the same thing, you will probably get the same result. Here is a new thing to try and see if it gets better results. I think it will."
posted by Michele in California at 2:42 PM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


Michele, do you in your own life give everyone a clean slate each time you interact with them, or do you factor your previous interactions into how you approach each new interaction?
posted by tonycpsu at 2:44 PM on December 1, 2014


I have not read the Ferguson thread. But I'm glad corb is a member here, precisely because a) I rarely agree with her, and b) she does her best to practice the principle of charity in interpretation.

I share the righteous anger and disappointment at the non-indictment of a lot of the people who attacked corb. But despite my disagreements with her, when I think about Mefites with whom it would be nice to have coffee, corb is high on the list. So please don't attack her personally, people who agree with me; attack her arguments.

(I've actually had coffee with a bunch of Mefites, already, including Ironmouth! He is also very nice.)
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:45 PM on December 1, 2014 [20 favorites]


Michele in California: If you go with that theory, you can justify racism, sexism and all kinds of ugly crap

Disagree. If Antarctic American Jane Doe lies to me once, lies to me twice, lies to me three times, it's neither sexist nor racist (nor anything but 'Jane Doe'-ist) of me to be untrusting of her the fourth time she tells me something.

We're talking about specific individuals here with specific histories, not whole classes of people who anyone says should be judged a certain way just because a single member of their class has acted poorly.
posted by syzygy at 2:51 PM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


I'd have coffee with everyone in this thread! (Might have to bring a flask along for some, but that's no knock against anyone but me.)
posted by naju at 2:52 PM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


Holding too unpopular a viewpoint is often conflated with (but rarely mistaken for) not providing a meaningful contribution to the conversation.
posted by Johann Georg Faust at 2:54 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Michele, do you in your own life give everyone a clean slate each time you interact with them, or do you factor your previous interactions into how you approach each new interaction?

tonycpsu,
I am not talking about giving people a clean slate here. I am talking about holding everyone responsible for their piece of it and not blaming the entire thing solely on one individual. Yes, that is a thing I personally do in my life. I do it regularly. I try to be consistent about it.

And I generally have a pretty charitable, compassionate read of what other people do, even when I have been hurt by them. There are times when I conclude someone really is just "being bad" or is somehow guilty. But it tends to take a lot for me to conclude that. I am generally quick to assume it was an unfortunate misunderstanding, one of us was having a bad day and so on. I find that goes a very long way towards preventing the kind of entrenched negative patterns so commonly seen here on MetaFilter, some of which are clearly part of the problem in the thread that inspired this specific MeTa.
posted by Michele in California at 3:00 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


So please don't attack her personally, people who agree with me; attack her arguments.

For the record, I've found corb to be 100% civil and nice in Chat and in MeMail. That said, I think her politics are awful.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:04 PM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


And I hope others can see what I mean there without me elaborating. Because I am not a fan of arguing about things and I think me trying to clarify that is likely to be deemed by others as argumentative.

No one is requiring you to be in this thread. If you feel not up to clarifying a statement that, on its own, seems pretty nonsensical and inflammatory, then you don't have to post it.
posted by kagredon at 3:06 PM on December 1, 2014 [11 favorites]


What a great example of a metalk post: a seriously detailed topic comes up, the mod answers it openly and lo, it sort of peters out into agreeablility.

Anything else would have resulted in 1000 comments and a couple of flameouts.

I know there are many new mechanisms to reduce mod workload, such as a queue for this part of the site - but has any consideration been given in mefi's higher echelons of replicating this groundbreaking new method of dealing with user queries on a wider scale ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:14 PM on December 1, 2014


Anything else would have resulted in 1000 comments and a couple of flameouts.

shh, give it time.
posted by kagredon at 3:16 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


FOUR COMMENTS PER HOUR OR I WALK, GODDAMMIT
posted by waraw at 3:17 PM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


kagredon, that is not the point.

The point is that I am one of the people on metafilter who has this kind of history and when multiple people reply to me in specific in what is essentially an attacking or dismissive manner, as you are doing, then I get blamed and told I am behaving badly. But I am not.

This is a site-wide problem. So solutions like specific people doing a Brand New Day doesn't fix it. Even if every single individual who has this kind of history did a Brand New Day (or left the site) and managed to, every last one of them, figure out how to participate in a manner that did not get them targeted, in spite of their minority view (or whatever the focus is in their specific case), someone would just take their place. Either that or there would be zero interesting discussion, just a bunch of folks politely agreeing with each other. And that would likely be the death of the site.

If things are to remain interesting and lively, there has to be a mechanism in place that protects minority view members without silencing them. Having everyone agree that it is all their fault and they deserve to have the crap kicked out of them is not a good way to foster meaty discussion. It just is not.
posted by Michele in California at 3:20 PM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


then I get blamed and told I am behaving badly. But I am not.

I would say that you are behaving badly by making the inflammatory and illogical statement about justifying 'racism, sexism and all kinds of ugly crap', then refusing to clarify it.

I'm not attributing any motives to your actions there, either - just judging your behavior, and you and I don't have any sort of history on the site.
posted by syzygy at 3:25 PM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


Michele in California, you're absolutely right. That's not the point. You're not the point. Coming into a thread that wasn't about you, that wasn't about a thread that you posted in, a thread that you admit you haven't even read, and then making it about you when people express disagreement with your opinions, is not the point. Why are you doing that?
posted by kagredon at 3:27 PM on December 1, 2014 [27 favorites]


Michele in California, you're absolutely right. That's not the point. You're not the point. Coming into a thread that wasn't about you, that wasn't about a thread that you posted in, a thread that you admit you haven't even read, and then making it about you when people express disagreement with your opinions, is not the point. Why are you doing that?
posted by kagredon at 3:27 PM on December 1 [1 favorite +] [!]


I am not making it about me. You and other people are making it about me -- which is consistent with this sitewide pattern.

Anyway, I really don't feel like arguing it. So people can do here what they always do and claim that the person at the middle -- in this case me -- is somehow behaving badly and the group ganging up on them is in the right and continue taking potshots and then acting like that person should not have any desire to defend themselves when that happens.

Later.
posted by Michele in California at 3:32 PM on December 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


It just looks like she wants to declare herself on Team Silenced All My Life without regard to the particulars of this situation. That being said, her desired remedy:
In place of those three phrases, I will suggest that some better alternatives would be phrases like "It has become a shit show," "You have become the focus of the group discussion" and "It has become everyone against you."
sounds pretty reasonable to me. I second, call the question, and vote in the affirmative.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:32 PM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


and look, Michele in California, I generally like you and like your posts and think you bring a perspective to Mefi that isn't common, and I think you have a gift for expressing that point of view in an eloquent way. You seem like a person that feels things really deeply, and is unashamed of that, and I admire that. But I do sometimes feel like in a lot of Metas, including this one, you seem to be reading a pattern of persecution that you've decided applies to your life, regardless of whether what's actually going on in front of you supports that. It can be very frustrating to try to engage with what you've written and have it become fodder for some larger narrative of your life, rather than a disagreement between two people.
posted by kagredon at 3:34 PM on December 1, 2014 [23 favorites]


I would give up a body part to never hear the phrase "shit show" again. It's a disgusting gross horrible image and it needs to jump off a cliff.
posted by jaguar at 3:34 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


jaguar: hey now, the shit show has feelings too, you know.
posted by el io at 3:37 PM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


It isn't the opinions per se that are the problem; it is the mode of presenting them, the constant shifting of goalposts, the disingenuousness, the refusal to engage, and the refusal to accept any refutations.

Years ago when I was active on Wikipedia there was this guy (or at least referred to himself with male pronouns; I'm not assuming gender) who was possibly the most frustrating person I have ever encountered. He had this quixotic little quest he was on that was, on its face, not just stupid but actually fundamentally impossible to implement. Here's how conversations with him would go:

Quixotic: I want to have a discussion about X
Everyone Else: We've had this discussion before, the idea is stupid because of ABC, it's not happening.
Q: Great! Now that we're talking about X, what do you think about X?
Everyone Else Plus Some People Who Weren't Around Last Time: We think it's stupid and it isn't going to happen.
Q: That's a very interesting opinion! I'm glad we're talking about it. Since we're on the subject, we should do X.
EE: No, see, we've already discussed it at great length and the answer is no.
Q: I can see how you might say that, but what do you think about implementing X?

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Discussions with corb tend to follow a pretty similar pattern. It is not that she disagrees--there are plenty of people around here with often-minority opinions who manage to present them in a reasonable manner; dios comes to mind--it is the manner in which she disagrees.

So, yeah, that's behaving badly. (And in no way at all do I put myself on the 'never behaves badly' side of the fence.) It's not the opinions, it's the behaviour. Ditto Ironmouth; of course he's entitled to his opinion. But his is not the sole legal opinion in the world, he has really specific biases given the exact kind of law he practices, and he's kind of tone-deaf when it comes to understanding either of those things. Again: behaviour, not the opinion itself.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:37 PM on December 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


phoenix_rising: I like to think of Metafilter as a place where intelligent folks can come together for reasonable, cordial discussions and to share and explore viewpoints on interesting topics.

I've been a member of Metafilter for over 12 years, and for political threads I was disabused of this notion years ago. Taking a contrary position on any of the numerous topics that Metafilter "doesn't do well" will inevitably lead to the ole mefi pile-on, regardless of how polite you strive to be. Your comments will be read disingenuously, your "real" motivations will be questioned and analyzed, you will be called out for making the thread "about you" if you respond to the numerous direct questions, and if you miss a response that will be proof that you're selectively avoiding responses that you can't handle. Search through the metatalk archives to see this complained about time and again. Commenters with contrary positions either flame-out in spectacular metatalk threads or learn to just avoid commenting in political posts at all.

MisantropicPainforest: jsonic wasn't saying anything important. what jsonic was saying was 'maybe we should know all the facts before we jump to conclusions'.

I still think my point was directly pertinent to a thread decrying the injustice of the non-indictment since nobody had time to review the just-then-released evidence at that point. Jumping to conclusions before reviewing the evidence is not a reliable method of determining the truth of the situation.

Outside of Metafilter, that is not a controversial statement, and the fact that it was quickly deleted due to not "reading the room" correctly and that it might start a fight is disturbing. But cortex asked me to stop commenting, and I respected that. Which leads to cortex's following comment in this thread...

cortex: Metafilter isn't left-leaning or US-centric as a matter of political will, it just sort of ended up having a lot of folks who fall into that demographic bucket.

It didn't "just sort of end up" that way. Moderation such as the above guarantees it. Which is actually fine if that is the intention, Metafilter can be whatever the mods and its vocal users want it to be. If Metafilter isn't specifically intended to be left leaning, however, then explicit moderation of mefi pile-on's would bring more diverse opinions. Deleting comments out of fear of the inevitable power-user backlash just serves to add mod-power to the existing leftist stance.
posted by jsonic at 3:45 PM on December 1, 2014 [15 favorites]


We're not going to start putting "Metafilter: A Place For Lefties" out there in any capacity.

Metafilter: A place for lefties?
posted by Going To Maine at 3:46 PM on December 1, 2014


I am not making it about me. You and other people are making it about me -- which is consistent with this sitewide pattern.

what can i say? - some people simply have to have someone to blame their bad behavior on, so they find unpopular person who they disagree with and say, "why are you making me argue with you like this?"

a little restraint would be good for this site - if you see five people making good points against poster or dubious statement x, being number 6 isn't going to advance the discussion any

if you see five people saying x, why bother saying x a sixth time?

i can't remember the last time i went for more than 2 reply cycles with someone - sometimes, when people try to start a disagreement, it tends to be just nit-picky trolling - and then if enough people do it and there's enough replies to it, it's suddenly, "all about this person we're trolling into an argument" not "all about us trolling for an argument"

at some level, i wonder if people are insecure about what they're arguing - why else would they go to such lengths to be "right"?
posted by pyramid termite at 3:51 PM on December 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


And that coming from fffm, who strikes me as being one of the most rabid, hysterical and intolerant people on the site, is quite something.
posted by ambient2 at 3:53 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Just skimming through to catch up, as I lost the discussion when it became about a carousel of personalities, but one thing jumped out to me because of the use of all caps:

into a thread where ANOTHER white murderer

So this is interesting. I suppose this is a reference to Wilson, who wasn't even indicted, but for whom a demonstrably legal label is assigned. Murder and murderer are legal concepts. "Killer" would be appropriate if you want to discuss factual/ethical/moral angle. But when you call someone a murderer, you are explicitly using legal language for the sole purpose of implying a violation of law.

So if one responded by saying "No, he isn't a murderer because he was not indicted or convicted of murder; he wasn't even indicted for manslaughter, so it would be wrong to call him a manslaughterer" would that be an improper response? Would that be not reading the room correctly? Would that be too legalistic and not sufficiently considerate of other people's perspectives? Or is that perfectly acceptable?

Of course, it would be great to not invite that argument, but in some ways, it seems to me to be the other side of the Ironmouth coin.
posted by dios at 3:56 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


I would give up a body part to never hear the phrase "shit show" again. It's a disgusting gross horrible image and it needs to jump off a cliff.

Ditto for "shit-stirring" which not only has a gross image (I LIKE TO TOSS IN A LITTLE CORIANDER) but denies good faith.
posted by waraw at 3:58 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


But when you call someone a murderer, you are explicitly using legal language for the sole purpose of implying a violation of law.

Maybe you are. Lots of other people aren't.
posted by asterix at 3:58 PM on December 1, 2014 [16 favorites]


Yeah I mean if you want proof that its not ideological content of the comments, but the tone, well there you have it.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:59 PM on December 1, 2014


would that be an improper response?

Yes, of course. Are you being serious?

Murder and murderer are not just legal concepts.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:01 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


'Murder' is also used colloquially to mean 'the deliberate killing of another human being.' Just because a word is also a narrowly-defined legal term doesn't mean that the legal term is the only meaning. So while I take your point, I disagree with its conclusion.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:01 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


But when you call someone a murderer, you are explicitly using legal language for the sole purpose of implying a violation of law.

Terms with legal meanings also have colloquial usages, and not recognizing that non-lawyers who are not in court use legal terms this way all the time is kind of silly. You are certainly not required to like it, but unless you're getting paid to object to something in court, there's no point in telling people they're doing law rong when they're not actually doing law.
posted by rtha at 4:02 PM on December 1, 2014 [32 favorites]


And that coming from fffm, who strikes me as being one of the most rabid, hysterical and intolerant people on the site, is quite something.

now see, this is a handy comment, because this is what an actual personal attack looks like, not "your argument is bad and you are a lawyer"
posted by kagredon at 4:03 PM on December 1, 2014 [44 favorites]


(I love that fffm favorited it, that's why I like him. :P )
posted by Drinky Die at 4:04 PM on December 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


Murder and murderer are primarily legal concepts. Killer is the non-legal term.

But you all are demonstrating my point: would it be improper to respond on legal terms when someone misapplies legal concepts? Why would it be improper?
posted by dios at 4:05 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


then I get blamed and told I am behaving badly. But I am not.

You keep coming back to this as a moral judgment and it is not one. You can do something for an entirely unique reason and morally neutral reason all to yourself and have it be visually indistinguishable from doing it because you want the last word. Something can be "not a controversial statement" in and of itself and still do nothing to contribute to the dialog.

Jsonic throws out a "hey let's wait till see the facts" as if we haven't had a tremendous amount of eyeballs on the issue for months. To contribute something concrete from those documents that disputes the common metafilter narrative does something for dialog. To simply oppose the conventional outrage over a perceived injustice does nothing to contribute to any dialog. There's nothing contributed to the discussion by doing that rather than looking at the docs yourself and then commenting if you find something that does seem to go against the outrage in the group. Very productive conversation was indeed had about various witness testimony from the GJ proceedings later in the thread and jsonic could have been the one to kick that off if s/he did the legwork and then commented.

I'm sure that feels frustrating sometime to feel like one side gets to just be upset and you, on an opposing "side," have to hew to some standard of fact. But if you're here long enough you'll find yourself on that side of the equation, in a death announcement thread if nowhere else. It's not the worst suppression your voice will ever suffer in life. If you wanted to get the reflexive benefit of the doubt in the favor of Wilson it's not like there's not a million other places on the internet you can go to do it.

To answer dios's "murderer" question I guess it comes down to whether a discussion of that sort of libel would seem remotely in place there. I think there's probably brief and productive ways to throw that out there. If it seems like a hey, you're going to hurt Darren Wilson's feelings - yeah, that's going to probably just create more anger than anything else. I'd also wonder whether someone who really knows anything about libel is just being a disingenuous concern troll since it's not clear that Wilson has a reputation to salvage or that this would be read as anything but an obvious statement of opinion.

And that's coming from me as someone interested in legal issues. So I certainly think it's not a bad thing if someone about to start that line of questioning stopped to ask themselves "does this really seem like the conversation this group is interested in having or will I just make people super angry?" That's not squelching their political viewpoint, that's being a participant in a community rather than just an agitator.
posted by phearlez at 4:05 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think calling Wilson a murderer is an improper comment. On the other hand I also don't think saying Wilson isn't a murderer is in any way an inappropriate comment either but it would certainly provoke a lot of people as though it were inappropriate.
posted by Justinian at 4:05 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Holy hell. When someone says "he's a murderer" it's implied they're saying "[I believe] he's a murderer", why are we even arguing about this
posted by naju at 4:05 PM on December 1, 2014 [13 favorites]


why are we even arguing about this

because dios
posted by Greg Nog at 4:06 PM on December 1, 2014 [26 favorites]


Murder and murderer are primarily legal concepts. Killer is the non-legal term.

Repeating this doesn't make it true.
posted by asterix at 4:07 PM on December 1, 2014 [27 favorites]


Murder and murderer are primarily legal concepts. Killer is the non-legal term.

No, they aren't. Trust us non-lawyers. They aren't.

Apply your reasoning to other things, like stealing. You'll see how stupid the logic is.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:07 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


> When someone says "he's a murderer" it's implied they're saying "[I believe] he's a murderer", why are we even arguing about this

I accuse you of practicing law without a license.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:09 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


You'll see how stupid the logic is.

Actually, "seeing" is actually a medical term for taking in light with your eyes; you probably mean "perceiving".
posted by Greg Nog at 4:10 PM on December 1, 2014 [71 favorites]


Well, I suppose one could consult a dictionary or something, where the primary definition is legal. My point isn't to argue it. I am certainly aware that people misapply legal concepts all the time. But a problem arises when vaguely legal concepts are addressed in which people misapply legal stuff. When someone comes in and responds on legal terms, the objection seems to be that people are behaving legalistically and not reading the room when the response seems to be justified.
posted by dios at 4:10 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


There are a lot of different ways to use murder. Someone might have used the word because they do think Wilson broke the law. They may mean someone violated God's law with a killing. They may just be using it as a synonym for killing or deliberate killing, which is very common. They may just be using it without anybody having been killed at all, like, "Boy, the Eagles sure murdered the Cowboys on Thanksgiving. What a slaughter."

So it's fine to point out it has a specific legal meaning, just be careful to make sure you have a clear reading on how the other party is using it and try and meet them halfway.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:11 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wow! "Oh look, lawful evil has made its regular appearance" is pure perfection! And reading it made coming here worthwhile. Bravo whoever wrote that. lol
posted by jeffburdges at 4:11 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Would you like me to say, "No, she's probably not 'depressed' because depression is a clinical term," "No, you're probably not 'OCD' because Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a clinical condition," "No, he's probably not a sociopath because Antisocial Personality Disorder is a clinical term," ad fucking nauseum, every time such comments come up? Or can we all just agree that some terms are used colloquially in ways that are sloppy compared to their professional or clinical uses and just agree to work toward communication rather than pointless nitpicking?
posted by jaguar at 4:13 PM on December 1, 2014 [16 favorites]


WE ARE NOT MISAPPLYING LEGAL CONCEPTS BECAUSE WE AREN'T USING LEGAL CONCEPTS.

Jesus christ we are talking about murder not fucking estoppel
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:14 PM on December 1, 2014 [13 favorites]


We could probably get some doctors to come in and object (oh, sorry, is that a legal term too?) every time someone uses "sign" when they mean "symptom" or vice versa.
posted by jaguar at 4:17 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Would you like me to say, "No, she's probably not 'depressed' because depression is a clinical term," "No, you're probably not 'OCD' because Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder is a clinical condition," "No, he's probably not a sociopath because Antisocial Personality Disorder is a clinical term," ad fucking nauseum, every time such comments come up?

Yeah there's people who object to terms for actual mental illnesses being slung around casually, and they have defensible reasons for that

Not to open up a whole new front to argue about or anything
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:17 PM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


And "Won't someone think of the concern trolls?" pretty well sums it up here too.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:17 PM on December 1, 2014


just be careful to make sure you have a clear reading on how the other party is using it.

Bingo. Was it clear to you in the phrase I quoted from how the writer was using it? (This was the clarity that restless_nomad stressed above in the quote I referenced). True, responding to calling Wilson a murderer on legal grounds may or may not be appropriate depending on what the user of the term meant. Are we prepared to say that the onus is on the person responding to guess correctly or the person using the term to be clear in the first instance? I am interested in seeing where we place the burden.
posted by dios at 4:17 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


beans ...
posted by infini at 4:18 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Bingo

We are having a conversation here. If you want to play games, MetaTalk isn't the place, please go to MeFightClub.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:20 PM on December 1, 2014


Next time someone asks me to stop judging them, I'll just tell them I can't be judging them because I'm not actually a judge! Woo hoo.
posted by sallybrown at 4:22 PM on December 1, 2014 [31 favorites]


there's people who object to terms for actual mental illnesses being slung around casually, and they have defensible reasons for that

Yes, definitely. But if there's a long discussion about someone being depressed and how horrible it is, I'm not going to step in and demand of them what DSM criteria they meet in order to discover if they are using the term in a clinically appropriate way.
posted by jaguar at 4:23 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Catchin' up after coming on shift. So:

I still think my point was directly pertinent to a thread decrying the injustice of the non-indictment since nobody had time to review the just-then-released evidence at that point. Jumping to conclusions before reviewing the evidence is not a reliable method of determining the truth of the situation.

jsonic, your point wasn't a problem; presenting it in a sort of snide and dismissive way as one of the first comments in a thread about a really upsetting situation was the problem, which is why the rephrased version of it that skipped that framing stayed. You continuing to press the point after that was why I left a note asking you to cool it, and then we talked about it over mefimail some.

Outside of Metafilter, that is not a controversial statement, and the fact that it was quickly deleted due to not "reading the room" correctly and that it might start a fight is disturbing.

Again, timing and phrasing. Outside of Metafilter, that could be either an uncontroversial observation in casual conversation or the start of a fistfight, depending an awful lot on how it was said and when and by whom to whom. Inside of Metafilter, it was poorly phrased and poorly timed.

Deleting comments out of fear of the inevitable power-user backlash just serves to add mod-power to the existing leftist stance.

I can assure you that I've never refrained from deleting a comment that needed deleting on account of an expectation that people who spend a lot of time here might complain. That sort of thing would probably make my life easier in a lot of ways, but here we are.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:25 PM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


Huh, I was going to call dios out earlier as a prominent MeFi-ite of the lawyerly persuasion who acquitted himself pretty well in that thread, but having seen him try to argue that colloquial usage of a term is somehow hitting below the belt, I guess I'm glad I held that one back.
posted by tonycpsu at 4:25 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Are we prepared to say that the onus is on the person responding to guess correctly or the person using the term to be clear in the first instance?

Everybody should try and use clear language, but everybody will always be misunderstood at some point when addressing a large, diverse audience.

If I wasn't clear on what somebody meant, I would try to note that in my response. "Not sure you meant to imply X, but if so..."
posted by Drinky Die at 4:26 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


If you need a concrete example, you can go back and look at corb using this rhetorical "I don't understand why" strategy about road blocking. When someone said hey, isn't this kind of your area? You should know it happens for Y reason, she comes back with well yeah, but we don't do it because of Z. Which makes it look like she's being deliberately disingenuous in order to set up some sort of response or rant rather than discussion in good faith

I think sometimes these misunderstandings come about in part because people think they know where other people are coming from, and respond to what they think they're going to say, rather than what they actually are trying to say or mean.

People forget, for example, that a lot of my feelings about protests/organizing come from being a part of it, from the left, for many years. That may seem incomprehensible now, here, but there was a time when I was regularly receiving death and rape threats for my "commie traitor views." And there was a time when I thought that if the people just knew about the problem, if we just marched in the police-approved protest line, if we just nonviolently carried signs, the world would change. It didn't. We changed tactics to more effective ones. And yet every new incident, people came up trying to recreate the 60s without any understanding of why that was effective at the time.

So me saying "What's the point?" is a frustration that came from my heart. I genuinely don't understand why these ineffective tactics come up again and again, I don't understand why we can't just get it straight that the American population isn't going to care about anything without a damn good reason better than stopping traffic. I don't understand and it hurts me.

And that gets met with "I bet you're being deliberately disingenuous." Why would I do that? What could I possibly gain? How would that in any way benefit me? Talking from the heart has value, because I think of Metafilter as a community that I belong to, and we're all talking about stuff as at least distant friends. But what would be my motivation for what you think I'm doing?
posted by corb at 4:27 PM on December 1, 2014 [16 favorites]


Huh, I was going to call dios out earlier as a prominent lawyer who acquitted himself pretty well in that thread, but having seen him try to argue that colloquial usage of a term is somehow hitting below the belt, I guess I'm glad I held that one back.

Well, for one, I didn't participate in that thread, so not sure to what you are referring.

Second, I didn't say it was hitting below the belt. I was raising an issue about who we place the burden on in such situations because I think the answer would be interesting. But given the disgust of me even inviting a discussing on that point that it has generated, I'll drop it and let y'all get back to what really important discussion that was going on before I raised it.
posted by dios at 4:28 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Communication tip that I have found very useful myself: Don't ask questions when you are actually making a statement. It helps cut down on being misinterpreted as sarcastic or disingenuous.
posted by jaguar at 4:30 PM on December 1, 2014 [14 favorites]


Well, for one, I didn't participate in that thread, so not sure to what you are referring.

Yowza, mistaken identity I guess. My sincere apologies.
posted by tonycpsu at 4:31 PM on December 1, 2014


So me saying "What's the point?" is a frustration that came from my heart.

But when you already know the answer — as you expressed later, you know why people do this, you just don't think it's effective or worthwhile — then asking it as a question seems disingenuous. If you'd said something like "We stopped doing road-blocking actions because it was counterproductive; it's frustrating to see these people repeating the same useless actions" that probably would have gotten a different response.

On preview, jaguar has it.
posted by Lexica at 4:32 PM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


My opinion is that when the term being used is common both inside and outside a courtroom (murder, judge, steal as opposed to manslaughter, estoppel, tenancy), the burden falls on the person who seeks to restrict the term to its strict legal meaning only.
posted by sallybrown at 4:34 PM on December 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


People forget, for example, that a lot of my feelings about protests/organizing come from being a part of it, from the left, for many years.

I don't see how people could forget, as you mention it fairly often. I'm aware of your history, but "surround the police station" is bad fucking advice, and you're clearly not stupid, and you clearly don't sympathize with the protestors, so it's not illogical to conclude that "what about doing it this way" is being offered as a means of casting aspersions on how they actually are protesting rather than a sincere effort to help them accomplish their goals. It may be plain to you that you're not offering it in bad faith, but it's reasonable to conclude that you are.
posted by tonycpsu at 4:34 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


If I wasn't clear on what somebody meant, I would try to note that in my response. "Not sure you meant to imply X, but if so..."

(This is also a good way to shift the focus to the idea instead of the person if the implication is potentially offensive. They won't feel as much need to defend themselves from a feeling they are being attacked if they can reply, "Sorry, I didn't mean to imply that. I see how you could have seen it that way," and expect the matter to be over.)
posted by Drinky Die at 4:35 PM on December 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


it's not illogical to conclude that "what about doing it this way" is being offered as a means of casting aspersions on how they actually are protesting rather than a sincere effort to help them accomplish their goals.

I had a followup where I explained how that could work and gave examples of how I had personally seen and been involved in similar tactics working, but it got deleted as a derail, sadly.
posted by corb at 4:39 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


Other times, the mods just stop at “You (specific person) need to walk away.” And then they do little or nothing when comments after that continue to basically harangue the person who has walked away and, essentially, been deprived of the right to defend themselves (themselves, not their point -- that is usually what the real issue is here).

We usually pretty actively try to curtail comments after that sort of note that are continuing to respond to the user we've told to cut it out or walk away. I am not gonna claim that we always get it perfectly, and the nature of intertwined conversational threads can make it sometimes impossible to really thoroughly do that without chopping the resulting thread to pieces or deleting good, substantial comments that also have a passing reference to something deleted or someone asked to cool it, but telling x to hush up and then letting people go crazy about x is not or policy or practice with this stuff and to the degree it does happen it's a matter of stuff slipping by, not stuff actively condoned.

Pile-on dynamics are a problem and not one we've ever pretended come down solely to the person at the center of the pile-on, and it is hard for me to know how to respond to a suggestion to the contrary. Saying that someone wrapped up in a pile-on may often have some agency or culpability in how that dynamic plays out—especially if it's one that's played out a bunch of times previously and that we've talked with them about—is not the same thing as exculpating or dismissing the other folks involved.

I object to how unreasonably hard the mods seemed to come down on the minority viewpoint.

Jacqueline, I don't think this is separable in this case from corb-as-the-user-in-question in the way that talking about "the minority viewpoint" in abstract suggests it should be, is the thing. There's whatever "the minority viewpoint" is and then there's corb as a specific person with a long history on this site of patterns of engagement and argumentation, both in general and on the subject of Ferguson in particular.

There's no reasonable way to proceed if we're forced to conflate the two; corb isn't everyone who believes or argues any of the things that she personally believes or argues, and moderation action that affects her is not some universal statement about arguments or beliefs. It is clear that some folks, you included, feel that she's unfairly hemmed in by the moderation attention she sometimes gets, but to the extent that we can argue about that notional unfairness, it's not "the minority viewpoint". It's one user with a long history here that transcends whatever specific argument they're making in a given comment in a given thread and who does not.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:39 PM on December 1, 2014 [18 favorites]


Actually, "seeing" is actually a medical term for taking in light with your eyes; you probably mean "perceiving".

Perception is a philosophical concept; please everyone get a degree in philosophy before talking about the possibility of events separate from your subjective experience.
posted by winna at 4:41 PM on December 1, 2014 [19 favorites]


Possibility? What are you, some sort of mathematician?
posted by el io at 4:42 PM on December 1, 2014 [37 favorites]


And don't even get me started on people saying "significant" when they don't even present a p-value.
posted by dialetheia at 4:45 PM on December 1, 2014 [28 favorites]


phearlez: Jsonic throws out a "hey let's wait till see the facts" as if we haven't had a tremendous amount of eyeballs on the issue for months.

The vast majority of evidence for this case was not released until after the grand jury announcement. All of those "eyeballs on the issue for months" were not basing their analysis on the actual facts of the case. Each side was simply regurgitating the scant rumors and tidbits which matched their biases ("he was on drugs", "he robbed the store", "he was shot in the back while running away", etc). This isn't a defense of Wilson, just asking rational people to not jump to conclusions before the facts were available.
posted by jsonic at 4:48 PM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


Jump to conclusions? Brown was killed in August.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 4:51 PM on December 1, 2014


The problem is how often "we must wait for the facts" is used as cover by privileged classes of people to downplay harms visited upon the less-privileged. We see it when women accuse rich/powerful men of sexual assault, we see it when (yet another) white cop shoots (yet another) young male of colour, etc. You got hit by the overflow from that, I think; I am not even suggesting that your motivation was to downplay anything. Reasonable requests have been co-opted by the extremists.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:52 PM on December 1, 2014 [25 favorites]


Cortex, please see this summation.

I am not accusing the mods of doing anything. I am merely hoping to help them up their game. I gave specific, concrete suggestions that I think will help move the bar on this issue over time. So I don't see any need for you to respond to something I don't think I did and don't know how you are concluding that.
posted by Michele in California at 4:53 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


All of those "eyeballs on the issue for months" were not basing their analysis on the actual facts of the case.

I am not confident that the prosecuter presented all the facts or that much of his presentation was factual. In fact, the glaring lack of facts is what many of us were discussing.
posted by futz at 4:53 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


MisantropicPainforest: Jump to conclusions? Brown was killed in August.

And almost all of the evidence in the case wasn't released until late November. Deciding before that evidence was available is jumping to a conclusion.

feckless fecal fear mongering: The problem is how often "we must wait for the facts" is used as cover by privileged classes of people to downplay harms visited upon the less-privileged...Reasonable requests have been co-opted by the extremists.

That's something for me to chew on. I'm not sure of a logical alternative to waiting though.
posted by jsonic at 4:59 PM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


MiC, the last paragraph of your initial comment in here is this:
Because, currently, the mods and the group as a whole are all too happy to say it is that person’s fault and not acknowledge that the person is trapped in a social dynamic they did not create all by themselves and don’t know how to solve as an individual and probably cannot solve as an individual without seriously saintly attributes.
I don't know how to square "the mods...are all too happy to say it is that person’s fault and not acknowledge that the person is trapped in a social dynamic they did not create all by themselves" with "I am not accusing the mods of doing" the stuff I just objected to you suggesting that we do. If that's not what you meant to say, fine, but it is what you actually said.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:01 PM on December 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


This isn't a defense of Wilson, just asking rational people to not jump to conclusions before the facts were available.

Many facts were available. They may not be the facts that were presented to the grand jury, but many things were capable of being sussed out. Put aside even the sizable consternation that the matter was presented to a GJ at all, which it did not have to be. Put aside the matter of all the surrounding mess from the protest response. You're left with only a small question of "was the material presented to the GJ such that it might make someone think this was the right GJ decision?"

Your choice was to actually go look and later contribute something concrete to a discussion or to say "hey no way any of you had time to look at this and maybe there's something in there but I dunno."

I don't think any of us are posting from somewhere that we don't have a clock, so what does that speculation contribute to any real conversation? You piss off a sizable number of people who are feeling upset for... what? That's why you got asked to read the room. You want to play what-if games absent anything resembling a basis, there's threads where people won't be bugged by it. Instead you want to play "hey maybe" when there's just as much on the "hey maybe not" side.
posted by phearlez at 5:02 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure of a logical alternative to waiting though.

Accepting accounts of people who were there and paying attention to patterns of oppression to make educated hypotheses about what might have happened. Realizing that privileging "official" accounts in a racist system can very easily prop up the racist system.
posted by jaguar at 5:02 PM on December 1, 2014 [19 favorites]


moderation action that affects her is not some universal statement about arguments or beliefs.

Cortex, leaving aside my own feels about that, this is not as obvious as I think you and other mods may believe. When a mod leaves a note in the thread saying that it's not the time for X to drum up sympathy for Wilson, the impression is not that anyone else wanting to express sympathy for Wilson would be just fine. The impression is that expressing sympathy for Wilson is a not-good thing to do, that even if it was ever okay to do, this is not the time for it, and that it is something that should have been blindingly obvious to users.

I think any of the users that are prolific enough to rate special mod attention probably also check their memail, if the point is just to talk to that specific user.
posted by corb at 5:03 PM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


Express sympathy for Wilson? Wait, did something happen to Wilson that I don't know about?
posted by el io at 5:12 PM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


Well, he's going to have to hire an accountant to manage that $500k windfall. That's gonna be a hassle.
posted by tonycpsu at 5:14 PM on December 1, 2014 [11 favorites]


Cortex, let me put that another way:

The pattern of behavior here for both mods and the group as a whole has a particular effect. That effect skews strongly towards framing the person at the center as both at fault and in control. They usually are not in control of anything. The crap rages on even if they leave. Therefore, in most cases, talking as if they are at fault for the whole thing and the only solution is for them to shut up really does them a disservice and only deepens a problematic dynamic.

I understand that is the most effective tool the mods have so far come up with for this particular situation. I am trying to offer additional tools.

Trying to describe the outcome is not in any way to suggest the mods are guilty of intentionally scapegoating that party. So, in that sense, I am not accusing you of being guilty of anything. Nonetheless, the pattern of how these things get framed by both mods and members just entrenches the problem. It is not a way out.

I am sorry if you feel accused of something. I find it unfortunate and personally frustrating that so many of things I said have been argued against in a way that I feel is largely irrelevant while my main point seems to have gone largely unheard. That main point is: I think if the mods tried harder to consistently discuss such incidents in terms of an ongoing group dynamic rather than an ongoing issue with a particular member, things would gradually improve over time.

I don't know how to be more clear than that. I am not accusing you of something -- other than having room for improvement on an issue the mods themselves have repeatedly expressed a desire to improve upon.
posted by Michele in California at 5:16 PM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


When a mod leaves a note in the thread saying that it's not the time for X to drum up sympathy for Wilson, the impression is not that anyone else wanting to express sympathy for Wilson would be just fine.

When what we're dealing with is an extremely fast-moving, heated thread and some recurring sort of tonedeafness from an established user creating extra friction in there, the possibility that someone will get the wrong impression from a shallow read of a note about the situation is not our top priority. Members of the site who want to talk about the specifics can bring it here; people who are non-member readers unfamiliar with the details of site moderation can take their impressions and do with them what they like; nothing will be perfect or completely fair, but hopefully the thread won't melt down and that is the primary thing likely to be occupying our attention.

That may not be how you would prioritize how we react to stuff, whether your comments or others'. That's okay, we are doing different things, with different goals, and are pretty likely to disagree about this stuff at times. But I find "what if people get the wrong idea" as an argument against moderation directly affecting you to be not very compelling. I would like for you to get the correct idea and it's not like we haven't had a ton of conversations with you about related stuff as regards your participation on the site; I would like for you to worry less about how notional People might react to this stuff and more about how you choose to participate in the first place.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:16 PM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


Feels like there's ever more OutrageFilter on the site, that aggressive people set a line that will be toed and moderation generally supports it. It's interesting in that it ends up creating an environment of intolerance and woe to those who would displease those who are in power.
posted by ambient2 at 5:18 PM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]


*yawn*
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:26 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


jsonic: I'm not sure of a logical alternative to waiting though.

jaguar: Accepting accounts of people who were there and paying attention to patterns of oppression to make educated hypotheses about what might have happened.


There were conflicting accounts from the witnesses on the scene, though. Waiting for further evidence seems more prudent than picking whatever account happens to confirm my worldview.
posted by jsonic at 5:38 PM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


what evidence do you want us to wait for?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:40 PM on December 1, 2014


That's something for me to chew on. I'm not sure of a logical alternative to waiting though.

I think maybe the best way to demonstrate good faith would have been to go ahead and point to actual evidence in the grand jury documents that you felt contradicted statements people were making with insufficient support. In other words, don't make it about telling people to "wait and see", but actually wait and see and use the evidence you find.
posted by kagredon at 5:41 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


> For the larger issue of people going against the majority view, there are a couple of issues
> there. The biggest one is that we have a few people who have a particular position, and come
> in to any thread that even tangentially touches on the issue and construct a defense of their
> position whether or not it's relevant to the conversation.

The exact words vary but this gets said over and over again, by mods and by others. Every time that happens I think "OK, how about a list of names?" I understand perfectly well that no such list will ever be posted, certainly not by any mods, probably not by anyone else. Nevertheless, the pairing of the general assertion with the absence of the specific details one would normally expect to follow it is becoming such a regular site feature that it's starting to deserve a name of its own. I suggest "pix or it didn't happen."
posted by jfuller at 5:48 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


are you for real saying the problem with moderation is that mods haven't published a shit list

that's...well, it's a new one, I'll give you that.
posted by kagredon at 5:49 PM on December 1, 2014 [13 favorites]


I can assure you that I've never refrained from deleting a comment that needed deleting on account of an expectation that people who spend a lot of time here might complain. That sort of thing would probably make my life easier in a lot of ways, but here we are.
posted by cortex


It's early where I am and I could do with more coffee, less head cold so forgive me if I'm missing something, but I am confused.

I read the first sentence as saying you have deleted comments that needed deleting "on account of an expectation..." But the second sentence, that doing so would probably make your life easier, seems to contradict the first.
posted by ambient2 at 5:50 PM on December 1, 2014


I think it's:

"The expectation that people who spend a lot of time here might complain has never made me refrain from deleting a comment that needed deleting."
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:52 PM on December 1, 2014


I have here in my hand a list of 400 known agitators...
*waves piece of paper with tiny writing on it*

Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Papanuhty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty, Paphnuty,Paphnuty
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:54 PM on December 1, 2014 [14 favorites]


Sorry, I'll reframe it a little to get rid of the ambiguity: I can assure you that I've never allowed an expectation that people who spend a lot of time here might complain to cause me to refrain from deleting a comment that needed deleting.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:56 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


And that coming from fffm, who strikes me as being one of the most rabid, hysterical and intolerant people on the site, is quite something.

Since this is a thread about personal attacks, I figure this is on-topic:

fffm, do you mind giving your reason for favoriting that comment? FWIW, I thought the comment was harsh, and felt bad seeing it because I figured it would be pretty hurtful to you (and would be to anyone on the receiving end of it), since it honestly comes off to me as a pretty personal attack. So I looked to see who'd favorited it, trying to get a bead on what kind of reception it might be getting from other people, and was surprised to see your name on the favorites list! Are you being a good sport to deescalate any brewing fight, or is it an inside joke between you guys, or is it a "forgive but don't forget" kind of thing, or did you want to bookmark it so you can respond later, or...? Honestly asking, though of course you don't have to answer. I have to admit, I'd have a hard time favoriting a comment like that about me, but it maybe *is* a good response in terms of conflict resolution to respond as you did, I mean, I did notice that no fight came of it or anything.

This isn't to *start* a fight about the comment! At all! I'm wondering about fffm's thought process because I feel like maybe I have something to learn from it personally.
posted by rue72 at 5:57 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


Favorites are not upvotes.

*Strides around the council chamber brandishing an ax*

AX ANYBODY
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:03 PM on December 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


MisantropicPainforest: what evidence do you want us to wait for?

We're discussing the comments I made in the original Grand Jury thread and their context at the time. I'm not asking you to wait for further evidence now.

kagredon: I think maybe the best way to demonstrate good faith would have been to go ahead and point to actual evidence in the grand jury documents that you felt contradicted statements people were making with insufficient support.

That was my sole point in that thread. People had already commented that the Grand Jury decision was an injustice before looking at the evidence. That was the insufficient support.

cortex: I can assure you that I've never allowed an expectation that people who spend a lot of time here might complain to cause me to refrain from deleting a comment that needed deleting.

Well, now I'm confused. Your original post was replying to my comment that part of the motivation in deleting my posts was to avoid a fight in the thread. So deleting would lead to less complaints, and lead to less stress for you.
posted by jsonic at 6:04 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Favorites are not upvotes.

Yeah, that's another reason why I'm asking outright, because I figure there are a ton of possibilities for what his thought process was and I don't want to just take some random stab in the dark about it. Not that he has to answer, I'm just wondering.
posted by rue72 at 6:06 PM on December 1, 2014


rue72... Urgh, this is going to make me sound even more unbearable, but largely as a reminder of how much change I still have ahead of me.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:06 PM on December 1, 2014 [34 favorites]


jsonic, sorry to harp on this but the chance of a grand jury not returning an indictment was like 0.016. Its perfectly reasonable to come to the conclusion, before the decision is reached, that the grand jury failing to indict was a gross act of injustice.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:07 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Your original post was replying to my comment that part of the motivation in deleting my posts was to avoid a fight in the thread. So deleting would lead to less complaints, and lead to less stress for you.

My reason for deleting it wasn't a concern about people complaining if I didn't; I deleted it because I thought it would make the thread go south right out of the gate as an argument about your comment in lieu of anything else. Fights in threads, and complaints in my inbox or metatalk, are two different kinds of things, and part of the way we moderate the site is that we generally prefer to minimize the former in favor of the latter, even though the latter means it's shit we have to deal with more personally than if we just let something fester in a thread and ignored the whole thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:08 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


I just favorited FFFM's comment out of sheer whimsy and I'll do it /British voice/ again.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:10 PM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


Perception is a philosophical concept; please everyone get a degree in philosophy before talking about the possibility of events separate from your subjective experience.

But according to Bishop Berkeley, esse est percipi, so...

Wait, did we just kill God?
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:12 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Whoops dang sorries god. :(
posted by winna at 6:14 PM on December 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


It has come to my attention that certain members of this web site may not even exist

*shows the camera a sketch of a giant mollusk*
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:17 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


¿Eso significa que no más apologism abogado?
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 6:17 PM on December 1, 2014


But according to Bishop Berkeley, esse est percipi, so...

Wait, did we just kill God?


Deicide is thirsty work, someone pass the tar water.
posted by homunculus at 6:24 PM on December 1, 2014


Man, clearly the mistake the mods made in asking you to read the room first was in believing you'd ever take a moment to read the room. It's days later and you still can't get it. The post's framing was larger than just the grand jury decision - it referenced a misuse of the judicial system going back fifty+ years, mentioned other unarmed black teens who had been shot to death by people who would not do jail time, a presidential address, and some poetry. Comments preceding yours discussed the protest situation in Ferguson and the choice of timing, lies told by the police about the protest response, difficulty in getting convictions in police shootings, and what sort of conflict of interest ties the prosecutor had.

After which you want to drop in and say hey maybe read the grand jury documents before you come to a conclusion. Never mind all that other stuff or independent research or the last couple hundred years of race relations, and I don't actually know what's in them but maybe it'll totally offset every other thing here.

And you're still defending that decision to talk first and research never. YOU could have read the grand jury documents and then maybe had something worth contributing, rather than just poking the bear. You didn't. Other people did later, and there was interesting talk about various witness conflicts and outright whackyness. All you had was FUD, and it's still all you have. But you're going to repeatedly defend your right to be incendiary without any real knowledge.

Seriously, what don't you get?
posted by phearlez at 6:28 PM on December 1, 2014 [17 favorites]


That was my sole point in that thread. People had already commented that the Grand Jury decision was an injustice before looking at the evidence. That was the insufficient support.

This is the part you received a great deal of pushback about, for good reason. There are many, many reasons to believe the grand jury decision was an injustice that have nothing to do with the evidence that came out of those proceedings, and dismissing them all with "insufficient support" as if the only possible case to be made here is about a narrow procedural question re: whether Brown was facing Wilson or not is kind of missing the point when people have a much broader set of reasons for considering this an injustice.

One might believe that a special prosecutor should have been named due to the conflicts of interest, or that this was a massive abuse of the grand jury process, or that "I was scared of an unarmed person who was many feet away from me" isn't a good enough reason to shoot an unarmed person seven times regardless of the other circumstances, or that the glaring inconsistencies in the police story call their narrative into question (for 100 days they maintained that Brown was 35 feet from the car but he was actually 153 feet away; Wilson claimed to have been punched 10 times in his initial statements but the changed his story to being punched twice), or that grossly improper procedures were followed in the wake of the shooting that could have compromised the evidence (no medical examiner pictures, no measurements, Wilson allowed to talk with superiors before giving statements).

While the particulars of the grand jury proceedings weren't made available until recently, there was still more than enough evidence for someone to argue that Wilson not being tried for his actions is absolutely an injustice, with or without examining those proceedings. It was insulting to people who have been following this case very closely for months now to sweep in and tell them they had "insufficient support" for their opinions.

As a side note, the very nature of the grand jury process is that the prosecutor gets to cherrypick what evidence to present and what witnesses to question (although I understand that calling witness accounts into question isn't a standard feature of grand jury proceedings), so it's odd that everyone continues to speak as if the evidence presented to the grand jury constitutes an objectively curated set of all the available facts in this case. We would get a lot closer to knowing we have "all the facts" if this had been allowed to go to trial, so in a way, the people who thought the non-indictment was an injustice are actually the people who want to see more of the evidence here.
posted by dialetheia at 6:31 PM on December 1, 2014 [27 favorites]


Ironmouth is one of the most skilled and noxious trolls I have ever seen on the Internet. He lies over and over in every thread he participates in and I don't think I've ever seen him give a good-faith response to any interlocutor. Ignoring that is easier said than done, and I think at a certain point the mods should really consider banning individuals who extensively post in hot-button threads while refusing to engage in an actual exchange with anyone.
posted by threeants at 6:46 PM on December 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


phearlez: Seriously, what don't you get?

You seem to be getting heated and are asking me to back up arguments I have not made.

The mods asked me to stop commenting in the original thread, and I respected their request. I'm discussing it in this metatalk thread since other people brought up questions concerning the reason for the deletion of my comments. Cortex provided further reasons for his decision and I'm not going to pursue an argument with him.
posted by jsonic at 6:46 PM on December 1, 2014


Cmon. Your argument is quoted! Now all of the sudden you don't have an opinion you're willing to express. Good riddance
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:57 PM on December 1, 2014


"What a great example of a metalk post ... Anything else would have resulted in 1000 comments and a couple of flameouts."

Yes, big congrats to phoenix_rising on her first MetaTalk post!

I'm pretty sure that my version of this thread would not have gone as well.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:13 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]


But when you call someone a murderer, you are explicitly using legal language for the sole purpose of implying a violation of law.

It's possible to have actually committed murder, as defined by statute, without being found guilty of it.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:17 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


I am not making it about me. You and other people are making it about me -- which is consistent with this sitewide pattern.

Anyway, I really don't feel like arguing it. So people can do here what they always do and claim that the person at the middle -- in this case me -- is somehow behaving badly and the group ganging up on them is in the right and continue taking potshots and then acting like that person should not have any desire to defend themselves when that happens.

Later.


Michele in California, I would like to show you why people sometimes get the impression that you are “trying to make it about you.” This is sort of a recurring theme, and I think you feel accused of it often. There is a reason people take your comments/participation that way, but I don't think you can see it.

A comment you addressed to Cortex: I am not accusing the mods of doing anything. I am merely hoping to help them up their game. I gave specific, concrete suggestions that I think will help move the bar on this issue over time.

The pronoun that begins each of those sentences is the first tip-off, but that can be excused as a matter of personal style, so let’s skip it for now.

“I am merely hoping to help [you] up [your] game” is a really condescending thing to say to Cortex. You may disagree with his game, and that’s fine, but believing that *you* can share with him the tools he needs to better do his job (up his game!), and that he should be grateful, is really presumptuous and, again, condescending. The subtext, which you may or may not really mean, is that *you alone* know how to solve this site-wide problem that *you* have identified. So: We have you stating what you think is Cortex’s and the other mods’ problem, and then helpfully providing them with what you believe to be the solution to their collective problem. That is not making this about them. It is making this about *you*.

In a subsequent comment:

I understand that is the most effective tool the mods have so far come up with for this particular situation. I am trying to offer additional tools.

Pronoun troubles again, again excused for the possibility that it’s a style choice. (It's a style choice that might be pinging the reader's all-about-her radar by now, though.) Anyway, you’re doubling down on your condescension here. I don’t doubt that you’re sincerely trying to present Cortex et al with some tools they can use. But they don’t need your tools! The very fact that you are again 'offering' them your Tools® comes off like a grandmother forcing a kid to eat her liver because it's good for her, despite the fact that the kid really just does not like liver. This isn't about the mods, and it isn't about the methods they employ, it is about your ideas of how they use (or don't use) those methods.

Trying to describe the outcome is not in any way to suggest the mods are guilty of intentionally scapegoating that party. So, in that sense, I am not accusing you of being guilty of anything.

Good! Because that’s not your place! (But your insistence that it IS your place kinda makes it sound a little bit like you think this is about you.)

I am sorry if you feel accused of something. I find it unfortunate and personally frustrating that so many of things I said have been argued against in a way that I feel is largely irrelevant while my main point seems to have gone largely unheard. That main point is: I think if the mods tried harder to consistently discuss such incidents in terms of an ongoing group dynamic rather than an ongoing issue with a particular member, things would gradually improve over time.

Chipping away at the pronoun problem one sentence at a time. Great!

But here's something: In my life, every time someone says to me “I am sorry [if you were hurt/offended]” followed by “I find it unfortunate [that you don’t understand why I was justified in saying the thing that hurt you]” it feels to me like I’m not really getting an apology. Instead, the conversation has shifted from the thing that hurt me, and why it hurt me, to why the person who hurt me was justified in hurting me, and now they’re upset because I can't understand how I am now wronging them by not understanding where they were coming from. When people in my life do that to me, it helps for me to recognize that it’s because they’re making it about themselves, and that helps me put *my* frustration with the whole thing in the proper context, because if that person is always going to make this conversation about them, there’s no point in engaging with them anymore (from my POV), because I am going to get nothing good out of it.

I don't know how to be more clear than that. I am not accusing you of something -- other than having room for improvement on an issue the mods themselves have repeatedly expressed a desire to improve upon.

Your pronouns still aren’t helping you here, but anyway. I would point out that this is again pretty condescending: ‘I’m not accusing you of anything except that which I am accusing you of.’ And the next bit sounds like something a 3rd grade teacher would write on a report card: 'You have room for improvement, but first you must want to improve. Attitude adjustment in order.' In any case, it is again telling the mods that *you* have clearly identified their problem and that *you* are again handing them a solution, and *you* are getting frustrated by the fact that they’re not accepting it.

And that’s why it comes off – in this thread and in past threads -- as it sounding like you make these things about *you*. And that's how the cycle gets started. Because really, you do make it sound like it's about you, and the people who disagree with you are being mean or unfair, so you restate your point, and people respond like they did before, and it spirals downward from there.

I don’t mean this to sound harsh, because I do think you have good intentions. And I hate that this is going to look like a public call out, but this is an issue that comes up repeatedly on the site (and has come up in this thread), and that makes it public. I’m hoping this might help you hear how you sometimes sound to others. Consider it a tool I'm giving you.

Peace out.
posted by mudpuppie at 7:27 PM on December 1, 2014 [50 favorites]


(I didn't intend this to be a venue for people to re-hash arguments from the Ferguson thread, but I guess it was bound to happen. Sorry.)

It sounds like part of the issue is the prior posting history of a couple members. Would the outcome have been different if those posts had been made by different people? Is there a way to handle these situations without creating a hostile environment that might discourage others from posting?

Additionally, while the whole "repeat offenders" thing may account for some of the perceived bias in that thread, it doesn't account for everything. From my read of it, it looks like anyone who didn't 100% agree with Mike-Brown-was-completely-blameless-and-Wilson-is-an-evil-dickwad-racist got dog-piled. And apparently I'm not alone in that assessment.

That said, I think it's interesting how different people's perceptions can be, looking at the same thing. For example, someone made this comment upthread:

frankly I'm pretty okay with it if Mefi's commenting culture is less inclined to tolerate the "but looting is the real problem", "Mike Brown was a thug", "it's totally okay to drive a car through a crowd of protestors", "Wilson was fearing for his life from an unarmed teenager".

But I ... well, I didn't see anything like this in the Ferguson thread (thankfully!). At the same time, a lot of people are commenting that they don't see the "vitriol" and "snark" that I tried to point out. Fair enough. It just goes to show that, especially with these hot-button issues, emotions run high and it's easy to misunderstand and be misunderstood. Maybe we can be a bit more mindful about the way we're coming across to people, and ask ourselves whether we're really taking a comment at face value, or if we're maybe letting our frustration/outrage at the situation lead us into misinterpretations.
posted by phoenix_rising at 7:55 PM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


Obviously the fact of the matter is that blee blee blee, and there is no one with any knowledge about this that disagrees with me.

But I just mentioned three people with professional credentials in this very topic who have explicitly said not blee blee blee, and other people in this thread have linked to a whole lot more such people.

Why do you think that blonk blonk blonk? That doesn't make any sense at all.

What? I never said anything about blonk blonk blonk. Nobody in the thread has said anything about blonk blonk blonk, until you just now.

The fact of the matter is blee blee blee. Your blonk blonk blonk claim is ridiculous.

I... I don't even agree with blonk blonk blonk! What are you talking about? I'm just saying not blee blee blee. Do you have any refutation for these arguments in favor of not blee blee blee that have been described here and elsewhere by many people? Blonk blonk blonk or not blonk blonk blonk has got nothing to do with it!

Your continued assertions that blonk blonk blonk make it hard to take any of your opinions seriously.
posted by Flunkie at 8:01 PM on December 1, 2014 [10 favorites]


Would the outcome have been different if those posts had been made by different people?

Possibly (probably?), because history and context and memory matter. We have persistent identities here; that counts for quite a lot. If someone like Miko - whom I choose not at all randomly, but because she has rightfully earned a reputation as a thoughtful contributor who is rarely (never?) perceived as engaging in personal attacks, snarky snarkfests, etc. - had commented about how maybe Darren Wilson acted the way he did because of his background, she wouldn't have gotten the pushback that corb got. But that's in large part because she wouldn't have made the kind of comment (in content or tone) that corb made; and it's in part because she does not have a history of making "won't someone have sympathy for the white guy who shot the black guy" comments, which corb absolutely does.
posted by rtha at 8:17 PM on December 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


You seem to be getting heated and are asking me to back up arguments I have not made.

I assure you, I am not heated nor am I saying you made any arguments at all.
posted by phearlez at 8:19 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


And that coming from fffm, who strikes me as being one of the most rabid, hysterical and intolerant people on the site, is quite something.

fffm does not need me to defend him, but I just wanted to say that this pissed me off a bit, and it's hard to get me rattled. If this is how you view him, I'm going to politely suggest that you haven't been paying attention of late. I'm certain we'd disagree about some fundamental things, but I've found him increasingly more enjoyable to listen to, intentionally controlled in his tone, and passionate about honest communication. Especially in this thread, so why would you even say this?
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:19 PM on December 1, 2014 [33 favorites]


Would the outcome have been different if those posts had been made by different people?

You cited my response to a comment by corb in your intro in the MeTa post.

In that case, no, my response would have not been different if someone else had made the comment. Because I was responding to the comment, not the person. And that was not part of an ongoing conversation between me and corb, which would have been different - it was just a one off.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:21 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


Eh, thanks SpacemanStix, but probably best to just leave it alone. If my behaviour is still worthy of that commentary, then that commentary probably needs to happen.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:23 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


The fact of the matter is blee blee blee. Your blonk blonk blonk claim is ridiculous.

I don't know why, but I find this hilarious. It's like watching a pair of married circus clowns have the fight that eventually leads to their divorce.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:40 PM on December 1, 2014 [28 favorites]


Metatalk: like watching a pair of married circus clowns have the fight
posted by kagredon at 8:52 PM on December 1, 2014 [11 favorites]


But I ... well, I didn't see anything like this in the Ferguson thread (thankfully!).

Well, the sentiment about the looters appears several times in the open Ferguson thread, and the notion that Wilson had reason to fear an unarmed Brown is in the subtext (if not the text) of any defense of Wilson using deadly force, since the legality of the self defense / use of force is dependent on the idea that Brown could cause serious harm (or whatever the legal language is) to him or others.

So that's two of the four sentiments kagredon mentioned that I can assure you are represented in just the open Ferguson thread without looking. I also know for certain that I saw sentiments along the lines of "Mike Brown was a thug" expressed in one of the earlier threads, if not in those words. My guess is the "it's totally okay to drive a car through a crowd of protestors" line was a hypothetical on kagredon's part, and I'm sure anything like that would get killed pretty quickly by the mods.

So yeah, it's demonstrably true that people are saying some of those things. It's also demonstrably true that some of your citations of snark/personal attacks were either mistaken or embellished. kagredon's off-hand comment, it seems to me, is at least as true as the basis for this MeTa.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:54 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't know why, but I find this hilarious. It's like watching a pair of married circus clowns have the fight that eventually leads to their divorce.

It didn't use to be this bad. They used to just have little tiffs about "foo" and "baz".
posted by Tanizaki at 9:18 PM on December 1, 2014 [17 favorites]


tonycpsu, Looting was mentioned, but never with the assertion that it was the "real problem" overshadowing all the other obvious problems with the situation. And in fact most of these posts express sympathy for the Brown family, the protestors, etc. I found the following: 1, 2, 3, 4,5, 6, 7. Other mentions of looting are in response to these threads, or in quoted articles from other sources. Please provide citations if I've missed anything.

Re Wilson being scared, there's the comment from corb but I don't recall anyone saying that Wilson should be let off the hook bcs he was scared (although again, correct me if I'm wrong, with citations to specific comments please). Anyway I don't understand why the mere possibility of Wilson being scared is problematic. None of us are mind-readers and none of us know what was going through his head at the time of the shooting.

If anyone said Mike Brown is a "thug," please provide the link bcs I don't recall this. (I didn't read all the comments in every Ferguson thread; maybe it came from another thread, but my OP is specifically about the thread that was posted after the GJ decision.)

I tried to cite examples of what I perceived to be snark and personal attacks. I was wrong about the "droog" thing, for which I apologized. If you think any of my other examples are mistaken, please point out which ones. I don't understand why you say they were "embellished," since I simply provided links and didn't paraphrase or make any up.

And a good night to you now, I'm off to bed ...
posted by phoenix_rising at 9:26 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


My guess is the "it's totally okay to drive a car through a crowd of protestors" line was a hypothetical on kagredon's part,

It wasn't.

and I'm sure anything like that would get killed pretty quickly by the mods.

It did.
posted by kagredon at 9:28 PM on December 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


Anyway I don't understand why the mere possibility of Wilson being scared is problematic.

It does seem like one is assuming one's conclusion if you reject out of hand the idea that it's even possible Wilson was in fear for his (or someone else's) life. If he wasn't, he was obviously guilty of murder. So if saying Wilson may have been in fear for his life is beyond the pale then it follows logically that anything but insisting Wilson is guilty is verboten.
posted by Justinian at 9:30 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


"won't someone have sympathy for the white guy who shot the black guy"

That comes across as paraphrasing with a fiercely arrogant, assume-bad-faith approach.
posted by ambient2 at 9:45 PM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]


So if saying Wilson may have been in fear for his life is beyond the pale...

Beyond the pale? No, not at all. Personally, I didn't (and wouldn't) attack corb for suggesting that. But in my view the suggestion is not very plausible. Which was the point I was trying to make, admittedly via a heavy amount of sarcasm.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:59 PM on December 1, 2014


That comes across as paraphrasing with a fiercely arrogant, assume-bad-faith approach.

Oh well.
posted by rtha at 10:07 PM on December 1, 2014 [7 favorites]


tonycpsu, Looting was mentioned, but never with the assertion that it was the "real problem" overshadowing all the other obvious problems with the situation.

Someone who comes in with their first comment being about the looting, and then comes back later to complain about the looting again is certainly showing through their selective focus that they think looting is the primary problem. If you want an argument about whether that subtext is enough to justify kagredon's paraphrase, we can have that argument, but don't pretend these impressions are coming to observers out of thin air.

Re Wilson being scared, there's the comment from corb but I don't recall anyone saying that Wilson should be let off the hook bcs he was scared

Well, the comment you quoted didn't contend that anyone said anything like that, so I don't see how that's relevant. The bit you quoted was "Wilson was fearing for his life from an unarmed teenager", which people have absolutely asserted.

Anyway, I do think any suggestion that Wilson was in fear from an unarmed teenager was absolutely part of the defense of the no true bill finding. It was an explicit part of Wilson's own defense! ("Like a demon", "Hulk Hogan", etc.) I don't think these statements can be controversial if they were part of his own defense.

If anyone said Mike Brown is a "thug,"

I'd have to go dig through the threads and look, but I reckon something like that would get deleted pretty quick anyway. There were absolutely victim-blamey comments in those original threads, even if nobody used that exact word, I'm sure of that.

I tried to cite examples of what I perceived to be snark and personal attacks. I was wrong about the "droog" thing, for which I apologized. If you think any of my other examples are mistaken, please point out which ones.

As was pointed out above, mentioning someone's posting history isn't a personal attack. It can sometimes be an ad hominem, but not all ad hominems are fallacious. In your list, I see some actual attacks, some pointing out of inconsistencies, some accusations of logical fallacies, etc. It's a mixed bag.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:10 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


one of the most rabid, hysterical and intolerant people
Or as I'd put it, one of the most passionate, forceful and intelligent thinkers...

If I wanted to see what is considered MeFi's "minority opinion", I can go almost anywhere on the Internet for that. I come here for the compassion, the truthfulness and the righteousness that is sadly rare in our current public discourse. The ability of MeFi's Resident Contrarians to screw with our collective heads is a frequent reminder of how we live in an era where "Free Speech" is being routinely used as a tool of Fascism and "fair and balanced" is a synonym for propaganda. I briefly considered making an FPP of this, but I'll just leave it here instead.

And don't ever let corb hear you say that "John Wilkes Booth murdered Lincoln" because he was never charged.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:38 PM on December 1, 2014 [18 favorites]


I considered making an FPP out of this.

There is something dark and vaguely cultish about this particular brand of politics. I’ve thought a lot about what exactly that is. I’ve pinned down four core features that make it so disturbing: dogmatism, groupthink, a crusader mentality, and anti-intellectualism. I’ll go into detail about each one of these. The following is as much a confession as it is an admonishment. I will not mention a single sin that I have not been fully and damnably guilty of in my time.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:53 PM on December 1, 2014 [12 favorites]


"won't someone have sympathy for the white guy who shot the black guy"

I'm pretty sure that corb's bias isn't racist or pro-cop or anything like that. Instead, she seems to be biased to sympathize with anyone who has shot someone else in what they claimed was self-defense.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:58 PM on December 1, 2014 [4 favorites]


. I briefly considered making an FPP of this, but I'll just leave it here instead.
I am having a very hard time with opinions like this at the moment. They articulate nicely some very valid criticisms of some leftist thought that I basically agree with, but seem to be far too often deployed, ironically, by people with right wing opinions that fall prey to the very same problems with dogmatism and anti-intellectualism.

Infuriating!
posted by Jon Mitchell at 11:18 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


I considered making an FPP out of this.

"Area Woman's Political Opinions More Nuanced Than They Were In College"
posted by kagredon at 11:29 PM on December 1, 2014 [19 favorites]


There is something dark and vaguely cultish about this particular brand of politics. I’ve thought a lot about what exactly that is. I’ve pinned down four core features that make it so disturbing: dogmatism, groupthink, a crusader mentality, and anti-intellectualism. I’ll go into detail about each one of these. The following is as much a confession as it is an admonishment. I will not mention a single sin that I have not been fully and damnably guilty of in my time.

Thing is to make an idea take root, you need to jackhammer up the concrete of the ideas people already have. This can be an ugly and borderline immoral process, no matter how good are the ideas that will eventually grow in the soil you unearth. The key inflection point is when you switch from the jackhammer to the seed packet, because no matter how good the jackhammer, it's not really a tool for gardening.
posted by Sebmojo at 11:34 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Jackhammering is not only immoral, it ruins the rutabaga.
posted by clavdivs at 11:41 PM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]


Drinky Die: I considered making an FPP out of this.

FWIW I appreciated reading that, and I think you should go for it.
posted by naju at 11:42 PM on December 1, 2014 [3 favorites]


Don't always agree w. the prevailing opinion = Resident Contrarian? Nice dismissive label there.

There can be a woeful lack of tolerance for differing views, opinions, reactions.

Here for the compassion?

Feels like there ain't much of that for views and people who differ, the old thing that there are one person's opinions and those that are wrong.
posted by ambient2 at 11:49 PM on December 1, 2014 [9 favorites]


Don't always agree w. the prevailing opinion = Resident Contrarian? Nice dismissive label there.

Awfully simplistic interpretation. The thing about arguing the outcome based on the evidence released after the process completed is that it ignores (or, as I assume, declines to address) the evidence that was revealed to be part of the process.

The grand jury was a joke, notably for certain facts we all learned along the way that simply do not happen: no draft indictment was supplied by the prosecutor and the defendant was allowed to testify. That the legal minds here (the usual suspects, artly termed) don't even countenance a glossing of these aspects betrays either topical ignorance or bad faith participation. This is what I see as an easy part of "reading the room" and "engaging the conversation," and those that are said to have, "apparently spent a lot of time looking at this from a legal perspective," have not done so enough to account for these glaring elements of a three-month process.

I mean seriously, at least give us an empathetic, "I can see how that might look weird."
posted by rhizome at 12:38 AM on December 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


jaguar: I would give up a body part to never hear the phrase "shit show" again. It's a disgusting gross horrible image and it needs to jump off a cliff.


I would give up a body part to never hear the word "fuck" again. It's a perfectly good word, and a perfectly good expletive, but only for serious use; overusing it destroys its effectiveness and makes the user appear to be stuck in adolescence - or sputtering.

But so what?

This thread started off with a bang and a blast - lots of good stuff to kick the old blood pressure up - but it's now tired and has deteriorated into the usual muttering and grumbling of long threads on the gray.

The mods do a fine job. This is MetaFilter - just as it is. If I get riled about the way a thread is going, I don't have to keep reading it. If so-and-so is getting preferential treatment and so-and-so is getting by with too much and the whole website is going downhill and hardly worth bothering with anymore and I'm really getting "fed up" with it (as used in a couple of comments upthread) - I can just walk away.

The issue is police brutality and racism, and those are big issues. That's where I think the attention belongs - but that's just my humble opinion. Have at it, kids - goodnight.

posted by aryma at 12:43 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


I read this whole thread, and I hate us so much.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:58 AM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


I have seen the enemy, Joseph Gurl, and he is you guys.
posted by Justinian at 1:17 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


The enemy of my photons is my enemy.

-Jayne
posted by clavdivs at 1:29 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


threeants : "Ironmouth is one of the most skilled and noxious trolls I have ever seen on the Internet. "

What is a troll? Ironmouth consistently spouts statist aka fascist positions while claiming an overall left-wing viewpoint. Is that a troll?

In fact, Ironmouth is always pro-thug-cop because his day job is literally helping cops who violently assault civilians get off without any consequences. He's just coming from an incredibly an biased position. He's arguing what he's paid to believe at work. He's not doing it to get your goat.

Layers are paid to be biased. Ironmouth's legal opinion has no value in a case of police missconduct, no more than a PR flack with the police union, well unless you're an officer trying to get off.

The only legal positions that are actually interesting to we casual observers interested in justice, decreasing the violence in society, etc. are lawyers for the NAACP, etc. who shoot the state's anti-prosecution position full of holes, and maybe cause some minor consequences for the corrupt prosecutors, judges, etc. that inevitably let the bad cop off the hook.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:39 AM on December 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


Phew, that was quite the epic read.

From my read of it, it looks like anyone who didn't 100% agree with Mike-Brown-was-completely-blameless-and-Wilson-is-an-evil-dickwad-racist got dog-piled. And apparently I'm not alone in that assessment.

You're not, clearly. But let's be honest: some of the assessments around this site characteristic are - however much they might personally hurt those making them - wildly, flagrantly overstated.

I do think that there are a small minority of users that react in a very combustible, aggressive way to another small minority of users, on certain topics. Especially when the latter group voice their opinions in ways that are tone deaf at best, and infuriatingly rude, patronising at worst. These users are not always the same, and nor are the topics, though there are, undeniably, some familiar names that pop up.

However, when you view it in the context of two small handfuls of users on a tiny number of threads, it's not really a site, or even a community problem, in my view. It's a discourse problem on a few topics, for a few people.

From a mod perspective, yes, I think that would look like a number of "problem users" - not that they are problems in and of themselves, but that they contribute to modding problems (though some are, of course, actually problematic in and of themselves...).

Your call to action - mods let those comments stand and push back on people giving snarky responses to them etc - I think makes sense from one perspective, a free speechy kind of perspective. But from a modding perspective, I don't think it really does make sense. Why? Because doing so would not reduce the discussion problems in those threads, because what those users are saying and the way they are saying it is what's provoking strong reactions from a far greater number of users - whether that's morally right or no.

Faced with the choice of putting out one small fire (in this context comments from Ironmouth, or Corb, say), versus letting that fire burn and then having to put out dozens of blazes that it sparks (responses from heaps of users that are totally pissed off with Corb or Ironmouth's comments), it's no wonder they choose the former. The mods probably don't even have the resources to do the latter.

I think this is particularly the case when - for the vast majority of responses - if Ironmouth et al did simply take the time to voice their opinions in a different way, ignored the small number of users that are spoiling for a fight with them no matter what, and then backed the fuck off and let the thread move past it - there wouldn't be any problem at all. But more usually they can't resist. Especialy Ironmouth who is a serial commenter with a real take-all-comers approach when the mood strikes.

Lest I'm sounding purer than the driven snow here, let me be clear: I do get it. I get when you have a strong opinion, and you really want to share it, and you think you might actually know a lot more about the topic than most people posting here, and you think that they are misjudging you and the situation, and it's all pretty unfair and you wish they would just calm down. I am not the driven snow; I am yellow snow.

But, for the good of the community - and my own peace of mind - I stay out of those threads where I know the topic pushes too many buttons for me. I avoid engaging users that I know infuriate me in an extra special way and that I do not really like. And if I feel I'm getting more heated up in a thread, despite trying my best to moderate my language and tone, and think happy thoughts about those arrogant pig-shit ignorant dickweeds that are firing me up. I back off. I don't always do it in time, but I give it a shot.

And it works pretty well, for me, for the site (I think), for other people here. It doesn't really matter if I don't get to share my opinion with someone on a discussion thread. There's other posts to contribute to, etc. I might not think it's always fair or whatever, but that's the way the cookie crumbles sometimes. I deal. I memail. I rant to my wife whilst she pretends to listen and care about my weirdo website.

tl;dr Whilst I think you have a point (overstated, but still extant) from a... rights-based perspective I suppose, from a more utilitarian perspective about what works best for the site, for the mods, and for other people, it would be far far easier if some mefites like Ironmouth etc recognised that they have - whether through their fault or no - become hot buttons in some threads on some topics, and either stayed right the hell out of them, or used the most mild, conciliatory and equivocal language possible in the smallest amount of comments.

Others pushing back could benefit from that approach too, no doubt. But there are far, far more of them to manage for the mods.
posted by smoke at 2:32 AM on December 2, 2014 [15 favorites]


To reiterate: ironmouth does not want our goats.
posted by clavdivs at 2:49 AM on December 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


Lexica: I think this is a reference to the thrashing about that happened in this epic MeTa. (The thread was epic, so here's a possible point of reentry for anyone else who can't stomach rereading the whole thing: this comment, which claims that "Calling someone out for saying something racist means that you are calling someone a racist" and the comments responding to it.)

So i've read most of this thread, and i very clearly remember that thread and uh...

I'm just failing to see how this isn't just the same points made there restated by different people.

There pretty much seems to be a sizeable contingent of people on here who see an outsized of "ganging up" reaction to someone continuing a pattern of behavior, and both do and want others to take posts out of the context of that posters history in some kind of idealized form of good faith. Then there's camp B, of people who just see it as the aforementioned continuing pattern.


As far as i can tell, we're never going to reconcile this between these two groups. The mods seem to be slowly sliding towards group B at least with certain prolific posters, but there still seems to be a fair sized silenced all my life group who thinks that it's unfair and unreasonable to tell these people to quit farting and texting during the movie as soon as they start.


I also think it's worth noting that the aforementioned people brought up in this thread, and a few others, not only consistently act this way but consistently take a contrarian viewpoint. It doesn't even have to be internally consistent. If the general tide is "wow this is terrible i feel so bad for person A in this situation, person B sucks!" they'll show up with a softball but impassioned defense of person B. And usually what-if or just outright spin yarn to back up that narrative. This is definitely not just a "not agreeing with the prevailing opinion" thing, it's being so brave and somewhere between seemingly and blatantly starting shit.

I went way in to it in the previous thread, but really, the people who don't give these guys the benefit of the doubt anymore don't have some vendetta against them. it's more of a "fool me once, fool me twice, fool me 30 times" sort of thing.
posted by emptythought at 4:05 AM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


I stopped giving Ironmouth the benefit of the doubt on this stuff when he mentioned in a thread a while back that he used to do paid astroturf work.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 4:44 AM on December 2, 2014 [17 favorites]


jeffburdges:
What is a troll? Ironmouth consistently spouts statist aka fascist positions while claiming an overall left-wing viewpoint. Is that a troll?

I don't think I'd call IronMouth a troll. I'm not sure what the right word to describe his behavior is. I think I'd classify it as a mix of tone deafness, arrogant dismissiveness (aka "I'm a subject expert, therefore you are wrong"), a laser focus on legal minutiae, and volume (16.25 posts per hour during his involvement in the latest Michael Brown discussion).

I'd like to see IronMouth stick around and engage with us, because I think it's valuable to have the participation of subject matter experts in various discussions, but when those "experts" are unable to contribute to the conversation constructively, without trying to dominate it, without acting arrogantly as if their status as subject matter experts makes them infallible*, and without being able to consider (or at least ignore) talk about details that fall outside of the laser focus on technical minutiae that they may be prone to, I think they end up doing themselves and the whole community a net disservice. Sad but true.

* IronMouth is not infallible:
- The four police agencies involved agreed to pay (Jose) Guerena's family $3.4 million as a settlement, without admitting wrongdoing. (re: this previously-linked mefi discussion)
- IronMouth failed to recognize the unconstitutionality of the very part of the Missouri statute that he quoted as his grounds for stating that Mike Brown's shooting "was a justified shooting" in his first comment in that discussion.
- And the list doesn't end there - someone with an established track record of getting at least some of the (crucially important) facts wrong should refrain from acting as though everyone else in a discussion about his area of expertise just needs to shut up and take his every word and opinion as the absolute and final truth.
posted by syzygy at 4:45 AM on December 2, 2014 [15 favorites]


The thing to ask, here, is whether the contrarians are the only ones exhibiting this behavior, or if we only notice the behavior because we disagree with the viewpoint being expressed.

Obviously lots of people of all political persuasions are dismissive, snide, unnecessarily personal, and occasionally or habitually wrong. But we notice those things more when they disagree with us.

The only thing a contrarian can fail to do that a majority-view commenter cannot is "fail to read the room." By definition, even if you're wrong, rude, and resentful, even if you have a hobby horse and don't respond to counter-arguments or new evidence, if you're in agreement with the general mood, you're reading the room right. That's why the mods use that phrase.

Effectively that means that contrarians have a higher bar to clear. And that's how it should be! This isn't a jury room, it's a website. And we should all hold ourselves to the higher standard, any way.

So it's important to read the room and make your own comments unimpeachable if you're going to be a contrarian, just because that's what everyone should do, but also because folks will notice if you don't.
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:14 AM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's not always easy to do, but it's usually happier and easier to let people be wrong. There are quite a few super tone-deaf people here (some because of personality, some because of obvious medication or mental issues, and a few deliberately trolling, but the overall effect is similar), but responding (and if responding, how) is absolutely a choice. I'd personally prefer that the moderation get slightly adjusted towards increased recognition of patterns of behavior, but it's not my site and I don't make those decisions.

The Ferguson thread in question has been interesting to read, but it's an issue where some people have a need to express very intense feelings which more self-therapeutic and less about serious, reasoned thinking, and that's ok. Combined with the usual tone-deafness, though, the heat and light are probably inevitable.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:24 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think mods also are quicker to delete a comment when it echoes long-standing boilerplate enforcement of the status quo. Sure, someone who doesn't know any better may think they're making a profound point when they wade into a contentious thread by saying things like:

"Why didn't she report it?"
"Lets wait for the facts"
"maybe it wasn't this particular manifestation of bigotry, it was just this innocuous thing"

Why should they delete these? because this is what people hear every day every place but here, its boring as fuck, its likely to start a fight, and the author clearly didn't put too much thought into it so what's the harm?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:58 AM on December 2, 2014 [14 favorites]


I stopped giving Ironmouth the benefit of the doubt on this stuff when he mentioned in a thread a while back that he used to do paid astroturf work.

How is that any different from what a TV "expert" does?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:52 AM on December 2, 2014


The Ferguson thread in question has been interesting to read, but it's an issue where some people have a need to express very intense feelings which more self-therapeutic and less about serious, reasoned thinking, and that's ok. Combined with the usual tone-deafness, though, the heat and light are probably inevitable.

This raises an interesting issue. Communication here is in large part about exchanging propositions in an effort to reason to good conclusions. In this respect, I think things like tone and presentation matter. I'm not talking tone argument or tone fallacy (where people are discredited based on tone), just that being nice to each other is way more effective than factual propositional content alone. I'm not sure why it is that way, but it's one of the psychological realities of our shared human condition, and as much as we don't always like that to be true, it's seems to be a properly basic fact that we can embrace or ignore to our detriment.

However, communication is sometimes in part cathartic and it serves to purge our emotions a bit. It's an important thing, and healthy communication sometimes allows us to be a bit messy with that. From some of my friends who are more psychologically savvy, they refer to healthy communication as being able to "hold the emotions" of others without being overly triggered by them such that you get this crazy cycle of back and forth. Sometimes this is propositional communication, but not always. And sometimes the propositions being asserted are below the surface. While we assert a fact, it may betray an underlying feeling instead. If we are lucky, those two things might perfectly align.

I'm constantly working on how to hold these two things in tension; namely, expecting a high standard of communication because it's effective, yet figuring out how to 1) be properly emotional myself while adhering to high communication standards; 2) developing wisdom to figure out when people are being cathartic versus needing to engage an argument with them; and 3) learning how to hold the emotions of others while they work out their stuff and not always needing to respond to the way they are expressing themselves.

I think number three has been most helpful for me to consider. The whole "work on yourself before making demands on others" has been pretty helpful. As much as I'd like to see people being nice to each other while being uncompromising on justice issues, it's been much more effective to work on my own ability to not get rattled. Two sides of the coin I suspect, but sometimes I can't change the whole world, but I can change myself.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:29 AM on December 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


dios: Well, for one, I didn't participate in that thread, so not sure to what you are referring.

Brief housekeeping note: I flipped through the blue thread again, and it turns out MattD, not dios, was the other lawyer in that thread that I thought was doing a great job of sticking to the facts of the case and not being pushy / smarmy / condescending in the way Ironmouth was. Just wanted to clear that up since I feel really bad about confusing two members based solely on their profession.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:32 AM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


Law itself is a game, syzygy, not a factual exercise like science, math, programming, etc. It's more serious than debate or religion or cards against humanity, but it's still just a human word game. The powerful do what they want. And they hire lawyers to try to catch each other in outright absurdities. It's lovely that they now let us little people play along more seriously than hundreds of years ago, but enough money and power still buys you plenty of absurdity. In fact we cannot make law into a factual exercise, but we can make the facts weigh progressively heavier until law experts have relatively little say and the facts have a lot of say.

I'd two points above :

(1) In law, an opinion that can that can take other arguments into account, but that does not discount the fact that : the value of an opinion is fundamentally relative to what you're trying to achieve. If you're a cop who rapes a woman he stops at a checkpoint then the opinion of a statist lawyer, as does your union rep, because he'll try to get you off. If you're a commenter on the internet who wants to see that cop go to jail then those opinions have no value, except as something you'd want deflected easily.

There is no reason to engage directly with Ironmouth because (a) you'll never even slightly influence his opinion, and (b) engaging with him is not the most effective way to convince bystanders. In practice, you can just find additional weight of factual evidence that makes the opinion arguers, be they legal or not, look silly, like :
- New Reenactment Animates BOTH Stories In The Mike Brown Shooting
- Killings by Utah police outpacing gang, drug, child-abuse homicides
That Utah stat helps discredit sovereign immunity itself, which is ultimately the legal basis for many of Ironmouth's arguments.

(2) A troll is by the traditional definition trying to provoke an emotional response, not someone who provokes you without meaning to. Now our language has become somewhat overloaded by the term concern troll, who usually try to distract people from the essence of a situation and make them calm down to help the status que triumph. Concern trolling is a debating technique, basically its a type of astroturfing, not actual trolling. And a concern troll who gets viewed wrongly as a troll has probably failed. Ironmouth is frequently a concern troll but he's not a troll in the classical sense. Mods do not treat concern trolls the same way as actual trolls because the concern trolls are simply arguing, not actually trying to mess with people enjoyment of the site.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:36 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


The four police agencies involved agreed to pay (Jose) Guerena's family $3.4 million as a settlement, without admitting wrongdoing.

Good lord, he posted 100 times in that thread.
posted by empath at 7:38 AM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


Wow. And only 465 comments in total. One would think paid apologists/astroturfers would be more subtle about their vested interests.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:42 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


"he used to do paid astroturf work."

How is that any different from what a TV "expert" does?


A tv expert is not pretending to be a lay opinion, or more likely hundreds of lay opinions. You turn on the talking heads and they identify themselves and their affiliation is at least theoretically discoverable. Astroturf is the process of pretending to be Joe Schmoe citizen but actually doing PR work.
posted by phearlez at 7:45 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is there any MeFi policy on people bringing their day job advocacy to MeFi in the way that there are policies against self-linking or Pepsi Blue type things?
posted by tonycpsu at 7:52 AM on December 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


It sounds like part of the issue is the prior posting history of a couple members. Would the outcome have been different if those posts had been made by different people? Is there a way to handle these situations without creating a hostile environment that might discourage others from posting?

I would have called anyone an idiot who made the asinine comment that Ironmouth did:
"I really do not see why this case was picked" (followed about 22 min later, by "The guy in New York a week earlier was a much better and more important case").

I have no interest in encouraging other people to post if they will make similar asinine comments. I do not think a non-hostile environment is 100% good; I think people should feel free to keep quiet if they're going to say such stupid things.

From my read of it, it looks like anyone who didn't 100% agree with Mike-Brown-was-completely-blameless-and-Wilson-is-an-evil-dickwad-racist got dog-piled. And apparently I'm not alone in that assessment.

I disagree with that read of it; I think it is very likely that Michael Brown got into the same kind of thieving lawless mischief that I and friends of mine got into when we were teens. I think Wilson has much of the same internalized racism that I have, too, coupled with a stressful job that allows for him to use lethal force when he deems it necessary. But these things don't make me any less angry that the grown man shot the teenager to death.

It just goes to show that, especially with these hot-button issues, emotions run high and it's easy to misunderstand and be misunderstood.

I would like to make it clear that I do not feel misunderstood; I truly believe, in my heart of hearts, that Ironmouth was an idiot in that thread.

Maybe we can be a bit more mindful about the way we're coming across to people, and ask ourselves whether we're really taking a comment at face value

To take Ironmouth's comment ("I really do not see why this case was picked") at face value is to accept as genuine his lunatic notion that this case was "picked", and with his follow-up clarification, picked instead of a different case of excessive force by the police. If I am to assume good faith on the part of Ironmouth, what I must assume here is that, inside his stupid mind, he has the stupid vision of some kind of citizen's collective that says, "Brothers and sisters, we are here today to decide upon the act of injustice that will enrage us this month."

It is POSSIBLE that this stupid vision involves someone standing up and saying "I say! What about this MICHAEL BROWN chap? He was killed by a police man!" and another person says "Ah, well, I certainly think Trent here has a point about young Goodman Brown, but perhaps we shall instead enrage ourselves with this Eric Garner choking instead?" and then everyone took a vote and decided that Michael Brown was the one they should pick to bring into the media spotlight. "Good show!" they all say to each other, shaking hands as they exit the Hall Of Outraged Citizens. "Capital idea, this Michael Brown thing! We shall spread the word to our fellow Rage-Men on this very day! What cheek!"

But of course, this is not what happened; people were upset that yet another black youth was being held back by the white hegemony (this time held back in the most severe and permanent way possible), and their anger burbled up organically.

Ironmouth may know that this was the case, and chose to do his dumb po-faced comment about the case being "picked" in order to try to cast aspersions on the organic qualities of people's anger; this is a pretty good troll for middle-class white people, as it might lead to not-viscerally-invested-in-the-community-of-the-victim folks saying, "oh, gosh, I guess I was wrong to be mad about the teenager getting shot to death. Maybe it's okay for a teenager to get shot? Because sometimes people need to get shot? To make our society run okay?"

Or Ironmouth may genuinely not know that anger bubbled up organically, and actually does believe, as in the vision above, that someone "picked" this case for everyone to get mad about. In which case: what an idiot.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:56 AM on December 2, 2014 [63 favorites]


In fact, Ironmouth is always pro-thug-cop because his day job is literally helping cops who violently assault civilians get off without any consequences. He's just coming from an incredibly an biased position. He's arguing what he's paid to believe at work. He's not doing it to get your goat.

You seem to not understand what lawyers do, or what law is.

Layers are paid to be biased. Ironmouth's legal opinion has no value in a case of police missconduct, no more than a PR flack with the police union, well unless you're an officer trying to get off.

I prefer to read the opinions, however frequently or impoliticly stated, of people who know what they're talking about. You have a right to your cathartic, uninformed shouting, but it's irritating when you want to silence anyone better informed.

The mods seem to be slowly sliding towards group B at least with certain prolific posters, but there still seems to be a fair sized silenced all my life group who thinks that it's unfair and unreasonable to tell these people to quit farting and texting during the movie as soon as they start.

When you dismiss the opinions of those you disagree with as, literally, filth, then you have drifted into a very ugly habit.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:10 AM on December 2, 2014 [14 favorites]


I was happy to see the mods ask jsonic to cool it in that thread, largely because jsonic's original comments were so brief as to see like they were being deliberately provocative. They read as vague and smug, and never attempted to lay out a larger and persuasive contrary reading. As far as I can see, jsonic has put more effort into explaining his reasoning in this thread than in the FPP. Also, there was the problem of multiple postings of the same, one sentence sentiment in a very small time period.

I really do wish that heated threads came with a posting limit, because it gets exhausting watching the same 5 usernames dominate a discussion.
posted by TwoStride at 8:12 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


>There are many, many reasons to believe the grand jury decision was an injustice that have nothing to do with the evidence that came out of those proceedings
...the glaring inconsistencies in the police story call their narrative into question (for 100 days they maintained that Brown was 35 feet from the car but he was actually 153 feet away; Wilson claimed to have been punched 10 times in his initial statements but the changed his story to being punched twice), or that grossly improper procedures were followed in the wake of the shooting that could have compromised the evidence (no medical examiner pictures, no measurements,


This is actually a pretty terrible argument for what we already knew before the grand jury documents came out, because all those claims are either false or irrelevant to the grand jury decision, as can be discovered if you read the documents. I agree with jsonic's comment asking people to read the evidence before reaching conclusions.

Because Metafilter can be such a valuable compilation of links and commentary on these issues, I would LOVE to see commenters show more judgment about the "facts" that are repeated here--i.e. first go to the source, look up quotes in context, etc.

I do not say this in the interest of defending Wilson, but because I agree with the fundamental criticisms of him (and of the crappy law, police racism and abuse, disingenuous prosecution, and more) and would like to see discussion here that is more scrupulous about not just repeating stuff said elsewhere on the internet.

I made a couple comments in that thread linking to specifics in the grand jury documents that clarified a couple points. I stopped because I didn't want to be annoying and more important, because the injustice of Michael Brown's killing is of far greater significance than correcting inaccurate talking points.

But as a narrow MeTa issue, just with regard to jsonic's comment--it really would be great if people could be more careful about double-checking facts before throwing them into heated discussions.
posted by torticat at 8:13 AM on December 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


I really do wish that heated threads came with a posting limit, because it gets exhausting watching the same 5 usernames dominate the discussion.


That is kind of a genius idea.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:14 AM on December 2, 2014 [12 favorites]


I dont' know about personal attacks, and I absolutely fall on the side of critiquing the State on this issue, but I was left with the impression that moderators were vocally asking those who supported the decision to be quiet, and I found that somewhat off-putting. I don't feel that I need to be protected from views that differ from mine, as long as they are presented in a way that is respectful.

I wasn't so bothered by it as to need to call out the moderators for this - what a crappy thread to moderate - but I did notice it.
posted by latkes at 8:16 AM on December 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


Deleted a comment. Let's not devolve to insults here, folks. Thanks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:25 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm not pitching this as a serious idea, but I wish that, in heated threads, the mods could flip a switch, and this would cause posters to only be able to post once every two hours. It's not an onerous restriction on any particular poster, but it would bottleneck the internet fuckwaddery. Say something cogent, make it count, now you're stuck with enough time to do something else.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:31 AM on December 2, 2014 [13 favorites]


In fact, Ironmouth is always pro-thug-cop because his day job is literally helping cops who violently assault civilians get off without any consequences.

I want to be clear that I think it's important for lawyers to defend people accused of crimes. There's nothing wrong with his choice of career, but I think an important part of metafilter culture is that we're 'off the clock' here. When there's a topic that you have a vested interest in, its important that you take an extremely light touch in your participation.
posted by empath at 8:32 AM on December 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


tonycpsu:
Someone who comes in with their first comment being about the looting, and then comes back later to complain about the looting again is certainly showing through their selective focus that they think looting is the primary problem


That only happened with this comment followed by this comment. The 2nd looting comment was in direct response to another Mefite who taunted him for his first comment. Furthermore, he explicitly states in his 2nd comment that the looting is "obscuring and hurting the larger issue at stake," which indicates that he in fact did *not* believe that looting was the primary problem.

I do think any suggestion that Wilson was in fear from an unarmed teenager was absolutely part of the defense of the no true bill finding.

It sounded like kagredon was taking exception to someone simply stating that Wilson might have been afraid and I find that to be a bit odd. It's a given that there is some possibility of fear on Wilson's part -- we may feel it was unjustified, we may speculate that his fear (if he did indeed feel fear) was fueled by ignorant racist notions, we may well decry a legal system in which something as subjective and unverifiable as fear can be used as the basis for deadly force. Simply allowing for the logical possibility that someone in Wilson's situation may have been afraid is not, in my estimate, reasonable grounds for calling that person out.

If anyone said Mike Brown is a "thug,"

I'd have to go dig through the threads and look, but I reckon something like that would get deleted pretty quick anyway.


Making up posts that might not have existed is just silly. If things like that (or about cars driving through protestors being ok) were actually posted and then deleted, the mods can chime in and provide the deleted posts. Show me the data.

As was pointed out above, mentioning someone's posting history isn't a personal attack. It can sometimes be an ad hominem, but not all ad hominems are fallacious. In your list, I see some actual attacks, some pointing out of inconsistencies, some accusations of logical fallacies, etc. It's a mixed bag.

If the posts had just been "hey, we hashed this out in a previous thread, let's please take a break from this," then it wouldn't be an issue. But many of the posts went much further than that. Again, this is probably an issue of different perceptions; you may think the pushback was mild and fine, but to this liberal, pacifist, granola-crunching, yoga-doing hippie, they looked like personal attacks. And judging from some of the other responses in this thread, they looked like personal attacks to other people as well. If you don't agree, we'll have to agree to disagree. I stand by what I said.

Peace, dude. ;)
posted by phoenix_rising at 8:41 AM on December 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


> Is there any MeFi policy on people bringing their day job advocacy to MeFi in the way that there are policies against self-linking or Pepsi Blue type things

That would be a bad policy. Yeah, there are times when people might be astroturfing, but there are also times -- more times, I bet -- when people are sharing expert knowledge. For example, we have social workers, librarians, at least one drug-policy reform expert here, all of which jobs have an element of advocacy in them, and it would be Bad For Metafilter if we said they couldn't post about these issues because they have day jobs in the field.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:42 AM on December 2, 2014 [24 favorites]


I think an important part of metafilter culture is that we're 'off the clock' here. When there's a topic that you have a vested interest in, its important that you take an extremely light touch in your participation.

I don't think you really think that. A social worker can't dispense advice or oppose bad advice? A gay rights activist can't participate (even passionately) in threads about LGBTQ? A union organizer can't vociferously defend the labor movement? A Google programmer can't heatedly talk about Android products? A black person can't complain about police brutality aimed at blacks? etc.

No one wants spammers or turfgrassers, but the rest of us have vested interests, too, and we ought to be allowed to advocate for them so long as we're not getting paid per comment.
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:45 AM on December 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


Askmetafilter is clearly a different animal, so giving professional advice there is fine.

But yes, I think a union organizer should limit their participation in labor-related threads, try as be as objective as possible about the situation, and disclose that they do that for a living when participating.

I've participated in threads about my employer, and where it was relevant disclosed it, and tried to post purely informational comments about it or my own experiences.
posted by empath at 8:55 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Furthermore, he explicitly states in his 2nd comment that the looting is "obscuring and hurting the larger issue at stake," which indicates that he in fact did *not* believe that looting was the primary problem.

If you really believe problem X is the primary one, saying that the smaller problem Y is completely unacceptable is a curious way to show it. The only thing you need to do not to be distracted by problem Y is not to be distracted by problem Y.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:57 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


This is actually a pretty terrible argument for what we already knew before the grand jury documents came out, because all those claims are either false or irrelevant to the grand jury decision, as can be discovered if you read the documents.

I don't want to continue this derail since it's much better suited to the actual Ferguson thread, especially since you don't say what you consider to be false (although I'd be happy to memail supporting links if you like - to my knowledge, everything I said is true and actually is supported by grand jury documents), but I think you might have missed the point of that argument. The point was that this could easily be considered an injustice for "meta" reasons wholly outside of the grand jury's cherrypicked set of evidence because the process itself was mishandled and abused, including the evidence-gathering process. You're continuing to narrowly focus on the grand jury proceedings as if those proceedings and the evidence presented in them are an objective, full set of the facts, which I consider a naive response to a procedure marked by great prosecutorial discretion being run by a prosecutor with a fairly massive conflict of interest, with well-documented problems with the evidence-gathering process.

Back on topic, I'm not sure what anyone expects mods to do about the fact that some opinions are outnumbered here - "dog-piling" just means a lot of people disagree, which is kind of baked into the cake with a "minority" opinion. Should people be prevented from responding to things someone else said just because that person is outnumbered? I mean, I agree that a bit of discretion would be nice, and if forty people just said the same thing maybe the next person could give it a pass, but usually people are taking issue with different aspects of a comment. I know it isn't fun to post an opinion and have that opinion be dismantled from fourteen different directions, but it feels like people are asking for special treatment, to be allowed to post their controversial opinions without fear of criticism. I think that most of the "personal attacks" linked in this thread are pretty weak sauce, and that most of those comments were focused on the argument and not the person (with a scant couple of exceptions). I continue to think it's perfectly appropriate to point out when somebody has a professional interest that is not being fully disclosed - Ironmouth is happy to say he goes on TV as an expert but less happy to disclose that he is an expert at defending cops from brutality claims because that is his job. He was presenting himself as an objective expert in that thread before people pointed out where his expertise comes from.

Finally, it's worth mentioning that these "minority" opinions are almost all majority opinions outside of metafilter. There were PLENTY of places people could go to find rules-lawyering about the grand jury evidence, or criticizing the protesters' strategies, or sympathizing with Darren Wilson - you could go almost any other place on the web for that. I appreciate that Metafilter remains a relatively safe place to express opinions that are in the minority in greater US society, and that remains more valuable to me than making sure that the US-white person-majority opinion can be presented without harsh criticism. We're kind of through the looking glass already if "supports Darren Wilson" is being presented as a minority opinion - maybe it is in this thread, but certainly not in US society.
posted by dialetheia at 9:01 AM on December 2, 2014 [16 favorites]


Furthermore, he explicitly states in his 2nd comment that the looting is "obscuring and hurting the larger issue at stake," which indicates that he in fact did *not* believe that looting was the primary problem.

That's an exceedingly charitable read considering that he himself was one of the people who focused on the looting instead of the larger issues he then purported to care about, but only after being challenged on it. You're more than welcome to read it that way, but such a reading assumes facts not in evidence.

It sounded like kagredon was taking exception to someone simply stating that Wilson might have been afraid and I find that to be a bit odd.

The relevant bit from kagredon's comment, again, is:

"Wilson was fearing for his life from an unarmed teenager"

Emphasis mine. This is different from how you and Justinian seem to want to characterize the original sentiment for rhetorical advantage. Darren Wilson had a gun, a taser, and a baton. Mike Brown didn't have any of these things. Wilson of course had a legitimate reason to fear injury, but ultimately at the time he pulled the trigger from a safe remove, he had no reason at all to fear for his life.

Making up posts that might not have existed is just silly.

Sigh. Again, What I actually said:

I also know for certain that I saw sentiments along the lines of "Mike Brown was a thug" expressed in one of the earlier threads, if not in those words.

There I am conceding that it may not have been the word thug, but here you are browbeating me about not having a cite for the word thug.

I give up. I'm trying to engage in good faith here, but the constant moving of goalposts and selective memory about what's been said is infuriating. I totally understand why someone who moves the goalposts so much would argue that others ought to be charitable in their interpretation.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:02 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


No one wants spammers or turfgrassers, but the rest of us have vested interests, too, and we ought to be allowed to advocate for them so long as we're not getting paid per comment.

I kinda feel like regardless of how the money's being distributed, their employment represents an obvious conflict of interest that ought to be disclosed. I've seen people voluntarily include notes like "full disclosure, I work [in industry x] [for employer x] [etc.]" and while that's great for people to do voluntarily, I think it's worth discussing whether it should be a site-wide norm (or perhaps written policy) that people include a blurb like that when they're commenting on something that relates to how they put food on their families.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:10 AM on December 2, 2014


But as a narrow MeTa issue, just with regard to jsonic's comment--it really would be great if people could be more careful about double-checking facts before throwing them into heated discussions.

As stated repeatedly, the post was framed in a larger way than just the GJ, there are issues beyond those presented to the GJ, there were issues with what was presented to the GJ as well as just the fact that the GJ was used at all. To demand that people back off their anger in favor of only examining those facts and then for him to contribute nothing else to the dialog is just rude noise.

Jsonic was free to go look at the documents and find salient items in them, as you did, and that would have not been just noise. Instead it was just an incendiary demand of silence. It was a garbage post that did nothing to improve discussion and a lot to irk people.

He and you might well believe that no discussion without awareness of those documents was worthwhile in which case you can go somewhere that is constraining the dialog that way. The metafilter post was not that place, and his demand that is should be was not keeping with helping to make "a healthy, respectful discussion by focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand" - it was a rude demand to only look at the topic & facts he declared important.

tl;dr - if jsonic was interested in facts he could have tried actually producing them instead of telling people to be quiet.
posted by phearlez at 9:11 AM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Making up posts that might not have existed is just silly. If things like that [...] were actually posted and then deleted, the mods can chime in and provide the deleted posts.

Somehow, I really doubt that they're going to do that. But if you came to this thread as late as it appears, you really might want to bear in mind that people who were there at the time aren't "making up posts," you just aren't reading all of what they were responding to. And you might also want to at least allow for the possibility that the deletions have the net effect of making certain, er, serial contrarians seem more reasonable despite themselves, since you're no longer reading some of their most inflammatory and ill-justified comments. Granted, it'd probably also look more like an ugly pile-on to you at times with the more insulting one-liners left in — but you really have to remember that there's a selection effect here. It's just like the standard selection-bias anecdote about the returning bombers: the place where the thread needed the most protection is often the place where you don't see bullet holes anymore.

The derail about the car driven into the Minneapolis protest, for instance, is a clear example of this, as kagredon has already mentioned — it could've been much, much uglier, but a bunch of the ugliest contrarian bullshit was removed quickly and the derail was, if not nipped in the bud, at least much more curtailed than it might've been. But as a result, reading the remaining comments now is no longer going to give you an entirely accurate sense of the discussion's tone or its substance as it happened.
posted by RogerB at 9:11 AM on December 2, 2014 [11 favorites]


something that relates to how they put food on their families

(dumps goulash on the wife)
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:12 AM on December 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


Serving sushi on people worked out better than the offshoot soup restaurant.
posted by phearlez at 9:13 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


(Reference for anyone who missed it.)
posted by tonycpsu at 9:16 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Furthermore, he explicitly states in his 2nd comment that the looting is "obscuring and hurting the larger issue at stake," which indicates that he in fact did *not* believe that looting was the primary problem.

Adding to my first thought: There's a strong implication in that comment that if police kill more unarmed black kids, then it's the fault of the looters, because, I suppose, those potential killer policemen will become more fearful of black people when they see widespread footage of the looting. But that reasoning is absurd. Even if the only disturbance in Ferguson after the non-indictment had been a silent march to the police station of people in their Sunday best, police would still kill plenty of unarmed black people, because we live in a white supremacist society that lets them do this with impunity. That impunity, that white supremacist society, is the larger issue at stake which the third sentence nods to. So it's difficult for me to read this comment as charitably as you have.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:17 AM on December 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


Rustic Estruscan, tonycpsu, If we're going to claim that a post means something other than what it states, there's no hope for understanding each other. And I think that's one of the biggest problems on that thread.

Tonycpsu, I'm not moving goalposts. I asked you to provide links to back up your claims. I think at this point we're talking in circles around each other and it's not productive, so I'm going to bow out at this point. If you feel that you need to get the final word, go for it. I need to get some work done.

See ya later, droogie. ;)
posted by phoenix_rising at 9:22 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by tonycpsu at 9:26 AM on December 2, 2014 [11 favorites]


But yes, I think a union organizer should limit their participation in labor-related threads, try as be as objective as possible about the situation, and disclose that they do that for a living when participating

Really? Why should anyone be "as objective as possible" in a metafilter thread? Disclosing your professional or personal stake might be a good idea but having an opinion, informed or uninformed, is part of the deal here. This is basically an entertainment site, not a court of law or a newspaper. We're here to shoot the shit with each other. Rules are in place to keep the discussion civil. But civil and objective are not synonyms!
posted by latkes at 9:30 AM on December 2, 2014 [14 favorites]


Just a small chime, and I'm not a rhetorician or philosopher by any means, but I am a social justice activist (of many flavors). One of the things I've appreciated about mod policy changing was that, being a transgendered and intersex person (I identify as a trans man, which is honestly misleading, because I have nothing to transition from and was raised as a boy/man, but I do have a lot of common cause and common community and further, there's hardly any way to describe the actual situation without going on for a paragraph QED), when mods started drawing a harder line about minority-on-minority or activist-against-activist hate speech and attacks.

In an old thread where a trans-excluding radical feminist (as a sockpuppet) came after some trans members (I'd love a link here, but I can't find it) and it sort of painfully unfolded in real time and a lot of long-time members saw it go down and saw the harm that it did, I think that as hard as it was on we trans members, I saw a sea-change in the mods being able to perceive and react gracefully/graciously to this kind of verbal attack. Before this, it was hard to communicate the subtlety and the meaning of this kind of attack and it was hard to get what seemed like reasonable action.

On the other hand, I know that this shift in mod policy/reaction was noted and deemed negative by a lot of folks who don't necessarily value the experience of or encourage the culture of trans folks in general, who tend to see progress by my tribe as a net negative for them and their culture. And I honestly don't know what to do about that, to fix or address it. To make Metafilter a community greater than the sum of its individual contributors.

On the one hand, the change in approach by mods and their ability to represent my interests in adversity is something I greatly appreciate and something that keeps me coming back to Metafilter. And on the other it seems to shift the focus and support away from others. The problem, I think, is that there sometimes are incompatible movements and social change and sometimes as we move toward supporting one population we move away from supporting another.

To justify it we often give value, moral and ethical judgments about the differing populations and their priorities, but I think that's not always the best idea (though I don't know of an alternative). Is it possible to stretch our arms wide enough around all groups so that even ones that are violently opposed to others still all feel supported and cherished? I honestly don't know. I think the mods are probably the best qualified folks to answer THAT question.
posted by kalessin at 9:31 AM on December 2, 2014 [15 favorites]


Rustic Estruscan, tonycpsu, If we're going to claim that a post means something other than what it states, there's no hope for understanding each other. And I think that's one of the biggest problems on that thread.

The highest, politest form of communication is the one where no one draws inferences from rhetorical behavior, or even from clear implication, and everyone takes every statement exactly on its face. This is how grown adults read.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:34 AM on December 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


I think what happens in Ferguson-style threads nowadays is that they tend quickly to be overwhelmed by a small cadre of high-volume, ultra-left-wing posters who want to use the space to bond and commiserate and favorite-each-other over how the issue confirms a particular, narrowly circumscribed, impeccably politically correct view of the world. By doing so early and energetically in the thread, the impression is created that they are the consensus of the site, when they are likely only a vocal minority.

There are other posters, myself included at times, who believe that truth lies in a discussion space which can take and dispassionately examine even quite controversial or unpalatable facts or opinions and acknowledge whatever truths lie in them while leaving the rest, who do not want the site to become a Free Republic style echo chamber, and who try to intervene and inject alternative perspectives into the conversation.

Some of the former group see that as interrupting communion. That creates friction, things get heated, and this prompts mod actions, which, for the record, I mostly understand. Unfortunately, I don't think there's a simple solution, though various posting limits or time gaps are intriguing.
posted by shivohum at 9:34 AM on December 2, 2014 [16 favorites]


"I, on the other hand, the paragon of reasonableness and fact-based analysis to which others should aspire to be..."
posted by tonycpsu at 9:38 AM on December 2, 2014 [33 favorites]


people include a blurb like that when they're commenting on something that relates to how they put food on their families.

You're asking everyone to provide an account of their employment and professional commitments, which seems to me to be way too much to ask for participation in community weblog. Lots of us don't want to be "outed" or to have a connection drawn between work and social lives. Disclosure is a pretty high standard, and it's great that some folks are willing to do it (and this includes Ironmouth, by the way) but it shouldn't be a requirement or site norm.

But if you're committed to it, why don't you start: where do you work? What companies do you own stock in? What is your race, gender, class, and level of educational attainment? About how much money do you make, each year (for discussion of taxation and income): Less than $30k, between 30k and 50k, between 50k and 80k, between 80k and 120k, or more than 120k? Have you ever been the victim of a crime? Have you ever been to prison? Have you ever been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness? Are you currently taking any medications?

This is of course an ad absurdum move on my part. I feel bad for using it, but I think it's an unavoidable entailment of your position. Put it another way: how would we enforce this kind of requirement without getting answers to these questions?
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:41 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I gotta bow out for a while because I just sprained my eyes from rolling them too hard. Someone save me a chocolate communion cookie.
posted by phearlez at 9:43 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


ultra-left-wing posters

This is how far the pendulum has swung, that anyone can cast as "ultra-left-wing" anyone who....says police are too militarized? Shouldn't shoot unarmed civilians and get away without a trial or review? What? What was so "ultra-left-wing" about comments in that thread?
posted by rtha at 9:48 AM on December 2, 2014 [69 favorites]


You're asking everyone to provide an account of their employment and professional commitments

No, as the details of my suggestion that you chose to omit show, I'd be just fine with people putting themselves in a vague industry category, not necessarily who they work for. Your ad absurdum is waaaay down a not-at-all slippery slope where people would simply be asked to post as much as they feel comfortable. Certainly, in Ironmouth's case in that thread, people would know that his professional activities were relevant to what he was saying, and could use that information to ascertain his impartiality.

Anyway, I've been pretty open about my employment situation on the blue, and have even included a "full disclosure" note when I was posting something tangentially related to my own work. So my money's already where my mouth is.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:48 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


What was so "ultra-left-wing" about comments in that thread?

i'm not gonna bother looking back but there always exists the possibility in any thread that i have encouraged others to cast off their chains of capitalist oppression and seize control of the means of production.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:53 AM on December 2, 2014 [59 favorites]


You're asking everyone to provide an account of their employment and professional commitments, which seems to me to be way too much to ask for participation in community weblog.

If you're posting on metafilter about a topic in which you have a professional interest, you should disclose that interest however much you feel comfortable. If you don't feel comfortable disclosing it at all, then you should seriously consider not commenting about it, or at the very least carefully consider your motivation for posting.

I used to work for an ISP, and we had a fairly vested interest in net-neutrality issues (ie, opposing it), and anytime I talked about it online, i usually stated that I worked for an isp and tried to balance my professional concerns about it from a technical point of view with my concerns in favor of it as a consumer. It would have been exceedingly dishonest of me (not to mention annoying to everyone else) to come here and solely push the ISP line on it while ignoring the opposite side of the argument.
posted by empath at 9:54 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


the collectively owned and operated tree of socialism must occasionally be watered with the blood of the bourgeoisie
posted by poffin boffin at 9:54 AM on December 2, 2014 [14 favorites]


YES finally I get your couch!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:56 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Or, you know, SOMEONE does.
posted by kalessin at 9:58 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


I was going to ask how all of the "ultra-left-wingers" already know what Right Views to express when the thread goes live, but I guess it's from the 3-hour co-op meeting that's already been held.
posted by kagredon at 9:59 AM on December 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


i'm not gonna bother looking back but there always exists the possibility in any thread that i have encouraged others to cast off their chains of capitalist oppression and seize control of the means of production.

I went and followed that encouragement and now I'm in charge of this damn textile mill.
posted by mudpuppie at 9:59 AM on December 2, 2014 [24 favorites]


Where'd you put matt?
posted by kalessin at 10:01 AM on December 2, 2014


I can't just take a dinner break can I without the whole playground getting fingerpainted all over?
posted by infini at 10:01 AM on December 2, 2014


kalessin, you put eloquently what the note says: Everyone needs a hug... and the mods just try to figure out where to seat us so that X doesn't fight Y and Z and T who used to be married musn't even be at the same end etc etc etc
posted by infini at 10:06 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


a vague industry category

But that wouldn't even get you as much as Ironmouth has disclosed about his areas of practice and career history. "Lawyer" is pretty broad.

I favor pseudonymous comments with no required link to our real lives. You can probably dox me if you want, based on my comments here. Sometimes I feel like opening up. But I think the goal should be "focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site." It's a guideline: there are many like (and unlike) it. But this one is ours.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:09 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


What was so "ultra-left-wing" about comments in that thread?

The immediate use of the verdict on its face as proof of racial apartheid rather than trying to critically examine the facts and law in this individual case to see whether, in fact, the grand jury's decision might not have been justified. Extremely uncharitable views of the DA's motives without any attempt to examine his thought process.

And in the first several comments you got stuff like this:

From what I hear, the jury was 9:3 white to black, and nine votes was the minimum to either indict or not.

That's some talented voir dire right there.
(45 favorites)

Implying, without any evidence whatsoever, that race alone determined the grand jury's votes.
--
I no longer wonder why things burn. I wonder why they're not burnt every day. (168 favorites)

Legitimizing looting and violence, presumably.
--
I really hope they wake up from the delusional haze of all tht MLK I have a dream stuff and smell the fresh coffee of reality, this is but a small taste of what it's like to be 3/5th. Get used to it. (45 favorites)

Calling MLK's ideas on race "delusional."

I think those are some pretty ultra-left-wing views of reality.
posted by shivohum at 10:11 AM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


you don't say what you consider to be false

for practical purposes all the claims I quoted are false. I was trying to be careful in how I worded that by adding "or irrelevant" because I know there were false or misleading public statements made by the police department early on which confused matters. But the crime scene was measured and the grand jury had detailed measurements mapping the locations of the car, shell casings, and other evidence; the ME's camera battery died but the crime scene detectives filled in (or rather, the ME testified that they always both take the same pictures as protocol); Wilson claimed the day after the shooting that he had been punched two times "at least," not 10.

You're continuing to narrowly focus on the grand jury proceedings as if those proceedings and the evidence presented in them are an objective, full set of the facts

Wait what? I absolutely believe that grand jury was manipulated and McCulloch's claim that it was an objective process is complete horseshit. Just, as a MeTa issue I think it would be good if people would not continue repeating media misinformation as fact in the course of these discussions. I think you yourself repeated those claims three or four times in the other thread, dialetheia, and they're just not true.

In my earlier comment I said I didn't want to argue about these details in the thread on the blue that was largely given to grieving the injustice of Michael Brown's death and the failure to indict Wilson. I don't want to belabor the point here either, so I'll drop it now.
posted by torticat at 10:11 AM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


Legitimizing looting and violence, presumably.

I disagree. I feel that this kind of comment, expressing sympathy and empathy for those downtrodden, is not an incitement or a legitimizing attempt to/of violence. I think that characterizing it as such could be considered not applying good faith.
posted by kalessin at 10:13 AM on December 2, 2014 [17 favorites]


> I think what happens in Ferguson-style threads nowadays is that they tend quickly to be overwhelmed by a small cadre of high-volume, ultra-left-wing posters who want to use the space to bond and commiserate and favorite-each-other over how the issue confirms a particular, narrowly circumscribed, impeccably politically correct view of the world. By doing so early and energetically in the thread, the impression is created that they are the consensus of the site, when they are likely only a vocal minority.

That is a fascinating analysis. Right-wing political pundits could learn a thing or two from you.
posted by desuetude at 10:13 AM on December 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


The immediate use of the verdict on its face as proof of racial apartheid

Except there was no verdict. The grand jury ensured that there will not be a verdict when they decided that the case wasn't worthy of a trial. That's the injustice people were reacting to and yeah, when you "critically examine the facts and law in this individual case," it looks like a racially-biased decision to a lot of people (who subsequently expressed that opinion).
posted by mudpuppie at 10:15 AM on December 2, 2014 [17 favorites]


Is it me, or did it get kind of... Gamergatey in here? This sort of picking over statements for hidden left-wing messages does not feel like a good way to go.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:15 AM on December 2, 2014 [19 favorites]


Pretending as if this wasn't the third thread about Ferguson and the path up to using the grand jury (rather than simply indicting, as is often done by that office when there's no need for the subpoena power) is somewhere between willfully ignorant and disingenuous. It certainly altered the early content and trajectory, as you'll notice many of the same cast of characters who had already been in the other threads.
posted by phearlez at 10:21 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


By doing so early and energetically in the thread, the impression is created that they are the consensus of the site, when they are likely only a vocal minority.

This is like a bizarro-world take on how metafilter actually operates. The commenting base of metafilter is overwhelmingly liberal.
posted by empath at 10:22 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


But the crime scene was measured and the grand jury had detailed measurements mapping the locations of the car, shell casings, and other evidence

There were measurements included in the grand jury documents, but AFAIK (and I may have missed something), it's unclear when those measurements were taken and by whom, except for that we know that it wasn't the forensic investigator who initially examined the scene. I think you're acting in good faith here, torticat, but I don't think "for practical purposes all the claims I quoted are false" is a complete or accurate representation of the situation on this point.
posted by kagredon at 10:22 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Um, I have NOT been in the other threads, said one character to another.
posted by kalessin at 10:23 AM on December 2, 2014


Legitimizing looting and violence, presumably.

Understanding rage isn't the same as legitimizing its outbursts. The rest of your comment is similarly mistaken.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:24 AM on December 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


I think those are some pretty ultra-left-wing views of reality.

No, they're really not. The US has shifted so far to the right that what's labeled "left-wing" is often slightly to the right of center, when the entire spectrum of political opinion (as opposed to Republican vs. Democratic) is considered. Those comments are nowhere even close to "ultra left-wing." They're maybe mildly liberalish.
posted by jaguar at 10:26 AM on December 2, 2014 [36 favorites]


> Is it me, or did it get kind of... Gamergatey in here?

Eww. You know the only way to get that smell out is to cook a few batches of meth.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 10:30 AM on December 2, 2014


Calling MLK's ideas on race "delusional."

The Martin Luther King, Jr. of convention, who appeared out of nowhere, gave a rousing speech, and then walked a few feet from the podium onto the balcony where he was shot, is a delusion. This delusion is convenient for people who would prefer to invoke a hero's name than to take on the burden of his cause.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:30 AM on December 2, 2014 [50 favorites]


But that wouldn't even get you as much as Ironmouth has disclosed about his areas of practice and career history. "Lawyer" is pretty broad.

In his case, I think it would be beneficial for him to note in threads where he's siding with the police that he works for them (or whatever the situation actually is.) I understand that may get close to identifying him personally or whatever, but the more open you are, the better the discussion will go.

But I think the goal should be "focusing comments on the issues, topics, and facts at hand—not at other members of the site."

Ad hominems are germane and non-fallacious when they speak to the credibility of others to interpret facts. Hiding your biases, even when you feel you have a good reason to do so, is toxic to a fair and open discussion where everyone's cards are on the table. I think that's where so many of the "here's Mr. Lawyer..." "Here's the staunch establishment Democrat.." stuff came from -- people wanting to make it clear to observers that someone was speaking in a biased manner without disclosing the nature of that bias.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:32 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Holy shit that is some disingenuous pull-quoting and paraphrasing. I mean, wow.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:33 AM on December 2, 2014 [11 favorites]


The subtext, which you may or may not really mean, is that *you alone* know how to solve this site-wide problem that *you* have identified.

But they don’t need your tools!
mudpuppie


I didn’t identify it and I am hardly the only person aware of it as an issue. I didn’t start this MeTa. Someone else did. Restless_nomad stated early in the discussion that the whole pile-on issue is a hard problem to solve. This has come up repeatedly in various metas: That the mods are not entirely satisfied with how pile-ons are currently handled, but they are stumped as to what else to do.

I don’t claim to be the only person who knows how to solve this. However, I do have prior moderating experience with crowds of somewhat similar demographics in terms of being groups of generally intelligent, generally well-educated individuals who were generally very good at what they did and thus brought a lot of ego to the discussion. They were people who were used to being basically the smartest person in the room and their overall social experience was that if someone did not agree with them, that person probably was less well informed and was basically wrong.

It was quite difficult to get these folks, many with educations from prestigious places like Harvard, to realize that they were talking with other folks who were just as smart and just as educated or informed or competent, but they had a different life experience and/or different perspective and their disagreement was not merely dumbness. It was really hard to get them to talk respectfully with each other as equals and try to understand why the other party had come to a very different conclusion.

This was about sixteen years ago, before metafilter even existed as I understand it. And that is not my only experience with making forward progress on this type of issue.

So what I am trying to say is that as someone with a lot of years of community-building experience, some of that with similar demographics and similar problems to what I am seeing here, I found that certain things helped reduce the issue of entrenched negative patterns surrounding the participation of particular opinionated individuals. And I tried to share some thoughts on what might help here. I tried to be really specific. And then people began saying things like “Michele, Do YOU in YOUR LIFE do blah blah blah.” Which, in my opinion, is someone else making it very personally, very much about me. I have my own opinions as to why that happens so often. I do plan on rereading your comment and seeing what I can get out of it in the future because I do work hard on trying to make my participation not some guaranteed derail.

At this time, I don’t really plan on participating further today in this discussion. I am running a raging fever and my hope is to do some reading and not give my feet too much opportunity to land in my mouth.
posted by Michele in California at 10:39 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


This delusion is convenient for people who would prefer to invoke a hero's name than to take on the burden of his cause.

Considering how many people here have been quoting Letter From A Birmingham Jail without noting what King said about the Watts riots, I'd say that horse is far past the field.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:40 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Extremely uncharitable views of the DA's motives without any attempt to examine his thought process.

I disagree; I think people did attempt to understand the DA's thinking -- look at the discussion about why someone would bother having a grand jury if they believed Wilson was innocent.

But speaking of uncharitable:
And in the first several comments you got stuff like this:
From what I hear, the jury was 9:3 white to black, and nine votes was the minimum to either indict or not. That's some talented voir dire right there. (45 favorites)

Implying, without any evidence whatsoever, that race alone determined the grand jury's votes.
Or: implying, with the evidence of a 3:1 racial split in a case that people see as partly about race, and with the evidence of, oh, living in america, that the jury selection could be seen as biasing the verdict, and likely did.
I no longer wonder why things burn. I wonder why they're not burnt every day. (168 favorites)

Legitimizing looting and violence, presumably.
Or: expressing understanding of the community's anger. 'I wonder why' isn't necessarily saying 'we should;' it's saying 'if this event is regular, rather than surprising; if this is but one more instance of an oft-repeated refrain -- why is the response to it more pronounced now?'
I really hope they wake up from the delusional haze of all tht MLK I have a dream stuff and smell the fresh coffee of reality, this is but a small taste of what it's like to be 3/5th. Get used to it. (45 favorites)

Calling MLK's ideas on race "delusional."
Or: calling the idea that we've achieved his dream delusional; calling the modern perception of who he was and what he stood for delusional.

Are those 'or' statements correct readings? I don't know; I'm not even reading them in context. But I'd argue they're charitable readings, whereas yours are not: you seem to be doing to other people here what you accuse people here of doing to the DA -- presuming the worst without thinking about what people are trying to say, and without asking them if that is what they're really saying.

I can see how you'd read those statements the way you did (although I disagree with that reading), and I can see how, if you read them that way, you've formed your impression of the thread. But I think your impression is incorrect, because I think you're reading of those (and other) statements are incorrect.
posted by cjelli at 10:41 AM on December 2, 2014 [23 favorites]


Ad hominems are germane and non-fallacious when they speak to the credibility of others to interpret facts.

They can be, sure. I'm not accusing anyone of logical fallacies, and I think it's fine to consider Ironmouth's background when evaluating his posting. I'm just saying that this is a bad thing to want generally, and most people won't supply it.

Other than my ad absurdum, I haven't said a lot about why I don't think it will work. Frankly, the practicality issues seem paramount: some people will disclose, and most won't. The evidence is that pseudonymous websites can do pretty well if the pseudonyms are persistent, so we ought to be satisfied with that. But here's where it gets really bad: a disclosure norm would almost certainly be used to justify "outing" and "doxing" people. This is the very opposite of current site norms, and for good reason.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:41 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


it's unclear when those measurements were taken and by whom, except for that we know that it wasn't the forensic investigator who initially examined the scene.

I don't know what to say, there are pages and pages of testimony from the crime scene detective about the measuring process here, p 145, 175 and following, among others.
posted by torticat at 10:45 AM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


Apparently, if you use the context of race to make judgments, you're a rabid left-winger.

A grand jury, which would normally indict a ham sandwich, gives a pass to a white cop for killing an unarmed black teenager? Well I, who have no biases, will wait for the facts to come in because I am totes centrist come to conclusions through reason and discourse not bias. See!
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:46 AM on December 2, 2014 [18 favorites]


Thankfully the right-wingers we have on this site are more articulate than the ones I encounter at my thanksgiving table, but man, its still the same old bullshit, isn't it?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:48 AM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


We might as well add this thread to the discussion.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:48 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is there any MeFi policy on people bringing their day job advocacy to MeFi [?]

Does this mean no more tech folks pounding away in Apple/Google/device threads, ever?

This could change everything.

Though we would lose The Whelk from the comic book threads, which is a problem.
posted by bonehead at 10:58 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wow. If that's truly how Ironmouth derives income then it should probably be fair game to point that out in any thread about the police that he decides to hold court in.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 11:02 AM on December 2, 2014


I remember, said Granny, after tottering into the room and putting her gnarly old feet up on the tuffet, when I first moved to the US, it was to Pittsburgh, in the late years of the previous century. My first job, she said with a tip of the hat to tonycpsu, was with a rather obscure little playhouse called The Second City. For some random reason, we were four of us in a little office in Pgh instead of Chicago or Toronto, including the corporate Controller and the company Graphic Designer. They were cliches - the first wore a suit, was a Republican and came from good hard working blue collar Eastern European Pittsburgh stock. The second was a grizzly hippie left over from the 60s who wore jeans and unkempt hair.

I was but a 'highly skilled migrant worker' on an H1 visa - a furriner, from far across the seas.

The very first question put to me by the Controller, during our first lunch to welcome n00b employee was "Are you a Librull?"

I distinctly recall answering, "No, I'm not an American citizen"

That day, I realized, that for certain groups, it didn't matter if you were a citizen or not, whether you could vote or not, you didn't even have to be in the country, heck you could be a foreigner halfway around the planet, but they'd ask you "Red or blue state?" as though that were the only really meaningful way by which to understand the entire planet.

Red or blue, sonnyboy, red or blue?
posted by infini at 11:04 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


[Ironmouth, I understand this is a topic you have knowledge and interest in, but you absolutely need to not be holding court here. Thanks. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 10:11 AM on December 2 [6 favorites +][!]


I don't get this. I mean, lots of people go on and on in threads they are personally invested in. I personally find Ironmouth's views abhorrent, but it seems like a selective policy to call him out for repeating himself.
posted by latkes at 11:04 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Considering how many people here have been quoting Letter From A Birmingham Jail without noting what King said about the Watts riots, I'd say that horse is far past the field.

Could you be more specific? This is the manuscript of King's press statement following a visit to Watts in the immediate wake of the riots. From the opening:
After visiting the area of the recent riots and talking with hundreds of people of all walks of life it is my opinion that these riots grew out of the depths of despair which afflict a people who see no way out of their economic dilemma. There are serious doubts that the white community is in any way concerned or willing to accommodate their needs. There is also a growing disillusionment and resentment toward the Negro middle-class and the leadership which it has produced. This ever widening breach is a serious factor which leads to the feeling that they are alone in their struggle and must resort to any method to gain attention to their plight. The non-violent movement of the South has meant little to them since we have been fighting for rights which theoretically are already theirs.

Their fight is for dignity and work. This is the reason that the issue of police brutality looms so high. The slightest discourtesy on the part of an officer of the law is a deprivation of the dignity which most of the residents of Watts came North seeking. But the main issue is economic. Unless some work can be found for the un-employed and under-employed we continually face the possibility of this kind of outbreak at every encounter with police authority.
He does condemn the rioting, but not with the kind of force I would have expected from your comment. What comments of his were you thinking of?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:05 AM on December 2, 2014 [14 favorites]


I don't get this. I mean, lots of people go on and on in threads they are personally invested in. I personally find Ironmouth's views abhorrent, but it seems like a selective policy to call him out for repeating himself.

Posting a third of the first twelve comments in a thread and posting multiple times in a row are both situations where one person is taking up a lot of the conversational space. He's welcome to participate in the discussion, but that involves letting other people both talk about things and disagree with him without a rapid-fire series of rebuttals.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 11:07 AM on December 2, 2014 [11 favorites]


Seems to me, these are basic norms of threadshitting, sitting and posting - are they by chance missing in the FAQ or wiki?
posted by infini at 11:09 AM on December 2, 2014


He later condemns the rioting, but not with the kind of force I would have expected from your comment. What comments of his were you thinking of?

I can actually see a couple of reasons not to note this in this case - most obviously that Missouri, although its status as a Southern state has a liminality going back to the Missouri Compromise, was nonetheless a Southern state for Dr King's purposes, certainly in contrast with California (despite Los Angeles being south of St Louis). However, there are certainly commonalities worth noting, 50 years on, when segregation in the South is often economic rather than strictly legal.

That said, I suspect that the part of most interest to anyone seeking to demonstrate that MetaFilter is a hotbed of communism would be the quote "I would minimise the racial significance" in the introductory paragraph. If you cover up the rest of the statement and squint at that in just the right way, one might I guess conceivably imagine that by minimising the consideration of issues of race in the case of Ferguson one is following in the footsteps of Dr King...
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:10 AM on December 2, 2014


Dang, you're right torticat. I retract my earlier comment.
posted by kagredon at 11:11 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


He does condemn the rioting, but not with the kind of force I would have expected from your comment. What comments of his were you thinking of?

no one in this thread has actually quoted LfaBJ, so I expect TFB is posting from an alternate universe of some sort
posted by kagredon at 11:12 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'd be just fine with people putting themselves in a vague industry category, not necessarily who they work for.

Honestly, every time someone posts, "I have experience in this field" without further specifics, I read, "I temped for an accounting firm that had a client in this field once." Similiarly, I assume "I've studied this extensively" means either "I took a class in undergrad" or "I've read several long form articles about this."
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:15 AM on December 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


I know more about this subject than you can possibly imagine.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:17 AM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


Tsk, I've actually had extensive lifetime experience of not being a tall white man. Or a gun.
posted by infini at 11:17 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Megatron didn't ask to be a gun, infini.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:23 AM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


Only continuing to respond to provide evidence back up my statements since they were directly questioned, and I'll drop it after this. We continue to not know exactly how far Wilson was from Brown when Brown was shot except for from Wilson's own testimony (if you have that measurement, please let me know, it doesn't appear to be in any of the grand jury documents or anywhere else - everything I can find is that we have no fixed landmark for where Wilson was standing at the time). The initial claim about how far Brown was from the vehicle is well-documented and many activists made a point of debunking those claims early on because it was so obvious that the initial claim was untrue, and I think it's excessively generous to call those claims "confusion," especially if that measurement was actually taken. I mean, Wilson was still making the "35-40 feet" claim in his Stephanopoulos interview!

While there may be pictures taken by the police that the ME could request access to in order to substitute for their own missing pictures, which is also covered in my first link, those photos remain questionable due to the conflict of interest (that's the whole point of having a medical examiner take their own photos). All I claimed is that improper procedures were followed and that we do not have independent ME photos, and I maintain that the examiner having to request access to police photos is still improper, even if they claim that the photos are identical to what they would have taken. It is factually true from the grand jury evidence that the ME didn't take their own photos. I'm having trouble locating my source on the initial ten punches claim so I'll cede that to you, but Wilson has continued to wildly overstate the beating he received ("How do I survive," Wilson recalled thinking. "I didn't know if I'd be able to survive another hit like that." - from the ABC interview linked above)

I don't know what to say, there are pages and pages of testimony from the crime scene detective about the measuring process here, p 145, 175 and following, among others.

First, those measurements were made by police investigators, not the medical examiner; it was the medical examiner's "I took no measurements because it was self-explanatory" comment that aroused so much suspicion and raised questions about procedures in the wake of the shooting. Second, those cites only cover the distance from the car to Brown's body, and if anything the fact that this measurement was taken so many times at the crime scene makes it even more strange and suspicious that the initial police story remained that his body was only 35 feet from the vehicle (perhaps coincidentally, that's the distance that would have made this basically an open-and-shut self-defense case). There is still no measurement of how far Wilson was from Brown's body, which seems like the most important measurement you could possibly have in this case.
Apologies for the derail but I wanted to provide evidence for my claims. Dropping it now, and if we want to talk more about these details it should go in the Ferguson thread.
posted by dialetheia at 11:25 AM on December 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


I wanted to touch on a couple points mentioned above: the idea of “good faith” argument and the question of whether professional interests should be disclosed because of how they might affect the quality of discussion.

Personally, I think the professional and personal experiences of Mefites greatly enriches our conversations. I don't think disclosure is necessary, though it's always helpful to be able to better contextualize a person's position. I don't think people should refrain from talking on topics they also work on because the issue isn't people drawing on their experience; it's whether they do so in a way that promotes productive conversation.

In the spirit of disclosure, I'll note that I am a professional rhetorican, though not currently employed as such. I've found “good faith” to be a less useful standard than others because it deals in internal motivations we can't observe. It's fine as a community aspiration, but when it comes to analysis, it's better to rely on evidence in the discourse itself where we can observe how one way of arguing may tend to produce a certain kind of response.

On one hand, such analysis is a subjective judgment call because argumentation by its nature involves questions that don't have certain answers. On the other hand, some measure of consensus and evidence-based opinion is possible.

Given this context, what standards can we use to judge and improve the quality of our discussions? I've mentioned some more theoretical background elsewhere, but in practical terms I see at least two basic considerations. (1) When I respond to others, am I fairly summarizing their point? (2) Am I engaged in a back-and-forth process of conversation or am I just repeating my point and refusing to engage the points of others? In other words, do discussants explain why they think their position is right and others are wrong? When disagreement can't be reached, is there agreement about why?

If you don't agree with me about institutional racism, that's to be expected. But for a productive conversation, there needs to be engagement on why. The discussion gets derailed, for example, when one discussant insists that others accept as a starting point that Brown is “a very poor case to start the national conversation" as a way to evade any engagement on the topic of racism.
posted by audi alteram partem at 11:26 AM on December 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


no one in this thread has actually quoted LfaBJ, so I expect TFB is posting from an alternate universe of some sort

He's posting about a real phenomenon from previous threads. I myself have quoted "Birmingham Jail" at least once to argue that King was not a saintly moderate who challenged no one and left everyone feeling good until someone shot him for some reason, and to argue, in consequence, that tone arguments which appeal to King's example are so much vapor.

I really do want to know what King thought about Watts. Freeing ourselves of conventional ideas about great historical figures is important.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:27 AM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


Second to last paragraph above should end "When agreement can't be reached..."
posted by audi alteram partem at 11:34 AM on December 2, 2014


I know more about this subject than you can possibly imagine

The only sensible response to this is always "you would pretty much have to."
posted by phearlez at 11:40 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I really do want to know what King thought about Watts. Freeing ourselves of conventional ideas about great historical figures is important.

This interview was conducted the year after the Watts riots.
MIKE WALLACE: There's an increasingly vocal minority who disagree totally with your tactics, Dr. King.

KING: There's no doubt about that. I will agree that there is a group in the Negro community advocating violence now. I happen to feel that this group represents a numerical minority. Surveys have revealed this. The vast majority of Negroes still feel that the best way to deal with the dilemma that we face in this country is through non-violent resistance, and I don't think this vocal group will be able to make a real dent in the Negro community in terms of swaying 22 million Negroes to this particular point of view. And I contend that the cry of "black power" is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we've got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.

WALLACE: How many summers like this do you imagine that we can expect?

KING: Well, I would say this: we don't have long. The mood of the Negro community now is one of urgency, one of saying that we aren't going to wait. That we've got to have our freedom. We've waited too long. So that I would say that every summer we're going to have this kind of vigorous protest. My hope is that it will be non-violent. I would hope that we can avoid riots because riots are self-defeating and socially destructive. I would hope that we can avoid riots, but that we would be as militant and as determined next summer and through the winter as we have been this summer. And I think the answer about how long it will take will depend on the federal government, on the city halls of our various cities, and on White America to a large extent. This is where we are at this point, and I think White America will determine how long it will be and which way we go in the future.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 11:44 AM on December 2, 2014 [20 favorites]


It's a situation where the evidence and stories were being manipulated, massaged, and retroactively changed in a number of ways, and the spin started the moment the body hit the ground. You'd need a lengthy chart to go through all the details at this point about what the "official" story was at any given point in the process, what the authorities failed to do which could have crucially changed the evidence, etc. The game was being stacked from the start, and those of us paying attention from the start are probably more aware of that than those who tuned in a week ago. And of course Wilson and his people had months to figure out what would play and what wouldn't for the final narrative to present. This is what people are getting at, I think, when they say the grand jury documents represent only a single facet of the larger picture.
posted by naju at 11:45 AM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


I know more about this subject than you can possibly imagine.

My mother works in this subject.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:45 AM on December 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


I don't get this. I mean, lots of people go on and on in threads they are personally invested in. I personally find Ironmouth's views abhorrent, but it seems like a selective policy to call him out for repeating himself.

Even aside from the comment quantity, I think when he's gotten to "oh yeah how many of these have YOU gone to" it's not unreasonable for the mods to think he's maybe kicking up more dirt than he is being a part of a productive conversation.
posted by phearlez at 11:48 AM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Plus, it seems, relying on his legal expertise to slide half-truths past everyone. As evidenced in that new thread where he talks about privacy legislation but omits that professional activities are largely exempted. That's just dishonest.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:51 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Someone who comes in with their first comment being about the looting, and then comes back later to complain about the looting again is certainly showing through their selective focus that they think looting is the primary problem.

This is I think a Metafilter wide problem and one we really need to be better about. Just because someone's first comment is about X thing, and they post later about X thing, does not mean they think X thing is the most important thing about a post or situation. It may mean they have expert knowledge about X thing. It may mean they understand other things, but don't understand X thing, or agree with everything else but disagree with X, or agree with X but don't have the energy to talk about everything else, or any of a host of reasons.

For example - a lot of people seem to have tagged me as having a primary focus of Wilson in the thread because I talked about empathy and understanding of everyone's emotional state, even Wilson. But empathy and understanding of everyone's emotional state is not the thing I think is the most wrong or upsetting or even important about Ferguson. I find the militarization, police state, and essential occupation of an American town to be insanely upsetting. I find the fact that some people are forgetting that to be upsetting. But if I start talking about that stuff I'm pretty sure I'll start ranting, and I don't think it would benefit anyone, even me.
posted by corb at 11:53 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


With regards to professionals and experts who are heavily invested in a particular subject matter contributing to directly related threads, I think we have very positive example to look at in terms of how to do that kind of thing well and in a way that's utterly respectful to other participating MeFites:

I'd like to call out physicsmatt for being a truly awesome kind of expert whose contributions are almost invariable incredibly detailed, well put together and reasonably easy to parse considering the complexity of the matters he tends to comment on.

But that's only one part: he also doesn't try to dominate or derail the threads he's in and he doesn't attempt to choke out conversations that deviate from or contradict the expert knowledge and the viewpoints he contributes and represents. Granted, physics threads are not generally contentious, but he could just as easily be a dick about it all and try to shout down or squeeze out any conversations that are centered around what someone like him might consider to be more "wooey" viewpoints or less expertly informed interpretations and extrapolations of what's being discussed.
Instead he refrains from doing so and chooses to maintain a light touch overall and that's what makes his comments highly appreciated by almost everybody (at least as far as I can tell). He participates in conversations, adds highly valuable insights and doesn't try to suck up all the air in the room by appealing to his own expertness/actively dismissing everybody else's thoughts.

In conclusion, even if you're truly the most expertest expert of them all, just don't be a dick. People may listen to you or they may not, but that's not under your control. Being dismissive most certainly won't sway anybody but it'll quite likely poison the conversation.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:58 AM on December 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


It may mean they understand other things, but don't understand X thing, or agree with everything else but disagree with X, or agree with X but don't have the energy to talk about everything else, or any of a host of reasons.

It may mean those things, or it may mean something closer to the meaning I and some others took from it. In a case like this, where there is a well-known trope of conservatives pointing to looting as a way to dismiss / distract from the complaints of the non-looting protesters, I think the onus is on those who are talking about the looting to make it clear that they're not doing that.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:59 AM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


For example - a lot of people seem to have tagged me as having a primary focus of Wilson in the thread because I talked about empathy and understanding of everyone's emotional state, even Wilson. But empathy and understanding of everyone's emotional state is not the thing I think is the most wrong or upsetting or even important about Ferguson. I find the militarization, police state, and essential occupation of an American town to be insanely upsetting. I find the fact that some people are forgetting that to be upsetting. But if I start talking about that stuff I'm pretty sure I'll start ranting, and I don't think it would benefit anyone, even me.

People will tend to assume that you care about the things you choose to discuss and you don't care about the things you choose not to discuss. That seems pretty straightforward and predictable to me.
posted by Lexica at 12:00 PM on December 2, 2014 [24 favorites]


And add to this, something that is entirely within your control, what you decide to discuss and not discuss.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 12:02 PM on December 2, 2014 [12 favorites]


Ah, thanks for popping in, shivohum.

From what I hear, the jury was 9:3 white to black, and nine votes was the minimum to either indict or not.

That's some talented voir dire right there. (45 favorites)


Implying, without any evidence whatsoever, that race alone determined the grand jury's votes.


This is a perfect example of jumping to conclusions if not bad faith. The point is that it took nine votes. This is the grand jury rule and, well, doesn't it look weird that there were also nine white jurors? Can you seriously not see a structural question there that says something other than, "race did it," that there's smoke? Of course GJ votes are forever secret, so we're never going to know, but I don't think that's a reason to eliminate the question from discussion.

To state a conclusion that doesn't take this into account is to me the very definition of ignorance. Maybe you didn't see it, maybe you are being evasive, but at the end of the day it is an actual thing that is not in your argument. The evidence, such as it is (but might not meet your personal definition of such), is that it lines up in a, "huh, I wonder how that happened," way. But no, for some reason this correlation is beneath comment.

This speaks directly to the underlying issue for this MeTa, good faith arguing, and reading the room. However, whether it be Ironmouth, you shivohum, or someone else with a suitable grasp, I personally wouldn't mind seeing an argument that disposes of all the questions that many of us see as obvious and concludes that it was a clean process. Is this an ultra-left-wing desire?
posted by rhizome at 12:03 PM on December 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


Posting a third of the first twelve comments in a thread and posting multiple times in a row are both situations where one person is taking up a lot of the conversational space.

Yeah, I hear that. And I defer to mod judgement of course (not that you need me to defer - it's obvioulsy not my call!) but there is something that gives me some discomfort about this. Just registering a perspective I guess.
posted by latkes at 12:25 PM on December 2, 2014


Actually, and I'm surprised nobody fact-checked this in the original thread, it takes 9 votes in favor of indictment to indict, meaning it only takes 4 votes against to not indict, so the 9 to 3 makeup isn't purposefully stacked with just enough white votes to not indict (but this isn't an argument that it wasn't stacked). Furthermore, I'm pretty sure, but not positive, that the jury pool comes from the entire county. Wikipedia gives St. Louis county as being ~70% white, ~23% black. That's pretty close to the make up of the grand jury (75% white, 25% black). So in this case, I do find it somewhat problematic (though not damning, as mistakes happen) that this was provided without evidence, an incorrect fact to view it from, and complemented with a comment that isn't exactly supported, that turns out to amass many favorites.
posted by Skephicles at 12:26 PM on December 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


People will tend to assume that you care about the things you choose to discuss and you don't care about the things you choose not to discuss. That seems pretty straightforward and predictable to me.

This argument is commonly directed at activists, and I tend to see it most frequently used to attack feminists. An activists talks about an issue of concern, and then someone responds by saying that there are all these much bigger problems that we should be concerned about.

The appropriate response is to say that one can care about multiple things at one time, and just because one is writing about one particular issue at the time, it doesn't mean they don't care about any other number of issues.

There are any number of reasons to comment on one aspect of an issue and not another aspect, and I don't think we should read too heavily into it.
posted by andoatnp at 12:30 PM on December 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


Excellent points, skephicles. It was indeed a St. Louis county jury. To add to the problems, there is also no voir dire for grand juries and no striking of jurors. It's just a random selection. So lots of misinformation here.
posted by shivohum at 12:34 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yes, but corb doesn't seem to get around to ever talking about the other aspects, so its not unreasonable to assume what she finds important is what she speaks up about.
posted by agregoli at 12:34 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Which is to say my intention is not to pick on corb - I welcome her comments on this and any topic. But she is very consistent on what she speaks up on.
posted by agregoli at 12:36 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


There are any number of reasons to comment on one aspect of an issue and not another aspect, and I don't think we should read too heavily into it.

You're sort of turning this on its head, because the invocation of looters is itself often used as the shiny object used to distract and dismiss legitimate grievances of the majority of protesters. We can't just pretend all issues raised are on equal footing, or that the invocation of some emotionally-charged subjects is never done tactically. The TV cameras focus on the looters, the internet commenters focus on the looters, and pretty soon it's all about a small minority of jackholes looting instead of the larger conversation. People have a right to raise whatever issues they want, but that doesn't mean I have to ignore the fact that they're doing so out of proportion to the actual scale of the problem (pro tip: you can rebuild a beauty products store, you can't rebuild Michael Brown.)
posted by tonycpsu at 12:41 PM on December 2, 2014 [11 favorites]


An activists talks about an issue of concern, and then someone responds by saying that there are all these much bigger problems that we should be concerned about.

That is not what is going on. This is someone saying "I don't know why everyone says I only care about X, I care about X and Y and Z" and people are replying "We only hear you talking about X so we draw the conclusion that you care a lot about X"
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 12:42 PM on December 2, 2014 [33 favorites]



feckless fecal fear mongering: Plus, it seems, relying on his legal expertise to slide half-truths past everyone. As evidenced in that new thread where he talks about privacy legislation but omits that professional activities are largely exempted. That's just dishonest.
To be fair, he might just be completely incompetent.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:48 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Thanks, TFB, we now know that MLK was not the one-note character that none of us thought he was.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:49 PM on December 2, 2014 [18 favorites]


the 9 to 3 makeup isn't purposefully stacked with just enough white votes to not indict (but this isn't an argument that it wasn't stacked)

Please also note that the normal random selection of grand jurors did not occur here. It was an existing GJ that was extended. McCulloch knew what the makeup of this GJ was in advance.
posted by rhizome at 12:52 PM on December 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


I think we would apply King's thoughts on riots and political strategy to internet conversation on a general-interest forum very differently, but sincere thanks, ThatFuzzyBastard, for elaborating on your idea and linking to that excerpt.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:58 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


The random selection of jurors did occur, it simply occurred in May.
posted by Justinian at 12:59 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I eagerly await a state lottery where I can use my randomly chosen ticket for future drawings.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:03 PM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


Also note that it was a judge who extended the grand jury's term since the case was ongoing, not McCulloch. This seems one of those times when people are making unsupported and nefarious readings into innocuous events.
posted by Justinian at 1:03 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Huh? The investigation was during this grand jury's term. But it wasn't over when the grand jury's initial term was set to expire. So a judge, not the DA, extended the term so that the investigation could be finished. Not everything is a conspiracy.
posted by Justinian at 1:05 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Extended at McCulloch's request. Come on.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:06 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Rhizome, you ought in fairness to admit now that your original comment was completely wrong and a perfect example of jumping to conclusions. You talked about "talented voir dire" when that's absolutely not what happened here.
posted by shivohum at 1:06 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Not everything is a conspiracy.

It's hardly conspiracy theorizing to look at McCulloch's pro-police record and the many cock-ups during the investigation and not simply trust that the grand jury being held over at McCulloch's request isn't part of the reason things went the way they did. But we're into litigating blue topics on the gray, so we should take this over there.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:08 PM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think we would apply King's thoughts on riots and political strategy to internet conversation on a general-interest forum very differently,

Oh no, I certainly wouldn't suggest the quote applies to how people behave on Metafilter! Just that when there's a riot in the news, lefties often pull out the Birmingham Jail quote about white liberals (judging by my FB feed) while neglecting what King actually said about the tactical inefficacy of riots. King is given too little credit, imho, as a cold tactician.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:08 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


judging by my FB feed

Well there's your problem.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:10 PM on December 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


Aw, there were signs of fairness in the Grand Jury process in St. Louis. McCulloch didn't need much help to pull off his "I can't get this ham sandwich indicted" act...
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:10 PM on December 2, 2014


Also McCulloch is the President of the Board of the Backstoppers, a St. Louis charity to defend and support Police, Firefighters and EMS. In my (not so expert) opinion, he should have recused himself from the prosecution of this case.
posted by kalessin at 1:12 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Are we rehashing the thread on the blue here?
posted by futz at 1:14 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Almost any DA will have close ties to police, it's the nature of the beast. One way I think it makes sense to reform the system is to routinely use special prosecutors in cases involving police shootings.
posted by Justinian at 1:14 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


judging by my FB feed

Well there's your problem.


But hardly confined to there.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:16 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


You know who else agreed with King on the "the tactical inefficacy of riots"? The Brown Family and all their closest supporters. There is evidence piling up that MOST of the destruction to the community was inflicted by either white "anonymous-afiliated" agitators (probably hyped up on GamerGate) and the KKK and actual white racists trying (pretty damn successfully) to discredit the black community.

THEY BURNED DOWN THE BROWN FAMILY'S CHURCH.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:16 PM on December 2, 2014 [19 favorites]


Is this an ultra-left-wing desire?

What The Rest of The World (tm) thinks of all this, for a nice change of perspective here, folkses:

"This is not America’s or the black community’s problem. It is a global problem of people who feel oppressed,” Tory Russell tells the Spanish newspaper. via HuffPost roundup of many EU papers


The Economist sends in from Amsterdam:

I have served on one American jury, and the entirety of our discussion (which required us to be sequestered for two days) turned on whether or not we trusted the police. We ended up with a hung jury because the white jurors trusted the police, and the black jurors did not. The evidence presented in the case consisted of a bag of cocaine, and two police officers who testified that the accused had tossed it under a car while fleeing. (The only defence testimony came from a chemist who challenged the police lab's procedures for measuring the quantity of the drugs; that played little role in the jury's discussion.) For the white jurors, without any testimony contesting the police account, we had no "reasonable doubt" of the state's case. For the black jurors, and for one juror in particular, the testimony of two police officers with no corroborating witnesses or evidence was simply not enough reason to send a man to jail.

These are both reasonable ways of approaching the world. What is dangerous is how neatly the disagreement falls along racial lines. African-Americans have a radically different experience of interaction with police officers than white Americans do, and are much less likely to implicitly trust the testimony of officers accused of brutality or lawbreaking. Most white Americans do not understand this distrust, so minorities are often left with a sense that the legal system offers them no recourse. White Americans cannot understand why African-Americans do not accept the verdict of the justice system. African-Americans suspect that the system is structured in a way that denies them justice.


The Hindu


The Ferguson episode shows how nothing has changed for the African-American community since Abraham Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation into law in 1863

When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty — Thomas Jefferson


Xinhua Op-Ed

Though legal segregation has faded into history, the racial gaps in the United States are roughly the same, if not wider, as they were decades ago.

Many barriers -- stereotypes, discriminatory housing practices, and institutional racism -- remain out there, stripping African-Americans of decent opportunities enjoyed by the whites.
[...]

What makes things worse is the reluctance of U.S. politicians to fix the policies that result in glaring racial disparities, including the preferential tax treatment that favors the affluent.

Normalcy and peace will descend on Ferguson. But discontent among African-Americans will not automatically disappear. The U.S. government should learn a good lesson from the Ferguson incident: a sound, fair and equitable society can not be realized if the nation lets the current trajectory go on.



Damn commie pinko leftist liberals, all of them... could probably dig up more, but hey wtf that's just the world out there watching through their screens and who cares what they think, all that's important is the bar fight between an elephant and a donkey
posted by infini at 1:19 PM on December 2, 2014 [30 favorites]


As far as the professional interest disclosure, I think having some kind of financial tie/profit motive should impact the way a user participates in a thread. If one of the cases I'm involved in ended up as an FPP on the Blue, I would either not participate or would disclose my involvement before participating. It just doesn't seem above-board to me to do otherwise...that user has an interest at stake beyond curiosity or wanting to discuss the topic with others.
posted by sallybrown at 1:19 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


It is an often repeated tactic that instigators of riots are folks doing false flag operations so that the riots can later be used to show that the protesters are the problem, not the thing they are protesting against.
posted by kalessin at 1:20 PM on December 2, 2014


'false flags' are usually not true, which is why it's such a great tactic when it is.

No, it wasn't those white mobs who destroyed the entire Black section of Tulsa in 1921...
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:22 PM on December 2, 2014


Oh no, I certainly wouldn't suggest the quote applies to how people behave on Metafilter! Just that when there's a riot in the news, lefties often pull out the Birmingham Jail quote about white liberals (judging by my FB feed) while neglecting what King actually said about the tactical inefficacy of riots. King is given too little credit, imho, as a cold tactician.

Meanwhile, on my Twitter feed, a lot of leftists have been quoting from the speech I quoted above. A white moderate who looks at a riot and says "Wow, this is a tactically ineffective assault on property. I will go on thinking and saying nothing about this, except for hectoring the people who want me to look at the 'broader picture'" really is dead weight and insincere in their concern about tactics.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 1:24 PM on December 2, 2014


I am concerned about the state of bridge repair in America.

The thread seems to be a rehash of the blue as futz suggests but information is also given that seems pertinent. Tough call.
posted by clavdivs at 1:24 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Justinian: Also note that it was a judge who extended the grand jury's term since the case was ongoing, not McCulloch.

Unsupported? "...at the prosecutor's request"

shivohum: You talked about "talented voir dire" when that's absolutely not what happened here.

Nope, I was quoting you, quoting from someone else.
posted by rhizome at 1:27 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


For the white jurors, without any testimony contesting the police account, we had no "reasonable doubt" of the state's case. For the black jurors, and for one juror in particular, the testimony of two police officers with no corroborating witnesses or evidence was simply not enough reason to send a man to jail.

Testilying
Of course, there is Alan Dershowitz's well-known assertion (made long before his participation in the O.J. Simpson case) that "almost all" officers lie to convict the guilty. [FN15] Dershowitz may have been engaging in hyperbole, but his claim is not as far off as one might think. In one survey, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and judges estimated that police perjury at Fourth Amendment suppression hearings occurs in twenty to fifty percent of the cases. [FN16] Jerome Skolnick, a veteran observer of the police, has stated that police perjury of this type is "systematic." [FN17] Even prosecutors — or at least former *1042 prosecutors — use terms like "routine," [FN18] "commonplace," [FN19] and "prevalent" [FN20] to describe the phenomenon. Few knowledgeable persons are willing to say that police perjury about investigative matters is sporadic or rare, except perhaps the police, and, as noted above, [FN21] even many of them believe it is common enough to merit a label all its own. [FN22]
Emphasis mine.
posted by phearlez at 1:28 PM on December 2, 2014 [14 favorites]


corb doesn't seem to get around to ever talking about the other aspects, so its not unreasonable to assume what she finds important is what she speaks up about.

I don't think that's necessarily the case, but I think it's the case that people simply don't notice. For example, in that thread, I also went into the grand jury proceedings and produced excerpts where the prosecutor was treating her own witness like a hostile witness and talked about how she seemed to be framing Brown as a problem herself. I talked later in the thread about how I thought morally citizens should have the right of self defense against cops and argued we should change the law so citizens defending themselves against cops didn't get charged with assault, because the law as it currently stands sucks.

But the memory that people hold is, "man, corb goes into these threads and just sides with the cops." And I don't believe that people are deliberately being shitty with this, I think it's just how human memory works - we tend to remember the things that fit our worldview, how we expect things to be, and forget the ones that don't. But that's more of a reason to take a breath and think about how we are thinking about people's contributions, and whether we are judging them fairly when we think they only care about one thing, simply because that one thing is the most enraging thing they are saying.
posted by corb at 1:30 PM on December 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


man, corb goes into these threads and just sides with the cops.

Nobody thinks that. People do think you side with armed killers of unarmed decedents, because you do.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:31 PM on December 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


But that's more of a reason to take a breath and think about how we are thinking about people's contributions

Perhaps it's more of a reason to take a breath and think about how you are contributing, and the reasons why people think the things they do when you contribute in exactly the same way, over and over and over and over again.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:33 PM on December 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


"...hat instigators of riots are folks doing false flag operations so that the riots can later"

False flag is not a good definition as a false flag operation is an approach by hostile to friendly intelligence services. The idea is to fool a rigorous vetting process. It's about the pocket litter and patience then violence. Sabotage is more akin to this situation. Sabotage differs from the FF in it's proximity. The former wants to book fast while the latter wants to get in the book. So to say.
posted by clavdivs at 1:38 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


disclosure: as a White Male, I have had absolutely no problems with police. My only non-traffic confrontation (and all of those I reflexively confessed my violation on the spot and was more often given a warning than a ticket) was being questioned over some software disks stolen out their packages in a computer store in the 1980s where I was recognized as one of the people going through the pile of Clearance Stuff. I told the officer I had noticed that one of the packages was missing its disks (which was true) and apologized for not bringing it to the attention of a clerk. And that was the end of that. They just look at me and think "here's somebody on OUR side". I'm surprised I've never had to lie to take advantage of that, but I know I could've stolen the disks and gotten away with it.

also disclosure (and purely anecdotal): I was living in a predominantly-not-white section of Los Angeles when the "Rodney King Riots" occurred. In my neighborhood, it was a big non-event except for the frequent police cars passing slowly through with their sirens blaring to tell us they were here and hourly TV reruns of the Reginald Denny beating to assure us that there was a 'riot'. (Denny has outlived Rodney King)

I think MLK's concerns over "white moderates" in his time can apply just as easily to "white liberals" today, although my slide from Moderate to Close-to-Radical was not all MY movement. I was defenestrated through the Overton Window years ago.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:42 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Nope, I was quoting what you had quoted from someone else.

Ha, whoops, you are correct, my apologies. The poster of that original comment is not you.

But you did write above about my thoughts on that comment:

This is a perfect example of jumping to conclusions if not bad faith. The point is that it took nine votes. This is the grand jury rule and, well, doesn't it look weird that there were also nine white jurors? Can you seriously not see a structural question there that says something other than, "race did it," that there's smoke? Of course GJ votes are forever secret, so we're never going to know, but I don't think that's a reason to eliminate the question from discussion.

In fact, both the original comment and the above paragraph are excellent examples of the "jumping to conclusions" you mention and exactly the kind of problematic groupthink I talked about earlier.

As others have aptly pointed out, it didn't take nine votes; it only takes four to deny an indictment. It doesn't look weird that there were also nine white jurors since that resembles the racial composition of St. Louis county. Grand juries are empaneled only three times a year in St. Louis, not once per case. There is no smoke on this point, but a smoke-tinted ideology can make it seem as if there is.
posted by shivohum at 1:44 PM on December 2, 2014


I disagree that "false flag" is an inappropriate term here. If we look at the Wikipedia entry, the first paragraph does not specify that a false flag operation need pass any sort of vetting operation:
False flag (or black flag) describes covert military or paramilitary operations designed to deceive in such a way that the operations appear as though they are being carried out by entities, groups, or nations other than those who actually planned and executed them. Operations carried out during peace-time by civilian organizations, as well as covert government agencies, may by extension be called false flag operations if they seek to hide the real organization behind an operation. Geraint Hughes uses the term to refer to those acts carried out by "military or security force personnel, which are then blamed on terrorists."
If you read on in the Wikipedia entry, you'll see applications for the term in a number of contexts, including civilian politics, like, for instance, bickering over who caused riots and whether those who caused them are worthy of sympathy.

I also think it's kind of fishy to jump into a thread like this and essentially question my ability to use a phrase properly as I'm trying to argue a point.
posted by kalessin at 1:46 PM on December 2, 2014


But that's more of a reason to take a breath and think about how we are thinking about people's contributions


I stopped halfway through because I don't like what I am doing here and yes I've done it already in a half assed way and I won't ever do it again and I've never done this kind of thing before. *takes deep breath* BUT....
posted by infini at 1:50 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


addressing the general topic:

to me, the behavior that is described as problematic is like adding an irritant to the atmosphere of the room where the discussion is taking place. You take what happened -- a dead unarmed kid -- and there's a certain level of tension. The ideas *we should try to understand Wilson* and *this was a justified shooting* elevates the tension in the discussion. And then the ideas are repeated, regardless of pushback, and tension escalates.

I've been working and maybe sometimes succeeding in not getting caught up in fights around here. I think that's a good value for site members to have. And that's not exactly a value I see embraced by the members at issue here.

And yeah, people shouldn't say, "Oh welcome lawful evil" or whatever, but the thing is, the burden to not get in fights should extend to also those of a minority opinion.

In other words: There's a dead unarmed kid and no accounting for it except for a bunch of completely mangled legal proceedings. Going into a thread to be like, well let's look at some things that make the hurt of the dead unarmed kid without accountability MORE OKAY, and people are going to be like :0

Don't write things that tend to make people go :0 unless there's a benefit to be achieved

for example, i am taking a break from writing cutting comments on student papers. there is a small possibility that there is a pedagogical value to the oppositional nature of the comment. i mean, probably not, but a girl can dream big dreams
posted by angrycat at 1:57 PM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


The question is if McCulloch could have gotten a new jury if he didn't like the first one. If so, having the option gives him even more of an advantage in getting the outcome he desires. It's like if you could bet on one sporting event and then having the option to change your bet to a different game after the first one starts.

I really wonder if Grand Juries serve any useful purpose at all. Since they are unnecessary in the first place and a prosecutor can game the system so badly to get the outcome s/he wants (including using bogus jury instructions), it seems like Grand Juries are probably only used a) to justify spending public money on iffy, expensive criminal cases that could build a prosecutors political career, and b) to prevent prosecution of police (and klansmen in the old days).
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:01 PM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


I really wonder if Grand Juries serve any useful purpose at all.

Subpoena power.
posted by phearlez at 2:05 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have better references thanks though. To assume your cover, one most be vetted. The hostile is verified to be friendly. The first mover, so to say, is never supposed to be detected in the first place thus ancillary operations can proceed under scrutiny of the friendly target with out suspicion. Your military definition is apt in definition of a false flag but this situation is not military situation.
posted by clavdivs at 2:06 PM on December 2, 2014


For example, in that thread, I also went into the grand jury proceedings and produced excerpts where the prosecutor was treating her own witness like a hostile witness and talked about how she seemed to be framing Brown as a problem herself. I talked later in the thread about how I thought morally citizens should have the right of self defense against cops and argued we should change the law so citizens defending themselves against cops didn't get charged with assault, because the law as it currently stands sucks.

Four of your first six comments were about Wilson, plus you had a really mean-spirited comment on the same topic deleted in that time. It's completely reasonable to think that Wilson is what you cared about.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 2:12 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


The funny thing about corb is...I think if she was posting on a conservative board they would get just as upset with her as people do here. When you don't fit perfectly in a political box, and you like to defend your positions anyway, (and you sometimes put your foot in your mouth), and you can have a lot of empathy for seeing the pros and cons of both sides...that is a recipe for not really fitting in. I'm glad she makes an effort to try because oddball voices are valuable here I think. Standard Fox News Republican though...I don't care so much if that guy doesn't feel welcome.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:16 PM on December 2, 2014 [19 favorites]


I posted about the grand jury extension on the blue since it doesn't really belong here, as tonycpsu points out.
posted by Justinian at 2:17 PM on December 2, 2014


(I think most of the conservative/libertarian users who last here are similarly valuable voices, I wish we could cut them a little more slack some times.)
posted by Drinky Die at 2:18 PM on December 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


I posted about the grand jury extension on the blue since it doesn't really belong here, as tonycpsu points out.

Yeah, and someone else is going to have to take that one, because you seem to want to exculpate McCulloch on everything he didn't obviously and demonstrably fuck up on instead of acknowledging that he fucked up enough things in suspicious ways that make even his not provably mendacious actions worthy of suspicion.

Nobody's saying the GJ extension or the racial composition are proof of malfeasance, they're saying that they fit into a pattern of a prosecutor with a history of siding with the cops who refused calls to recuse himself, acted as defense counsel for the accused, and a whole host of other things that have been pointed out on in the blue thread. Your corrections to peoples' misunderstandings about the sequence of events are welcome, while your admonishments to people for being suspicious about someone who's done more than enough to earn that suspicion are frankly tiresome.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:30 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yes, it's the corrections about crazy unsupported conspiracy theories which are tiresome, not the crazy unsupported conspiracy theories.
posted by Justinian at 2:32 PM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


In fact, both the original comment and the above paragraph are excellent examples of the "jumping to conclusions" you mention and exactly the kind of problematic groupthink I talked about earlier.

How so? I was basically asking questions in order to to elicit the kind of detail that I think I've been pretty good about providing for my own conclusions. It demonstrates good-faith argumentation when you show your work.

This further underscores the basis of this MeTa: it gets peoples' hackles up to basically (basically) say simply, "The system did something. This is what the system did. The system worked." It's a kind of threadshitting to just reiterate a course of events as self-justifying when it's obvious that it's contentious. At least I would hope it's obvious once you get past the perception that most here are slave-puppets for ultra-liberal tastemakers.

As others have aptly pointed out, it didn't take nine votes; it only takes four to deny an indictment.

Others have pointed this out, but it's a red herring. They are the same condition.
posted by rhizome at 2:33 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


People do think you side with armed killers of unarmed decedents, because you do.

Um, did you not notice her assertion that citizens who fight back against police (who are generally armed) should not be jailed? You've been weirdly dickish all through this thread, but you're now just actively misrepresenting.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:34 PM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Justinian: Yes, it's the corrections about crazy unsupported conspiracy theories which are tiresome, not the crazy unsupported conspiracy theories.

When do we get to call the consistent of pattern of fuck-ups a conspiracy?
posted by tonycpsu at 2:35 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Um, did you not notice her assertion that citizens who fight back against police (who are generally armed) should not be jailed? You've been weirdly dickish all through this thread, but you're now just actively misrepresenting.

Oh, no, I'm totally aware of her support for armed people shooting armed people as well.
posted by tonycpsu at 2:35 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


A white moderate who looks at a riot and says "Wow, this is a tactically ineffective assault on property. I will go on thinking and saying nothing about this, except for hectoring the people who want me to look at the 'broader picture'" really is dead weight and insincere in their concern about tactics.

How about the white radical who looks at a riot and says "Anyone who dares to suggest this is a bad thing is a racist defender of an unjust system"?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:35 PM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Institutionalization isn't a conspiracy.
posted by infini at 2:36 PM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


Says you😛
posted by clavdivs at 2:45 PM on December 2, 2014


How about the white radical who looks at a riot and says "Anyone who dares to suggest this is a bad thing is a racist defender of an unjust system"?

actually, one of the things I really appreciate about the current Ferguson thread is the discussion that has been going on about white allies and/or "allies" who are co-opting, escalating, speaking over people of color, etc. at protests. It's a difficult topic and it's not one that Mefi always does well, and I really appreciate how it's been discussed in the thread.

but probably not the best example TFB could've chosen for his "no u" shtick.
posted by kagredon at 2:51 PM on December 2, 2014 [13 favorites]


I feel stupid saying this because it's both obvious and because social justice activists are saying it all the time. MLK said it and so has every social justice activist I've seen talk about Ferguson and the riots and the protests and the shooting and all the other shootings, but by and large, most activists will agree that riots are not a good thing. They make protesters look bad, they cause property damage to uninvolved third parties, they send the wrong message, they can lead to more wrongful deaths and injuries for both rioters and law enforcement officers and otherwise uninvolved third parties. They suck! You don't have to be an ultra-right-wing conservative to think that or say that.

What I object to is the mirror image of what TFB and others have claimed, which is that if you say, for instance, that anger from how protesters and innocents have been treated in events leading up to a violent protest or riot is understandable, that I feel some sympathy with folks who got violent because lord, sometimes I feel profound anger too and there seems to be no good outlet for it, that that brands you as an ultra left communist lefty lefterson. When it's just expressing sympathy, like in Falling Down where you get sympathetic for someone who ends up committing sociopathic acts. We are humans. We get to be sympathetic. We get to feel for other people so we can understand where they're coming from and so we can show mercy and justice and be fair about it or at least try to be fair about it.

We are social creatures this is natural for us to do.
posted by kalessin at 3:10 PM on December 2, 2014 [9 favorites]


How about the white radical who looks at a riot and says "Anyone who dares to suggest this is a bad thing is a racist defender of an unjust system"?

You don't see a difference between MLK criticizing riots on the grounds that his organized protests are more effective, vs a white person scolding black people for having the "wrong reaction" to something they perceive as an unforgivable injustice perpetrated by white people? It's not "anyone who dares to suggest it," it's "any white person who scolds black folks for their reaction while doing nothing to advance the cause themselves and in many cases actively or tacitly supporting structural racism."

White people policing how black people should react to and fight racism has got to be one of the oldest and most offensive concern troll efforts in human history, and chiding outraged people with cherrypicked MLK quotes* is just one of its more recent incarnations.

* to be clear, I don't mean you TFB - but there have been so many white people tsk-tsking at black folks with "MLK would be ashamed of you" stuff on social media that reacting to that sentiment with MLK quotes that contradict that sentiment is not at all out of line. Maybe you're seeing the pushback from those "white radicals" but not the phenomenon they're pushing back against?
posted by dialetheia at 3:13 PM on December 2, 2014 [25 favorites]


Anyone who dares to suggest this is a bad thing is a racist defender of an unjust system"?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:35 PM on December 2 [2 favorites +] [!]


Who said that?

I said something like that, where I said that if you condemn the rights but kept your white mouth shut every time white people rioted after a football or hockey game or when their child rapist coddling fav football coach got in trouble, then you are a racist.

But no one said what you said they said. So why say it?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:23 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


How about the white radical who looks at a riot and says "Anyone who dares to suggest this is a bad thing is a racist defender of an unjust system"?

The people who cry aloud at race riots, but never give more than a word to the reasons they are happening, often are racist defenders of an unjust system. A white radical like the one you posit generalizes too broadly, but that's the only fault I can find in them.

On preview, kagredon and dialetheia said it better.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:23 PM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


The weather underground frequently used black power as a tool for their cause ( for example the "days of rage") which I believe some folks thought was co-opting the struggle. so their is historical precedence for this interesting facet of the conversation.
posted by clavdivs at 3:31 PM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


I actually met a former member of the weather underground a couple of years ago.
posted by kalessin at 3:44 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


You know, I will caution against assuming that the people who are saying various things - on either side - are white. Assuming that people who don't identify their race are white is part of making assumptions about the makeup of society that do not match actual reality.
posted by corb at 3:51 PM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


good point, but I'm using the royal you
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 3:54 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Corb has a point. I had the privilege to met and talk with Dennis Brutus. I remember someone asking him what Mandela thought of him being white and did this influence whites to join apartheid.
He just smiled at me and I smiled back to the person who asked the question.
posted by clavdivs at 4:09 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Drinky Die: Standard Fox News Republican though...I don't care so much if that guy doesn't feel welcome.

I remember a thread about the Civil War in which corb participated in her very corb-like fashion; a couple of days into it Judge Joe Napolitano was on The Daily Show, and they had him make all his arguments about how slavery wasn't the reason for the Civil War and how it should have been handled to a panel of Civil War historians. Naturally, each argument he came up with was demonstrably incorrect on the facts, but what also surprised me a little is how even the order in which he brought them up, let alone the content, was exactly what corb had been arguing in the thread.

From the Trayvon Martin threads, where she consistently tried to explain everything as though George Zimmerman's account, and his account alone, was entirely accurate, through 'The South Was Hard Done By and Didn't Shoot First' in Civil War threads, to her 'but it's the first step to taking away our guns!' rhetoric in gun threads... she may claim anarcho-libertarian beliefs, but they come up remarkably close to Fox News levels. Especially if you take into account that she is frequently as factually inaccurate as they are, and yet still pounds on the same points as it becomes clear that she's dogmatic rather than having a dialogue.

A lot of the suggestions for dealing with posters being difficult in the way they have been in the Ferguson thread I disagree with as any kind of rule going forward. But if you're aware of her posting history it's very tough to regard corb as being a victim of over-aggressive modding or bad faith reading rather than just the cumulative effect of her contributions and contributing style on how everyone else learns to treat her.
posted by gadge emeritus at 4:54 PM on December 2, 2014 [22 favorites]


So has a mod ever had a flame out? Because I feel like this thread is an attempt to make that happen.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:00 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


i think it's an attempt to put them to sleep
posted by pyramid termite at 5:08 PM on December 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


I doubt Napolitano expressed moral outrage at slave owners not being compensated for the slaves they lost in the war.
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:11 PM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Someone please put me to sleep. Like euthanize me.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:12 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Because I feel like this thread is an attempt to make that happen.

Are you kidding? This is a remarkably civil MetaTalk, as these things go.

(And no, not here, although I could tell you some stories...)
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:12 PM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


Napolitano is not the standard Fox republican, he is a libertarian outlier on the network. He opposes the death penalty, iirc, as one example of how he is out of line with the network party line. I'm not surprised his views might mirror corb's.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:15 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


(And no, not here, although I could tell you some stories...)

In my head, I can now only hear r_n's voice as Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner.

"I've seen things... that you people wouldn't believe..."
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:16 PM on December 2, 2014


(Wait, Joe Napolitano? I don't even know who that is. I was thinking of Judge Andrew Napolitano.)
posted by Drinky Die at 5:18 PM on December 2, 2014


You know, I will caution against assuming that the people who are saying various things - on either side - are white.

Although in my case there isn't much doubt if you see me. I have been referred to as "boiled chicken color".
posted by Justinian at 5:21 PM on December 2, 2014


Are you kidding? This is a remarkably civil MetaTalk, as these things go.

my personal benchmarks for horrible MeTas are either 1) the Hell Thread kalessin alluded to earlier, or 2) judging from when they get linked now, almost any contentious MeTa from before 2009 or so
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:26 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


That tseric link is awesome.
posted by clavdivs at 5:27 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


I believe the nasty thread kalessin was talking about was this one, which was indeed a nightmare.
posted by Chrysostom at 5:37 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


So has a mod ever had a flame out? Because I feel like this thread is an attempt to make that happen.

i think it's an attempt to put them to sleep


Every time a new thread is posted to etiquette/policy, the phone in the mod cave rings and when the mod-on-duty picks up, they hear jessamyn jubilantly shout "I'M FREE FOREVER" before diving into a Scrooge-McDuck-style pool of books
posted by kagredon at 5:44 PM on December 2, 2014 [30 favorites]


Justinian ain't yellow...he's chicken.
posted by uosuaq at 5:45 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Whatever you do, do not bring up giant metal chickens who wear hats indoors. please
posted by futz at 5:55 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


Arise Chicken!
posted by Drinky Die at 5:56 PM on December 2, 2014


It was a Dylan (Bob) reference, btw.
posted by uosuaq at 6:01 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


corb: You know, I will caution against assuming that the people who are saying various things - on either side - are white. Assuming that people who don't identify their race are white is part of making assumptions about the makeup of society that do not match actual reality.

This might seem glib, but literally the only people i ever hear saying this in this type of context are white. If it's ever a "don't assume that someone pro establishment/the oppressing side is automatically white!" has never in the history of my internet usage not turned out to be a white person.

Sorry.

It's just like, besides a tiny few exceptions, anyone who says "i don't see race" type stuff is white as freaking copy paper.

This assumption comes up for a reason, and it's because the people slinging and going "why do you assume i'm white?" are always the ones saying "all lives matter!" in place of black lives matter, sort of shit.

So yea, nice try, but i think it matches actual reality just fine in the context of whats recently been discussed. Where 99.999999% of the time anyone saying anything this rebuttal would come after is either pro-establishment, or an "equalist" trying to dilute minority voices.

And i realize you personally may not having posted any of those things right here right now, but many others have, and you have previously. Fielding that defense here is not that great of a horse to ride in this context.
posted by emptythought at 6:30 PM on December 2, 2014


Welcome to MetaFilter. As reported at Slate and other venues, this place has some of the most intelligent discussion online.

The other thing that's worth acknowledging is that Metafilter is not and has never been a politically neutral site. Like attracts like, and the site tends to be left-leaning, socially liberal, majority urban, etc. If you make an argument that is far off from that, you're going to get a lot more people disagreeing with you than if you make an argument that is middle-of-the-road for this community. Because of the linear nature of the site, that looks like a mob with torches and pitchforks even when it happens so fast none of the respondents could have read any of the others' comments. It's also a really hard problem to solve, and we have found the only reliable way to solve it is by cutting off the argument when it seems to have made the rounds and is getting repetitive. This always feels unfair to the minority-view person, because it never, ever looks like they got the last word, but I don't have a better solution.

Just kidding. What we value is the orthodoxy of Portlandia.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:36 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


you act like having intelligent discussion and being liberal are in tension.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:39 PM on December 2, 2014 [4 favorites]


Just kidding. What we value is the orthodoxy of Portlandia.
posted by Tanizaki


You constantly expess your displeasure in these metas so why are you still here?
posted by futz at 6:42 PM on December 2, 2014 [11 favorites]


AND SUCH SMALL PORTIONS
posted by klangklangston at 6:48 PM on December 2, 2014 [44 favorites]


I've never really understood the complaints of 'shouting down' or 'dog piling'.

So lots of people disagree with you. So what? That doesn't mean you don't have the ability to speak your piece - we're not going to run out of internet.

Unless you are being massively offensive or insulting, your comment will generally stand. You're entitled to speak and put your view forward, but not to have people agree with you
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:48 PM on December 2, 2014 [18 favorites]


Good point, it's not like we're going to run out of int
posted by uosuaq at 6:51 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


>You constantly expess your displeasure in these metas so why are you still here?

Love it or leave it, amirite?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:51 PM on December 2, 2014 [5 favorites]


let him alone, he's just upset that he can't use metatalk as an end-run around posting trolly nonsense
posted by kagredon at 6:55 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, if that toxic love-it-or-leave-it attitude dies in a fire, I wouldn't miss it.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 6:59 PM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think it is possible to hold the opinion that Metafilter is not perfect, and that constructive MeTa threads can help improve it, and simultaneously find Tanizaki's contributions in many MeTa threads to be entirely predicable, and a half step removed from outright trolling.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:28 PM on December 2, 2014 [15 favorites]


Of course it is.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:29 PM on December 2, 2014


So people can only express the right kind of frustrations?

I like the place, would give the blue something like an 80 on a 0-to-100 scale.

I do at least my share of grumbling, to a fair extent in the vein of what Forza so eloquently related a few weeks back, about what reads as hell and fire, assuming bad faith, etc., for those who disagree with the mob.

By the way, with this matter specifically, I agree w. the view that the grand jury was at least disturbing and part of a larger, thoroughly ugly reality. (Some people seem like they would be surprised to learn that a family member who's an assistant district attorney feels the same way.)

And that doesn't mean I have to love the way the way it's discussed here, that there comes across as a sneering, scathing reaction to those who take any teensy little issue with the angry mob.

On the most general level, I want to take in all sorts of views, things that maybe hadn't crossed my mind, things that make me think, etc., not feel like I'm in high school and it's hard times for those who don't always agree with the cool kids.
posted by ambient2 at 7:30 PM on December 2, 2014 [7 favorites]


I'm with you. I totally think the Ferguson GJ was a farce, the prosecutor is a dirtbag, the emphasis on "looting" and "mobs" is reactionary bullshit, Mike Brown was murdered, and race in the US is fucking broken (shit, I think the US is broken), but I don't like the treatment of dissenting voices here. It's shitty and beneath us.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:36 PM on December 2, 2014 [15 favorites]


like what? who was treated in a way you didnt like?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 7:38 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


In fact, I see a lot of the narcissism of small differences in these "discussions."

On preview: sorry, I'm not good with names and don't have time to do a research project right now (I'm at work, GMT+9 time zone).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:40 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


This might seem glib, but literally the only people i ever hear saying this in this type of context are white.

For the record, I am not.
posted by corb at 7:52 PM on December 2, 2014 [12 favorites]


I've been reading and commenting here for ten years. The moderation has always been outstanding. There is no online community that has better, more thoughtful, or more even-handed moderation.

Maybe more importantly, the idea that unbiased moderation is meaningfully possible makes no sense to me. Attempting to find fault with the moderation by making accusations of "bias" reveals an overly simplistic (and not coincidentally, supremely self-serving) conception of fairness: it treats the concrete events from which the discussion emerges as mere topics, and accords greatest ethical importance to bounding the discussion as little more than an abstraction, about which it's therefore axiomatically and permanently obligatory for everyone to accept and not criticize the vacuous moral contrarianism of people who think it's reasonable to "empathize" with racists who use their public office to murder the people they're paid to protect, to use the examples at hand.

"Bias" is not a useful way of thinking about how moderation does or should work, because any moderation has to make distinctions. Simply crying "BIAS!" says nothing about the character of the principles of distinction at play. In this case, the OP of this post has argued that moderation should be independent of the actual content of commentary, and that instead a diversity of opinion and commentary is inherently desirable, again, independent of the content of that commentary.

This post is, in other words, a plea for "balance." It has no substantive merit.
posted by clockzero at 8:54 PM on December 2, 2014 [13 favorites]


In fact, I see a lot of the narcissism of small differences in these "discussions."

That reads to me more like a description of the "Springfield vs. Shelbyville" trope, is there a more down-to-earth application here?
posted by rhizome at 8:56 PM on December 2, 2014


Those damn smug Eagletonians ruin everything.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:00 PM on December 2, 2014 [6 favorites]


comes across as a sneering, scathing reaction

Totally. Like calling other people rabid and hysterical.
posted by rtha at 9:00 PM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]


(Asks drinkydie for a velveeta spritzer)
posted by clavdivs at 9:18 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm with you. I totally think the Ferguson GJ was a farce, the prosecutor is a dirtbag, the emphasis on "looting" and "mobs" is reactionary bullshit, Mike Brown was murdered, and race in the US is fucking broken (shit, I think the US is broken), but I don't like the treatment of dissenting voices here. It's shitty and beneath us.

What do you think about the content of those "dissenting" voices, though? Because, to me, it seems like it's a very typically American thing to fetishize dissent as inherently valuable. Having an unpopular opinion isn't exactly a guarantee that you have something useful or interesting or important to say, and sometimes unpopular opinions are unpopular because they're awful.
posted by clockzero at 9:23 PM on December 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


I think it's an important and useful part of the discourse.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:25 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sorry, I added some clarification there, possibly after you commented.
posted by clockzero at 9:28 PM on December 2, 2014


Oh, well, I guess it varies.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:29 PM on December 2, 2014


I think it's an important and useful part of the discourse.

Can you give me an example of what you mean? I want to understand.
posted by clockzero at 9:35 PM on December 2, 2014


Well, I think a lot of Metafilter commenters are fairly articulate, so instead of reading comments on shitty news sites or FB, I like to see some dissenting views here--it allows me to either change or reinforce my own positions and arrive at more thoughtful ways of seeing things.

For example, I've often found dios grating, but he often thinks of things I haven't thought of, in ways I haven't thought of them. I rarely end up agreeing with him, but I usually benefit from his participation.

Tanizaki is a more extreme case. I find him borderline insufferable, but if I overlook things like tone and my own inferences about what kind of person he is, he often makes me think. I almost never come over to his views (shit, it may have never happened, in fact), but I think this site--and my enrichment from it--would be poorer without him.

I've been here a very long time. I'm not a super active or involved Mefite, but I care a lot about this place and its people.

(Just to be clear--I categorically don't think the mods are biased, except insofar as we are all subject to subconscious biases and blindspots. And even in those ways, I think the mods here are on the extreme end of the scale in terms of self-awareness, open-mindedness, empathy, and patience. Wonderful, wonderful moderation, we've been blessed with.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:45 PM on December 2, 2014 [10 favorites]


(Wait, Joe Napolitano? I don't even know who that is. I was thinking of Judge Andrew Napolitano.)

That's who I meant, sorry. I also didn't know he was considered more libertarian than a lot of Fox News commenters, mostly because the idea of having to diagram where, exactly, they all fall on the issues kind of makes me want to throw up and punch something, possibly simultaneously.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:45 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


(Asks drinkydie for a velveeta spritzer)


All I have is cheeze whiz, will that work?
posted by Drinky Die at 9:50 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Your holding out sir, I can smell the Kraft.
posted by clavdivs at 10:01 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's metafilter. The moderation and the community are biased and minority viewpoints are not welcome. That's the reality. The mods will look at posts and comments, make decisions about whether or not they think a thread is going "the right way" and delete accordingly, usually in an attempt to reduce their workload. If I took that approach as an IT guy, I guess I'd shut down the servers instead of updating them, because that's less work. Whatever though, it ain't my website.

But here's why I don't participate in "Ferguson" threads:
I don't think Wilson is a murderer. I think he is incompetent. I don't think people should be rioting. I think people that involve themselves in riots are incredibly stupid and should go to jail. think Michael Brown fucked up but did not deserve to die. I think the OMG RACISM hyperbole is way overdone and quite frankly isn't advancing any kind of forward movement toward ending racism, it's just all shouting into the abyss. I think the federal government should have stepped in long ago - like August - and Obama's continued, prolonged, weak response demonstrates his complete lack of fortitude and inability to govern the country. He's as bad as Bush and getting worse. 60,000 cameras. Are you fucking kidding me?

There's no WAY I could articulate those opinions in those discussions. They'd be flagged and deleted right quick. For any number of reasons I'm sure the user base would find, but primarily because the mods wouldn't want to deal with the aftermath.

The simple truth is that my opinions don't belong here. And that's why I don't usually share them here. I'm not "silenced" - I just know how it would go, and I choose not to go there.

I do like to read the discussions, and I do learn from them. I've got lots of positive things to say about metafilter, not the least of which is that I've learned how to listen to minority voices. It's too bad that the voices that make up the minority opinions on metafilter - those that go against the grain of metafilter's biases - get so much pushback. This is a community that prides itself on welcoming minority voices, but doesn't like hearing dissenting ones. That's a shame.
posted by disclaimer at 10:06 PM on December 2, 2014 [16 favorites]


Your holding out sir, I can smell the Kraft.

Nah, I'm from Philly. Whiz is the only pseudo cheese product we keep on hand, for cheesesteak related emergencies.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:10 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


Pepto works far better for that...
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:11 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


Tanizaki is a more extreme case. I find him borderline insufferable, but if I overlook things like tone and my own inferences about what kind of person he is, he often makes me think. I almost never come over to his views (shit, it may have never happened, in fact), but I think this site--and my enrichment from it--would be poorer without him.

This seems ironic, since the most contentious thing he's said here is that Metafilter evinces the orthodoxy of Portlandia. Is there a substantive opinion involved or is this just a defense of his inviolable right to make baseless and disparaging claims, without anyone reacting negatively, and directed at the whole community, about how people don't agree with him enough?
posted by clockzero at 10:15 PM on December 2, 2014


My comment is about his longer-term involvement, not his single post in this thread.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:16 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


(although actually, looking again, I think the part of the quote he set in boldface is interesting and makes me think about something I wasn't already thinking about.)
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:18 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


disclaimer: I don't think Wilson is a murderer. I think he is incompetent.

So we'll put you down for at least a involuntary manslaughter conviction, then, perhaps of the criminally negligent persuasion? Certainly, that's not an opinion you'd be chastised for over in the blue thread, since it assumes a criminal trial, which did not occur.

I don't think people should be rioting. I think people that involve themselves in riots are incredibly stupid and should go to jail.

I also don't think expressing these sentiments would cause problems. If you'll notice, the contentious "what about the looters" comments weren't deleted. Nobody likes the riots. We want peaceful protest, civil disobedience, etc.

I think the OMG RACISM hyperbole is way overdone and quite frankly isn't advancing any kind of forward movement toward ending racism, it's just all shouting into the abyss.

Do you seriously think anyone who believes racism is, at least in part, behind the very frequent occurrence of cops shooting unarmed black citizens really thinks they're taking a step toward ending racism when they post on MetaFilter?

I think the federal government should have stepped in long ago

A lot of people in earlier Ferguson threads were expressing this very sentiment, to get it out of the hands of the junior varsity Keystone Kops in Ferguson/StL County. Again, not even against the grain, and certainly not something that would be deleted.

and Obama's continued, prolonged, weak response demonstrates his complete lack of fortitude and inability to govern the country. He's as bad as Bush and getting worse. 60,000 cameras. Are you fucking kidding me?

This is a sentiment that would probably get 80% support, across the MSNBC <> Fox News continuum. I don't actually think Obama can solve every problem, but with a dipshit like Jay Nixon stepping on his dick time and time again, he certainly couldn't have made it worse. Once more, barely controversial.

So yeah, overall, I think you vastly overstate the extent to which these opinions would be unwelcome.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:33 PM on December 2, 2014 [8 favorites]


My comment is about his longer-term involvement, not his single post in this thread.

The mods aren't ejecting him from the site.
posted by clockzero at 10:46 PM on December 2, 2014


Right, of course not (not even sure where you got that idea). I'm just putting my 2 cents in to register my displeasure with the general response to dissenting voices like his.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:50 PM on December 2, 2014 [3 favorites]


I guess I meant, it isn't as though he's being obliged not to stick around and keep contributing. But I see where you're coming from now. Fair enough.
posted by clockzero at 11:34 PM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm always bemused by the people posting that dissent isn't allowed on MetaFilter while still on MetaFilter. It seems sort of profoundly ironic.

MetaFilter is one of the politest places I've been online. Dissent - even somewhat rude and snarky dissent - still exists on it, and while it may not further discussion, MetaFilter is expressly not an activist context - and thus "productive discussion" exists in parallel with "taking the piss" and "look how smart I am." Also, peoples' definitions of productive discussion vary widely.

MetaFilter is also pretty damn liberal, which doesn't mean far leftist as a few people seem to believe, but instead implies a context of "objectivity is good and achievable" and "dissent is important", which is why about half the people in any of these threads are liberals defending the rights of others to say stuff they disagree with. I'm also often bemused to see liberals described as flaming leftists, as in general I find liberals to be slightly left of center and rather to prone to pronouncing that problems are over and we should move on already into our brighter, utopian future which only coincidentally is run by white people, primarily men.

I'm, of course, a bleeding heart flaming progressive intersectional feminist social justice Elementalist with quivering liberal tendencies when I forget myself, so there you are. Grain of salt, salt lick, etc...

Near as I can tell, actual objectivity is both rare and fragile, and nearly impossible to spot in the wild. Dissent for the sake of dissent can actually, ironically again, polarize and thus simplify discussion, which ends up narrowing discussion and discouraging actual creativity and clarity of thought. I'd claim SCIENCE is on my side for this, but I don't think the study has been replicated and generalized so claiming that seems premature and contrary to the goals of SCIENCE.

In terms of supporting and fomenting wide-ranging discussion which sometimes ends up in productive places, I'd say the mods are doing about as well as any, and better than some. In terms of personal attacks, I think in this context it's inaccurate.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:49 PM on December 2, 2014 [15 favorites]


Tonycpsu
Plz don't read this as an attack or bullyhanky.
Reading Disclaimers last paragraph, would you agree with it? I would think that depends on the sincerity of the poster which is a grey area simply put.

I say we go to philly for cheese steak. Drinkys driving.
posted by clavdivs at 12:00 AM on December 3, 2014


Uhh, no I'm not driving, get someone else to designated drive.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:03 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Your holding out sir, I can smell the Kraft."

I thought Kraftbrau closed and Larry Bell was the only kazoo bandleader
posted by klangklangston at 12:24 AM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]



It's just like, besides a tiny few exceptions, anyone who says "i don't see race" type stuff is white as freaking copy paper.

This assumption comes up for a reason, and it's because the people slinging and going "why do you assume i'm white?" are always the ones saying "all lives matter!" in place of black lives matter, sort of shit.



For the record, I am not.


Oh, I'm sorry, but THAT was beautiful. And that is what MetaFilter is all about and why I come here and ignore other places. Both emptythought and corb are free to speak up, even with passion/heat, as emptythought demonstrates here. But there are two sides after all and corb makes the point that sometimes our conclusions really are all wet.

Sometimes crap is just crap.
posted by aryma at 12:57 AM on December 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Always a deserved gotcha when that happens, but it's worth pointing out that broadly speaking, being non-white doesn't necessarily absolve anyone in this discussion. I feel like we all still have a responsibility to vigilantly question the dominant narratives here. Unfortunately even those of us with personal experiences of racial oppression can still unthinkingly prop up those systems. I still had to deal with an "I don't understand those blacks" rant from a non-white family member on Thanksgiving. And I've still had to reckon with uncomfortable unconscious prejudice within myself on occasion, much as I hate to admit it. There's a certain strain of thought that goes: people of color can never be racist or support racist systems, because racism relies on power and dominance that people of color do not possess. But that doesn't remotely fit with my lived reality, or in any event, there are intricate hierarchies of oppression that are much more complicated than the statement acknowledges.
posted by naju at 1:40 AM on December 3, 2014 [25 favorites]


"I've never really understood the complaints of 'shouting down' or 'dog piling'."

It's repetitive when a group of like minded people make the same [counter]argument serially.
posted by vapidave at 2:01 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's repetitive when a group of like minded people make the same [counter]argument serially.

Yes, and that can be annoying, but it doesn't prevent someone with a conflicting opinion from making their point.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:45 AM on December 3, 2014


It's more than that; psychologically it's a threatening feeling in part because people generally do have a need to experience validation. If it's a topic or issue you care about, your personal value systems and sense of identity is going to be involved, and the process of resolving the kinds of inner conflicts that arise, as opposed to mere conflicts of opinion, is not to be underestimated. Blah blah.
posted by polymodus at 3:22 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


If you make a dissenting statement, even if you take the greatest care not to offend, or misstate your case, or say anything untrue, you will still have multiple people respond who have found a way to misread you, or who infer other opinions that you haven't even approached and urgently take you to task for them. Oh, so you think [moderate view unpopular on Mefi]? Well do you also think [batshit sociopathic view]? You must be One of Them. That's happened to me here, and I'm so far left that I think I technically voted communist in the midterms.

So there you are having carefully said something that isn't really that extreme and you're surrounded by people apparently demanding that you explain yourself! It's functionally identical to being sea lioned, except it isn't just questions, it's also bonus bad faith. Even if you don't respond, it feels exhausting and frustrating. If you do, you look defensive, and you may get accused of backpedaling or making the thread all about you.

It's very no-win, and it's led me to migrate to other forums more than once. Not because it happens to me a lot, but because I hate to see it happen to anyone and because I think it murders good conversation. I think it's less of a flaw with the user base here, and more a natural result of the site mechanics.
posted by heatvision at 4:28 AM on December 3, 2014 [29 favorites]


There's no WAY I could articulate those opinions in those discussions. They'd be flagged and deleted right quick. For any number of reasons I'm sure the user base would find, but primarily because the mods wouldn't want to deal with the aftermath.

As we speak, I am crouching, body and mind broken, in one of the many craters left by these truthbombs. Why, I mumble through cracked lips, did the opinion limitation treaties not extent to MetaTalk?

I mean, seriously, yours don't even seem like particularly out there arguments for MetaFilter. They're broadly WaPo-centrist, and Metafilter is broadly a centrist site, with centre-libertarian and center-liberal largely balancing...

In fact, we can pretty much note that what generally gets moderator attention is not beliefs or opinions but behaviors, although this can be hard to see from inside. This thread is a good example of that - the OP believed that he was protesting about censorship of Ironmouth based on his beliefs, but the mods believed that they were responding to threadsitting (the sheer number of comments Ironmouth was making in the FPP) and the one-against-the-world behavior that makes threads unreadable.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:06 AM on December 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


I think the OMG RACISM hyperbole is way overdone and quite frankly isn't advancing any kind of forward movement toward ending racism

Goes to show how differently people read these discussions. I wouldn't characterize discussions of racism in these threads as "OMG RACISM." Instead, my greatest disappointment with these threads is the extent to which substantive discussion of racism is avoided in lieu of focusing on facts in a way that presumes colorblind legal institutions.

since the most contentious thing he's said here is that Metafilter evinces the orthodoxy of Portlandia

It's not just what's said but how it's said, which in this case was a claim without supporting reasoning nor engagement with the reasoning of those who differ to try to work through disagreement in a productive manner.

I would disagree with Tanizaki's characterization of restless_nomad's comment as enforcing "orthodoxy" because I read it as a pragmatic explanation of the need to draw some boundaries in the ways in which people participate. restless_nomad's comment was about comments that violate procedural norms of discussion, not content norms of discussion. Obviously sometimes mods can confuse the two or be overzealous in their application of a procedural standard in ways that affect only one group in a given thread, but I do not treat such imperfections as orthodoxy enforcement.
posted by audi alteram partem at 5:41 AM on December 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


I think I may get what some of you are getting at. I too am as lefty as they come, esp. w/r/t race and gender, but I also have a narrow academic specialty, which presumably I have more nuanced views about.

And every time I say that nuclear weapons aren't all bad or that US policy in the Middle East isn't about stealing their oil, I get attacked in nasty ways.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 5:44 AM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


The mods will look at posts and comments, make decisions about whether or not they think a thread is going "the right way" and delete accordingly, usually in an attempt to reduce their workload.

You've given me an insight. I think that people who often get deleted in political threads sometimes read that as ideological, when it's largely pragmatic. The mods are attempting to keep the discussion between the rails, and trying to steer between between complaints about deletions for "dissent" and complaints about letting other users "pile on."

It's a pretty narrow line to walk, and they're screwed either way. When someone starts dropping inflammatory comments into a thread in which the largest proportion of commenters can be predicted to respond to those comments, it makes sense for them to say "read the room. You're setting yourself up for a pile-on, you're about to make this thread all about arguing with you, and people's emotions are running a bit high," and to delete the comments if the user isn't able to self-moderate. They will definitely receive complaints, questions, and MeTas like this when that happens. And if the user can't restrain themselves, or needles others subtly enough to maintain the appearance of good faith, then there will be more heated discussions, and, due to the overall lean of the site, what looks like a "pile-on." And there will be complaints and MeTas for that.

I have no solution, I just want to note that I think it might be helpful to recognize the bind created by the rhetoric around "I was deleted for dissent/you're tolerating a pile-on."
posted by Miko at 5:48 AM on December 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


Perhaps it's time for the mods to quietly look the other way on some up coming inflammatory thread, let it go, see how bad it gets (help out the worst of the burned and wounded offline). Let one go and get out of control. Watch the servers and thin-skinned crash. Might not be that bad, might lead to IRL fisticuffs or suicides. Oh, wait, carry on and delete at will.
posted by sammyo at 5:54 AM on December 3, 2014


as long as its not in a thread about sexual assault, as many people unfortunately have personal experience with the issue, and a few others seem to have a stake in maintaining the status quo.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:31 AM on December 3, 2014


I still think the idea of comment limits might be quite reasonable. You get two comments for free, and then after that, 1 comment/thread/hour. Does anyone need more than that?

That would destroy the entire rapid-fire rebuttal problem; it would stop threads from being dominated by fights between any particular people, or by particular people, period.
posted by shivohum at 6:43 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


It would also encourage drive by snark, no?

Maybe a mod induced comment limit at a per case basis?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 6:46 AM on December 3, 2014


I might be misinterpreting the phrase "per case basis", but IMHO such a comment limit should never, ever be directed at an individual, only at threads and/or topics.

That said, there are numerous reasons why it probably wouldn't be actionable to introduce such a comment limit at all. I had brought it up as a thought experiment.

My whole thing is that I don't think there's anything wrong with somebody posting a lot in one thread...IMHO the problems set in when people are just popping off at one another, like they're in an angry chatroom. People get het up and fighty and it takes over the thread.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:50 AM on December 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


I think I've actually figured out, due to the last few comments, one of the things that really bothers me about the mods deleting the contentious comments and saying "read the room" rather than telling everyone responding that they have to behave and follow the rules regardless of how upsetting they find the content. It's because I don't think it's pragmatic. I think it sacrifices long term good in favor of short term expediency, and tends to happen on ideological grounds, where the mods don't personally see value in those viewpoints anyway, so why not?

I firmly, firmly believe that if mods took a hard line on people being shitty in threads even to people with upsetting opinions, or took a hard line on dogpiling, that there would be a rough few months, but then after that, everyone would adjust and start really lessening how much they were doing it. Because I've been here for a while and seen how people have shifted when mods have taken hardline policies on things, or said "we're not going to do that here anymore." And so when I don't see it happening, it tells me not that mods are doing the pragmatic thing, but that mods don't care enough about diversity of opinion to go through the trouble to enforce the policies about "no personal attacks".
posted by corb at 6:52 AM on December 3, 2014 [12 favorites]


Maybe a mod induced comment limit at a per case basis?

Isn't that exactly what we have?

corb, it is so much not about mods not liking diversity of opinion. It's entirely how those opinions are presented.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:54 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


corb the problem here is that you constantly express opinions in a way that makes a large number of metafilter commenters go 'what the fuck?' and and engage with you. If, in every thread you participated in, the mods told people to stop dogpiling on you, and every single one of those users didn't do it it again, the next thread you participated in, a whole new set of users would do the same thing.

I like you and I think you're pretty smart, but sometimes I think you just repeat things here that you read elsewhere without thinking about them thoroughly, until someone questions you on it and then you have to actually grasp with the meaning of what you are saying for the first time. I mean it's great that you get out of whatever libertarian/survivalist/gun-nut echo-chamber you live on in the rest of the web to post here, but maybe engage in a little bit of reflection before posting stuff here. You by now should know what people here's objections are going to be before you post them and what pushes peoples buttons, and you should maybe consider them pre-emptively before posting.
posted by empath at 7:03 AM on December 3, 2014 [10 favorites]


That said, there are numerous reasons why it probably wouldn't be actionable to introduce such a comment limit at all. I had brought it up as a thought experiment.

It's come up before in other MeTas, and I still think it would be totally rad if it was workable at all from the pb-computer-wizardry side of things. I would love to see a month of Forced Experiment (similar to the turning-off-favorites month) where everyone is limited to two comments per thread; one to talk about the FPP, and one to clarify or respond to someone else. This may be going somewhat far from the original topic of this FPP, but I think that would be utterly fascinating to see play out.

(And fascinating in a constructive way, not fascinating in the way of my other Grand Idea for the site, which is an annual Carnival day where img tag is enabled for one day only)
posted by Greg Nog at 7:22 AM on December 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


If you make a dissenting statement, even if you take the greatest care not to offend, or misstate your case, or say anything untrue, you will still have multiple people respond who have found a way to misread you...

I think it's important to keep in mind that misreadings happen on all sides. Majority misreads minority, minority misreads majority. Yes, a minority view that attracts more responses will by virtue of sheer numbers have responses that contain more misreadings, but the act of misreading itself does not occur because it looks at a dissenting viewpoint. Misreading is an inevitable fact of human discourse.

Will mods tend to err on the side of their preferred ideology, misreading views they disagree with more than they misread views they agree with and make incorrect moderating calls based on those unconscious biases? At times. But there's really no way around this other than the kind of conscious, open, reflective and responsive moderation I've seen on evidence here in MetaTalk for years.

There are approaches everyone can take to try to lessen those misreadings, just as there are tendencies that, if unchecked, contribute to misreading. For instance, word choice. To go back to the example of “orthodoxy,” such a word, offered as a claim without context of reasoning, creates conflict because it brings with it implicit meanings at odds with other views instead of taking the time to engage those other views.

If those implicit meanings were made explicit in discussion, there'd be more chance for reasoned back and forth. An argument about orthodoxy can be made, but it needs to use reasoning and evidence open to all sides and it needs to acknowledge the disconnect between viewpoints. So something along the lines of 'I hear that you think this is a pragmatic matter of moderation, but I think mistakes in moderating choices reflect an unfair bias.'

Just to be clear, I don't think that's the case, but I think the point can be made in less inflammatory ways and in ways more conducive to productive discussion than it has, at times, been made in this thread. corb's argument here would be an example of a more productive way of engaging, though there will always come a point in any argument, here or in wider society, where basic conflicts in interpretation of evidence and assumptions in values can't be bridged. Sometimes I think it's necessary to fall back on mechanisms like majority vote, site guidelines, law and authority even if those mechanisms don't support the outcomes any one of us would most like to see.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:25 AM on December 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


Hell, a 10 minute cooldown between comments would do a HELL of a lot to shut down soapboxing, threadsitting, and having one or two of the loudest voices crowding out all discussion.
posted by absalom at 7:26 AM on December 3, 2014 [19 favorites]


clavdivs: Reading Disclaimers last paragraph, would you agree with it? I would think that depends on the sincerity of the poster which is a grey area simply put.

I'll quote the paragraph in full, then respond:
I do like to read the discussions, and I do learn from them. I've got lots of positive things to say about metafilter, not the least of which is that I've learned how to listen to minority voices. It's too bad that the voices that make up the minority opinions on metafilter - those that go against the grain of metafilter's biases - get so much pushback. This is a community that prides itself on welcoming minority voices, but doesn't like hearing dissenting ones. That's a shame.
So, first off, I try not to get bogged down in what you're referring to as "the sincerity of the poster." I do sometimes speak up if there are obvious signs of someone concern trolling, obfuscating key facts, or simply throwing shit against the wall to try to win an argument, and I would hope others would do the same to me if I was doing those things. It's of course true that we have no way to measure good faith, but we can observe patterns of repeated flawed arguments, and if the poster refuses to clarify / defend their position, factor that into our interactions with them.

However, sometimes the same cast of characters will shamelessly repeat premises that have been debunked numerous times. I'm not talking about starting with different ideological first principles, I'm talking about arguments that have been conclusively and thoroughly been shown to have key flaws that the person posting them declined to provide an explanation for.

Now, do so-called "mainstream" MeFi opinions get the same level of scrutiny? Of course not. Dissenting opinions are dissenting. Is the pool of people evaluating the merit of the non-mainstream argument free of bias? Not even close. Dissenting opinions are dissenting. The thing is, everyone participating in the conversation knows this, and countless MeTas have concluded without any good answer to the problem other than what the mods are doing already, yet people still think they're being treated unfairly.

In the context of the makeup of the site, I feel that the treatment of dissenting voices is fair. I also share disclaimer's belief that differing views are essential to making MetaFilter an enjoyable community, but that doesn't mean I'm going to take it easy on them when they make basic factual errors or put forth flawed arguments.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:43 AM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's come up before in other MeTas, and I still think it would be totally rad if it was workable at all from the pb-computer-wizardry side of things. I would love to see a month of Forced Experiment (similar to the turning-off-favorites month) where everyone is limited to two comments per thread; one to talk about the FPP, and one to clarify or respond to someone else

I think a fairly major dilemma there would be whether to extend it to MetaTalk. If you did, it would be hard to discuss the impact of the experiment in real time. If you didn't, the "silenced all my life" contingent, upon actually being silenced for some part of their lives (the part where they want to make a third comment on a thread) would go absolutely wild.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:47 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


God that would fucking rule
posted by Greg Nog at 7:51 AM on December 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


As long as we're proposing experiments, what about a new flag label of "Personal attack?" Naturally the use of it would correlate roughly with the ideological bias of the observers, but at least it could be made clear that the comment in question is a specific kind of violation of the rules aimed at another user. Instead of the offending Ironmouth comments getting a mix of "derail", "it violates the guidelines", "offensive" type flags, it'd be clear that people see it as a counterproductive ad hominem. Might encourage more people to flag and move on if they knew that the signal to the mods would be more clear.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:51 AM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


I think I may get what some of you are getting at. I too am as lefty as they come, esp. w/r/t race and gender, but I also have a narrow academic specialty, which presumably I have more nuanced views about.

And every time I say that nuclear weapons aren't all bad or that US policy in the Middle East isn't about stealing their oil, I get attacked in nasty ways.


Right, yes, good. Now understand that is how a lot of people feel about your comments on race and gender issues, and how Ironmouth feels when commenting on legal issues.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:06 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Right, yes, good. Now understand that is how a lot of people feel about your comments on race and gender issues, and how Ironmouth feels when commenting on legal issues.

Except, as documented above, Ironmouth was very jerky and condescending in his presentation. Do you ever assign any responsibility to the commenter to take the edge off a bit?
posted by tonycpsu at 8:10 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


The difference is, I'm not getting paid to hold a specific position, I don't say "I'm an expert and all experts agree with me", and taking an unpopular position on nukes does not in any way attempt to erase people's lived experience, which often happens in race and gender threads.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:17 AM on December 3, 2014 [10 favorites]


Yeah, and it's also relevant that things like race and gender are different enough from beliefs, ideology, etc. that they're explicitly protected classes under the law. The fact that they'd be handled differently as a matter of policy follows logically from that.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:18 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


at some level, i wonder if people are insecure about what they're arguing - why else would they go to such lengths to be "right"?

I do wonder this as well. When I was in college and the PC age was starting to boom, I had a friend who was the smartest person I knew when it came to computers, components, assembling them, troubleshooting, etc. His comment after quietly observing someone go on and on and on about how much they knew, but ended up being wrong on most levels: "People who are not secure in their knowledge of something will often talk more insistently about it to disguise their insecurity."

Now, it doesn't mean that people who know their stuff don't press insistently. But it does suggest that people who are insecure in why they hold a particular belief can sometimes be the loudest and most persistent. I've never forgotten this, not only in trying to understand why people so staunchly hold to some positions that can be wrong, but also in my own internal dialogue on the reasons I press a particular issue. Is any of it in insecurity on my part? If I deal with the insecurity on a more basic level, will it make me a better and more honest and effective communicator?

So much of communication has to do with protecting our noetic belief structure against attacks (which can be healthy in part, so we don't have an existential breakdown), but the reality is that many of our beliefs that we hold dear were never reasoned to in an infallible way; we inherited them, we developed or eased into them through inference, intuition, indoctrination, opinions of trustworthy authority, and other immediate community or social influences. It makes sense that some of these feel precious and essential to hold the structure together. But knowing this has more to do with me than insisting that we can read the minds and intentions of others (because that's a fool's journey). It would be great if we could trust everyone to do this individually yet collectively. But, I have no idea how to guarantee that in any predictable or non-coercive way; I can only encourage this as a general life virtue. So I'm back to going what can I do myself to make the world a better place, and within that, have some semblance of peace that we sometimes live with a bunch of jackasses.

One other related life-lesson I've learned: because those who are the loudest can sometimes feel the most insecure in the belief structure, I've seen insistent people do a 180 on positions that I never would have guessed the day before. Sometimes people fight and fight for something that isn't tenable, and then they get tired and embrace good conclusions. This gives hope. What I'm also cognizant of is that when people do 180s, they sometimes need a new community to connect with to cultivate those new beliefs, especially if those beliefs ran deep mentally and had significant social implications. Communities that showed grace in that process of social justice rather than animosity are much more likely candidates.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:41 AM on December 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


Oh, man, just revisited that Guerena thread. Ironmouth and his fucking "up is down" refrain. Dude knows how to be caustic and infuriating, there is no doubt about that.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:48 AM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I do wonder this as well. When I was in college and the PC age was starting to boom, I had a friend who was the smartest person I knew when it came to computers, components, assembling them, troubleshooting, etc. His comment after quietly observing someone go on and on and on about how much they knew, but ended up being wrong on most levels: "People who are not secure in their knowledge of something will often talk more insistently about it to disguise their insecurity."

Now, it doesn't mean that people who know their stuff don't press insistently. But it does suggest that people who are insecure in why they hold a particular belief can sometimes be the loudest and most persistent


At the risk of being told that I'm proving your thesis by arguing with you about people who argue about things, your argument here assumes that being secure about your knowledge is a virtue, which is debatable at best. I like to think I have some knowledge on things, but I'm not at all secure that any of my premises are correct. That's why I argue -- to see how they hold up against counterarguments. Changing my beliefs, or as you say, "doing a 180", isn't a bad thing -- it just means that someone else's argument resonated and caused me to examine my premises. What's wrong with that?
posted by tonycpsu at 10:00 AM on December 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


If you make a dissenting statement, even if you take the greatest care not to offend, or misstate your case, or say anything untrue, you will still have multiple people respond who have found a way to misread you, or who infer other opinions that you haven't even approached and urgently take you to task for them. Oh, so you think [moderate view unpopular on Mefi]? Well do you also think [batshit sociopathic view]? You must be One of Them. That's happened to me here, and I'm so far left that I think I technically voted communist in the midterms.

Something like this happened to me (by which I mean, I said something that really upset someone, who called it out, and a lot of people apparently agreed).

I was actually pretty upset about it for a while, but I wasn't angry. I said something in a thread about a survivor of sexual assault that came across as a sort of tone argument. Now, I myself have called those out many times, and I consider myself a feminist and an ally. But what I said really hurt someone in that thread who is a survivor, and she was not gentle in correcting me.

But after I got over feeling upset that maybe I wasn't as good a feminist or ally as I thought I was, I feel like I learned something from that. I only wish now that I could undo that hurt that I caused that woman and anyone else who felt that way after reading my comment.

So my thinking is that you can't take that sort of thing so personally. It's bad for you, it's bad for the site, and honestly, there's no good reason to think that you have to "defend your reputation" or whatever, beyond maybe one or two attempts at clarification or conciliation. That's my opinion, anyway.
posted by clockzero at 10:00 AM on December 3, 2014 [23 favorites]


took a hard line on dogpiling, that there would be a rough few months, but then after that, everyone would adjust and start really lessening how much they were doing it.

Based on my past experiences, it likely would be only a tough (as in more work in the short term) few weeks, not months, and then the community members would start a) choosing to not be the Nth person to dogpile the person and b) start saying "we don't do that kind of stuff on metafilter, so how about you give it a rest already?" It wouldn't entirely stop, but it would stop being a strongly entrenched, seriously problematic pattern. And then it would turn into less work on the mods, permanently.

People are gonna people. But you can harness groupthink to serve the cause instead of just letting it be part of the problem.
posted by Michele in California at 10:14 AM on December 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


At the risk of being told that I'm proving your thesis by arguing with you about people who argue about things, your argument here assumes that being secure about your knowledge is a virtue, which is debatable at best. I like to think I have some knowledge on things, but I'm not at all secure that any of my premises are correct. That's why I argue -- to see how they hold up against counterarguments. Changing my beliefs, or as you say, "doing a 180", isn't a bad thing -- it just means that someone else's argument resonated and caused me to examine my premises. What's wrong with that?

Nothing wrong with that. I think what you described is academic humility and certainly a virtue. It's still possible to feel secure in a position while not implying 100% certainty, only that you were justified in the way that you came to your conclusions based on the evidence that you had, and that you held those beliefs tentatively and were willing to change them in the face of better overall factual explanations. It's a matter of holding beliefs in the right kind of way. There's security in that I suppose, which I'm comfortable enough tagging as "knowledge" (or tentative knowledge for the sake of this discussion) until we run into the defeaters to those beliefs that are subject to change. Rather than the "nature of knowledge"question though, I'm more concerned with people who don't go through this process and hold onto beliefs for unjustified (and insecure) reasons, which leads to a particular social dynamic that isn't helpful.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:22 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


There's no WAY I could articulate those opinions in those discussions. They'd be flagged and deleted right quick.

I think you're completely wrong (though I am sure you could articulate almost anything in a poor/slim way and get deleted if it read incendiary to enough people) and I guess we'll find out for sure since the incompetence issue was just raised by flug. Thanks for being the canary in the oppression coal mines, flug!
posted by phearlez at 10:24 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, favorites != upvotes and all, but that one's been favorited by many of the more prolific members of Team "Wilson Should Have Been Indicted". Sometimes people just need to feel like bold, truth-telling victims of a system that's stacked against them, though.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:36 AM on December 3, 2014


I still don't understand exactly what's meant by "dogpiling" and I wish we would stop conflating "lots of people disagreeing with me" with "personal attacks" in this conversation. Is the request that certain opinions be protected from response or criticism?

There's no WAY I could articulate those opinions in those discussions. They'd be flagged and deleted right quick.

I don't think they would be deleted at all unless you were a total jerk about how you expressed yourself (like being all "I'm sure this will get deleted because I'm silenced all my life by you P.C. morons, but.."). However, I'm sure people would want to argue and discuss your opinions, so if having people disagree with you (even strenuously) feels like a personal attack, I can see how you might not think it was worth it. I mean, that's the way I feel in real life when I try to talk about issues like Ferguson or feminism or whatever with coworkers or family, so it's not like most of us don't know how that feels - that's how most of us felt at Thanksgiving, or at work, or wherever, because again, the "majority" opinions at MeFi tend to be minority opinions in the world at large. Believe me, feminists or anti-racists are VERY accustomed to being outnumbered and dismissed. We all make our own judgments about where to engage or not engage, and that's fine.

More generally, though, I get really tired of how people act like people agreeing about some things here makes MeFi some groupthink echo chamber. It's possible for a large group of people to disagree with you - and even to talk about the problems that causes and the dynamics around it - without implying that everyone who disagrees with you is brainwashed, just saying stuff to fit in, or toeing some P.C./leftist line. If we want people to be more tolerant of "dissenting" opinions, it would be nice for once to not start that conversation by insulting people and (in certain extreme cases) acting like you hate most of the awful portlandia people who comment here.
posted by dialetheia at 10:38 AM on December 3, 2014 [23 favorites]


It's entirely how those opinions are presented.

No, it's not. I don't even think moderators will tell you it is. Opinions that imply support for Wilson are more problematic to post, no matter how well you craft the comment.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:50 AM on December 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


There's no WAY I could articulate those opinions in those discussions. They'd be flagged and deleted right quick.

Just want to note from a mod perspective that I disagree with this as well. There's nothing in there that's some sort of automatic no-go and I feel like every one of those things has come up and been part of totally okay conversation in various discussions about Ferguson in the last few months. There's definitely ways to broach them poorly, and that's happened in some cases too and been anywhere from a little bumpy to outright messy, but that goes back to framing rather than content as the primary issue.

That's not a guarantee that no one will flag or reply intemperately to a civilly stated comment that disagrees with the prevailing feelings about one or another aspect of the situation, but no such guarantee can exist about anything and the difference between someone responding grumpily or flagging something that won't be deleted, and something surely based on its content alone being flagged up the wazoo and zapped by mods, is a really important one.

I firmly, firmly believe that if mods took a hard line on people being shitty in threads even to people with upsetting opinions, or took a hard line on dogpiling, that there would be a rough few months, but then after that, everyone would adjust and start really lessening how much they were doing it.

The two problems that jump out to me with this characterization of the issue here:

1. What qualifies as people "being shitty" or "dogpiling" is a pretty subjective thing, and there's no clear basis for choosing one of those subjective positions and canonizing it. The poster of this thread took care and has communicated totally reasonably about what is in their view a big handful of examples of problematic personal attacks and vitriol, and a whole lot of people in here likewise reasonably communicated that they just flat out do not agree with that reading. That there's subjectivity involved doesn't mean the problem isn't one worth looking at, which is why it's an evergreen concern for us as moderators, but it does undercut pretty seriously any pat assertion that the solution to a problem is to address subjective thing x as if your personal subjective take is the functionally objective one.

2. People piling on is an emergent structural effect of conversation that has potential negative outcomes; it's not something that itself is inherently bad or problematic in a way that makes aggressively altering moderation policy to address it an obvious net good. We can talk about why pile-ons are problematic and talk about how and why they happen and how it can improve, but recommending that they be treated as some fundamental evil that we should prioritize excising regardless of any notionally not-really-a-big-deal consequences on the feel of this place does not make sense to me as someone who actually deals with it from the mod side. It would certainly solve the problem of people who don't like seeing pile-ons happening having to ever see pile-ons happening, but that doesn't happen in a vacuum and there are lots of folks who will reasonably object to the idea that Metafilter's moderation should be structured specifically to prevent a lot of users from collectively having a negative reaction to some other user's behavior on the site.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:59 AM on December 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


Heh, as opposed to the limit on granting favorites per day or a limit on comments per hour I would like to see a limit on favorites recieved per thread.

It's not going to happen of course but it might be an intersting experiment. I think it would result in the more vituperative comments getting cleared out early in the thread.


On preview, wow dialethia.

"Dissenting"? [twice] "Dogpiling"?" "lots of people disagreeing with me"? "I'm sure this will get deleted because I'm silenced all my life by you P.C. morons, but.."? ""personal attacks"? All scare quotes yours dialethia.

"...it would be nice for once to not start that conversation by insulting people and (in certain extreme cases) acting like you hate most of the awful portlandia people who comment here."

"brainwashed"? who said brainwashed?

Just WOW.
posted by vapidave at 11:07 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wish people would stop being so goddamn obsessed by how many favorites other people get.
posted by palomar at 11:16 AM on December 3, 2014 [24 favorites]


I favorited your comment and hope you can get 100 more!
posted by maxsparber at 11:18 AM on December 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


I only ever comment so I can get favorites because every favorite I get equals one full minute of genital turgor

i need em

papa needs 'is favies
posted by Greg Nog at 11:23 AM on December 3, 2014 [15 favorites]


All scare quotes yours dialethia.

Using quotation marks to set off terms of art is not "scare quotes". See? There, I'm using punctuation to indicate that "scare quotes" is a particular term in question here.

Just WOW.

I agree! It is a very well written and cogent comment on thread dynamics!

(hands out dialetheia fan club buttons)
posted by kagredon at 11:23 AM on December 3, 2014 [20 favorites]


I wish people would stop being so goddamn obsessed by how many favorites other people get.

Turning off the display of them was one of the best things I have ever done on the internet. If I could just now suppress comments where people whine about them as if they're upvotes or argue about how they're not it would be perfect.
posted by phearlez at 11:25 AM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Turning off the display of them was one of the best things I have ever done on the internet.

I agree. Now I just need a way to be able to turn them off on my own profile. Or maybe I just need to stop hanging around here so much.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 11:59 AM on December 3, 2014


The case Ironmouth was holding up as the one that should have been "picked" because it was a much better case and much more important...has also resulted in no charges.

Presumably, he will be on the picket lines tonight protesting the police.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:00 PM on December 3, 2014 [18 favorites]


Maybe if we hound him just a little more, he'll come around to our way of thinking.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:17 PM on December 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


Or maybe there's value to the community in highlighting when someone is acting as an astroturfing charlatan.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:19 PM on December 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


He just isn't going to see things your way. So there's cathartic value in a mob making him an evil cartoon character, maybe, but probably not much else.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:24 PM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


"Astroturfing" used to mean something specific.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:25 PM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Not only that, but astroturfing is a pretty specific charge, and one with historically severe consequences here for anyone found guilty of it (cf. Givewell's stooges). If you're going to call him an astroturfer, you might consider backing that up with some kind of evidence.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:27 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


His conflicts of interest were already discussed upthread.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:29 PM on December 3, 2014


Having an agenda and pushing it here isn't automatically a conflict of interest, let alone astroturfing.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:34 PM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


I don't agree with him almost 100% of the time. However, being paid to do legal work is no more a conflict of interest when making comments about the legal system, any more than the people here who collect a paycheck in IT and make questionable assertions in threads about technology (which happens a lot, here). So let's maybe not redefine the meaning of astroturfing, just because you don't like the guy.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:36 PM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


"Astroturfing" used to mean something specific.

Yes it did.
posted by maxsparber at 12:38 PM on December 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


> Yes it did.

Priceless. But yeah, him coming in to police murder threads being a police apologist isn't the same thing as astroturfing (and he should know!).
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 12:41 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wish we would stop conflating "lots of people disagreeing with me" with "personal attacks" in this conversation. Is the request that certain opinions be protected from response or criticism?

My belief based on multiple observations of the phenomenon is that this is essentially what the request is, yes.
posted by Miko at 12:42 PM on December 3, 2014 [13 favorites]


Ironmouth talking about legal stuff when he is a lawyer, and talking (and defending) his particular area of specialty is not a conflict of interest, and it's not astroturfing. Him being wrong about stuff and not acknowledging it isn't those things either.
posted by rtha at 12:43 PM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


Haranguing Ironmouth is really easy. He's right here and all you have to do is type. If you actually give a crap about this issue, your efforts might be better spent talking to your real life friends and relatives about racism, and getting out in the street to protest.
posted by latkes at 12:44 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Instead of cherry-picking a comment made in a potentially sarcastic or ironic tone some years ago, consider what's involved in drawing a clear line between his viewpoint advocacy in the Ferguson thread and some payment by, say, a police union or advocacy group with a specific agenda. That would justify an astroturfing charge, probably.

I never agree with Ironmouth and find his comments awful and you have me defending him. This place is really hitting the pits.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:44 PM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


If you actually give a crap about this issue, your efforts might be better spent talking to your real life friends and relatives about racism, and getting out in the street to protest.

Why would you assume that's not being done as well?
posted by maxsparber at 12:46 PM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


You constantly expess your displeasure in these metas so why are you still here?

This is a fair question. The answer is primarily that I am not "here" nearly as much as I used to be. By my count, this is my 51st MetaTalk comment in the past 365 days (I cannot measure how many MetaTalks constitute "these metas" so I cannot evaluate if "constantly express" is a fair charge). For the same 365 days, I have 174 AskMe comments and merely 14 comments "on the blue". I don't think these are numbers that show a person is leaning on the site particularly hard.

I probably stick mostly to AskMe because (1) tighter moderation makes soapboxes and axe-grinding less likely (although it can be found) and (2) I think I am so smart and have great answers. But, maybe I even most there less because I have gotten smarter and realized that people will do whatever they please no matter what they are told.

The secondary part of the answer is the majority of time, I show up because one or two of my IRL who also happen to be members of these site will send a link.

I dislike moderation for many of the same reasons I dislike the police. Perhaps this reflects my online upbringing on BBSs and Usenet. But, MetaFilter is not my property so the owners can moderate any way they please. At present, the most pleasing way seems to be to emulate Tumblr. There is actually a comment in this meta that I would have written if I were writing a parody of Tumblr, but there it sits without irony. (no, I won't give a hint) It's like the recent discussion of whether the phrase "Chinese checkers" is racist/orientalist/othering-ist.

It is not uncommon for the Wrong Kind of Person to be told, "you need to take XYZ 101". This is not a statement of "you need to learn this piece of information" but "you need to be re-educated". And on the topic of the Wrong Kind of Person, MetaTalk is more often a bug, not a feature. So often it becomes a referendum on the Wrong Kind of Person. In this thread, we have done our duty as to Ironmouth, corb, and Michele in California. Have I missed anyone?

So, this (deleted) thread on the metafilter reddit and this comment hit rather close to the mark. A person can write something as simple as "I think that people should not do X" and you'll get a mob of "why do you hate people who do X and think they should die? robble robble!" (this will not apply if "X" is owning guns or capital). That is certainly one way to be, but I do not know how fruitful it is. I don't believe it supports the back-patting that so often accompanies discussion of the site.

If the site were honest about being a safe space for Tumblr, Portlandia, and other such types, you'd probably see less metas about moderation bias because it would be assumed. No one is surprised by what points of view the moderation of The Daily Kos or The Free Republic will favor or suppress. But for some reason, the idea persists that there is no position that MetaFilter might favor on a given issue. In fact, it's more predictable than a Friday the 13th movie.
posted by Tanizaki at 12:47 PM on December 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


If you actually give a crap about this issue, your efforts might be better spent talking to your real life friends and relatives about racism, and getting out in the street to protest.

Yeah, all the astroturf bullshit is just hot air. Thanks for the reality check, latkes.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:47 PM on December 3, 2014


I tihnk the folks doing that probably don't feel too offended if I'm getting bored of the quantity of discussion around one dude with crappy politics on an internet forum.
posted by latkes at 12:47 PM on December 3, 2014


Perhaps, if you're bored here, your efforts might be better spent talking to your real life friends and relatives about racism, and getting out in the street to protest.
posted by maxsparber at 12:49 PM on December 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


Ironmouth admitting to having done astroturfing work in the past does not change the definition of astroturfing to encompass what his participation in these police threads has entailed.
posted by prize bull octorok at 12:49 PM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I concede that it's not astroturfing so long as we don't have evidence that he's being paid to post on MetaFilter, but it's unquestionably a conflict of interest that is indistinguishable from astroturfing without knowing when he's on/off the clock.

The two interests in conflict are (a) his day job where he advocates for certain things, and (b) the community's interest in not having profit motive influence peoples' contributions. It's as simple as that.

And this:

If you actually give a crap about this issue

Is total false dilemma horseshit that's only ever invoked to shut down discussion.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:51 PM on December 3, 2014


Astroturfing is probably the wrong word, but people have seized on it because it seems like the recurring issue with Ironmouth is advocacy disguising itself as disinterested legal arguments, and because advocacy without transparency from someone who financially gains from that advocacy feels astroturfy.
posted by maxsparber at 12:51 PM on December 3, 2014 [8 favorites]


Perhaps, if you're bored here, your efforts might be better spent talking to your real life friends and relatives about racism, and getting out in the street to protest

You're right.
posted by latkes at 12:52 PM on December 3, 2014


feels astroturfy

Sounds truthy enough, I guess. Oh, well.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:53 PM on December 3, 2014


The two interests in conflict are (a) his day job where he advocates for certain things, and (b) the community's interest in not having profit motive influence peoples' contributions. It's as simple as that

Sorry, you think a client is paying him to get piled on on a website? I mean, if they are, they are not getting their money's worth if what they want is for police-defending lawyers to be well-thought of. I'm sorry, but this is silly. And I don't like Ironmouth's behavior either, so no conflict there.
posted by rtha at 12:54 PM on December 3, 2014 [11 favorites]


And let's be honest here...attending a protest rally is not really doing much either, unless you're organizing and then doing more specific activism beyond showing up and feeling good about being a part of something. Participating in an (obviously imperfect) online dialogue about the various facets of these cases and maybe changing a few minds might be just as an effective use of time as attending the latest protest.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 12:54 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Sorry, you think a client is paying him to get piled on on a website?

Don't be ridiculous. If he advocates for team X by day and posts good things about team X by night, he gains financially from the off-the-clock advocacy by ensuring the interests of the people who pay him by day are advanced. How can this be controversial?
posted by tonycpsu at 12:56 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean, look at campaign finance law and how we try (however quixotically) to separate campaign activities from governing.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:58 PM on December 3, 2014


If he advocates for team X by day and posts good things about team X by night, he gains financially from the off-the-clock advocacy by ensuring the interests of the people who pay him by day are advanced. How can this be controversial?

If we apply the same standard across the board, we'd find that there are gazillions of MeFites who do exactly this, but here Ironmouth is being singled out for special treatment.

It's enough to say that Ironmouth's perspective on police misconduct isn't objective and leave it at that. Insisting that it's more than that really is silly.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:00 PM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


Because he does a terrible fucking job of advancing them? Because when he posts stuff like he did in the police union fpp, immediately several people were like "You're wrong, cite cite cite."

He doesn't hide what he does; he doesn't pretend he's acting from some other viewpoint. He's not in the least sneaky about this. Your objections to his participation on the grounds of astroturfing are incomprehensible to me.

I mean, when Miko comments about museum-related things, is that astroturfing? Or when jessamyn adds insight in a library-related fpp?
posted by rtha at 1:00 PM on December 3, 2014 [12 favorites]


> If he advocates for team X by day and posts good things about team X by night, he gains financially from the off-the-clock advocacy by ensuring the interests of the people who pay him by day are advanced. How can this be controversial?

Well, Ironmouth is actively posting now so I presume he knows about this thread and could step in if he wishes to respond. But, that's a broken, dotted line you've made at best. It more seems like he just likes to come in here to sharpen his ax, Argument Clinic-style.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 1:01 PM on December 3, 2014


If he advocates for team X by day and posts good things about team X by night, he gains financially from the off-the-clock advocacy by ensuring the interests of the people who pay him by day are advanced.

That does not seem to be a reasonable inference to draw to me.

How would he benefit (financially) from giving an opinion here? He doesn't link back to a professional identity at all.

It's simpler for me to just believe that he believes what he says, and not look for complicated conspiracy theory-type explanations.
posted by bonehead at 1:01 PM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


There's no need to call rtha ridiculous for disagreeing with you, tonycpsu. I feel like your fightiness is really high most of the time and it's not great.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:01 PM on December 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


If we apply the same standard across the board, we'd find that there are gazillions of MeFites who do exactly this, but here Ironmouth is being singled out for special treatment.

If anything, it does reinforce what this post was originally about, so I guess we're finally back on topic.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:01 PM on December 3, 2014


Yeah, Ironmouth is obviously biased on topics of police misconduct, but to argue that he's somehow doing something useful for his clientele by haranguing us on metafilter is cuckoo.
posted by murphy slaw at 1:02 PM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


If he advocates for team X by day and posts good things about team X by night, he gains financially from the off-the-clock advocacy

How does trying to persuade MetaFilter to be more sympathetic to cops translate to Ironmouth getting more paid work defending cops?
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:02 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth can take care of himself. I don't worry about hurting his feelings as much as I would with other users. It is my impression that he doesn't mind the heat. If that is wrong, I apologize.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:05 PM on December 3, 2014


Sexism, racism, ignorance and lack of thought have no politics. You can be red, blue or green and say some stupid shit. But if you do, then a smart person on metafilter is gonna call you on it. And that's a good thing. And it's why I hang out here. Cause I like to learn stuff.

I just felt the need to say that out loud. Thanks.
posted by valkane at 1:14 PM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


Because he does a terrible fucking job of advancing them? Because when he posts stuff like he did in the police union fpp, immediately several people were like "You're wrong, cite cite cite."

Evidence that he's doing a bad job advancing them is not evidence that he's not trying hard.

He doesn't hide what he does

I only became aware of it quite recently despite reading his posts for years.

I mean, when Miko comments about museum-related things, is that astroturfing? Or when jessamyn adds insight in a library-related fpp?

There's a big difference when your job is advocacy on behalf of a particular moneyed interest (one that pays you) versus generally talking about a topic. Quoting from the MeFi FAQ on self-linking:
It is never okay to use MetaFilter as a promotional tool. Transparency and honesty are important to the community and we rely on users to abide by the guidelines and participate honestly.
Now, I get that self-linking is different from pushing the agenda of the people that pay you, but the potential for tainting the community with profit-motivated contributions is similar, because if that entity does well, you do well. The interests of the person paying you to speak on the clock are aligned with the speaking you're doing off the clock.

There's no need to call rtha ridiculous for disagreeing with you, tonycpsu. I feel like your fightiness is really high most of the time and it's not great.

I said rtha was being ridiculous, not that s/he is personally ridiculous. rtha is among my favorite contributors here, so the fact we're in such strong disagreement has made me question my presmises several times, though I still come down on the side of clear conflict of interest.

Still, I see that a lot of people, many of whom I respect deeply, disagree with me here. I'll respect that and step away from the thread. (Or at least this derail.)
posted by tonycpsu at 1:14 PM on December 3, 2014


If Ironmouth really is a lawyer he is not a very good one. He rarely goes beyond a superficial reading of the statutes and rarely shows any knowledge of the legal debates surrounding the issue at hand. He is often dead wrong and when called on it either leaves the thread or pulls his "I'm a lawyer" schtick. If the issue should ever come up again he will behave as though no discussion or documentation has previously occurred and will continue to plug away at advocating his position.

It seems that he treats his interactions here on metafilter as though he is in a courtroom arguing a case. This would seem to indicate that he is not participating in good faith.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 1:18 PM on December 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


As long as we're proposing experiments, what about a new flag label of "Personal attack?"

I would wholeheartedly endorse that. I struggle with how to flag it - I usually settle for "Does not meet the guidelines" but that leaves a lot more mindreading necessity in the hands of the mods unless I use the contact form every time, and in a fastmoving thread with a lot of personal attacks, that may not be feasible.
posted by corb at 1:18 PM on December 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


The couple times that I've flagged myself for personal attacks, I think I've used "offensive/sexism/racism" even though that's kind a strange mix of categories. I figured it's the one that would really jump out at the mods to quickly delete, and since I felt my comment was offensive (though not the last two) it seemed to fit.

But yeah, "personal attack" makes sense as a distinct category. I'd vote against "ad hominem" since many ad hominems are germane to the conversation.
posted by tonycpsu at 1:21 PM on December 3, 2014


Somebody better buy the handle "personal attack" or I'm gonna.
posted by valkane at 1:21 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I also like the idea of adding "personal attack" to the flagging reasons.
posted by jaguar at 1:22 PM on December 3, 2014


I don't flag often, but when I do it's almost always a personal attack and I am always a little flummoxed about not having just the right flag reason to categorize it under.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:23 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I always wondered why "personal attack" or "ad hominem" or whatever WASN'T in the flag reasons.
posted by kalessin at 1:24 PM on December 3, 2014

Justinian: Not everything is a conspiracy.
Of course not. But it's equally mistaken to assume that everything that can be explained without malicious intent wasn't done without malicious intent.

A jury that is "white enough" to vindicate, if race plays a part in their decision-making. Power to use said preselected jury, or not. A notably irregular "prosecution" for indictment, that included inviting the defendent to defend himself for four hours of testimony. Helping said defendent, by reframing his words (Wilson: "he held his hands"; McCulloch: "Held up in fists?")...

If you find enough flimsy pieces of corroborating evidence, even the stack of perfectly ordinary white sheets next to the pile of small circles cut from white sheets starts to look suspicious (that's hyperbole, folks).

And pointing out said flimsy pieces of evidence is still just conjecture, unless framed as proof.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:24 PM on December 3, 2014


I'd really rather not see a flag for "personal attack." Not only do much of the time here people feel personally attacked when their ideas or arguments are attacked, but the tools for flagging already exist to deal with it: personal attacks can derail, break the guidelines, or be sexist/racist/offensive.

I'd be surprised if such a change would help the moderators do their jobs better.

One benefit I could see, though, is if the presence of a "personal attack" flag would allow more people to just FIAMO rather than reply to perceived personal attacks in the thread. I just doubt this would be the case, really. Maybe if enough people came forward and said "Because there's no personal attack flag I feel obligated to respond in-thread rather than try one of the other flagging options or use the contact form."
posted by MoonOrb at 1:30 PM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Somebody better buy the handle "personal attack" or I'm gonna.

What's up, jerks?
posted by personal attack at 1:30 PM on December 3, 2014 [55 favorites]

shivohum: Rhizome, you ought in fairness to admit now that your original comment was completely wrong and a perfect example of jumping to conclusions.
Actually, when you remove all the words you put in Rhizome's mouth (such as "talented voir dire", which was said by fifthrider, not Rhizome), his comment was AFAICT 100% accurate.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:31 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I've always used the "breaks the guidelines" flag for comments I think are personal attacks. If I think it might be unclear why I'm flagging, I add a note to the mods.

We already can't agree at all about what a personal attack is, or vitriol, or snark. I'm not sure adding a flag will solve the problem.
posted by rtha at 1:32 PM on December 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


As a rule it just feels wrong to me to use the "wrong" category when I flag. I mean I'll do it if I feel the need, but if it's that I'm flagging it because it's an out of the ordinary or otherwise intense personal attack, it's weird to me to say just "it breaks the guidelines".
posted by kalessin at 1:32 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


The only flags we really need are: "this is inappropriate---I suggestion deletion", "I think this is fantastic!", and There's a problem here someone might want to fix".

I've never understood why it is necessary to specify why exactly something is inappropriate because a) the mods are all smarty folks who can grok context and b) if something is getting a lot of "delete me!" flags, it likely doesn't matter if it's racism, sexism, or simply sugar intolerance.

I know this is unlikely to change, but we could add more and more refined categories for deletion forever. The whys may change, but what we want to mods to do with that information doesn't.
posted by bonehead at 1:35 PM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


I love it when I make money.
posted by valkane at 1:37 PM on December 3, 2014


Is there a FAQ or something somewhere defining the current list of flags and how/when to use them?

And what bonehead said. That is basically what I was thinking (and trying to write), only less muddled and mumbly.
posted by Michele in California at 1:37 PM on December 3, 2014


I am not getting paid to post here. I'm losing money to post here because it means I'm procrastinating.

I'm used to the crap. Its fine. Just don't tell me I'm lying because I don't agree with you. That's bullshit and a personal attack.

You may not like my perspective, but it is a real one and one backed up by 10 years of doing this. When I first started this job, I thought I was going to be constantly defending police brutality cases. I was surprised to find out that the incidence of brutality was lower than I expected.

I will add that my experience mirrored that of anotherpanacea, who investigated police complaints for the NYC CCRB, which is an agency independent of the police that investigates these matters. He was also surprised by how many complaints were without foundation.

I have represented officers who have done things that I felt were improper. One of my first cases. But I was surprised to find that it was the only case. Shocked, actually.

Listen, what I say can be hard to hear. It goes against the orthodoxy that I learned myself. But I was wrong in my estimation of what was going on. Experience showed me that.

But there is no doubt that I am the person most experienced in police shootings in the userbase. I've done four of these cases and I know how the investigations work and what the standards the officers use are. And I know that the information that comes out first is often wrong. That's what happened here. Brown was claimed to be running away and shot in the back. He was claimed to be raising his hands up to surrender. Those facts turned out to be not true or controverted by eyewitnesses other than Officer Wilson. I think a lot of people are operating on outrage over factrs long disproven or very much controverted by eyewitnesses who testified before the grand jury.

I stand by my assessment of the case and my assessment of the Garner case in NY.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:38 PM on December 3, 2014 [11 favorites]


Previous MeTa on flags: Another Flag Category?
posted by audi alteram partem at 1:39 PM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


So.. the fact that more of the eyewitnesses testified that when he was shot he was a) running away, b) had his hands up, that means nothing?

You get accused of lying because it appears as though you are not telling the whole truth, as evidenced in the recent thread where several people showed up with citations to show so.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:44 PM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


But there is no doubt that I am the person most experienced in police shootings in the userbase. I've done four of these cases and I know how the investigations work and what the standards the officers use are.

Your experience in similar cases that you've personally handled just doesn't add nearly as much value as you think in assessing completely different cases that you haven't handled, though.

I mean, I've got lots of experience handling certain cases, too, and sometimes I feel that it gives me a level of insight that's greater than most MeFites. But it would be arrogant and stupid for me to then assume that it gives me so much insight that I'd be able to correctly assess a case in which I have zero involvement other than following on the news.

I don't even bring that level of arrogance to the matters I personally handle: I don't get a new matter and say, "Oh, I've done a bunch of these, I know what's going on." I only make assessments after I put the work in and see the stuff for myself.

So people are appropriately reacting to the amount of hubris you're showing here. You're like a caricature of "I know more about this than you could possibly understand" and it's bad for discussion here.

Which is a goddamned shame, because someone with your level of experience could improve discussion here, not make it shittier.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:45 PM on December 3, 2014 [47 favorites]


No matter what you say, sir, there is no reason that unarmed civilians should be gunned down.
posted by valkane at 1:47 PM on December 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


Man, lawyers sure can convince themselves shitty things are just fine because the procedural shit makes sense superficially.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 1:49 PM on December 3, 2014 [10 favorites]


I have a lot of experience identifying raptors from a great distance, but I'm still going to be wrong sometimes and it never yet killed me to admit I was mistaken or misspoke. It sure doesn't mean I'm beyond questioning in trying to ID a bird I haven't even seen, based on someone else's description, because that would be ridiculous.
posted by rtha at 1:53 PM on December 3, 2014


I usually flag personal attacks as derails because that's what's happening. The whole conversation turns to that member and their posting history and their argument rather than the original link.
posted by tofu_crouton at 1:55 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

Ironmouth: But there is no doubt that I am the person most experienced in police shootings in the userbase.
Wait a minute... you can determine people's resume's from the userbase?

WTF?

Or... is that just a boast pulled fresh out of your ass?
posted by IAmBroom at 1:56 PM on December 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


I honestly think that he can't quite grok the difference between legal proceedings and reality.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 1:58 PM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


4 cases? 4 cases?

i've had a lot more cases of influenza, but that doesn't make me an expert on it
posted by pyramid termite at 2:01 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Argumentation scholars have some interesting treatments of expert opinion. Douglas Walton's Appeal to Expert Opinion: Arguments From Authority is one of the major texts in the area. Walton's take on expert arguments is part of his pragmatic approach. He says that different arguments have different goals and that different behaviors in discussions either contribute to or hamper reaching those goals.

Expert opinion, assuming it really is from an expert, is in itself neither good nor bad. It's quality is measured by how well the person deploying expert opinion does so in a way that respects the shared goals of the argument (e.g. listening and responding to what others say, using relevant evidence in appropriate ways, etc.).
posted by audi alteram partem at 2:05 PM on December 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


But there is no doubt that I am the person most experienced in police shootings in the userbase.


So how do you feel about police chokings then? Got a way to minimize that travesty?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:08 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I trust my (credentialed, experienced, recognized) criminal law professors more than a commenter on the internet, FWIW, and they spent a very great deal of time on police misconduct, racial injustice, and the ways the legal system is set up to absolve time and time again. I have no clue if they're "teevee lawyers" though, I guess you've got that going.
posted by naju at 2:09 PM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'd really rather not see a flag for "personal attack." Not only do much of the time here people feel personally attacked when their ideas or arguments are attacked, but the tools for flagging already exist to deal with it: personal attacks can derail, break the guidelines, or be sexist/racist/offensive.

I'd be surprised if such a change would help the moderators do their jobs better.


I don't think it would help the moderators, but I do think it would help the userbase refrain from explaining why such and such is a personal attack, because there'd be a way to label it as such. And since it sounds like people are flagging those things anyway, it doesn't sound like it would create more work for the moderators, either.

I do think it might cut down on nasty responses -- I know that I am much less likely to tear into a shitty sexist comment when I flag it and wait for it to be deleted, and the label keeps me from having to post an explanation of why I think the comment was shitty. And then even if I misjudged and it's not deleted, I at least have the time to cool down while waiting for the potential deletion, or choose to phrase my response in a way that's not going to get deleted if the comment to which I'm responding gets deleted.
posted by jaguar at 2:16 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" - Upton Sinclair

We don't think you're lying Ironmouth. We think you're full of shit because you're day job involves peddling that same shit.*

Also, we don't think that you don't know what you're talking about either, well obviously people are buying what you're selling.

It's really not personal. It's that cops are thugs today and that needs to change. I donno if cops were really less thuggish in the past but society moved on and became more peaceful without their involvement.

It's time cops were forced to accept that they live in a civilized society and they're not the big strong man of the tribe who gets to beat up and rape whoever he wants because he'll help protect the tribe from another tribe.

* At a personal level there is all the difference in the world between those two things. I've plenty of friends and family who's day job involves peddling various forms of shit too. Heck, I just spent the last couple years figuring out how identify if I'm peddle shit that'll while it'll hurt people in the short term will help people in the longer term.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:18 PM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


My take on expert opinion here, when responding from my own little slice of the world, is simply to make an argument as clear as I can and as simply as I'm able. i also don't make a point of sourcing my opinions, as I would in other contexts, though I do try to provide links to more info, or expansions on my point. I generally don't like to bring in experience or credentials, except where it might be relevant to mention, to illustrate a point by a personal experience say.

Part of that is simply because I prefer to be private about what I do here, but, mostly, I think it's a pretty big part of mefi site culture to avoid appealing to personal authority, to not trot out credentials and try to privilege my comments. My words should stand or fall on the merits of what I say, not because I'm wrapping myself in a cap and gown (or a lab coat in my case).
posted by bonehead at 2:20 PM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


But there is no doubt that I am the person most experienced in police shootings in the userbase.

So you are dead? Cheap shot, but who says they have no doubt?
posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:25 PM on December 3, 2014


Thanks for keeping your cool, IM. You have been pretty much raked over the coals here and if it was me I would not have handled it nearly as gracefully. I obviously think some of the criticism of you is very valid, but some of it has been over the top.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:25 PM on December 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


(And I do appreciate your legal point of view in these threads, I just wish you could find a way to present it differently so you didn't come off as a jerk at times. It would not take a major shift in style. Just a few, "In my view..." or "In my opinion...the facts are" can drastically change the tone of a post.)
posted by Drinky Die at 2:28 PM on December 3, 2014 [14 favorites]


Or even prefacing a legal opinion with the word "legally" - there is a vast chasm of difference between "the shooting was justified" and "legally, the shooting was justified," especially when your audience might include people who have reason to fear being shot in the same manner.
posted by dialetheia at 2:37 PM on December 3, 2014 [19 favorites]


I'm (among other transgressions) a person of color. I am a liberal and a hobbyist activist and I keep up with various news sources. I consider myself pretty well informed about the state of law enforcement, about the state of judicial decisions in general in my locality as well as state and federal decisions that might affect me. I am literate, well assimilated, but I'm also mouthy and stubborn.

To be honest, the only thing that keeps me from fearing for my life (as in, I don't know what to do to assure that I'll be safe) when around cops is that I have a lot of life skills in, as my Dad said, "keeping a low profile" and "not drawing attention." I am being honest when I say that I have literally no idea what I can consistently do beyond that to assure that I or a loved one will not end up dead at the hands of law enforcement in this age and times.

And I think that sucks, regardless of whether legal opinions are thrown around here that make it all okay. Because it isn't okay.

Cops are not FOR killing civilians. No matter what the excuse and justification. They are FOR protecting every person they can see or observe. They are not FOR killing known or suspected criminals. Their job is to detain or arrest, to keep the peace, try to take care of every person they can see or observe.

The judicial branch is, if any branch is for killing, the one that's for killing. In some states the judicial branch can sentence convicted criminals to execution or life in prison without possibility of parole. But only if those convicts are convicted on capital or similar crimes.

To have a situation now where under certain circumstances it's totally okay for a cop to get away with killing anyone is, to be honest, pretty fucked up and does a lot to ensure that I don't now know what the fuck to do to keep from dying or keep my loved ones from dying randomly at the hands of folks I thought were sworn to protect me and my civil and human rights.
posted by kalessin at 2:54 PM on December 3, 2014 [32 favorites]


And I'm not for a minute going to say that this is turning me to violence, but I would like to observe that I'm pretty sure that situations like this, where there is no moral or ethical compass that is widely apparent to the public, are how you get domestic terrorists.

That was my impression from reading about Linda Sue Evans and later meeting her - that to her her lawless path with the weather underground was partly due to not seeing any ethical/moral way past the daily violence she and her loved ones were experiencing. When the bureaucratic, democratic and justice-related paths one would normally use to redress an intolerable situation are simply unavailable otherwise normal people can be driven to great lengths to try to be heard or to try to fix an obviously broken situation.
posted by kalessin at 3:01 PM on December 3, 2014 [14 favorites]


kalessin, i agree - someone, somewhere is going to decide to take their own action on this if it keeps going on

i am deeply cynical about this - i believe there are forces among the elite who WANT to see terrorism develop in this country so they can justify a real crackdown - and i believe that one of the purposes of sending troops to deal with counter-insurgency in the middle east is so they could be trained to deal with it here
posted by pyramid termite at 3:17 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'd be surprised if such a change would help the moderators do their jobs better.

I don't see how it could do anything but. If people are conflating people attacking their arguments for attacking them personally, the mods can continue to ignore it, but it at least sends more information to them about the reason you're flagging. It's clearly a behavior that people flag often enough, and it seems like people use a bunch of different flags to do it.

Would appreciate a quick yay/nay on this from any mods that are following along, since enough people have expressed interest. I read the previous "more flag categories" MeTa, and it seems like the mods in that thread were aware that the existing categories are sort of imperfect, and willing to consider changes, but nothing really came of it.
posted by tonycpsu at 3:18 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


The poster of this thread took care and has communicated totally reasonably about what is in their view a big handful of examples of problematic personal attacks and vitriol, and a whole lot of people in here likewise reasonably communicated that they just flat out do not agree with that reading.'

And to be fair, a whole lot of people in here communicated that they do agree. :)
posted by phoenix_rising at 3:20 PM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Would appreciate a quick yay/nay on this from any mods that are following along

It's an interesting idea that I don't have any strong feelings about yet, is where I am. I'm not immediately convinced that adding that flag will help reduce arguments though I do follow the reasoning that it might.

My first-blush concern about the idea of adding it is it could create more attention on and expectation of specific mod action in cases where we could very well still not agree with the flagger, especially for something that is going to tend to be a little more, well, personal in nature. I don't want to set people up to believe that by using the "personal attack" flag instead of the "breaks the guidelines" flag, that's going to get something deleted that we wouldn't have deleted with the other flag; as much as some folks express a degree of reticence to misflag something when they're not sure what reason to use, that's not something we're really factoring in how we respond to the things that do get flagged. So a big part of me feels like encouraging folks to just actively flag more regardless of the selected label is a more proactive solution here than adding a new label and hoping the flags will come.

But that's off the top of my head. More generally, we have talked on the mod side about revisiting the flagging system at some point to improve overall functionality and usability, and talking about different approaches to flag reasons/labels will definitely be part of that in any case.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:29 PM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


I will add that my experience mirrored that of anotherpanacea, who investigated police complaints for the NYC CCRB, which is an agency independent of the police that investigates these matters. He was also surprised by how many complaints were without foundation.

This is true, but I kind of resent being outed in this way. I just got done arguing in this thread that we shouldn't be required to have our resumes publicized before participating.

Also, I don't think it's true that all the complaints were without foundation: what's true is that both the standards of evidence and the standards of professional behavior are massively biased towards the police. You'd need to jump a very high bar of evidence to prove that something happened (ostensibly preponderance, but with police officers granted privileged credibility) and then pass a very stringent test to show that the force used was unnecessary. There was also pretty rampant "testilying" where officers used only cliches to make their case: "The suspect reached for his waste-band" or "I observed a hand to hand transaction" or "The defendant thrashed his arms and legs" were repeated over and over. It's court tested language, so the testimony is culturally coached. Perhaps this was how it happened, but the same words came up time and time again to describe the actions of lots of different people in different situations, so you could never know if the officer was describing the fight in question or a different one.

That said, it's also true that in a department with about 40,000 working police officers, we only got 4,000 complaints a year, and only substantiated about 400 of those. And there were repetitions, so that maybe 2/3 of those 4000 complaints were against the same 1000-1200 officers. So yeah, in the NYPD, at least, the vast majority of officers are good people doing the job well enough to avoid complaints. I think that's a good sign. (Of course, the NYPD also spends a lot of money each year on settling lawsuits. So there is still plenty of misconduct.)

One way to think about this is that while we "substantiated" only about 10% of the cases we considered, we didn't "exonerate" the other 90%. Most of the rest of the cases were "unsubstantiated" which meant that we just didn't have enough evidence to proceed (roughly like deciding not to prosecute.)

Anyway, I believe most people think the problem isn't that Wilson would have been convicted, but that the rules are such that he couldn't be convicted. It's roughly like protesting stand your ground laws: sure, under that law it's very difficult to convict Zimmerman. But the protest was partly that the law is written and enforced that way to begin with.
posted by anotherpanacea at 3:36 PM on December 3, 2014 [70 favorites]


I agree with cortex that a "personal attack" flag would come with a higher expectation of automatic deletion, and thus perhaps create more work for the mods. The burden on the users is basically a bit of confusion about what flag to use in lieu of "personal attack", which doesn't seem to me to outweigh that concern.
(I agree that a "personal attack" option is a good idea in the abstract.)
posted by uosuaq at 4:17 PM on December 3, 2014


As one of the people who thinks the "personal attack" flag is a good idea, I would say it wouldn't actually create a higher expectation of delete for me than, say, the "offensive/sexism/racism" flag. I'd just feel my thoughts were more clear.
posted by corb at 4:20 PM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wonder: what are flags for? Is it something that indicates a priority level? Or something used for analytics ("we got many fewer offensive/sexism/racism flags this year, so everyone is doing better?") Are they meant to be a shortcut that allows people not to have to write emails to explain their objections? Just wondering. It seems like adding a flag should add some useful functionality for the mods, since no one else sees them. Maybe clicking a "personal attack" flag would feel better in some way than an "offensive" flag, but if it doesn't create some kind of useful metric I wonder how worth it it is. Given that it is super subjective and has a lot to do with personal tolerance levels for direct debate and robust conversation.
posted by Miko at 4:25 PM on December 3, 2014


What I really mean is, "what are different flag titles for?" I understand why there are flags but not how flag-title data is viewed.
posted by Miko at 4:28 PM on December 3, 2014


My thoughts are that a "personal attack" flagging option would signal to the userbase in general that personal attacks are against the guidelines, which might cut down on them; let a user quickly send information to the moderators that they think a comment is a personal attack, which might cut down on users responding to the perceived attack; give users a way to respond to a perceived attack without responding to it in the thread, which again might cut down on users responding to the perceived attack; and give the moderators a heads-up that nastiness may be brewing, even if the flagged comment didn't rise to the level of delete-able.

I guess I just think it would encourage the FIAMO goals.
posted by jaguar at 4:34 PM on December 3, 2014 [7 favorites]


Also, I don't think it's true that all the complaints were without foundation

I for one am just shocked that Ironmouth would make an citation to back up his absolute assertion that, when examined, was kinda sorta true-ish but in its totality did nothing to back him up at all.
posted by phearlez at 4:36 PM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I agree with cortex that a "personal attack" flag would come with a higher expectation of automatic deletion

I could almost get behind a 'personal attack' flag, except for the fact that this very post illustrates that some people can't distinguish between a criticism of an argument, and an attack on or insult aimed at the person making that argument.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:39 PM on December 3, 2014 [10 favorites]


That flag would almost certainly be abused every day. I can't imagine the headaches it would cause the mods.
posted by naju at 4:41 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wonder: what are flags for?

When no one listens anymore?
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 4:41 PM on December 3, 2014 [6 favorites]


That flag would almost certainly be abused every day. I can't imagine the headaches it would cause the mods.

Definitely, but the question is whether it would be abused more than the other flags already being used to flag things as offensive or derails and whether it might get moderators involved more quickly in contentious threads, thus cutting down on clean-up time later.
posted by jaguar at 5:01 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wonder: what are flags for?

Capes.

posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:11 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


naju: There's a certain strain of thought that goes: people of color can never be racist or support racist systems, because racism relies on power and dominance that people of color do not possess.

I feel like this is a misread of a lot of thought on different axes of discrimination and prejudice as they relate to power.

The context in which people tend to use the claim that people of color can't be racist is when the targets of the supposed racism are white. By definition, since racism is about power as it expresses itself in discrimination based on presumed racial category, white people can never be targets of racism (prejudice YES, discrimination possible but unlikely, but never racism) because a priori the system of racism is based on the superiority of white people (which ironically even works for anti-Semitism because while Jews are usually claimed to be richer and smarter, they are also considered to be morally inferior).

This is different from the claim that people of color can't be racist with the understanding that white people are never the targets of said racism - and indeed a lot of discussion among different groups of people of color are addressing the intersectional discrimination which vary widely based on presumed ethnic or racial group. This is where intersectional understandings of axes of power come into play, and it's fascinating and important and something happening largely outside of white-dominated spaces like MetaFilter; I'm not sure it's a conversation that can even happen here, as the lines people tend to fall into is "too many people use the race card" and "racism is a serious problem" and the discussion would have to presume the latter in order to work; that's something which happens easiest when the discussion is solely people of color and black because by and large they all have experienced racism (white people often haven't, or have used the term "racist" to mean "I was in a place full of black people and some of them stared at me").

I highly recommend seeking out places where people of color are having conversations with each other about this, and then listening and learning; I've been doing it for years. If you can find Black Twitter and/or Black Tumblr, that can be a good means of entry and education. It's also a good place to practice "just because I think it, I don't need to say it".
posted by Deoridhe at 5:22 PM on December 3, 2014 [21 favorites]


There's also that idea of a flag's inducing the exact thing we would be hoping to eradicate, the sense of having been attacked (as opposed to critiqued). Without a "personal attack" flag, people have to find ways to verbalize any interpersonal problems they are experiencing and are justifiably asked to distinguish "attack" from "critique" in detailed discussion. With a flag, thousands of MeFites who may have never before given a thought to the idea of being personally attacked here will see the flag name and say "hmm, this seems to be a big problem here!" - thus generating a wider sense of and expectation of personal attack being something that happens here a lot, and perhaps more readily construing critique as attack.
posted by Miko at 5:23 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wonder: what are flags for?

Capes.


NO CAPES.
posted by phearlez at 5:38 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Thanks for clarification, Deoridhe. I don't disagree with any of that.
posted by naju at 5:48 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just curious about flags: Is there a specific number of flags that will cause a comment to be deleted? Surely one flag can't get a post deleted, can it? Isn't the idea behind the flagging just to attract the attention of the mod, who then decides whether or not the point of the flag is valid and thus whether or not to delete the comment?

I keep thinking of the hassle for the mods to deal with people flagging left, right and backwards over issues that individuals find annoying or "wrong" in some way. Someone upthread said he flags a comment and "then waits to see it deleted." To me, that's some level of control and supervision and power that seems unwarranted for someone who isn't a mod.

As for personal attacks, I've found that certain subjects kindle touchiness in certain people who then snap into defensiveness at any hint of an opposing view. In that mode, some popular posts would be flagged to death and there would absolutely be no chance of discussion at all.

Other comments I would call personal attacks are ignored completely - no one steps up and objects; an example of this would be this, from empath:

corb the problem here is that you constantly express opinions in a way that makes a large number of metafilter commenters go 'what the fuck?' and and engage with you. If, in every thread you participated in, the mods told people to stop dogpiling on you, and every single one of those users didn't do it it again, the next thread you participated in, a whole new set of users would do the same thing.

I like you and I think you're pretty smart, but sometimes I think you just repeat things here that you read elsewhere without thinking about them thoroughly, until someone questions you on it and then you have to actually grasp with the meaning of what you are saying for the first time. I mean it's great that you get out of whatever libertarian/survivalist/gun-nut echo-chamber you live on in the rest of the web to post here, but maybe engage in a little bit of reflection before posting stuff here. You by now should know what people here's objections are going to be before you post them and what pushes peoples buttons, and you should maybe consider them pre-emptively before posting.
posted by empath at 7:03 AM



I seem to be defending corb against her detractors quite a lot in this game, but that's not because I think corb is undeserving - or deserving - of criticism; I don't know much about corb so that's not my position. But if that comment isn't a personal attack, I obviously wouldn't recognize one. So should that be flagged? How many people would need to flag it before it would be deleted - meaning that no one would know it existed in the first place, which is out of sync with my image of MetaFilter.

I have too much respect for MetaFilter and all the members to want the site converted to some sort of polite, always respectful place where spelling/punctuation/grammar are correct, there are no hidden agendas, no personal quirks, no touchy hot spots or pushbuttons allowed, only three comments allowed to repeat a point of view, no exchange commentary between two people even for a short series of comments - IOW, where offense is not allowed. Instead I'd like to see it remain just as it is - a place where intelligent people can exchange ideas and points of view about new and interesting ideas, fun stuff, music and art and entertainment, but also about hard stuff, controversial stuff, pain and grief.

I don't think it needs fixing - or more flags - but that's just my opinion.
posted by aryma at 6:07 PM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Without a "personal attack" flag, people have to find ways to verbalize any interpersonal problems they are experiencing and are justifiably asked to distinguish "attack" from "critique" in detailed discussion.

See, to me, that just sounds like a fancy way to describe a derail. Yes, the flag will be abused, but people are already undoubtedly misinterpreting attacks on arguments as attacks on them, and using the existing mish-mash of tags to report the alleged attack to mods. Clarity is always better than ambiguity, and I really don't see how the presence of a more appropriate flag category would induce more attacks.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:08 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


See, I don't read any of that comment from empath as a personal attack on corb. It is focused on her behavior, includes positive comments about her ("I like you"), and provides suggestions for ways to engage that would get a different result. Probably the worst thing empath says is that she hangs out with gun-toting libertarians, and that's something she claims herself, repeatedly, so hard to see anything attacking in there.

What reads to you as an attack in that comment?
posted by gingerbeer at 6:22 PM on December 3, 2014 [11 favorites]


Also, in practical terms, this is MetaTalk - very few things are deleted here.

Just curious about flags: Is there a specific number of flags that will cause a comment to be deleted? Surely one flag can't get a post deleted, can it? Isn't the idea behind the flagging just to attract the attention of the mod, who then decides whether or not the point of the flag is valid and thus whether or not to delete the comment?

No, possibly, and yes, essentially. A comment can be deleted with no flags, if a mod happens upon it. A single flag will mean a mod will look at the comment. Multiple flags might give an indication of the depth and breadth of feeling about that comment. Ultimately, the mods decide what is and is not deleteworthy, based on the guidelines, precedent and their own judgment.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:27 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I agree with gingerbeer; that does not read to me as a "personal attack," it reads to me as an earnest attempt at constructive critique of a user's behavior. It is personal, and it may fail in its aim for consisteny constructiveness, but I would not say it is reasonable to call empath's comment an "attack."

See, to me, that just sounds like a fancy way to describe a derail.

My assumption was that any such detailed intepersonal-clarity discussion (other than the usual, common, and non-derailey request for clarification) would happen in email, MeMail or MeTa - where it happens now - rather than be invited to derail the thread.
posted by Miko at 6:32 PM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


I think it's important to talk a bit about flags in the sense of user perception vs actual mod activity. First off -- a mod looks at every single flag. We do sometimes delete stuff that gets flagged once, and of course it's easier to delete stuff if it gets half a dozen flags (and sometimes we ignore that many that seem misplaced).

We have a lot of labels for different flags (5-6, and slightly different for posts and comments), and I would say today, I basically treat them in 2-3 piles and different ways. For posts every flag is just a flag, and the double post flag is special and I try to find the original if more than a few people flag it as such. For comments, HTML/display error is a nuts-and-bolts separate problem, but for the most part all the others are just treated as "flags". When we first added offensive/sexism/racism a few years ago, it was helpful and I would look at those first with those issues in mind, but in the last few years it seems people just pick most flags to go with stuff they disagree with. We ignore/don't act upon about half the flags that come in (I'm pulling that number out of thin air but it feels about right), and the rest we do something about, but the labels aren't actually that helpful much anymore.

We've discussed a possible future version of flagging that drops the choose a reason step entirely, so that you either flag stuff or don't, kind of like favorites. One-click, done. It would certainly simplify things for both users (you'd get to skip a step) and mods but I'm not sure if it'd be a net positive for the site since we'd probably get more flags reported with less info about the flags.

On the flip side, we've also discussed having an open-ended flag system, where you could flag something and optionally there'd be a text box if you wanted to provide more info. That would be one-step for most flags, then extra specific if people wanted to add additional info ("I think this guy is a spammer" or "alice is attacking bob about $issue unfairly").

So in terms of user perception, I think the mental work of picking a flag reason is a hurdle but does communicate well the things we're looking at. I kind of side with Miko above when saying a new flag about personal attacks of users kind of seems to overinflate the sense that it takes place, and might lead to negative consequences. Outside of all this, the way mods use flags on the backend mostly ignores the reasons, so instead of further complicating the flagging system, I'd say in the future you might see it instead get a lot more streamlined.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:33 PM on December 3, 2014 [20 favorites]


Thanks for that great explanation. I kind of like the text box idea.
posted by Miko at 6:40 PM on December 3, 2014 [9 favorites]


Yeah, that'd sort of be the best of both worlds.
posted by tonycpsu at 6:42 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think part of where the disagreement on personal attack vs. not comes in is that people have varying degrees of tolerance for comments in general that seem to be personally directed, especially if it contains critical content of some sort.

So: empath was certainly very pointedly directing that comment mentioned above at corb; it wasn't a general comment on an issue, it was a comment on corb and her behavior and arguments specifically. And it was in part critical.

Where then is the line between personally critically and a personal attack, is I think the question that doesn't have one answer for all people. And that presents a difficulty to any policy proposal that uses "personal attack" as a lever; if folks don't agree broadly on a significant grey area portion of the stuff in question, there's likely going to be as much disagreement about the notional enforcement of that policy as there is about the current lack of enforcement of it.

There's bright line stuff that's more unambiguously just someone going after another person, and that's stuff that is generally worth flagging or dropping us a line about, and it sucks that we don't always see it or see it promptly when it's happening because, occasional suggestions to the contrary notwithstanding, that's not something we actually condone as mods or want to see happening. But the distinction between personal attack and merely personal is not as clear-cut as I think folks sometimes present when it's something that they perceive to be a personal attack, on themselves or on others. Which is understandable—we all feel whatever we feel—but it's part of the difficulty.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:47 PM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


Where then is the line between personally critically and a personal attack, is I think the question that doesn't have one answer for all people.

I think I at least thought the line was "if you want to be personally critical of another person's posting style or thoughts or commentary, take it to MeTa." So I wouldn't have flagged empath's comment here, because, voila, MeTa. But i would have if I saw it on the blue, because in my eyes, it doesn't matter if it's personally critical or a personal attack, it still has no business in the discussion.
posted by corb at 6:56 PM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't flag often, but for me if someone is stepping outside the conversation to poke at someone or their comment is superfluously focused on something that seems like a personality conflict, I just use the "noise" flag.
posted by rhizome at 7:04 PM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


The question of whether personal/inter-user commentary belongs in a non-metatalk thread is its own issue, though, distinct from the question that's been under discussion a lot in here the idea that something's a personal attack and how that's categorized or defined, and while there can be overlap in those issue I don't think it's going to help illuminate the personal attack question to conflate them.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:09 PM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


"(And I do appreciate your legal point of view in these threads, I just wish you could find a way to present it differently so you didn't come off as a jerk at times. It would not take a major shift in style. Just a few, "In my view..." or "In my opinion...the facts are" can drastically change the tone of a post.)"

It's an unfortunate dynamic that has two parts. Ironmouth takes a lot of unjustified personal attacks here, including shit like jeffburges describing him as "pro-thug cop" and other slings, instead of challenging him on facts and law, like syzygy did. What seems to happen is then instead of responding to the (stronger, factual or evidentiary) challenges to his opinion, he unloads full bore on people that are just kind of being jabbering assholes. It frustrates people that want to have an honest disagreement with him because it feels like their legitimate points aren't getting answered, and it contributes to the perception that just treating him like an asshole is justified since he's fairly regularly obviously an asshole to people.

I do think that he can add a lot of value here — just like I think that dios adds a lot of value, and a couple other folks that are both generally more right of the MeFi polis and lawyers add a lot of value. But with the current dynamic, and with previous dynamics with dios, that value has been severely compromised. For instance, I'd be willing to bet that Ironmouth does know the most about police-involved shootings and the procedures around them than anyone else on MeFi, and that the desire to dismiss him as a troll is foolish. That doesn't mean that I agree with his position — there are plenty of people who know more about a given topic than I do whom I disagree with.

I do also generally think it has to do with how lawyers argue, specifically the general tendency to state their argument in a way that implies a broader position than they're actually taking — something that people have cited in general as a problem with conversations here, which I believe is magnified with lawyers. But it's also got to do with personalities and temperaments.

That said, I think it's a significantly different problem than the one that Tanizaki is complaining about, and conflating the two makes it seem like they're both instances of unfair groupthink. Specifically, in that Reddit thread that Tanizaki links to, the primary specific complaint is that people on MetaFilter react badly when someone says that trans women aren't women. From the perspective of those complainers, this is an entirely reasonable, tradition-based disagreement on terminology and to have to change that feels unnecessary. But to transgender people, it's a deeply dehumanizing and alienating thing that they deal with regularly. It is analogous to other bigoted opinions, e.g. that gays can be gay but why do they have to rub it in everyone's faces? or complaints about reverse racism. All of the same justifications (tradition, lefties too serious, etc.) apply.

So complaining that the pushback that they get is because they're "the wrong kind of people" is fundamentally dishonest. The pushback they get is because they're blithely perpetuating harm on fellow community members. The "read a 101" that seems to frustrate Tanizaki et al.? It's actually based on the idea that if you understood the harm you were inflicting, you wouldn't do it. It's an a priori assumption that the person is just falling into a tradition of harmful ignorance without intending harm. Simply disagreeing that one's opinion is causing harm isn't sufficient to justify continuing voicing the opinion, unless you're an asshole.

Which brings me back to the fundamental hypocrisy I see in complaints like this: There are plenty of opinions that expressing makes one come across as an asshole, and many of the nominally oppressed opinions here meet the standard of knowingly inflicting harm with no real benefit to the community — it's rare that these opinions are novel for anyone who has read a few of these threads — and yet, those voicing those opinions feel ganged up upon when they're told they're being assholes.

So yes, there is a "wrong sort of opinion," but for good reason. And the complaints in that Reddit thread are bullshit from people not used to being told that their opinions are bullshit and they're being assholes by expressing them. From there, the complaints about a "lack of civility" fall hollow because while I generally feel that the harm inflicted on e.g. transgender people from these obnoxious comments is pretty minimal in the overall scheme of things, the harm inflicted from the lack of civility is significantly lower. It's not harmless; it certainly does discourage some commenters from wading in, but the gain that we get as a community is a lot more voices that aren't available in mainstream media. Having more women participate, having more people of color, more LGBT people participate, that's all valuable.

Now, obviously it's just my opinion that those voices are more valuable than the ones we're losing, and there are certainly topics on which I think that we're poorer for that — while I doubt that I'd learn something new from Tanizaki's views on gays, I certainly have from his views on the Greek Orthodox church.

But ultimately, if you can't stand being told that you're wrong and at least occasionally owning up to being wrong, MetaFilter isn't going to be a good fit for you. And that's OK.
posted by klangklangston at 7:43 PM on December 3, 2014 [45 favorites]


Klang, after such tight and succinct prose, I have never felt more confident in calling myself an asshole.
posted by clavdivs at 8:44 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


We're all assholes sometimes.
posted by klangklangston at 9:24 PM on December 3, 2014 [4 favorites]


Outside of all this, the way mods use flags on the backend mostly ignores the reasons, so instead of further complicating the flagging system, I'd say in the future you might see it instead get a lot more streamlined.

Please don't get rid of the reasons. You'll lose so much potential data!
posted by clockzero at 9:48 PM on December 3, 2014


I think uncategorized flag + text box would be perfect. I think there's value in users being able to express why they're flagging something, even if the moderators ignore it. Mods know the rules and can judge a comment cold, but users don't always know that, and I think there should be some sort of feedback mechanism like that. Text boxes seem much more useful than a drop-down.
posted by jaguar at 10:09 PM on December 3, 2014


At least one person asked about this a little bit up the road... I think this is a personal attack. I mean it's great that you get out of whatever libertarian/survivalist/gun-nut echo-chamber you live on in the rest of the web to post here, but maybe engage in a little bit of reflection before posting stuff here.

On a different note, feels like there's too much "you're wrong." I mean, obviously someone is wrong if they say Montreal is the capital of Canada, but lots of what strikes some people as wrong strikes me as sharply differing opinions.
posted by ambient2 at 10:54 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


Having more women participate, having more people of color, more LGBT people participate, that's all valuable.

With statistics to my knowledge unavailable, it is my strong belief that the relative representation of people of color is higher on Reddit, on account of class.

A subtext is such participation is valuable only from women, PoC, and LGBT people subscribing to Progressivism. For ex. I've no dog in Gamergate but the two people I've met who are supporters are a woman of color and a transgender woman.
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 11:05 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]


MetaFilter has a higher representation of women, people of color and LGBT people after the changes that the Reddit thread referenced were implemented.

A subtext that only women, etc. who "subscrib[e] to Progressivism" are valuable is one you've mistakenly attributed; Corb's participation on some topics is great (though I'm not going to try to tie it to the changes in MeFi moderation), while it's toxic on other topics.

Your Gamergate example doesn't make much sense to me as you've presented it.
posted by klangklangston at 11:24 PM on December 3, 2014 [5 favorites]


On a different note, feels like there's too much "you're wrong." I mean, obviously someone is wrong if they say Montreal is the capital of Canada, but lots of what strikes some people as wrong strikes me as sharply differing opinions.

I dunno, if people really don't know that Toronto is the capital of Canada they probably shouldn't be posting here.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:36 PM on December 3, 2014 [14 favorites]


I dunno, if people really don't know that Toronto is the capital of Canada they probably shouldn't be posting here.

Should we really be expecting people, especially people who aren't necessarily American, to know the capitals of all the small states? That's a bit like requiring people to know which explorer is on the $2 note.
posted by frimble at 12:36 AM on December 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


That's a bit like requiring people to know which explorer is on the $2 note.

Oh please, you're telling me that only Americans have heard of Captain Kirk? I'm really tired of people acting like any celebration of an American is some kind of jingoistic slippery slope.
posted by kagredon at 1:17 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Well, Thomas Jefferson is on a 2£ note. Being a good American, he sent out many people to do his exploring.
posted by clavdivs at 1:47 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


The way I see the comment empath directed at corb is as a personal attack, yet others don't see it that way at all; wonderful! That's the whole point, isn't it? How much personal criticism do you personally take before you consider yourself attacked? Oh, my - so many factors involved to answer that question! Way too many to make a flag for personal attack work, IMO.

Just for the record, the first thing I reacted to in empath's post was the use of "you CONSTANTLY" (say things that annoy others). That goes back to "fair fighting" and the use of "always" and "never" being verboten. I just find it superior sounding and grating, but by itself it could be overlooked - but when it's followed by, "I think you're pretty smart, but)" well, come on. Then a remark about how corb has to finally grasp the meaning of what she said for the first time. Wow.

And then the corker, to me: it's great that you get out of whatever libertarian/survivalist/gun-nut echo-chamber you live on in the rest of the web to post here,

Okay - sorry, but how much of a put-down does it take to make an attack?

I do understand that this the gray and this is the place for criticism and complaint, so I assume one shouldn't be flagging any personal attack here - okay, I get that. Still, my point is that what constitutes a personal attack to one person is a mere dose of mild criticism to another. I just can't see flagging working well for this, other than to relieve the tension of the person who's annoyed when he/she can slam home the flag button and wait to see the item deleted.

Again, it's not up to me - just my personal opinion.
posted by aryma at 2:15 AM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Not to pile on or anything, but perhaps it's useful to point out that there's a few more people who feel that this passage is an attack:

I mean it's great that you get out of whatever libertarian/survivalist/gun-nut echo-chamber you live on in the rest of the web to post here, but maybe engage in a little bit of reflection before posting stuff here.

I can see Miko's point that the comment as a whole was probably meant to be constructive criticism, but that passage isn't constructive. Superficially it advises her to reflect more before commenting, but that's hardly the only thing going on in that sentence. To me it reads as a bit of an unsubtle dig. Sure, it doesn't call her names directly, but it wouldn't have taken much effort to rephrase the sentence in a more neutral fashion. So I can't help but feel there was a deliberate decision to refer to corb's affiliation with "gun-nut echo-chambers". To me, the decision to use tendentious language adds a pretty clear guilt-by-association subtext, and had that comment been directed at me I'd have been quite distressed. I'm impressed that corb doesn't seem upset by that kind of thing, but I would have been.
posted by langtonsant at 3:11 AM on December 4, 2014 [13 favorites]


I think uncategorized flag + text box would be perfect.

My actual job once was trying to make sense of a system like this and I can tell you it would not be perfect; it would be a nightmare. Pre-coded tags may not fit every situation but at least you don't end up attempting to get sense out of things like this:

too blue
unsubscribe
THE THING IS DOING THAT THING
I dont no but it is annoying!!!!
Why skudfhisunciuehfk
racist
Rassist
Rscst
Tsody
Racist!!!

So yeah it would be a disaster and be worse than just the flag with no text at all by a long shot, which is worse than our current system by far. At least with our current system the mods get a rough pointer at what someone thinks might be a problem based on categories they and we are decided merit attention.
posted by winna at 3:54 AM on December 4, 2014 [21 favorites]


For comments, HTML/display error is a nuts-and-bolts separate problem, but for the most part all the others are just treated as "flags".

Personally, I'd prefer to consolidate the existing flags rather than add new categories. Most of the time when I flag something, it's pretty much a coin flip whether I use "noise" or "derail", but either way I mean "hey I think this comment is sort of not a great addition to this thread, I'd like a mod to take a look at it." That encompasses a lot of things: sometimes it's stuff that I think is getting fighty, sometimes it's something that I think is just sort of irrelevant to the discussion or something that was already thoroughly discussed 30 comments back, sometimes it's someone bringing in stuff that's going on a different thread, etc. Sometimes it's comments where I'm like "wow what the fuck" and sometimes it's comments that I really like but just don't think are particularly germane to the thread (esp. in AskMe.) Frankly, I don't think my specific snowflaky reasons for flagging are or should be particularly relevant on the mod end; it all kind of falls under "I think a mod should look at this."

IMO, I think it'd be fine for the flags to be reduced to, say, "fantastic", "HTML/double", "page-a-mod: urgent" (for things like "someone dropped a drive-by racist comment or called another user a fuckstick"), and "page-a-mod: not-urgent" (for "people are starting to get kind of snippy with each other" and "this tangential issue is taking up a lot of air.")

Also if flag reasons become freeform it's only a matter of time before I get drunk and like, paste in the chorus to Africa in all caps or something else dumb.
posted by kagredon at 3:56 AM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Will the next one have any impact on this thread and its assertions?
posted by infini at 5:00 AM on December 4, 2014


I dunno, if people really don't know that Toronto is the capital of Canada they probably shouldn't be posting here.

This is
I'm
I just gahhhno

Please tell me that you have a dry wit, and that's what this is.
posted by duffell at 5:26 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Mouse over the full stop. The full stop betrays intent.
posted by frimble at 5:32 AM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


I dunno, if people really don't know that Toronto is the capital of Canada they probably shouldn't be posting here.

Exactly. Everybody knows it's Montréal.
posted by Wolof at 5:33 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


I was gonna post my own suggested flag list but kagredon's is better.
posted by harriet vane at 5:39 AM on December 4, 2014


Pre-coded tags may not fit every situation but at least you don't end up attempting to get sense out of things like

I understand your point about data but it doesn't look like there's that level of data analysis going on here - like, there's no evaluation summary report that means this data needs to be coded to establish patterns. At the same time, I see the argument for minimizing to three or so streams of problem with a flag for each + maybe an optional text box. "fantastic, double, breaks the guidelines" might be enough (where "breaks the guidelines" includes offensive/sexism/racism, noise, derail, and any other guideline-breaking stuff).

the median Reddit user is male (59%), 18–29 years of age

As for MetaFilter, I know this has come up before and we're just fuzzier. Maybe this is useful.

Reddit may have more of every kind of person because it's enormous. At the same time, numbers aside, people on Reddit do not get to have the expectation of being in a "community" and being able to participate on a fair playing field where everyone is under the same guidelines. Many people on Reddit with some flavor of oppressed identity have to pick and choose their participation very carefully, because there are some subs and discussions which exist there explicity to continue oppressive behavior against that identity. Participating on reddit means, to me, participating in a place that tolerates and actively, shruggingly logistically supports oppression. MetaFilter has no such corners or chambers - it is whole. If you can go one place here, you can go everywhere in reasonable expectation of not being targeted for identity-based attack. There's a great deal of value in that for some of us.
posted by Miko at 5:39 AM on December 4, 2014 [10 favorites]


we should just consolidate most of the flag categories under a new one named simply "Yo, Mods!" and let them play a fun game of attempting to deduce from the context what it was we wanted them to do about it

(this is pretty similar to my existing chubby-fingered drunk-flagging process, and so far the mods have seemed to be able to figure out when i actually meant to select "fantastic" and when I meant to say "please kill this with fire" instead)
posted by Jacqueline at 5:39 AM on December 4, 2014


Can it be called, "Yo, YO! Mods?" I just use "it breaks the guidelines," because being nasty to someone does break the guidelines.
posted by agregoli at 5:51 AM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


So complaining that the pushback that they get is because they're "the wrong kind of people" is fundamentally dishonest. The pushback they get is because they're blithely perpetuating harm on fellow community members.

I think that a lot of what you're saying has value, but from my view, it actually seems like both.

There are a lot of people with minority views who have said that the language used to refer to them or others is hurtful and upsetting and they wish that it would stop - that it is, effectively, emotional harm. Some of them have said that it is, in fact, dehumanizing and alienating, to use your language. Some of it, in fact, is in that very pushback you reference. But yet somehow, the same people arguing that harm to community members should not be engaged in are some of the very same people engaging in that harm. And moderation, as well, tends to fall along those lines (even if only for the pragmatic reason that some harm will get more community response than others).

So how are people to interpret it, except that there are some people who it is okay to blithely and knowingly do harm to, and others who it's not?

I see a lot of "well, these people face this every day in their daily lives while others don't," but it's making a lot of assumptions about fellow Mefites to suggest that you know what people face in their daily lives. A lot of that depends on the people in their family, community, or workplace, which are all factors that we here on Metafilter usually have very little idea about. It doesn't really do much to say "well these things are approved of by broader American society, so you can't be alienated," because people don't generally encounter "broader American society" in a monolithic fashion - they experience the society they happen to exist in, which alters according to region, social circle, ethnicity, etc.
posted by corb at 6:24 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


"fantastic, double, breaks the guidelines"

Or, as it was put last time: Good, Bad, Broken.
posted by bonehead at 6:27 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Can it be called, "Yo, YO! Mods?" I just use "it breaks the guidelines," because being nasty to someone does break the guidelines.

Can we get tight integration between the mobile site and Yo?
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:30 AM on December 4, 2014


NEW CHALLENGE: Design a Mefi post that will meet all of the following criteria:

fantastic post
double post
HTML/display error
offensive/sexism/racism
it breaks the guidelines
posted by duffell at 6:33 AM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


There is no possible comparison between people being hurt because their political affiliations are criticized and being hurt because the killing of individuals in their ethnic group is minimized in favor of empathizing with cops.
posted by winna at 6:33 AM on December 4, 2014 [25 favorites]


There are plenty of opinions that expressing makes one come across as an asshole

Yes, there sure are. For example, I was once informed by a member of this site, to much favoriting, that I was doing her harm by not giving her money. It was quickly followed by a disclaimer that she didn't really mean that, but this is the equivalent of when someone wiggles a finger a centimeter in front of your face and says you shouldn't be upset because "I'm not touching yoouuuu" or because "hey, can't you take a joke? I didn't mean it".

Who's an asshole? That's a social construct, right? We know what happens here when Right Kind of Social Construct collides with the Wrong Kind of Social Construct.

So complaining that the pushback that they get is because they're "the wrong kind of people" is fundamentally dishonest.

I remember a MetaTalk not too long ago where at least one person was called to task based on the people who favorited his/her comments. So yes, there is definitely such a thing as the Wrong Kind of Person at least as far as some members of this site are concerned.

if you can't stand being told that you're wrong and at least occasionally owning up to being wrong, MetaFilter isn't going to be a good fit for you.

The moderation issues that are the topic of this thread mean that if you are a Portlandia type, you aren't going to get told that you are wrong very often.
posted by Tanizaki at 6:54 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


a Portlandia type

Could you explain to this clueless Elsewherian what this means? We like to be able to pretend that we're a part of this site, thank you.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:01 AM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


a Portlandia type

Thank dog someone has the balls to tell the unvarnished truth while casting others as comic stereotypes. There really should be more of this bold truth telling. Or possibly an award for conspicuous bravery.

Maybe a flag?
posted by Wolof at 7:02 AM on December 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


Portlandia's not a documentary, dude.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:02 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Having kept up with this entire thread (i.e., lurking) since its inception, I honestly don't understand why people who are clearly unhappy with the majority userbase of this site or how it's run or apparently feel "silenced all my life" when asked to not be offensive on women's/trans/gay/minority/etc stick around. It's like, it's cool if you don't want to be here. No one is making you be here. If reddit is where you like to hang your hat more, then by all means, hang your hat there. Life is too short to be grumpycakes about a web community you clearly loathe.
posted by Kitteh at 7:06 AM on December 4, 2014 [13 favorites]


Could you explain to this clueless Elsewherian what this means? We like to be able to pretend that we're a part of this site, thank you.

"Portlandia liberal" is a phrase from this thread, alluded to by kalessin above. The contrasting phrase "Boston liberal," which also appears in that thread, never took off, for reasons I can't fathom.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:08 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Portlandia is also a television show that tries to humorously showcase a particular type of liberal that many people associate with the city of Portland. I think the show itself may be affectionate, mocking-from-within, but the term "Portlandia liberal" is generally not.
posted by corb at 7:10 AM on December 4, 2014


Thanks, but I'm really interested in Tanizaki's explanation, after all s/he may be using the term differently from its general use... what do we know?
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:12 AM on December 4, 2014


Life is too short to be grumpycakes about a web community you clearly loathe.

You're new to the internet, aren't you?
posted by cjorgensen at 7:14 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Nope, not at all. Just someone who tries to spend her time where my enjoyment and engagement and learning curve is more important than being a jerk all the time.
posted by Kitteh at 7:17 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


What seems to happen is then instead of responding to the (stronger, factual or evidentiary) challenges to his opinion, he unloads full bore on people that are just kind of being jabbering assholes.

If I can be meta-meta for a moment, there's a similar process that recurs in these MeTa discussions.

MetaTalk serves at least a couple different roles that are at odds with each other. This space acts at times as a pressure release value for the airing of grievances. At other times, it's a place for substantive discussion of site policy. The low-moderation approach can support the former while hampering the latter, but I've seen both functions work themselves out and serve their purposes.

I don't think MetaTalk would work better any other way, but it's something to keep in mind, especially when any person's participation in one thread mixes both roles.
posted by audi alteram partem at 7:23 AM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Kitteh, where do you FIND such a place?
posted by kalessin at 7:29 AM on December 4, 2014


There's a site for us
Somewhere a site for us
Snark and favorites and plates of beans
Wait for us
Somewhere
posted by murphy slaw at 7:41 AM on December 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


Portlandia is also a television show that tries to humorously showcase a particular type of liberal that many people associate with the city of Portland.

If there's one thing I associate with MetaFilter, it's the wife of a down-on-his-luck celery salesman offering to have sex with a bacon salesman. Or a hand job. Which is not a consolation prize.

By which I mean I have a feeling that the people who glom onto "Portlandia liberal" as a pejorative may actually not be hugely familiar with Portlandia the TV show. Which is another Gamergate correspondence, I guess...
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:48 AM on December 4, 2014 [18 favorites]


Can it be called, "Yo, YO! Mods?"

Yoyo Mods is my favorite (get it?) virtuoso comment-deleter.

I'm not the one who has to cope with it, but man I think a flag system that doesn't put the trivial bar-to-clear of picking from a list of reasons sounds like a nightmare. I perceive it as providing a bit of a "hey slow down" captcha type value, even if someone who wants to be a bad (or more likely just kind of thoughtless) actor just picks the first choice.

I'd personally suggest, from a usability (for both users & mods) standpoint that you should do some volume tracking if you give it a try. I wouldn't be surprised to see volume rise by over 40% after a few weeks of click&go.
posted by phearlez at 8:12 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I obviously need to watch this show.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:13 AM on December 4, 2014


There is no possible comparison between people being hurt because their political affiliations are criticized and being hurt because the killing of individuals in their ethnic group is minimized in favor of empathizing with cops.

Well, I agree, but not because the latter trivializes the former due to the latter's existence, but because they are instead two different kinds of "hurt".

I think the primary type of infraction towards corb, Ironmouth, and others that I find most troubling/least conducive to productive discussion is the harsh language and almost constant snark towards unpopular opinions. In the original thread, Ironmouth gets called an "idiot", and it is implied that corb supports a "a racist murder by a racist murderer", which is just about the least charitable re-framing of her view as possible. And yes, things like these technically fall within posting guidelines, but do these kinds of words help the person being talked to? Help the community? Help anyone at all? Sometimes, I get the impression that there's a side-effect to mods deleting harmful comments on the blue, and that's when regular posters try to toe the line, and see what the most underhanded things they can get away with. And even when I agree with someone on a topic, when I see them do this, I'm disappointed, as this behavior is not something I want associated with my opinions. (And I'm not talking about any one side here; I see this occur from people holding majority or minority beliefs here.)

I think the best way I can phrase it is that people don't listen in good faith. It seems common enough that either: 1) an opposing viewpoint is taken as the most offensive, generalized, poorly-constructed form as possible, and that is what is argued against, or 2) when a post gets several disagreements, the poster decides to respond to the most offensive, generalized, poorly-constructed reply that was made. And these things don't even need to happen that often for a thread to spiral into a harmful, non-productive place, and I think everyone can prevent this by assuming better intentions, and choosing one's words to be as constructive as possible, even when disagreeing.

For instance, Ironmouth, I think the content of your posts are worthwhile. I am not a legal expert, but I find the legal side of the case to be an interesting topic, because it puts aside morality, and focuses entirely on America's current laws. And I'm of the opinion that it's possible you are entirely right. That even if Wilson was indicted, he wouldn't have been convicted. And that might hold true even if all the evidence was collected in a manner that everyone was happy, or even if there was a clear video recording of the entire event (as in Garner's case). To me, this is useful, because this discussion can change to, if what Wilson did was legal, should it have been? And we can all talk about the balance between police having protection to do their job vs. civilians having protection against the police, and bring in the tension of the racial power structure in areas such as Ferguson, and how that applies, and so on. I don't think your comments had to have been a derail. However, I believe you are smart, and I believe that you believe you are smart, but how you present your arguments seems to imply arrogance to many members here. The idea that you have The Right Answer, and that disagreement to it is Wrong. By saying, "I don't see how X...", it does not appear you want an explanation for that position, but are rather dismissing any interpretation that leads to X belief. And even if you are correct, this shuts down conversation, as people become defensive on all sides. If someone speaking to me doesn't appear willing to listen, than I am less likely to listen, too. I suggest you attempt to adjust how you present your arguments. In this case, possibly being upfront that the content of your post is primarily focusing on the legal aspects, and also acknowledging that there are other legal experts that would disagree with some/all of your opinions (even ignoring the grand jury outcome, things like how the grand jury trial was conducted, how evidence was collected, how no special prosecutor was chosen, etc.)

corb, I think the content of your posts are worthwhile. I have sympathy for Wilson in the sense that, nobody gets to choose the circumstances of their birth or upbringing, and things like that have a lot to do with how a person perceives the world, and chooses to live in it. And because of that, I believe any one person's actions are not just their own. So I can choose to view Wilson from a larger perspective, and imagine him as another piece of this horrendous Machine that has been created in America. He's one of the gears that gets replaced every few years instead of the meat that's getting ground up and churned out, but he's a product of the system just the same. And in that regard, I think viewing his circumstances, and his psyche, could be immensely valuable. Alongside the discussion of how/if to punish Wilson, there can be the discussion of what changes can be made to produce less Wilsons in the future? If his motivations were racist, how do we raise less racists? If his motivations were an assertion of his power dominance, how do we adjust society to make that less appealing? I'd really love to see conversations like this on MetaFilter. But I think there's a resistance to this here, possibly because of how you present these types of discussions, because these can admittedly be difficult discussions to have. The pattern seems to be that you present a hypothetical, or very "meta" type of question, generally early on in what can be very emotional topics. Imagine on September 11th, 2001, someone came into MetaFilter's thread on the topic and said, "You know, America has had a despicable track record on foreign policy in the Middle East for decades, with the amount of civilians they've displaced and killed, the frustration and hatred they have towards America because of our military is unimaginable. Perhaps Osama bin Laden planned this attack to shock Americans into wondering what would cause them to do this, look into our own country's historical policies, realize that this has been a problem for them, and restructure our policies to prevent further civilian deaths. What do you think?" (Ignoring that this person couldn't know all this the day of), these are all very important ideas, and ones that should absolutely be discussed, but it's an incredibly delicate topic, and absolutely not one that will lead to productive thoughts when people are still grieving and emotional over recent events. Try to focus on the context and circumstances before presenting thoughts such as these, and hold them for another time, when you are more likely to get the type of conversation you desire.

To MetaTalk in general: it's my opinions that a lot of the issues I presented above occur most often here, which is incredibly problematic, as this place is intended as a way to attempt to solve such issues. And while this area is the least moderated, I believe it should be the best behaved, and I sincerely believe that the people here have high enough standards to make that possible. So if your post here would fit better on the blue, but would likely be deleted there, please reconsider. If your post is one line, and passive-aggressive, vague and implying something mean, or snarky, you'll probably get favorites, but it doesn't help anyone. Please reconsider. If the conversation becomes 1-3 people on side A vs. 1-3 people on side B, posting at a high rate, and those same 1-3 people are favoriting almost every post on the side they agree with, from an outside observer, this appears to be a debate competition, with neither side listening, but rather spouting off as much as possible to get points, and implications that if either side budges, or reconsiders, it's equivalent to admitting defeat. Please reconsider.

I'm one of those people that have been reading MetaFilter for a long time, 8 years (maybe more), and consider it one of the sites that have been highly influential to my upbringing. I'm also one of those people that finds the methods of conversation here to be deeply troubling at times, and is one of the reasons I've never previously held an account here (but that's mostly due to intense social anxiety). If the problems appear to be harsh, it's because so many people are so close to this site and one another, that the problems feel personal and pinpoint, and that leads to difficulty in discussion. But I keep coming back, I keep reading these posts and comments, and I keep reasoning and arguing internally in an attempt to understand what the issues really are, because I think MetaFilter on the whole is amazing. This site is on a higher level than many other community groups I observe, and as such, encounters problems that are unique to this community, and should be discussed in an effort to always improve upon oneself. I critique because I love.
posted by Skephicles at 8:23 AM on December 4, 2014 [42 favorites]


Wonderful post Skephicles. You expressed (much more eloquently than I could have) many of the thoughts running through my head the past several days. Thank you for such a thoughtful contribution.
posted by phoenix_rising at 8:40 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


the harsh language and almost constant snark towards unpopular opinions

Bingo. A few weeks ago, I posted something that disagreed with the apparent consensus on MetaFilter that so-and-so was a bad person. Several hours later, another poster quoted me and wrote nothing but "what the actual fuck." (That poster's only other comment in the rather long thread was three days later.)

I posted a rather snarky response explaining what the actual fuck. That was deleted. I posted a calm response. That, too, was deleted. Nothing happened to the original derail other than getting a handful of favorites.

Drive-by threadshitting and other comments that break the guidelines are de facto permitted as long as they express the correct opinion.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 9:03 AM on December 4, 2014 [12 favorites]


Thanks, but I'm really interested in Tanizaki's explanation, after all s/he may be using the term differently from its general use... what do we know?

My preferred term is SWPL, which may be the same demographic that David Brooks called "bobos". (David Brook tried to make "bobo" happen but it didn't happen). I used Portlandia because of the reference to Portlandia Liberal in this thread. Also, a lot more people know Portlandia than the word SWPL, although a lot of people remember the eponymous website that hasn't been updated for several years.

There's also a good deal of Tumblr slacktivism as well, which I don't think necessarily falls within SWPL.
posted by Tanizaki at 9:15 AM on December 4, 2014


My preferred term is SWPL, which may be the same demographic that David Brooks called "bobos". (David Brook tried to make "bobo" happen but it didn't happen). I used Portlandia because of the reference to Portlandia Liberal in this thread. Also, a lot more people know Portlandia than the word SWPL, although a lot of people remember the eponymous website that hasn't been updated for several years.


Okay, so your preferred terms for the majority readership on MetaFilter are all reductivist caricatures. Good to know.
posted by murphy slaw at 9:19 AM on December 4, 2014 [26 favorites]

running order squabble fest: Portlandia is also a television show that tries to humorously showcase a particular type of liberal that many people associate with the city of Portland.

If there's one thing I associate with MetaFilter, it's the wife of a down-on-his-luck celery salesman offering to have sex with a bacon salesman. Or a hand job. Which is not a consolation prize.

By which I mean I have a feeling that the people who glom onto "Portlandia liberal" as a pejorative may actually not be hugely familiar with Portlandia the TV show. Which is another Gamergate correspondence, I guess...
Funny, relevant, and yet: How many of us actually listen to Hannity's or Limbaugh's shows? And yet, if someone complained of "Limbaugh conservatives", we'd all know what was meant.

I think "Portlandia liberals" is a fairly understandable, not highly offensive snark about "extreme" or "very vocal, strident" liberals (to be fair, it's also a bit vague). I really don't think it's necessary to log a certain number of hours watching it to use the metaphor.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:21 AM on December 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


Yeah there's nothing like mocking those attempting to make a positive change for equality in the world to show how reasoned and rational your position is.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:21 AM on December 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


I didn't say it was nice. And both sides generally believe they are working for positive changes.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:30 AM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Portlandia is a show that pokes gentle fun at the silly people who don't like it when unarmed teenagers get shot to death.
posted by Greg Nog at 9:31 AM on December 4, 2014 [24 favorites]


I was responding to Tanizaki, not you IAmBroom, sorry.

And sure, maybe 'Limbaugh conservatives' is lazy... but I said positive changes for equality. That is not something the right wing can even pretend to be doing.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:32 AM on December 4, 2014


Sure, but far right and far left are just the extreme positions. Lots of moderate lefts on this site, I think.
posted by misha at 9:39 AM on December 4, 2014


Funny, relevant, and yet: How many of us actually listen to Hannity's or Limbaugh's shows? And yet, if someone complained of "Limbaugh conservatives", we'd all know what was meant. I think "Portlandia liberals" is a fairly understandable, not highly offensive snark about "extreme" or "very vocal, strident" liberals (to be fair, it's also a bit vague).

And yet, 'Portlandia liberal' was the explanation here, not the comment to which people were responding -- what Tanizaki said was
"What we value is the orthodoxy of Portlandia."
"If the site were honest about being a safe space for Tumblr, Portlandia, and other such types,"
"if you are a Portlandia type"
'Portlandia liberal' is a lot clearer than 'Portlandia type' -- not having read the earlier meta, my main associations with Portlandia aren't liberalism, exactly, and, given that, 'Portlandia liberal' reads differently than 'Portlandia type.' I may be an outlier in this, given that other people understood it clearly enough without the modifier; thank you all for the explanations.
posted by cjelli at 9:40 AM on December 4, 2014


I can't tell if anyone really cares or not that Tanizaki brands the perceived majority MeFi viewpoint as "Portlandia liberal?"

I feel a little bit like this is the demographic I fall into, and I'm not put off in the least by the label--it's a funny show, I understand what Tanizaki's getting at by using it, and it bothers me not in the least that he uses it as a general characterization of the ideological mood here.

But I'm curious, if people actually are bothered by it--why? There's almost never any pushback when MeFites use reductionist, silly labels for perceived conservative viewpoints.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:48 AM on December 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


Lots of moderate lefts on this site, I think.

Also a substantial number of center-rightists who seem to genuinely think they're moderate leftists.
posted by RogerB at 9:50 AM on December 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


I only just realized it was referencing Portland OR and not Portland ME.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:51 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


My political leanings are more in the style of Portland ME, specifically the part of Portland that is a cryptozoology museum.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:54 AM on December 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


I only just realised that Portland OR and Portland ME are different places, rather than a single city existing simultaneously on both coasts.
posted by frimble at 9:58 AM on December 4, 2014 [9 favorites]


So, Portlandia Liberal is congruent to Limbaugh Conservative then? That is, people whose politics are defined in terms of TV? Think of what you're arguing for, as far as I can estimate you'd be talking about a majority of people in both wings who can also be defined as never once having left a comment on a website.
posted by rhizome at 10:00 AM on December 4, 2014


Also a substantial number of center-rightists who seem to genuinely think they're moderate leftists.

But I vote a straight Democratic ticket every other year and really laugh hard when Jon Stewart eviscerates Faux News yet again! What more could you want???
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:03 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also a substantial number of center-rightists who seem to genuinely think they're moderate leftists.

And a number of people who think the center is further left than it is.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:04 AM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


I said positive changes for equality. That is not something the right wing can even pretend to be doing.

The vast majority of people believe they are working for the good, and I genuinely believe that both the left and the right believe that they are working for equality. If I had to attempt to loosely define it, I would say that the left seems to argue for "equality of effect" where the right seems to argue for "equality of state opportunity/equality under the law." But that doesn't mean that either one isn't, with sincerity, trying to argue for equality to make the world a better place.
posted by corb at 10:11 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Believing you're working for good, fine, but the reality is that the right wing/conservative movement is manifestly not interested in equality of either effect or opportunity. You can argue that point as much as you like--anyone can--but in the real world it is a laughable proposition at best.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 10:17 AM on December 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


I can't tell if anyone really cares or not that Tanizaki brands the perceived majority MeFi viewpoint as "Portlandia liberal?"

Well, probably depends on how you define "cares". Tanizaki is pretty clearly upset by the continuing presence of most of the other people on the community site he has decided to spend his free time on. This therefore seems like a curious leisure choice to me, but is certainly not a unique one.

There are a fair few people here who are clearly getting something out of feeling disgust for the people they have chosen to make their Internet home with, and I guess themselves for having done so. YKIOK.

The term is a pretty good way to indicate that, certainly, and as such it performs a useful service. It's a very useful term - much as it's useful when people use "social justice warrior" as a pejorative term - because it tells you something it might be good to know about the person using it, even if it does not communicate very much of worth about the person being so described.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:23 AM on December 4, 2014 [9 favorites]


I, for one, don't give a crap about the words some grumpy myopic guy uses to make strawmen. It's ok to let them be wrong and then they'll just shut up.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 10:25 AM on December 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


Portlandia is basically what you would get if a witch cast a spell on MetaFilter and turned it into a TV show, I can't believe we're getting hung up on this
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:33 AM on December 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


I only just realized it was referencing Portland OR and not Portland ME.

Fucking LIBERALS with their POLARFLEECE PULLOVERS and ALLEN'S COFFEE BRANDY
posted by Greg Nog at 10:37 AM on December 4, 2014 [15 favorites]


I, for one, don't give a crap about the words some grumpy myopic guy uses to make strawmen. It's ok to let them be wrong and then they'll just shut up.


That's a fair point, and in this case probably true - the kind of fury Tanizaki represents is pretty much impotent, because it's such an outlier. I guess it was more concerning the last time it turned up, because the treatment of trans people on MetaFilter was (and is) more fluid and more hot-button, and thus this kind of representation a more functional lever. Here it's more an expression of emotion than an attempt to reframe policy discussions.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:45 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


"Grumpy myopic guy" is clearly a personal attack.
posted by 0 at 10:47 AM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


I mean, I may disagree with corb about most things, but to say that "the right wing/conservative movement is manifestly not interested in equality of either effect or opportunity" is to look at the effects of their policies and assume those effects are the same as their goals, which is not actually how humans operate.

I know and love many conservatives (still). Most of them are passionately interested in justice. They have a radically different (and to me sometimes horrifying) idea of what justice looks like and how to achieve it, but to say that they don't want some form of justice is to demonize them. Their vision of justice just happens to be sort of opposite of my own.

(Plus, you know, if I was to look at the actual EFFECTS of the Democratic Party, I might think that their GOALS were to make it as easy as possible for Republicans to keep snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, given how wildly ineffective the Dems are. It cuts both ways. Intentions and results are rarely synonymous, but you can't retrospectively insist that they are one and the same.)
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:48 AM on December 4, 2014 [14 favorites]


> "Grumpy myopic guy" is clearly a personal attack.

And a pretty apt description. Either/or!
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 10:48 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean, come on. To pretend to separate words from the people who issue them is a meaningless exercise past a certain point. Speaking as a grumpy myopic guy myself.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 10:50 AM on December 4, 2014


Portlandia is basically what you would get if a witch cast a spell on MetaFilter and turned it into a TV show, I can't believe we're getting hung up on this

It's also interesting that it was a woman who made the comparison, initially, and there's been so much vociferous pushback to her description, ever since. I wonder how much of that denial stems from insecurity. If someone truly felt they were right, the comparison shouldn't bother them so much.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:56 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think the problem is a bit subtler than use of harsh language towards certain "minority" members (as in minority view or whatever for this site). In fact, I think the tolerance of harsh language grows out of this larger, subtler thing.

When I first discovered meta, a bunch of people wanted to talk to me. It wasn't even a bunch of people wanting to attack me that first time. This is a thing I attract a lot, wherever I go. And then I got told I was misbehaving for trying to reply to those folks who were trying to talk to me in specific.

I did revisit my first interactions here on the grey to double check my memory. I don't plan to go through my entire history here, but having verified my memory of that is not crazy off the mark, I will say that with being told that I was in the wrong and I was the problem and all that, this did not stop lots of people from trying to talk to me. It did reduce the number of people trying to say nice things to me, perhaps because those folks were trying to be sensitive and not make my problems worse. I don't really know. That's a guess.

My first interaction here (on the grey) started with a mod telling me (inaccurately) that "this is a denied pony request." Nope, it was not. I was asking something a bit different from the previously denied pony request. So I kind of was being treated like an idiot right out the gate and that's the kind of thing you see with some members here where it doesn't matter how accurate their statement is, the crowd kind of agrees they are merely wrong and stupid. That seems to be rooted in dislike of them, as best I can tell.

So one of the things I experienced for a time was that I would make one comment and then multiple comments after mine were all in response to my comment, most of them negative. It's not that I can't take criticism. I think I take criticism pretty well. But the entire conversation would suddenly revolve around me and then I would get told I was behaving badly for trying to respond to multiple people calling me out by name, asking me questions in specific, etc.

I said the first time it happened that I don't think a double standard of that type works -- that it does not work to say the multiple comments by other people responding to me in specific are okay but then, no matter what I do in response, I am in the wrong and behaving badly because of multiple people doing that. And I see that commented on by other people here: That on the blue, if you reply to every person who asked you a question, you are viewed as dogmatic, you are viewed as argumentative, the mods view you as taking over the conversation and so on. But if you do not reply to all of them, then people will say you are being selective, you don't have an answer for the ones you didn't respond to and so on. You find yourself in this damned if you, damned if you don't situation that arises from the actions of multiple other people. And it's really crazy-making to be on the receiving end of it.

I read a book some months ago, possibly called "Emergence," that talked about intelligence of systems and how it grows out of less intelligent or simpler underlying things and the principles that make it work. One of the remarks I recall is "more is different." The example used was that if a few ants leave a pheromone trail, it communicates "eh, there is food around here somewhere, kind of in this general direction." But if a lot of ants leave a pheromone trail, at some point it says "FOOD: DUE NORTH!" And I think that is the issue here: It isn't that any particular criticism is something the individual cannot handle or will overreact to, but you die a death of a thousand cuts here and the forum as a whole is okay with that and says that the folks being subjected to that deserve it, it is their fault and so on -- and are wrong in how they respond, no matter what their response is.

Fortunately for me, I get less of that reaction these days, where the next multiple number of comments after mine revolve around me and the conversation just can't manage to move on to other things (even if I am NOT THERE, as happened once when I was not online and other people stepped up to defend me and it did not get resolved until the next day when I came back online). If one person criticizes me, and then there are dozens of other comments after that having nothing to do with me, and I come back and respond to that one criticism, no, I don't feel like I am being treated unfairly, and I also don't get told I am being a problem child, yadda.

And that's why I think dogpiling is an issue: Because more is different. Because it really does matter whether it is one or two people saying "Hey, yeah, we think you are wrong and stupid and here is why" and then you reply to that versus almost everyone in the thread after your remark jumping in to say "We think you are wrong and stupid" and that becomes the primary focus of the discussion, no matter how you respond or even if you are not even there to respond.

I have used myself as an example here not to make this about me but for reasons like: I was there, so I remember it, whereas I don't know every single thing that has happened to any other member and also I am willing to speak for myself but I have found it causes other people big problems if I use them as examples...etc.
posted by Michele in California at 10:57 AM on December 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


And a pretty apt description. Either/or!

Your privilege is showing.
posted by 0 at 10:57 AM on December 4, 2014


Yes, thank you. I do work out a lot.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 10:58 AM on December 4, 2014 [16 favorites]


All but the most extreme personal attacks are permitted in MetaTalk, so whether "grumpy myopic guy" is a personal attack or not is not particularly relevant here. If it were permitted in the Blue, that would be a different topic.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:00 AM on December 4, 2014


Portlandia is basically what you would get if a witch cast a spell on MetaFilter and turned it into a TV show

Okay, now I'm getting the vaguest idea of what may have been meant. Tanizaki's explanation didn't really help a whole lot.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:04 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's also interesting that it was a woman who made the comparison, initially, and there's been so much vociferous pushback to her description, ever since. I wonder how much of that denial stems from insecurity. If someone truly felt they were right, the comparison shouldn't bother them so much.

Also, all homophobes are secretly gay.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:08 AM on December 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


My first interaction here (on the grey) started with a mod telling me (inaccurately) that "this is a denied pony request."

So now you're beating a dead pony request?
posted by cjorgensen at 11:23 AM on December 4, 2014


Well, probably depends on how you define "cares".

I think I'm defining it as "bothered by." I mean, it doesn't bother me, and I think I more or less fit the demographic, so maybe it doesn't bother anyone else, either. It's just that it seems like people are really picking at his use of the word. If it's because people are bothered by it, then I'm curious why no one's bothered by similar silly labels applied to conservatives.

If people aren't bothered by it, no big deal. What I think is most likely is that people are bothered by it just because Tanizaki said it, and Tanizaki is a master at getting under people's skin here and provoking pointless disagreements, because I'm convinced that he finds that kind of thing enjoyable.

So if I were handicapping, I'd say that if someone without Tanizaki's history here had made the comment, there wouldn't be a whole lot of discussion about it. But I'm not 100% sure if that's the case or not, and I'm curious.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:24 AM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


I find the portlandia thing grating because I'm not from that class background or ethnic background. I hate people assuming I'm a white UMC coastal liberal and that my beliefs stem from that background. I know and love a lot of UMC white coastal liberals but I still hate being misidentified as one. I am proud of my background, my ethnicity, my job, and my taste in food, music, and clothes.

Lazy snark about conservatives bugs me, too, of course. Put some effort into it, people.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:24 AM on December 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


I hate it because I'm literally Carrie Brownstein and i'm worried you all might have figured out my secret
posted by Greg Nog at 11:26 AM on December 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


Also, moonorb, it's so superficial and aesthetic as a description. At least Limbaugh is a political show/figure. Portlandia and SWPL? Not so much. The equivalent would be calling conservatives "country music lovers" as though that defined them and their politics over and over and over. And I bet people here would be annoyed. I would.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 11:28 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


So now you're beating a dead pony request?
posted by cjorgensen at 11:23 AM on December 4 [+] [!]


If you go back and read it, I readily agreed with the denial and the reasoning (though I still think it means people earnestly trying to figure out how to better interact with the site are handicapped, I have no good solution given...other stuff). So if you are suggesting that I am trying to get that re-opened, nope.

If you are merely trying to be clever at my expense...whatevs.
posted by Michele in California at 11:28 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


But I'm not 100% sure if that's the case or not, and I'm curious.

FWIW, though an earlier, jokey association shows up in a comment made some years ago, this appears to be the first critical usage associated with site culture and homogeneity of opinion.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:31 AM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean, I may disagree with corb about most things, but to say that "the right wing/conservative movement is manifestly not interested in equality of either effect or opportunity" is to look at the effects of their policies and assume those effects are the same as their goals, which is not actually how humans operate.

Otherwise one would assume that the goal of the left was committ people interested in justice to to the most ineffectual actions. Which... I sometimes wonder.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:33 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I went back and read it too, and have a hard time seeing any problem with it. You asked, it was clearly answered, and the answer did in fact cover the request you were making. When the mods can clarify something like that right away, it usually helps if they do before it gains traction. There was nothing personal in the initial response so I don't think a rough entry can be blamed on mods. I'm sorry that your experience of it was hurtful, but I might gently suggest that is setting a pretty low bar for"being hurt." That thread reads to me as pretty calm and solutions-focused up unto a point where something went haywire - at which point some hurtful stuff probably was happening, but not because of the mod response to your pony req.
posted by Miko at 11:41 AM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


It's also interesting that it was a woman who made the comparison, initially, and there's been so much vociferous pushback to her description, ever since. I wonder how much of that denial stems from insecurity. If someone truly felt they were right, the comparison shouldn't bother them so much.

Slightly more seriously, "interesting" is kind of an empty calorie there. It's factual, but without a sense of why it's interesting that adjective doesn't do much. Because women are expected to be more liberal than men? Because disagreeing with a woman is intrinsically sexist?

I think in this case it's definitely the case that the comparison was made previously (although whether that was the first example I have no idea) by a woman, but I think that's probably the least relevant part of the background. More relevant, I think, is the context in which it was coined - where, among other things, the acceptable treatment of trans issues and people on MetaFilter was being hotly discussed. And, like I say, whereas Tanizaki is just a kind of crusty uncle nostalgic for the trolleybuses, that discussion was (and probably still is) a live one.

(It was also in the context of nadawi being pushed until she disabled her account, and beyond the mods asking specifically for the pushing to cease, and a number of other MeFites following her out. Cutesy "what are we like, eh?" stuff was not a great fit, in that thread.)

So, yeah. I think it's a silly term, which is not to say that it particularly upsets me, but one that provides useful information - much like "social justice warrior". In part that perceived silliness is because Portlandia is an exaggerated comic fantasy - if one thinks it is accurately depicting an actual political milieu then one has misunderstood the distinction between fantasy and reality - and in part it's because it presumes, as IFSQ,S9 says, that everyone fits into a specifically white, wealthy and Cascadian kind of liberalism,.

(More Gamergate comparisons, in fact, where "the Bay Area" has become synonymous, albeit inaccurately, as the breeding grounds of the Social Justice Warriors.)

So, yeah. I don't know what exactly is interesting about the term having been deployed by a woman, but it's probably worth keeping in mind that it was coined in the context of an ongoing argument that saw a number of MeFites close their accounts, temporarily or otherwise.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:41 AM on December 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


People can have the best of intentions and still support policies that have terrible results. "Best" and "terrible" to be judged differently by different people of course.

It might make for smoother conversation to concede good intent on the part of your opposition while also critiquing actions. Good intent doesn't excuse bad consequences, but acknowledging it as a pragmatic move in conversation can help keep people engaged and on topic.

Conversely, it might make for rockier conversation to respond to implicit accusations of bad intent with implicit accusations of bad intent. This tends to derail the argument into cross accusations of who is the more terrible person/group.
posted by audi alteram partem at 11:54 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think it's reasonable to disagree about whether an intent is "good." Interpretations of a word like "equality," for instance - which seems lovely, who's against equality? - can be a nice window-dressing for the stance of refusing to acknowledge relative privilege as a thing that exists and has real-world outcomes, and arguing to assume in law and private life that it doesn't exist, and being comfortable with the ways that assumption could damage people - and that to me is bad intent.
posted by Miko at 12:04 PM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Otherwise one would assume that the goal of the left was committ people interested in justice to to the most ineffectual actions. Which... I sometimes wonder.

As someone far to the left of most leftists on this site, I'd posit there is cathartic value in getting together to grouse about injustice. I don't think people's participation on Metafilter does much to affect social change, mainly because the site culture encourages homogeneity and discourages critical analysis outside narrow boundaries, but it really does feel good to have a place where people get to hoot and yell at the evil primates across the pond. Throwing rocks gets replaced with platitudes and snappy rejoinders. A modern form of tribalism, I suppose.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 12:05 PM on December 4, 2014 [8 favorites]


While I've enjoyed sharing my view of the better world that I feel is possible here and talking with other like-minded and not-like-minded people about such things, I really felt like I had to move to a space where I could start from a "GIVEN: this is a bad thing, let's do something about it" position in order to actually effect what I consider to be social change. And to do that I had to stop talking about whether a thing was good or bad ad nauseum and forever.

Nothing wrong, to me, with the way MeFi is, but I think people are expecting it to maybe be something else. I learn a lot here, and I go somewhere else when I want to DO something with that knowledge. Understanding the many ways that people think about issues is instructive. Turning that knowledge into action that concretely affects people who are not just the people here is something I decided I wanted to spend more time doing.

So if you're just talking about things like how you feel people should talk to one another, you can actually talk about that and do something about that (and possibly see results) on MeFi. If you're talking about, say, really awful things that are happening with the NFL or with police abuses of power, at some point you have to go into the big blue room and apply the things you've learned.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 12:10 PM on December 4, 2014 [26 favorites]


So if you are suggesting that I am trying to get that re-opened, nope.

No, I am suggesting that you took an interaction with the site and misrepresented how it was handled so you could act like an aggrieved party and make this thread about you.
My first interaction here (on the grey) started with a mod telling me (inaccurately) that "this is a denied pony request." Nope, it was not. I was asking something a bit different from the previously denied pony request. So I kind of was being treated like an idiot right out the gate and that's the kind of thing you see with some members here where it doesn't matter how accurate their statement is, the crowd kind of agrees they are merely wrong and stupid. That seems to be rooted in dislike of them, as best I can tell.
Maybe it's because I don't have any skin in the fight, but that's not my reading of the answer you got at all, so even bringing it up is disingenuous and beating a dead horse, and honestly, if that's the example you are going to use as proof of mistreatment I think there's a pea under your mattress.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:22 PM on December 4, 2014


I think it's reasonable to disagree about whether an intent is "good."

I don't disagree, but you're talking more there about the substance of a discussion. I'm talking about the pragmatic dimension of human communication, so saying something along the lines of "I know you think X is good" is akin to saying hello to a person when they walk in a room or nodding along as they are talking. Theoretically, I can make clear to another my respect for their role as a fellow discussant while also strongly challenging the ideas they put forward. Practically, that's a lot harder to do.

I don't think people's participation on Metafilter does much to affect social change

I take a long view with regard to the role of online content and social change. Discussions such as we have here don't, for my standards, really qualify as advocacy (which itself is something I distinguish from activism and I believe both of these contribute to change), but our talk here isn't without effect. The record of our dialogue persists online. If and when someone is interested in a topic, they might stumble across a conversation and see an issue in a new light. The effect is additive and slow, but minds do change.
posted by audi alteram partem at 12:27 PM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


"I think that a lot of what you're saying has value, but from my view, it actually seems like both.

There are a lot of people with minority views who have said that the language used to refer to them or others is hurtful and upsetting and they wish that it would stop - that it is, effectively, emotional harm. Some of them have said that it is, in fact, dehumanizing and alienating, to use your language. Some of it, in fact, is in that very pushback you reference. But yet somehow, the same people arguing that harm to community members should not be engaged in are some of the very same people engaging in that harm. And moderation, as well, tends to fall along those lines (even if only for the pragmatic reason that some harm will get more community response than others).
"

I addressed that in my comment.

Further, it's worth taking a moment to note that your view of your interactions is something that is not shared by the vast majority of the membership or moderation team. Now, granted, if we're taking a naive view, that could be explained by bias on the community's part, and certainly abstracting it to the level that you've done in this comment makes that explanation more likely. But (and I can dig up links if necessary, but I assume many of the participants here are familiar with these comments) you've also complained about phrases like "eat the rich" as a personal attack, you've posited that other people should be murdered by the state to satisfy your vengeance while explicitly exempting your family from similar consideration, you've had multiple instances where you assert without any evidence that transgender women are a risk for cis women in bathrooms, you've asserted that slavery wasn't as bad as it's popularly portrayed and that slave owners deserved compensation for the emancipation of their slaves, argued that the Civil War was essentially the War of Northern Aggression, sought to exculpate George Zimmerman for his actions in Trayvon Martin's death… In the abstract, it can seem like it's an unfair focus on the feelings of traditionally-disadvantaged groups while not accounting for your feelings about how you're being rebuked, but when the instances are actually examined, you have been immune to thoughtful rebuttals of your opinions and in many cases, repeating those opinions blithely doesn't stop until you are stopped by mods or a pile-on. It's frustrating, and exhausts the goodwill of those who might otherwise engage with you in a more gentle manner, leaving the folks who are not interested in brooking a serious discussion about e.g. why they should be excluded from public restrooms and placed at a documented higher risk of violence because of your evidence-free opinions.

It brings to mind the adage that if everyone you talk to is an asshole to you, it's probably you that's being the asshole.

Or, to be briefer, while there are certainly some instances of you being unfairly lashed, many of the complaints that you bring are specifically related to your opinions and the way that you present them, and examining them in the specific diminishes the overall credibility of your complaint. There may not be a solution that makes you happy.

"So how are people to interpret it, except that there are some people who it is okay to blithely and knowingly do harm to, and others who it's not? "

Aside from the meta-ethical issue (we all live our lives in a modern western state that is predicated on some harm to people), two things help here: First, some self awareness. Second, a recognition that any moderation scheme (or government) involves knowingly doing harm to some people. Presenting it as simply a naive "some people" ignores the underlying arguments about why that harm is inflicted, and the relative scope of those harms. Which is something that I addressed in my previous comment.

"I see a lot of "well, these people face this every day in their daily lives while others don't," but it's making a lot of assumptions about fellow Mefites to suggest that you know what people face in their daily lives. A lot of that depends on the people in their family, community, or workplace, which are all factors that we here on Metafilter usually have very little idea about. It doesn't really do much to say "well these things are approved of by broader American society, so you can't be alienated," because people don't generally encounter "broader American society" in a monolithic fashion - they experience the society they happen to exist in, which alters according to region, social circle, ethnicity, etc."

Again, this is a naive view. First off, I'm not saying that you're not alienated, I'm saying that you're less likely to be and more likely to find your voice reflected in other media. If you're looking for a more libertarian web community, Reddit is inarguably both more libertarian and much larger. There is not a transgender community that is as large nor as mainstream as Reddit. Not only are there myriad other places, there are many other libertarians here on MeFi. MeFi is largely seeded by FPPs that reflect mainstream media — there is very little risk in not getting to read a self-professed libertarian opinion. However, in the past, we have had explicit problems with women not feeling comfortable participating here.

"Yes, there sure are. For example, I was once informed by a member of this site, to much favoriting, that I was doing her harm by not giving her money. It was quickly followed by a disclaimer that she didn't really mean that, but this is the equivalent of when someone wiggles a finger a centimeter in front of your face and says you shouldn't be upset because "I'm not touching yoouuuu" or because "hey, can't you take a joke? I didn't mean it".

I'm not sure what you mean. The only comment I remember that is similar to that is Nora Reed's comment that she should be paid if she is expected to educate, which is both in response to someone else and clearly tongue in cheek. Without a specific, given my experience with your paraphrases, I'd be reluctant to accept this account of the interaction. Can you link to it?

"Who's an asshole? That's a social construct, right? We know what happens here when Right Kind of Social Construct collides with the Wrong Kind of Social Construct."

I think you would benefit from being less oblique. Do you have specific examples? Your "right kind" and "wrong kind" seem too vague for comment.

"I remember a MetaTalk not too long ago where at least one person was called to task based on the people who favorited his/her comments. So yes, there is definitely such a thing as the Wrong Kind of Person at least as far as some members of this site are concerned."

I don't remember this. Can you link?

"The moderation issues that are the topic of this thread mean that if you are a Portlandia type, you aren't going to get told that you are wrong very often."

Hmm. I get told that I'm wrong pretty often, and have had a decent share of comments deleted, so I must not be a Portlandia type. QED.

Bingo. A few weeks ago, I posted something that disagreed with the apparent consensus on MetaFilter that so-and-so was a bad person. Several hours later, another poster quoted me and wrote nothing but "what the actual fuck." (That poster's only other comment in the rather long thread was three days later.)"

According to Google, this is the only thread in which both your username and the phrase "what the actual fuck" appears.

"Grumpy myopic guy" is clearly a personal attack."

Thank you for ably demonstrating why an abstract focus on "attacks" is misplaced relative to harm.
posted by klangklangston at 12:40 PM on December 4, 2014 [13 favorites]


you have been immune to thoughtful rebuttals of your opinions and in many cases, repeating those opinions blithely doesn't stop until you are stopped

While I disagree with your characterization of some of my opinions, I think this bears examining, because it speaks to a sort of expectation that I feel I've noticed here.

It seems as though you and some others feel that if some opinions on certain topics are thoughtfully "rebutted", then the other person should change their opinions to match the rebuttal or shut up, rather than hold onto their opinion, and that to fail to do so is some sort of wilful malfeasance. But that is not generally how arguments, or even basic discussions, work. The fact that one person is claiming things are different - or even citing sources - does not unilaterally win the argument. The other person may believe your opinions or cites are wrong or biased. They may think you are ignoring the issue that for them, is most cogent. They may have half a hundred reasons not to change their opinion.

And this is something that doesn't seem to swing the other way. I myself might feel that I've had some thoughtful rebuttals of your positions. And yet, your opinions remain unchanged! I don't begrudge you that - I don't think anyone's opinions necessarily need to change just because I feel I've made a good argument.

Am I misreading you? Is this not what you're meaning to say? Or is there something else that might explicate it better? I would appreciate your thoughts - I really appreciate how you're trying to talk about this seriously, but I think this point is important to clarify.
posted by corb at 12:54 PM on December 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


So I kind of was being treated like an idiot right out the gate

I think there may be a perception issue at work here. You feel what you feel. You'd been a user for six weeks and were asking for something that was very similar to a thing we'd previously said we weren't planning on doing. People can read my response at the link cjorgensen provided and see what their interpretation is.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 12:55 PM on December 4, 2014 [13 favorites]


It seems as though you and some others feel that if some opinions on certain topics are thoughtfully "rebutted", then the other person should change their opinions to match the rebuttal or shut up, rather than hold onto their opinion, and that to fail to do so is some sort of wilful malfeasance

When your opinions are not based on facts which are congruent with reality, yes, it is reasonable to expect that when rebutted those opinions will change or someone will shut up about them. Your controversial opinions are rarely based in reality; over and over again you advance opinions that are based on scenarios you have made up in your head that don't actually happen.

Interpreting facts differently is one thing, and is a point on which reasonable people can disagree. Making up out-there hypotheticals is something totally other.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:02 PM on December 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


It seems as though you and some others feel that if some opinions on certain topics are thoughtfully "rebutted", then the other person should change their opinions to match the rebuttal or shut up, rather than hold onto their opinion, and that to fail to do so is some sort of wilful malfeasance. But that is not generally how arguments, or even basic discussions, work. The fact that one person is claiming things are different - or even citing sources - does not unilaterally win the argument. The other person may believe your opinions or cites are wrong or biased. They may think you are ignoring the issue that for them, is most cogent. They may have half a hundred reasons not to change their opinion.

I think this is a good point, corb. I've noticed some of the frustration people feel with you appears to me to spring from a position that assumes that if someone has dismantled one of your arguments, then continuing to argue the same thing again means you're arguing in bad faith. There's a popular idea here of "Oh we've heard that old argument again and again and again and it's been thoroughly been debunked, so don't even try it again." And in some circumstances, I think that makes a lot of sense, both in terms of moderation, and in terms of people experiencing frustration and annoyance at what appear to them to be tired, debunked arguments. To use a pretty simple example, if someone shows up in a sexism thread and says "Hey, wait a minute, all guys don't act like this, you know," it's not out of line to expect that comment to be deleted right off the bat. If it survives deletion, it will appropriately get substantial pushback and, probably, ridicule.

But at some point it isn't always easy to figure out what's clearly in the territory of "old, debunked argument" that merits deletion/ridicule and what's more in the territory of "this is what I sincerely believe and despite how many times we may have argued about it, it's still what I believe." Refusing to change your belief, despite a number of well-thought out arguments to the contrary (and that puts aside the question of whether the counter-arguments are well thought out), doesn't strike me as arguing in bad faith. But, yet, once your history here is long enough, you should probably start to develop a sense of which positions fall into the "we've been arguing about this for years" category, and realize that if you show up in a thread and launch that same argument again, it's not going to go well.

And all of this returns to the notion that MetaFilter isn't evenly balanced among ideological positions, and those people who hold minority viewpoints are going to have a much rougher go of it here. Which, like, doesn't upset me too much because I'm more likely going to find myself in agreement with the majority viewpoint here, and I've learned to mostly stay out of those threads where I can tell I'd be in a decidedly minority position.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:07 PM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


But that is not generally how arguments, or even basic discussions, work.

I'm a little flabbergasted at the baldness of this (though at least enlightened about your thought process). Argumentation in good faith inherently implies a willingness to be changed and/or to modify one's opinions based on the presentation of evidence and persuasive arguments. Argumentation in good faith does involve the expectation of dialogue that takes note of points presented and accepts, rebuts, or modifies them.

The kinds of arguments that don't do this are bad faith, and/or ideological.

So in identifying this as an expectation you find very strange or difficult, I think you've drilled down to one of the main difficulties you have with engaging on the site: you aren't arguing in good faith. You've decided the outcome, so you don't feel a need to further examine the points offered to you as evidence or persuasion. You just move on.

I myself might feel that I've had some thoughtful rebuttals of your positions. And yet, your opinions remain unchanged!

I think that's largely because people saw your rebuttal attempt and found it wanting, inadequate, or missing reasoning or information, and said so. You failed to present appropriate evidence, or failed to persuade.

I'd say that that style is distinctly different from the way most people who have depth arguments here are engaging on MetaFilter. There is that basic expectation for most people who carry on extended dialogues here of dealing with the arguments presented and making a thoughtful, considered response. f you think an argument is wrong or biased? You say how you think that and why and show where. If you think an important issue is being overlooked, you raise it and ask for that point to be discussed. These are behaviors you're saying here you don't do and find non-worthwhile. But those behaviors aren't some bizarre cultural anomaly specific to MeFi. That's what well-intentioned, sincere discourse looks like. If you blow that off, of course I'm going to think you're arguing in terribly bad faith - because you are.
posted by Miko at 1:09 PM on December 4, 2014 [24 favorites]


But I'm curious, if people actually are bothered by it--why? There's almost never any pushback when MeFites use reductionist, silly labels for perceived conservative viewpoints.

I am not bothered by it. It makes me think the poster is stupid or being stupid in that moment, but I feel the same way about similar phrases thrown around against conservatives or libertarians. But I generally think that about any comment that purports to say what someone else's motivations are, including the above comment about how conservatives don't care about equality.

Since I continue to be fortunate enough not to be able to see in other people's heads (is there a more nightmarish ability one could have?) I can't know what their real motivations are. So statements about them, particularly in a discussion, are phenomenally pointless. "This person thinks this!" "No I don't!" Well okay - guess we're done with this stalemate, who wants pizza?

Attributions that someone thinks something because they're Caricature Y or only because Celebrity X said it are similarly pointless. I don't feel slandered by it, I feel like I have lost an opportunity to gain something. As Jessamyn says above, I also don't think I'm going to cause great social change here. I expect I can vent my spleen a little, maybe share some things I found, and through discussion learn some things.

I don't even expect to have my mind change or change minds. I'm halfway through my life and I'd like to think I have spent some sizable mental time refining my beliefs. I evolve some of em, but not tremendously. But it doesn't mean I can't learn some things and maybe it'll happen. But overall the best I expect is understanding. So when someone just shrugs something off as fitting into some narrow role or makes a blanket, unprovable assertion it's not really anger-making. It's just dull and not useful to my mind.

So to actually answer the question - I am mostly unlikely to push back on it because what's the point? That person either had nothing of substance to contribute and that's why they threw out that junk, or they don't want to because they've just written something off. Either way, why engage their junk?
posted by phearlez at 1:11 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thank you for ably demonstrating why an abstract focus on "attacks" is misplaced relative to harm.

Let's face it: The Portlandia descriptor causes no more real harm than being called a "grumpy myopic guy", either, and it really strongly suggests a lack of perspective and deep-seated insecurities to argue that it does. We were being identified with caricatures of people who are either participating in society in all the "right" ways, or who are otherwise harmless consumers: Portlandian caricatures are stylish, well-educated, financially comfortable, eat sustainable food, sponsor good social causes, they listen to public radio religiously. The worst sins written for the Portlandian are to become cartoon-ishly narrow-minded and boring when their comfort zones are threatened, and that was pretty much the extent of the exasperated tone on the part of cairdeas. The comparison isn't even really any kind of personal attack when held up to the sunshine of other descriptors. It's not like we're being called the equivalent of Limbaugh Republicans, whose idea of funny is to beat up on disabled people. In fact, I'd wear the harmless Portlandian descriptor with pride, if it had to stick; I suspect it would be easy to assign this community a worse identity.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 1:14 PM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


The Portlandia descriptor causes no more real harm than being called a "grumpy myopic guy"

Easy for you to say! What about all the energy it took me to find out even remotely what it meant?
*tilts head backwards, dramatically lifts back of hand to forehead and closes eyes*
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:19 PM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Jessamyn, here is what you actually said, the very first sentence:

This is something that falls firmly into the "asked and answered" category enough so it's on the "denied pony requests" page on the wiki.

And that was not true at the time. What you said here -- were asking for something that was very similar to a thing we'd previously said we weren't planning on doing. -- is 100% accurate. But at the time you replied, no, there had not previously been a request for a way to see deleted comments. The denied pony was a way to see denied posts. If you follow the link in your first comment there to the denied pony requests section of the wiki, the denied comments link goes to MY meta. It had not been previously asked.

I am sure you were not intentionally being a jerk, but you were then and are still now treating me like a problem child and kind of an idiot. And you are enormously respected and influential here. If you think that in no way negatively influences how the forum as a whole will treat me, wow. I don't even know what to say to that.
posted by Michele in California at 1:22 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


And that was not true at the time.

I think this is a real quibble. Yes, it was true: the denied request had been for notification of deletions. A MeMail is notifcation, and many other strategies are notifications. The method of notification is unimportant - the sense of the denial was that there was no bandwidth for notification, and that it might have deleterious effects on the community. So your request fell under the coverage of the denied pony, rather clearly.

you were then and are still now treating me like a problem child

With all due respect, I am not seeing this. I think you may want to check your perception and ask if the assumptions are valid - this is the kind of thing where it's helpful to ask "could there be another explanation?"
posted by Miko at 1:25 PM on December 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


I can assure you that jessamyn's way of speaking to you is not impacting my perception of you as much as your indignation and sense of persecution over being put in a position where you might have to present a follow-up comment saying "no, it is different in X way."
posted by phearlez at 1:26 PM on December 4, 2014 [13 favorites]


Argumentation in good faith inherently implies a willingness to be changed and/or to modify one's opinions based

I think virtually everyone would agree that argumentation in good faith inherently implies a willingness to change based on evidence and persuasive arguments but the issue then becomes whether any given argument is persuasive. People who have strongly held beliefs are much more likely to find arguments which support their pre-existing belief persuasive and those which contradict it to be unpersuasive.
posted by Justinian at 1:26 PM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


you were then [...] treating me like a problem child and kind of an idiot.

I can't honestly read it that way even if I try with both hands.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:28 PM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


the issue then becomes whether any given argument is persuasive

I don't disagree. But if an argument fails to persuade, many interlocutors will explain how in order to establish the basis for the person with the opposite view to add to her position or produce more evidence. If someone who does not find the argument persuasive simply backs out or moves on, they have removed themselves from the argument - but if they come back again without ever taking up those old points and showing where and why they were not persuaded, they are arguing in bad faith because they are simply not engaging the argument at all. That's where the bad faith is - the simple refusal to deal with the counterarguments presented. The question of persuasion is a separate one - you can be persuaded or unpersuaded, but if you're talking in good faith, you really can't ask for a free pass to ignore your interlocutor's arguments completely and just keep pushing your point of view as if they had said nothing.

And it's also persuasion + evidence. It's bad faith to argue for something you know to be untrue. I have just a foggy memory of the slavery thread, and that's a thread in which I think there were many incontrovertible facts about slavery presented that were not accounted for in the continuing attempt at argument. A person may decide they were not persuaded, but rejecting factual evidence in order to maintain a conclusion is also bad faith.
posted by Miko at 1:33 PM on December 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


I'm a little flabbergasted at the baldness of this (though at least enlightened about your thought process). Argumentation in good faith inherently implies a willingness to be changed and/or to modify one's opinions based on the presentation of evidence and persuasive arguments.

This is ideally true, but rarely true in practice. If someone can show you persuasive evidence that Brown did not have his hands raised when shot, will that change your mind about the shooting?
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 1:33 PM on December 4, 2014


If someone can show you persuasive evidence that Brown did not have his hands raised when shot, will that change your mind about the shooting?

What is my position about the shooting, in your hypothetical? I honestly don't know enough about the hands raised/back-front, etc etc to have an opinion about that myself. That to me is rather beside the point. My opinion about the events of the shooting are open to being changed if that's what the facts revealed (because then it wouldn't, you know, be my opinion - it would be fact), but my opinion about overall systems of injustice in the interactions between police and race are more deep-seated and also more evidence-driven, and less likely to change because the degree of factual evidence that would have to be produced to persuade me from it is monumental and not likely forthcoming. But if that happened, I am open to changing it, yes . I hope it happens in my lifetime.
posted by Miko at 1:36 PM on December 4, 2014 [12 favorites]


So in identifying this as an expectation you find very strange or difficult, I think you've drilled down to one of the main difficulties you have with engaging on the site: you aren't arguing in good faith.

There can be all sorts of value in debating things with people you don't agree with, and cannot ever expect to see eye-to-eye with, without conversion or some sort of rhetorical victory being the goal. And there are generally so many things (culture, upbringing, education, brain chemistry, life experience, social sphere, etc etc etc) baked into a person's belief systems that the idea that one should expect a sufficiently clever and well-cited rebuttal from an internet commenter to upend them seems frankly absurd to me.
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:38 PM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


If you think that in no way negatively influences how the forum as a whole will treat me, wow. I don't even know what to say to that.

Yeah, no.

If it helps, I try really hard not to respond to your posts, Michelle, because I specifically don't want to do a pile-on when the irritant is due solely to personality. But the way you have of entering any given MeTa and twisting it to talk about how mean everyone is to you is both predictable and tedious.

No one else has provided me with this opinion or influenced me in arriving at it - I came to it by reading what you write.
posted by winna at 1:39 PM on December 4, 2014 [31 favorites]


I am sure you were not intentionally being a jerk, but you were then and are still now treating me like a problem child and kind of an idiot. And you are enormously respected and influential here. If you think that in no way negatively influences how the forum as a whole will treat me, wow. I don't even know what to say to that.

You've got a weird persecution complex. Most people on metafilter don't read metatalk, and I'd wager that most people don't pay attention to metafilter closely enough to recognize particular users unless they post a lot. People interact with you the way they do because of what you post and how you post it, not because of some mod conspiracy or because you're being picked on.

This thread wasn't even about you, but for some reason you're making it about some perceived persecution of you which only exists in your own mind.
posted by empath at 1:40 PM on December 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


There can be all sorts of value in debating things with people you don't agree with, and cannot ever expect to see eye-to-eye with, without conversion or some sort of rhetorical victory being the goal

I don't disagree - that can be an interesting exercise. But unless parties are arguing with the assumption that the goal is to arrive at one or more points of consensus or clarify a final point of difference, it's only kind of a pastime. There might be reasons to do it, but it's definitely going to cause irritation when one party is arguing in an attempt to establish a point of consensus, and to do that sincerely, while the other party is claiming to do that, but doing it in bad faith. If the other party was merely saying "I'm just talking here, isn't it interesting we disagree" that might change perceptions of the argument, but that is typically not the stance corb is taking in contentious discourse on the site with others.

This is what I meant by my comment: some conflict is going to arise when people have different understandings about why they are talking together or when one misrepresents their intent (knowingly or unknowingly).
posted by Miko at 1:42 PM on December 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


It seems as though you and some others feel that if some opinions on certain topics are thoughtfully "rebutted", then the other person should change their opinions to match the rebuttal or shut up, rather than hold onto their opinion, and that to fail to do so is some sort of wilful malfeasance.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I don't expect to change minds with every argument I make. Here's what I do expect from someone who I've just engaged with a rebuttal:

(a) you put forth a counterargument
(b) you cede the point, or at least acknowledge that the argument has merit, but that you're still not convinced
(c) failing (a) or (b), you refrain from putting forth the same argument that was previously rebutted in a different thread, or earlier in the same thread

There's no site-wide rule specifically prohibiting sophistry, goalpost-moving, or tossing out the same argument over and over, so I don't expect that these expectations of mine will be met, so I only mention this as a means of conveying that people aren't necessarily looking to change your mind when they complain about you not engaging with their rebuttals. You don't have to change your opinion, and you don't have to shut up, but I think if you're not willing to at least supply a counterargument or explain why you don't find the rebuttal convincing, then your contributions aren't really arguments as much as they're denial-of-service attacks. Argument by repetition isn't an argument -- at some point, are we here to just repeat our premises, or are we here to learn from each other, find common ground, and try to resolve differences, or at least increase understanding?
posted by tonycpsu at 1:43 PM on December 4, 2014 [15 favorites]


This thread wasn't even about you, but for some reason you're making it about some perceived persecution of you which only exists in your own mind.
posted by empath at 1:40 PM on December 4 [+] [!]


No, I am not making it about me. I said what I said upthread to try to talk about why I think dogpiling is a problem. I stated in a footnote my reason for using me as an example and not, say, corb or Tanizaki. Of course, having used some of my own experiences as an example, it is easy for other people to merely be dismissive of me personally -- which is ironic but trying to point out the irony likely won't help anything.
posted by Michele in California at 1:45 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


Michelle, using yourself as an example is making it about you. That is basically the definition of making it about you.
posted by empath at 1:46 PM on December 4, 2014 [16 favorites]


Your very first comment is a perfect example of paranoid thinking:

I have a long history, well before I joined MetaFilter, of being someone who attracts that sort of attention. I almost always attract it when I am absolutely not looking for it and not trying to start shit. I have, in fact, worked extremely hard to try to find ways to reduce the amount of shit-shows that blossom just because I happened to participate in a discussion, without doing anything actually wrong.

You do recognize that the shit-shows start not because of who you are, but because of how you participate in the threads, not just here, but apparently elsewhere?

It's not like people know anything about you other than your name before you start commenting. Do you think people are like,"I hate people named Michelle from the west coast, I'm going to pick on her." Do you think you are some kind of internet celebrity where your notoriety precedes you?
posted by empath at 1:50 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


But unless parties are arguing with the assumption that the goal is to arrive at one or more points of consensus, it's only kind of a pastime.

My time on the internet has taught me that assuming that reaching consensus is anybody's goal is almost always bound to result in disappointment. Shrug.

On preview, oh look, there's a totally unnecessary dogpile happening in realtime, at least it doesn't seem to be motivated by political ideology, that's nice
posted by prize bull octorok at 1:52 PM on December 4, 2014 [9 favorites]


Michelle, using yourself as an example is making it about you. That is basically the definition of making it about you.
posted by empath at 1:46 PM on December 4 [+] [!]


empath, I disagree.

I am pretty good at self-advocating. That is why I get fewer pile-ons than I used to and my very presence by itself is no longer an automatic derail. But just getting better treatment for me does not improve site culture or policy. It does not put an end to this general practice that once a particular person has a certain history, people can pile on them and be really ugly and the group as a whole says it's all good, they brought it on themselves.

I don't really want to just walk away from metafilter. I also don't really want to be part of that kind of group interaction. Like anyone, I can either try to give my 2 cents worth and hope to be part of peaceable constructive change, or cover my own ass, or walk the fuck away. So I still try to give my 2 cents worth about what can be done better here. That's all.
posted by Michele in California at 1:52 PM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


The point is "your very presence" never caused a derail.
posted by agregoli at 1:55 PM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


My time on the internet has taught me that assuming that reaching consensus is anybody's goal is almost always bound to result in disappointment. Shrug.

I've had a better track record than always disappointment - but I'm not saying it's realistic to expect us all to arrive at consensus; I too know better than that. I'm just noting that it's not pro-social to give the impression that you are trying to make progress toward some point of agreement in a discussion when you're not. If having that kind of dialogic engagement toward establishing clearer, more supported and more respectful positions is not your intent that's fine (it characterizes plenty of interactions including many I participate in) but it's a bit duplicitous to act like you really want to do that, but refusing to do that, and then adding to insult by interpreting the negative reactions received as related to the nature of your opinions rather than the bad-faith style of discourse.
posted by Miko at 1:57 PM on December 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


"It seems as though you and some others feel that if some opinions on certain topics are thoughtfully "rebutted", then the other person should change their opinions to match the rebuttal or shut up, rather than hold onto their opinion, and that to fail to do so is some sort of wilful malfeasance."

Some opinions on certain topics, yes. Like claiming that the Confederacy didn't secede because of slavery, which you argued for at least hours and never (as far as I recall) recanted despite the overwhelming evidence. Or that a claim of harassment by transgender girls couldn't be dismissed simply because there was absolutely zero evidence. Or even insisting on referring to people by terms they felt demeaning, then getting het up enough to write a MeTa about it.

"Willful malfeasance" may be overstating, but certainly "justifying curt responses" and "matching levels of disrespect" seem apt.

"And this is something that doesn't seem to swing the other way. I myself might feel that I've had some thoughtful rebuttals of your positions. And yet, your opinions remain unchanged! I don't begrudge you that - I don't think anyone's opinions necessarily need to change just because I feel I've made a good argument. "

I don't recall any particularly thoughtful rebuttals of my positions from you, especially ones that hinged on a clear mistake of facts. This isn't to say that you haven't changed my mind on any issues with a thoughtful rebuttal, simply that I do not recall any such instances. Would you like to link to a particularly thoughtful rebuttal that I could examine?

"Am I misreading you? Is this not what you're meaning to say? Or is there something else that might explicate it better? I would appreciate your thoughts - I really appreciate how you're trying to talk about this seriously, but I think this point is important to clarify."

In general, I feel that repeated insistence on ill-informed views is itself disrespectful and lowers the bar for being treated with respect. I also try to be someone who will take it when it is dished out, and to cop to my mistakes.

I've had my mind changed on things by pretty much all of the regular members here, even some of those I regularly disagree with. I would not be surprised if there was something.

"This is ideally true, but rarely true in practice. If someone can show you persuasive evidence that Brown did not have his hands raised when shot, will that change your mind about the shooting?"

Yes, somewhat. But I don't think that piece of evidence is the most dispositive in the encounter, so I'm not sure how much it would change my mind. If he had his arms at his side, he was still killed while not posing an immanent threat to anyone, in congruence with racial tropes, and the reactions of the Ferguson police to the protests were unwarranted and a violation of civil rights. There are certainly facts that would change my mind, and (in general) I try to hold off on forming a firm opinion immediately — e.g. the "murdered" census taker, or the Daniele Watts altercation. I'm just not sure that the "hands up" thing would change much of my mind about the shooting itself, at least relative to the tactical wisdom of continuing to use "hands up" as a protest chant.

Let's face it: The Portlandia descriptor causes no more real harm than being called a "grumpy myopic guy", either, and it really strongly suggests a lack of perspective and deep-seated insecurities to argue that it does."

I don't think anyone has argued that the "Portlandia" dig causes as much or more real harm. Can you point that out?
posted by klangklangston at 2:00 PM on December 4, 2014 [14 favorites]

empath: Michelle, using yourself as an example is making it about you. That is basically the definition of making it about you.
I disagree emphatically. Using yourself as the assumed only possible example is basically the definition of making it about you - and very different from explicitly saying, "using myself as an example".
posted by IAmBroom at 2:01 PM on December 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


I'm more and more becoming convinced that argumentation virtually never changes people's minds. What changes their minds is life experience.
posted by Justinian at 2:03 PM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Justinian,

I have read that some majority views basically only change when the people who held them literally die, making room for younger generations to think something else, in essence.

So, even life experience does not have the greatest track record, from what I gather.
posted by Michele in California at 2:05 PM on December 4, 2014


Hey, death is a life experience!
posted by Justinian at 2:06 PM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Well, I certainly agree that life experience is important but my mind has definitely been changed by argumentation. My mind is changed here every day as I learn more facts and hear more perspectives and grow more or less persuaded of different stances. If I weren't open to having my mind changed and thought I might never change the minds of others, I wouldn't bother with most of the process at all.

If that's a common view of discourse here, I'm surprised this isn't the root of more misperception.
posted by Miko at 2:06 PM on December 4, 2014 [12 favorites]


So is argumentation, no?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:06 PM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

Justinian: I'm more and more becoming convinced that argumentation virtually never changes people's minds. What changes their minds is life experience.
Favorited, and yet... my mind has been changed by many arguments.

It usually takes a lot longer for the change to happen - emotions need to drain away, rational self-examination isn't instant... etc. But it happens.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:07 PM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


> I'm more and more becoming convinced that argumentation virtually never changes people's minds. What changes their minds is life experience.

Yes, but sometimes it's someone else's life experience, which they've related to me here.
posted by benito.strauss at 2:24 PM on December 4, 2014 [23 favorites]


The Portlandia descriptor causes no more real harm than being called a "grumpy myopic guy", either, and it really strongly suggests a lack of perspective and deep-seated insecurities to argue that it does.

Yeah, I have no idea what you're reading.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:38 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


I have certainly had my mind changed as a result of reading discussions here. I haven't been directly disagreed with much, but at least some of those occasions resulted in some re-examination of long-held beliefs. I'm honestly surprised to hear that this isn't a common expectation for particpating in conversations of the kind that go on here.
posted by Ipsifendus at 2:43 PM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


I'm more and more becoming convinced that argumentation virtually never changes people's minds.

If you do it right, arguments *are* life experiences. Obviously I'm professionally biased here, but I like to say that my favorite thing in the world is to be wrong, because then I get to change my mind. It's really cool when you hold on to a belief really tight, and then the force of reasons and evidence somehow gets you to let it go. It's like a revelation, but not divine at all; just mundane people talking.

What I notice about the people I meet from Metafilter is that, like me, they've had a kind of epiphanitic experience with arguments in their past. They have been changed by arguments, and they're hungry to have that experience again. So, I think, we also get frustrated when we realize we're rehashing old territory, and we get pretty mad when we start to think that the people we're talking to aren't interested in having their minds changed or coming up with the kinds of arguments that could change ours.

It's not the only thing that people do, here, of course: we advocate and snark, too. And of course, sometimes we preach with the fanaticism of the converted. But what I like about you folks is that I think I see a glimmer of that gambler, that addict, looking for the right reasons to become someone new, someone who believes not only differently--but because of the force of that change--more fervently committed to reason-giving and arguments than before.
posted by anotherpanacea at 2:58 PM on December 4, 2014 [26 favorites]


I'm more and more becoming convinced that argumentation virtually never changes people's minds. What changes their minds is life experience.

I don't know if you would count this as having their mind "changed" or as Frowner's comment as an "argument," but see Frowner's comment and zug's response.
posted by rtha at 3:15 PM on December 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I have my mind changed all the time reading MeFi. It's one of the main reasons I like spending time here. anotherpanacea just summed it up perfectly:

What I notice about the people I meet from Metafilter is that, like me, they've had a kind of epiphanitic experience with arguments in their past. They have been changed by arguments, and they're hungry to have that experience again.
posted by dialetheia at 3:27 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't think anyone has argued that the "Portlandia" dig

Perhaps this part of the thread moved very quickly, but it is specifically in reference to this and related comments, which initially refers to describing some Mefites as Portlandia caricatures as attacking a strawman, and then Tanizaki is referred to as a "grumpy myopic guy", which is later described as a personal attack. I'm not sure what seems unclear about being called those names that clearly touched nerves on both sides, but that specific part of the discussion and the subsequent responses seemed relevant to me. Maybe people are fine with these descriptors, but it didn't read that way.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 4:05 PM on December 4, 2014


The minds that get changed by argument tend not to be the minds of the arguers themselves, but of onlookers. You have a much better chance of learning something if you don't have anything invested directly and personally in the discussion.
posted by suelac at 4:08 PM on December 4, 2014 [18 favorites]


What I notice about the people I meet from Metafilter is that, like me, they've had a kind of epiphanitic experience with arguments in their past. They have been changed by arguments, and they're hungry to have that experience again. So, I think, we also get frustrated when we realize we're rehashing old territory, and we get pretty mad when we start to think that the people we're talking to aren't interested in having their minds changed or coming up with the kinds of arguments that could change ours. "

YES.

I mean, I tend to be wrong more often about kind of embarrassing stuff, like misusing a technical stats term and then having to correct it because I was blithely snarky, but just as an example: We got into a discussion about something (don't remember what) and you linked to a bunch of research about the median voter being a myth. I don't think I ever came around totally to your larger point of view, but seeing research that basically backhanded the idea of appealing to coherent moderate policy preferences as a way to win elections was both fascinating and made me change beliefs that I'd had for a while. It was great, and I remember it.

Or the time where you responded to something I'd been kind of lazily unclear about with regard to Clarence Thomas, and I learned a lot more about his jurisprudence and just how goddamned weird it is on its own terms. It made me change my mind about reading his opinions, and be more careful about how I phrased my criticism of them in the future.

Those are just two examples from you alone. And I think that does get at why I have so little patience for the folks arguing like they're building horses out of glue, and for the endless whinnies about how condescending the "101" stuff is. I learn and change my mind about things all the time here (and tend to remember arguments better than I remember people, honestly).

I think it's also something that colors my perception of how much of an echo chamber this place is. I understand that often the arguments are over small definitional differences, but fer instance I had to re-evaluate a lot of how I thought about fascism after arguing with Aelfwine over whether America can reasonably be described as fascist. I still would hold that it's not, but that it has fascist elements and tendencies, but having to back that up meant digging a lot further into the specific literature than I'd had to do in a while, and a lot of it was new and different from what I'd learned. So even when a conservative might roll their eyes about "America: How fascist is it?" it's a real disagreement that got pretty heated (and a well-informed conservative would also be able to pick out fascist elements in American politics e.g. New Deal that might irk a liberal, but would have to be conceded).

Similarly, I remember an argument with Miko over whether originality is possible that made me really think about how I was defining originality and how I would support the case for novel works, including thinking about thresholds for originality.

Or any number of arguments that I've just watched here that have changed my mind about how the balance of "free speech" can impact historically-disadvantaged groups.
posted by klangklangston at 4:27 PM on December 4, 2014 [18 favorites]


As someone who tends to read a lot but not post much, I find that my opinions have been changed by the discussions and arguments on Metafilter. I've developed a much better grasp of trans issues in particular, but I've also ended up with a better understanding of the subtle ways in which sexism and racism manifest. More than that, I've found I had to change some of my own behaviour in real life too because Metafilter has convinced me that some of my actions have been less than helpful.

The things that have changed my opinions the most have almost never been angry or snarky comments. They've tended either to be personal stories and carefully reasoned explanations of why "intuitively reasonable position X" actually turns out to be pretty problematic in practice. None of which is to say that snark or anger is inappropriate for Metafilter: my education is a side benefit to the site, not it's primary purpose! My point is just that when folks take the time and effort to calmly explain things to a more naive audience, there are some of us who spend a lot of time thinking and learning from that kind of discussion. And it's appreciated.
posted by langtonsant at 4:38 PM on December 4, 2014 [15 favorites]


The minds that get changed by argument tend not to be the minds of the arguers themselves, but of onlookers.

I would say that this is a good point and that it may be true but then I would be disproving my own argument and would explode in a contradictory nova.
posted by Justinian at 4:38 PM on December 4, 2014 [11 favorites]


The minds that get changed by argument tend not to be the minds of the arguers themselves, but of onlookers. You have a much better chance of learning something if you don't have anything invested directly and personally in the discussion.

Speaking for myself, I don't find this to be true. I suspect that one reason I am drawn to argument as a participant is that it pushes me to think, think harder, research things, etc. And through that process alone, even before I deal with counterarguments, I sometimes change my own mind - finding something I took for granted had some pretty shaky foundations, for instance, and maybe I don't want to advance that point after all. Or finding what I thought was the definitive research on the topic is too old and written-over to be useful. Or dealing with conflicts in two positions I've head that I never happened to look at together. So I think I've learned more, in many cases, because I was actively engaged in the discussion process, not just spectating. Though that can also be a way to learn. Because of the life testimonies and arguments of others I have reversed positions on a number of issues, miniscule and large, since I joined MetaFilter.

And I also learn something from other people's arguments, as well. Seeing klangklangston and anotherpanacea directly commenting just above this is a reminder that both of them have a much stronger grasp of philosophy than myself and I've learned a lot by reading what they have to say and, occasionally, being challenged on points by them. I've also made a fair number of sweeping generalizations over the years ("Nobody does..") that have been immediately proved untrue by someone piping in "Well, I have."
posted by Miko at 4:38 PM on December 4, 2014 [9 favorites]


corb never said she is unwilling to have her mind changed or that she never does have it changed. What she said is that expectation from one side that the other side concede is unrealistic.

According to Google, this is the only thread in which both your username and the phrase "what the actual fuck" appears.

Google is wrong in this case.
posted by 0 at 4:42 PM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Yo, if google is wrong why don't you reading rainbow that shit and give us a link.
posted by klangklangston at 5:09 PM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Because I don't know why it wasn't linked in the first place but assume there was a good reason.
posted by 0 at 5:12 PM on December 4, 2014


Thanks for sending the link over. I don't think it'd be verboten to talk about it here, and it's actually a decent example of someone coming out probably looking better because of deletions, rather than the other way around. I had only heard a little about the Bryant thing through the cycling grapevine, and through reading the links, watching the video and looking at the ultimate outcome, Bryant actually came out looking much less guilty than I'd heard (the version that I'd heard was basically that he'd run over some bicyclist twice because Bryant was drunk). Instead, one dead town… posted a link to the wikipedia page and I googled around on my own and ended up thinking that Bryant still probably broke the law by trying to scrape the cyclist off his car, but the way it was being treated in that thread seemed unsustainable from the evidence that was there.

I'd imagine that the deleted, likely scathing reply would not have been as persuasive.
posted by klangklangston at 5:35 PM on December 4, 2014


corb never said she is unwilling to have her mind changed or that she never does have it changed. What she said is that expectation from one side that the other side concede is unrealistic.

Never exactly that, no, but she did dismiss outright the need to listen to your opponents, reconsider your arguments in light of theirs, and respond to those arguments in some way if you plan to continue engaging them on that topic in future,, saying "That's not how arguments, or even basic discussions, work."

I was sincere when I said I found this a really enlightening moment for me in understsanding some of the dynamic surrounding her trickier participation. I'm often really dumbfounded at trying to figure out what corb is doing in a discussion. People have called it trolling, she insists it's not, and on that she gets the benefit of the doubt more often than not. But she is saying, right here, that her view is that bad faith argumentation is fine in her book, that this is "how it works." That's not trolling but it's also really not what I come here before and not the best and most illuminating kind of exchange the site has to offer. This is a really useful thing for me to know, since I disagree with this view (and with the implied definition of "argument" and "discussion" ) at such a profound level that I now know why it's not really worth engaging her arguments except to clear up misinformation that might confuse others. Because they're not arguments, at the heart of it. I'm not sure what they are but they aren't good-faith attempts to find any point of common ground or arrive at a clarified understanding of either party's position. There's no shared purpose or shared intent. Understanding this will, I hope, help me liberate myself from the feeling that it would make sense to engage the points made.
posted by Miko at 5:58 PM on December 4, 2014 [17 favorites]


But she is saying, right here, that her view is that bad faith argumentation is fine in her book, that this is "how it works."

I think this is a unfair and inaccurate paraphrase.
posted by prize bull octorok at 6:07 PM on December 4, 2014 [9 favorites]


It seems as though you and some others feel that if some opinions on certain topics are thoughtfully "rebutted", then the other person should change their opinions to match the rebuttal or shut up, rather than hold onto their opinion, and that to fail to do so is some sort of wilful malfeasance. But that is not generally how arguments, or even basic discussions, work.

Please explain your read of it.
posted by Miko at 6:12 PM on December 4, 2014


You seem to be presuming the rebuttal in this scenario is objectively correct and can be perceived as such by the other party, has no alternate interpretations, etc. It takes a quite a leap to read this as an insistence on holding on to ones opinions no matter how what, or refusing to consider any opposing views.
posted by prize bull octorok at 6:26 PM on December 4, 2014 [9 favorites]


MoonOrb: I can't tell if anyone really cares or not that Tanizaki brands the perceived majority MeFi viewpoint as "Portlandia liberal?"

I'm more of a Tumblr Social Justice Elementalist, so Portlandia Liberal is too far right to apply to me. I think in terms of MetaFilter as a whole, it's fairly accurate - the beanplating in particular is a characteristic of a stripe of white liberal seeking an objective consensus with the unspoken ideal that if we just talk about shit long enough we'll all agree.

Interestingly, I think there has been shifts and movements between individuals, even while the discussions remain largely in place. One of the things I like about MetaFilter is the ability to agree and disagree with the same people on different topics - it's something I also like about far more tightly moderated places. My experience is that in places more loosely moderated than MetaFilter, or in places where the liberal/progressive atmosphere is maintained via mocking and social pressure, not moderation, the pushback against presumed outsiders restricts inter-group disagreement, even over serious issues.

It's part of why I'm a fan of tightly moderated places.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:36 PM on December 4, 2014 [9 favorites]


You seem to be presuming the rebuttal in this scenario is objectively correct and can be perceived as such by the other party, has no alternate interpretations, etc.

I don't think that's the core presumption: it's not that a rebuttal is necessarily foolproof and unassailable, it's that a rebuttal is part of an exchange of ideas and that if the person hearing the rebuttal thinks that portions of it are flawed the usual thing is to respond with a clear explanation of those objections. Or to acknowledge the parts that do seem sound. Or, in probably the most common scenario, a mix of the two.

It's walking right past a rebuttal to restate the core argument again as if nothing has happened that tends to get up people's shirts, especially when it's a pattern of behavior with the same arguments being raised across multiple threads over time. Doubly especially when it's presented in the shape of "I don't understand where you're coming from on this, can you explain why some people feel x" and then that precise query ends up being rolled out again a month or a year later.

Like, I totally agree that to ask for someone else's perspective on something is not to invite the assumption that you'll be converted to their perspective as a result. It's okay to say "I don't feel X about Y; can you help me understand why you feel X about Y?" without implying that you're on the verge of conversion, and to come away from the answers you get still not personally feeling X about Y. There's zero controversial about that: you may or may not be in any way convinced to rethinking your feelings about Y.

But most folks will expect you to come away from it better able to model the fact of and motivations for other people feeling X about Y as part of your understanding of Y, to be willing and able to incorporate what you've previously discussed about Y and about people's X-ish feelings toward it, in future discussions. So if you end up coming into a later discussion of Y, with the same crowd, and roll out some sort of variation on "I just don't understand how you can feel X about Y", a lot of people are going to be very rightly wondering why you're choosing to waste their time.

Nobody's obliged by any informal rules of discussion to be convinced by other people's arguments. But there's some basic social contract stuff that suggests that a person should at least be making an effort to understand and acknowledge those arguments if its a discussion they're going to keep getting involved in on future occasions. The apparent absence of that is I think a significant and reasonable locus of some of the frustrations folks have been expressing in here.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:55 PM on December 4, 2014 [30 favorites]


You seem to be presuming the rebuttal in this scenario is objectively correct

Nope, I'm not assuming that. The only thing I'm assuming is the need to take other offered points into account when making your future points, in a serious good faith discussion. Their points can be right, wrong, or cattycornered, but if they're just breezed by and ignored, you're not really in a substantive interaction.

Corb also posed a false dilemma: match the rebuttal or shut up. There are, of course, many more ways than those to continue a good-faith discussion.

It takes a quite a leap to read this as an insistence on holding on to ones opinions no matter how what, or refusing to consider any opposing views.

It's not a leap - it's the logical extension of what was said there. If you hold onto your opinion even when factual evidence is clearly against you, you are arguing ideologically, and/or in bad faith. There may be a third possibility that I haven't even counted on, but you're not having a respectful and productive exchange. Sure you might consider some other views sometime, if they appeal to you, and you might change your opinions sometimes, if you feel like it, but if you enter an argument with zero willingness to change your opinion, and aren't able to take into account arguments that render the opinion unsupportable, it's simply not a sincere exercise.

I would be able to offer a more generous read, possibly, had I not experienced the refusal to consider stronger points and factual evidence directly a few times. To be clear, I'm not even condemning it, I'm just glad to finally understand it. I am enlightened that someone I had been thinking of as a serious interlocutor with an odd interaction style just does not consider themselves to be involved the same enterprise as I had thought. If anything, it helps me feel more charitable.
posted by Miko at 7:04 PM on December 4, 2014 [12 favorites]


Please explain your read of it.

It feels a lot to me like you're trying to drop a big Gotcha Bomb on corb with this line of argument you're pursuing here, and trying to stick her with standing up for the proposition that there's no point to even listening to what the person you're arguing says. I don't think corb is saying anything remotely like what you've inferred from her statement up there.

Here's what she said:

It seems as though you and some others feel that if some opinions on certain topics are thoughtfully "rebutted", then the other person should change their opinions to match the rebuttal or shut up, rather than hold onto their opinion, and that to fail to do so is some sort of wilful malfeasance. But that is not generally how arguments, or even basic discussions, work. The fact that one person is claiming things are different - or even citing sources - does not unilaterally win the argument. The other person may believe your opinions or cites are wrong or biased. They may think you are ignoring the issue that for them, is most cogent. They may have half a hundred reasons not to change their opinion.

The last two sentences there explain a lot to me. I think she's making a non-controversial observation that when you're in an argument with someone, it's not reasonable to expect that just because you believe that you've completely dismantled their argument, that they're going to feel the same way. I'm in complete agreement with corb on this point, and I can promise you that I don't "dismiss outright the need to listen to [my] opponents, reconsider your arguments in light of theirs, and respond to those arguments in some way if [I] plan to continue engaging them on that topic in future" when I'm disagreeing with someone. It's possible in an argument to continue to listen to your opponent, reconsider [my] argument in light of theirs, respond to their arguments productively and not expect them to turn around and say "You know, I think you're right" at the end of it just because you've made a reasonable and well-supported point.

Like, for instance, I think the argument I just made to you is persuasive, I think your reading of corb's statement is erroneous and probably affected by your frustration with her way of interaction on this site for so long, and I'd like to think after you read what I've typed you'll say, "Oh. I see--good point. I think I misread corb." And, who knows, maybe you will. But I don't expect it, because, to use corb's words, "that is not generally how arguments...work."
posted by MoonOrb at 7:06 PM on December 4, 2014 [15 favorites]


respond to their arguments productively

Unfortunately this is the step that corb is missing in your chain.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:07 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


I think you just glossed over about 90% of what I said to get that zinger in.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:08 PM on December 4, 2014 [9 favorites]


No, it wasn't a zinger. You presented a reasonable chain of events whereby a reasonable person--or people--can have a conversation/argument without changing minds. One of the key points of being reasonable is responding productively--as you and I are doing with each other right now (I hope) and as you did with Miko. corb doesn't do that part, making her behaviour unreasonable.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:11 PM on December 4, 2014 [9 favorites]


Miko: But she is saying, right here, that her view is that bad faith argumentation is fine in her book, that this is "how it works." That's not trolling but it's also really not what I come here before and not the best and most illuminating kind of exchange the site has to offer. This is a really useful thing for me to know, since I disagree with this view (and with the implied definition of "argument" and "discussion" ) at such a profound level that I now know why it's not really worth engaging her arguments except to clear up misinformation that might confuse others. Because they're not arguments, at the heart of it. I'm not sure what they are but they aren't good-faith attempts to find any point of common ground or arrive at a clarified understanding of either party's position.

I honestly look at it as sort of a silencing tactic. And i bet it works great for her in other aspects of her life that aren't mefi.

You just keep grinding, with lots and lots of words and justification, until the other party gives up and lets you through the gate to do whatever you're trying to do. They don't necessarily concede, but they just walk away.

My mother pulls the identical routine, and it almost always gets her what she wants. Even when she ends up in court, or is challenging some institution in an obvious position of authority.

The problem is that while it may be a good way to get a squeaky wheel greased or shut people up, it's not a good way to have a discussion. All it ends up being is a good way to state your opinion in such a way that a lot of people looking on will see it as a "two reasonable sides" thing maybe, and probably mostly just not want to challenge you.

There isn't really any responding going on though, no, it's more of grabbing bits and pieces and forming another attack. There's not any actual processing of what the other sides position is going on because it's outside of their context.
posted by emptythought at 7:14 PM on December 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


corb doesn't do that part, making her behaviour unreasonable.

Well, very often doesn't. I think everyone at some point either doesn't see or chooses not to respond to a cogent rebuttal from time to time, but she does it so often that it's extremely frustrating to a lot of people who spend time engaging, only to have her refuse to give an inch, decline to offer a counterargument, and then come back again some time later as if the slate is entirely clean.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:14 PM on December 4, 2014 [9 favorites]


just because you believe that you've completely dismantled their argument, that they're going to feel the same way

I've granted that point. I agree.

The thing that has a lot of emphasis for me is "dismiss outright the need to.." Basically, if you're being sincere, you do have this need - even if you think they're an idiot, biased, whatever. If you argue that this need to take the discussion seriously and in good faith doesn't exist, then you're thinking of a "discussion" in a different way than I am. Even if sometimes you manage to have a discussion that way, but don't think of it as a "need," a baseline understanding of the project.

It's possible in an argument to continue to listen to your opponent, reconsider [my] argument in light of theirs, respond to their arguments productively and not expect them to turn around and say "You know, I think you're right" at the end of it just because you've made a reasonable and well-supported point.

I fully agree with you on this. At the same time, I think feckless, etc., is exactly right that the "respond to their arguments productively" is a missing link.

Lastly, it's not a gotcha for someone else as much as a light bulb for me. I am happy to generalize the topic.
posted by Miko at 7:15 PM on December 4, 2014


Yeah, fair dos there tonycpsu.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:15 PM on December 4, 2014


And FWIW I agree that a lot of the time corb's responses to an argument that are raised aren't terribly productive, I'm not really disagreeing on that point. It does feel as if instead of responding exactly on the merits she frequently zooms the discussion way out again to some seemingly reasonable generality that in fact isn't reasonable if applied more specifically. But I have trouble attributing it to bad faith, and I feel that her refusal to frequently concede even small, reasonable points is not unique to her and is typical of many, many people.

The thing that has a lot of emphasis for me is "dismiss outright the need to.."

I think this is where I lost the plot, then, because I can't at all infer this from what corb said up there. I see that you've apparently inferred this, but I'm not sure what she said that gets us there. All I understand her to be talking about on this point is regarding what it's reasonable to expect from someone else's response to your argumentation. Just because you know from experience that it's unreasonable to expect someone to turn around and concede a point you think you've made particularly well, it doesn't follow that there's no need to listen to anything that they have to say.
posted by MoonOrb at 7:29 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


cortex, I feel like you're bringing some mod-history-with-corb to the table with your analysis there, which is, like, completely understandable, but I think it's worth considering the merits of the general point that arguing with the expectation that the facts are unambiguously on your side, and if you just argue them hard enough or right enough or well-cited enough or whatever anyone on the other side should come around (and they're acting in bad faith if they don't), is not an ideal way to approach contentious discussions in a place like this.

Miko, I'll just cosign what MoonOrb said and accept that we're having a difference of interpretation here.
posted by prize bull octorok at 7:32 PM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


AFAICT, "Portlandia liberal" is the new "hipster", just like "tumblr people"/"tumblr types"/etc is the new "social justice warrior". Both are dog whistles.
posted by NoraReed at 7:52 PM on December 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


It's pretty hard to separate the offered reasoning from past behavior, yes, so I will allow that my read is colored by knowledge of past behavior (and cortex offered a an analysis which I think clearly outlines the non-productivity of the dynamic). I still think there is some explanatory power there. In other words, I can see your argument that it may not derive fully from what was written but have yet to be convinced that it is wrong.

The word "expectation" seems to be muddling things a little. My basic expectation on entering an argument or focused topical discussion is that my opinion might be changed at some point entering it. I don't have the expectation that others will change their opinions as a result of the argument, but I do have the general expectation that they are open to those opinions being changed because of strong argument or evidence. They aren't always changed, it's true, but it is bad faith (and I mean that as term of art) to continue to argue if you are unwilling to change your position based on any possible presented evidence/persuasion. I don't expect people to change their positions, but I expect them to be willing to, as a precondition of argument. If that willingness is not there. Does that make sense?

Engaging with someone who is not responding productively, who seems to be deciding as you go that they have many good reasons not to listen to or respond to your opinion or change their opinion, even as they ask you to listen to theirs or take theirs seriously, is indeed a waste of time, and not a discussion or an argument as I understand it.

And when the position is plainly and objectively counterfactual, I think that any refusal to modify the position is a definite indication of bad faith.
posted by Miko at 7:53 PM on December 4, 2014


plainly and objectively

But there are entire multiverses contained within those little words
posted by prize bull octorok at 7:59 PM on December 4, 2014 [3 favorites]


Not when it comes to something like the reason South Carolina seceded.
posted by Miko at 8:03 PM on December 4, 2014 [13 favorites]


Or the fact that rural residents draw more from government transfer programs on a per-capita basis than metro residents.

Or the fact that socialized medicine doesn't create a ceiling on how much healthcare people can obtain if they have the resources to pay for it, only a floor on the amount of healthcare provided to people regardless of what resources they have.

Or the fact that doctors don't "work for free" if the government's paying them to treat patients who can't pay themselves.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:17 PM on December 4, 2014 [13 favorites]


But there are entire multiverses contained within those little words

Absolutely: people in the midst of an argument can fail to agree on what constitutes "plainly and objectively", and on that basis both participants may find themselves unable to change the other's mind. This is not what's at issue.

What's surprising, and what seems to explain a lot about Corb's approach to conversation here, is that she seems to be asserting that a change in her thinking, resulting from argumentation or discussion, is a rare occurrence. That more often than not, she doesn't find argument a compelling reason to change her mind. And note, that's "argument" itself, as a category of behavior, not "a specific argument". I, for one, am having a really hard time imagining the state of mind in which one experiences so little change of thinking from participating in argument that one expects, in advance, for that to be most likely outcome: "This conversation cannot sway my outlook, because conversation never does!"

That seems deeply weird to me. For one thing, I'm not sure I'd see the point in discussing anything if I felt that way. And for another thing, I can't imagine what would motivate one to participate in discussions on contentious topics, absent the expectation that sharing ideas, facts, experiences, and arguments might possible result in a new way of thinking, even if only once in a great while. Frankly, all of the alternative motivations that I can imagine are pretty unpleasant, so I'm gonna assume that there's some other possibility that I haven't thought of. But I will, for sure, be a lot more likely to disregard anything that Corb says in future controversies, because it seems clear that she's not thinking of herself as participating in the same activity as I think I am, and as I think most people here are.
posted by Ipsifendus at 8:18 PM on December 4, 2014 [7 favorites]


AFAICT, "Portlandia liberal" is the new "hipster", just like "tumblr people"/"tumblr types"/etc is the new "social justice warrior". Both are dog whistles.

It seems unlikely people use Portlandia references to reach out to GOP voters, but anything is possible.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 8:48 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


It seems unlikely people use Portlandia references to reach out to GOP voters, but anything is possible.

You must be joking - I hear conservatives make sneering comments about Portlandia all the time. Not sure what reaching out to GOP voters has to do with anything though.
posted by dialetheia at 8:51 PM on December 4, 2014


AFAICT, "Portlandia liberal" is the new "hipster", just like "tumblr people"/"tumblr types"/etc is the new "social justice warrior".

They're not dog whistles at all, though. A social justice warrior is someone who fights for social justice, with a gentle (or stinging, i guess) implication that they take it too seriously and aren't as potent and effective as they think they are. A tumblr person posts on tumblr, often about social justice. They're direct description.
posted by Sebmojo at 9:00 PM on December 4, 2014 [6 favorites]


They are also used by the right wing as sneering, mocking epithets. See also: intellectual.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:01 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Why do you let them decide how you should feel?
posted by Sebmojo at 9:07 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Not sure what reaching out to GOP voters has to do with anything though.

Just referring to the use of the phrase "dog whistle", which means a message in coded language intended to reach out to Republican voters. It's like reinventing the term "astroturf", which usually means something else.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 9:07 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


They're not solely used as dog whistles, is the point. They have other applications, other meanings, other connotations.

Also, the right wing has a way of making many, many useful and/or good words (feminist, pro-choice, liberal, e.g) into sneering mocking epithets. Just because some people use a word badly doesn't automatically mean the word is forever bad.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:09 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


Just referring to the use of the phrase "dog whistle", which means a message in coded language

Yes.

intended to reach out to Republican voters.

No.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:10 PM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


Sebmojo, "social justice warrior" is almost entirely used by people who are anti-SJ; SJ types have managed to "take it back" some, but I still often see it used pejoratively; people use "tumblr" synonymously with an exaggeration of a portion of its social justice focused userbase. Tanizaki is certainly using it that way.
posted by NoraReed at 9:22 PM on December 4, 2014 [4 favorites]


Good grief. When we're accusing each other of dog whistles and astroturfing, the well has been truly fucking poisoned. Not even the flimsiest vestige of good faith or good will remains standing. This has become a stomping ground for ideologues, all protestations of "I've learned and changed so much!" notwithstanding.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 9:24 PM on December 4, 2014 [12 favorites]


Today I learned that nobody ever posts in bad faith.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:29 PM on December 4, 2014 [1 favorite]


No.

I suppose I should have included Tories and Conservatives, to be in line with editorial guidelines at The Economist. It doesn't really change what the phrase means, though.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:06 PM on December 4, 2014


Nah, dog whistles can be used by anybody with any flavor of politics, it's just that conservative groups tend to get more mileage out of them. I'm sure people have made cases for liberal dog whistles before, too - it's a rhetorical strategy, not an ideologically associated thing at all. That Economist article really does provide a great definition that doesn't specify anything about the user's political beliefs, despite the focus of the article being conservative politics:

It means putting out a message that, like a high-pitched dog-whistle, is only fully audible to those at whom it is directly aimed. The intention is to make potential supporters sit up and take notice while avoiding offending those to whom the message will not appeal.
posted by dialetheia at 10:16 PM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]


despite the focus of the article being conservative politics

Okay, whatever.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 10:30 PM on December 4, 2014


The idea behind the political metaphor -- dog-whistle politics -- is not who hears your signal, but who does not have the special sensitivity to catch the message. Your whistle is pitched high enough to rally your ''base'' without running the risk of turning out your opposition's base. Nice turn of phrase.

--Noted bleeding-heart SJW William Safire
posted by kagredon at 10:31 PM on December 4, 2014 [5 favorites]


"States' rights".
"Welfare queens" and "strapping young bucks".
"Food Stamp President".
"Doesn't love America".
"Shuck and Jive".

That's six off the top of my head. Give me half that many dog whistles used by Democrats.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:52 PM on December 4, 2014


Barack Hussein Obama would be a seventh.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:08 PM on December 4, 2014


From the Wikipedia article Nora linked:
During the 2008 Democratic primaries, several writers criticized Hillary Clinton's campaign's reliance on code words and innuendo seemingly designed to frame Barack Obama's race as problematic, saying Obama was characterized by the Clinton campaign and its prominent supporters as anti-white due to his association with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, as only able to get black votes, as anti-patriotic, a drug user, possibly a drug seller, and married to an angry, ungrateful black woman.[21] Obama was himself accused of dog-whistling to African-American voters by using a blend of gestures, style and rhetoric, such as fist-bumps and walking with a "street lope," that carefully affirmed and underscored his black identity.[22][page needed]



During the United States presidential election, 2012, conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro accused the Obama campaign of anti-Semitic dog whistling after campaign staffer Julianna Smoot stated in an email that Paul Ryan was "'making a pilgrimage' to Las Vegas to 'kiss the ring'" of Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson.[24] This was described as "a classic anti-Semitic dog whistle signaling voters that Ryan is in the thrall of the 'Israel Lobby'."[25]
Also in that campaign, Obama's campaign ran an add that said Mitt Romney is "not one of us." [26] The ad, which Washington Post journalist Karen Tumulty said "echoes a slogan that has been used as a racial code over at least the past half-century",[27] ran in Ohio, a state that is only 0.52% Mormon.[28]
While conservatives make more use of dog whistles than liberals do (liberals may use more jargon), dog whistles a