Metafilter is not as inclusive as we like to think we are July 15, 2016 4:33 PM   Subscribe

So we get a front page post about Nice, we have check-ins for Belgium, but no-one here seems to care about Istanbul or other non 'Western' countries.

I live in Istanbul. Fortunately the closest I have come to one of the recent tragedies is my son and I were both close enough to hear and feel the bombings in Sultanahmet. I don't feel unsafe, and frankly don't care about people on the internet sending me their prayers.

However I DO care that Metafilter is perpetuating the idea that only Western people are deserving of sympathy from strangers in the face of terrorist atrocities when they happen, that it is not worth mentioning when Muslims are attacked, only when it happens to 'white' people (which is ironic considering who many of the victims have been in Istanbul). And even if people don't think this is racist, do we really need to ape social media when it comes to deciding on what is worth reporting? Why is the post about Nice any different than hugs and prayer hands on twitter? There's no analysis, there's nothing other than social posturing and showing what caring internet citizens we are. When it is the right people being killed - the ones the internet says we have to be demonstrative about.

I'll be honest - this is not about me personally. I don't need Mefites to check in on me or give me their thoughts when a tragedy happens in the city where I am living. But for a forum that considers itself so inclusive and progressive there seems to be a pretty strong bias as to who is worthy of sympathy and thought when it comes to real life tragedy rather than abstract concepts.
posted by Megami to Etiquette/Policy at 4:33 PM (385 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

Note: I wrote and submitted this early this morning my time (about 18 hours ago) and it was held up in the queue until now. So no, not in response to the coup that is going on.
posted by Megami at 4:35 PM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Quick note on timing here: Megami submitted this last night but for a variety of very-busy-site reasons it made sense to hold it until there was a head-above-water moment today. So the slightly odd timing regarding this vs. the Turkish coup thread is a product of that delay, and not Megami's fault.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:36 PM on July 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


One of the ways to address this is by posting a thread on this topic to the front page.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:41 PM on July 15, 2016 [47 favorites]


And as a general thought on it: I think this is partly a be-the-thread-you-wish-to-see thing. Which doesn't fully address the idea that there's systemic/demographic aspects of this—I think that's a pretty legit thing to talk about if folks want to—but it really is okay to go ahead and make a post if you think there's a post that should exist but doesn't.

That's pretty much the fuel this site runs on, that Just Go Do It thing that we try and trust people with as much as we can.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:43 PM on July 15, 2016 [14 favorites]


I honestly never understand these kinds of complaints. Who better to make the thread than the people closest to the events; those who know the most about them? You are the ideal person to do this. Metafilter is you.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 5:06 PM on July 15, 2016 [54 favorites]


It seems like most of the hugs/check-in threads are posted by folks who are from the area in question, or have friends or family there. See for instance the Bastille Day thread you linked (posted by a French MeFite) or the Belgium MeTa (posted by somebody who was about to travel to Brussels). Since the vast majority of MeFites hail from North America and Western Europe, it's simply more likely that there will be someone with a stake personal enough to want to post that kind of thread versus a less represented country like Turkey. Same reason you don't see as many proposed meetups in Istanbul versus the much more frequent ones in New York, Toronto, London, etc. It's not that people don't care about meeting Turkish MeFites, but rather than that there aren't that many Turkish MeFites to meet (or even to propose a meeting). You're generally only going to see activity like that in places where there's a critical mass of MeFites to make such schmoopy IRL activity viable.
posted by Rhaomi at 5:09 PM on July 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


In some ways, I think the current thread is just reflecting the same dynamic.

I don't really have much concrete to say, but I want to say that I agree you're seeing something beyond "there are more Mefites in Western Europe than Turkey". (We seriously think that's an appropriate response to someone raising this issue?)
posted by hoyland at 5:29 PM on July 15, 2016 [31 favorites]


Not much that I could add that hasn't already been said up above. If you want to shift the conversations/posts that appear on this site, then make that happen. You have that ability as a member. I know that I personally have an interest in NEWS/BOOKS/FILMS/VIDEO GAMES and so I go out of my way to try to find interesting links that are associated with those topics. I'm also from Canada, and when I can, I'll do my best to share Canadian content on this site because it interests me and I also know there are many other Canadians on this site that I want to engage with.

Post the types of things that interest you. Cheers.
posted by Fizz at 6:31 PM on July 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


You should make an FPP about this!
posted by Greg Nog at 6:31 PM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Megami's been here for 8 years and made 38 FPPs and 8 MeTas, maybe people can take it as read that she knows where the New Post button is and discuss if there's something from a broader community perspective that could or should change.
posted by Krom Tatman at 6:39 PM on July 15, 2016 [91 favorites]


I hear you, and this is something that has come up on my Facebook feed. I agree with you that it's treated differently, not just here, but in mass media in general. The onus should not be on you to post something. I can only speak for myself, but I don't step up to post because it's bad for my mental health. I recognize that this is an incredibly privileged thing to say, and I'm sorry. I do care, I do pay attention, and I do want to support you. Right now, I'm just not sure how and I'm really, truly sorry for that.
posted by Ruki at 6:44 PM on July 15, 2016 [42 favorites]


I came to say pretty much what Ruki said and Ruki said it way better than I would have.

I am sorry. I will try to be better.
posted by cooker girl at 6:56 PM on July 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's not that we don't care; it's that we don't know.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:17 PM on July 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


Thank you for posting this, just last night I was having a conversation with my wife about this... Cultural narcissism/myopia if one is being uncharitable, cultural orientation if not. The premier of nsw is flying the French flag on the harbour bridge atm, and I wondered where the Iraq flag had been.

And I have to say, cortex et al, I think 'make a post if your so upset about it' is a pretty bullshit response - this issue is bigger than posts, and I'm a bit disappointed you can't recognise that. Its very dismissive.

This ethnocentrism, however unintentional, is actually a form of racism, and by settling for the status quo, you/we are perpetuating it, and I don't think that's good enough, especially from a community that likes to pride itself on inclusivity and listening to other voices.

Why don't you make a post, cortex, or others? Why don't those posting in the existing threads about Western terrorist attacks consider their comments a bit more mindfully, about just why the French attacks resonate so much more than the Iraqi or Turkish ones, and if that's a dynamic they want to strengthen with their comments. Or consider why we react with such horror and surprise when when a sliver of the misery we've exported to Iraq and lives there on a near daily basis comes back.

I realise this sounds hostile and I apologise ; my own emotion about this is making me more extreme than usual. However, whilst the reaction we've seen is natural, understandable, I don't feel that means it's right or even good, and I would like to apologise to megami. I've avoided those threads because the disparity and my reaction to it upsets me, but I promise to do better and post more, comment more, think more, question myself more too.
posted by smoke at 7:22 PM on July 15, 2016 [46 favorites]


And I have to say, cortex et al, I think 'make a post if your so upset about it' is a pretty bullshit response - this issue is bigger than posts, and I'm a bit disappointed you can't recognise that. Its very dismissive.

The issue may be bigger than posts, but the heart of the complaint is there being posts about some things and not about others. The solution to that is to make posts that address the things you want discussed, not telling other people they should be posting about them.
posted by edeezy at 7:29 PM on July 15, 2016 [10 favorites]


Why don't you make a post, cortex, or others?

Speaking only for myself: because metafilter isn't my job, or a school assignment?
posted by Greg Nog at 7:40 PM on July 15, 2016 [61 favorites]


It's reflected in the Western culture media at large. The Orlando victims had names and personal ambitions and likes read out on the air in various ways to humanize them. The Dallas police had profiles of them made public. The ~300 people killed in bombings in Baghdad... no names, no people, just a number, a statistic.

I wish our world weren't this way. Orlando really woke me up to having me feel, personally, every life I hear about being smacked out of existence in a visceral way that I had never felt before. And I feel ashamed at how Western culture doesn't do honor to people in Iraq who were out shopping with their families and were blown up by terrorists in the same way that they do gay people dancing in a nightclub shot to death or police assassinated in the line of duty.
posted by hippybear at 7:41 PM on July 15, 2016 [12 favorites]


Why don't you make a post, cortex, or others?

MetaFilter exists because members make posts. Expecting a post to be made that you want to see that you yourself are not willing to post means you probably won't see that thing posted. If it does get posted, that's happenstance.

There is no list of current events or pop culture topics or any other sort of category that exists that the mods go through and then assign members to post about, or to make posts about themselves. People post things because they want to post them. If you don't see the post you want to see, make that post. It's pretty straightforward.

If you feel the culture of this website isn't reflecting the culture you would like to see, then make posts. Make those posts and people will start to see the topics of those posts as something that blips on their radar, and soon you won't be the only person making those posts.
posted by hippybear at 7:48 PM on July 15, 2016 [47 favorites]


It's reflected in the Western culture media at large. The Orlando victims had names and personal ambitions and likes read out on the air in various ways to humanize them. The Dallas police had profiles of them made public. The ~300 people killed in bombings in Baghdad... no names, no people, just a number, a statistic.

They were talking about this on MSNBC last night. As they said, part of the reason is that we tend to think of those places as war zones, partly because most people just don't know that much about some of those places, but that's obviously not the whole story.
posted by bongo_x at 8:01 PM on July 15, 2016


for a forum that considers itself so inclusive and progressive

I don't really grant the premise.
posted by Miko at 8:02 PM on July 15, 2016 [29 favorites]


If MSNBC had spent the time to do profiles of every person killed in that single bombing that was equal to the time spent on Orlando massacre victims, then perhaps it wouldn't be a war zone, we'd know more about those places, and we'd have human beings being killed in our news every night in the Middle East (and I swear, it it feels like it is literally EVERY NIGHT I hear about another car bomb going off or something). Not just numbers.
posted by hippybear at 8:04 PM on July 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


I feel like I derailed with the post thing - I feel, and it sounds like Megami feels - that this is bigger than posts, that posts are a symptom of broader attitudes on and beyond Metafilter. I do not think posts are the solution here, or at least not the only solution, which is partly which I feel 'make a post' is a kinda bullshitty response that elides the broader issue by focusing solely on a, on a site metric instead of the more challenging dynamic.
posted by smoke at 8:09 PM on July 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


Reread the actual text of this MeTa. It's specifically about Megami not seeing on the front page what they want too see on the front page.

It crosses over into larger Western cultural attitudes, which I've said are unfortunate and shameful, but at its core, it's lamenting that the posts aren't there.
posted by hippybear at 8:13 PM on July 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


cortex et al, I think 'make a post if your so upset about it' is a pretty bullshit response

I very much don't mean it in that sense, for whatever it's worth, and I tried to explicitly acknowledge that "go make a post!" isn't the alpha and omega of a situation that otherwise requires no discussion. That said, I totally get the sense of frustration and I feel you there, and in any case it's been a long day and my brain's a bit fried at this point so I'm probably not batting 1.000 communicatively

So to restate: I basically want to emphasize that it is totally okay to go ahead and make a post if you feel like it's conspicuously absent. Not that it's anybody's personal duty or responsibility; not that having failed to do so invalidates concerns or criticism; not that it's a put-up-or-shut-up thing. Just trying to encourage and normalize that positive approach, that idea that it's okay to pivot from "I wish there was a post to x" to posting if you've got the inclination and the wherewithal to make it happen.

I believe really strongly in the community posting experiment that has been at the heart of MetaFilter from day one. It's not perfect and it's not the cure to all ills, but it's fundamentally what makes MeFi work as a space on the web and I want people to feel okay about participating in it and in helping shape it more into what they believe it can or should be. Again, I don't know if I communicated that well in my earlier comment, but that's where I'm coming from.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:15 PM on July 15, 2016 [30 favorites]


Thanks Cortex, I appreciate the follow up clarification.
posted by smoke at 8:21 PM on July 15, 2016


This brought to mind the visual comparison in column inches in the documentary Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media (at about an hour and twenty minutes in) between the Indonesial invasion of East Timor and the Khmer Rouge rule of Cambodia.

Even if we did get more posts about tragedies in non 'Western' countries we would see a lot less comments in those threads, too, I think. So just posting more FPPs is probably not going to be the solution.

Speaking just for myself, I'm way less likely to come across news in general about non 'Western' countries, so I'm less informed, and less able to comment. I get most of my news from social media and communities like MetaFilter these days and almost the only time I hear about non 'Western' tragedies is in the context of them not receiving enough attention. That's probably partially on me to curate my sources better, but the complaints are coming from some pretty tuned-in people I respect. "Column inches"-wise it feels like we're in a feedback loop with the media where I'll see 10 articles on the damn US election, for example, before I'll see one on anyone else's.
posted by ODiV at 8:21 PM on July 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


The "tuned-in people I respect" bit is supposed to imply that I think it's not solely a curation issue on my part, but I should have just outright stated it, because it's murky as-written. Apologies.
posted by ODiV at 8:29 PM on July 15, 2016


I think the op has a good point. Ive noticed only a select few posters here show up in threads about the culture of places that most Americans don't travel on vacation. Given the general imbalance of our sympathies I'm going to try to pay more attention to the breaking news of those places as well and hopefully some day soon I'll have enough general knowledge about them to post a thread about a breaking news type thing instead of yet another documentary about garage punk.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:33 PM on July 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's a question of identity and labour. Metafilter members in general want this to be a site that is inclusive and international and diverse, especially a site that is generally not racist or sexist. There's serous moderation hours and member time gone into making this site's culture less sexist and less racist, but the very strong western focus comes in and reinforces that same ethnic/culture/race tide that drifts back to a North American white central viewpoint over and over.

"Post what you want to see" is refusing to do any of the work involved because you like the site being mostly USA/UK, and if losing all the work into the people who have been excluded from the site by its structure.

I like metafilter well enough, and I'm glad it's around, but it's so very clearly not interested in being more international while thinking it is international, like a gap year student talking about how backpacking had made them realise how the world is so interconnected.

I've hesitated and decided not to invite three other women in Singapore I thought of for metafilter, only invited one Canadian-Singaporean in the end who I think took a look and went nope. It's not welcoming to people who aren't white or living in the U.S. And if that makes you uncomfortable, tough.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:39 PM on July 15, 2016 [59 favorites]


This Meta is sorely needed here and something I was thinking about the other night when the Nice thread was posted.

We are largely centered on the White Western World. There are so many ways we can do better to not be so much like that.

I'm listening, I'm reading, I want to do better.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:52 PM on July 15, 2016 [19 favorites]


The disparity in empathy is distasteful and I feel like I have noticed it more this year than before.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:00 PM on July 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


dorothyisunderwood, it does make me uncomfortable, and that's something I'm very cognizant of. Again, speaking only for me, as a white, Jewish-American female, I am wary of posting things that are outside my identity, because I don't want to overstep. At the same time, it is decidedly unfair to expect x-minority group to post for our education. This is a real problem, and directly ties in to Megami's OP. In a general sense, yes, it's easier to post about Nice than Istanbul. That's not ok. My reading of the OP is that allies need to step up. That we need to get over our own discomfort and make the difficult (for us) posts. Am I reading this wrong?
posted by Ruki at 9:00 PM on July 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


and maybe participate better in the comments too?
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:12 PM on July 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


We are largely centered on the White Western World. There are so many ways we can do better to not be so much like that.

There are also (rightly) complaints if white, male, cis, het, westerners speak for, or make dumb comments about, other people cultures and places; we can welcome and encourage other voices, but we can't speak for them. And the comments of most of us here on threads about places outside the west will be necessarily those of outsiders.

There are also perennial complaints that any subject focused on anywhere outside the US gets discussed in terms of US analogies or how this affects the US etc., and that is true even for many Western European topics. Even empathetic, well meaning threads about troubles remote for most of us are potentially problematic unless they have nucleus of posters who know directly from personal experience about the subject.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:13 PM on July 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


I think this is a really good call-out (or whatever one wants to call it).

It's one of those things where I have hesitated in the past because I've thought "here am I, a white person from the US, why would it be appropriate for me to make a post about [regional issue]". Is this one of those things where it's better to give it a shot, knowing that you're perhaps not the best person to make the post, than to hang back?

I think that for me, ignorance is a factor - not literal ignorance, like not knowing that Istanbul exists, but bigger cultural ignorance. When I think about France, I am thinking about a language I speak, novels I've read, history I'm broadly familiar with. So when something happens in France, it is absolutely true that I have a lot more mental pegs to hang it on. This is something that I could change - it's not like I've even been to France any more than I've been to Istanbul.

It seems like a way to fix this would be for people (including me; I don't mean "everyone else pls") to work on putting together posts about the things we do know. I could make a good post on Tariq Ali's Islam Quintet and its background, for instance, because that's something I actually do know about - Ali is British, but the novels cover the history of the encounters of Islamic societies and the West from the late Middle Ages. My point is that if we change our background level of ignorance, that is going to play out in the foreground when political events happen. If we change our mental maps by changing what culture and history we know, we'll be paying more attention and feeling differently in the moment.

I think (or hope, anyway) that for many of us here, it's not that we are unwilling to have empathy; it's that we are both ignorant and set in our mental habits.

Maybe US/white/Western people could have a bash at posting about things we do know, making our standpoint clear, and try to make ourselves more aware and better informed that way? Maybe if we stuck to things like posting factual material, interviews, etc, we could get around some of the "white and/or Western people overstepping" thing? When I teach SF by Black writers, I usually worry a lot about this, and my workaround is to try to bring in interviews and essays by the writers themselves, critical material by Black writers and related stuff, so that I am not in the position of speaking for Black writers.
posted by Frowner at 9:24 PM on July 15, 2016 [30 favorites]


I think instead of being defensive, it's worth recognizing that this is true. Recognition that this is part of an implicit bias of the site and the people who primarily post here. Racism is, by and large, made up of this sort of Not Seeing other people. People who don't look like us, or eat like us, or pray like us, or whatever.

Being reflective on this point is uncomfortable. It does mean confronting that what you think is important is more narrow than you would like to admit. I encourage people to step back and not tell the poster that this is their job to fix.

They have already taken a step in fixing it. This post is being the change you want to see. They're asking other people to step up, too. That seems both reasonable and worthy of respect.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:27 PM on July 15, 2016 [35 favorites]


I just about didn't make my last post because I was afraid the topic would be some sore spot or lightening rod for local anger. And that was for something relatively innocuous. Also in the past I've had a post pilloried when something outside my wheelhouse I thought was cool turned out to be mundane for the people who are knowledgeable about the thing. Even had a deletion once because of it.

I wouldn't in a million years actually post something concerning a minority group or culture I'm not a member of. Noope! Somewhat ironically part of reason for that is Metafilter has made me more sensitive to potential issues; 20 year old me would have posted away in blind ignorance. IE: today I sure as heck wouldn't make my first post (Topic: Gay Marriage) because of the potential shit storm caused by offending someone.

So while I don't expect people with direct knowledge or interest to make posts about their local affairs like little worker bees I'm sure as heck not going to be making those posts myself. I'd bet I'm not alone in that.

I sure would like to see more local interest posts though. The bar is really low on this sort of thing; a sandwich shop closing has been front page material more than once.
posted by Mitheral at 9:27 PM on July 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


Thanks everyone for the civilized discussion so far - as you can imagine I was up until the early hours of the morning, and frankly am still in need of coffee now (it's half past seven in the morning here).
For the record I am an atheiest, cis-gendered white woman with an Australian passport. As I said this is not me personally I am talking about, it is about empathy being about more than putting in some hugs or dots for white Europeans.
I am super tired right now and not sure I could do a good job of explaining what lead me to post the meta, so I am not going to muddy the water with something incoherent. But this was about more than 'I don't see enough posts about Istanbul/Turkey/whatever' but rather about the rush to identify certain groups worthy of sympathy or even empathy and the basic level of notice, and that those groups seem to be 'Western'/majority white. You don't have to be the same origin as a group of humans to empathise with them as humans and think they are as worthy of attention. And I don't think 'the best of the web' is people aping social media with . and hugs and cliches for terror attacks in Europe, especially if they can't be bothered to do the same for non-'Western' (sorry, having issues thinking of the right term) victims.
posted by Megami at 9:38 PM on July 15, 2016 [36 favorites]


I think instead of being defensive, it's worth recognizing that this is true.

It is true. But it’s not necessarily being defensive to point out that it’s not that easy to include all voices and all problems. If we have a post about Istanbul then we can also rightly ask why we don’t have a post for the victims of the Chinese flooding or the turmoil in South Sudan — it literally never ends.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 9:40 PM on July 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


We talked a bit about this after the Boston Marathon bombing, but I believe it was sparked by a deleted comment on the blue, so the framing is obviously different. Also it's not the entire subject of the thread.
posted by ODiV at 10:04 PM on July 15, 2016


Quinbus, the world is big and interesting. Metafilter (and our minds/hearts) isn't a zero-sum game.

There's plenty of interesting stuff happening in China and South Sudan besides tragedy to talk about. There are potential Chinese and Sudanese Metafilter members out there who won't join the site because they know it's not a place for them.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 10:05 PM on July 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


My mind certainly feels pretty damn zero-sum right now. Maybe that's just my failing.
posted by ODiV at 11:09 PM on July 15, 2016


The recent thread on ISIS attacks had some questionable comments in it. From what I'm seeing now, there's a deleted comment criticizing the random civilians that were killed (WTF), people painting Bangledesh as religiously intolerant, and people saying that ISIS is not a credible threat to "any nation" (Western nations, more like?), and there's only about 10 attacks a year so what's the big deal.

That's just out of a thread with only 37 comments. These are the kinds of callous remarks no one would dare make about Nice. But in a thread about attacks in Bangladesh, Baghdad, and Istanbul, these comments are made and few people seem to bat any eyelashes.

That's not just an attention problem -- it's an empathy problem.
posted by naju at 11:13 PM on July 15, 2016 [45 favorites]


Maybe the people in the middle of a horrible and stressful situation don't have the time and emotional capacity to also be educating foreigners about what's going on right in the minute? And maybe Metafilter's ongoing attitude of exclusion towards people not from wealthy western countries makes it that much harder to find the capacity to push themselves forward for notice. Which leads to a self fulling cycle for sure.

My feeling is that Metafilter has become less inclusive to foreigners in recent years but it's a feeling rather than something backed up with data.
posted by shelleycat at 12:12 AM on July 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


Actually it's more than a feeling. I've been very effectively shut down and driven away several times in recent years for daring to speak up as a non-American. And I'm white and Western myself. I could have stayed to fight harder or explain better but I don't always have the head space free to stand up to people who are actively pushing me away. So yeah, Metafilter definitely has a problem hearing different voices at times and that spills over into lack of empathy too.
posted by shelleycat at 12:20 AM on July 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


Metafilter members in general want this to be a site that is inclusive and international

I think that's untrue. It's an American site for things that interest Americans. You don't have to be American to join, but you have to accept it as a characteristic; if you try to post about something that isn't well understood or relevant in America you'll find that people look for an American 'equivalent' and talk about that instead. My perception is that this process, tacitly supported by the mods, has made the place steadily less cosmopolitan over recent years.

We may regret that Mefi didn't grow wider, but it is what it is, and I think we have to recognise that there's nothing inherently wrong with Americans having sites of their own, that reflect their own outlook.
posted by Segundus at 12:21 AM on July 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


Last time anyone checked very nearly 1 in 4 active posters were not in the US so I'm sick of hearing how it's your site only.
posted by shelleycat at 12:30 AM on July 16, 2016 [47 favorites]


And maybe someone who knows how can check again so we can have a discussion based on reality rather than just explicitly tell the rest of us we aren't real members here as Segundus just did given that's just another method for shutting down diverse voices.
posted by shelleycat at 12:33 AM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Segundus: " It's an American site for things that interest Americans. You don't have to be American to join, but you have to accept it as a characteristic;"

Maybe I'm just not very good at accepting reality, but I find that pretty gross and it makes me wonder whether I'm really welcome here. MetaFilter is pretty rubbish at remembering that there's a world outside the US as it stands, could we maybe not make it worse by implying that we're supposed to be okay with that?
posted by langtonsant at 12:55 AM on July 16, 2016 [33 favorites]


It's certainly an US based site, but I can name a bunch of non-US members off the top of my head. And that's just prolific posters. We can definitely be more culturally sensitive. We can, and I include myself in that, be better. We got through Boyzone, and we can get through this.

Honest question. We've done months by women. Would it help if there was a concerted effort to make posts that were more international, even if they were made by US members?
posted by Ruki at 1:00 AM on July 16, 2016 [16 favorites]


We had a discussion about this a little while ago. I'm not sure it went terribly well. I'd like to see something like that happen, but I'm not sure how we'd get past the issues that came up last time?
posted by langtonsant at 1:04 AM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

There are also perennial complaints that any subject focused on anywhere outside the US gets discussed in terms of US analogies or how this affects the US etc., and that is true even for many Western European topics. Even empathetic, well meaning threads about troubles remote for most of us are potentially problematic unless they have nucleus of posters who know directly from personal experience about the subject.
This is something that there's been work done on quite recently. In the recent threads about the political upheaval in the UK, the mods have done a really good job at nixing anything that threatens to derail the thread into "hey this reminds me of Trump, let's talk about Trump" etc. Through flagging and dialogue with mods, and mods stepping in to kill US derails we've managed to keep the threads focused largely on UK and European matters, which is something of a first for MeFi political discussions. People have mostly stopped trying to railroad things into a proxy discussion of US politics where Boris = Trump and Corbyn = Sanders etc.

I do sometimes get the unwelcome impression of being a guest on a US-based website, though. Often, you have to stop what you're doing and talking about because an American joins the UK thread and asks for things to be explained, which is fine but can detract from the discussion between the more knowledgeable members. It rarely seems to happen in reverse on US-focused threads because there's this unspoken assumption that we're all deeply familiar with US pop culture / politics / economy etc. It can sometimes feel like the onus is on the non-US members to educate US members on a topic, when you just want to discuss the topic at hand.

MeFi is a US website in that its management are based in the US and its servers are based in the US. But as a British citizen, I tend not to spend a lot of time on solely UK-focused websites because I prefer the international outlook and global view on things. I think that reducing it to a US-only discussion site as Segundus seems to be suggesting would be highly detrimental to the future of the site. I would greatly appreciate less inside-baseball US discussion, and more discussion of matters that are outside Europe and the US. I like to learn about the world.
posted by winterhill at 1:04 AM on July 16, 2016 [33 favorites]


Jumping into say that I (European) don't comment on the blue very often but I read nearly all the fpps and their links. I really enjoy the ones about non-Western cultures. Just because something doesn't get a lot of comments doesn't mean it's not a worthwhile post to someone.
posted by toerinishuman at 1:07 AM on July 16, 2016 [22 favorites]


I think some of my frustration about the US-centric nature of the site comes from those cases where the US contingent don't even seem to notice the ways in which they continually rely on the presumption of familiarity with the US. I don't even know where to begin with documenting the endlessly repetitive nature of this as an issue, but to pick a random example from earlier this year we have... the 2016 MeFi March Madness thread in which it was simply assumed from the beginning that everyone knew wtf that was about (zero context was provided), and when a non American entered the thread with a slightly puzzled "hey what's this about" comment -- in direct response to an expat American who had explicitly commented on how March Madness is virtually unknown outside the US, I should add -- this was immediately followed by a somewhat accusatory comment about the smug ignorance of foreigners for not knowing anything about US college basketball. I barely know how to respond to that? Is this really what American MeFites expect of us? That we understand the tiny details of your second-tier sporting leagues? Really???

I could probably go on at great length about how unbearably tedious it is to have to be constantly decoding American cultural references or (worse) American political dogwhistles, or how annoying it is to be expected to laugh - again - at the millionth repetition of the same joke about my country, or just even tiny little microaggressions like when people decide to frame a discussion about the problems in science as if the issue at hand pertained entirely to the US. I could go at great length about how I start feeling like I'm turning into an angry, whiny person, pathetically begging Americans to stop reframing every damn thing on the planet in terms of what it means to them, or to stop writing posts about "our nation" as if any such commonality of citizenship existed. Honestly, though, I'd just like the US contingent to remember that there's a pretty large proportion of us here that aren't American, and we don't actually understand your country or your culture anywhere near as well as you think we do. Personally I'm actually very interested in the US and its culture, but many other MeFites aren't and nor should they have to be.
posted by langtonsant at 1:40 AM on July 16, 2016 [37 favorites]


I think it's worth another try. Selfishly, I want something more than US election posts. I'm third generation on all sides. One of my ancestors worked on the King James Bible. I could make a whole post about bigos (my babcia's recipe included whatever my uncles' killed, it was a true hunter's stew, with squirrel and woodchuck). Unless you're Native, you have a history outside the US, and you can use that as a jumping point.
posted by Ruki at 1:52 AM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty new here and also feeling worked up about events in Turkey (and I'm basically tired and emotional in both the literal and euphemistic senses right now), but I want to thank Megami for raising this issue.

When the İstanbul airport attack happened last month I came here to see if there was anything about it, and saw a post quickly deleted as breaking news--which, fine, that's clearly a moderation norm for the blue, and I wasn't really bothered by it (though I did notice that the Nice post was allowed to stay up despite being similarly immediate). What does bother me, though, is what naju called "the kinds of callous remarks no one would dare make about Nice"--there's a fair amount of that kind of thing (weird jokes, uninformed hot takes) in the coup thread right now and it's discouraging. If I want to read glib hot-takes-from-a-distance I can just go back to twitter.

It reminds me of a point I've seen eloquently stated here a number of times, about how frustrating it is when cis dudes in a discussion of, say, reproductive rights launch into a super-dispassionate debate mode and fail to register that it's not abstract or theoretical when it's your body on the line. As a friend wrote elsewhere earlier today: "almost everyone I’ve seen be glib about or supportive of this coup has no real connection to Turkey." I'm going to try and remember that next time I'm tempted to be equally glib about a place or community I'm disconnected from (because god knows I've been guilty of that kind of hot-takery before, and probably will be again). Anyway, it seems like a useful starting point for thinking about the ethics of commentary from a distance.
posted by karayel at 2:01 AM on July 16, 2016 [32 favorites]


American political dogwhistles

There's another, related tendency: American versions of things are Universal, and versions of said thing in other cultures, societies and languages are lesser versions of the True American thing. Free speech is a perfect example of this. I've seen Americans get really angry about this, including here on MeFi.

But I think the pinnacle of this (and this is rare, of course) was in some MeTa thread, related to racism if memory servers, where someone was arguing, in all seriousness, that words in other languages cannot have different connotations from the ones in English. That was pretty hilarious.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 2:01 AM on July 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


American perspectives on a lot of things are bullshit, I understand that. One way to address that is for people from other countries to make posts or comments about things from their points of view. That won't solve everything but it's a start.

The MeFi new user message emphasizes that what makes the site good is people with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives contributing. It's how the site works.
posted by edeezy at 2:15 AM on July 16, 2016


It's an American site for things that interest Americans. You don't have to be American to join, but you have to accept it as a characteristic;"
>
Maybe I'm just not very good at accepting reality, but I find that pretty gross and it makes me wonder whether I'm really welcome here.


I'm not American -- I've never felt not welcome here, except maybe that one time ...
posted by philip-random at 2:20 AM on July 16, 2016


One way to address that is for people from other countries to make posts or comments about things from their points of view. That won't solve everything but it's a start.

Another way of doing it is for American users to shut up and listen to perspectives outside of their own instead of either making it all about them or getting defensive at the differences. And that's the best case scenario, I've become quite scared to speak up because I've been shut down and run off one too many times at this point.
posted by shelleycat at 3:15 AM on July 16, 2016 [18 favorites]


Another way of doing it is for American users to shut up and listen to perspectives outside of their own

I totally agree with you! Of course listening requires there being something to listen to, and that ties back into MF being a participatory site.
posted by edeezy at 3:25 AM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Karayel I would like to thank you for your contributions in the Turkish coup thread. I flagged your first comment as fantastic and I really appreciated your insights and updates.

I do hope this thread doesn't just dissolve into an America vs everyone else discussion, as Megami's initial point was about far more than that, and was in part spurred by an fp about France.

I've been heartened by the mefites who have expressed a recognition there is a problem here, and a willingness to try/do better. I don't think that commitment should be an exclusively American one, and this thread has certainly made me rethink the way I engage with posts.
posted by smoke at 3:28 AM on July 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


And my comment is not saying non-American Mefites don't participate, it's saying if people feel that certain not-immediately-related-to-America things are being ignored then post about them!
posted by edeezy at 3:28 AM on July 16, 2016


Just wanted to briefly check back into this thread to apologise for my comments above, which were unnecessarily aggressive and not really on topic (I'm exhausted and I let that get the better of me). I very much agree with smoke that this is a more general issue, and I think it's really great that Megami posted this. I'm glad folks are taking the topic seriously, and it's something I feel I should work on myself too. Thanks.
posted by langtonsant at 4:20 AM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]



I think it's worth another try. Selfishly, I want something more than US election posts. I'm third generation on all sides. One of my ancestors worked on the King James Bible. I could make a whole post about bigos (my babcia's recipe included whatever my uncles' killed, it was a true hunter's stew, with squirrel and woodchuck). Unless you're Native, you have a history outside the US, and you can use that as a jumping point.


I don't mean to pick on you in particular, but this comment illustrates one of my biggest issues with US-centric Mefi - the unstated assumptions, and the narrowing of your audience with no acknowledgement of it. The comment is not explicitly addressed to Americans, it is addressed to the thread, but it becomes clear as you read it that it assumes the reader is American. This is a huge part of the casual othering that happens here. It creates some sort of idea that the users of this site are from the US, alienating the rest of us. And it really is as simple as throwing "US mefites" in front of the last sentence to not have it be the case - an acknowledgement that the rest of us exist, an indication that you are aware that not everyone is from your country. I'm not saying people don't, just that it is easy to create text that doesn't, and a little care can alleviate it dramatically.
posted by Dysk at 4:31 AM on July 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


smoke: in part spurred by an fp about France

I'm somewhat sensitive about this issue in particular. I lived as a kid in France, my grandmother lives in France, my family has a long history there and lots of connections, and I have French friends. I feel like that it's weirdly acceptable to use massacres in France as jumping off points for discussions about how much we need to focus on other places too. Some see an asterisk next to French lives that refers to a footnote that says: "Don't spend too much time thinking about this person."

I agree that more time and thought should be spent on those who die in atrocities in Iraq, Turkey, Indonesia, and everywhere else. We're all humans and every human who dies because of violence is the end of a world. But surely that point can be made without denigrating people of other ethnicities and nationalities.
posted by Kattullus at 4:59 AM on July 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


karayel: there's a fair amount of that kind of thing (weird jokes, uninformed hot takes) in the coup thread right now and it's discouraging

Oh goodness yes. That thread was a disappointment.
posted by Kattullus at 5:03 AM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


My sincere apologies, Kattullus. It absolutely wasn't my intention to denigrate anything or anyone of any nationality, I just wanted to highlight that this issue is transnational, bigger than America/Americans, not that people in France do not deserve our condolences and empathy. I'm very sorry if I offended or upset you.
posted by smoke at 5:48 AM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'd love a more global MetaFilter but on the other hand watching Americans stumble around cultural things important to me like children in a museum is often infuriating and honestly if you don't think you have the cultural context to post about something in a useful way, I'd rather see another FPP about whatever quotidian American shit than a belly flop of an attempt to be Inclusive and Multicultural. This represents no one's opinion but my own.
posted by griphus at 5:59 AM on July 16, 2016 [37 favorites]


Just because something doesn't get a lot of comments doesn't mean it's not a worthwhile post to someone.

I would like to second this - I don't know enough about Istanbul and its geography, Turkish history/politics/ethno culture, don't speak Turkish and thus am not really able to provide meaningful commentary other than breaking news to a thread. I do appreciate others who are able to contextualize some of the events in a way that gets past the talking points I will see on any English language news networks.
posted by scrittore at 6:00 AM on July 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


One of the first things I posted on metafilter was a series of links contextualizing a bombing in Uganda in response to a CNN article that told us one of the reasons we should care was because an American died. The thread was not as bad as it could have been, but it was less than illuminating and it was clear that people generally didn't care all that much. One dot. 35 comments, many of which were bickering about understandability. It put a sour taste in my mouth. I don't have strong connections to Uganda other than a generalized interest in African politics and time spent in East Africa, and I still found the response to that post pretty upsetting. Admittedly, I posted the original article in anger and with the idea that People Should Care - which is often not a good place to post from because I am generally pretty sure that People Won't Care in the way I want them to.

Anyways, there wasn't a post for the Grand Bassam shootings. There wasn't a post for the Burkina Faso hotel. Boko Haram is killing with pretty near impunity in Cameroon and Nigeria. Cote d'Ivoire won the African Cup of Nations and had an election and there's so much cool stuff to talk about, but I'm not detached enough to post about something I feel really strongly about and not take the response (or lack thereof) personally. It's all well and good to say, "But educate us! It doesn't matter if nobody comments!" But. It does matter. And it matters if nobody comments intelligently. I don't want to put a lot of effort into finding links to give context and educate and prove to people why something is important if it's going to yield a jokey thread, or a silent thread, or a thread of weirdness.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:07 AM on July 16, 2016 [54 favorites]


smoke: It absolutely wasn't my intention to denigrate anything or anyone of any nationality, I just wanted to highlight that this issue is transnational, bigger than America/Americans, not that people in France do not deserve our condolences and empathy.

The point being made about how people outside the Western world are treated is a good point, and I agree with it. It's just something that gets under my skin in the aggregate. No individual instance is ever particularly bad, but after seeing it so many times it starts to get to me. Sort of like jokes in threads about horrible things happening outside the Anglophone world. Very rarely is any individual joke particularly offensive, but the cumulative effect is painful.
posted by Kattullus at 6:37 AM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Aw man, everyone's right. Metafilter as a whole is prone to cultural myopia, and sometimes ethnocentrism and racism: true. This is a wrong thing that should be changed: true. It is also of a piece with how Americans (and just people, in the West, in North America, on earth) are in general :/

To some extent, I think it's inevitable, because of people's limited attention, comfort with the familiar, inherent self-interest, the whole repertoire of cognitive biases - sort of a function of the constraints of our nature. Also, it's one thing to be able to hold in one's imagination the experience of individuals with experiences that differ from our own - easier, when there's a way in via a certain kind of graspable narrative; appreciating and internalizing the sheer scale of difference, of the granular realities of other countries, across the globe, difficult :/ (without personal experience of travel, I think, and not really even then, but anyway). Especially when international news is reported a certain way (when it is at all), i.e. in ways that tend to reinforce our worst inclinations. Should it change, absolutely; can it change, yes in places, I think, no in places.

Members of cultures outside (or inside) of a dominant culture usually know more about it than members of the dominant culture do about theirs. Because they often have to; also because, hegemony, it's inescapable.

(I'm a stone's throw from the US border, my culture is saturated with American content. Maybe because of that, because of growing up in the elephant's shadow, I am used to their ignorance (technical sense) and (usually) lack of interest in us. I think many Canadians are just pleasantly surprised and kind of grateful when anyone knows about anything beyond maple syrup. Maybe that speaks to a national insecurity complex, probably.)

Metafilter is an American site, by and largely for Americans: true. Is it a bad thing, well, I don't know. It is what it is... The culture here reflects larger dynamics. I think it's good, important (vital) to call for cosmopolitanism, absolutely. To impose it with participation might be more effective... I think it is effective, when I see it. I think it's a bit unrealistic to hope for it to spring from within.

E.g., I'm not a huge poster anyway, but I, also, wouldn't dare write about a subject I didn't know well that had any ethical import at all (or wasn't a kind of flip one off). I wouldn't even try to approach my family's country of origin, and the leaving of it is still fresh... Still so much room for getting things wrong, being unintentionally offensive.

I love seeing non-US voices. Most are still from Anglo countries, or Anglo expats in non-Anglo countries, or (I think a bit more rare; always excellent to see) highly educated people for whom English is a second language... this is to no small degree because it's an English site. It's not just "in English", either; full participation requires a comfort with a certain level of cultural and linguistic sophistication, a certain, kind of necessarily domestic, middle classness. (Sort of a different issue, on its own, but again, it is what it is.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:48 AM on July 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


One thing that I think changed things on the site about trans issues was Juliet Banana's trans 101 thing - even linking that or making a comment at the base of a post, I think, primed people to discuss it more intelligently. I haven't seen a "but trans people are not real" comment for a while - I'm sure a few get through, but we were debating that just three years ago.

I wonder if there could be some kind of boilerplate for the bottom of non-US politics threads that primes US-based mefites about either keeping the conversation focused on the issue at hand or not commenting if you don't have the focus/knowledge to do that? It might be that between more conscious moderation and some priming, at least the well-meaning but careless/ignorant could be moved to better behavior?

I know that priming stuff like that does make a difference for me.

I also feel like this is a really big site, and it's very possible for things to happen on here and many people not to notice them just because of timing. This also makes me think that boilerplate would help - it's perfectly possible for many people not even to see a meta about a problem with particular kinds of posts, but you almost have to see the boilerplate.
posted by Frowner at 8:22 AM on July 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


To expect someone who is living close enough to bombings to be able to hear and feel them to THEN bear the responsibility of posting a check-in post is the absolute 100% opposite of all we claim we are striving to do better with. It's emotional labor x 1000. I gather that all of the defensiveness up there is because many people are simply not used to being called out for being wrong.

You don't need a PhD in International Relations to create a post that says "Hey, everyone in Turkey okay?"

I'm sorry, Megami. I'm glad you and your son are okay and hope you stay okay.
posted by kimberussell at 8:35 AM on July 16, 2016 [34 favorites]


(To clarify in re boilerplate - I was absolutely not suggesting this for check-in or other urgent posts, more the "here is a thing of interest" posts, especially those created by US people.)
posted by Frowner at 8:41 AM on July 16, 2016


(I know, Frowner! Not directed at you. :) )
posted by kimberussell at 8:48 AM on July 16, 2016


I try to avoid posting about things I am ignorant about. Given my typical American education, I am ignorant of the histories and cultures of most of the non-Western world.

Sure, I can read The Economist or listen to the BBC World Service for what I assume is decent international events coverage, but I have no foundational knowledge to put those news stories into context.

I wouldn't even know where to begin to rectify this deficiency, given that the only language I'm fluent in is English and thus any primers I could find would likely have a very Western bias. Additionally, the rest of the world is so much larger and more diverse than Western Civilization that I would effectively have to redo my K-12 and undergraduate education several times over to reach an equivalent baseline knowledge.

Meanwhile, even if I had the time and energy to do this, then what? I still can't influence events in these other countries and cultures. Even if I could, I worry that it would be inappropriate for me to try because "white savior complex" is so inherently problematic.

So I generally allocate most of my attention to my own country, where I can actually help effect change, and the rest to countries that are similar enough to my country their events, policies, etc. could plausibly be examples of possibilities for my own country.

I have nothing against other people posting about events in non-Western countries. But I'm not going to make those posts myself, and I am unlikely to spend much of my time reading or participating in those threads. They're just not relevant enough to my life or interests -- something true of roughly 90% of the topics posted on the Blue.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:06 AM on July 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


I wasn't talking about check-in posts, either. (That isn't what the OP is exactly about, or is it?)
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:23 AM on July 16, 2016


Oh, and another reason that Americans care so much more about terrorist attacks in France than elsewhere is that there might not even *BE* a United States without France. Britain may have been our mother but France was our midwife.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:30 AM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


I had this conversation, or one similar, with Shepherd last night. I always see Je Suis Paris/France on people's Twitter/FB feeds all the time, but never the same for non-white countries. Pretty much because places like Paris or Nice are where white Westerners are likely to go and have a romantic attachment to, even if they've never been there. Violence in Middle Eastern countries is just seen as something that Happens Over There, so when it happens? No one notices any more than usual. Paris? Nice? That upsets people more.

I think it's awful to say, "Well, YOU make those posts if you want us to care/notice." Even worse, is the response like Jacqueline made above: "If you make those posts, I still won't read them because I don't care."
posted by Kitteh at 9:32 AM on July 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


That is a really uncharitable reading of Jacqueline's comment.
posted by lalex at 9:39 AM on July 16, 2016 [27 favorites]


That criticism seemed spot on to me. I don't think anyone was really questioning that Americans can be both ignorant of goings on in the rest of the world and unmotivated to do something about it, but it's crass to see that commitment laid out so boldly, yet there you go.

I kind of think maybe an okay western reaction to the type of criticism put forth in the OP is to just take it in without either pointing out the practical reasons why MeFi is so western culture-centric or the fact that people can always just post FPPs on whatever they want to.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:42 AM on July 16, 2016 [17 favorites]


Just because something doesn't get a lot of comments doesn't mean it's not a worthwhile post to someone.

nthing this. I'm someone who has moved away from "posting and commenting" and towards "listening" with respect to topics that aren't part of my own cultural identity/experience, but I love to see posts about non-US events and topics. I'm reading!
posted by lalex at 9:44 AM on July 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


I kind of think maybe an okay western reaction to the type of criticism put forth in the OP is to just take it in without either pointing out the practical reasons why MeFi is so western culture-centric

Well, fine, good point. Personally, I am unwilling to commit myself to fruitless frustration because MeFi and the US in general have little idea about my parents' country (of ~200,000 people). Or of my country, which is massive, and adjacent to it. Turkey of course has had a significant influence on world history, not really comparable to either... And it's a crying shame that we're as dumb as we are on international matters. But... we're dumb about it, in specific ways :/
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:55 AM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Even worse, is the response like Jacqueline made above: "If you make those posts, I still won't read them because I don't care."

It's more like, I won't read them because I skip 90% of FPPs anyway, and political FPPs require such an investment of time, energy, and risk of psychological pain that I only read/engage when it relates to something that I might actually be able to personally affect in some small way.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:58 AM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


this was immediately followed by a somewhat accusatory comment about the smug ignorance of foreigners for not knowing anything about US college basketball. I barely know how to respond to that? Is this really what American MeFites expect of us? That we understand the tiny details of your second-tier sporting leagues? Really???

Oh hey, I made that comment.... oh nooooooo.

(Briefly and non-derail-y, I hope:) I was responding to a comment which I thought in part was like "Hurr sportsball!?", or, "Is this something I would have to own a TV to understand?" Those kinds of comments get pretty obnoxious after awhile no matter who makes them or why. I thought, hey, it's kind of weird that those comments are basically an admission of ignorance (on a certain topic), but in a proud way.

I wasn't thinking about a larger pattern of frustration of assumed Americanness when I wrote it, and I didn't intend to contribute to that. I'll leave it at that.
posted by nom de poop at 10:06 AM on July 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


I'm gonna totally cop to defaulting to a US centric view of the world even though I really try to keep it in check as much as possible. There's ways that I'm blind to that and metas like this helps me to see that tendency better.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:24 AM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Oh hey, I made that comment.... oh nooooooo.

I completely agree with your reading of that comment you were responding to in the March Madness thread. That comment was not an innocent and sincere "hey, what is this about" question. It was a dismissive comment about......watching sports. It deserved the reply you gave it in my opinion. Moreover, to use your reply as an example of the type of thing being discussed in this thread is totally upside down and backwards. It was the comment that you were replying to that is an example of the problematic behavior being discussed here. Namely, coming into a thread about a cultural thing you know nothing about and then smugly dismissing it.

Upthread, somebody posted:

Personally I'm actually very interested in the US and its culture, but many other MeFites aren't and nor should they have to be.

And nobody seemed to have a problem with that comment. Neither do I. With the caveat being that if a thread is about a US cultural phenomena that you know nothing about and are not interested in, then it is probably best to stay out of those threads and not comment. The same thing applies to Americans when threads about other cultures pop up...and that is all Jacqueline seemed to be pointing out. I agree with her. We all have different interests and a finite amount of time with which to indulge them. I don't expect a MeFite from Singapore to give a rat's ass about the never ending US election cycle. Likewise, I don't read threads about Australian politics, for example. It just doesn't interest me. And I don't think it is crass to point that out.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 11:11 AM on July 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


Megami, I am glad you and your son are ok, and while you say you don't need thoughts and prayers, I will still tell you I am thinking of Turkey.

I certainly don't know much about Turkish politics, certainly not enough to write a competent FPP.

But I do have a good friend who is Turkish who I met while he studied in Canada. He just responded to my and other facebook queries to let his friends (who literally span the world as he is a physicist who has worked in many countries) that he and his wife and child are safe. Thank goodness.

I await news from another friend who's husband is Turkish, and living in Istanbul, and so still hoping he and her extended family are ok.

I work with graduate students at a Canadian university. Through my work, I know many young scholars who are from Libya, Turkey, Egypt, France, China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Iran, and yes, also the UK and the US as well as many other countries. And because this is Canada, there are also many Canadians who feel a tug to countries beyond our borders through their families. Sometimes this is not very evident in Canadian media as well, where you might see comments suggesting we have not faced major terror attacks here. The families in BC who lost their loved ones in the Air India attack would say otherwise.

I worry about all of them when crises arise in their countries of origin. I imagine what you describe feeling about metafilter at this time is their daily living environment -- almost everyone in their Canadian life is unaware of the massive crisis facing their family and friends back home except maybe they saw a big headline, usually with a peppering of "Canadian embassy tells travelers ... " focus. I do try to keep abreast of international news, but even when it affects my close friends and I am actively seeking material, I have no hope of truly understanding the context or nuance. I do try to understand international news through parallels with my own context -- I don't really have a better strategy for understanding the political, national and cultural context of other people than mixing it in with my own experience and having a look at what comes up, to be honest.

There is something particularly terrible about feeling invisible while also being under literal attack, or having your country under attack. I would like to see Metafilter strive to be a place that reduces invisibility.

I don't know what else to say except that there are many like me who are both ignorant and distressed, and who have loved ones we worry about despite our ignorance of the politics and the inability to articulate anything about the crisis itself.
posted by chapps at 11:17 AM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


Kitteh: I always see Je Suis Paris/France on people's Twitter/FB feeds all the time, but never the same for non-white countries. Pretty much because places like Paris or Nice are where white Westerners are likely to go and have a romantic attachment to, even if they've never been there. Violence in Middle Eastern countries is just seen as something that Happens Over There, so when it happens? No one notices any more than usual. Paris? Nice? That upsets people more.

I know I risk sounding like a broken record, but there's really no need to use atrocities against people in France as a way to get people to pay attention to horrors elsewhere. Pushing information about non-Western places, and stories from there, is a good thing. Asking people to have less empathy for people in France and Belgium is not a humane method for accomplishing that aim.
posted by Kattullus at 11:19 AM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Asking people to have less empathy for people in France and Belgium is not a humane method for accomplishing that aim.

No one is doing this.
posted by Krom Tatman at 11:36 AM on July 16, 2016 [25 favorites]


If the Americans here should be shutting up and listening - which I agree with - rather than posting uninformed hot takes - which I believe are unwelcome and unnecessary - and Metafilter has no recruitment or marketing campaign in the first place and so isn't deliberately excluding English-speaking participants from other countries, who is the burden on here to fix it? Who should be making these posts that are missing from the site?

It would never occur to me that I would be the right person to make a post about, say, the airport bombings in either Brussels or Istanbul. I haven't been to either airport, though I know where they are on a map and I understand the basics of the political climate in both countries, and I have been to Belgium. But I don't live there, or even in Europe, I have no experience of the day-to-day existence of the EU's capital or Europe's complicated relationship with immigrants and refugees. (And unfortunately what I know about Turkey's political situation boils down to "incredibly complicated and difficult to find the right kind of ramp-up documentation on.")

I do care, and I do want to read about those things, but I am smart enough to know I am too dumb to post (or in all likelihood comment, unless I had a question I couldn't figure out) about it. I don't know the nuanced differences between a decent news source and a shitty one. I would do as bad a job on that post as I would if I had to write a post about equine veterinary care or biomedical engineering, other things that I have no business trying to explain. They are important, and I don't want them to go away, which is exactly why I don't need to appoint myself an expert on them.

But I'm also pretty sure that, despite being product of narcissistic American culture and education, I have always known this site wasn't inclusive, or at least demographically evenly distributed, because the site is in English to start with, and, I mean...take a look at all the cultures that are primarily Anglophone (sorry, Canada, even you are still working out some serious colonial shit). We're awful.

And that's not to say we can't do better and try harder, but honestly Job #1 is to respond better rather than initiate better, because it used to be that pretending to be experts in all things was an American specialty and that's not the direction we need to return to. And as a white American who is also a queer fat feminist, I can tell you that respond better is still very very much a work in progress here. I don't even do fun posts about low-stakes stuff I'm interested in, because I can't take watching it be shat on. I'm certainly not going to go there with something that's actually important.

There definitely is a problem in The Media about what makes headlines and what doesn't in the West. The only reason I knew almost anything about what happened in Dhaka is that, unlike a lot of Americans, I know someone who lives there and they posted about it on Facebook. But that's sure as hell not a qualification for me to be posting about it, and I imagine there's a similar problem on many international news desks, not having a Bangladesh office or Bengali reporters/producers (and then the problem of choosing news stories that sell the most advertising, which at least is not a problem Metafilter has to share).

But it feels like you're angry at Metafilter for a problem that CNN and BBC News can't solve (hell, weirdly, this is something Chinese CCTV News seems to be pretty good at, but that news is "curated" in its own way; Al Jazeera America was okay at it but couldn't stay in business doing it), and I'd be shocked to hear that the news media in Bangkok or Buenos Aires is spending a ton of time on Canadian politics or even the US election or Brexit, which probably get a blurb and there are probably pockets of wonky interest, but it doesn't loom as large in the cultural zeitgeist. Distance matters, and economic impact matters. That's always going to be true, though we can be mindful of that fact and try to be more aware.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:39 AM on July 16, 2016 [47 favorites]


> One way to address that is for people from other countries to make posts or comments about things from their points of view.

I often come across stuff I find interesting while perusing Korean language sites, but I've given up on posting about them because the material is all in Korean, and I can't find anything relevant (and well-written) in English. So there's a limit to how much people from other countries can post on topics not typically encountered in English-language sites, as long as English is the lingua franca for MetaFilter.
posted by needled at 11:42 AM on July 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


It would never occur to me that I would be the right person to make a post about, say, the airport bombings in either Brussels or Istanbul.

The first Istanbul airport attack post was deleted as newsfilter. Orlando, Charlie Hebdo, Paris, San Bernardino etc etc etc were not, despite OPs being just as low-content, being as they were first reactions during an event that was basically happening at that time. Moderation here has pretty regularly thought that events in the US and Western Europe are more important than those in the rest of the world, by this metric.

This point was most clearly brought home to me during the Oregon standoff, which resulted in several threads of thousands of comments. During that time, I counted at least five similar - but grimmer, more large scale - events, none of which resulted in MeFi threads.

So in a situation where a couple of rednecks sitting on a piece of dirt is worth thousands of comments, but a terrorist attack on a major airport is deleted as newsfilter - maybe it's not wise to tell us to be the change we want to see.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:40 PM on July 16, 2016 [29 favorites]


Lyn Never does a pretty good job of expressing the Gordian Knot here.

On the other hand, the recent Istanbul thread wandered around pretty badly, and I was frustrated because (as I stated at the beginning) I was hoping for a thread that would give me a better idea of what was going on when the usual news services didn't seem to have the slightest clue. Megami, thank you for your "on the ground" information -- it was an antidote to all the armchair stuff that was flying around.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:41 PM on July 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


Oh, sorry, I quoted Lyn Never but what I posted was not at all targeted at her post, nor actually has anything to do with it! Apologies if it seems that way!
posted by Pyrogenesis at 12:47 PM on July 16, 2016


Krom Tatman: No one is doing this.

It's nearly always France that's used as the example of somewhere Americans/Brits identify with, in opposition to another place they do not care about. The cumulative effect is to suggest that France does not deserve the empathy afforded to it. You almost never hear any massacres that take place in the English-speaking world mentioned in that context.

I'm tired of seeing atrocities targeting French and Belgian people being used as a rhetorical trope. You may think that I'm too sensitive given my personal and family connections to France, but this is how it looks like from my perspective. Please don't reply by telling me that I'm imagining things.
posted by Kattullus at 1:12 PM on July 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


Posts exist because people post them, so please add your unique perspective and make a post when something happens. MeFi reflects the diversity that is brought to it, there is no editorial board, just us.
posted by theora55 at 1:33 PM on July 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


The cumulative effect is to suggest that France does not deserve the empathy afforded to it. You almost never hear any massacres that take place in the English-speaking world mentioned in that context.

I've seen no one suggest that France doesn't deserve empathy; if anything, I'm seeing people ask--rightly so--why people who also endure current atrocities in non-English speaking countries aren't afforded the same level of mourning. This isn't a zero-sum game of suffering.

As for asking people to post their perspectives and be the change they want to see in Metafilter, what happens when they expend that emotional labour and effort in a thread and get only crickets? They did the thing, they were the change, and still no one wants to spend as much time talking about it as they do, say, the US election thread. I get that MeFi is a US-centric site, that is how it's always gonna be, but dang, we can at least be open to other people saying, "So yeah, this horrible thing happened on the other side of the world and I want to talk about it. At length. And mourn. And have people empathize with how I'm destroyed I'm feeling."
posted by Kitteh at 1:47 PM on July 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


As for asking people to post their perspectives and be the change they want to see in Metafilter, what happens when they expend that emotional labour and effort in a thread and get only crickets? They did the thing, they were the change, and still no one wants to spend as much time talking about it as they do, say, the US election thread.

Unfortunately, that just happens though. You cannot force people to engage with specific subjects. As has been mentioned up above by several people, sometimes its a case of not wanting to engage because the subject matter is too difficult (psychologically, emotionally, etc), and other times its because people feel as if they lack the requisite knowledge required to engage in a way that is not insensitive to the subject at hand.

I know that sometimes, when I see a post that has me feeling out of my element, I'll simply add it as a favourite to acknowledge that the post is significant. Other times, I'll politely post: "Great post, thank you for sharing." And that is it, I'm out.

I absolutely want to be sensitive to what has been written up above with regards to how MetaFilter focuses more on subjects from N. America. There's no denying that. But I feel like you cannot mandate that people post a certain way.

I am in favour of having more themed weeks or months where we invite people (should they feel comfortable) to post on more diverse subject matters from different parts of the world. As a visible minority, who was born in India, raised in Texas, and has citizenship in Canada, I do my best to try to post about things from all parts of the world, from differing points of view and perspectives. I know that I type from a place of privilege. I know that I could be better in how I converse about subjects that I am not knowledgable on.

We could all be better humans with a little more kindness.
posted by Fizz at 2:28 PM on July 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


The first Istanbul airport attack post was deleted as newsfilter. Orlando, Charlie Hebdo, Paris, San Bernardino etc etc etc were not, despite OPs being just as low-content, being as they were first reactions during an event that was basically happening at that time.

I would like to hear a mod's take on this. If it is, in fact, true, there is a discussion to be had about it
posted by cooker girl at 2:51 PM on July 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


I apologise for not posting. I've lately avoided the grey and the blue mostly in case there wasn't a thread about Iraq or Turkey or Sudan. I can hardly handle Facebook because it's the same there so spend my time on Twitter and ranting in WhatApp to groups of interested friends.

I'm glad you're ok and I will resolve to be part of the change (we) I wish to see.
posted by taff at 3:03 PM on July 16, 2016


I kind of expected my thread on the coup to be deleted as breaking news, sorry it was a weak post. I don't know anything about Turkish politics or coups so I had no idea how this was going to go down, just that something world shaking was happening. It would have led to a better discussion if someone who knew the context had been able to add that information from the start. I'm glad people eventually provided a lot of useful information and context in the comments. I'm gonna wait longer to post news I don't understand in the future to give more people a chance to step up.

I also posted about the recent EgyptAir disaster and did have the post deleted as breaking news which was probably the right move. There was a ton of confusion about it and a lot of the mysteries haven't been resolved to this day. There really wasn't much to do at that early point besides speculate. But, I have thought all along that if that crash had occurred in the United States and there was the same rampant speculation of terrorism it definitely would have had a thread. I don't feel like super strongly about that post or anything, just throwing it out there since I think that touches on the subject of this thread.

I think, generally but definitely not all the time, Metafilter does breaking news very well. I see it as a strength of the place and one of the main reasons I come here. Not perfect, I've seen some threads go disastrously, but I haven't found any other internet forum that keeps a level head about news events better than this place. But, I think it's probably true that the further we get from the American context the worse things can potentially go. It's hard to be level headed about events somewhere when you don't know what the hell is going on because you don't know the language, culture, politics, and history of the place. Sometimes the only level headed thing to do is keep your mouth shut and listen with empathy if someone who does know something wants to talk about it.
posted by Drinky Die at 3:08 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


In general, the newsfilter problem is a continuing tension on the site, even apart from the topic of this MeTa. There are two totally-understandable sides to it, the "post early" side and the "wait to post" side -

Historically the site has officially advocated "wait to post." Other recentish attacks have had multiple posts deleted with the "wait a few hours so we get better info" rationale before finally one stays up. (For example, there were 5 deleted posts about Orlando before the one that stayed up.) But we do also end up with a fair amount of de facto "post early" and I think more people are on the "post early" side now than in years past. Posting early has pro's and con's - it's nice that people get a place to share their common shock/concern, it's bad when speculation and anger/uncertainty blow up in the thread because it's so early that there's no solid information to talk about beyond "holy shit this is terrible."

Basically the Istanbul airport attack thread was deleted early on for its just being too early, post again once more is known, and I expected that there would end up being another post a bit later as things developed. Then there didn't turn out to be another one.

The dividing line of when an early newsy post will stay vs. when we'll delete and push for "let's wait a bit" is nebulous and depends on a bunch of factors -- including how much is known, is the situation ongoing, is there another related thread open already, does the person posting it have a history of related axegrinding, is there some other site context. One of the factors is, to be reductive, how much urgency there seems to be among members to have a thread -- which brings us back to the core issue raised in this thread, of which events get a lot of coverage in the media our members see, and which events our members feel more or less personally connected to.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 3:18 PM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


I would like to hear a mod's take on this. If it is, in fact, true, there is a discussion to be had about it

Compare: Istanbul. Paris.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 3:22 PM on July 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


To be fair, an earlier Paris thread was also deleted.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 3:29 PM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


fwiw the reddit "live" thread on the recent turkey coup was pretty good. i found it more useful than the thread here (not intended as a comment on the main subject here - i don't consider myself a member of the "we" in the question - but rather a suggestion for those looking for info on breaking news).
posted by andrewcooke at 3:32 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've said it before, but I think it would be welcome to have a clear, linkable statement from the mods, maybe in the FAQ, to the effect that "MF is an international site that happens to be based in the USA; please be welcoming of, and sensitive to, the global, cross-cultural participation which is an essential part of the site's character", or something to that effect. As it stands, it is tacitly accepted that it is an American site and this encourages some people to max out on an ethnocentric, US-centric, approach to discussion here.
posted by Rumple at 3:45 PM on July 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's nearly always France that's used as the example of somewhere Americans/Brits identify with, in opposition to another place they do not care about. The cumulative effect is to suggest that France does not deserve the empathy afforded to it.

ok except something literally just happened to compare to another event that happened right before it, which was in france

and REALLY pretty sure that western european countries (which are absolutely always at or near the top of like the hierarchy of nationalism) are doing ok out here on the internets with the empathy and not like having it stolen from them by peoples of other nations
posted by listen, lady at 4:13 PM on July 16, 2016 [8 favorites]


Crud. Another tiny illustration of this just happened. Someone on the green just asked for travel advice. I asked where they were as it helps with travel time and costs( location not in profile) . My question was deleted. If they're in Australia, it's 24 hours at the very least each way to get to Europe or vice versa. Which impacts someone with only eight days of annual leave. In Australia (for example) we get a month, as a minimum.

Yeah, I agree that's pretty American/northern hemisphere centric modding. Yet I'm certain not deliberately so. I wouldn't advise someone with only 8 days to travel for two plus days... sad.
posted by taff at 4:25 PM on July 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


Sorry about that, meant to write to you and got sidetracked. Your note about Metafilter and internationalism was the problem; that's meta-stuff that belongs here, not on the green. It's fine to ask them where they're departing from, without that side stuff.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:29 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


> I often come across stuff I find interesting while perusing Korean language sites, but I've given up on posting about them because the material is all in Korean, and I can't find anything relevant (and well-written) in English. So there's a limit to how much people from other countries can post on topics not typically encountered in English-language sites, as long as English is the lingua franca for MetaFilter.

Agreed, though in my case it's Japanese. Also, to post/comment to MetaFilter you have to be extremely fluent in English, which, for someone like me who lives in a different country and speaks a different native language on a day-to-day basis, can be a big hurdle to jump over when considering making a post or commenting in a political thread. For example, I really appreciated the post Ghidorah made on the recent Japanese upper house election, but didn't comment in it because I really didn't feel like debating with people while trying to think about how to frame what I wanted to say in my unused, rusty English.

The general high level of discourse and the often insightful comments are what make me come back to MetaFilter after 10 years of joining as a member, but it also keeps me from participating in discussions because I honestly can't keep up with you all.
posted by misozaki at 4:29 PM on July 16, 2016 [17 favorites]


Sorry, that "post" link should go to the post itself, not to Ghidorah's comment.
posted by misozaki at 4:38 PM on July 16, 2016


I post stuff from all over the world. I have always done this. It mostly gets very little attention.

So, maybe part of the solution is for people who would like to see more of this to go find the stuff that does exist and give it more attention.

I tend to not frame things as "This is about X culture or political issue" because that deepens the problem of othering. I don't want to blatantly call attention to "Look, it is a token woman or a token piece about India" or whatever. I don't know how to make good forward progress on that angle. But as someone who does post about stuff in other countries fairly often, I can tell you it gets very little attention. So, that fact isn't going to encourage more of it.

Is there anything that can be done to help people more readily find the multicultural stuff? I did not want to tag my recent fpp as "black lives matter" even though that was part of why I posted the piece. But I would be happy to use a tag like International if it would help people find stuff.

I get that there is actual bias here, but showing some love to the multicultural stuff that does exist might be a better path forward than attacking the western things that do get posted. You know, water and fertilize the stuff you want more of so people will post more.
posted by Michele in California at 4:40 PM on July 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


....why people who also endure current atrocities in non-English speaking countries aren't afforded the same level of mourning. This isn't a zero-sum game of suffering.

The amount of time and emotional energy individual MeFites have to devote to mourning *is* a zero-sum game.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:08 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


The first Istanbul airport attack post was deleted as newsfilter. Orlando, Charlie Hebdo, Paris, San Bernardino etc etc etc were not, despite OPs being just as low-content, being as they were first reactions during an event that was basically happening at that time.

I really wish we had a news.metafilter.com subsite.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:10 PM on July 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


The dividing line of when an early newsy post will stay vs. when we'll delete and push for "let's wait a bit" is nebulous and depends on a bunch of factors -- including how much is known, is the situation ongoing, is there another related thread open already, does the person posting it have a history of related axegrinding, is there some other site context.
[my highlighting]

This is part of the problem. Metafilter has a reputation for being an echo-chamber and by applying these considerations you reinforce it. Take the 2015 attacks in Paris. Besides the attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo there was an attack and hostage situation on a supermarket serving the Jewish community. I posted a link to an OpEd on the attack, which was deleted because
The thread is about the massacre at the paper and it seems like your last few posts are taking that in a new direction.
So then I made my own FPP which was also deleted ... because there was an existing thread about Paris. Matt later apologised, which was nice, but there's a fundamental problem here:

The mods tend to have their take on world events and anything that challenges this is seen as noisy and out of place. The attack on Charlie Hebdo was primarily seen as a terrorist attack and secondarily as a retaliation for perceived insults to Islam. Portraying the attack on the kosher supermarket as an attack on the Jewish community didn't fit the mods' take on the situation; it was noisy and distracting and so it was deleted. Look at your factors - an existing thread was open, the poster had a reputation for axe-grinding, and posts about antisemitism don't go well here. So the distracting comment got deleted because the story was about terrorism and press freedom, not antisemitism; then the FPP got deleted because we're already discussing terrorism, and why do you need to keep bringing up antisemitism?

You've got a self-reinforcing pattern here where minority experiences are simultaneously distracting when raised in the context of a mainstream event and also too specialised to deserve their own FPP. And (although I recognise that this may sound like special pleading) the people who raise these concerns are subjected to extra scrutiny because they're axe-grinders. As proof of this, look! - they keep having their comments and FPPs deleted.

I don't pretend to know what the solution to this is; I know that moderation is hard work and that it's easy to make decisions that, with hindsight, were wrong. But I've seen other threads in which the mods apparently deleted early critical comments before realising that the critics represented a groundswell of feeling. I think you need to either show more tolerance for minority takes on events, or encourage those commentators to create a separate FPP. Your current practices are frustrating and silencing and harm Metafilter and its users.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:31 PM on July 16, 2016 [26 favorites]


Pyrogenesis: Compare: Istanbul. Paris.
Seymour Zamboni: To be fair, an earlier Paris thread was also deleted.

I think this illustrates the problem perfectly. What additional information did the extra half-hour between the deleted Paris thread and the one that stayed up provide? Would the result been any different had the original thread stayed up?

If a policy is "nebulous" and "depends on a bunch of factors" it would seem to me its a policy worth revising.
posted by Soi-hah at 5:38 PM on July 16, 2016 [10 favorites]


One Mefite who does a terrific job of adding global content to the site is infini. Really, look at her numerous posts: Kutchi traders! The history of the wafuton! Africa In The New Century! She's a gem, and her posts bring interesting and international subjects to the table; go and read!
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:40 PM on July 16, 2016 [39 favorites]


Jacqueline I use Twitter. I follow almost exclusively journalists, politicians, government agencies and NGOs and academic and humourous commentators (and doctors/scientists because I'm from a health background).

I get all the view points because journalists from big and small agencies tweet to each other and to sources. It's like eavesdropping. You can learn a lot about the world this way. I try to follow people from around the world. Lots of clever interesting and informed people read/write English (on Twitter) . You won't just get a western point of view there.
posted by taff at 5:47 PM on July 16, 2016 [6 favorites]


More than anything, I'm drawn into threads because of discussions. I've learned more listening to people discuss the various facets of an issue here than I've gathered from most kinds of didacticism anywhere.

Which is why threads like this really disturb me. Because this is the kind of thing that keeps people from posting, and those discussions from forming, and I would love the site conversation to extend far beyond where it goes at present.

The solution seems to be that some people should post and comment more, and/or that other people should post and comment less. But which people and when? It's tricky that a plurality of voices in one particular region or focus can drown out others—something that's ostensibly the goal can impede the goal instead. Which is the whole post-early-or-wait debate in a nutshell.

MetaFilter is pretty bad at allowing different levels of rapidity-vs-measuredness coexist. Or rather, different levels exist for different topics, and tend to stay at more-or-less the same frequencies and densities throughout the site.

(I don't have any conclusion here. Going back to shutting up and listening.)
posted by rorgy at 5:50 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Megami, so glad you are safe. And I wish you did not feel that Metafilter does not care.

I understand when someone says it shouldn't be their obligation to educate the Westerncentric majority. And they are totally right! I am one of the guilty ones, ignorant of much of the rest of the world. And I would not be the person to post about a bombing in Istanbul. I may not even know about it (for a host of different reasons). But if people who are close to this story don't feel they should have to post about it, then who would be expected to post about it? Please feel free to post these things, to educate those of us who simply did not know. And if fewer people engage than seem to engage with other things, I don't know if there is even a way to address that. I will try to be more aware myself, but sometimes I miss a lot of posts, too.

Also, I don't agree with this notion that the mods have an agenda. Certainly they are human, but I believe they try to be fair and that they are intelligent and well-intentioned. Stressful topics are stressful, and Mefi was not created as a news site. They do the best they can, which is better than most would do. And they are always willing to engage, and very rarely in a confrontational way despite frequent criticism. It is impossible to make everyone happy about every action they take. Certainly everyone is entitled to their opinion but it often seems the criticism could be worded in a slightly more diplomatic fashion.
posted by Glinn at 5:58 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


One Mefite who does a terrific job of adding global content to the site is infini.

divabat is also a great poster for stuff all over the world.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:58 PM on July 16, 2016 [39 favorites]


Thinking more about the news.metafilter.com subsite idea, I think it could probably utilize some of the infrastructure created for Fanfare. Like how anyone can add a link to a "Notable Review," you could make it so that people could add additional links to "Notable Sources" as articles, livestreams, etc. become available.

I would much rather discuss breaking news with MeFites and read their opinions and analysis of events than any other internet demographic, and I doubt that I'm alone in this with. I also imagine that the news stories MeFites choose to post about would tend to be more substantial than the editorial decisions of most mainstream news organizations.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:11 PM on July 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


I don't post about Tibet because I cannot for the life of me write anything other than an angry and desperate cry. I wish that didn't mean we never discussed the occupation, torture and genocide by China here.
posted by taff at 6:11 PM on July 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


Also, I don't agree with this notion that the mods have an agenda.

I don't think anyone us alleging an agenda so much as an unconscious bias.
posted by Dysk at 7:22 PM on July 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


As the previously linked thread showed at one point there was a sort of agreement for #PostMoarGlobal ie if you want this place to not just be about Kansas then it is up to the contributers to bring in a worldview.
Im not quite sure where I sit in the cultural box as I have spent more of my life living outside English language countries than in them.
I posted massively in the recent Brazil thread and considered stopping at one point as there was little or no discussion going on but languagehat kindly suggested I continue so I did. How many others were interested I have no idea.
As threads can now be marked as followable perhaps it could be useful to have a number posted next to favourites and number of comments.
posted by adamvasco at 7:37 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


The "number of followers" idea is intriguing, but it would make poorly-trafficked threads even more dispiriting. At least now a poster can imagine that their FPP is interesting but that people don't have much to say about it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:52 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


there is now a post on the front page about istanbul and dhaka.
posted by andrewcooke at 9:38 PM on July 16, 2016


> The first Istanbul airport attack post was deleted as newsfilter. Orlando, Charlie Hebdo, Paris, San Bernardino etc etc etc were not, despite OPs being just as low-content, being as they were first reactions during an event that was basically happening at that time.

> I would like to hear a mod's take on this. If it is, in fact, true, there is a discussion to be had about it

Actually, Orlando was deleted five times before we went with Drinky Die's post, and Charlie Hebdo was deleted at least twice. I don't believe we ever had a dedicated San Bernadino thread, and we didn't delete any posts on that; discussion took place mostly in this gun violence thread.

From our point of view, early posts on horrific and tragic events are a problem, because there is usually a lot of misinformation early on (and people become quite bitter about that later), there is usually little reliable news to report or discuss except that *something horrible* is happening, so people tend to be expressing their fury more than discussing the facts that aren't yet at hand, and also Mefi is not really well-equipped for "instablogging" twitter-type reaction posting, which is definitely the go-to early on in these posts.

We do not have the moderation bandwidth to follow every comment and delete all the stuff that isn't adding information to the thread, and even if we did, people would be furious with us about it ... so most of these threads become a swamp that's very hard to pick through if you are looking for actual updates, news, and reports from people on the ground. The earlier the post is made relative to the action occurring, the worse that is, sometimes with hundreds of comments before getting any actual well-sourced updates.

When a lot of twitter rumor and chan trolling stuff gets posted, people are very angry at us for allowing that to happen, but again, people are also demanding that we allow a post before events are fully verified or understood, so it's a bit of a Catch-22. And usually comments are streaming in and so are flags, and we are trying to stay abreast of that as well as trying to stay abreast of the actual news situation to do what we can to avoid hoaxy and incorrect news being reported, any mob type and IDing or doxing stuff, personal fighting among commenters, offensive and/or insensitive remarks or straight up jokes in a situation of human tragedy, flamebaiting, inflammatory speculation, axegrinding by people who have axes they frequently grind, calls for (perceived bad) people to be murdered or tortured, "blow it all up" stuff, meta remarks about Metafilter people or moderation, and more stuff I'm not even remembering off the top of my head.

So please trust me when I say that pretty much the very, very, very last thing on our mind is "is this post Western or US-centric enough to be interesting?" which isn't something that we feel anyway.

We try to avoid bare news link "Awful Thing Happening Now: Discuss / Fight!" But if there's an overwhelming push for something to be posted, we'll usually go with the least worst framed post. Same thing with notable deaths and other Big Big News events. We'd really like a well-thought out, well put together post with sourced information for people to actually discuss, but sometimes we're deleting a post every few minutes and capitulate to "okay, I/we can't keep doing whack-a-mole, and this one isn't as bad."

I agree that it would be useful for us to have some sort of public guideline for these sorts of posts, and I think we should do that. I also recognize that there are a lot of disparate and nuanced aspects to the issue as a whole, and every to individual incident. Some of the things we must consider are not the sort of thing that can be bullet itemed as part of a Do / Don't guide. I'm genuinely sorry that is frequently frustrating. We feel frustrated ourselves, and I can only repeat what we often say (also probably frustrating): we are always on hand to discuss. If you are wondering about what's happening with a post (or non-post), or thinking of making a post, or anything at all, don't be shy to use the contact form. Most of the time we'll answer right away and are always happy to explain what's going on, or to make suggestions if you are thinking of posting something.
posted by taz (staff) at 12:15 AM on July 17, 2016 [21 favorites]


I think there are three separate parts to this issue: FPPs, comments and metatalk checkin threads.

FPPs, I don't really have a problem with. I'm not making the posts myself, I don't want to tell others what posts to make. I do think the internet in general is leaning more towards 'post earlier' when anything happens (with maybe an overall societal change linked in with this) and it's difficult for us to push back against that when it's become so accepted everywhere else. I'm not sure what the answer is though.

Comments, I think is a place that real change can happen. Not that it's terrible now (or at least not always), just that it's a place we can all do better for a real effect on site culture. Everyone is more likely to post diverse or unusual things if the discussion will go well rather than have all the same sad biases and problems come out in the comments. Various ways to comment better have been addressed in this thread already.

Lastly is the metatalk check in threads. These I do have a problem with and I don't think they should exist. They elevate whatever is posted about to a special level of attention just by their nature and what is elevated is always going to be biased. We can't post one about every horrible thing that happens because it would never end, so I don't think we should post any. I realise that this is probably an unpopular opinion and I'm sure I'll never get my way so I'm not going to get upset about that. But that's my opinion on the matter so *shrug*.
posted by shelleycat at 12:54 AM on July 17, 2016 [25 favorites]


I tend to agree on the check-ins. They seem more about the people not affected by a tragedy than the ones actually present. Most people near, say, a massive California earthquake are probably going to be a little too busy to check in. And its not like we keep a master list of where everybody lives. If you don't know who lives where, how do you know if someone hasn't checked in? You don't. So those threads strike me as performative rather than useful.
posted by Justinian at 2:13 AM on July 17, 2016 [30 favorites]


I could also so totally do without the check in threads. I presume that they come from a place of love and caring but think they add little actual value to MetaFilter. To me, they are the Breaking News of MetaTalk.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:20 AM on July 17, 2016 [15 favorites]


As a nearly-ten-year non-USian MeFite, although substantive posts about non-US issues are certainly physiologically fewer here, and discussion does tend to be sporadically lumbered by various cultural lensings, it seems to me that the evolution of MeFi is towards the better, rather than the opposite. As noted by clawsoon in the coup in Turkey thread (vs. a 2008 thread on Turkish political intrigue), for example.

I've felt odd plugging on about some issues that were closer to my personal sensitivities (in the Charlie Hebdo thread, or tail-lighting the Böhmermann thread), but I like to think a greater internationalism of MeFi is its natural destiny, though there is surely a lot of work to be done.

(Hope things will stay OK for you and yours, Megami; your contributions are part of what distinguishes this place.)
posted by progosk at 3:33 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Disclaimer: I'm posting without having read most of the comments in this thread.

I live in one of those places where there are relatively few Mefites and is regarded by many people as beyond the final frontier of civilization in many ways. I post about things from my part of the world. The threads rarely get a lot of discussion. I've felt disappointed with that, but chalked it up to demographics and told myself that this is a specific kind of place and can't be all things to all people. People are perfectly nice about my posts, they just don't have a lot to say about them. So I'm left with the choice of doing a lot of homework and making a post that would allow them to educate themselves enough to have a discussion or just shrug it off.

For my part, I don't see this as a problem in need of fixing, just a function of the rest of the metafilter community and I having a small area of shared assumptions, understandings, and interests.
posted by bardophile at 3:35 AM on July 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


Bardophile, I read your posts with interest, but you're right: I don't have the background to say much about them. But I do enjoy them.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:42 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


dorothyisunderwood: Metafilter (and our minds/hearts) isn't a zero-sum game.

To repeat Jacqueline's point - this is untrue, at least on an individual level. There is, in fact, a quite finite amount of empathy we possess, a definite limit to how many people we can care about, a limit to how much suffering we can process. For every world tragedy you know about, the question could be asked why you don't also care about similar tragedies elsewhere in the world.

A lot of people hit their tragedy limit. It's not really acceptable to say, but there will be a great number of people who, honestly, do care less about the Istanbul terrorist attack not because they don't feel the horror of terrorism, but because there's enough horrors closer to home, involving worlds they know better. That's not to downplay the situation, just because while it's possible to care about more than one thing at a time, it's not possible to care about everything at the same level. We can't process all the evils in the world, nor should we; there's too many.

Metafilter is very much an US-centric website, and I wish it wasn't but that's not going to change while the userbase is 75% American. You can want it to do better in that regard, certainly there's room for improvement, but while raising awareness of the situation is one thing, the only real way to do anything about it is to be the change you want to see on the site. Because there is no way to enforce contributing on other users, and there is also a high chance of offense taken should the posting and commenting be perceived to be only from the Americans about topics they know little about.

And personally, I'm fine with fewer newsfilter threads, local or otherwise. As it stands I just skip them, but considering they're overwhelmingly about something big and bad that's just happened, I prefer my MetaFilter to not be a daily roll-call of everything wrong in the world. The world, and this website, can be depressing enough already.
posted by gadge emeritus at 5:02 AM on July 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


The problem that Megami has identified also does harm to Anglo-American and European readers. In the news sources that I read, there are few articles that take a comparative global perspective on terrorism. The result is that Americans like me are likely to have the misimpression that the U.S. and Europe are "under attack," when in truth we are comparatively safe. The majority of terrorism is in five nations Nigeria, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. An average American wouldn't know that unless actively searching for such comparative global information. The result, I'm convinced, is that the United States -- and perhaps other Anglo and European countries -- are more susceptible to nationalist authoritarians, such as Donald Trump, than they otherwise would be.

I don't know that there's a satisfying solution to this problem. Perhaps a start, at least for some of us, is to make a distinction between "warm" compassion and "cool" compassion. I can't make a "warm" compassion post about, say the Lahore suicide bombing in late March, because I have no understanding of the context or event, and my research is necessarily limited because I am monolingual. I have no stories to tell, no expert information, no connection to the event beyond "oh, that is so sad." And here, embarrassingly, I must admit that I currently would not be able to identify Lahore on an unlabeled map of Pakistan.

On the other hand, I (or any other user) can make a "cool" compassion post about the extent of global terrorism, the underlying motivations of terrorists, the means of combatting it, and so on. Those posts are exercises in compassion, as well, though they don't have the parade of sympathetic dots to mark the passing of each individual. Perhaps that's where Americans who care about these issues can start.
posted by ferdydurke at 5:07 AM on July 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


Very much in favour of just losing the check-in threads altogether. Ask they really serve to do is create a two tier community - those that matter enough to get meta threads, and those that don't. The former are almost universally American or US based.

(I feel the same way about marriage and baby threads and similar. Everyone or no one.)
posted by Dysk at 5:25 AM on July 17, 2016 [26 favorites]


A lot of people hit their tragedy limit. It's not really acceptable to say, but there will be a great number of people who, honestly, do care less about the Istanbul terrorist attack not because they don't feel the horror of terrorism, but because there's enough horrors closer to home, involving worlds they know better. That's not to downplay the situation, just because while it's possible to care about more than one thing at a time, it's not possible to care about everything at the same level. We can't process all the evils in the world, nor should we; there's too many.

Sorry, but I don't buy this perspective at all.

Understanding the world around you is not limited to the the tragedies and horror stories - in the last two days, trying to better understand what occurred at the airport in Istanbul and in the coup in Turkey, I've read a bunch of articles and took a book out of the library on the history of Turkey and the Turkish people. Just scratching at the surface has been fascinating, and importantly, has made it easier to read the more nuanced articles on what is happening and to reflect on what life must be like in such struggles of culture.

Put another way - most people who have a personal connection of any kind with a place are able to empathize with tragedies that occur there. I was in Paris two months before the November attacks (at the Bataclan no less) and it shook me to my core. I would've been in Antalya a couple of months ago (flying through Istanbul) for a conference had I not switched consulting jobs. Make more connections (via literature, or travel, or whatever) and you will notice more of the world's struggles and its successes.

People's empathy is not "finite" or with "definite limits" as you say - those are discrete terms from mathematics to describe precise bounds that just don't apply to something like empathy. We empathize with what we know - and unfortunately, the limit largely in North America is how much we know about the world around us. Nobody expects us to know everything and to be able to put every tragedy into context, but we as North Americans spend a lot of time navel gazing at our own culture and very little looking at the world around us. A small shift in that for those of us in the 75% category would make a momentous difference to this site.
posted by scrittore at 5:45 AM on July 17, 2016 [11 favorites]


So please trust me when I say that pretty much the very, very, very last thing on our mind is "is this post Western or US-centric enough to be interesting?" which isn't something that we feel anyway.

taz, I have full confidence in Metafilter moderation, and I think you are all doing the very best you can when there often aren't great choices. However, I did want to point out that we are all products of our worldviews, and we will all quickly judge posts as being interesting or not from our inherent biases (and that goes for all of us, not just the mods). So it is not enough to not ask the question above, perhaps the question should also be asked "Would I feel this was not interesting or not worthy of an FPP right now if this were about a Western place?"
posted by peacheater at 6:01 AM on July 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


Put another way - most people who have a personal connection of any kind with a place are able to empathize with tragedies that occur there.

You may say you don't buy my perspective, but you just agreed with it. You empathised more with the Paris attacks because it's a world you know, after all, one you have a connection to. You empathised more with the story in Turkey after developing a connection after choosing to find out more. That's laudable, but I doubt you have done the same about the location of every tragedy mentioned even just in this thread.

I'd agree that North Americans are even more focussed solely on their own culture than most, though.
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:04 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


what happens when they expend that emotional labour and effort in a thread and get only crickets?

I think this is an interesting question and I am wondering if it relates to MF site culture that has been constructed over many years through contentious MeTas. My takeaway has been that it is really bad to enter threads with only a 101-level of understanding (or less) of cultural topics, and certainly topics related to social justice. Even the act of asking basic questions in those threads is frowned upon. The message has been "do your homework, I am not being paid to educate you". I have certainly gotten this message and as a result will never participate in threads about non-western cultures or even western European cultures that I am not familiar with. Even Canada scares me. I read links, but I would never publicly participate in any way. As a result, topics about the USA (from a cultural standpoint) pretty much define my comfort zone from a participation standpoint. So, perhaps it would not be a surprise if threads about non-western cultures don't get as much public play here (a site dominated by American and western European membership) when considering the unwritten rules here around participation, as opposed to just not having any interest. In a twisted kind of way, would "crickets" be a sign of success? Is the encouragement to take risks through increased participation in non western culture threads compatible with MF site culture more broadly? I guess that is what I am wondering. Because I think it is asking a lot of people given how MF reacts (harshly) when you slip up in these contexts.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:06 AM on July 17, 2016 [24 favorites]


Seymour Zamboni: That comment was not an innocent and sincere "hey, what is this about" question.

As the person who made the comment you are talking about, I can tell you that in fact it was exactly that, with a slight undertone of 'are we supposed to know this, and if so, why?'. Which in itself was an innocent question and devoid of snark, because I honestly don't know the answer. Why are we assumed to know about these things?

I do not watch sports, but I'm not smug about that, because I do not see watching sports as inherently good or bad; it just is what it is. There was no smugness in my comment. And I felt bad about the response it got, but decided to let it be because it was apparently not going to get better and this thread was obviously for other people.

Please don't speak for me.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:31 AM on July 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am not speaking for you. I am speaking for myself. I can only say how I read your comment. I apologize for not correctly reading your intent, which happens a lot around here.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:35 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


A phenomenon which I have a problem with is when something is posted about the UK - where I am - and, yes, one thing that happens is that within a few comments the thread becomes about a similar phenomenon in the U.S., and then just becomes Americans talking to each other about whatever they feel like talking about; but the other thing is that while the thread may begin with those of us experiencing the phenomenon talking to each other about it, it can develop so that it's a number of posters who are a long way away talking about us, as if our experience is less important than their conjecture. We become ghosts in someone else's room. So perhaps that's a question we can all ask ourselves: are we talking to the people who are closer to the topic, or are we talking about them while they're right there?
posted by Grangousier at 6:43 AM on July 17, 2016 [22 favorites]


I mention it because the recent UK threads have been very valuable to me in terms of having a place to rant, or snark or just discuss the various bizarre things that have been going on, and there have been moments when I've worried that that would be lost in a flurry of generic shit-shooting. I'm fairly graceless in my attempts to put my foot down, when I do try it, so I'd be more tempted to wander away.
posted by Grangousier at 6:45 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Even the act of asking basic questions in those threads is frowned upon. The message has been "do your homework, I am not being paid to educate you". I have certainly gotten this message and as a result will never participate in threads about non-western cultures or even western European cultures that I am not familiar with

I mean, that's one way to look at it if you want to I guess, but maybe consider that another takeaway could be "I'll use Google for my basic questions, and then I can contribute from there if I still feel I have anything to add".

It constantly astounds me how readily people will take the suggestion to Google the basic shit to mean that they're not welcome at all. Like, is a teeny tiny bit of absolutely basic research really that big a barrier to entry? Do you really need whatever basic question answered here instead of on wiki or whatever Google pulls up?
posted by Dysk at 6:57 AM on July 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


I'd also like to point out that though I now live in the US, I didn't grow up here, so there are still pop culture references that go over my head, however I still try to do a quick Google and participate in threads if I'm interested in the overall topic. At the very least, a post to say that you appreciated the post and are thankful to the OP for posting it is always appropriate, at least in threads that are not heavily trafficked.
posted by peacheater at 7:07 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


My observation below is not a sulky "see what you have done to me political correctness with your double binds" observation - it is something I am trying to think through and would like to resolve:

A tension for me becomes "here is a neat post about which I have nothing to say except 'nice post' unless I also try to connect the subject to something I'm familiar with, which risks turning the thread into US stuff and particularly if I don't ask any questions"....and I see a lot of interesting posts about other parts of the world with, like, four "nice post, thanks!" below them and nothing else, which seems to be discouraging to people.

Obviously, there's enough UK and UK-adjacent mefites around that as long as Americans don't fill the thread up, a massive discussion can ensue (and I've found the Brexit ones enormously educational on about five different axes), and I assume this is true for some other places (Japan, Canada, France?). But it's not true for all parts of the world or all topics.

One thing I was thinking: for me it would be helpful to have (and if people were into it I would create) a different metatalk where people could describe good thread manners, describe the ideal responses they'd like to see to their posts (or maybe describe the "good enough for metafilter" responses), etc. For me, some of this is a manners problem - I want to participate appropriately and don't always realize that I am not, and some rubrics or at least a sense of the range of metafilter opinion on what constitutes good behavior would be helpful to me.

Also, I surmise that there's a different kind of appropriate participation if we're talking about, say, Hope Mirlees and her retrograde-yet-charming narrative of UK history and, say, a thread about UK current events/current-events-adjacent stuff. So maybe a certain amount of "Hope Mirlees is sort of a post-Lovecraft writer..and what does she mean with the lute in the attic anyway" level comments are productive in more general discussion posts but should be eschewed in other posts? Seeing some norms around that get hashed out would be really, really helpful, I think.
posted by Frowner at 7:10 AM on July 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


(I recognize that I don't literally need to respond to every post that interests me personally, but it seems like there's a lot of posts that many people don't respond to.)
posted by Frowner at 7:13 AM on July 17, 2016


Like, is a teeny tiny bit of absolutely basic research really that big a barrier to entry?

No. What I am saying is that it might be too small a barrier to entry, for some people. Perhaps I am too skittish. But I am not at all convinced (yet) that a teeny tiny bit of absolutely basic research is good enough to avoid serious conflict around here in specific cultural and social justice contexts. These are unwritten site culture issues. And because the bar is inherently subjective we will all interpret the culture differently and establish our own personal sense for what this site requires for entry into those types of threads. A certain level of knowledge that makes you comfortable might not make me comfortable. Of course, this is all irrelevant if a poster doesn't care if they become the nexus of a pile on.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:19 AM on July 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Hey, TT, I think it actually might be a cultural miscommunication issue that led to your comment being misinterpreted?

"Y'all have fun," is something I hear a lot more often in my corner of America as a sarcastic dismissal. Like, "Y'all have fun with that," is something I would say if someone told me they were putting together a group to go canvas for Donald Trump. But I can easily see how for people without that context the sarcastic interpretation is totally unexpected.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:23 AM on July 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Thanks Drinky Die. I didn't want to get into the details but you captured quite well how I misread the comment. Again, I apologize for doing so.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:27 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Drinky Die: "Y'all have fun," is something I hear a lot more often in my corner of America as a sarcastic dismissal.

Huh. I had no idea. I literally meant: I hope that you will all enjoy this activity, that I will not be partaking in. Thanks for clearing that up.

I can't promise I'll remember it, though. Sarcasm is hard enough in my own language, I will probably forever misread it in foreign ones, and I can't possibly remember all of the wide arrange of US colloquialisms and their emotional load.
It might genuinely be easier in cases like this one to look at people's profiles, see that they're not from the US, and decide that no snark might be intended, no matter how much it sounded like snark to US American ears.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:35 AM on July 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


We need little flags next to our user names (probably a terrifically bad idea for so many reasons I can't even begin to imagine right now).
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:37 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

I was in Paris two months before the November attacks (at the Bataclan no less) and it shook me to my core. I would've been in Antalya a couple of months ago (flying through Istanbul) for a conference had I not switched consulting jobs. Make more connections (via literature, or travel, or whatever) and you will notice more of the world's struggles and its successes.
I mean, that's great, but we've also had threads about class issues on Metafilter, and it's probably worth pointing out that not every North American here has access to the kind of job that includes (or allows) international travel.

And I also think that travel can give you a pretty superficial understanding of a place. I think I'm probably more clued in to stuff in Japan than the average bear: my brother lives there, his wife is Japanese, I've been to Japan twice, and I think I had a different experience there because I was visiting family rather than doing the typical tourist thing. But I would not feel comfortable commenting on threads about most things in Japan, because I know just enough to know that most of the reporting about Japan in English-language media is awful. So unless I've actually discussed something with my brother and his wife, I'm actually going to assume that my perceptions are less valid than I would if I had just read about Japan in the New York Times. Traveling didn't give me enough insight to have anything interesting to say, but it did give me just enough insight to realize that I don't know what I'm talking about.

I think it's pretty easy to deal with the issue of US people clogging up threads about other countries with US analogies. But the other thing is much more difficult to deal with, and I'm not sure what to do about it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:46 AM on July 17, 2016 [17 favorites]


I can only say how I read your comment.
But the fact that you thought it was insincere is because you are so immersed in American culture that that is the only lens through which you can read comments of other members, and from that you assume their intent and motives etc. and that is exactly the point here.
I'm not from the US either and that March Madness thread befuddled me.
I can imagine that people sometimes forget that not everybody is American (though that still doesn't make it okay), but it's astounding to me that even with comments where people explicitly say right in that comment that they're not from the US, it doesn't appear to make any difference.
I get smug ignorance. If a Dutch person would say "Elfstedentocht? I have no idea what that even is" I would probably regard that as a dismissive comment. But if an American says the exact same thing, I would think it's totally normal that they don't know what the Elfstedentocht is. It would not occur to any Dutch person to think that the American is faking ignorance about this, even though the Elfstedentocht is among our most famous sporting events and a very big deal if it happens. So, why is the reverse true? So true that even in this thread people defend that perspective?
posted by blub at 7:54 AM on July 17, 2016 [9 favorites]


You may say you don't buy my perspective, but you just agreed with it. You empathised more with the Paris attacks because it's a world you know, after all, one you have a connection to. You empathised more with the story in Turkey after developing a connection after choosing to find out more. That's laudable, but I doubt you have done the same about the location of every tragedy mentioned even just in this thread.

I disagree with the statement you made that the factor limiting people's acknowledgement of things happening around the world is a limited amount of empathy. People who connect more (either by travelling, learning, or in connecting to people from around the world) can empathize with tragedies all around the world simultaneously. The limitation is people's desire to, and action on, learn about other cultures and places than their own.
posted by scrittore at 8:17 AM on July 17, 2016


I mean, that's great, but we've also had threads about class issues on Metafilter, and it's probably worth pointing out that not every North American here has access to the kind of job that includes (or allows) international travel.

No doubt, however if you're on Metafilter, you have access to the internet and likely a library system, both of which are powerful tools for learning a little bit about Turkey's political, cultural, and military system.

You are indeed correct that travel is a superficial way to learn about any place, however it like many other things can be a prod to read and research before and after you go about the place.
posted by scrittore at 8:21 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't know if this is a useful tactic, but I was just reading through the links and comments of the Istanbul Airport/Holey Bakery thread, and building a comment, and I was thinking of the trend of official political parties emboldening extremist groups for gain until the extremist group is suddenly not in control and everyone sort of stands around going "how did that happen?" even though it's pretty obvious how it happened and that, in hindsight, it was almost certain to happen. Anyway, while drafting my comment, I originally added some examples, like the Tea Party and Trump supporters in the US, and Leavers in the UK, and was trying t decide if I could get an example out of the situation in Turkey, when I realized that putting specific US/UK references in was likely to give a "handle" for dragging the conversation away from Turkey and Bangladesh and towards the US/UK, and I decided to cut all the examples to avoid that. It also made my comment a bit shorter.

So maybe it's worth considering general and/or abstract references rather than US-centric examples in threads that aren't about the US, even if the comparison is pretty apt to lesson the chance of derails?
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:30 AM on July 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


So true that even in this thread people defend that perspective?

I am not sure people are defending the perspective but just trying to explain or understand where it springs from. Here is the assumption that led me to misread Too-Ticky's comment discussed above. How much cultural knowledge I assumed was rooted in my read of their facility with English. So, if a person who isn't from an English-speaking country has extremely high level English skills and writes "Y'all have fun" as part of a comment, my knee jerk assumption is they get the context. In fact, in that moment, without thinking, the very idea that they are not from where I am from kind of evaporates (yes, a cultural blind spot). But if somebody writes a comment whereby it is obvious that they are still learning English, I would not assume that cultural knowledge. Similarly, if I had a high level knowledge of German and could write fluently, and I used some phrase that Germans understand has a particular meaning or feeling behind it (but I actually didn't know), they might conclude that I get it. I am not saying that this assumption of cultural knowledge based on perceived language skills is justifiable. So this isn't meant as a defense, but just an explanation for how it worked for me in that moment.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 8:38 AM on July 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

No doubt, however if you're on Metafilter, you have access to the internet and likely a library system, both of which are powerful tools for learning a little bit about Turkey's political, cultural, and military system.
Wow, you're right! I checked, and there is a library! They have books and everything! Thank you so much for taking the time to educate me about libraries!

Did you mean for that comment to come across as condescending?

For what it's worth, a close friend of mine is married to a guy who is originally from Turkey. We've talked a fair amount about the current situation in Turkey, in part because it affects their family life. He was trying to get an e-commerce business off the ground, and it's on hold because of Erdogan's recent decision to bar Paypal from Turkey, for instance. They're trying to figure out whether it's safe to take a family trip to visit his parents in Eastern Turkey, which is not something they ever worried about in the past. But again, I have a pretty limited perspective, because it's hard to put into context the things that you hear from people you know. And while I certainly could use the library (which again, thank you for educating me about!) to read up more on Turkey's history and culture, I've only got so many hours in the day, and there are a lot of countries to learn about. Even if I learned all about Turkey, I would still not know very much about Zimbabwe or Malaysia or Honduras. And my hunch is that even you, with those consulting jobs that send you jet-setting all over the world, are ignorant about some places and people.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:52 AM on July 17, 2016 [23 favorites]


I think Metafilter is able to handle comments from people that fall somewhere between "I am an expert on place x and am going to tell you about it" and "I don't know about place x but give a damn about the people/situation there". Are you telling me everyone who posted in this Meta had been to Brussels or directly knew someone there at the time? As Justinian said above, those threads turn out to just be mainly 'permforative' with people doing the whole 'hugs to strangers' thing, yet my point is that certain strangers are worthy of attention and others are not. And the idea that the only reason people are going to care about other humans are if they have travelled to their country or have family and friends there is pretty laughable - I have never been to the US yet seem to be able to have some empathy for the people who live there.
posted by Megami at 9:09 AM on July 17, 2016 [15 favorites]


I do hope we can figure out a way to not paint ourselves into a corner with expectations that FPPs will reflect a greater diversity of the human experience, and yet that the burden of making it so does not fall solely on members who are outside the [insert demographic markers here: white, US, middle class, male, cishet, etc.], and that such posts will collect the markers of merit [comments, favorites], and that the comments will not just be "that was [fascinating, delightful, sad, tragic]; thanks for sharing."

Speaking for myself, I make a conscious decision to put up posts that reflect a diversity of experiences, even if it's not something that I'm terribly familiar with myself. My posts tend to emerge from stumbling across an interesting thing and sometimes doing a little extra poking around to provide more context. My perspective on posting is that I'm mostly an amanuensis for someone else's most likely more educated take on a topic. In some ways writing a knowledgeable comment is harder than creating the post itself. On several occasions I've posted on a topic fairly new to me and someone with more knowledge will come in with insightful supporting commentary. That, to me, is a successful post.

Last night I was reading the discussion upthread about how the U.S. news media doesn't humanize victims in non-Western countries and I was spurred to post an FPP with profiles of the victims of recent attacks in Istanbul and Bangladesh precisely because I remembered not long after the incidents reading an article with victims' profiles from Istanbul.

I don't think the barrier to entry is quite as high as some people have set it for themselves. Which is not a command that anyone has to recalibrate their comfort zone if they're not comfortable posting on something where they don't have extensive background or knowledge. Just that...if you're wavering between waiting for the "experts" or insiders to make posts that broaden the subject base of Metafilter and therefore continuing to see very little on those topics on Metafilter vs. taking a bit of a risk to post something that's both outside your direct experience and that of most other MeFites, I would urge members to err on the side of taking the risk that broadens perspectives.
posted by drlith at 9:13 AM on July 17, 2016 [13 favorites]


These are unwritten site culture issues

...until someone in a thread says "maybe go Google that". At that point it is very much in writing.
posted by Dysk at 9:24 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I find that here there's a problem where special interest groups issues are kind of discouraged- i.e. if you're really passionate and care deep about issue y especially because you're impacted by it and want others to care- you shouldn't post it. (Not to mention this means we are rendering profound aspects of being human and the things that matter most in the world to be "special interest issues")

Because this a place for "neat things on the web" not "things that matter deeply to members". (Which I find unfortunate but is what it is).

This means we seem to kind of discourage people FROM groups not well represented here to post a lot on those issues, and we learn less because of this policy.

It often seems like it's only after outgroup members begin really posting about cause y that the actual members of the affected group can start talking about it and often the only way their real experiences can be heard is in reaction to how people not impacted talk about it.

I feel like I could have worded that better, still chewing on it. I care greatly about what is going on in Turkey and in Syria, and Iraq, and Pakistan, and India.. I read all I can find and I don't know how to get good sources of information and I wished it were talked about more. I try to post what I find but I have no way of knowing if what I post reflects well what people in those countries are really experiencing. I have especially been trying to find women's voices in countries all over the world (and as a goddess worshippers particularly inclined to spiritual traditions that are interfaith and inclusive of the feminine divine as an equal representation).

So I want to hear your voice. I want to build understanding between communities and respect of different cultures, and yes do the hard work of asking what aspects of all our cultures might contribute to harm with understanding that we all have these aspects of our cultures and selves. Sometimes because we have trauma, injuries, special circumstances we or our ancestors were coping with- and we adapt. Sometimes we get stuck in patterns of thought and behavior that aren't helpful or are incorrect. We can all help shine light into each others blind spots, and healing into wounds.

Is there a specific reason, and is it a good one, that we discourage people from sharing things that matter to them and to many other people in the world rather than just things that are "interesting"?

Is that an innate and important quality of metafilter that needs to remain in place that we need to sort of have a detachment from things that matter most? Like people in a community that is hurting might want to post about it but I have heard it said many times don't post things that you want others to care about-- so you are expected to wait around until anyone else feels like caring about it. Meanwhile they just go along not- because they aren't hearing about it and they don't have to.
posted by xarnop at 9:26 AM on July 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Wow, you're right! I checked, and there is a library!

Hey, come on. Yeah, that was a a little sharp, but so is your reply, and it's not going to help us get any further in this problem. I'm a big advocate of people doing a quick web search when they have a question in a thread that is a) interesting but b) on something they are ignorant of. That reasonable practice would save the site from the most egregious "101 derails" that clog up a lot of threads (of course, recognizing one's own ignorance is another hurdle, one which I don't always clear myself).

As an antidote to this, I really appreciate comments like this one smoke made about the Holey Bakery. It's a set of three links that give a variety of approaches to that event (with a little extra commentary), and seriously enhanced the material in the FPP. It's kind of like leveraging the information you have to help your fellow MeFites search on an unfamiliar topic.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:46 AM on July 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


It would not occur to any Dutch person to think that the American is faking ignorance about this, even though the Elfstedentocht is among our most famous sporting events and a very big deal if it happens. So, why is the reverse true? So true that even in this thread people defend that perspective?

We need little flags next to our user names (probably a terrifically bad idea for so many reasons I can't even begin to imagine right now).

Most people don't look up every commenters profile in a discussion, and many people don't have their location in their profile.

Country flags really would help with this, but probably cause much more problems.

Maybe there just needs to be a end to Breaking Tragedy stories? Either have a NewsFilter subsite or ban it all. There is too much happening in the world to pick and choose what's important. I sometimes find them good sources of information, but the inherent bias is impossible to overcome.
posted by bongo_x at 9:50 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


bongo_x: Most people don't look up every commenters profile in a discussion

Of course not. But in cases where I'm wondering whether or not people are being sarcastic, I might well click and see if there's any information in their profile that may help me make a better assumption.

many people don't have their location in their profile.

This is true. I do have it there, for exactly the reason I stated above: I want to make it easier for people to parse my comments correctly.
posted by Too-Ticky at 9:56 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Is there a specific reason, and is it a good one, that we discourage people from sharing things that matter to them and to many other people in the world rather than just things that are "interesting"?

I think that's overstating a little, mostly; I don't view as site policy that people shouldn't in general share things that matter to them or that they care about, and certainly that does happen some on the front page, and a lot in comments where there's fewer constraints/expectations on what users write/link/etc.

But there's a couple important spectrums that play into how posts/threads with that kind of personal valence play out in practice, and this varies a lot from person to person:

1. how deeply invested the poster is in the topic as not just a thing they're interested in or close to but something they're essentially doing similar to advocacy about

2. how well they minimize the impact of their emotional or ideological investment in the topic on the framing and tone of the post or the ensuing conversation

And it's out to one end of either or both of those spectra where most of the tricky stuff comes up, and why we end up having to specifically work with some users about not e.g. digging in hard in conversations or making posts where they stand a good chance of being super unhappy with the resulting conversations.

So it's mostly about any given user finding a way to self-reflectively assess where they are on that stuff, what they want from a post, whether they are posting for the community or for their own sake, whether they have reasonable expectations about outcomes, etc. And that can be bumpy, because everybody's different and people self-assess differently. Bumpier still sometimes when it's something they feel strongly about because it is, understandably, something that's not abstract or academic to them.

But beyond stuff like expecting people not to post petitions or fundraisers to the front page or use it as sort of personal blog/editorial context (or, more bright-line, self-linking), we don't really have any issue with the idea of posting about something they care about. It's just that not everybody consistently does a good job at it in practice. Which is okay, sorting that out and trying to help folks understand what is and isn't workable as an approach to framing a post or participating in a discussion is part of the whole community process. But I don't want "this doesn't always go well" to be mistaken for "this is discouraged / this isn't allowed".
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:03 AM on July 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


A student from my university has been killed in nearly every one of the major mass killings worldwide this year. A family member converted to Sufi Islam a while back, and has been been very upset about the recent murder of a Pakistani Sufi musician. I know people with family in Bengladesh, France, Pakistan, Turkey, and many other places.
Im not trying to say I'm worldly, because I'm not. But an incident like this doesn't have to have affected me personally to be important to the people close to me. Treating this site as a community should mean more than throwing up your hands and saying "well, most people here are American, what can you do?" Because I'm American, as are most people I know - including the people with family abroad, including the people directly affected by these events. This could be a wholly American site (which it isn't and shouldn't be), and these events would still be significant to people on here.

I can't suggest a course of action that will solve everything. People are saying that comments like "that's such a tragedy" are valueless. But I don't know, staying silent doesn't always convey that much meaning either.
posted by teponaztli at 10:08 AM on July 17, 2016 [11 favorites]


Wow, you're right! I checked, and there is a library! They have books and everything! Thank you so much for taking the time to educate me about libraries!

Did you mean for that comment to come across as condescending?


I did not mean it condescendingly - across North America, for the most part library circulation is ever decreasing. My current gig is library planning and I cannot tell you how often people tell me they forget that the library is there as a largely free resource and/or question why it is we still fund these things. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-35% of residents have an active library card where I am - i.e., 65-70% don't.

And my hunch is that even you, with those consulting jobs that send you jet-setting all over the world, are ignorant about some places and people.

Of course I am - but the comment I was responding to stated that it was a limited amount of empathy that limited what people could care about. You took one piece out of it to criticize on the basis of class privilege, which I acknowledged, however pointing out there are a number of other ways one can see something happening in the world and not stop at "well, I don't have enough empathy to care about Turkey."

The tone of your last message was aggressive and I'm done doing going back and forth with you.
posted by scrittore at 10:18 AM on July 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


So, if a person who isn't from an English-speaking country has extremely high level English skills and writes "Y'all have fun" as part of a comment, my knee jerk assumption is they get the context.

I'm from an English speaking country with English as my native language and am very literate as well, and I don't 'get the context' or whatever. This phrase means nothing to me. March Madness also means nothing to me and I had no idea it was related to any actual thing at all, let alone a US-based sporting event.

The only thing anyone should be assuming about others is that we're all posting in good faith, then go from there. Then location or whatever other things you're getting hung up on don't matter, we can still have a civil, interesting conversation.
posted by shelleycat at 10:23 AM on July 17, 2016 [16 favorites]


I don't feel like I have a lot to add to the general discussion here, but as a data point for the whole go-Google-that bit of the conversation, I'd like to mention that sometimes when I ask a fairly basic question in a thread I'm doing it because I think the thread as a whole stands to benefit from someone posting an answer.

If I have a question and then go Google up an answer for myself, I might satisfy my curiosity but I probably won't have educated myself to the point where I'd feel comfortable presenting that knowledge to others. I may feel like I still lack the supporting knowledge to help properly contextualize it in-thread, or I may not know how to fit that knowledge into the flow of the conversation—an answer without a preceding question can seem a bit non sequitur. I may also not trust my sources; a lot of the time, I value the perspective of MeFites over whatever comes up on the first page of Google search results.

If I suspect that a lot of people might be having the same question and that getting a good answer in-thread could help the userbase as a whole get a bit more clued-up on the issue, I may ask a question in the hopes that someone with relevant knowledge will answer it and make that answer part of the conversation. When it works, I think it serves the community better than if I had just looked it up and then said nothing because my question was answered.

If nobody feels like answering then that's no big deal—nobody is under any obligation, lots of comments get ignored all the time and it's fine. I think, though, that one of the big reasons why a lot of people (myself included) participate on MeFi is that we find it a pleasant way to become more knowledgeable about a variety of topics, international culture and events included.

Sometimes I don't want to know what The Google has to say about something. Sometimes I want to know what my friends on MeFi have to say. I don't feel entitled to an answer, but I'm grateful for one when I get it and I feel like it can be good for the conversation as a whole. Am I doing MeFi wrong?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 10:24 AM on July 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


I know why people are talking about educating ourselves, and that's valuable - but I wasn't upset about 44 people getting killed in Istanbul because of my in depth knowledge of Turkey. This post was framed around the outpourings of sympathy that aren't really as present for tragedies in non-Western places. There are no barriers to at least caring about what's going on.

I don't know, maybe I'm missing the point.
posted by teponaztli at 10:29 AM on July 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'm from an English speaking country with English as my native language and am very literate as well, and I don't 'get the context' or whatever. This phrase means nothing to me. March Madness also means nothing to me and I had no idea it was related to any actual thing at all, let alone a US-based sporting event.

On this, if it were an FPP on the blue, then I feel whatever - skip it or Google March madness (I also had no idea what it was). If it's being posted as some sort of "hey let's get the community doing this thing!" MetaTalk post, then I feel like you probably owe the community you're trying to engage at least a brief sentence to explain what this thing actually is. Otherwise you're sending a message that your conception of the Mefi community excludes those not of a background to know what you're on about.
posted by Dysk at 10:30 AM on July 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The: Sometimes I don't want to know what The Google has to say about something. Sometimes I want to know what my friends on MeFi have to say. I don't feel entitled to an answer, but I'm grateful for one when I get it and I feel like it can be good for the conversation as a whole. Am I doing MeFi wrong?

I don't think so. It sounds entirely reasonable to me. Many of your comments do, by the way.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:32 AM on July 17, 2016


Honestly, posting on the internet in discussions and threads about things foreign to you isn't that difficult. I know because I do it literally every day. As an English speaker from a very small country I don't have much choice.

Besides assuming good faith at all times as I already said, the other main thing is just don't make it about you. Don't bring it back to something you understand, don't look for an example from your own country to publicly talk about, just ... don't take over the conversation in that way. It's not that hard, you and your country aren't that interesting or universal anyway. Instead engage with the information that is already there even if it maybe means thinking about things in a different or new way. Sure, you may find it a little uncomfortable not having your world view, your examples, your ideas be front and center for a change but that's just your privilege talking anyway. Do this one thing - or actually don't do this one thing to be more accurate - and you're seriously most of the way there already.
posted by shelleycat at 10:35 AM on July 17, 2016 [14 favorites]


Sometimes I don't want to know what The Google has to say about something. Sometimes I want to know what my friends on MeFi have to say. I don't feel entitled to an answer, but I'm grateful for one when I get it and I feel like it can be good for the conversation as a whole. Am I doing MeFi wrong?

Depends on context. Are you asking a 101-level question which there isn't likely to be a lot of discussion potential in (does the UK have a president? how much is that in dollars? how should I gender trans people and why?) or a question about which there can be discussion or something beyond a simple or factual short answer? The latter strikes me as lot less of a problem.

I guess my position is basically that if the answer could be found in a dictionary or glossary, it's a bad question to drop into the thread rather than your search engine of choice, whereas if the answer would be more like an encyclopedia entry, that's more interesting.
posted by Dysk at 10:39 AM on July 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


IT'S ALL THE FAULT OF THE TIMEZONES!!
posted by terrapin at 10:49 AM on July 17, 2016


Dysk, I generally agree with what you say but feel like there's quite a bit of grey area and, inasmuch as there is a line to be drawn, people are likely to draw it in different places. I had a great big comment typed out elaborating on this, but deleted it as rambling and likely to start a fight. Suffice it to say that as long as Me-Fi is a general interest forum and as long as we keep attracting new members, there will always be people asking questions which seem insightful to them but which are tediously and even offensively remedial to those with deeper knowledge of the topic at hand. I don't have a great solution to that.

All I can say is that if people want to elevate the baseline level of discourse on a particular topic, it's going to be hard work and it's going to be a never-ending project. Even if everybody is participating in good faith, our baseline knowledge of whatever subject is going to track the level of knowledge present in the culture as a whole, adjusted for MeFi's particular demographic skew. Getting this community to do better than our demographics would suggest is hard work. (Changing our demographics is even harder.) People have successfully done it for a few topics, and the mods can and do help to hold the line, but it's not easy or quick and it never really ends.

There's a treadmill effect that I think emerges from the fundamental nature of MeFi as a general-interest internet forum. We do very well for what we are, but for any given topic you can surely find a specialist venue that's doing it much better.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:13 PM on July 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


I hope my comment above doesn't come off as flippant or defeatist. I just genuinely think that this is a hard problem, maybe the big challenge for this phase of MeFi's ongoing experiment in being a general-interest internet forum with genuinely good discussion quality. We've improved a lot over the years—how can we streamline that and make improvements happen faster, more consistently, and with less of the burden placed on those who already feel marginalized here? How can we do that while still maintaining a surmountable barrier to entry for new members, keeping in mind MeFi's fundamentally generalist mission? I don't know the answer, but I think it's a big one and I think a lot of MeTas here, including this one, are asking some form of that question.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:26 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]



Basically the Istanbul airport attack thread was deleted early on for its just being too early, post again once more is known, and I expected that there would end up being another post a bit later as things developed. Then there didn't turn out to be another one.


Might this simply be because of a numbers/demographic imbalance?

Meaning: assume that the number of Mefites in or from Istanbul is X. Further assume that the number of Mefites in or from the United States is a multiple of X (say 10x). In such a case as cortex describes above, where the initial post gets deleted for being news filter, there are x chances for someone else to make a post on the same topic later ( or, to be more accurate, x-1, in case the original poster is not able), but with an event in the United States, it is ten times more likely to have someone repost it.

So while I grok the mods aren't doing this on purpose, and this is the way of things, it is kind of shafting the people for whom there simply aren't the numbers to rely on to make a better post.

I will admit I don't know how to solve that problem, I'm just identifying it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:37 PM on July 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


This means we seem to kind of discourage people FROM groups not well represented here to post a lot on those issues, and we learn less because of this policy.

I am only skimming this thread today, but do want to back up cortex. The only post I can think of that I did on the blue that was about homelessness was deleted, but the mod who deleted it went to pains to make it clear there was nothing wrong with me, personally, making an fpp about the subject and I have been very free to speak on homelessness both on the blue and the green in comments. Those comments seem to never get deleted, in spite of me generally having a high-key deletion rate.

I have no axe to grind on the subject of homelessness. I do feel there is bias in the way I personally get treated and perceived -- that many people cannot get past the detail that I happen to be homeless -- and I do feel that causes stuff of mine to get deleted in part just because it was me. But the one time I thought I would do a post about homelessness, just because who I am put me in contact with something interesting on the subject, the staff took pains to make sure I did not feel my status was a factor in the deletion. I think that communication was sincere and not poisonously polite posturing. I think I am pretty good at reading such things.

So while I feel there is bias here and I sympathize with Megami on this issue and I believe policy has room for improvement, I do not think the policy actually discourages X group from talking about X thing. And I think it is for the best to not let members of X group post axe grinding, vitriolic etc stuff because if you are X and X has a negative perception, having lots of bad posts about X does not reduce prejudice. It entrenches it and makes people feel justified in their hatred and exclusion.

I just genuinely think that this is a hard problem,

It is a hard problem. I think trying to be explicitly inclusive is a poor solution, but it is the obvious first solution everyone arrives at. When you are explicitly inclusive, you remain implicitly exclusive. Shooting for not implicitly exclusive is a vastly superior standard, but one few people can readily grasp, thus something hard to get broad support for as a policy. So what happens typically is we fight tooth and nail for inclusion and it takes enormous time and energy for every small incremental improvement.
posted by Michele in California at 12:38 PM on July 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Suffice it to say that as long as Me-Fi is a general interest forum and as long as we keep attracting new members, there will always be people asking questions which seem insightful to them but which are tediously and even offensively remedial to those with deeper knowledge of the topic at hand. I don't have a great solution to that.

Something that's worked comparatively well in making trans threads a bit less of a clusterfuck is the mods deleting these questions, or stepping in with a note saying "don't". I suspect a similar approach could be applied to other areas.
posted by Dysk at 12:47 PM on July 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


I agree, but think it's only part of the solution. The mods can help hold the line, but first they need to know that the community wants a line drawn on Topic X, and they need to know where that line needs to be. Getting to that point (e.g. in trans-related threads) has historically been a slow, difficult, and painful process—especially for our community's most marginalized members, those who are already being hurt by the status quo. (And to be clear I don't think we're even fully there yet on trans issues; see the MeTa right below this one, for example.)

The current model involves literally years of extremely contentious MeTas, in-thread arguing, the loss of valuable community members, high bars for threads on contentious topics, purges of particularly obstinate bad actors (some of whom behave perfectly well except in one type of thread), high stress for the mod team, and then even when we plateau at a place where everyone who's still here can basically accept the new status quo, we still all have to be extra careful in those threads, the mod team needs to police them more heavily than before, etc, in order to keep things from backsliding. It's also easy to forget that for all the mod team's responsiveness MeFi is a very lightly staffed site, and at any given moment there is probably only one mod on active duty (I think). There is a limit to what they can do.

A better model would be, well, better. I think I'm dragging this conversation a little bit off of its intended track so I'm going to go do something else for a while rather than speculate on what that model might look like, but I think it's worth keeping in mind when one asks for more or better conversation on some topic that getting that to happen has historically been very difficult and we don't yet have a better way.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:05 PM on July 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Are you telling me everyone who posted in this Meta had been to Brussels or directly knew someone there at the time? As Justinian said above, those threads turn out to just be mainly 'permforative' with people doing the whole 'hugs to strangers' thing, yet my point is that certain strangers are worthy of attention and others are not.

64 comments is not really that big a MeTa.
posted by Greg Nog at 1:10 PM on July 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think that "thanks for sharing" can be a fine comment, I made a commitment to myself to start thanking op's a while ago and it's always gone fine.

Fyi, my comment in the holey bakery thread was the result of this thread and googling, I only know a little bit about Bangladesh, and realised I wanted to know more about this situation and other things I had read about the country this year. Maybe ten, fifteen minutes.

I don't think everyone should feel obliged to do this in every non US thread; there are enough mefites that only a few of us doing it every now and then would make a noticeable difference, and I think we tend to do it unthinkingly in fps about other (ie western) posts.

I guess I was trying to be, in a small way, the change I would like to see.
posted by smoke at 2:39 PM on July 17, 2016 [15 favorites]


I really appreciated it, smoke. I'm going to endeavour to do the same.
posted by taff at 4:18 PM on July 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Of course I am - but the comment I was responding to stated that it was a limited amount of empathy that limited what people could care about.

I was countering the idea that compassion isn't a zero sum game, because it essentially is. We do have limits to how much we can care about, compassion fatigue is also a very real thing, and while there are certainly biases in play when it comes to the MF userbase, the realities of humanity is that there will be more focus and empathy for events in the western world, America especially, on a website that is over 75% American.

Your belief that all that people need to do is go educate themselves a bit is nice for you, but not particularly a workable solution to the issue at hand, even though it is a good idea. I just dislike the suggestion that it's somehow a personal deficiency that's responsible for not all tragedies being equal here, because it just isn't realistic, and comes across as the always-terrible 'why don't you care about everything I care about' perspective that manages to be sanctimonious and short-sighted.
posted by gadge emeritus at 4:49 PM on July 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


feel the same way about marriage and baby threads and similar. Everyone or no one.

I really hope we are not considering site wide not doing these and check in threads - I love them, and it's my understanding that anyone can post one? I don't think they're performatively - it's because we try to be a community here, not just a website.
posted by corb at 6:04 PM on July 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


I like the baby and marriage threads too.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:12 PM on July 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


I don't know how I feel about check-in threads for things like terrorist attacks, but I really value check-in threads for natural disasters, in which it's entirely likely that people here may be affected and it's possible that people here might be in a position to help. And we did, for instance, have one for the 2011 earthquake in Japan, so it's not just North America and Western Europe, although I'm sure that we could be more inclusive.

I also want to hear about babies and marriages, but that may be my selfish love of adorable baby pictures.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:16 PM on July 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'd like to see more pictures of everybody's beautiful cats tbqh
posted by Greg Nog at 8:53 PM on July 17, 2016 [13 favorites]


A better model would be, well, better. I think I'm dragging this conversation a little bit off of its intended track so I'm going to go do something else for a while rather than speculate on what that model might look like, but I think it's worth keeping in mind when one asks for more or better conversation on some topic that getting that to happen has historically been very difficult and we don't yet have a better way.

I'm trans. I was here for all of the metas and fighting and what have you.

I still think it's the only model that's proven to actually work, outside of personally invested culture-war stuff from the mods (I.e. jessamyn's anti-boyzone campaign).
posted by Dysk at 9:10 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


To those of you crying "but I'm not educated enough in X Country to make an FPP about something related to it!!":

Do you expect the non-Americans to be perfectly educated in US matters before they make an FPP about something American? Do you check their bio for American knowledge before evaluating their posts?

Not once in this thread has anyone suggested that non-Americans get more clued in about America before posting, so why on Earth are you expecting the reverse to be true?

If your qualm is that you don't want to be yelled at: deal with it. The point about dictionary entry question vs encyclopaedia entry question is a really good one. But at some point, you're going to have to accept that what you thought was a well-meaning question was probably very loaded for someone else and roll with that. We have an example upthread of Too-Ticky's "y'all have fun" and how it was a cultural misunderstanding ultimately. Why not accept that you most likely will be on the misunderstanding end, you will likely have to deal with people who are frustrated by your question, and move on from there?
posted by divabat at 10:59 PM on July 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


There probably isn't someone here who hasn't copped a spanking either in full view, memail, or with an offsite grumble at some stage for something. Happens to me all the time! So I resolve to become better, to examine if there's a pattern, if it's me or the other person who is being a ratbag (usually it's me, but not every time), and to talk to my mods and my mefi friends to check the room.

I try not to jump in to areas I'm not versed well in with a 101 question, and I mostly try harder to read the commenters with direct or academic knowledge.

If you start with an open heart and mind, it can't go *that* badly. I think gender and race threads have gone so badly in part because most people arrive with assumptions and then use problematic language and talk over the top of people with direct experience of gender and race issues. So don't do that. Probably ever. And if you don't do that you'll be cool.

Dunno about you mob, but I'd rather squizz around Twitter and see what journos are saying then clomp in here and ask people I respect if the journalists are as full of shit as it seems. So I love it here but its possibly not the very first place to read if you're not across an issue. Even if what you read elsewhere is stupid and you don't realise that, the wonderful people here will tell you if you speak respectfully and cite your sources. And if they don't have the energy someone else will. Or worse case scenario, you'll be ignored. But I've never seen mods delete sincere and enquiring questions from people who have tried to get a handle on a situation. One thing that's valued here is learning and talking. A bit like at school...it's respectful to turn up to class having read the text and with questions prepared. I try to do that here and on bloody Facebook. Although I usually fail at Facebook.


So absolutely yeah I agree with divabat, if you get yelled at, deal with it. By learning from it. Then you're an asset to the site and can help someone else who isn't as far along the road as you will have gone. But hopefully you won't get yelled at. But if you are, you'll be ok. All the very best people get yelled at. ;-)
posted by taff at 11:49 PM on July 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


Not once in this thread has anyone suggested that non-Americans get more clued in about America before posting, so why on Earth are you expecting the reverse to be true?

The power dynamics aren't symmetric, though. The U.S. has a disproportionate impact on the world, and that gives pretty much everyone some amount of standing to comment on the U.S., but the reverse isn't true.

If your qualm is that you don't want to be yelled at: deal with it.

That's reasonable advice on an individual level, but the challenge at a policy level is that, for a website with voluntary participation, you can't effectively punish (or call out) your members into engaging more, only less.
posted by Pyry at 12:19 AM on July 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


Do you expect the non-Americans to be perfectly educated in US matters before they make an FPP about something American? Do you check their bio for American knowledge before evaluating their posts?

No, but there's a highish bar for posting (at all). There have been more than a few very long MeTas on the subject. Optimal framing, optimal coverage, optimal length; people should never do X, or always do Y, and maybe there ought to be a wiki about Z. Strong feels all around. And not everyone is comfortable posting, period.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:20 AM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

I also want to hear about babies and marriages, but that may be my selfish love of adorable baby pictures.
I love the baby and wedding threads, even though I'm asexual and I'm never going to fall in love or get married or have a baby myself. I like them because those things are important in others' lives and I like reading and hearing and understanding what is important to others, and the things that make them happy. Only by learning about people different to ourselves can we grow as people.

Please don't get rid of those threads - even though I don't generally post in them myself because I feel silly congratulating someone I don't know, I like seeing happy people. Without them, MeTa would become "that place everyone goes to have a fight".
posted by winterhill at 12:29 AM on July 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


It sounds like a Catch-22, but it isn't. What we would like to see is more majority members genuinely interested in content that matters to minority groups, but without, in the process, furthering marginalization of these groups. What this becomes is a creative problem, and taking this perspective as such lets posters and commenters be responsible for the risks that they take. In other words, absolutely there are valid concerns about negative or unhelpful feedback, but don't let those be the limiting belief.
posted by polymodus at 12:31 AM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


The U.S. has a disproportionate impact on the world, and that gives pretty much everyone some amount of standing to comment on the U.S., but the reverse isn't true.

Assuming that we all know about US culture and whatever else US because it's so important that of course we do is honestly kind of the problem here. Please don't do that.
posted by shelleycat at 1:05 AM on July 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


Assuming that we all know about US culture and whatever else US because it's so important that of course we do is honestly kind of the problem here. Please don't do that.

I kind of meant the opposite, though, that, because of the power relationships, there is a lesser duty to know about US culture before commenting on it. Ignorant commenting about the US is more forgivable.
posted by Pyry at 2:24 AM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Pyry, I don't think that's quite right though. Americans are inherently culturally privileged in this space (and in many other spaces on the Internet). Thus even though non-Americans actually face pretty high standards of knowledge about American cultural references and are not necessarily forgiven for not knowing about a particular reference or posting incorrectly, they cannot avoid posting about American things and still participate in many parts of in the Internet. The same is not true for Americans. Think about black people participating in white-dominated types of work - I'm not saying the two are equivalent, but there are parallels.

The onus is generally on the less-privileged person to bring themselves up to speed (and face penalties for doing so) but the more-privileged person can generally get by without having to learn as much about the other person or their culture. Which is why I think you're seeing so much pushback from non-American MeFites on the idea that Americans cannot post in threads about non-American culture because they will be criticized if they don't understand that culture - non-Americans routinely post in threads about American culture, get criticized, learn from it, and move on, simply because there is no no other choice if they want to continue to actively participate on Metafilter.
posted by peacheater at 4:32 AM on July 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


Pyry, I appear to have completely misread you, I apologise. I'm not sure if I fully agree with you, but that's a different issue and I think I need to think about it more to decide anyway.
posted by shelleycat at 5:11 AM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I just dislike the suggestion that it's somehow a personal deficiency that's responsible for not all tragedies being equal here, because it just isn't realistic, and comes across as the always-terrible 'why don't you care about everything I care about' perspective that manages to be sanctimonious and short-sighted.

I am not suggesting a revolution in behavior here - I am proposing that North Americans* being encouraged to be incrementally more interested in the rest of the world's tragedies and triumphs (the latter not requiring any sort of empathetic fatigue) would make the site incrementally more inclusive to the 25% who are not American.

How we get there may be up for debate, but it seems that you are suggesting the way things are is the way things have to be - and I believe we have examples on this very website of incremental changes on things like the amount of boyzone this place is to suggest people can change even a little bit, and that little bit helps.

* I say North American because I am Canadian and do not think insular cultural bias is restricted to Americans. Lots of it up here too.
posted by scrittore at 7:10 AM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


divabat: To those of you crying "but I'm not educated enough in X Country to make an FPP about something related to it!!":

Do you expect the non-Americans to be perfectly educated in US matters before they make an FPP about something American? Do you check their bio for American knowledge before evaluating their posts?

Not once in this thread has anyone suggested that non-Americans get more clued in about America before posting, so why on Earth are you expecting the reverse to be true?


My posts on non-Western topics have been brought up negatively in Metatalk several times. Including once by you, here. They usually show up in Metatalk because their threads have gone badly or the links themselves were not well received. At times I have received angry memails or emails. Or negative feedback on social media.

So I stopped making those posts.

My last post focusing on any aspect of Asian culture (other than a post about travelogues that happened to include some from Asia and countries on other continents) was a year ago last March. That post was also not well received so I said, "Fuck it" and moved on. Let someone else with more knowledge make them.

Everybody wins.

--

Haranguing people to make posts on a topic they are unfamiliar with is not helpful, (and for fuck's sake smoke, Western bias obviously exists on this site but it's not racist to choose not to post on certain topics -- get a fucking grip) and blithely dismissing people's concerns that they may antagonize some portion of the userbase isn't either.
posted by zarq at 7:15 AM on July 18, 2016 [19 favorites]


> Very much in favour of just losing the check-in threads altogether. Ask they really serve to do is create a two tier community - those that matter enough to get meta threads, and those that don't. The former are almost universally American or US based. (I feel the same way about marriage and baby threads and similar. Everyone or no one.)

I agree. And it's not because I personally feel slighted (I have not had a child, celebrated a marriage, or been directly in harm's way of a major catastrophe) but I do feel the pang of cliquishness when I see these threads posted.
posted by desuetude at 7:17 AM on July 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


Someone upthread divided this into three different categories. One was posts, one was comments, and one was check-in threads. That seems right to me.

A lot of the discussion in this thread has been about posts, and I'm quite confused by it. It makes no sense to me at all that people would be encouraged, or should be encouraged, to post about areas of the world simply because those areas are underrepresented on MF. It's perfectly reasonable to post about what you want to post about and what you feel comfortable posting about. I make posts all the time that get very few comments, and that's fine, because I made the post not to make a point but because it was about something I find neat. I understand that there's privilege at work here: I'm American and other people are making other posts about my general culture all the time. But I don't think I understand a model where people are posting for reasons other than innate interest.

There have been several descriptions of the way in which comments are used to make non-Americans feel unwelcome. To my mind, that's the fruitful discussion to be had about how to change site culture. Better posts about non-US content will flow from us being better at discussion and looking out for other members with our comments.

I have no opinion really about the check-in threads, except insofar as they are posts that anyone can make, and anyone should when they feel the need.
posted by OmieWise at 7:32 AM on July 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


where is harrison bergeron when we need him?
posted by andrewcooke at 7:36 AM on July 18, 2016


To those of you crying "but I'm not educated enough in X Country to make an FPP about something related to it!!":
Do you expect the non-Americans to be perfectly educated in US matters before they make an FPP about something American? Do you check their bio for American knowledge before evaluating their posts?
Not once in this thread has anyone suggested that non-Americans get more clued in about America before posting


I often check their bio, yeah, if they're saying something about America that just sounds straight-up wrong. I feel like non-US mefites generally have a pretty sound working knowledge of America, though, so it doesn't come up a lot.

I will say, though, that this "what the fuck, that sounds wrong" happens more often on a more local scale; I (very, very occasionally) see comments from non-New Hampshirites that characterize New Hampshire as like a backwoods libertarian caricature, and generally when I see those, my tendency is to want to reply "shut the fuck up".

I guess I'd prefer people speak from their own experiences rather than from a like surface-level understanding of a place they've gleaned from ten minutes on wikipedia. If I'm learning about Laos, I'd rather learn from an actual Laotian than from a dude in Minnesota who just googled "Laos". That ability of people to immediately respond based on their own direct personal knowledge is, like, one of mefi's biggest strengths, as far as I'm concerned. I don't really care if people post about stuff outside their experience just so we can all pat ourselves on the back about how cosmopolitan we are. I'd rather hear a really good comment about some restaurant in someone's hometown than a broad gloss of An Important Event from a place they've never been.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:45 AM on July 18, 2016 [17 favorites]


To those of you crying "but I'm not educated enough in X Country to make an FPP about something related to it!!":

Do you expect the non-Americans to be perfectly educated in US matters before they make an FPP about something American? Do you check their bio for American knowledge before evaluating their posts?


Depends on the something. Should someone from The Netherlands or Guanzhou be putting together an FPP about Creole culture in the Gulf South, or generally or some specific quirk or aspect of our hideously racist and classist public education system, The Problem of American Policing, or the WIC program (unless maybe it's in comparison to similar programs around the world)? Nope. Not unless their very specific lives, or work, or field of academic study - maybe - actually gave them the intersectional insight to avoid propaganda masked as news or handwavy material with problematic conclusions.

There are subjects that are American in nature but only granularly problematic at a local level in a way that anyone might go in blind - I have an Evernote document listing some of our neater local-type festivals, like the Gilroy Garlic Festival, that might one day be a post but I myself am a little worried that one or more of my choices will turn out to have race/class/oppression/environmental/animal cruelty aspects I don't know about, and my chances of fucking that up are probably only slightly improved on someone from outside the US who's totally into that stuff and maybe even involved in one personally. In the same way, I might post or comment about some kind of similar event in another country or countries, though I'd be worried the whole time and would certainly accept my lumps if I screwed up.

I would be extremely reluctant to post or comment about things in other countries that did not have an American aspect or some kind of tourism vector or something that was meant for me, basically, and I would expect the same discretion from someone from outside the US. There are lots of people who are not American but have specific insight based on their personal and/or professional experience, so there's no firm line, but there are lines.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:09 AM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


you will likely have to deal with people who are frustrated by your question, and move on from there?

My takeaway from many, many MeTas on discussion of marginalized and/or minority groups is that stumbling into a thread with well-meaning but ignorant questions can be actively harmful to members of those groups, so I'm not gonna do that.

If your qualm is that you don't want to be yelled at: deal with it.

Sorry, no. I'm not going to do that. I have limited emotional resources and only so many hours in the day, and I already spend too much of both on MetaFilter. I think it's pretty weird that you would ask people to be voluntarily berated.
posted by lalex at 8:12 AM on July 18, 2016 [22 favorites]


This really feels like a redo of the "metafilter is just a mostly male site, it's just the way it it is" argument of 2007 onwards, but with American (and mostly white by strange coincidence) in place of male. Same arguments, same reluctance and same rote answers.

Voluntarily berated - so basically, metafilter wants to get the awareness of being international and socially supportive with a diverse membership, but not with the actual effort involved? This is what sucks. Coming here and thinking oh hey, people who say they are interested in the wider world and debate enthusiastically with great compassionate moderation about sensitive topics! And then you open your mouth and realise, nope. A polite nod before backs turn and you're made aware pretty fast that if it didn't happen up north, it doesn't really matter. Unless one of them was on holiday when it happened.

Stack up being ignored and omitted over and over against being told that you've framed something incorrectly. I'm kinda tired of the idea that this is some enormous horrific racist request that non-Americans are making: post and comment more about the rest of the world. Wow. Really hard. If that strikes you as something so difficult and offensive, you find it aggressively racist, then try imagining being on a site where you are constantly assumed to Not Exist.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 8:51 AM on July 18, 2016 [21 favorites]


Metafilter is just a mostly American site. That's just the way it is. And having more than one user argue that people should just post more about the rest of the world for representation but also know that they'll get insulted and yelled at for getting things wrong really doesn't help the argument.

I wish the site wasn't so US-centric. I'm not American, and that focus can be irritating. However, if it's unreasonable to expect the people in other places post more about those places if they want to see more local content, but it's also considered insulting for people to post, or comment, about something they don't know intimately, and any mistake is going to be treated as an intentional insult...

So maybe don't insult people when you're trying to get them to do something you want? Because currently, it seems to be that's also one of the reasons people aren't talking about what you want them to be talking about.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:05 AM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


If your qualm is that you don't want to be yelled at: deal with it.

Sorry, no. I'm not going to do that. I have limited emotional resources and only so many hours in the day, and I already spend too much of both on MetaFilter. I think it's pretty weird that you would ask people to be voluntarily berated.


Couldn't we borrow some lessons from the emotional labor concept here? Maybe one piece of this has to do with the allocation of effort between the different groups--there's the US/Western-centric group, which has to expend very little energy in order to understand and participate in the vast majority of posts on this site, and then there's a group of non-Westerners/non-Americans, who have to expend somewhat more, and maybe one way to recast the ask in the OP is to consider shifting some of this effort from the non-Western outgroup to the Western ingroup. When you're not part of the dominant culture, can't it be pretty exhausting to undertake both the responsibility of learning everything you need to know in order to fit in and, on top of that, the responsibility for ensuring that people don't get their feelings hurt if you say something about it?
posted by MoonOrb at 9:15 AM on July 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


I mean, there's a reason JulybyWomen worked to get more women posting FPPs, and that's because it was a supportive effort to encourage people to help make the site have better gender balance. It wasn't women being told they must do this to be better people, and we'll tear you apart and it's good for you.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:16 AM on July 18, 2016 [9 favorites]


This really feels like a redo of the "metafilter is just a mostly male site, it's just the way it it is" argument of 2007 onwards, but with American (and mostly white by strange coincidence) in place of male. Same arguments, same reluctance and same rote answers.

Huh, I haven't really read it that way. There are some obvious parallels, but overall I find the comparison moderately offensive. The one case was about how the behavior of users on a general interest website contributed to and upheld specifically oppressive behaviors in the real world. The other is about under-representation, which is a thing to be worried about, but doesn't have the same political valence to me, given the mission of the site.

I'm kinda tired of the idea that this is some enormous horrific racist request that non-Americans are making: post and comment more about the rest of the world. Wow. Really hard. If that strikes you as something so difficult and offensive, you find it aggressively racist, then try imagining being on a site where you are constantly assumed to Not Exist.

I haven't seen anyone call this racist. Did I miss a deletion or a comment? It isn't so much that this is a hard request, it's that in some ways it doesn't make sense. I mean, not to be too harsh, but I'd be willing to bet that you (the specific and general you's) don't post about issues that affect people you aren't even aware of slighting. So, if I do an FPP about Egypt, can I still be criticized for not doing one about Mali? What about the one I left out about the gauchos of Patagonia? I'm not trying to be flip, it just seems like everyone is going to be self-interested to some extent, and this is framed as if that isn't so.

metafilter wants to get the awareness of being international and socially supportive with a diverse membership, but not with the actual effort involved?

I think you're confusing a few things. I think most people have talked in various ways about having a socially supportive website in re oppressed populations, and the diversity that flows from that. I'm not sure anyone has specifically been crowing about an international membership and how great that is. Nor, frankly, do I see the two as equivalent. I, personally, do want someone from Belize or Cape Verde or Uzbekistan, or even England, to feel comfortable here. I don't, personally, feel that it's a social justice issue if they do or not. It's a limitation, and something we should work on, but, again, given the specific nature of this site, it's a stretch to consider it as something beyond a personal affront. Maybe there is a perspective that I'm missing that hasn't been articulated in the thread yet.
posted by OmieWise at 9:31 AM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Just to be clear, I do think it's shitty to dismiss lived experience from people from other countries and cultures, or to turn conversations about a different country or culture into proxy conversations about the US. I just don't think that in the absence of other factors, that that dismissal is a social justice issue.
posted by OmieWise at 9:34 AM on July 18, 2016


Why does it matter if it's a social justice issue or not?
posted by 23skidoo at 9:42 AM on July 18, 2016


From a purely practical perspective, I do not see how the onus of bringing the community's attention to current events with a paucity of mainstream news coverage can be laid, as a matter of policy, at the feet of the entire community.

How would this actually happen? What concrete policy change is being requested here? The moderation vocabulary of Metafilter does not include a tool for directly requiring certain types of posts from certain groups of users. The closest thing to that the community has are the various theme months—and maybe a "current events abroad" theme would help address these concerns.

But it sounds to me like this is less about wanting a practical change in policy and more about wanting to make people feel bad about what they're not posting.

I do understand and fully agree with the position that people in positions of less privilege aren't obligated to educate people in positions of more privilege.

I also believe that Metafilter could be more inclusive and more international. The only way for that to happen that I can see, practically speaking, is for its international membership to become more vocal and more active.

It strikes me as counterproductive to demand more broadly-educated, empathetic, and internationally-engaged community, then further demand that the community become so ex nihilo in order to serve the interests of an international contingent that is remaining silent on principle. When a US poster misrepresents or miscontrues some aspect of the coverage they're trying to provide, they'll then inevitably be castigated by the members who have personal experience with the region—and having tried to do the right thing will be no defense because Intentions Don't Matter.

Progress on Metafilter seems to happen when a group of people begin to assert their place in the community. Since this is a website, the only way for them to do that is to type words into the text boxes. That is emotional labor, and I don't blame anyone who doesn't want to do it.

But graciously submitting to righteous criticism from wronged parties when you post incorrectly about e.g. the Turkish Coup from a position of well-intentioned ignorance is also emotional labor—and doing enormous amounts of quasi-journalistic research about everywhere in the world one doesn't live is just straight-up labor.

To invoke another Metafilter classic, this is asking the US contingent of the site to Guess. They must guess when there is something happening that an international member would like to see posted, then further guess how that member would prefer it be presented.

But when someone wants attention for something they think is important, maybe—as a matter of practicality over principle, in the context of this community as it exists right now—the more effective way to accomplish that is to make a post and Ask for that attention.
posted by Sokka shot first at 9:48 AM on July 18, 2016 [15 favorites]


Why does it matter if it's a social justice issue or not?

I was responding to a comparison made by someone else upthread. I quoted it several times.
posted by OmieWise at 9:49 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I was responding to a comparison made by someone else upthread.

I know, and still don't get why it matters when considering the comparison being made between Metafilter's reaction to learning that it acted as a Boyzone and Metafilter's reaction to learning that it acts like Everywhere is the USA. One's a social justice issue, one's not? Who cares - the reaction is the same.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:58 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


The irony here being that I was the organizer for JulyByWomen. I thought of doing it this year again and just went 'nope'. I like metafilter but I find myself less and less likely to recommend metafilter to other people who are not American/British. It's too closed.

JulyByWomen was I think at a good turning point and came before the EL thread and Crone Island. Women were here, but mostly silent. The stats I remember are something like a quarter non-Americans, but it's hard to know how many migrants out/immigrants in for cultural connections.

I don't think it's an accident or a reflection of the internet at large that the site is so American. It's a result of implicit site cultural biases, and they get reinforced. Glossing over this is daft.

Let's start with a) acknowledging that this may actually be a real experience given multiple members saying yes, it happens to us. B) think what would be a better metafilter if we could have more international voices and members, what would that look like? And then c) think of some small practical steps towards helping get there if that was what the site seemed like a better place to become.

I know we aren't supporting multiple language sets for practical reasons. I think a calendar would be kind of cool though - the weird goat thing from Sweden post cracked me up and explained some Swedish stuff, and I think that would make a great sort of tradition, to have people feel comfortable posting about local holidays, one per country around the world. (I bags hungry ghost!)
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 9:59 AM on July 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


to turn conversations about a different country or culture into proxy conversations about the US
This.
This is what makes me spit nails. There is a certain subsection here that either can not or will not, or both, have any conversation without turning it into something US centric. When I see it I call it out because I think it is often but not always just plain fucking rude. (in the linked case it was a general assumption).
I realize that mods can´t be everywhere neither do I want or expect them to be. What I expect from the supposed intelligence of members of Mifi is for them to have a slightly higher understanding of the world than those at 4Chan.
posted by adamvasco at 10:03 AM on July 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


Oh, I know it's a real experience, it happens to me on the regular. I mean, I'm posting in this thread because it's 3 a.m. and I wish I wasn't awake, but they're replacing gas mains outside - I'm not American, and the way that conversation here so frequently filters through an American perspective really distorts international topics.

I really like the idea of an international calendar of some kind, though.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:03 AM on July 18, 2016


"Everywhere is not the US" seems like a stray angle from the topic here - which is about the disproportionate responses we have to international tragedy.
posted by zutalors! at 10:05 AM on July 18, 2016


One's a social justice issue, one's not? Who cares - the reaction is the same.

Sorry, I misunderstood your question.

Well, it matters to me because the moral imperative (versus the imperative for civility) is much different, and the way I think about the behavior being critiqued is pretty different. The meaning of "diversity" and "inclusiveness" are very different, at least for me, based on whether or not we're talking about a social justice issue. I would guess it does for most people who post here, which is why we don't buy (as a site) the argument that deleting explicitly racist comments is a sign that we are not inclusive and do not value diversity.
posted by OmieWise at 10:05 AM on July 18, 2016




the disproportionate responses we have to international tragedy

As has been pointed out - last para here in particular - this is a hard problem. Probably harder than can be addressed with x more FPPs. There's a reason the major broadcasters in any given nation focus on losses of citizens from their own nations, when terrible things happen anywhere. I don't want to be read as saying it's a good reason, but the need for this rhetorical strategy seems to be robust.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:14 AM on July 18, 2016


Voluntarily berated - so basically, metafilter wants to get the awareness of being international and socially supportive with a diverse membership, but not with the actual effort involved? This is what sucks.

That's not what I said, but your interpretation is certainly a decent example of what I'm talking about.
posted by lalex at 10:45 AM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm kinda tired of the idea that this is some enormous horrific racist request that non-Americans are making: post and comment more about the rest of the world.

As an American, I'd be delighted to read more links to news about things in parts of the world I know little or nothing about. As an American commenter, I, like others here, try—and will continue to try—to refrain from spreading around too thickly my ignorance on topics which are foreign to me. The richly deserved satisfaction of lambasting my ignorance that I might owe to some were I to speak more boldly, does not, unfortunately, outweigh my disinclination to do so. Life—or my life, anyway—is much too short to spend on such unprofitable labors. Meanwhile, as to contributing front page content: well, in my many years here I haven't contributed any yet, so whatever else might be said of me, I'm not discriminatory in that respect.

If this course makes of me an imperialist or an America-Firster, then that is a (white man's) burden I must take up, I fear.
posted by octobersurprise at 11:49 AM on July 18, 2016


I feel like if we want more international content, the long-term goal needs to be to attract more international members. I know I said above that changing the demographics of this place is even harder than elevating the level of discourse, but I think the path to doing it is clear, even if it's not easy.

First, people who want to see more international content need to start posting more international content. Since posting to MetaFilter is voluntary, this will have to happen on a voluntary basis. Anyone who wants to see more international content, whether they're U.S.-based or not, should try their hand. People will have to accept that their posts may not go perfectly, and just do their best. The idea of a theme month was floated up above, and something along those lines might be helpful for kickstarting this. It might help recruit people to the cause as well, which would be huge because this is going to be a lot of work and the more people we have pushing, the easier it will be. I can't overstate how important it is that people who want more international content try to recruit and encourage other members to their side. (Right now it looks like even people who already agree that more international content would be good are busy fighting amongst themselves as to who should go first, which is sort of the opposite of what needs to happen if this is going to work.)

Second, people need to work toward elevating the level of discourse in threads on non-U.S.-centric subjects. That means people need to be willing to agitate for better discourse in MetaTalk, work toward convincing the mods that the bar for constructive participation in those threads should be raised, call out bad or ignorant commentary on the Blue, recruit other MeFites to their cause, and probably most importantly try to make as many high-quality comments in threads on international subjects as possible. Whenever possible (note: not always, just whenever possible) people need to do this in a way that brings more people on-side and which inspires people to educate themselves and encourages them to participate. Strategically speaking, new allies recruited are more valuable than opponents crushed. It's also better for the site as a whole when we can strive for change through positive means rather than negative ones, though of course sometimes the least-worst thing you can do is shut down somebody who's causing a problem.

Third, people need to recruit more members from outside the U.S. so as to make the userbase more international in composition. We need to invite our friends to take a look at the site, offer them memberships, help them get up to speed on community conventions and expectations, etc. Obviously nobody ought to be expected to do this if they don't think MetaFilter would be a good fit for that person, but hopefully as Parts One and Two gain ground the place will feel worth recommending more and more often and more and more of our international friends will like it and want to hang out here. Once we build up a big enough contingent of international members (whatever "big enough" turns out to be) the posting blend and discussion tone will naturally tend to settle into a new, better status quo. MetaFilter will cease to feel U.S.-centric because it will cease to be U.S.-centric.

Eventually, after lots and lots of hard work by the people who want to see this happen, we may end up with more and higher-quality posts on international content, a better grade of commentary on those posts, and a larger and richer pool of non-U.S.-based members. The process outlined above is a pain in the ass and will take time and requires a lot of concerted effort (and yes, emotional labor) on the part of the people who want to see this change happen. I'm not saying it's fair that making this change would put such a burden on that subset of the community, but the above process is the only one that I've seen succeed around here so far, and if the work is going to get done it's going to get done by those who want to see the change—and by those they can recruit to their cause.

This MeTa is sort of Part Zero of that process. What I see happening here is that Megami has identified the issue and put forth a call to action. If we want to be constructive here, my suggestion—for what little it's worth—is that people focus on persuading others that the problem exists (seems easy enough, lots of people here seem to agree with that already) and then recruiting them to the cause of making more international posts, elevating the level of discourse in those threads, and recruiting more international members.

What I don't see as constructive is us standing in a circle pointing fingers at each other and talking about why we can't be the ones to go first because the person we're pointing at is just going to step all over us anyway as soon as we make the tiniest mistake, or why we can't be the ones to go first because other people are just going to shit up our threads. We have to start from where we are and work forward. It's not an easy process, but unless somebody has a better one that they care to put forward, it's the process we have.

Communities don't change just because someone asks for them to, no matter how reasonable or positive the suggestion may be. They certainly don't change from people squabbling amongst themselves about the problem and holding up all the reasons why change can't possibly happen because of what somebody else is or isn't doing. They change because a critical mass of people decides to get out and start pushing the wagon out of its rut and onto a different course.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:02 PM on July 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


Comments-wise, I do think the site has gotten better in recent years -- after people urging this in Metatalks -- about not turning every conversation about a non-US country into a conversation about the US. We're quicker to moderate that stuff, and a core part of why that can be successful is that's a reasonably clear thing that we can ask of the membership broadly and expect that most people can get on board with (that is, people can usually check their own behavior on this; once it's pointed out, they know when they're doing it). So definitely flag if you see that happening.

Posts-wise, I think a positively-valenced "non-US posts month" would be great. I think last time the discussion got bogged down on specifics, but if folks want to do it as a voluntary "hey we could do this fun thing" kind of proposal, I bet people would get on board and participate.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:24 PM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The: I feel like if we want more international content, the long-term goal needs to be to attract more international members.

It seems to me that the first step of any proposed plan should be to listen to the international MeFites in this thread. There are plenty of us on the site in general. I don't remember the exact statistics, but people from outside the US were about 25% of the population. I don't remember how that further breaks down. But the point is, we are here and have been since pretty much day one. We're not a new sub-population. People have been raising the issue of America-centredness for years and years and years. Part of the frustration for international MeFites is how often we have to remind people that we exist, that we have interests and perspectives outside the matrix of American discourse, and that we have markedly different lived experiences.

We're not at "Part Zero", we're in Year Seventeen.
posted by Kattullus at 12:47 PM on July 18, 2016 [18 favorites]


I lack the time to organize something like that, but I would participate. I'm not a prolific poster by any means, but I'd love to see more international content here. I find such content very educational and horizon-broadening when done well, and from a philosophical standpoint I'd like to see a more diverse set of perspectives on MetaFilter—including international perspectives. If an international-posts-month or something similar looks to be happening, I'll participate and make the best posts that I can make.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:49 PM on July 18, 2016


I just want to say that a theme month can (not will, just can) be as simple as posting a MeTa of your intentions, making up a tag and just letting it go. It'll work or it won't but there's not a whole lot users can even do except spread the word and use the tag.
posted by griphus at 12:54 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah Kattullus, it crossed my mind that some version of this MeTa has come up many times over the years, but that observation somehow didn't make its way into the wall of text I posted above. At any rate, I feel like while the issue has been raised many times there's never been the concerted, long-haul push for improvement that we've seen (and continue to see) on some other issues. We've been at Part Zero for seventeen years, maybe.

I guess that big comment above just boils down to "less talking, more doing." I think it's a worthy goal and it's one that I feel comfortable participating actively in (I'm less worried about putting my foot in my mouth in this area than I would be in some others) and I'll put in what time I can afford. I think it would be really cool if we had a broader, more global outlook here on MeFi and I'd love to be part of making that happen.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:55 PM on July 18, 2016


If y'all are interested in doing this, may I respectfully suggest creating a new metatalk post to hash out the details and alert the userbase? This discussion is buried at the bottom of a 240+ comment thread, after all.

I would also suggest studying the 2014 metatalk post -- where this was previously proposed -- beforehand, to consider why it did not come to fruition at the time.

Lastly, you may want to make clear up front what the goal of the initiative is, and what groups are being invited to post and with what hashtag. That was an initial point of discussion last time, and establishing guidelines early may help prevent the same derails.
posted by zarq at 1:05 PM on July 18, 2016


Why is a poster pointing out that Nice and Paris got more attention and compassion from Mefites than similar attacks in Turkey and similarly non "Western" places being taken as a call to set up elaborate recruiting of "international content" making site members, new hashtags, etc, instead of just having people raise their compassion and attention level? The reasoning that everyone is American or whatever doesn't even make sense since France is an international location to Americans.

I think a great place to start is the comments...I think people should be careful about comments like "it's been X days since the last one," "France has had enough" etc...not that all that's not true but in some sensitivity to the fact that the "last one" probably happened very recently in a place like Bangladesh.
posted by zutalors! at 1:07 PM on July 18, 2016 [13 favorites]


Well, I think partly it's that some folks feel like the complaint that started this MeTa touches on a larger issue that's been contended for a long time in the community, partly it's that having a more global perspective as a community would help address the problem identified in this MeTa because more understanding usually breeds more empathy, and partly it's that it seems like one of the biggest positive, concrete things that we can do as a community to help achieve both the narrow goal of more empathy toward victims of tragedy in non-Western countries and the broader goal of a more balanced and global perspective for MeFi in general.

It absolutely does not exclude other strategies from taking place concurrently; if folks want to take it upon themselves to strive for higher-quality commentary in international threads, that's great! That's awesome! People should probably be doing that all the time everywhere, and it totally is not an either/or kind of thing.

I agree that maybe the bottom of a 240+ comment thread is probably not the best place to hash out all the details. I am going to start looking into the history of how other theme months/weeks got organized. Some have been very spontaneous, some less so. Anyway I personally am not going to be spearheading this effort right this very second. I'm also emphatically not trying to stake any kind of claim to this idea, and if somebody else wants to take this on and make it happen I would be overjoyed.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:17 PM on July 18, 2016


It seems like a way to punt personal responsibility to just be more thoughtful and inclusive in posting and commenting behavior.
posted by zutalors! at 1:26 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


¿Por que no los dos?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 1:37 PM on July 18, 2016


it just seems like the same discussion that often happens when a dominant group is asked to be more inclusive:

"That's not my 'world'"
"Well, the human brain can only do so much of x and doesn't have room for your thing"
"I know! Let's do this completely other thing instead! It will take a lot of time and effort though!"

etc.
posted by zutalors! at 1:46 PM on July 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


and for fuck's sake smoke, Western bias obviously exists on this site but it's not racist to choose not to post on certain topics -- get a fucking grip)

Hmm that's not quite the direction my comment was pointing to. I'm surprised that you aren't seeing how the dominant anglocentric culture we live in is a racist and self reinforcing one, especially when a number of mefites have called out how it hurts them. Feels a bit minimising to me, dude.

More broadly, as cheered as I am by some comments, I'm sad to see more falling back into denial, rules lawyering, or a feeling a helplessness - exactly what killed the post more global thread (well, that and disinterest). I don't think more international posts is going to be a panacea and I don't think it should overshadow the issue of people being more thoughtful in comments, that would be my main focus.

However:
1 we have an active post by Dr lith demonstrating an interest and care in international lives. It didn't require a lot of work or knowledge to put it up there.

2 in that post, I left a small comment I was hoping would illustrate a way of engaging meaningfully with international content, it did not take a lot of work to post, and nor do I think everyone needs to comment like that when they are on international threads. But I mean come on, people, I know mefi has an inflated opinion of itself but really, this isn't a UN development forum: you don't need to be an expert on what you post and most people aren't. Indeed, too much expertise can lead to less accessible posts.

3 I feel like those opposed to the idea are latching on to the most challenging, difficult parts in order to facilitate a denial and abrogate their own responsibility for dealing with a site wide culture issue.

Multiple mefites have said there is a problem here, and it's affecting them, only to be told "there is no problem"; "it's not my problem"; "I can't do anything about it"; and "well what are you doing about it?"

There is a problem. It's everyone's problem. You can help by mindfully commenting and engaging with international content and voices on the site, and lots of us are trying to do that currently.

Need some ideas on international content?

guardian international development

irin, humanitarian news from around the world.

the Africa Research Institute.

Please try to make a small change, it might make a big difference.
posted by smoke at 2:49 PM on July 18, 2016 [16 favorites]


There is a problem, smoke, there are multiple problems, they are just way beyond the scope of this site. We are all closet ists, tribal. Because of our basic fundamentals, plus the ideological architecture built over that. We should chip away at what we can. Absolutely. And representation helps that way, tremendously. I think it's one of the most powerful tools we've got.

But you can't ask that people demonstrate a given feeling, to given sincerity criteria, no matter how humanity-mission-critical, by fiat. We (people) are just not that good. You can, but it's blazingly quixotic. I really do not expect it when it comes to my various groups. That request is really asking for the performativity so loathed in the OP.

I feel this whole post is heavy, heavy with irony.
posted by cotton dress sock at 3:37 PM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


Hmm that's not quite the direction my comment was pointing to.

What you said was: And I have to say, cortex et al, I think 'make a post if your so upset about it' is a pretty bullshit response - this issue is bigger than posts, and I'm a bit disappointed you can't recognise that. Its very dismissive.

"This ethnocentrism, however unintentional, is actually a form of racism, and by settling for the status quo, you/we are perpetuating it, and I don't think that's good enough, especially from a community that likes to pride itself on inclusivity and listening to other voices."


My assessment of what you said appears to remain accurate.

I'm surprised that you aren't seeing how the dominant anglocentric culture we live in is a racist and self reinforcing one, especially when a number of mefites have called out how it hurts them. Feels a bit minimising to me, dude.

I acknowledged that such a bias exists on this site in my previous comment.

Ethnocentrism exists. Our culture is anglocentric. I disagree that racism is the only motivating conscious or unconscious factor in people who choose not to post about certain topics.

This complaint has been made repeatedly in metatalk over the years: "Why don't we have a post about X?" The answer remains the same: "You didn't make one." If something is on someone's radar they can make a post about it themselves rather than haranguing the rest of the site and assuming it's not on theirs.

Also, this is different behavior than commenting but showing a lack of compassion or caring about mefites or Muslim victims in an existing thread. That's not what I'm referring to in this comment.
posted by zarq at 4:23 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ethnocentrism exists. Our culture is anglocentric.

Kind of depends on whose culture you are talking about (!)

As a non-American, when I come to MetaFilter I have to recognize that MetaFilter is an American site, with American attitudes and American politics. It's just hard-wired / baked into MetaFilter. Part of the DNA. Strictly speaking about how MetaFilter handles other cultures, countries (but with no comment about how MetaFilter handles race, sexuality, identity, etc), I would say that MetaFilter does pretty well.

But it's still an American website, with American attitudes. It is what it is.
posted by My Dad at 5:04 PM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


now here's Gordon Gano
posted by griphus at 5:49 PM on July 18, 2016


It doesn't have to be an American site though.

It really doesn't. The mods aren't all American now. The members aren't, and the internet is increasingly not dominated by Americans.

Metafilter can decide as a community to start being more international. The site isn't as dependent on inline advertising as other close community sites (pour a drink for the Toast and a moment of confused silence for whatever happened to Salon) and it has a frankly weird content/revenue model. All the content is created by the users, value comes from the moderators and coders and money comes from ads and subscriptions so more happy talking users creating more content is.... good?

But to have mainly American members is apparently a feature not a bug to some members. It is the reverse to others.

I'd like to hear from the mods if there is overall support to increase the number of international members at metafilter.

If this is an American-centered site, I'd rather know now, because I'd interact very differently here then.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:27 PM on July 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


Also some Americans are brown and have family in or near the so-called "other worlds" that some people here feel are so very terribly alien to them that they cannot fit any compassion towards people from those other worlds - their compassion ends apparently along the eastern German border because that's how brains work or something.
posted by zutalors! at 6:31 PM on July 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


some people here feel are so very terribly alien to them that they cannot fit any compassion towards people from those other worlds - their compassion ends apparently along the eastern German border because that's how brains work or something.

*headdesk*
posted by lalex at 6:39 PM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]



*headdesk*


but it's been explained many times that ethnocentrism "is a thing" and people don't want to do the thing that is asked of them in this thread and also like white people go on vacation to France so tragedy there is different.

I don't think there's anything we're not getting, we're hearing it loud and clear.
posted by zutalors! at 6:44 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Agreed. I think I have a skull fracture.
posted by futz at 6:44 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also some Americans are brown and have family in or near the so-called "other worlds" that some people here feel are so very terribly alien to them that they cannot fit any compassion towards people from those other worlds because that's how brains work or something.

Yes. That's exactly what I said. Word for word. You have read my soul, I have no compassion for brown people or anyone east of old east Berlin.

Ethnocentrism is a fucking thing, jesus christ, if it weren't we'd all be eating Haagen Das in a field somewhere.
posted by cotton dress sock at 6:59 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


(We as in everyone on the planet)
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:00 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


we'd all be eating Haagen Das in a field somewhere

no idea what that means.
posted by zutalors! at 7:02 PM on July 18, 2016


This will go better without the exaggerated sarcastic descriptions of what other people are saying.

It's good to remind folks, and be reminded, to be more inclusive and thoughtful about this stuff.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:03 PM on July 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


we'd all be eating Haagen Das in a field somewhere

no idea what that means.


me neither but it would beat the hell out of being in this stupid office
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:04 PM on July 18, 2016 [11 favorites]


I mean probably people here who say they can't have compassion for Istanbul or Bangladesh would feel it if something happened in Australia.

I feel like all people are asking for is some thoughtfulness about why that is but you really want to talk about ethnocentrism, as though Americans are only white and can only think through that lens, and say even CNN can't solve these problems so why are we asking for any thoughtfulness at all.
posted by zutalors! at 7:05 PM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


As an American, I would welcome the end of American culture dominance on MetaFilter. Even if it meant, e.g., that I were unable to participate in a majority of posts because they were in a language other than English. Bring it on, I say.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:07 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I mean probably people here who say they can't have compassion for Istanbul or Bangladesh would feel it if something happened in Australia.

Probably. Plenty of people did when Australia had its terrorism-flavoured hostage crisis a couple of years ago.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:08 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I mean probably people here who say they can't have compassion for Istanbul or Bangladesh would feel it if something happened in Australia.

Has somebody said this? Please stop.
posted by lalex at 7:13 PM on July 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


I feel like all people are asking for is some thoughtfulness about why that is but you really want to talk about ethnocentrism, as though Americans are only white and can only think through that lens, and say even CNN can't solve these problems so why are we asking for any thoughtfulness at all.

When I say "ethnocentrism", I mean race as well, absolutely it's about race, too. Whatever categorical divisions are made important in a given place and time and used to other.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:19 PM on July 18, 2016


People here have said - a lot - that they can't care for a "world" outside their white experience. I've been reading this thread all day and I'm actually pretty shocked, saddened, and frustrated by that.
posted by zutalors! at 7:21 PM on July 18, 2016 [7 favorites]


and say even CNN can't solve these problems so why are we asking for any thoughtfulness at all.

If you are talking about my comment here, you are grossly misrepresenting what I said in a way that is difficult to assume is good faith. I was talking about quality of content, not an absence of compassion.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:23 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm not trying to pick on anyone here but lalex this is a pretty good example, albeit worded in a less than incendiary way than zutalors put.

I dunno if you're refuting the premise. I feel like the blue itself has many proofs, which have been discussed.

I feel like people are saying that's just how it is, and a contingent - myself included, obvs - are saying it doesn't have to be that way, and ideally shouldn't be that way. Seems to be quite a bit of pushback to that idea, though.
posted by smoke at 7:31 PM on July 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


yeah if my previous comments and posting history make you assume bad faith, I can't do anything about that. I feel like there must be some pushback against "this is a white American site, we only care about majority white places, can't do anything about that, sorry."

Nothing
will change from this MeTa but I just wanted to share some of my opinions as one of the minority members of this site, with a lot of family in one of the "worlds" many people in this thread have mentioned having limited or no compassion for.
posted by zutalors! at 7:33 PM on July 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


People, we just got done with one thread that went nasty and got closed, but not before a few people buttoned. Can we maybe try to be more chill in this one, so that the mods will let us keep it and hopefully we don't lose any more members? Shit is rough, we're all doing our best, and I feel like pretty much all of us actually agree about a lot of the core issues here. Can we back off a little and stop with the sniping before it blows up in our faces? Can we be a little bit more charitable and/or take a walk? I feel like I'm in a bar, just before the first punch is thrown. Can we just not?
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:34 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


People here have said - a lot - that they can't care for a "world" outside their white experience. I've been reading this thread all day and I'm actually pretty shocked, saddened, and frustrated by that.

It's not just about race - although it is - when we're talking about non-Western places, usually, there are major differences (in culture, politics, etc). And those places have been represented in a particular (often othering) way in the media for most of our lives. And that is all that many people - yes, the white, Western, northern majority here - know about it. It is unfamiliar to this group, it does appear to be "foreign" to people without a personal in, whether that's having that background, being close to people from there, or having spent time there yourself.

Whenever my region (where people I love live) comes on the news (almost never for good things), people here (not this site, just in general) throw their hands up and say, "well, what do you expect, what a mess, they're that kind of people". I mean I would love for that to be different, I just don't expect it to be? I really don't.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:49 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


I really don't think it's a biological fact that people can't understand things outside white experience or that these differences are so major.

I mean for the most part we are talking about terrorism here and mass murder. Seriously how can people say they can't process that unless the skin color or clothing style matches theirs?

Like don't even answer that, I'm just asking you to think about it.
posted by zutalors! at 7:52 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I mean probably people here who say they can't have compassion for Istanbul or Bangladesh would feel it if something happened in Australia.

I assure you I barely give the tiniest of craps about Australia
posted by Greg Nog at 7:55 PM on July 18, 2016 [5 favorites]


I will answer that, with this, I'm not going to rehearse everything I've personally read on the subject, or the reams of paper devoted to the question in sociology, anthropology, psychology, political science, and history that I haven't, but yes, it seems there is a good body of evidence to suggest that we suck, fundamentally, in precisely that way. We make little differences major. I don't know what to tell you.
posted by cotton dress sock at 7:59 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah by saying that you're saying you don't believe people can change. But I think they can, and I think that's an attitude that belongs to the past. America is already majority minority for children under five and this will keep growing. So what differences? Defined by whom?

The digging in here is really amazing to me.
posted by zutalors! at 8:05 PM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


More broadly, as cheered as I am by some comments, I'm sad to see more falling back into denial, rules lawyering, or a feeling a helplessness - exactly what killed the post more global thread (well, that and disinterest). I don't think more international posts is going to be a panacea and I don't think it should overshadow the issue of people being more thoughtful in comments, that would be my main focus.


I was the instigator of the Post More Global event people keep linking to here and yes, this was exactly what killed it. There was very little engagement or support - just a lot of rules-lawyering.

You all are taking this to unreasonable conclusions. You made a post about a culture foreign to you that didn't go well, so instead of learning from it and applying that knowledge you decide to not even try anymore? You can't post on every last country so you won't even try with one? You think the only things worth posting about other countries are news-heavy current events and you don't have a strong understanding of their political situation so you won't bother?

Zutalors is right, there is a lot of digging.

Anticipation: your ideas are well-meant, but they seem like a lot of labour on the part of non-US Mefites and you're basically asking us to trust you when you in the aggregate have given no indication that you're willing to even try. It reminds me of that suggestion about a Mefi race podcast that was eventually going to be just "POC perform for the benefit of White people who think tuning in is enough".
posted by divabat at 8:12 PM on July 18, 2016 [12 favorites]


I think people can change, sure. We use categories to think - to define relationships, and create ingroups, which (it seems) necessitate opposition to outgroups. The categories (ethnos, race, whatever) can shift with increased numbers, contact, exposure, better representation, political changes, changes in resources - the particular categories are arbitrary, no one defines them, they just emerge - but the fact of these divisions - bonding between people within a perceived group, rejection of people outside of it, that is not going away, that is in the software, that is my firm and considered belief.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:17 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I really disagree that we have a "software" the way that you think. We would never know, because there is no possible experiment with a control group that has never learned racism or the facts of white exclusion/inclusion.
posted by zutalors! at 8:19 PM on July 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


It really comes across like you're pseudo-scientifically trying to find justifications for not trying, and for not being better, cotton dress sock. I mean, it's natural for men not to empathise with women in the patriarchal society that many of us occupy. It's hard for cis people to empathise with trans people. After all, we're across some apparently insurmountable group division. And yet, we expect better of men, and of cuts people here, and of dozens of other groups relative to dozens of other groups which are Other to various degrees. Why is it so unthinkable that we apply that same logic here?
posted by Dysk at 8:25 PM on July 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


You're welcome to disagree with me, zutalors!, I can live with that.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:30 PM on July 18, 2016


um. ok.
posted by zutalors! at 8:33 PM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


No, Dysk, I don't think the particular differences we create are impossible to get past. Representations help, dialogue, yes. More posts by all kinds of non-hegemonically aligned MeFites would be good, I support it. (The fact of the categories isn't going anywhere, they are thought to be a feature of human cognition, if you don't believe me or buy it that could be another conversation).

I just think that wagging a finger at people for not spontaneously demonstrating the kind of allegiances one would hope to see is probably not the way to go.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:39 PM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yes, your reams of pseudoscience on built in cognitive categories are probably the "way to go."
posted by zutalors! at 8:53 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


Folks, this is probably not the interrogation that's going to solve anything here. CDS, you've said your piece - further defense isn't moving the conversation along. Thanks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 8:55 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think we really need to keep in mind what shelleycat pointed out.

I think there are three separate parts to this issue: FPPs, comments and metatalk checkin threads.

I think there is some cross conversation here. I don't think there are many people here who think they can't go into a thread someone else posted and listen, ask questions, and learn.

I think people are more saying they can't create a good FPP, specifically for a breaking news context, about something occurring somewhere that is foriegn to them. They may not hear about the event because it's happening far away. There may be cultural or language barriers if you try to use local sources or distortions if you use foriegn sources that, like you, don't understand the issue. There are unknown unknowns, you don't know where any potential minefields are that if included might lead to a poor thread.

It's not that you can't empathize with something happening far away, it's that to have any deep empathy for anything other than the universal aspects of the tragedy you need awareness of the local issues too. Recognizing the universal aspects of a tragedy is great, but sometimes not enough. Think of Black Lives Matter. We don't want a conversation touching on those topics that doesn't acknowledge the specific reasons people are justifiably particularly angry about those deaths. But even a ton of Americans don't get it! In the breaking news context, I can't have confidence I'll be able to see those details when something happens far away because I'm not familiar with the history that may have led to the event.

So, I think it's a good idea to encourage people to try to make more posts about the world outside America, but I don't think breaking news/tragedies/shockingpoliticalevent is the right place for it. Is that something people agree with?
posted by Drinky Die at 8:55 PM on July 18, 2016 [6 favorites]


Saying that people are in general ethnocentric is not the same as saying people are in general locked into their worldviews--within anthropology, at least, they're different concepts. For example, simply having / recognizing prestige dialects is a form of ethnocentrism, and the result is things like many Jacaltec speakers making fun of how Mam speakers talk and frequently being rude to them while more often expressing affinity for Kanjobal speakers. As another example, very particular, local (sometimes but not necessarily counterhegemonic) constructions of race are commonly observed in cultural anthropology worldwide, e.g. off the top of my head, The Meaning of Whitemen or "Race and Reflexivity: The Black Other in Contemporary Japanese Mass Culture." Etc., etc. Those kinds of things are just facts, whether you're in a situation dominated by transnationalism, global cultural flows, postcolonial hybridity, and other favorite topics of 90s anthro or not. The problem of worldviews is different. There are still people in anthropology more or less trying to push it and push against it, so it's reasonable to be suspicious. But I think cotton dress sock did start this out on the right foot: "Metafilter as a whole is prone to cultural myopia, and sometimes ethnocentrism and racism: true. This is a wrong thing that should be changed: true."
posted by Wobbuffet at 8:56 PM on July 18, 2016 [8 favorites]


I've been thinking a lot lately about two messages that I am hearing with more frequency. The first is "Maybe [privilege] people should sit back and listen instead of talking right now," and the second is "Your silence is deafening, [privilege] people." At first, my thoughts on these two messages were of frustration and despair. Damned if I do and damned if I don't, right? But that's not really true. Just in the past few days I've come around to realize that both of those sentiments are correct, it just means that, as a person with many privileges, I need to work harder to thread that needle. I need to figure out how to listen without being silent and how to talk without filling up the room. It's not going to be easy, and I might not be very good at it, but it's on me to try.

I think the apparent dichotomy in this thread is similar. If I want MeFi to be a more international site (and I very much do), it is on me to figure out a way to both add more international content to the site while at the same time being conscious of the ways my being an American makes posting and commenting about global matters challenging.

One thing that I have done from time to time that I am going to get better about is adding favorites to posts about international things I am interested in and making at least a very simple comment in the thread, even as simple as "This is great!" or "Thanks for the post!" It's something I've been doing for the less-popular FanFare threads that I am interested in (What's up, you cool babies?) and it is certainly something I should be doing on the Blue for the type of stuff that I want to see more of.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:58 PM on July 18, 2016 [25 favorites]



So, I think it's a good idea to encourage people to try to make more posts about the world outside America, but I don't think breaking news/tragedies/shockingpoliticalevent is the right place for it. Is that something people agree with?


I agree mostly, but am thinking that with regard to the original post, which was about how we seem to care about France but not Turkey, that this doesn't really apply since both are outside America.
posted by zutalors! at 9:01 PM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]


dorothyisunderwood: If this is an American-centered site, I'd rather know now

This is an American-centred site. One can wish otherwise and push to increase its international content and membership, but the membership is over three quarters American and the posts and focus reflect that. If nothing else, there's a reason the longest threads of all time have been about the US elections.

zutalors! People here have said - a lot - that they can't care for a "world" outside their white experience.

No one has said that. I've probably come the closest, and I wasn't saying that, I was pushing back on this notion that people can and should be caring about every global tragedy at the same level. I've noticed in your examples that you've not mentioned South Sudan, or indeed anywhere in Africa. Does this mean you're racist towards Africans, or only giving examples from the events that have meant more to you? I'd presume the latter, but that doesn't seem to be a presumption you're willing to extend to others.

There certainly could be an improvement in how people here think in terms of places other than the US - that cultural hegemony thing can be a bugbear. But I don't ascribe it to some moral failing on the part of the userbase. I think a wider reach would be a good thing, I just remember enough previous MeTas on the topic to think that at best you can try a little bump in awareness-raising, but you're going to have to accept that the site's focus is elsewhere.

But the general gist has included a healthy dose of 'Why don't you care about what I care about?' which is an unworkable demand. That's where a chunk of the pushback is coming from. Well, that, and what seems like an attempt to shame MetaFilter into providing more international content in the hopes of threading a needle of appreciation. This is a site where you can be disparaged for learning a foreign language for the wrong reasons - I don't think that needle can be threaded, and with knowledge of the userbase I think it's folly to try.
posted by gadge emeritus at 11:42 PM on July 18, 2016 [10 favorites]


we'd all be eating Haagen Das in a field somewhere

Häagen-Dazs is an American ice cream specifically designed to seem European to give it more cachet, so I too am really confused by this comment.
posted by shelleycat at 12:09 AM on July 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've been a member here for ten years now. Being told over and over in this thread how it's not my site and I'm the wrong nationality and don't fit in here because I'm not American really sucks.

This has always been an international website. We're not asking for a change, we've been here all along. If that upsets you so much that you need to keep denying it then please go do it somewhere else.
posted by shelleycat at 12:11 AM on July 19, 2016 [17 favorites]


Sure, it's a mostly US-centric site so far. Doesn't mean that cannot change. I'm sure the site will only get better and more interesting when it does. It's in everybody's best interest. It's also most likely inevitable.

There's a big difference between 'this is how it is' and 'this is how it should be forever'.
posted by Too-Ticky at 12:16 AM on July 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


There are plenty of threads in which I vacillate between irritation at the implicit US- and Western-centric consensus viewpoint and remembering that I sought out this site for what it is and should just accept it.

What are my options, really? I could spend my Internet leisure time here trying to reshape Metafilter into an international site, but that's a level of intellectual and emotional labour I can't afford. I could try to find some other site that was already International Metafilter, but so far I haven't found one that fits right.

So here I am. But the irritation is always there, just a little bit. It remains a surprisingly unique site and community, and so far that has been worth enough to just suck it up.
posted by vanar sena at 12:24 AM on July 19, 2016 [12 favorites]


as a person with many privileges, I need to work harder to thread that needle. I need to figure out how to listen without being silent and how to talk without filling up the room

Rock Steady, this is awesome.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:37 AM on July 19, 2016 [10 favorites]


I should add: it helps that it's easy to assume that people here mean well in even the most egregious cases of ignorance or bone-headedness. Can't say that about the rest of the internet, unfortunately.
posted by vanar sena at 7:08 AM on July 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


easier, when there's a way in via a certain kind of graspable narrative

I keep thinking about that poor Burmese guy that was a slave on a shrimp boat in Indonesia. Like, it happens a few times a week, and every time I see shrimp.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:32 AM on July 19, 2016 [4 favorites]


I agree we are US-centric, with strong interest in Canada and the UK and Europe, due to our membership distribution. And I also agree we need to be really concerned about what is happening away from those areas. I am very, very worried myself these days about Turkey because I have a friend who is a Turkish judge.

We could do much better, and I hope we do. I fear we will always tend to pay a bit more attention to what affects us and our environs more, though. I am very glad of this post, which keeps us aware of that tendency and hopefully helps to keep it in check.
posted by bearwife at 10:32 AM on July 19, 2016 [3 favorites]


You all are taking this to unreasonable conclusions. You made a post about a culture foreign to you that didn't go well

I've made a bunch. Some of those didn't go well. Or I received negative private feedback. I often take feedback with a grain of salt because this community can be cranky as hell. But when friends (or the mods) say "this thread was never going to go well and what did you expect?" I do try to take that to heart. Wouldn't you? Moreover, when a post I make incites someone to say something terrible, I feel like I'm the one who gave them the opportunity.

...so instead of learning from it and applying that knowledge you decide to not even try anymore?

Acceptance that something has gone poorly several times and wanting to make sure it doesn't happen again is learning.
posted by zarq at 11:01 AM on July 19, 2016 [13 favorites]


fyi 538 has an article on bias in coverage of terrorist attacks in the us media (nyt, specifically).
posted by andrewcooke at 2:23 PM on July 19, 2016 [7 favorites]


fyi 538 has an article on bias in coverage of terrorist attacks in the us media (nyt, specifically).

Does it even matter what US media covers? When this thread was opened, NYT.com had posted almost hundred articles and news telegrams about the Dhaka attacks, according to their search engine (including articles discussing the lack of global outrage), yet people early on stated that the only reason they knew that something had happened was that they knew people in the region, who wrote about it on Facebook.
posted by effbot at 2:57 PM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


Facebook's not behind a paywall, so there's that.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:41 PM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]


people do feel more connected to people they see themselves as being similar to.

I didn't react as strongly as most North Americans to 9/11, because I didn't relate to the people in the Towers. I was absolutely devastated by Katrina, because the people trapped in New Orleans were so much like me and my family. France made me sad - as did the attack in Istanbul - but neither were as "real" to me as the Orlando shooting, because I felt more connected to them as queer people.

(actually, the worst thing happening in the world today, I think, is the genocide of the Yazidis, because a people are being destroyed. But no one has mentioned them yet - and now we have another guilt post to make.)

sometimes these connections are by race, or religion - or (for me and the people of New Orleans) a connection across race by class. I care more about stuff in Hungary than in Germany, because I've been to Hungary; I care more about China than either place because I have studied it and actually can put events there into context.

of course, this doesn't mean I think things elsewhere are unimportant - it just means that I can process them better. I can picture Budapest, but not Berlin; I know the geography, history & politics of China.

At the same time: I don't know about other people - but I do have emotional exhaustion. Not just from the public tragedies, but from the private ones that no one will ever see posted here. My mom had a stroke and is now seriously disabled and not even 60 yet, my aunt is going downhill and won't let anyone help her, my partner is struggling with work - and I'm recovering from a serious mental illness.

I don't post many FPPs because I don't surf the web anymore. I come here as a source of distraction and entertainment - and also enlightenment. I learn stuff, but it's going to be passive, because I don't have the time to be active.

and I can imagine I'm not the only one. We all have shit going on. (that's become a bit of a mantra for me: Everyone has shit going on, and you can't tell what it is by just looking at them - so maybe we should all cut each other a bit more slack?)

I'm grateful that some people here have time to make FPPs, because the site wouldn't work otherwise. Thank you.
posted by jb at 9:38 PM on July 19, 2016 [15 favorites]


The insularity, subtle racism and (unconscious?) sense of white/Western privilege/entitlement here in this thread is chilling.

I wish I could say more, but reading this thread has been emotionally draining. Thank you to people like dorothyisunderwood, divabat, shelleycat, Joe in Australia for articulating what I have very little strength to.

I feel like we are being told, over and over again here, that this is "an American site for things that interest Americans". That we are only 25% of the total site population, and should therefore accept certain biases and inequalities in terms of content and members' attitudes towards us and our culture/histories/backgrounds.
(and yes, the "we" I am using here is, atypically... not referring to US MeFites. So often, I read the word "we" here in this thread and in other threads, and I know I'm not included in the "we". But that psychological adjustment on my part is just a small part of being (culturally) a non-US MeFite. There are many, many other emotional and psychological adjustments that non-US / PoC / non-Western people have to make, every day, to accommodate the prevailing white/Western culture and power dynamic. Not just within the US, but throughout the world. And I don't think most white/Western (US-ian, in particular) people truly, fully realize this - just how much it permeates our everyday lives, and our very mode of thinking and being.)

Is Metafilter meant to be an American site primarily for Americans? (I am wondering if the mods could clarify.) Anyway, the more prevalent the attitude that this is meant to be an American site for Americans - and the more prevalent the apathy and inertia that accompany this attitude - the less non-Americans there will be here on this site. How many non-Americans would want to join a community that keeps telling them, in ways both implicit and explicit, that this is a community not really for them? And how many non-American members would really want to stay in such a community? At this rate, the 75% figure is set to increase - insularity breeds insularity.

Someone upthread posited that Metafilter has become less cosmopolitan and internationally-inclusive over the years. This is my hunch as well, and I'm wondering what the statistics are on non-US (and/or non-Western) site membership (percentage-wise and absolute figures) over the years.
posted by aielen at 12:26 AM on July 20, 2016 [13 favorites]


I'm very interested in those numbers, as well. Because my hunch goes the other way, but I may be overly optimistic as usual.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:14 AM on July 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


We don't have numbers on this that I've seen (in other words no regular admin stat pages or updates), and our sign-up process doesn't include demographic questions, but cortex may have some geo info, or might figure out a way to pull something together, like maybe country by IP on signup or something. We're working shorthanded right now so I'm not sure a comparison table is something that can be quickly generated, but he can probably give us some insight when he sees this.

In the meantime, I was able to come up with a couple of things based on surveys of participating members, one from iamkimiam's PhD thesis [PDF here]:
The 2,521 survey respondents in 2010 represented at least 49 self-reported countries of residence; 34 survey participants did not state a current country of residence. The 15 most represented countries in the 2010 survey were as follows (number of survey participants from each country in parentheses): the United States (1,862), Canada (231), the United Kingdom (162), Australia (55), Japan (16), New Zealand (16), Germany (15), France (13), Netherlands (12), Ireland (9), Mexico (9), Sweden (9), Italy (6), Belgium (5) and China (5).

The 1,957 survey respondents in 2012 represented at least 47 self-reported countries of
residence.40 The 15 most represented countries in the 2012 survey were as follows: the United States (1,434), Canada (166), England (119), Australia (54), Netherlands (19), Germany (14), Scotland (12), Ireland (10), New Zealand (10), Japan (8), Belgium (6), Denmark (5), Finland (5), France (5) and Switzerland (5).
And then there's this little tidbit from Rock Steady's Metafilter survey 2015 (fun survey thing, not like marketing info, again with just members who chose to participate), that asks "What proportion of your life have you lived in the US" with "never" at 19%, "all my life" at 50.7%, and the rest somewhere in between.

I wouldn't recommend these numbers be used as an overall estimation of distribution, but they happen to be figures from members who probably hang out in Metatalk more than the average member, who also were interested in participating in these projects.
posted by taz (staff) at 3:28 AM on July 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


How many non-Americans would want to join a community that keeps telling them, in ways both implicit and explicit, that this is a community not really for them? And how many non-American members would really want to stay in such a community?

I agree, I've dialled back my (British) involvement. Mainly because I don't care about American issues as much as, well, Americans, and the emotional content of threads seems to be greater, and I'm more right-wing than the site membership. So if I come into a difficult thread I'm going to make people sad, because I won't be emotionally invested, so tactless ("Well, Boston wasn't so sad about terrorism when y'all were funding it!") and won't know all the context/social cues ("Watermelon-eating implies what in the USA? Oh, shit! Sorry!") .

So I don't go into so many threads. (I'm "leaving space for alternative voices!" or whatever the polite way of saying "I'm keeping out where I'm not wanted" is.) Because otherwise I'll come across as a dick.

Where I think we disagree is that while that makes me a bit sad (I like MetaFilter!) I don't think MetaFilter should change. It's an American site. It's not FOR Americans, as such, but Americans are naturally more at home here.
posted by alasdair at 5:36 AM on July 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Because of this thread I have finally paid and joined as a member after lurking for years. I am British so adding a bit to the outside-America percentage!

I don't think this point has been raised but non-Americans are not just that. I mean that I am British but I'm also a woman, also a person with a mental health disability, also a lover of fountain pens and books and odd things I find out about because of Metafilter.

So part of the value of having a kind of welcoming stance is that it's not just politics or breaking news that benefit from having international voices contributing. It can offer a perspective that you just wouldn't think of - different and not necessarily right or wrong.

It goes both ways, too. I have learnt so much from here. The emotional labour post is a perfect example because I could look at my own society and culture and it fitted, it didn't matter that it was from an American site and it didn't matter that - I assume - the vast number of comments were by Americans.

I agree with the person who mentioned the acronyms because those can be especially confusing. The first time I watched the West Wing I couldn’t work out what this POTUS thing was… (It’s the president, non-US readers!)

(this is just about commenting, I think, rather than the check in posts)
posted by peepofgold at 6:05 AM on July 20, 2016 [14 favorites]


Welcome, peepofgold! We're happy to have you on board!

(That's 'we' as in MeFites, not any particular subgroup.)
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:54 AM on July 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


And how many non-American members would really want to stay in such a community?

I do wonder whether the true litmus test would be how many American members would want that kind of a community.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 10:14 AM on July 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


You know, just like people in other countries are not monoliths, neither are Americans.

I am a white American who often feels far more comfortable with foreigners or Hispanic Americans or groups other than white Americans. Because I am both white and American, I can kind of get away more with lying low and trying to blend, but there is a really long history of me failing to really connect to other white Americans and I was in my thirties before I finally figured out I grew up in a German American Military subculture and most white Americans are neither German nor military.

So, I will reiterate what I suggested above: If the overly white American tone of the site bothers you, give some love to the largely overlooked threads that aren't about those things. There isn't enough time in the day to participate in every single thread on the site. It is simply too large. Go connect with "your peeps", whomever that is, and subjects of interest to you, whatever those are.

Over time, that will make the site more cosmopolitan. And then some of the implicit bs will ratchet down to a more tolerable level.

Also: hi and welcome to peepofgold.
posted by Michele in California at 10:29 AM on July 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


I do wonder whether the true litmus test would be how many American members would want that kind of a community.

I think a lot of folks have expressed positive interest in having more international content, just not so much on the emotional labor of making the posts and comments.
posted by lalex at 10:32 AM on July 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, lalex, this thread has told me that the answer to my question is "not many", and I'm pretty happy about that.
posted by Pyrogenesis at 10:54 AM on July 20, 2016


Things are very quiet here these days while America is asleep. There was always a bit of that, but my impression - no more than that - is that it's more marked than it was some years ago.
posted by Segundus at 11:13 AM on July 20, 2016


Things are very quiet here these days while America is asleep.

I agree! May just be confirmation bias but lately I've been noticing more occasions where when I wake up in NYC there've been no new posts to the blue overnight.

Mods, can you share participation stats?
posted by lalex at 11:17 AM on July 20, 2016


but cortex may have some geo info, or might figure out a way to pull something together, like maybe country by IP on signup or something.

Yeah, it might be possible to find some sort of gloss based on rough IP analysis. Not a tremendous solution, though, and unfortunately the data we have available from e.g. traffic metrics is much more general, looking at aggregate site traffic rather than logged in member traffic.

I think it'd be interesting to do a formal site demo survey at some point, which would itself still have all kinds of whammy factors but would be a nice way to let members of the community at least affirmatively register some of those details in an functionally anonymous but 1:1 sort of way.

Mods, can you share participation stats?

I don't have any ready to hand, though a basic picture could be calculated by any motivated data cruncher using the posts_stats and comment_stats data in the Infodump. Site is busy enough lately in a more general "the world is a crazy place" sense that I'm not likely to immediately carve out time to do it myself, but I'll put it on the rainy day pile.

My general impression has been a fractional but notable downturn in overall comment/post volume the last few years, but I don't have a clear gut sense offhand whether the US night-time chunk of that has seen a comparatively larger effect or if it's just literally a proportional scaling down in step with the rest of the site. Looking at the numbers there would be interesting.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:33 AM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


just like people in other countries are not monoliths, neither are Americans.

also, it wouldn't surprise me if the americans are more diverse economically/socially than other groups here. i suspect that, in general, the further "away" you get (some vague metric of not american) the more privileged you have to be within your own society to have the tools to participate here.

(not that i think the americans here are terribly diverse in socio-economic terms. one thing that worries me is that threads like this reduce that diversity further, since i think the entire conversation assumes a certain mindset.)
posted by andrewcooke at 11:53 AM on July 20, 2016


If nothing else the number of Metatalk threads is way down. Going a couple days without a meta used to be noteworthy; now it happens all the time.
posted by Mitheral at 12:04 PM on July 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


That's because of the queue though?
posted by lalex at 12:10 PM on July 20, 2016


There's a collection of notable contributing factors there, beyond any general proportional shift in activity:

1. The queue means some stuff that never should have or never needed to be a MetaTalk gets answered via email instead of going up and then getting deleted or quickly closed.

2. We added a prompt in the last few years, pre-queue, having folks check a box to affirm that this MetaTalk post they were making did indeed need to be a MetaTalk and not a contact form email before they could proceed.

3. Prior to IRL's launch, all meetup posts went in MetaTalk.

4. We've been incrementally discouraging shitty/fight-starting MetaTalks in general the last few years to try and de-Thunderdome the place a bit.

5. As the moderation team has scaled up from the first decade's 1-3 mods desperately trying to cover 168 hours a week to having a sanely-staffed 24/7 moderation presence, we've been more able to respond in real time to developing messes on the site before they get out of hand, which means fewer "what the hell happened THERE" post mortems after e.g. something goes horribly overnight or while everybody is away from the computer at the same time.

Beyond that there's also a little less frontier going on at any given time on the site with this many more years of toolset and site practice and policy baked in, which I think leads to fewer sort of from-scratch What If? questions about things that might have been up in the air earlier on but have gotten to being pretty thoroughly asked-and-answered at this point.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:56 PM on July 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


(It'd be interesting to do a coding/analysis of types and volume of MetaTalk posts over the years to try and characterize and compare posting trends over the years and correlate them against specific site events, but that is also a tremendous amount of work so probably the best plan is for someone to go get a research grant and score another graduate degree off it.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:59 PM on July 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


If pb were still here, he would have posted it five minutes before you thought that up. We still sorely miss him.

Second place option: Graduate student getting a degree in it.
posted by Michele in California at 1:05 PM on July 20, 2016


Hey, woah. I hope that's not throwing shade on frimble. They're great and doing the job they were employed to do.
posted by taff at 2:40 PM on July 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think it was just goofin'. pb's a mesnch, frimble is likewise.

In any case, categorizing tens of thousands of metatalk by content isn't something anybody's gonna be able to automate trivially.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:44 PM on July 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm cool with putting some effort into reaching beyond my increasingly pedestrian USness to try to connect with and explore things from other countries, and to try to decenter (or at least name) said USness. Thanks for bringing this up, Megami, and for the rest of the international Mefites for speaking up about your experience of this bias.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:18 PM on July 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Thanks for bringing this up, Megami

I think that's cool, but respectfully that's not what Megami brought up. I've noticed some new posts about non American things that I find really interesting/important and I'm glad for that, but I'm puzzled. That's not what Megami brought up.
posted by zutalors! at 7:48 PM on July 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


I agree, it's not, but it's still a thing that may very well help with what Megami did bring up. More information on The Rest Of The World leads to better understanding of TROTW which leads to more empathy for people in TROTW which leads to more information on TROTW, and so on. It all works in the same direction.

Personally I feel that the thread has allowed lots of thoughtful comments, and I'm happy it was posted, for that reason. I can't really do much with the thing that Megami originally brought up, and I lean on the side of 'be the change you want to see' here. But some of the other stuff that came up makes it worth it, in my eyes.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:39 AM on July 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


Has it already been three years since desjardins posted this excellent reminder to put your location in your (AskMefi) question? Why yes, it pretty much has. Discussion seems rather relevant to this one, especially with regards to expectations that everyone who reads your posting/comment is from the US; also, there's a graph!

People, please mention your location in your question when even remotely relevant. I promise, it's almost always relevant.
Housing question? Location! Etiquette question? Location! Shopping question? Location! Question about interactions with your doctor, the police, your landlord? Location, location, location!
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:48 AM on July 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


To get back to the original gist of Megami's post: diversity is definitely an issue here. I've been in threads where I spent most of my comments trying to explain cultural and political contexts to the point of almost derailing the entire thread. It'd be nice if people could step back and acknowledge that some of us have so-called "lived experience" as opposed to reading up on a region or country (or having visited a place as a tourist/studied there for a semester). At the same time, I think it's valuable to acknowledge that those of us with "lived experience" of a place also may have a myopic take on things. Listening and giving space to others within comment threads remain crucial.

Having said that, I'm a white European living in another European country. I do have family and close friends living in places that only hit the blue infrequently and when they do so, it is mostly because some atrocity has happened.

I have chosen to limit what I post/comment. I could conceivably offer some commentary on where my extended family lives or where my friends live, but I'm acutely aware that I do not want to jeopardise my family or friends. And so I mostly comment on US/Western Europe. Paranoid? Maybe, but rather safe than sorry.
posted by kariebookish at 5:03 AM on July 21, 2016 [9 favorites]


So now, with a Munich check-in thread on the grey, and at least eighty casualties in the latest shocking Isis-claimed sectarian attack (their first ever in Kabul, on a peaceful Shia minority gathering)... here we are, I guess?

As a counterpoint, engagement towards understanding the Turkey coup attempt has been of a quality that only MeFi offers, I find.

So, given that this is who we are right now... who else has bought tickets in the Kosrea raffle (for what could surely become an actual IRL Crone island)?
posted by progosk at 11:56 PM on July 23, 2016 [4 favorites]


So now, with a Munich check-in thread on the grey, and at least eighty casualties in the latest shocking Isis-claimed sectarian attack (their first ever in Kabul, on a peaceful Shia minority gathering)... here we are, I guess?

Where we are is nowhere. Same bullshit as before, nothing has changed except now we're explicitly not allowed to even comment in the relevant thread about it.
posted by shelleycat at 1:40 AM on July 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I don't know about that, Shelleycat. Perhaps it's confirmation bias, but I've noticed a surge in non-US posts since this meta was posted, and the calibre of the comments in them, where there are comments ,has improved, I think. I can only hope it keeps up; I am enjoying it immensely.

I personally wouldn't have posted the Munich check-in thread, felt a bit tone-deaf to me after this meta, especially given it's a city of nearly 1.5 million people; the chances of mefites being involved, well it's not exactly Hurricane Sandy, and I'm unsure what the community could have/would done anyway.

But that being said: 1) it was Fizz's choice, 2) the thread was used appropriately on the whole, and 3) there was nothing on the blue about it. I don't know if posts were deleted or not.

I really feel this meta has made a difference, a positive one, and I hope it keeps up. Change can be hard; I think we should keep our expectations realistic, whilst also championing what we want to see more of - and I think many mefites have done/are doing that.
posted by smoke at 1:57 AM on July 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


I really feel this meta has made a difference, a positive one, and I hope it keeps up.

It's great that some people feel like this has made a difference to them. However, the actual thing that this was actually about if you go back and read the post itself, not the massive thread of comments... well, we've provably not moved an inch.
posted by Dysk at 2:17 AM on July 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


Like great, we're talking about all sorts of places on the blue now! Oh, but we're still privileging western mefites' safety as important in a way that we aren't with non-western mefites. We're still worried about people in Germany in a way that we aren't worried about people in Afghanistan.
posted by Dysk at 2:19 AM on July 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


I agree with you, but I guess I think all that other stuff counts as the first steps towards changing that perspective. I mean, I think it's a big ask to think that one Meta will move an unconscious ethnocentrism by a huge leap - especially given the tonnes of pushback there was in the thread.

But I think it's too early to say there has been no difference, we don't know what mefites are thinking, feeling. Many people in this thread posted that the MeTa had changed their perspective, and that they would endeavour to do better. We need to start somewhere right?
posted by smoke at 2:30 AM on July 24, 2016 [2 favorites]


Not sure if this was brought up, but is this change only about ethnocentrism/US-focusing, or also inclusiveness in general? I don't need to state the obvious that it's practical to focus on one issue at at time, but it also seems to me that much of the exclusionary or dominant behavior—as in, on the dominant part, the constant questioning to criticize, asking beginner's level questions at other members, etc., in contrast to inquiring to clarify, listening and reading fully, etc. ; And, on the receiving end, the tedious effort of answering and emotionally managing that style of interaction—that's a dynamic that applies to and is experienced by all marginalized groups. Personally, I'd like to see less of that, in its full generality. Maybe looking at it this way can get more people to see the relevance of this, to understand what it's like, etc.
posted by polymodus at 3:51 AM on July 24, 2016


We're still worried about people in Germany in a way that we aren't worried about people in Afghanistan.

Did your Kabul check-in MeTa get denied?
posted by Etrigan at 4:20 AM on July 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


That's pretty mean-spirited, Etrigan.

It's been really nice to see the front page with more international posts and comments this last week. It's a glimpse into a better Metafilter's potential.

A big part of this conversation has been that the changes and efforts to increase the number of international members is being pushed onto the current international members at a much higher proportion than to the American/West-European members. The whole "if you want things to change, you do the work... even though you already get the short end".

There aren't enough people now for a Kabul check-in, or a China flooding check-in, and we won't have enough people on Metafilter from Afghanistan or China in the next decade (including diaspora living abroad and people working there as well as locals) unless there's some steady mod-supported and American/West-European member-supported changes to make the site more diverse.

The international members will get exhausted doing it alone, and the mods in this thread have been pointedly neutral.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:15 AM on July 24, 2016 [6 favorites]


Dysk: We're still worried about people in Germany in a way that we aren't worried about people in Afghanistan.

That is literally true. I know people in Germany; I do not know people in Afghanistan. I care more about people I know than about people I don't know. I think that's pretty generally human.
I do worry about people in Afghanistan, but I will never feel the same connection to them as I feel to people in Germany, until I get to know people who live there; and so unless that changes, I will never worry the same about them. If that's what you are asking, then you're asking too much.

I don't think that this is something I can change; I'm not even sure that I should try. It is actually fine not to care about everyone equally: if I cared about everyone as much as I care about my mother and Mr. Too-Ticky, I would be so grief-struck every day that I could not possibly function.

Still, we should care about people that we do not know, who live in countries where we don't know anyone, and be interested in their wellbeing. Because we're all human, and in a way, we all are connected. If that's what you are asking, then I'm totally on board.
posted by Too-Ticky at 6:29 AM on July 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


Still, we should care about people that we do not know, who live in countries where we don't know anyone, and be interested in their wellbeing. Because we're all human, and in a way, we all are connected.

I was thinking about this related to this thread, Too-Ticky and it occurred to me that it goes both way: I care about America more these days because of American friends living there. I care specifically about African-Americans and Cambodian-Americans and about Arkansas and Chicago to the point where I can sorta pick them out on a map and know diaspora history for Cambodia-Americans and African-American history in way more detail than I do for say Chinese-Americans where I have a more practical link, but personal friendships trump that.

Metafilter is a pretty unique opportunity online for people to meet and talk to interesting people from around the world.

And that's not one-sided. I was raised to think of America as a giant lump of appalling idiocy, Americans to be avoided and pitied and generally seen as bumbling tourists or racist exploiters. And I came from a politically liberal white family of New Zealanders. Most everyone I knew as a child or teen thought Americans were rich and occasionally well-meaning idiots, very Tom Sharpe. It took personal friendships as an older teen with Americans to change that prejudice and start seeing Americans as individuals and America as a diverse and interesting country.

I agree with you about the burn out feeling for compassion, and I skip certain world tragedies too because I know I can't function if I read the details, and I can't change what's happened so far away anyway.

But I'll read about Tamil-Malaysian films, and football in West Sahara, and Russian vintage cars and Sudanese citizen journalists - what's on today's front page from outside the American/West-Europe bubble. And that's all pretty interesting and non-depressing stuff. Some of it's serious, some of it's fun, some of it's just people talking about cool stuff.

And that's when stories become connections, and every now and then a weak connection becomes a little warmer and stronger. Lots of weak connections are still pretty warm and fuzzy too!
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:27 AM on July 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


To answer the question above, yes there were posts about the Munich attack deleted, on the grounds of "this is breaking news without a lot of firm info yet, wait til we know more". There hasn't been a post about the Kabul attack.

In the Munich MeTa, it did turn out there was one member affected. Few people have checked in, and it's hard to say whether that reflects the number of Mefites in Munich or if it reflects something else (maybe Munich Mefites don't read Metatalk, maybe they didn't feel it was needed to check-in given the size of the attack, ...). If we'd had a Kabul check-in thread, would any member have checked-in there? Unknown. It's not impossible - we've definitely had members who have worked in Afghanistan as part of western military or civilian operations there, and we've had at least one member who was an Afghan person living in Afghanistan. We had several Mefites who spoke about having connections to the cafe that was attacked in Dhaka, in the fpp about it. These connections do show up, and just on a personal level, the fact that a Mefite knows that cafe makes me feel more connected to the situation there, makes the world smaller for me in a way that is one of my favorite things about this place.

(There's a sidebar post coming on those recent great non-US posts, btw. Big thank you's/kudos to the folks who have been stepping it up.)
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 8:14 AM on July 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


It's great that some people feel like this has made a difference to them. However, the actual thing that this was actually about if you go back and read the post itself, not the massive thread of comments... well, we've provably not moved an inch.

Maybe a mod can confirm or deny, but it's my understanding that only a tiny percentage of users read/participate on the gray. Even the most positively received, slam-dunk of a MeTa request is seen by relatively few people, but that's how most of the cultural changes that I can recall have started. I think expecting this kind of change to happen within a week is bound to be disappointing.

I think it's also important to acknowledge that with many of these kinds of requests, there is no consensus with the in-group. Insisting that people should change their posting habits to reflect this MeTa ignores the fact that someone else could very well post a MeTa asking those in the US to step back and let people who have lived experience take the lead with this kind of thing. There have been very contentious MeTas about how -- or even if -- allies should show their support here.

FWIW, earlier today I made a comment about two cities (Phoenix and Palm Springs) which are well-known in the US, and because of this MeTa I consciously added their respective states to give some context to people who live outside the country. I know it was just a teeny, tiny thing, and not the original focus of this post, but as someone who will probably never make a post about a tragedy I still took something away from this.
posted by Room 641-A at 12:55 PM on July 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


Did your Kabul check-in MeTa get denied?

No. My position is that the check-in threads aren't a great thing because we necessarily can't cover them all, and the disparity in which ones we hit and which ones we don't will be a problem. My actions in not submitting a check-in MeTa is thus entirely consistent with my position, gleeful as your implicit accusation of hypocrisy is.
posted by Dysk at 2:16 PM on July 24, 2016 [5 favorites]


My position is that the check-in threads aren't a great thing because we necessarily can't cover them all, and the disparity in which ones we hit and which ones we don't will be a problem.

And pointing this out is definitely a better use of your time than covering more of them. You're not a hypocrite. You're just lazy, or at least more interested in complaining about a problem than solving it.
posted by Etrigan at 2:26 PM on July 24, 2016


This is really not productive, please cool it. It's nobody's responsibility to post threads.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:30 PM on July 24, 2016 [3 favorites]


And to the point about check-in threads, I do hear the reasons why some folks feel like they're not great, but as a general site policy we're not going to rule them out. Posters can be aware of the objection raised here, that the geographic difference in attention that they display bothers some people, and can try to be mindful about that in deciding when/whether to post them.

In terms of other ways to be supportive or inclusive or even just more self-aware about their posting/commenting, people have talked a lot in this thread about ways to do that and we're already seeing some of those things happening on the site.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:45 PM on July 24, 2016


You're not a hypocrite. You're just lazy, or at least more interested in complaining about a problem than solving it.

No, I just have a different definition of what 'solved' looks like.
posted by Dysk at 2:53 PM on July 24, 2016 [1 favorite]


I actually made a post about the airport attack in Istanbul but it was deleted. If you have the deleted posts script and scroll back through several pages you will see it. It doesn't show up in my history so I can't link to it, maybe a mod can provide a link to verify that I am not lying?
posted by marienbad at 7:38 PM on July 24, 2016


There is a strange thing with these breaking news threads as to what stays and what doesn't. Nice - yes, Orlando - yes, Istanbul - No, Munich - No (both deleted as breaking news when the others stayed up despite being breaking news.)

I remember that there was a discussion about this a while ago, but I can't remember the outcome. Personally I feel important events should be on the FP, even if they are technically not "best of the web" because people will want to discuss them, and even at the breaking news stage, it gives people a chance to talk and try to learn more about what happened.

Suicide bombing in Germany - will this make the FP?
posted by marienbad at 7:43 PM on July 24, 2016


I've done news posts myself many times, but most people don't have anything interesting to say about breaking news. They're performative opportunities more than anything else, and having more of them would genuinely turn this into NewsFilter.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:18 PM on July 24, 2016


marienbad, there's this. Your posting can easily be found there. But why would anyone think you're lying?
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:18 AM on July 25, 2016


Maybe a mod can confirm or deny, but it's my understanding that only a tiny percentage of users read/participate on the gray. Even the most positively received, slam-dunk of a MeTa request is seen by relatively few people

Presumably the person actually posting a check-in thread on the grey might be someone who occasionally reads the grey, and it would not be entirely unreasonable to expect them to have seen the thread just a couple from the top when they posted. This is one situation where that consideration is less relevant than is so often the case.
posted by Dysk at 2:30 AM on July 25, 2016

Personally I feel important events should be on the FP, even if they are technically not "best of the web" because people will want to discuss them, and even at the breaking news stage, it gives people a chance to talk and try to learn more about what happened.
We don't have infinite resources in terms of mod time and attention, though, and those threads take a lot of work to moderate. I don't think it's ever going to be possible to have a thread to discuss every single breaking-news event in the world. Either we won't have any or the mods are going to have to exercise some discretion about what stays and what goes.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:42 AM on July 25, 2016


Maybe a mod can confirm or deny, but it's my understanding that only a tiny percentage of users read/participate on the gray.

It's actually not so tiny; it's not a majority of the membership or anything, but it's a pretty decent chunk, somewhere around 30-40% I want to say who at least drop by this part of the site on a monthly basis. So on the one hand, posting a suggestion to MetaTalk definitely isn't broadcasting it to the entire userbase, but it's also not a total non-event; a lot of folks are likely to have a chance to see it, and from there maybe register it in their minds and think about it next time the encounter that situation elsewhere on the site.

That said:

Presumably the person actually posting a check-in thread on the grey might be someone who occasionally reads the grey, and it would not be entirely unreasonable to expect them to have seen the thread just a couple from the top when they posted.

I thought the Munich check-in thread was a little awkward given the timing, but I think it's also unrealistic to assume that because some folks had expressed negative feelings about check-in threads that check-in threads would therefore just not ever happen again. Likewise baby threads; likewise any number of other things that some folks have legitimate reasons to personally dislike or disprefer but which are nonetheless a part of how the site has traditionally worked.

There's no simple solution there; we're not in a place where there's two camps, (a) those who dislike the idea of check-in threads in general or specifically in reference to more Western areas in the absence of others, and (b) people who are wrong. Nor the reverse. It's a thing worth talking about and, I think, worth folks keeping in mind when they're deciding how they feel about making a MetaTalk post, absolutely. But check-in threads are generally speaking okay to post, as much as I have complicated feelings about them and totally hear the reservations folks have expressed about them.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:36 AM on July 25, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm only just now seeing this thread. It's been a rough week.

I feel like that it's weirdly acceptable to use massacres in France as jumping off points for discussions about how much we need to focus on other places too.

Yeah. I knew my post was breaking news, yet also made a point to link to the most reputable sources I knew for it. Because I also knew that if I, a French person who lived in Nice for 14 years, didn't do it, then we would likely go through someone less knowledgeable about the soures putting together an FPP with too much distance from the political landscape to know that it's a Bad Idea to take local (and hell, national) politicians at face value when they yell "terror!!" for an attack that people onsite – which I posted about in-thread – agree is a Breivik-like attack.

Also. I am so disheartened by the Nice attack being painted as white people. Like I am nearly sobbing in front of my PC at the office.

You guys have known me for years now and I continually post about how equating France/French with white is misinformed, dangerous, and wrong. I didn't post about who I spoke with in Nice because that would be objectifying – they weren't all white!!!

Plus just, seriously, go look for The Atlantic piece on the victims of Nice. They were from around the world. Diversity.

god I am so sick of seeing France used as a projection screen. Years and years of posting all the BS that goes into this and still it's trotted out regularly. Why do I keep posting here about France?
posted by fraula at 7:58 AM on July 25, 2016 [13 favorites]


It's fundamentally a size problem. Metafilter is small: there were about 4000 active (i.e. commenting on the Blue) users per month in 2015, and less than 300 made 50% of the comments (source). Assuming a 75% proportion of US users, there are less than 1000 non-US people active on the Blue per month, and less than 100 very active ones. Now break down this figure per country, and the numbers get really, really tiny, even for Western Europe. I don't think that there are more than 5 active French mefites, and it seems to be worse for most non-English speaking countries. The critical mass necessary to sustain informed discussions on non-anglospherical topics is just not there.
posted by elgilito at 9:44 AM on July 25, 2016 [6 favorites]


Why do I keep posting here about France?

Jette pas l'éponge, fraula.
(We may yet be a tiny f(r)action, but where else would we actually find hospitality?)
posted by progosk at 11:08 AM on July 25, 2016


It's fundamentally a size problem.

Well, the rest of what you said there shows that it's not a size problem. It's a diversity problem and also an attitude problem. If you had 4000 diversely represented users, 5 active French mefites would be totally sufficient for a respectful, informed discussion. As for attitude, the onus is on the dominant majority to be more mindful in how they approach discussions. That's something the majority could work on in generality, regardless of how many minorities participate at any given moment in time. Minorities are not there for "bouncing off" purposes.
posted by polymodus at 1:43 PM on July 25, 2016


I think it's true, though, that the critical mass to sustain conversations about things outside the main sphere of interests of most people on metafilter just doesn't exist. I'm perfectly comfortable posting things that get fewer than 20 comments; I'm perfectly comfortable posting things that get fewer then 10 comments; I've gotten used to posts that have fewer than 5 comments, even. We post to metafilter (or at least, I post to metafilter) because I found something I think is cool, or awesome, or interesting, or noteworthy, or worth getting a few more eyeballs and brains onto.

I think it's unrealistic to expect that, even if we have more posts about more "diverse" topics, we'll start to have a more open and diverse set of conversations. The things I post to metafilter rarely sustain big conversations. When I look at the comments on links I post about Africa, I can predict exactly who will be participating and who will be adding more interesting links and commentary. I think people in general find them interesting and I appreciate every piece of engagement (I get little frissons of happiness at every "This is cool!" and every little +), but I don't post things with the expectation that there will be a lot of general conversation about them.

That's a perfectly fine way to engage with metafilter, I think. A lot of the posts on things that have opened my mind the most - things that I don't have a background or context with, especially relating to cultures outside of my experience - I interact with in the same way. I appreciate their existence, but I don't know how to have a conversation about them. And so while we're actively working on broadening the range of things people post about, I don't know that we'll be able to broaden the range of things we actually have meaningful conversations about unless the userbase substantially shifts.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:57 PM on July 25, 2016 [9 favorites]


(I would like to find about 17 more places to use the word "conversation" in that comment)
posted by ChuraChura at 2:35 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, absolutely that diversity and lack thereof has to do with it, but half the problem isn't so much having meaningful conversations, but users learning the habit—attitude—of not responding in a way that stands on the other members' toes. If diversity has any value, that's where it's got to begin. To me that's what "responding better" means, when Lyn Never said it above. It's not an admonition to "respond perfect".
posted by polymodus at 2:59 PM on July 25, 2016 [3 favorites]


Contrast fraula's comment about Nice against the characterisation of it in this post, and I think you'd also see that it's not just the majority userbase who has to balance their misconceptions.

Respond better is an achievable goal, but so is better faith from the users who want conversation about certain topics, on a certain level, with a certain level of participation, without having to expend effort because that's an undue burden.

Because it certainly seems as if users inclined to post about more diverse topics are being discouraged by not just lack of interest in their FPPs, but by negative reactions from other users bemoaning a lack of perfection.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:04 PM on July 25, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, I'd just like you to know, your comment does not stand on my toes.
posted by polymodus at 10:55 PM on July 25, 2016


I don't like picking on individual posts (especially since the poster in question doesn't appear to be American and only copied & pasted the description text from the linked article), but today's FPP on the VW emissions scandal describes it as a scheme '...to defraud American car buyers and deceive American regulators' when in reality only half a million of the 11 million vehicles affected are in the USA. On its own, no big deal, but this sort of framing does contribute to the problem.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 6:02 AM on July 26, 2016 [9 favorites]


A couple of links of interest

Does the location of an attack near the threshold of newsworthiness affect its coverage in U.S. media?

Or at least, in The New York Times. I use the Times as a proxy for the U.S. news media because I was unable to find any other publication that makes its archives as accessible to researchers.

I ran a logistic regression on this data, asking my computer to predict whether an attack was covered based only on (1) the number of injuries, (2) the number of fatalities and (3) the country where the attack took place. Sure enough, this third variable was — for some countries — a significant predictor of newsworthiness.

There were 31 countries2 with enough data3 to study. In 11 (Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, the U.K., the U.S. and the West Bank/Gaza), a terrorist attack was statistically significantly more likely to be covered in the Times than an attack of the same magnitude that occurred elsewhere; in six (Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Iraq, Kashmir and Thailand), attacks were statistically significantly less likely to be covered.4


tl;dr - there's a correlation between teh GDP of teh country and the coverage - Inequality har har har


And this is the research paper that accompanies this table. I hesitate to title it. Just think of the response to who built the presidential palace.
posted by infini at 10:20 AM on July 27, 2016 [5 favorites]


The critical mass necessary to sustain informed discussions on non-anglospherical topics is just not there.

Let's take a MetaHistorical perspective on this, as only I can. I think y'all are beating yourselves up far too much. Things have improved tremendously since I first talked about stuff like this in some grey thread or the other about a decade ago. That this thread exists, and I'm wandering in around comment #400 only due to seeing it linked in the blue, and reading through it and favouriting has been heartwarming. We are doing well enough and there's progress.

Now, if only y'all were super delegates, teh world would be safe.
posted by infini at 10:28 AM on July 27, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I jsut noticed the glaring geographical error in calling Kashmir a country.

*goes back to weeping inconsolably*
posted by infini at 10:29 AM on July 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


This morning ChuraChura posted a NYT piece profiling and examining patterns among the mostly non-Western victims of 8 terrorist attacks (1 in the West, 7 in Africa and Asia) that took place over a 2 week period in March. The comments are a shameful example of everything that is being complained about in this thread combined with one of the worst cases of not R'ing TFA I've had the displeasure of witnessing (hint: not about naming the terrorists! not about the USA! for the most part not about Europe! not about mass shootings by lone gunmen! not about anything that happened in the past month! not about the right wing media, since these are stories that have been completely ignored by the right wing media!).

I honestly thought that primed by a lengthy discussion and given the opportunity, Metafilter could do a little better in this regard. Apparently I was wrong, and it's pretty infuriating.
posted by drlith at 3:59 PM on July 27, 2016 [11 favorites]


Another case in point from the green, where a substantial amount of folks just decided to run some numbers for the US and call it a day, despite the fact that that's not really even a useful way to approach the question. And sure enough, the best answer so far concerns Brazil.
posted by threeants at 5:54 PM on July 27, 2016


Yeah, I'm feeling very discouraged about how that thread went. It makes me hesitant to post about things, people, or places I feel connected to, because I don't want to enable conversations that go that wonky.

I thought the articles were interesting on a few levels in addition to providing context beyond 33 killed, 74 killed, 19 killed, etc. I thought they did a wonderful job complementing this meta. And I thought people would maybe read them and leave a dot or something.

Part of the problem, I guess, is that I thought this was something people ought to read - not necessarily something I thought was purely and dispassionately interesting. I know the best posts are not the ones someone posts because everyone should see this, but I really thought there would be something to take away from the articles and the pictures and the names and stories. We can handle breaking news threads, we can handle obituary threads, and I don't see why we can't have a reasonable discussion about things happening outside the sphere of People We Care About and places we think about.

Threads don't have a proscribed path, but I really think that some of the places that thread ended up showed the parochial, narrowminded, and frankly kind of ugly ways that those of us in the global north can sometimes think about the rest of the world and the people who live there.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:00 PM on July 27, 2016 [12 favorites]


Churachura I really appreciated that post, and thought it was both interesting, and something of benefit for many of us.

For what it's worth, I really appreciate your posts about people and places I know little about, and I know I'm not alone in that.

The response to your post was disappointing, but I believe we can get better, and, like infini, that we have gotten better. I feel like you and your posts are play an integral part in this journey. I wanna call it out, and thank you for it, because I appreciate it so much.

You're making a difference here, for some of us at least.
posted by smoke at 9:09 PM on July 27, 2016 [4 favorites]


Another perspective on Infini's link up above:
An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth
Staffing is the best measure of the importance of a story to a particular news organization. When I was a correspondent at the AP, the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined. It was higher than the total number of news-gathering employees in all the countries where the uprisings of the “Arab Spring” eventually erupted.

To offer a sense of scale: Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the permanent AP presence in that country consisted of a single regime-approved stringer. The AP’s editors believed, that is, that Syria’s importance was less than one-40th that of Israel.
This is, as the author points out, crazy. And events subsequent to the story's publication (August 2014) have shown that we've been really badly served by our lack of knowledge: the Syrian crisis has led to enormous degrees of human misery, the effective collapse of the refugee system, and (what may be) the partial dissolution of the EU. It would have been nice to have had better coverage.
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:45 AM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


It would have been nice to have had better coverage.
In the early 2000s, the Paris office of the Associated Press was 80-people strong and covered French and European news. They had reporters, photographers etc. Then the AP tried to sell it from 2007 to 2012 without success and the staff was eventually laid off. Possibly there's still a skeleton crew and a couple of overworked stringers in France, but the Google street view of the Paris office shows a "For rent" sign on the windows.
posted by elgilito at 2:44 AM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


threeants: " despite the fact that that's not really even a useful way to approach the question. "

I disagree; that's how AskMe works well in many cases even this one. People post the best answer they know of and the over all best becomes apparent.

The debate about whether presidential US votes should be counted because people aren't actually voting for president is just the sort of hair split that needs definition and wasn't in the original question. Possibly because the OP either didn't know or didn't consider it.
posted by Mitheral at 1:25 PM on July 28, 2016


Haider Newmani in the Guardian: "Isis is escalating its violence against Iraqi civilians. Why doesn’t the world care?":

"Killing dozens or hundreds is not the ultimate goal of terrorism. These events achieve a broader goal of creating division, fear, and escalating racist and xenophobic trends that in turn help terrorists harvest more support. That’s how they really win. By ignoring attacks when they happen in Asia or Africa we fuel the narrative of this threat being one of the west against the “Muslim world”. Realising that the vast majority of victims of terrorism are Muslims demonstrates the importance of uniting against this common threat."
posted by progosk at 7:36 AM on July 29, 2016 [9 favorites]




Why do you say that?
posted by grouse at 7:19 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it was off to maybe a bit of a rough start and tensions might be a bit elevated, but I definitely learned way more from other mefites in that thread than I do from the usual "here's a thing that happened far away" FPP in which the responses are often limited to "wow that's good/bad."
posted by griphus at 7:38 AM on August 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Because of a number of uninformed comments that completely ignored or overrode comments from local mefites with insight into Japanese culture, whilst others immediately turned discussion into the west, others, themselves and their feelings etc. Plenty of assumptions about Japanese politics from people who don't know anything about it, and sorry Griphus, your comment about ethnic nationalism was part of that; Japans history of ethnic nationalism has nothing to do with what's happening in Europe and the West atm. But you felt confident making the call. I'm not trying to attack you and apologise if it feels that way, but it's an example.

It could have gone worse, by all means, could have gone a lot better though.
posted by smoke at 11:26 PM on August 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Argh I dunno. You guys may well be right; I think I've become hypersensitive to this stuff after this MeTa, maybe in setting the barvtoo high; higher than I set it for other threads probably. Apologies.
posted by smoke at 12:22 AM on August 3, 2016


No, you're right, smoke. I was expecting the worst clicking into that thread but my heart still sank.
posted by Kattullus at 1:09 AM on August 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Because of a number of uninformed comments that completely ignored or overrode comments from local mefites with insight into Japanese culture, whilst others immediately turned discussion into the west, others, themselves and their feelings etc. Plenty of assumptions about Japanese politics from people who don't know anything about it, and sorry Griphus, your comment about ethnic nationalism was part of that; Japans history of ethnic nationalism has nothing to do with what's happening in Europe and the West atm. But you felt confident making the call. I'm not trying to attack you and apologise if it feels that way, but it's an example.

griphus' comment didn't happen in a vacuum. It was part of a larger discussion. Koike was elected governor of a city that includes the Shin-Ōkubo part of the Shinjuku ward: Korea town. zombieflanders noted among other things that Koike is part of and endorsed by the historical revisionist/nationalist movement which opposes participation in regional elections by non-Japanese people. She's against foreign immigration and the system of Korean schools that operate in Japan, which are currently fighting to maintain their subsidies. And on top of that, she's revising history. Her opinions on those topics will very likely affect the way she governs and treats people (especially Koreans) residing in Tokyo. So when zombieflanders said, "Strong support of revisionist history on the level of Holocaust denial or the neo-Confederate "Lost Cause" movement in the US isn't something either Clinton or Thatcher ever dallied in", he had good reasons for doing so.

He linked to CNN and the Guardian, and a Shisaku blog entry, which "My Dad" had noted in his now deleted comment (which cortex referred to in his thread note) as a good source for understanding the situation from a Japanese perspective.

It seems to me that all that zombieflanders mentioned was relevant to the conversation and reasonably informed and sourced. Which griphus picked up and expanded upon. It was not a thread derail.
posted by zarq at 9:21 AM on August 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


As noted several times upthread, we shouldn't let the perfect be the enemy of the good. The thread on Koike is not perfect, but it is pretty good!
posted by asok at 4:47 AM on August 4, 2016


I've been thinking about what it is that upset me so much about the Koike thread. I finally figured it out. Basically, it's that the people with local knowledge had to push against those with more general knowledge. Now, in almost all areas of the world, I'm very much the latter type, if "as woefully ignorant as a dill pickle in a jar" can be subsumed under the heading "general knowledge".

Today I very much ran into my dill-pickleness when trying to make sense of the local government elections in South Africa. Because my knowledge of South African politics is rudimentary, I need to look things up constantly when I read about them. Big gains had been made by the Democratic Alliance, led by Mmusi Maimane. The last time I had read about South African politics, Helen Zille was still the leader of the Democratic Alliance, so I had a whole new person to read about. So I looked up Maimane on Wikipedia. Well, the last sentence in the introductory paragraph brought me up short. It said that he was a pastor in a deeply conservative Christian church.

I had bumped into the glass of my jar. My conception of the Democratic Alliance was that they were a broadly center-left, basically socially liberal party. The only other thing I knew was that in the leadership contest Zille had defeated Athol Trollip, who is a man in the running for world's most wonderful name. So I had no idea, and no basis for knowing, what it meant that the current leader was a pastor in a deeply conservative Christian church. I then spent a silly amount of time trying to figure out what that meant, meaning that pretty much all I knew about Maimane was his religous beliefs. I knew almost nothing about his actual political beliefs or positions. And by this point I had little or no time to find that out, except to skim his Wikipedia page, and that gave me very little context for anything, and nothing in the way of actual policy positions. All I had was some mention somewhere that he had made campaigning against racism an issue in his party, but I had no time to look into that.

The thread went pretty much like my attempt at understanding the Maimane and the Democratic Alliance. It got stuck on this side-issue. Yes, a serious, important issue, but not one that is of primary relevance to the event being discussed. And by the time that people with local knowledge were commenting on the event, they had to wade through a lot of "yes-but-what-about". And in the end the big issues of primary relevance were only sketched out and didn't get the attention received by the issue of non-primary relevance.

That's what upset me about the Koike thread, it was an opportunity to learn from people with local knowledge, but it was instead dominated by the concerns of people with more general knowledge. And no, I'm not saying that anyone commenting in that thread was as ignorant as a jar of dill pickles, but I am saying that sometimes it's best to wait until people with local knowledge have had their chance to speak.
posted by Kattullus at 2:32 PM on August 4, 2016 [6 favorites]


sometimes it's best to wait until people with local knowledge have had their chance to speak

Almost always, I'd say. It is also likely that there are a lot of people who are doing just that and there are some who are not. For pretty much every thread there is a $thread_subject 101 that people could do with being familiar with, on top of actually reading the article. However, some people don't do either of those things.

That being said, we have come a long way toward more respectful dialogue already and people should not be afraid to post as long as it is done in a respectful way.
posted by asok at 3:58 AM on August 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


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