US Politics threads are getting a little... out there October 26, 2017 9:55 AM   Subscribe

Despite my high usernumber, I've been reading metafilter for a very long time, and like all of you I've seen the site -- and the site culture -- change a lot, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. One of the reasons I've stuck with the site for so long, and eventually signed up, is the sensible politics that somehow have always come to the forefront of discussions (thanks moderators!). In particular, discussions on Metafilter have traditionally provided a fantastic contrast to the less-hinged portions of the web where hyperbole and childish insults dominated.

I've been seeing a change in that site culture (in US politics threads specifically) since last November that's eroding that contrast. I'm not talking about a change in politics -- Metafilter has always had unapologetic partisans, and it's actually something I rather like about it and tend to identify with. There are many stories of people's minds being changed on a particular issue based on a dialogue that happened on the blue, and I have a couple such stories of my own. However, when I read US politics threads these days, I'm seeing a very different kind of discourse. I'm seeing childish insults and name-calling (remember when writing "Obummer" was derided? I recall the occasional "Shrub", and I also recall a general pushback against it). I'm seeing hyperbolic conspiracies, apocalyptic doomsaying, and just generally a discourse that is much less, well, hinged.

Kooky name-calling and othering was a hallmark of unreliable, ridiculous right-wing sites during the Obama years. Out of those humble beginnings have come some really awful horrors. And there's a *ton* of othering happening in US politics threads on Metafilter now, in a way that reminds me of those. Metafilter politics threads are feeling very tribal these days, in a way that seems new to me. We've always had a civic sense of unity, yes, but not a tribalistic identity (or maybe I am/was naive). Shouldn't we try to nurture the former while discouraging the latter?

I'm not interested in collecting specific examples or naming specific users. That's not why I'm posting this. There is also a ton of excellent discussion, analysis, and sourcing still going on, and although I want to acknowledge that fact, that's not why I'm posting this either.

Here is why I'm posting this:

1) This trend saddens me, and I can suddenly imagine a future that doesn't include Metafilter for me.

2) Who cares, I'm just one person. Do others agree? Is there a consensus that this is a problem? That it's even happening?

Thanks for you thoughts.
posted by dbx to Etiquette/Policy at 9:55 AM (186 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

Since you haven't posted any examples, I can only assume that the bulk of what you are seeing is insults that are derisive of Trump. As a counter-argument I can only offer that the unique character of Trump himself, and the nature of his administration to date, is itself an unusually terrible thing that would arguably warrant such characterization.

Or, perhaps everyone is channeling their inner Scot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:04 AM on October 26 [7 favorites]


Oh, now, be fair: dbx might not be sympathetic to Trump! I can agree (with my own high user number) that since the election, people are just getting nastier with the GOP and Trumpists.

Mind you, the GOP keeps doing irredeemably shitty things to America and Americans, and I am beyond out of patience with them: they have earned the nastiness their actions engender.

But that doesn't mean I also don't feel regret that we're getting down in the mud with them. :7( We should be better than that, but it's damn hard to resist venting through a little name-calling and belittling.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:08 AM on October 26 [11 favorites]


It's funny timing, I just gave a short talk in town last night about some of the difficulties of keeping an existing community healthy under the stress of bad prevailing conditions out in the world, and some of this comes into it.

There's a lot going on with the dynamics of the big politics threads, and so it's complicated territory to unpack. I think some of the things you're identifying are a result of the churn aspect, the fact that they're busy every day in the hundreds of comments territory in a way that creates a different feel from more typical traditional non-megathread MeFi discussions; and some of it is that there's just genuinely a lot of abnormal stress and anger and existential worry tied up in the political context motivating this change in discussion activity. And I think it can be hard to split those apart.

In a basic sense, it's harder to avoid some of the stuff that falls in that entrenched mode when the scale and frequency of ugly externalities is so much higher than normal the last couple years. People are more stressed, more on edge, more consistently gutted by the stuff that's actually happening daily in the US and the world and it makes patience and civility more difficult to manage.

I feel like it's worth trying to manage anyway, so I feel you there; I find myself wishing sometimes that folks could find their way to focusing more consistently on substantive criticism and link-wrangling and not lapse as readily into reflexive snark or doomsaying or so on. And to the extent that we've been able to as mods we're trying to keep the boundaries in a somewhat reasonable place when e.g. people go off the rails or melt down.

But it is a tricky balancing act, because I totally understand the place where that stuff is coming from and these circumstances just really aren't the same as the ones we had five or ten years ago. It's a hard time to be patient, to always take the high road, to reach out and say "hey, maybe I can understand why that person is choosing to embrace or give cover to that repellent ideology" in the way that might have been more possible when the stuff in question was socially-rejected fringe stuff rather than something resonant with major political forces around the world.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:10 AM on October 26 [41 favorites]


Oh, now, be fair: dbx might not be sympathetic to Trump!

Oh, didn't mean to imply DBX sided with Trump. That was more a function of, I sincerly don't know who else we'd all be slagging off in the comments these days.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:10 AM on October 26 [2 favorites]


cortex, it feels to me -- as a reader -- that things improve when a Mod posts a "quiet down in there dammit!" in the crazier parts of politics threads. I know that y'all are silently pruning in the background, but a visible reminder to behave seems to help a lot.

If it's not too much to ask the On-Duty Mod, would more frequent appearances help dampen down the outbursts?
posted by wenestvedt at 10:19 AM on October 26 [9 favorites]


Yeah, I really dislike this, not because I think Trump deserves any respect (and I'd agree with EC that Trump is a uniquely vile president), but because I find all the nicknames make the conversation harder to parse, search, and follow.

I also think it's juvenile and, fair or not, tends to devalue the argument being made to the point that I usually just skip over comments starting with like "did you see what the Orange Cheeto...".

I'm already convinced that Trump is a monster, the nickname isn't changing anything, so basically they don't do anything to harm Trump but do, imo, harm the threads.
posted by lalex at 10:21 AM on October 26 [55 favorites]


If it's not too much to ask the On-Duty Mod, would more frequent appearances help dampen down the outbursts?

It might, yeah. And that's something that we've tried to up situationally at times in the past, both in politics threads and elsewhere, to I think usually good effect. I'll ping the team about it, just as a general "hey, we should keep this in mind more" reminder.

But one of the realities of this Eternal November dynamic is that those threads are tiring to keep track of, and I think that comes out in how much sort of...ancillary presence the mods end up finding the energy to put in? Like, there's "this absolutely needs a note" situations, and then situations where we could just nudge a bit, and I think the nudges may end up being less frequent because staying on top of the threads all the time, not just when shit's really going off the rails, is exhausting.

Like, I don't want to be reading the current politics thread most of the time. And these days if I'm off the clock I mostly don't if another team member isn't paging me about something especially weird. And that's not the normal relationship I have with MetaFilter threads! It's not unprecedented, I have certainly gotten worn out on and needed a break from this or that difficult discussion on the blue or the grey over the years, but for me there's a difference in those being these punctation things that happened every few weeks when something came up, vs. the current dynamic where that's...just kinda every day? Some days quieter than others but the floor is way higher than it used to be.

And I think that's partly where everyone is, is the problem. Not just the mod team, who, hey, we're at least getting paid for this, but the entire site membership. The daily churn saps the resources we'd otherwise be stocking up on between big difficult situations, and so it's harder to push for that more restrained level of discussion, easier to lapse into some of the lazier stuff.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:28 AM on October 26 [20 favorites]


> 1) This trend saddens me, and I can suddenly imagine a future that doesn't include Metafilter for me.

I'm perplexed that the presence of chatter one doesn't like in one thread every few days is enough to push someone away from the site. A vast majority of the threads here don't touch on US politics, and the site has gone out of its way to allow people to filter out the potus45 threads if they don't wish to see them. Anything that gets through the filter should be obvious from the topic of the thread, and can be passed over. Why would you choose to leave the site over discussions that are happening in these threads?

> 2) Who cares, I'm just one person. Do others agree? Is there a consensus that this is a problem? That it's even happening?

I think it's a mixed bag. I'll go through your points one at a time:

> I'm seeing childish insults and name-calling (remember when writing "Obummer" was derided? I recall the occasional "Shrub", and I also recall a general pushback against it).

There is name-calling, yeah. Sometimes it's juvenile attacks on Trump's appearance. Sometimes it's things that are a bit hyperbolic, but depending on your point of view, very close to reality. The word "monster" was used by someone who just lost her grandfather because of the action (and inaction) of the Trump regime in Puerto Rico. Is Trump literally a monster, like Godzilla? Of course not. Is he, from another definition of the word monster, "something monstrous; especially :a person of unnatural or extreme ugliness, deformity, wickedness, or cruelty"? I find that case extremely easy to make, and if I were in the shoes of someone who just lost a family member in part because of his blatant antipathy toward everyone but people like himself, I doubt I could stop at such a fairly descriptive term for him without stooping to something much more vicious.

Are you primarily concerned with the more juvenile attacks? Can you at least understand why people directly in the crosshairs of the Trumpists might not be able to contain their anger, and might resort to name-calling? Is there somewhere halfway we as the user base can try to meet you on this?

> I'm seeing hyperbolic conspiracies,

I know you don't want to name specific examples here, but in a world where we have very compelling evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with a hostile foreign power to swing the election, and continues to allow that foreign power to expand its influence here, I think it's important to be direct about what is considered hyperbolic. Things that we would have thought not possible are increasingly things that one would have to try not to believe in order to accept as reality. What's hyperbolic in such a world?

> apocalyptic doomsaying

The mods have intervened pretty forcefully in cases where people are openly talking about the end of the world, nuclear Armageddon, etc., even though a case can be made that we're much closer to these than at any time in recent memory. I see these comments spiked routinely. If you're not flagging them, you should be, because they're an instant delete as far as I can tell.

> and just generally a discourse that is much less, well, hinged.

The state of politics in the United States is much less hinged. Comparisons to "Obummer" and "Shrub" are astoundingly inapt for the world we live in right now. This is a far different scale of threat -- I could make a detailed factual case for why this is so, but others are already on that case. If you can compare anything that happened under GWB/Obama to the scope and scale of the awful things captured on those sites, please do. Absent that, I feel like this is insisting on a fixed standard of behavior despite a variable amount of terribleness in the world.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:49 AM on October 26 [58 favorites]


I think that "coarsening" is what dbx was alluding to: we are all, as Cortex wrote, getting worn down and a little numbed and dispirited by their shit. Not that things aren't actually bad, because they really are, but that we're all less able to talk constructively & clearly about the issues when we let our anger take control of our diction.

I agree that it's hard to stay energized and engaged and level-headed when the septic tank truck just keeps pumping its cargo onto your head. :7(
posted by wenestvedt at 10:53 AM on October 26 [6 favorites]


Can you at least understand why people directly in the crosshairs of the Trumpists might not be able to contain their anger, and might resort to name-calling? Is there somewhere halfway we as the user base can try to meet you on this?

Well, I know that I have the Get Out Of Jail Free Card skintone that spares me this, and I am still....just angry on behalf of everyone who's being shut out and shut down and called names and locked out because they're not fish belly-white like their attackers (and I) am. So yes, I understand it, and I am amazed that more people aren't totally exhausted. I applaud those still fighting.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:57 AM on October 26 [6 favorites]


I'm perplexed that the presence of chatter one doesn't like in one thread every few days is enough to push someone away from the site.

I want to respond to this because there's a couple things that make this not so perplexing:

1. The politics threads have a really big footprint on the site. "One thread every few days" fails to really capture that; it's not some odd discussion happening by the wayside, it's a big chunk of the daily activity and focus on the site. And it's a discussion of stuff that folks find pretty important, so it's not easily dismissible as a "hey, just skip it if you don't like it?" thing the way a post about some random band or essay or whatever would be.

2. This stuff doesn't stay naturally contained to just the politics threads, in any case. As mods we try to shut down the random overt "yeah but Trump/politics/doomsday!" stuff that crops up in other threads, but it's kind of a constant weeding and even when we kill the obvious stuff there's a kind of subtle spillage of the vibe to other parts of the site. I think there's a good argument to be made that you can't isolate any of these dynamics to the threads where they originate, and so it's not sufficient to just consider the megathreads a quarantine zone.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:02 AM on October 26 [34 favorites]


I'm perplexed that the presence of chatter one doesn't like in one thread every few days is enough to push someone away from the site.

Oh, I totally get this, I almost left the site pre-election (and know people who did) because of the awful, awful rhetoric directed at other community members. I stayed and it's better now, because we all have a common enemy to focus that rhetoric on.

But, idk, U.S. politics are occupying like 75% of my leisure brain space right now, that's what I am thinking about, and if I can't talk about it here then I don't have much space to be involved on the rest of the site.
posted by lalex at 11:04 AM on October 26 [11 favorites]


Those are fair points re: spillage into unrelated threads and still wanting/needing to engage with politics threads but without the anger. I just don't see how a community comprised of human beings can be expected to overcome the anger they feel when discussing the topic that makes them angry. "If you're not angry, you're not paying attention" is trite, but there's a kernel of truth to it.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:13 AM on October 26 [8 favorites]


I just gave a short talk in town last night

I can only assume your customary speaking fee is $20...
posted by jedicus at 11:16 AM on October 26 [33 favorites]


SAIT, yes. Though actually they paid me in donuts and la croix.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:19 AM on October 26 [15 favorites]


The politics threads have a really big footprint on the site.

This. This has been very helpful. It doesn't make it completely go away, but it makes it easier to choose not to participate in certain threads and to avoid certain subjects. I realize that not everyone is in a position where they can make this choice, for some people it's such a vital part of their life that they need to be informed and discuss these things.

But for those that can, I'm hoping they're able to see that there are other non-politics parts of this site that continue to bring joy and entertainment, things that truly are Best of Web. I only jump into the politics threads maybe once every couple of weeks. If only for my own mental health, it's just too much.

Argh, there's no easy solution and I applaud the mods for doing their best to handle all of this politics stuff.
posted by Fizz at 11:20 AM on October 26 [5 favorites]


Oh, I'm definitely angry! Literally every minute of every day! I just find use of these nicknames eyeroll-inducing and anti-constructive. Certainly I don't think they should or will be moderated away.

In summary: I hate it and nothing will change, which is actually a pretty good summary of 2017.
posted by lalex at 11:23 AM on October 26 [5 favorites]


La Croix sweety!?
posted by biffa at 11:24 AM on October 26 [2 favorites]


I dip in and out of the political threads because I share the outrage and fear but also lose whatever calm and emotional stability I may have if I hang out there too long or too often. I'm grateful MF mods have been coping with them. I know it's a huge burden but at the same time a huge support for those who need it. Which is a lot of people. So I both agree with the OP and virtually everyone else. Thanks, Mods!
posted by Bella Donna at 11:28 AM on October 26 [8 favorites]


This is maybe a good place to drop a note to say that I appreciate the mods trying their best to limit the amount of sort of apocalypse pornography/fantasies/jokey end of the world comments that get posted (either as FPPs or in other threads; I stay out of the politics threads). Seeing that stuff dumped on the front page makes it hard to get through the day, which I realize is not everyone's problem - and I'm using mymefi to curate my experience and keep it manageable - but I'm glad that I can mostly count on the mods to slap that stuff down.
posted by dismas at 11:36 AM on October 26 [20 favorites]


Someone used to make periodic reminders in the Political Battle Royale threads to be nice, and I think that would be awesome to automate after every 500th comment or so.

(Ye gods, the notion of something happening at that frequency and still needing to be automated to prevent Mod fatigue is just.... Yikes.)
posted by wenestvedt at 12:07 PM on October 26 [1 favorite]


I'm already convinced that Trump is a monster, the nickname isn't changing anything, so basically they don't do anything to harm Trump but do, imo, harm the threads.

I thought I should just share the fact that I'm reading this with a Chrome extension that changes the last name of the President to "Jerkface." Satisfies without harming the thread -- win-win!
posted by JanetLand at 12:24 PM on October 26 [8 favorites]


Thanks everyone for some very thoughtful responses so far. I'm thinking maybe a little clarification from me would be helpful. First in the form of direct responses:
I can only assume that the bulk of what you are seeing is insults that are derisive of Trump.
This is what I was hoping to avoid by not collecting specific examples. Insults derisive of Trump are not what prompted me to post, although I did mention them because I think they are related. My issue is really this "us vs them"-ing that's less "community of solidarity" and more "god those others are such bad
people." I think the insults are related because they help normalize the latter type of sentiment.
not because I think Trump deserves any respect (and I'd agree with EC that Trump is a uniquely vile president), but because I find all the nicknames make the conversation harder to parse, search, and follow.
I'd like to echo this. I'm not calling for anyone to respect the man, or the office, or whatever. I'm calling for us to respect ourselves and each other.
I'm perplexed that the presence of chatter one doesn't like in one thread every few days is enough to push someone away from the site... Why would you choose to leave the site over discussions that are happening in these threads?
For me these threads have been really valuable. I am undoubtedly better informed thanks to the wonderful contributions of so many, and I'm the type of person who manages anxiety by learning as much as possible about a given situation. I like recommending Metafilter to others, too! I found myself skipping a *lot* of comments of the type I tried to describe in the last big thread, and getting increasingly troubled by it. Happily, and a little embarrassingly for me given the timing of this MeTa, the current thread has very little of what I was describing!
Are you primarily concerned with the more juvenile attacks? Can you at least understand why people directly in the crosshairs of the Trumpists might not be able to contain their anger, and might resort to name-calling? Is there somewhere halfway we as the user base can try to meet you on this?
1.) No, it's not the juvinility (to coin a term, I guess); that can of course be skipped and is really just a mild annoyance.
2.) Absolutely, I too have moments of creeping dread and a lucid realization of the enormity of our current events.
3.) I don't presume to ask anybody to meet me anywhere. I'm not even asking anybody to stop venting. What I'm trying to respond to are declarations of universal evil among entire classes of people. Assertions by commenters that they know the inner workings of Trump's mind, and by the way it's evil beyond imagination. In short, the kinds of dehumanizing / othering speech that is rightly condemned on this site.
I know you don't want to name specific examples here, but in a world where we have very compelling evidence that the Trump campaign conspired with a hostile foreign power to swing the election, and continues to allow that foreign power to expand its influence here, I think it's important to be direct about what is considered hyperbolic.
We agree quite strongly here actually; in fact my draft post had a very similar paragraph! The facts are bad enough, and plenty to talk about.
If you can compare anything that happened under GWB/Obama to the scope and scale of the awful things captured on those sites, please do.
I can't! Our current situation seems to me to be a nightmare scenario! I guess the gist is: we can control how we respond to it, and how we respond to it can in turn affect what happens next. If our (collective) response is to keep to a relatively grounded base of facts, then I believe we'll
--Communicate better ,
--Learn more from each other, and
--Have more productive, healthier responses off site as well.
I'm willing to concede that we'd probably feel less connection to one another, at least in an immediate, visceral, emotional sense. But as I mentioned in the original post, Metafilter has always had a strong sense of civic pride so I'm not ready to concede that it would be a net negative.
I'm hoping they're able to see that there are other non-politics parts of this site that continue to bring joy and entertainment, things that truly are Best of Web.
I appreciate you mentioning this, because it's really true, and I'd really like to get over my "long-time lurker, first-time poster" fear and contribute an FPP on something positive that I'm passionate about. To be the change etc.

Oh my god this is a huge response, and I'm thinking unless I'm addressed directly I've said all I intend to. As a last note, just thanks to everyone for your thoughtful responses, and thanks to LobsterMitten and Cortex for helping to make sure this discussion will go well.
posted by dbx at 12:29 PM on October 26 [25 favorites]


So, wait. Are you seeing an increase in Mefites turning on each other? Because I'm not quite sure that that hasn't always been there. You may just be seeing a concentrated version of it because we're in the political threads so much. In fact, I'd argue that we're seeing a reduction of it because someone with whom a number of MeFites quarrelled in the past actually impressed a number of others with their during-the-campaign dignity.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:45 PM on October 26 [1 favorite]


Gah, hit "post" too soon -

The biggest change, perhaps, may simply be that the average political-topic thread grows to a mammoth length really quickly, and is nearly immediately replaced by another one. Prior to this, maybe we had one politically-themed thread a month that got some flurry of activity for the first week and a half and then slowly petered out to the point that maybe three people were still active wihle everyone else got distracted by newer FPPs about dogs riding bikes or whatever. So I wonder whether it isn't that the site overall has gotten more ornery by percentage; it's just that there are more of the threads that bring out the orneryness that's always been there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:48 PM on October 26 [1 favorite]


I think the increased volume of political threads is a function of the fact that American readers, at least, have become more ornery/anxious/despairing/enraged/etc. due to our current nightmarish hellscape. Not really the cause.
posted by lalex at 12:56 PM on October 26 [2 favorites]


What I find most irritating about nicknames re Trump is that they never capture what an objectively awful human being he is and how dangerously unqualified he is for the job. To me, the nicknames often seem to make light of what is truly a desperate situation.

Just call him Trump and trust the reader to add the contempt.
posted by she's not there at 1:12 PM on October 26 [41 favorites]


As a non-american the political climate there is so farcical it has me veering on 'anti-american'. I really helps to be reminded that there a few hundred million souls who didn't 'just let this atrocity happen'. I don't know how to record my fear that 'a cheeto with dementia could destroy the world as we know it' in a tone any less ridiculous without slumping into despair.

So I, personally, have mostly left the policial threads (I have scripts that scrape them a couple times a day and toss up a few comments the community has found worth favouriting 5-6 deviations more than the norm) and engaged my attention elsewhere. But you know what? Cortex is right; the mega threads suck up so much time, attention & residual energy that might have gone elsewhere. It's not just the rest of metafilter but, seemingly, the rest of the internet that seems a little greyer, a little poorer, for having to repeatedly rearticulate their collective jaws after the latest stupid thing emanating from the whitehouse.

I don't know how this kind of all-pervasive thing is supposed to be addressed. I am a little sad that, perhaps, this is the cost of living in the world today. So yeah, get your shit in order America, clean yourselves up a bit and stop dragging down the rest of the world with you ok? We only have one planet and the rest of us have to live here too.
posted by mce at 1:26 PM on October 26 [9 favorites]


So yeah, get your shit in order America, clean yourselves up a bit and stop dragging down the rest of the world with you ok? We only have one planet and the rest of us have to live here too.

Bless your heart.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 1:31 PM on October 26 [12 favorites]


cortex: " I find myself wishing sometimes that folks could find their way to focusing more consistently on substantive criticism and link-wrangling and not lapse as readily into reflexive snark or doomsaying or so on."

This is my feeling, as well. I think the politics threads are a tremendous resource for circulating news/analysis that people might have missed (I spend a lot of time on this stuff, and even I don't see everything before it hits MeFi), as well as for substantive discussion of larger issues. They're not so great when they indulge in that other stuff.

Maybe just a periodic reminder that you want to add value with your comment. Everyone snarks or makes a joke sometimes, but you want to make a positive contribution to the discussion.
posted by Chrysostom at 1:40 PM on October 26 [19 favorites]


I'm perplexed that the presence of chatter one doesn't like in one thread every few days is enough to push someone away from the site. A vast majority of the threads here don't touch on US politics, and the site has gone out of its way to allow people to filter out the potus45 threads if they don't wish to see them.

I am an intensely political person, someone who spends a big chunk of my free time thinking about and working in politics, and who has at various times in my life also made political advocacy my day job. I would love to talk politics and policy with the smart, funny, wise people of Metafilter, but for the last year and a half at least, it has been impossible for me to do so. I know that for many people the Megathreads serve as a critical resource both for information and for venting their frustration at the state of the world. As someone who's been following American politics minutely for my whole adult life, I have other sources to meet those needs. What I crave is smart discussion of specific political and policy issues, which takes time and focus that are simply not available on political issues on Metafilter.

Partly this is just the nature of the times, where we're all bombarded with so many critical issues that none of us can focus on anything, but partly this is because the always-on, hot-take culture of the mega-threads has, by default, become the culture of political discussion on Metafilter. So I don't discuss politics or read political discussion on Metafilter, which makes me a little bit sad, but is better than the alternative for me right now.
posted by firechicago at 1:44 PM on October 26 [25 favorites]


I read this as more about the Eric Garland-ification of the discourse in the politics threads rather than about name calling in particular, and I think the OP is right to call that trend out as bad, dumb, and demeaning.
posted by invitapriore at 1:45 PM on October 26 [4 favorites]


Assertions by commenters that they know the inner workings of Trump's mind, and by the way it's evil beyond imagination. In short, the kinds of dehumanizing / othering speech that is rightly condemned on this site.

I mean, I see comments in the political threads that I think are futile or wildly off the mark, or just plain dumb, but a lot of it falls into the category of harmless-but-uninformative, fanfic, Monday-morning quarterbacking, venting, etc. I generally just note it roll my eyes and move on because it's impossible for multi-thousand number threads to be discussions in anything but the broadest sense anyway, however useful they are. I haven't seen much of anything that I'd think of as "dehumanizing" or "othering," tho perhaps I just haven't noticed it. I guess the complaint would have to be a little clearer before I knew whether I agreed that it was a problem or not.

Semi-apropos, I wrote this on a related complaint earlier and it probably goes for this one as well.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:53 PM on October 26


Cortex has already addressed the impact the megathreads have on the rest of the site, but just as one additional data point: the grey itself has had at least three different threads in recent months specifically dedicated to letting people howl out their anguish about American politics in a more unfettered manner than the blue allows. Well, some howling, some long deep calming breaths and back pats, as well. I don't doubt many people find them necessary. But I can't help but feel a prickle of alarm sometimes when I read them, myself. There are kinds of madness into which men goad each other.
posted by Diablevert at 2:04 PM on October 26 [6 favorites]


I'm not opposed to the venting threads. Ain't no way I'm gonna read them, tho.
posted by octobersurprise at 2:06 PM on October 26 [4 favorites]


DBX, I hear what you're saying in your very interesting post - it's a brave proposal for a first-time MetaTalk. While I almost agree with some of the broader concerns you raise, it's a bit disappointing your issue with othering/"name-calling" revolves around generalizations instead of specifics. With the greatest respect, perhaps you could kindly provide us with concrete examples of how you have addressed your concerns about dehumanizing speech and political tribalism with the instigators of it in real life?

In any case, I'll try to bear your points in mind.
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:08 PM on October 26 [2 favorites]


The numbers geek in me wants to count words, lines, links, and posts in the political megathreads. Not really inclined to do so, for ... reasons.
posted by ZeusHumms at 2:24 PM on October 26


it's a bit disappointing your issue with othering/"name-calling" revolves around generalizations instead of specifics.

they said they didn't want to do that, sensibly, since it would spin the discussion off into microscope-aided rules lawyering of each specific word choice. you've been here since 2008 - do you disagree?
posted by Sebmojo at 2:28 PM on October 26 [5 favorites]


With the greatest respect, perhaps you could kindly provide us with concrete examples of how you have addressed your concerns about dehumanizing speech and political tribalism with the instigators of it in real life?

This is a kind of thing that, however much respect its intended with, comes across really not great to me and I'd rather folks on the site didn't do it. "Put up or shut up" isn't a good way to engage with each other, for a whole variety of reasons.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:29 PM on October 26 [25 favorites]


do you disagree?

Obviously.
posted by Doktor Zed at 2:30 PM on October 26 [1 favorite]


it's a bit disappointing your issue with othering/"name-calling" revolves around generalizations instead of specifics.

As much as I mostly can't handle the political threads for my own well-being, I am worried that the specific concern here is that people are not "tolerant" enough of "both sides" when one of the sides wants to rank the relative humanity of people, including me, as lesser.

Is that the complaint?
posted by Lyn Never at 2:31 PM on October 26 [13 favorites]


I'm not opposed to the venting threads. Ain't no way I'm gonna read them, tho.

Just a heads up. There are alternatives to that on the grey as well. Threads about celebrating the weird or the joyous or the cute.

If anyone peaks into this thread and sees this comment and is concerned about too much politics or too much negativity.

You can also set up your account settings to actively avoid certain tags/subjects so that you never see #USpolitics or #potus45.
posted by Fizz at 2:38 PM on October 26 [1 favorite]


I know that for many people the Megathreads serve as a critical resource both for information and for venting their frustration at the state of the world. As someone who's been following American politics minutely for my whole adult life, I have other sources to meet those needs. What I crave is smart discussion of specific political and policy issues, which takes time and focus that are simply not available on political issues on Metafilter.

This idea seems to come up regularly in the Politics Megathread Metatalks, and I share the view. I think it reflects a divide between the active participants of the threads and many people who don't contribute but probably would if it was more analysis/links and less venting/support group. The fact that the Politics Megathreads have their own culture, norms, and lingo that is distinct from the rest of Metafilter is one of those things I find troubling, but it's clear that the site isn't going to change. I do worry about the mod workload because of the chatter of the Politics Megathreads, but it also doesn't seem like anybody wants to change. The active participants (I know people have run the numbers on who participates in those threads) talk about how much they *need* the threads to cope. Really though, it seems like a really weird walled garden in the site that you either talk about US politics in a way that works with that clique, or not at all. It's a quirk of the site that kind of bums me out, but I just stopped reading the threads because they're pretty insular. (I push that emotional labour on to my parter - he reads the threads and gives me a digest.)

And I think that dynamic is showing up here with the push back to a fairly reasonable (though perhaps too vague) request.
posted by kendrak at 2:41 PM on October 26 [21 favorites]


they said they didn't want to do that, sensibly, since it would spin the discussion off into microscope-aided rules lawyering of each specific word choice.

That's true, but OTOH, in lieu a clearer complaint there's nothing to say but "flag it and move on."
posted by octobersurprise at 2:41 PM on October 26 [1 favorite]


I am worried that the specific concern here is that people are not "tolerant" enough of "both sides" when one of the sides wants to rank the relative humanity of people, including me, as lesser.

My read on what dbx is saying wasn't that, but more the issue of things getting really polarized and generalized even when talking about folks who aren't remotely Trumpy edgelords. We've definitely had to do some moderation on stuff where folks end up collapsing e.g. the Trump administration and its spiderweb of awful into more generally "fuck every Republican voter" or "fuck the red states", for example. Which sucks, because (a) red states are pretty fuckin' purple and (b) the distinction between the dynamics of traditional two-party politics in the modern US and the extremity of the last few years is meaningful, even if there's still plenty to criticize about prior status quo stuff.

I think the infuriating prevalence of both-sides-ism in major news and opinion media makes it harder to remember this because, yeah, the idea that Trump et al are somehow just one side of a balanced coinflip rather than horrific aberrant motherfuckers they are seems to endlessly have legs. Asking why folks can't just be tolerant of the nazis, yeah, that's some bullshit.

But there's a lot of folks in the space between dyed-in-the-wool leftist and pro-awfulness Trumpster. And there's lots of folks who agree on 90% of the general ideological consensus on MeFi but aren't all the way there. And with the polarization of dialogue about this stuff, with a tendency sometimes to (implicitly or explicitly) dichotomize or apply an ideological litmus test for who doesn't get assigned to the trashbin, some of that awareness can get swept aside, and that's not great. There have absolutely been MeFites who are members in good standing who I think add a lot to this place who have said outright that they've given up on participating or even reading threads, or the site itself, because of a sense of creeping blanket hostility that shows up in some comments.

Which, the answer isn't "let's tolerate intolerance, or we're the intolerant ones!" or any crap like that. In my mind it's more about nudging things a little and keeping the overt or over-the-top stuff a little more in check. Which can be tricky because shit does feel really polarized right now. But I think that tendency to go from what used to be more typical in MeFi discussions of kinda arguing the point and the specific actor, to what happens more often now of basically drawing a bright us vs. them line and saying fuckall with the details or the collateral damage, is a problem and something we can only get so far on with moderation. To some extent it's just a collective vibe thing and will be kept in check more from collective effort.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:51 PM on October 26 [35 favorites]


what used to be more typical in MeFi discussions of kinda arguing the point and the specific actor

I do not remember this "MeFi" of which you speak.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:09 PM on October 26 [2 favorites]


Well, I do and I've been working here for a decade so I'm gonna side with my direct professional experience on the matter. And I'm not suggesting it was perfect, by any means; this is definitely a matter of degree, and complicated by other factors like the degree to which "ah but I'm merely arguing the position!" can be deployed by someone who is being a dingus which is itself something we've had less patience for mod-side in recent years. But it's a thing, a shift I see in the overall temperature and tendency to push hard for a generalization sometimes during the hotter moments in these threads. And hotter moments are understandably easier to come by given the prevailing conditions. So we've always had to deal with it in moderating political discussions on the site but it pings the sonar more often lately.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:14 PM on October 26 [12 favorites]


Thanks for posting this. I agree. Personally I don't mind the cute nicknames so much (though I understand how others do) as I do the times when it feels like people are competing to decry something in the harshest, most negative possible terms. Like, it's not enough to point out that McCain is bad or problematic. No, he's a terrible hypocrite. No, he's not just a terrible hypocrite. He's the worst hypocrite. No, he's so bad, I won't cry if he dies, even though no one said I would. He's the entire problem with our democracy. Actually, he's worse than the other Republicans. Who are also the worst. Let me tell you about how bad they are... no, you know who's really bad? Dianne Feinsten! She's the worst. Not just the worst...

Ugh. I mean, yes, they are all terrible. I don't disagree. But at some point it's beating a dead horse, and I can practically feel the thread spinning itself into a knot in a way that can't possibly be healthy for any human being to participate in.

I do like the "gee I'm beginning to think this Trump fellow isn't great" jokes for bringing some levity to this instinct.

I appreciate the mods for trimming the most excessive apocalyptic fantasies and conspiracy theories, but I wish posters would sometimes take a breath and ask themselves if it's necessary to chime into a point that's already been made several times about how bad something is. Especially when it's piling on an individual in the thread. After a certain point, the badness of something has been established.

Just my thoughts.
posted by Emily's Fist at 3:33 PM on October 26 [32 favorites]


As the weekend evening mod, it'd also be helpful if, when the news is slow and nothing is happening, people let the thread be slow instead of (as a few people do) taking the opportunity to bicker about who's the One True Leftist, spin up apocalyptic fantasies, or propose several anger litmus tests where if you're not as pissed off about issue X as Poster Y thinks you ought to be, you're probably a Trumpist. People are angry and scared and spinning the heck out, for sure, but in moments of calm it would probably be better to take a deep breath and recenter, instead of turning the tornado of fury (that's directed at Trump on weekdays) on fellow mefites because it's a weekend and the news is slow. You can let the rage-tornado spin down now and then. There's definitely some kinds of problematic behavior we see a lot more of on the weekends, and I think it's that people just can't get out of the heightened emotional state the week of news puts them in, and so they keep lashing out at whoever or whatever's convenient. Again, totally understandable, but still harmful to the community.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 3:53 PM on October 26 [57 favorites]


With the greatest respect, perhaps you could kindly provide us with concrete examples of how you have addressed your concerns about dehumanizing speech and political tribalism with the instigators of it in real life? [links to Trump statements omitted]

That's some A+ whataboutism right there. There is no litmus test anyone needs to be able to pass to say that bad things on Metafilter are bad, and the implication that dehumanizing language and mindless political tribalism shouldn't be called out here as long as they're not as bad as Trump's rhetoric is so profoundly repulsive to me.

This is why I find the political Megathreads profoundly corrosive to Metafilter as a whole, because even when I don't read them, in addition to sucking up so much of the oxygen, this sort of mindless un-reflective ugliness leaks out all over the place.
posted by firechicago at 4:32 PM on October 26 [25 favorites]


Seconding Emily’s Fist. I don’t mind the snark. It’s the histrionics that I find tiresome. At a certain saturation point, venting starts to become pollution. Outrage and despair can be contagious, especially when the loudest voices are rewarded with affirmation (e.g., favorites).
posted by dephlogisticated at 4:46 PM on October 26 [20 favorites]


A problem arises when the listener/reader is prepared to pass judgement superficially based on social norms, as a condition to further attention. This can lead to insincere comments posing as politeness, and sincere ones mistaken for rudeness (or worse: a thinking error).
posted by Brian B. at 4:55 PM on October 26 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: You can let the rage-tornado spin down now and then
posted by Sebmojo at 4:57 PM on October 26 [5 favorites]


What I'm trying to respond to are declarations of universal evil among entire classes of people. Assertions by commenters that they know the inner workings of Trump's mind, and by the way it's evil beyond imagination. In short, the kinds of dehumanizing / othering speech that is rightly condemned on this site.

Huh, you completely lost me. The inner working of Trump's mind are seriously evil/stupid. He's given us tons of reasons to believe that the inner workings of his mind are seriously evil/stupid. I don't think that's dehumanizing or othering, and I don't think we have some kind of blanket rule that says we're not allowed to opine that monstrous people are behaving like monsters.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:58 PM on October 26 [5 favorites]


I don't want to twist this thread into something that it wasn't intended for, but while we're here.

I'm a little confused about what we're doing right now around the comments Trump made in his drugs speech today about his brother and alcoholism. I realize its a situation where the personal and the political get mixed, and also just a sensitive topic for many mefites, but it's also a substantial part of today's goings on. If the mod ruling is "we're just not going to touch this topic," that's understandable, but it would be nice to have some clarification on what's up with the deletions there.
posted by zachlipton at 5:30 PM on October 26


As a data point, the dynamic people are describing is basically why I don't really comment here anymore. I just don't feel like engaging with it anymore.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:39 PM on October 26 [9 favorites]


In fact, I'd argue that we're seeing a reduction of it because someone with whom a number of MeFites quarrelled in the past actually impressed a number of others with their during-the-campaign dignity.

Yet still has no problem expressing toxic opinions on other topics.

The more things change....
posted by zarq at 5:39 PM on October 26 [3 favorites]


I'm against the nicknames thing, it's moronic, juvenile noise. I especially dislike "tRump" if anyone is keeping track.
posted by Rumple at 5:41 PM on October 26 [5 favorites]


"I'm a little confused about what we're doing right now around the comments Trump made in his drugs speech today about his brother and alcoholism"

The link was flagged as a double, and I deleted it for duplication, but replies kept coming in afterwards. Hadn't mentioned it because another thread needed attention for a few minutes and it wasn't a big deal, just a duplicate, so I didn't feel a need for speed.

I have no particular problem with discussing Fred Trump in theory, although I will say that in the deleted responses, some people definitely went for a super-asshole or triple-snark stance that isn't going to fly. So possibly in practice we simply can't discuss it because if this quick dry run is any indication, people are going to be gigantic assholes to each other about it.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 5:45 PM on October 26 [1 favorite]


What I find most irritating about nicknames re Trump is that they never capture what an objectively awful human being he is and how dangerously unqualified he is for the job. To me, the nicknames often seem to make light of what is truly a desperate situation.

Same. And when the jokes focus on superficial, physical, and personal aspects, I don't like it.

Somewhere in the world is a person with the same flabby, aging body as Trump, but a heart of gold. There is someone who has an inordinate fondness for spray tan, or a weird ego thing about their hair, but is otherwise a perfectly fine person. The flab is not evil. The orangeness is not evil. The well done steak and the ugly suits are not evil. The same thing bothers me about small penis jokes - lots of people have small penises, and some have no penis at all!

Just, jokes that make fun of people's bodies, and those things closest to the body, are just not on. Call it the underwear rule. If something is as personal as underwear, it's immune from judgment.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 6:41 PM on October 26 [50 favorites]


In that spirit, I find the "lol Steve Bannon is a ruddy-faced, vodka-soaked, beer-gutted, whisky-breathing dragon" jokes to be distasteful. Many people struggling with substance abuse have managed not to turn into vile racist monsters, and plenty of them are your fellow community members.
posted by lalex at 6:50 PM on October 26 [17 favorites]


But my point is not that these jokes are juvenile but that they have bad aim. They hit the wrong thing.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 6:50 PM on October 26 [10 favorites]


I have an uncle whom I am at political odds with. In a political-economics context, he asked me if I knew such-and-such (some famous figure), and I was careless and simply said/shrugged, [Name] is evil. But what that effectively did was to other--to increase the relationship gap between me and my uncle. It made him back off... but not exactly in a way I would have liked, either. I would have liked to ask, had I been in a less frustrated mood, why and how this public person mattered to him and in what way this is salient to the point he was trying to make (mostly about insinuating how I should be living my life, etc). This was an instance in a conversation overall that really bothered me, because the outcome was him revealing less so that I learned less even if what was to be learned would have been unpleasant for me. But what happened happened, and I can reflect on that and think of conversing differently next time: because, I do think there's a difference in real life, i.e. we're more accountable to our social relationships. Online, you don't get this feedback.
posted by polymodus at 6:55 PM on October 26 [8 favorites]


The best part about that talk is we learned that the real MetaFilter was inside us all along.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:41 PM on October 26 [5 favorites]


This is why I find the political Megathreads profoundly corrosive to Metafilter as a whole, because even when I don't read them, in addition to sucking up so much of the oxygen, this sort of mindless un-reflective ugliness leaks out all over the place.

I agree. It's a point that has been made before, but the decision has been repeatedly and clearly that no, it isn't going to change. It's easy to avoid the threads so in that sense I don't care, but it worsens the site in ways that make me personally less engaged. I totally get that the threads are important to the participants, but I'm not convinced that the value they are receiving makes up for the issues.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:49 PM on October 26 [13 favorites]


You know, I always read the monthly "fuck the politics threads because they will bring the doom of MeFi and destroy the sanity of all moderators for all time" threads on metatalk. I try to absorb from people's complaints information about what to do and not do. I'm not perfect (who is?) but I do my best to deal with others with respect and intellectual honesty.

But I have to say that it's getting to be a bit tiresome to hear on the regular about how "my" use of the site as a regular participant in the politics threads is a burden on everyone. I'm a bit socially stupid, so I'm not sure what the message I'm supposed to be getting is. Don't participate in politics threads so that the mods don't have to ban them outright and we can just pretend that the community came to a consensus about politics threads? Participate but expect to hear regularly that you are community cancer?

Just tell me what the message is so I can receive it and decide whether to stay or go.
posted by xyzzy at 7:54 PM on October 26 [15 favorites]


What I crave is smart discussion of specific political and policy issues, which takes time and focus that are simply not available on political issues on Metafilter.

Yeah. I gave up on the politics stuff here because any attempt to try to problem-solve instead of just agreeing that things are terrible and someone should do something, or they should be shamed or goaded in a way that we wouldn't use to teach a five-year-old or a puppy, seemed to mark commenters as unempathethic or inflammatory.

I couldn't do what I wanted, which was figure out new approaches that _would_ work, without constantly fearing that I would -- completely inadvertently -- offend people. The whole experience added to my sympathy for _other_ people who worry about accidentally offending people. I feel more and more like some kind of rube who is eternally outside a segment of the culture that is dominant here.

I am worried that the specific concern here is that people are not "tolerant" enough of "both sides" when one of the sides wants to rank the relative humanity of people, including me, as lesser.

The productive response to this isn't to yell "I'm not stupid, you're stupid", but to realize that lots of people got locked out of the kind of acculturation that they need to communicate well about what they're _really_ feeling, and then figure out how to transmit that acculturation in a non-patronizing, respectful, effective, receptive manner. Or maybe a productive response would be something else entirely. But the demonization of the other side is not useful to anyone who wants to live in a world where brute force is less powerful than ideas.

Venting, I get. I'm not sure venting in the specific form of "those people are evil" is great. Maybe venting in the form of "I feel X" or "when they do A, it makes me feel B" or "Aargh" -- or maybe venting is better face-to-face, or in chat, or by voice -- what I guess I'm getting at is that maybe creative genius is called for here, because this _is_ a genuinely hard problem.

---

Also, Tilda Swinton saying in this ad "If you choose to ride with the right people" creeps me out.
posted by amtho at 8:14 PM on October 26 [8 favorites]


The nicknames perform a sort of search cover. I would continue them, because it is easier to catalogue antipathy toward an individual via use of their exact name. Nicknames make those with an official interest have to work for their info. Carry on.
posted by Oyéah at 8:18 PM on October 26 [1 favorite]


anger litmus tests

I imagine these people cut up two popular bumper stickers and combined them to say: IF YOU'RE NOT OUTRAGED, you're part of the problem
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:40 PM on October 26 [4 favorites]


I'm sympathetic to amtho's comment and was disappointed to see loquacious get piled on in the megathread today for trying to explain a possible Trump supporter perspective.
posted by lalex at 8:42 PM on October 26 [11 favorites]


Just tell me what the message is so I can receive it and decide whether to stay or go.

Relax. The points were made, and nobody needs to do anything, or even promise to do anything. Maybe some will change, or maybe some will ignore it. The point being that all readers can avoid political threads as an unsafe space; or flag it, or comment on it, or come here to state their concerns. In the end, wars are not won by appealing to the empathy of our enemies, but to the resolve of our allies.
posted by Brian B. at 8:46 PM on October 26


I ... was disappointed to see loquacious get piled on in the megathread

Sounds like that common MeFi behavior pattern where everyone reads an article about some horrible thing, then comes back to the discussion thread full of blind rage and incoherent fury, and -- since no one on the blue actually supports the horrible thing -- they wait until someone else posts a comment that's a little too thoughtfully nuanced and not sufficiently outraged, and LET FLY THE FIRES OF HELL en masse at that unlucky proxy target.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:51 PM on October 26 [38 favorites]


More: substantive discussion/links, actionable items.

Less: pile-ons, reposts, in-jokes, reflexive dismissals, apocalyptic fanfic, pointless or defeatist doomsaying, idle chatter. And sorry, but extended personal life coping anecdotes. I understand people have grown to use the megathreads as a proxy for discussions or airing of grievances they feel they can't have in meatspace, but I think that contributes to the unwelcoming in-group dynamic I think was the point of this months megathreads: yes/no? post.

Unfortunately over the course of two years I agree the politics threads have become unwelcoming to some forms of dissent and new engagement, but it's tough to thread between people engaging honestly or new engagement, and picking a fight over well trodden ground that's impossible to revisit given past history, and a new person, or even returning member, might not know all that history. All us regular participants can do better to not prolong or provoke a toxic engagement, and give more space to other voices without automatically going for the throat.

Yeah. I gave up on the politics stuff here because any attempt to try to problem-solve instead of just agreeing that things are terrible and someone should do something, or they should be shamed or goaded in a way that we wouldn't use to teach a five-year-old or a puppy, seemed to mark commenters as unempathethic or inflammatory.

I couldn't do what I wanted, which was figure out new approaches that _would_ work, without constantly fearing that I would -- completely inadvertently -- offend people.


This is what I don't like to hear. I'd rather have more voices engaging honestly and constructively than the same few of us every day. I value the discussions and try not to overly contribute to circular megathread groupthink, although admittedly not always perfectly.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:52 PM on October 26 [9 favorites]


Unfortunately over the course of two years I agree the politics threads have become unwelcoming to some forms of dissent and new engagement

It's so bad. It was awful during the primaries, and I say this as a person who didn't have a strong favorite between Bernie/HRC and was really struggling with my primary vote choice*.

I have been thinking about this thread and now sort of think it feels much better because we all share a common loathing of the candidate/President, but it definitely still sucks for people who come in with a dissenting or a more nuanced view.

* I took a last-minute trip and couldn't vote. I'll never know what my choice would have been!
posted by lalex at 9:01 PM on October 26 [2 favorites]


I'm a bit socially stupid, so I'm not sure what the message I'm supposed to be getting is. Don't participate in politics threads so that the mods don't have to ban them outright and we can just pretend that the community came to a consensus about politics threads? Participate but expect to hear regularly that you are community cancer?

Why would you change anything? The repeated and very clear administrative decision has been that things will continue as-is, and there certainly isn’t any community consensus on the subject. The only onus of change is on people who don’t want to engage with the threads — they can use filters, pick links with care, go elsewhere, or whatever, there are lots of options.

I don’t mean to make it sound like some really big deal, it isn’t at all. It’s not the outcome I’d prefer, but in the grand scheme it is very minor.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:02 PM on October 26 [1 favorite]


I mainly just refuse to capitalize his name (unless referring to properties), and call him a fucker. I'm a model citizen.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:50 PM on October 26 [3 favorites]


Despite my high usernumber, I've been reading metafilter for a very long time, and like all of you

Clever ploy, but we all see right through it, agent of the Kremlin
posted by naju at 11:13 PM on October 26 [5 favorites]


From the outside the big politics threads looked to me like a completely understandable response at first, like having a drink together to help get over a disaster. After a few weeks it began to look like getting drunk every night.
posted by Segundus at 11:47 PM on October 26 [29 favorites]


I find the political threads to be unfortunate on two (and a half) counts:

1. They're dumb. As others have said, people often resort to nicknames and facile insults without making any kind of substantive contribution. This is particularly bad on slow news days, but the flip side is that on busy news days the contributions are still entirely driven on the news cycle. I thought it particularly egregious that Jane Mayer's recent and excellent long-form piece on Pence in the New Yorker got something like 5 comments among thousands. What I hope to find from Metafilter is some kind of more intellectual engagement with the news -- but generally speaking the signal to noise ratio in the threads is not there.

1a. Relatedly, I do think that confining politics to megathreads has had a coarsening effect on discourse. If the Jane Mayer piece had been posted as a front page post, then there would have been actual discussion on that article. The megaposts mean that everything is linked to actual clock time, which inherently links things to the (stupid) news cycle.

2. As I've said before, I do think that the politics threads are bad for the long-term health of Metafilter (if we do nothing the site will die circa 2028). While they promote engagement on the site by a limited portion of the userbase, they also absorb a lot of attention that could be going to non-politics items that could appeal to a broader portion of the userbase. I'm not as confident about this (I haven't run the numbers in a year), but I do think the threads aren't doing much to elicit contributions from more users, as opposed to increasing participation from a limited portion of the userbase.
posted by crazy with stars at 12:04 AM on October 27 [7 favorites]


Am I the only one who thinks that calling discussion of actual bad possibilities "apocalyptic fanfic" sucks?
posted by thelonius at 12:28 AM on October 27 [11 favorites]


I'm very much in favor of breaking off long-form articles or topics that deserve a separate, more focused discussion into their own threads (I did this with Buzzfeed's Milo story, for instance), though I'm also mindful that many people want less US politics on the site period, and that more threads will be irksome to such people.

There's a bar for "this US politics-related topic should have its own thread" that's hard to define, and sometimes the mods will redirect posts to the catch-all threads if they don't think a post meets that bar. But if there's something that's meaty enough to support a serious discussion of its own, building a separate post around it is great.
posted by zachlipton at 12:53 AM on October 27 [6 favorites]


I thought it particularly egregious that Jane Mayer's recent and excellent long-form piece on Pence in the New Yorker got something like 5 comments among thousands.

One way to create a focused conversation space around specific articles is by making a front page post, like the one about the FCC vote, the one about the Department of Education lawsuits, the one about the Department of Energy, or the one about Rex Tillerson.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:32 AM on October 27 [7 favorites]


Am I the only one who thinks that calling discussion of actual bad possibilities "apocalyptic fanfic" sucks?

It's difficult because there's a whole spectrum we see on that front. On the most reasonable end people definitely talk about e.g. "I worry that new development x is going to lay the groundwork for specific policy/culture problem y, because of causal stuff z", and that's totally normal and reasonable conversation fodder. Out toward the other end you get people writing in long paragraphs their vision of the nuclear annihilation of the world or the inevitability of our collective mass deaths as a changing climate rends human society in two, etc.

The latter stuff is really hard for folks to wade through, and is where I think the apocalyptic fanfic characterization comes from. There's stuff in the mushy middle of that spectrum that's debatable, and stuff that I don't think it really applies to at all, but it's shorthand and different folks have different thresholds for what they dislike.

So I get your botheration but I also get why it's something folks reach for to describe some actual problems in how threads turn sometimes. I think it's a mix of both.

One way to create a focused conversation space around specific articles is by making a front page post

Indeed, and this is okay to do. There may be times where we choose to push to keep something in the main thread because the isolated link is thin or the timing is bad for some new difficult independent thread, but generally speaking I think it's worked out well when folks have chosen to dedicate a new post to something focused that merits its own thread of discussion.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:35 AM on October 27 [6 favorites]


What I crave is smart discussion of specific political and policy issues, which takes time and focus that are simply not available on political issues on Metafilter.

I think you're out of luck and I think that's just the nature of a fairly open forum with hundreds/thousands of users. I have my own list of writers I go to for the deep thinks, but it isn't metafilter. And why should it be? Especially at this moment in history, the really knowledgeable writers on politics and policy issues aren't likely to be dicking around on a internet forum in the first place. Metafilter's probably superior to many internet forums, but still, the fundamental rule of general interest forums is that they are cocktail parties, not seminars, not conferences. Expecting levels of knowledge, interest, and engagement beyond that of a good party is just a set-up for disappointment.

I find the politics threads useful and sometimes entertaining, but I don't look for any kind of heavy discussion in there—whatever that might be—I skim them for information, links, observations, anecdotes, jokes, repartee, etc. I use them much the same way I use twitter. And honestly, unless the mods are prepared to curate, cultivate, and moderate more heavily for content, I fail to see how those threads could be very different.

I ... was disappointed to see loquacious get piled on in the megathread

I'm sorry if they felt piled on. I replied to their initial comment and I tried to reply as clearly and dispassionately as I could. Yes, it can be annoying to watch a dozen or more people reply to an ill-chosen sentence or remark, but that's just another dynamic of multi-thousand comment threads. But unless replying to comments is to be discouraged, then there's nothing to be done besides what the mods do now: step in when they've had enough.

I dislike the phrase "tone policing," but, really, that looks like the big complaint here. Nothing specific, just a general wish that the conversation was smarter or better informed or focused on different issues or more open to some unspecified dissent. Not that I blame anyone for wanting that. I often wish metafilter was very different myself.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:44 AM on October 27


The latter stuff is really hard for folks to wade through, and is where I think the apocalyptic fanfic characterization comes from.

"This is hard for folks to wade through" is a bad reason to keep calling it "apocalyptic fanfic". That's how some MeFites comment in those threads, and "apocalyptic fanfic" makes it sound like those comments are not genuine comments. No need for mods to keep repeating off-hand characterizations in a MeTa about not othering people via comments. C'mon, try harder.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:51 AM on October 27 [2 favorites]


Re: the loquacious derail -- it seems relevant that they acknowledged that (a) they worded some of their thoughts "clumsily" and (b) that they made an "arrogant mistake" in assuming the readers knew who they were. Neither of these errors deserves a pile-on, so if that's what the dynamic looks like, I agree that's regrettable. But certainly, I think there's enough blame to go around between the person starting a new line of inquiry in a thread and those who might respond to certain emotionally-charged phrases like "political correctness" in ways that don't account for the poster's reputation, which may or may not be well-known. Like, I'm kind of a regular around here, and though I recognized loquacious' handle, I had no idea they were an "unrepentant, unrelenting humanist." If I did have that knowledge, I'm not so sure I wouldn't have had the same concerns about the argument they were making, but still, I think posting comments that assume a level of familiarity with someone's other contributions increases the level of difficulty for an already difficult point that was trying to be made. (I still don't understand it, and not for a lack of trying.)

We should avoid pile-ons, but people also need to "read the room" to get a sense of how things are likely to go if they enter a busy thread with a... unique... take on political correctness being a cause of "racism and organized hate", and do so in a manner that requires the audience to know them from their work here. I greatly respect loquacious' acknowledgement of this, and while it doesn't excuse the pile-on, I think it does help explain why it happened.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:04 AM on October 27 [2 favorites]


"This is hard for folks to wade through" is a bad reason to keep calling it "apocalyptic fanfic". That's how some MeFites comment in those threads, and "apocalyptic fanfic" makes it sound like those comments are not genuine comments. No need for mods to keep repeating off-hand characterizations in a MeTa about not othering people via comments. C'mon, try harder.

What? People write out fantasies about nuclear annihilation and the end of the world. It happens. We delete them. Lucky us, we have to read them first. I'm not sure what you think I think I'm describing, but while I can agree that the remit of what someone might casually referred to as "apocalyptic fanfic" is sometimes broader than just literal actual-end-of-the-world scenarios, it's a term that's fairly apposite about a specific thing that does happen and is exhausting.

That doesn't make every discussion of future possibilities "apocalyptic fanfic" and I don't think anyone is making the argument it does? It's just one of the things in the mix, along with plenty of more measured substantive discussion about possibilities and implications. But it's a tiring thing that I wish was less in the mix.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:12 AM on October 27 [13 favorites]


And yeah, the loquacious thing was just sort of an odd situation. I love the dude but he sorta wandered in and Did His Thing in a way that he acknowledged afterward was clumsy. If you know him and know his style it's easy to be like "hey, it's loq!" and not think too much of him doing his sort of trademarked braindump thing; if you don't have that specific context, it's someone barreling into a thread and dropping a hot take without really doing the groundwork that lets people get on board with where he's coming from. And then there's an aspect of people who do have that soft spot for him seeing other people be grumpy/impatient and having kind of a "but, hey, it's loquacious, ease up!" reaction.

I think loq could have read the room better, I think people could have responded with less duplication, and if I hadn't been distracted by other site stuff at the time I would have jumped in sooner to just ask everyone to let it be (which I ended up doing eventually), but at the end of the day it wasn't really a remarkable situation other than the Hey, It's Loquacious! element.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:18 AM on October 27 [1 favorite]


thelonious, 23skidoo: since I think I kicked off that subdiscussion, i want to be clear that I'm not asking people to not post about negative consequences or anything (and like I said, I try to take the onus on myself to avoid discussions I think I can't handle). And it's hard to link to particular examples because often when they're not germane they do get deleted (there's one in particular I flagged at some point that was a perfect example of this phenomena). But I see the same distinction cortex talked about: on a post about North Korea (a genuinely scary situation, which could go very badly as a result of the administration) you will get very sensible posts about possible negative consequences, and then sometimes there will be someone who posts five paragraphs of "here's my nightmare scenario:" which is a retelling of Red Dawn mixed with Fallout mixed with the John Titor Usenet posts. That's more what I mean by "fanfic": it's not supported by a link, it's not really directly tied to the discussion that's happening, it's not consistent with expert opinion, but it is evocative and scary. I think there's a spectrum of those kinds of comments, but when it veers into Coast to Coast AM territory is maybe where I am glad to see it go.

A slightly different flavor of this stuff: during one of the California wildfire check-in posts on the gray, someone posted offhand about how they felt overwhelmed by hurricanes/wildfires/earthquakes in Mexico/etc, and someone else (who apologized afterwards, to their credit) said "well you could also be worried about antibiotic resistance!" Which, well, true, but not helpful? That's more a failure of reading the room, and like I said, they apologized. (relevant tweet I guess)

I don't think that people are insincere when they post that sort of thing, and I know that sometimes that kind of posting is a way of exorcising their own fears. I guess if I had a wish it would be that people are cognizant of negative externalities that are created by those kinds of comments, but I know that there a role for the people posting and also a role for me as a reader, an atomistic part of the community who can't impose my preferences on everyone else. And yeah, there's a time and a place in some posts where those kinds of things are germane to the discussion. For myself, I have to stay out of threads where that happens because I personally can't handle it. I'm not asking people to not post it wholesale, not calling for it to all be deleted reflexively. But I (me, personally, not speaking for anyone else) genuinely do appreciate it when the mods prune really egregious examples of it (especially when it spills out of the #trump45 threads), because it kicks off a physical fight-or-flight response for me and if it happened more frequently I would just have to check out of Metafilter entirely. And frankly, the mods have to read all of it constantly, and I imagine it sucks.
posted by dismas at 8:26 AM on October 27 [6 favorites]


I realize that the first and second paragraphs in the above are discussing different things, but and I don't meant to conflate them, except to say I think they're both not great ways of commenting.
posted by dismas at 8:34 AM on October 27


What? People write out fantasies about nuclear annihilation and the end of the world. It happens. We delete them. Lucky us, we have to read them first. I'm not sure what you think I think I'm describing, but while I can agree that the remit of what someone might casually referred to as "apocalyptic fanfic" is sometimes broader than just literal actual-end-of-the-world scenarios, it's a term that's fairly apposite about a specific thing that does happen and is exhausting.

Yep, people post their thoughts about nuclear annihilation and the end of the world. "Apocalyptic fanfic" is a phrase that's probably going to be misunderstood/overly-broad/misapplied, and some more specific phrasing from mods about what it is and why it's a headache would probably make those types of comments show up less. I'm not sure why you think that a pushback on the phrase "apocalyptic fanfic" is me advocating for keeping comments about nuclear annihilation and the end of the world. My point was that the phrase is not as clearly defined as you think.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:59 AM on October 27


That's more what I mean by "fanfic": it's not supported by a link, it's not really directly tied to the discussion that's happening, it's not consistent with expert opinion, but it is evocative and scary. I think there's a spectrum of those kinds of comments, but when it veers into Coast to Coast AM territory is maybe where I am glad to see it go.

Oh sure- I wasn't unable to parse out the meaning of the phrase. To piggyback on your explanation, I think if (more) people asked themselves three questions (Is my comment supported by a link? Is my comment directly tied to the discussion that's happening? Is my comment consistent with expert opinion?), we'd be able to cut down on lots of evocative and scary comments, as well as lots of comments that merely express frustration with current events in general, which would help keep those politics threads smaller in size/more meaningful.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:07 AM on October 27 [2 favorites]


People write out fantasies about nuclear annihilation and the end of the world. It happens. We delete them. Lucky us, we have to read them first. I'm not sure what you think I think I'm describing, but while I can agree that the remit of what someone might casually referred to as "apocalyptic fanfic" is sometimes broader than just literal actual-end-of-the-world scenarios, it's a term that's fairly apposite about a specific thing that does happen and is exhausting.

To add to this, and speaking as one of the people who is sensitive to such catastrophizing - unless you have an in with the Pentagon or the military or the state department, comments speculating about nuclear holocaust as a foregone conclusion and an imminent event are not anything that you know for a certainty to be true, and therefore it is not helpful in the slightest to make them - and is in fact freaking some of your fellow mefites right the fuck out.

Therefore, I absolutely agree with the categorization of such comments as "apocalyptic fanfic" because it certainly isn't fact, and the speed with which some people leap to speculating about that scenario is frankly a little creepy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:15 AM on October 27 [13 favorites]


Clearly the phrase is useful for people who hate reading those types of comments. But people who leave those types of comments might not feel that "apocalyptic fanfic" describes what they're doing- yet they might understand the harm in what they're doing if people took time to explain it instead of just assuming that it should be obvious to everyone (including people who leave those kinds of comments) which types of comments are being described by the phrase and why they are bothersome.

I'll bounce out of this MeTa now.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:49 AM on October 27


Yeah, I've caught over time some of the comments about potential war scenarios and such that've been posted in political threads, and I'm sure there are probably some where people think they aren't that bad, but some of them have been serious nightmare fuel territory for me. I think the fanfic thing--you know, anxiety can lead to envisioning things in a particular sort of loving detail that would otherwise absolutely be fanfic territory. If you find yourself writing at length about your expectations about the breakdown of society, that's something you need to talk about with a therapist, not vent in front of all your fellow MeFites.

There's a difference between expressing your anxiety as "I'm afraid bad things are going to happen" and feeling compelled to write those things out in speculative detail, the same way you can talk about trauma generally without relating your traumatic event in a blow-by-blow way that is super likely to be triggering for others who've been through something similar. You can get help and support without dragging everybody else into a bad place with you. If you need to talk about something like that in detail, you need to do that in a setting where you're sure that your audience is okay with it.
posted by Sequence at 9:50 AM on October 27 [7 favorites]


Clearly the phrase is useful for people who hate reading those types of comments. But people who leave those types of comments might not feel that "apocalyptic fanfic" describes what they're doing

Call it "apocalyptic speculation" then, or "fantasizing about the end of the world" or whatever. I think folks are going to use a variety of phrases to characterize the phenomenon.

But, bluntly, if I'm balancing the frustration and emotional toll of having to regularly wade through evocatively imagined nuclear annihilation and other end-of-the-world scenarios against a desire to post those without hearing the word "fanfic" show up in criticism of it, I don't have a ton of energy to extend in sympathy to the latter.

This isn't the first conversation we've had about it in MetaTalk, is part of it; I don't really believe that word choice is the secret that's gonna finally unlock that particular puzzle box. I don't think people are doing this with malice, which is why it's not trivial to solve. But it's a problem, for a lot of people, and if we're talking again about stuff that's problematic in these threads we're gonna talk about that bit again.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:08 AM on October 27 [10 favorites]


But people who leave those types of comments might not feel that "apocalyptic fanfic" describes what they're doing- yet they might understand the harm in what they're doing if people took time to explain it instead of just assuming that it should be obvious to everyone (including people who leave those kinds of comments) which types of comments are being described by the phrase and why they are bothersome.

Fair enough - everyone please tell me what nomenclature you would like me to use for it when I ask you to please stop doing it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:30 AM on October 27


Fair enough - everyone please tell me what nomenclature you would like me to use for it when I ask you to please stop doing it.

From yesterday's Guardian: "Congressional Democrats have introduced legislation aimed at preventing Donald Trump from launching a pre-emptive attack on North Korea, as concerns grew about the administration’s failure to explore talks with Pyongyang."

Are you and other people in this thread, including the OP, asking people to not link to a story like that or not to talk about it in depth? Is that "apocalyptic doomsaying?" Doing so sure as hell wouldn't be "fanfic."

Are you are asking people not to link to or discuss actual stories about actual things that are happening?

Because I would definitely have a problem with that.
posted by zarq at 10:56 AM on October 27


It's Halloween and it has been Halloween for almost a year. Except really it's not so much Halloween as The Day Of The Dead, a day set apart to honor the beloved who have passed on before us, like, you know, the US Constitution and stuff, a day set apart to honor even the false show of the civility and decency which is now long, long dead. The site -- as I see it, as a whole -- the site is caught between grieving the dead, pawing through ashes gone cold, caught between that and hoping that somehow the dead can be brought back.

But that's Easter. Currently, we're celebrating the dead.

~~~~~

If I roll around in those mega-downer-threads hour after hour, day after day, week after week, I'm gonna get charred. Somewhere there is a balance. It is important to know what's going on, it's important to know what's going down. But to roll around in it, it makes me sick.

~~~~~

I wonder if you've ever heard the Steve Forbert song entitled "Thinking". I've thought many times that before entering into any of those Mega-Downer-Threads, it ought be a requirement that we listen to Forbert's song "Thinking." Listen to it, take it to heart as best we can. And then come over to other parts of the site, where there is some sunshine, and where you can give us your sunshine. We need it.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:57 AM on October 27 [2 favorites]


And yeah, the loquacious thing was just sort of an odd situation. I love the dude but he sorta wandered in and Did His Thing in a way that he acknowledged afterward was clumsy.

Oh, hi, I'm the topic of a MetaTalk for the first time (thankfully) in years. Sorry for the extra work, cortex. *looks sheepish*

Yeah, in hindsight I've realized I'm getting my semi-annual or annual equinox allergy-triggered cold and I'm foggier and crankier than I should be and if anyone would like to come over and just smother me with a pillow that would be fine.

As for the pile on I don't really personally care or take it personally outside of the fact that I obviously wasn't as clear I liked. I argue with actual angry morons on the rest of the internet, so MetaFilter is a pleasant and reasonable oasis in comparison.

And I've been operating under the principle for a while now that people are really frustrated and even scared, so I've been making an effort to be calmer and more patient.

The pile-on does bother me as it's generally bad for MeFi and for politics.

And people were right to call me out about the lack of clarity, because I certainly was not trying to imply that political correctness causes racism. It might have been more clear for me to say that racists are reacting and lashing out at it in new and energetic ways.

Or that racism can be taught. It isn't always inherent or a pre-existing condition. That the backlash against political correctness is being used as a wedge to teach and spread racism, not that it's causing it or to imply people shouldn't be politically correct or stop calling out racist bullshit.

Anyways, hang in there, everyone. You are loved.
*hugs*
posted by loquacious at 11:21 AM on October 27 [24 favorites]


Are you and other people in this thread, including the OP, asking people to not link to a story like that

Linking to it is totally fine and makes sense as part of the general mode of adding roundups of links to the thread as a place to collate what's going on.

or not to talk about it in depth?

This comes basically entirely down to what "talk about it in depth" means, because that's where everything gets muddy. Because "in depth" can mean talking about geopolitical ramifications or risk factors in a kind of substantive but coolheaded way. I have basically no problem with that, at least if it's not being returned to endlessly to fill time.

But "in depth" can also mean connecting the dots from "here's an elevated risk factor" to "we'll all be dead within a year, what's the point of anything" or "here's how I see the horrifying hours following first launch playing out" or so on. And that is really exhausting and doomsaying. It's not just having a conversation in measured terms about worrying stuff.

I feel like there is a disconnect here where people who want to have substantive-ish conversations about worrying stuff aren't hearing or recognizing that people bothered by over-the-top or obsessively-recurring stuff are talking about legitimately over-the-top and obsessively-recurring stuff. If you're not doing that, you're basically fine? But also in turn you're not really hearing what we're talking about, the actual not-you problem that I assure you is actually a thing, and so instead you end up insisting that the complaints are invasive or over-reaching when, no, they super duper aren't.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:32 AM on October 27 [14 favorites]


The politics threads have a really big footprint on the site. "One thread every few days" fails to really capture that; it's not some odd discussion happening by the wayside, it's a big chunk of the daily activity and focus on the site.

As another point of view, for a while I read mostly the political threads and not the rest of the site, because that's a part time job. Then I took a break for a while, and when I came back I couldn't even find the political threads. Many times over the course of weeks I scrolled through several pages of the blue to check up on the current political thread and never saw it.

I think it seems all encompassing if you're in the middle of it, but from the outside it's something you might not even notice or think about. It's like living in L.A. or NYC.

Relatedly, I do think that confining politics to megathreads has had a coarsening effect on discourse. If the Jane Mayer piece had been posted as a front page post, then there would have been actual discussion on that article. The megaposts mean that everything is linked to actual clock time, which inherently links things to the (stupid) news cycle.


That's the Politics sub filter dilemma. The thing is, the thread pretty much is a sub site with no organization.
posted by bongo_x at 11:34 AM on October 27 [3 favorites]


But "in depth" can also mean connecting the dots from "here's an elevated risk factor" to "we'll all be dead within a year, what's the point of anything" or "here's how I see the horrifying hours following first launch playing out" or so on. And that is really exhausting and doomsaying. It's not just having a conversation in measured terms about worrying stuff.

Ah. Yeah, I can see the difference. I just want to know exactly where we stand, is all. I post a lot of links in those threads and sometimes they're to stories like that one. Many of us do. Trying to avoid veering down an obsessive 'we're screwed, man. kiss our asses goodbye' take on 'em is fine with me. I just didn't want us to cut off all conversation about things that are actually happening.

I feel like there is a disconnect here where people who want to have substantive-ish conversations about worrying stuff aren't hearing or recognizing that people bothered by over-the-top or obsessively-recurring stuff are talking about legitimately over-the-top and obsessively-recurring stuff. If you're not doing that, you're basically fine?

To be honest, I truly wasn't understanding the distinction. Could very well be my fault rather than other commenters. I read most of this thread this AM in an ER waiting room (everything is okay) and my mind wasn't 100% on it. That's why I put phrased my previous comment as a question.
posted by zarq at 12:21 PM on October 27


I think if (more) people asked themselves three questions (Is my comment supported by a link? Is my comment directly tied to the discussion that's happening? Is my comment consistent with expert opinion?) we'd be able to cut down on lots of evocative and scary comments

Yeah, I try to only chime in when I have a reasonable link or bit of information from a news source that hasn't been posted before, and I try to keep my own tone reasonably levelheaded. I find the threads helpful for keeping track of the news, and they've often kept me abreast of developments or details that I otherwise wouldn't be aware of, but when the threads get really ragey, I often take a break from reading them.

(I would also like it if the weird beat poetry/more incomprehensible snark comments diminished, but equally, I could be less lazy and not look at the threads on mobile where as far as I know, I can't filter the users who do that.)
posted by tautological at 12:28 PM on October 27 [3 favorites]


"here's how I see the horrifying hours following first launch playing out"

We know how that will play out, right?

Chaos and Anarchy and Pain. Ayn Rand reincarnated as Vishnu the Destroyer.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:47 PM on October 27 [5 favorites]


I would also like it if the weird beat poetry/more incomprehensible snark comments diminished

Yes, this.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:51 PM on October 27 [10 favorites]


Dismas' post above:
I don't think that people are insincere when they post that sort of thing, and I know that sometimes that kind of posting is a way of exorcising their own fears. I guess if I had a wish it would be that people are cognizant of negative externalities that are created by those kinds of comments, but I know that there a role for the people posting and also a role for me as a reader, an atomistic part of the community who can't impose my preferences on everyone else.
really nails it for me. Even in this thread, there are many people who are blithely unaware of and honestly don't want to give a shit about the negative externalities of their rage-y/pileon-y/fightey/oversimplifying comments despite many, many pleas from those who are actually affected by them (who are not likely to be the people that those people are actually mad at). On a different scale, this could be shaped by great moderation, but on this scale, at this pace, no human could possibly moderate the entire tone of the discussion (and I wouldn't expect them to). I'm impressed by the job the mods are doing by ruling out the worst of the unnecessarily terrifying stuff and keeping things relatively focused and all but really, at this point it comes down to users each trying to rethink what effect they might be having on the community and on other people (including the people who are not frequent posters but would like to participate, or are lurking, or whatever).

I honestly don't know where to go to find sharper updates on and analysis of what's going on in politics right now. I'm sure those places exist, but no one single media source seems to cover in in enough detail and at the same balance of news-to-analysis and no freaking way I'm moving to twitter. But I really, really struggle with the emotional load of reading the threads - not just because of the load of the news (that's just the world we live in) but the load of the relentless message that one cannot just be informed and acting as best they can, they must also be sufficiently and correctly emotional and must have the exact same opinions on what should happen etc etc to avoid attack and criticism. Maybe that's just how others communicate - I know in other parts of my life I've accidentally come across as criticizing someone when I'm actually just trying to discuss something - but it's tough and it's frustrating.

But I don't control this, this comment won't change anything, and I'm not expressing anything that others didn't do much more eloquently. I'm not the ruler of anything and I'm not the expert on moderation in online communities that the mods are - I'm sure if I were mod, I'd create all kinds of problems I wouldn't forsee, so I don't know what good rules would be even if I could make them. I suspect that the everything will remain as it is, but it makes me sad and somehow even more scared for the future.
posted by mosst at 12:57 PM on October 27 [13 favorites]


As a person with actual real trauma from the catastrophizing/apocalyptic ideation/what's the point of life/whatever we're calling it stuff in those threads and in the news and media at large since it started to become How We Talk About Things I appreciate the mods doing their best in an impossible situation and all the people who are trying to make it a little bit of a safer environment. Even if at this point it's kind of too big of a problem to fix, knowing people recognize it as a problem, and more and more people continue to, is validating for me and I'm sure this is true for others as well.
posted by colorblock sock at 1:52 PM on October 27 [13 favorites]


My trick with the American political threads is to scan the post for links that are interesting. If there are 50 or fewer comments, I scan the comments and occasionally leave one of my own. After 100 comments, I delete it from my Recent Activity. It's the only way to be sure.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:40 PM on October 27 [1 favorite]


octobersurprise, it's not going to be anything like that. Metafilter has entirely different callout conventions now than in 2003!
posted by Sequence at 2:53 PM on October 27


omg yes, I even remove the megathreads I posted from Recent Activity.
posted by lalex at 2:54 PM on October 27 [1 favorite]


y2karl--I-feel asks WWLHD ?

Or should that be WTFWLHD ?
posted by y2karl at 3:00 PM on October 27


And PS, WTFIGHWBD ???
posted by y2karl at 3:02 PM on October 27


I don't usually read politics mega threads. And I'm not sure if this is a new thing or just something I don't like. But in general, I really especially dislike some stuff around politics I see on Metafilter (and elsewhere):

Pile-ons: while perhaps unconscious, it seems clear pile-ons have a performative element in wanting to be seen as politically 'right'. If you can read that something offensive or problematic has already been refuted, why keep piling on? It seems like at least part of the motivation, conscious or not, is to be viewed as The Right Kind of Person.

Assuming the worst: People have different skill levels in terms of expressing themselves, and different backgrounds and knowledge base. While there's been great work in discussing problems like gender inequality in emotional labor and acknowledging tone policing as a racialized problem, especially for those of us with privelege of one sort or another, there's nothing wrong with just being a bit gentle and nice when interacting on an internet forum like this. Sure, I have deep hate for Trump and his minions, and if were to meet Rex Tillerson in person I would spit in his face, but the average commentor on metafilter probably has some ideas worth listening to. And if I really think they don't, I'd like to make some effort to share another way of seeing the world in a way they may be able to receive.

I guess what it comes down to is, yes, we all absolutely need to be engaged in addressing injustice. And the internet is one place to do that. There is a real need for sure. But endlessly flaying the one person on metafilter who diverges in their views or way of expressing them is just not meaningfully addressing social injustice. It is at times performative, at times bullying, but one thing it's not is contributing meaningfully to a more just world.
posted by latkes at 4:43 PM on October 27 [24 favorites]


I'll add that I am probably one of the people who goes to a place of extreme doom, including in my comments here, and I am hearing the feedback in this thread about that and will try to address how I talk about my fears about that here.
posted by latkes at 4:45 PM on October 27 [4 favorites]


I only found this chat about an hour ago, and admit I panicked a bit when I first saw it.

What I didn't see addressed is that there are a lot of vulnerable people participating or lurking in the politics threads. LGBT people, disabled people, visible minorities, financially precarious folks, people surrounded by right-wing Trump loyalists. Metafilter threads are a lifeline to them - and me. It makes me feel less alone, less vulnerable. People do care - and they call their reps and donate money and go to protests and that shows that the resistance is continuing, even if not highly visible in the media.

Having a place to go for broader view of people fighting the good fight, whether personal stories or links - it can be a lifesaver in threatening times. I hope we recognize the huge value of the service these threads do. And I appreciate the moderators who work so hard to make them a safe place. My most recent donation to MeFi was because of this.

So while not everyone may feel the same level of threat, please do not discount the personal experiences of people who are angry and frightened. They need to be heard. And maybe pause a bit on the lecturing on what people *should* do. Everyone is doing what they can.
posted by obliquity of the ecliptic at 5:15 PM on October 27 [23 favorites]


Pile-ons: while perhaps unconscious, it seems clear pile-ons have a performative element in wanting to be seen as politically 'right'. If you can read that something offensive or problematic has already been refuted, why keep piling on? It seems like at least part of the motivation, conscious or not, is to be viewed as The Right Kind of Person.

I agree, and it's too bad that the alt-right types have hijacked the phrase "virtue signalling", because it's absolutely a thing that happens.
posted by Crane Shot at 5:32 PM on October 27 [9 favorites]


I always hear so much about “virtue signaling,” but I don’t think it’s that unbelievable that e.g., a woman might be angry upon hearing a sexist opinion she has heard many times in her life, and piles on because she is furious. I’m clearly not saying it’s a virtuous emotion; it’s not. It often leaves people feeling ashamed or out of control and tired. People can get angry about the wrong things; anger isn’t always righteous. But the persistent myth that oppressed people are “unconsciously” signaling their virtue by being provoked by stupid, provocative opinions (because bigotry is often provocative to its victims, no matter how widespread and naturalized it may be) is itself somewhat provocative and annoying. When I think “virtue signaling,” I think maybe (for example) a man who has never been sexually assaulted (and who maybe has assaulted someone in the past) acting self-important and aghast over rape stats, promising he would never, ever treat a woman that way, something like that. Composed, calculated self-presentation. Something deliberate meant to telegraph one’s good intentions without the need to demonstrate virtue through action. Getting angry and piling on in a heated conversation is so, so different from that.

Certainly people are sometimes performatively angry on someone else’s behalf, but I think it’s less frequent than the accusation. Refusal to believe that people who are oppressed or who have seen oppression are angry and sometimes express anger is tremendously dismissive and odd.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:27 PM on October 27 [15 favorites]


Anyway, my point being that you can believe piling on is an unhealthy community dynamic without accusing the pilers on of being less sincere than you.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:36 PM on October 27 [3 favorites]


It's just that the people piling on are not always members of the oppressed group in question. So while I think it's important people with privilege do speak up too, that is meaningful allyship, it becomes troubling to me when people with privilege dominate a discussion in a pile-on fashion, or there are a group of people responding, all with relatively different relationships to the issue at hand, and some of whom are not directly impacted, which creates a dynamic I find disturbing, and when I find myself participating in such a dynamic, I have to question what is motivating me, and if some of my motivation is to appear to be a good guy.
posted by latkes at 6:40 PM on October 27 [5 favorites]


I hope this is the right place to ask this- what do Americans think of non-Americans commenting in the MegaThreads? I'm talking about people who have no ties to the US whatsoever, like me. Would you prefer us to shut up, or do you like our input?

(I think I've commented twice- once to make a bad joke, and once to talk about how much I liked Clinton).
posted by daybeforetheday at 8:24 PM on October 27


This American welcomes constructive outside comments. I think there is a tendency for US folks to think that the way we do things is the ONLY way to do things, and hearing, "well, no, pretty much everybody else does it this other way, and things seem to work out" can be helpful.

Sometimes there are drive-by comments of basically, "You all need to get your shit together" which is less helpful. Yes, we know, and we're trying to do so, thanks.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:47 PM on October 27 [9 favorites]


I (an American) hope that non-Americans feel free to give input. I'm practically Johnny 5 spilling spaghetti over here.

Much of what I don't like about Thread has been touched on above. Sometimes people go on tirades about how conservatives as a whole are unreachable, irredeemable, insane, stupid, etc. and while I think I understand the emotional center of that sort of comment, I don't think those comments are terribly productive.

There's also occasional hyperbole or maybe extremely... courageous extrapolation that one development or another implies that we are "utterly fucked". No one here knows the future.

Sometimes someone will mention in very oblique or metaphorical language the necessity of destruction and it's unclear whether they are talking about "we need to do actual violence" or just the generic abstract sort of destruction entailed by any change.

I guess I like comments that are specific and either facts or well-supported speculation. (Also jokes.) The screechings of one's raw amygdala probably don't help anyone else.
posted by Jpfed at 8:51 PM on October 27 [7 favorites]


Would you prefer us to shut up, or do you like our input?

Input!
posted by homunculus at 9:07 PM on October 27 [2 favorites]


yes non-Americans, please come in and comment!

only time that's annoying is, as Chrysostom describes, the drive-bys like "HEY STUPID AMERICANS GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER YOU'RE STARTING TO LEAK YOUR SEWAGE EVERYWHERE." which like, I can assure you you're preaching to the choir. It's a very big country and we're doing the best we can.
posted by lalex at 9:09 PM on October 27 [14 favorites]


>yes non-Americans, please come in and comment!
>What I crave is smart discussion of specific political and policy issues, which takes time and focus that are simply not available on political issues on Metafilter.

Linking these two together, I think a lot of non-Americans would like to come in and participate in some specific political and policy issues. We have a bit more distance from the US experience that lets us do that. And hell, some of us have survived or are currently in the middle of dysfunctional steaming shit-heaps masquerading as governments - we have stories to share and perspective to bring.

But my experience has been that it's hard to bring that in because of the kvetching and wailing and rending of garments that is going on in the US politics threads. Really, no-one seems interested in engaging in that discussion in the first place, or only in shutting it down with "everything is terrible and you can't possibly understand". No-one seems interested in taking a detached or alternative viewpoint.

Which is a shame, really.
posted by girlgenius at 10:35 PM on October 27 [11 favorites]


Weekends tend to be a little slower; if you're wanting to post a policy thread with more in-depth discussion, you might get better pickup on the weekends when things don't fall off the front page so fast and the politics thread typically isn't quite as hopping. As a bonus, for the people who get twitchy when the news gets slow, maybe they could go enjoy reading longform articles on policy!

Just, you know, do a good job with the framing so my shift isn't a non-stop tire fire. :)

It can be a little tricky to find good articles on policy that hit the sweet spot where they're in-depth enough to be interesting, accessible to a general audience, of a digestible length, and well-written enough that people stick with it to the end. My observation is that articles on state- or local-level policy things have gotten somewhat more robust discussion lately -- I would guess because Americans can compare the state featured in the article to their own state, people feel a lot more ownership of state-level policies so we tend to have several members from that state who are excited and knowledgeable about the issue, and it's easier to discuss (say) state-level environmental initiatives without falling immediately into Why Scott Pruitt Is The Worst and from there into Trump. Which isn't to say national policy discussions can't be had! Just that I think they're a bit trickier just now, so be thoughtful with your choice of links and with your framing, to try to give the discussion the best possible start.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 11:00 PM on October 27 [5 favorites]


It's hard for me because policy is so bad right now, so seemingly irrelevant. I've consciously avoided posting links about, say, an ambitious Democratic plan to expand the child tax credit and produce major reductions in child poverty, because it just feels like utter fantasy to talk about that kind of thing. There's this crazy disconnect between where people on the left want the policy conversation to be (nationally, not just on MeFi)—stuff like universal healthcare, basic income, affordable childcare—, and where the policy conversation actually is—how many people can we kill by denying them health care and how big of a tax cut do we give corporations and billionaires. We could have a great discussion about how the tax system should work, but it would be so far removed from anything happening in Congress that we might as well discuss our ideal tax plan for the Star Trek universe instead (and hey, if Martok somehow wins NY-23, we'd be extremely prepared).

It's like...I saw Atul Gawande, who I like very much, speak the other night, and he was talking about new models for nursing homes that give residents more autonomy, putting a kitchen at the center instead of a nursing station, all sorts of great stuff. And all I could think was, "it must feel really to inhabit a universe where people can be concerned with innovative design for skilled nursing facilities rather than the one I live in, where we're all worrying how many seniors Congress wants to dump on the streets right now." Everyone's trying to fight the fire, and you're standing there talking about putting in a gazebo.

I want to have better policy discussions too, but it just feels like such a joke nowadays, especially at the national level, where talking through universal healthcare seems even less connected to reality than the apocalyptic fanfic. And keeping up with the day-to-day is so exhausting that it can be hard to summon the enthusiasm for deeper discussions on slow news days, at least for me. That said, if there's a topic you're into, go for it, and it can find its own audience.
posted by zachlipton at 11:33 PM on October 27 [23 favorites]


Zachlipton - please take all my favourites! I appreciate what you do every day, and this comment is so particularly eloquent.
posted by obliquity of the ecliptic at 7:11 AM on October 28 [6 favorites]


It's hard for me because policy is so bad right now, so seemingly irrelevant.

yessss I almost posted two "policy", I guess, news pieces yesterday. One was about Trump deciding to shrink two national monuments and I forget the other. But I hesitated, because it felt like adding one. more. bad. thing. in what's already a sea of enraging and nihilistic policy choices. And I don't know enough about this to even be able to offer valuable comment.
posted by lalex at 7:43 AM on October 28


I think there is an alarming under reaction among the left to a real state of emergency in the world. We are at a nuclear face off. The EPA, already meager in its attempts to heal the planet, is getting swallowed. There is so much hesitation and numbness and Hamlet-like weighing of sides and civility while Rome burns on the left that we perhaps need some urgency, even if it veers into less than civil talk, even if it's not perfectly aligned with provable facts (because the future is not provable.). To me, this doesn't bring us to "their" level. It proclaims the state of emergency felt by many, it shouts DO SOMETHING!! That's an important register and imho should not be cut out by those on the same side.
posted by flourpot at 8:03 AM on October 28 [2 favorites]


The #potus45 threads feel inaccessible to me. I go in and skim, but they've developed their own shorthand and community, and it takes a ton of effort to participate. I'd like to see a daily #uspolitics thread; when it doesn't get so long, I can read most of the comments. The current megathreads cover a lot of territory; more frequent posts could be more specific.

The other issue is civility. As members of a community, we can ask others to not re-litigate primaries, Bernie, was it the sexism, and be civil in threads. We can flag coments and email mods when things are getting messy.

The insults are understandable, but I think Prez Cheeto is an insult based on looks, and it's hypocritical, childish, and ineffective for everything except venting. I prefer to focus on the lies and corruption that this administration is becoming the bestest ever at. Prevaricator-In-Chief, President Pants-on-Fire work for me because it's his behavior that is so heinous.

Dbx, thanks for posting this. MeFi is one of the few civil, thoughtful, interesting places/ communities on the Web, and it takes effort and time to make/ keep it so.
posted by theora55 at 8:05 AM on October 28 [2 favorites]


Is there a feeling that folks have to read the entirety of the megathread to participate? I certainly don't.
posted by lalex at 8:10 AM on October 28 [2 favorites]


The current state of US politics, the violence and overt racism, the actions of this bought-and-paid-for Congress, the vile president, the cheerful disregard for Climate Change, etc., ad nauseum, have me depressed and dejected. Be kinder to each other, we are all carrying this horrible burden, and other burdens besides.
posted by theora55 at 8:14 AM on October 28 [2 favorites]


It shouts DO SOMETHING!! That's an important register and imho should not be cut out by those on the same side.

Shouting Do Something at people who already agree we should do something does not, actually, do anything. Except perhaps make people feel righteous.

Posting something about something people could actually do --- planned protests, action groups, counter-policy proposals, articles on how the Democratic Party could be reformed or what steps it could take to counter Trump, these I think would be the kinds of substantive posts everybody would like to see more of.
posted by Diablevert at 9:54 AM on October 28 [19 favorites]


To be clear, I don't think shouting DO SOMETHING actually does something tangible. I was saying that this level of intense public feeling and expression should be heard.
Nothing is really happening. The typical courses of civil action like planned protests are all well and good but unfortunately don't work quickly enough to keep up with twitter or to deal with this political moment. The intensity of what's really happening right now are sometimes expressed in the fitting registers of intensity -- and when that happens those voices shouldn't be deleted.
posted by flourpot at 10:33 AM on October 28


But it does do something tangible: it increases people's feelings of helplessness, panic, and despair, when most of us already feel like we're drowning.
posted by Lexica at 11:54 AM on October 28 [10 favorites]


Is there a feeling that folks have to read the entirety of the megathread to participate? I certainly don't.

Neither do I. There's too much noise to read everything, so I do a lot of skimming. I do try to make sure I'm not making a double when I post a link by searching for the url and keywords.
posted by homunculus at 12:15 PM on October 28 [3 favorites]


I definitely do ctrl-F searches to make sure I'm not posting a double link, and to make sure I'm not introducing a conversation topic that's been discussed at length, but I don't even skim if I've been away for like, 75+ new comments.

Not that you shouldn't! I'm just saying this for people who feel like they can't participate in the threads without being 100% up to date - don't worry about it, come in, join us!
posted by lalex at 12:38 PM on October 28 [1 favorite]


Tehund reads every comment of every politics thread so you don’t have to. He’s almost up to the election.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 1:46 PM on October 28 [5 favorites]


what do Americans think of non-Americans commenting in the MegaThreads?

I welcome it! I am so curious and concerned about what the rest of the world thinks, how non US people are coping with the global problems the US creates, etc. It makes me feel less globally isolated when I hear someone from other countries commenting or commiserating; to know we haven't all been ostracized or thrown out of the human race for our terrible and harmful choices. When I've traveled out of the country, the kind or sympathetic comments from people in other countries almost bring me to tears with gratitude. Please jump in!
posted by madamjujujive at 1:48 PM on October 28 [5 favorites]


that this level of intense public feeling and expression should be heard

By whom? Screaming about how much you fear drowning to the other occupants of the lifeboat does what, exactly? 99% of metafilter agrees that the situation is dire. They are in it with you. Shut up and row.
posted by Diablevert at 1:57 PM on October 28 [7 favorites]


alt-right types have hijacked the phrase "virtue signalling", because it's absolutely a thing that happens.

'Performative wokeness' is a good synonym that means much the same without imputing bad faith.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:44 PM on October 28 [4 favorites]


To be clear, I don't think shouting DO SOMETHING actually does something tangible. I was saying that this level of intense public feeling and expression should be heard.

It's a big internet. People here are saying that the yelling is hurting them. why not take it somewhere else?
posted by Sebmojo at 2:46 PM on October 28 [2 favorites]


'Performative wokeness' is a good synonym that means much the same without imputing bad faith.

But doesn't the word 'performative' still impute bad faith?
posted by zarq at 3:16 PM on October 28 [5 favorites]


I want to have better policy discussions too, but it just feels like such a joke nowadays, especially at the national level, where talking through universal healthcare seems even less connected to reality than the apocalyptic fanfic.

I hear and sympathize with this sentiment, because fuck me, it's hard to see a way back to even competent governance right now. But, things shift rapidly. No one expected a Democratic supermajority in 2008-2009. I think we got FAR less out of that than we should have, but we got a lot that was unthinkable just 2 years prior. The major parts of the New Deal happened basically in the span of 3 years. Medicare, the VRA, the EPA, and the Civil Rights Act all happened in the span of 5. When hopefully the tides turn again, there has to be a policy vision in place that's been vetted, planned out, with messaging and buy in ready to go, and big changes can happen again very quickly. It's still worth designing and promoting the alternative vision to everything thats fucked in the world right now, or how else are we going to sell anyone on something different.
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:57 PM on October 28 [13 favorites]


zarq: "But doesn't the word 'performative' still impute bad faith?"

"Competitive wokeness" perhaps?
posted by Chrysostom at 9:03 PM on October 28 [1 favorite]


Jesus, performative and competitive both connote bad faith. How about just believing that most people are angry when they seem angry or at least just keeping your personal opinions about their motivations to yourself? It’s a fine thing to gripe about to your friends but there’s really no way to say “hmmm you seem a little TOO concerned about human rights and respect for the oppressed” and pretend like it’s a serious community issue and not just an annoying person. Much like when an annoying coworker tells you you’re recycling improperly or something... go ahead and hate them, but you should probably fix the recycling.

I have seen this destructively competitive/performative/whatever thing like, three times in my life, and I’m not a not irritable person. I get that people can be overzealous at times in defense of people who aren’t themselves but you can just take the correction and let it go, unless they are blatantly wrong. If you’re waiting for a perfect person to call you out it’s not going to happen.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:57 PM on October 28 [13 favorites]


Jesus, performative and competitive both connote bad faith. How about just believing that most people are angry when they seem angry or at least just keeping your personal opinions about their motivations to yourself?

people in this thread are saying the expression of personal opinions is harming them in a small but real way and asking for it to be toned down. if you are telling them to just deal with it that's emotional labour you're demanding they do.
posted by Sebmojo at 12:05 AM on October 29 [2 favorites]


why not just believe what people are telling you about their experiences?
posted by Sebmojo at 12:07 AM on October 29 [3 favorites]


I get that people can be overzealous at times in defense of people who aren’t themselves but you can just take the correction and let it go

This isn’t really about that though is it? My reading of what people are saying here is not that they’re complaining about being called out for transgressions but that they’re suffering from the same anxiety and stress that everyone else is & the endless "the sky is falling! everything is awful!" comments are not helping, they’re making things worse. Frankly, I don’t even think they’re really helping the writer of the comment - these comments often read to me more like the output of sufferers of trauma who cannot help picking at the scab over and over and over again.

These comments aren’t a healthy coping strategy: they’re making things worse for everyone: the writer of the comment is locked in a self feeding cycle of anxiety & outrage that their comments only make worse because they don’t actually *do* anything with the outrage, the reader is left with pile of stress that they can't actually do anything with & the mods are forced to clean up the worst excesses to shield the rest of us whilst coping with all that extra load on their own.

None of this is helping anyone.
posted by pharm at 1:10 AM on October 29 [9 favorites]


Also, I personally feel that the tone of the politics threads is spilling out into the rest of the site in very negative ways & I much preferred Metafilter before the politics threads became a thing. I appreciate that this isn’t the same for everyone & people use Metafilter in different ways & for some of you the politics threads are Metafilter but I would be quite happy if they went away for good: Boot them out into their own slack (if Crone Island can manage, surely the politics stuff can go there too?) and be done with them.
posted by pharm at 1:16 AM on October 29 [5 favorites]

why not just believe what people are telling you about their experiences?
Because phrases like "performative wokeness" and "virtue signaling" aren't about the experience of the listener. They're about the perceived motivations of the speaker. It's completely reasonable to say that it's upsetting to you, the listener, when people say certain things. That's about your experience. When you add "and you're also only saying that because you want to impress people," you're presuming things about other people's experience that you can't know, unless you're a mind-reader.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:04 AM on October 29 [10 favorites]


Well, whatever the motivation, pile ons suck, and at a certain point stop being about a person directly impacted by oppression expressing themselves or about allies meaningfully working to change the world and just become bullying, whatever the intent.
posted by latkes at 7:58 AM on October 29 [2 favorites]


Nobody even mentioned performative ideas until 3/4 of the way down the comments. The performative aspect is not what people are saying is problematic here. It’s right there are the top of the page:
I'm seeing hyperbolic conspiracies, apocalyptic doomsaying, and just generally a discourse that is much less, well, hinged.
It’s this aspect of the discourse that has been elevated to ever greater heights in the politics threads especially & that people (including the mods) are saying is actively making things worse for them.

Metafilter pile-ons combine with the above to make things extra specially toxic for whichever poor sod catches the attention of the whirlpool of generalised anxiety and stress at any given moment.
posted by pharm at 8:04 AM on October 29 [2 favorites]


Ok, well, you might consider that it can also feel like a pile-on when a lot of people are accusing you of "performative wokeness," "virtue signaling," or other phrases meant to signal that you're acting in bad faith. Do you support empathy for everyone, or just for people you agree with?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:18 AM on October 29 [2 favorites]


I think there's a whole sort of thorny ball of stuff wrapped up in what people are trying to find a phrase for that's gonna be hard to unpack without turning into an ongoing fight over intentions vs. motivations vs. effects. So for one thing let's definitely drop the "what label works" question because I think the community dynamic stuff worth discussing isn't about word choice so much as it is about the idea of whether people are doing stuff in good faith. Because the implication of operating in bad faith obviously and understandably bugs the hell out of folks.

My thoughts on some of that, from a mod perspective, regarding stuff that impacts the site in practice:

1. I don't believe the issue on MetaFilter there is usually one of bad faith. Folks are speaking their minds and basically reacting to stuff genuinely. Someone angrily pushing back on a comment is I'm generally gonna assume doing so because they're feeling anger at the comment they're pushing back on.

2. But it doesn't require bad faith to make poor decisions about whether and when and how to comment. Feelings of anger/anxiety/etc that are utterly justified given the state of things can nonetheless interfere with a person's "is this helping?" filter on their interactions on the site.

3. And so we get situations where there's an unnecessary pile-on, or an unnecessarily harsh or hostile rebuke in a discussion, that aren't the result of bad faith motivations but rather of good faith commenting that the commenter doesn't filter as well as they should.

When I see ten people respond to something where a couple responses would do, I think it's mostly a matter of ten individual people all making the decision to respond to A Thing, and the failure isn't in their motivation but in their getting caught up in the moment and not stopping to double check the growing response and consider whether they, specifically, also need to respond.

When I see someone replying really harshly or disproportionately to something, it generally seems totally genuine; the problem isn't one of bad faith but of skipping the bit where they process their reaction first and try to sort out whether how they're commenting in reaction is proportionate to the thread (vs. larger external phenomena).

And those are both things folks could do better on on the site. Folks can avoid being part of a pile-on by being willing to double check a growing tail end of a thread to see if someone else basically got there first. Folks can avoid raising the heat in threads by restraining the heat/volume of whatever sentiment they want to express, or just skipping it if they're feeling overwhelmed and coming back later when they're feeling cooled down.

That stuff is pretty long-running, meat-and-potatoes MetaFilter dynamics. It's harder to manage when shit's crazy, for sure, but we've worked through this stuff before and we'll have to keep working on it individually and as a community.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:45 AM on October 29 [9 favorites]


Also, I personally feel that the tone of the politics threads is spilling out into the rest of the site in very negative ways

I tend to think that any changes in MetaFilter's tone are mostly an effect of the fact that the (heavily American) userbase is more stressed/enraged/despondent/etc. than they were before this atrocious election cycle, not necessarily because we are allowed to talk about politics on the site.
posted by lalex at 11:18 AM on October 29 [3 favorites]


Hi non American here. I've never really been very fond of your country as a political entity. Lived there for a couple of years, glad to leave. Over the years I have met a large number of people I like and admire who are Americans. Its your mess but as we all know the fall out everywhere is huge. I find the political threads fascinating, I hate the rehashing of the election and the inability of some to admit that their chosen messiah has more than a few credibility problems.
From the outside I have always been slightly confused that all of this is such a surprise. The teaparty headbangers and the evangelicals have been steadily on the rise for many years and America has always worshipped at the foot of mammon and anything slightly socialist is considered out and out communism.
I skim the nit picking and petty snappishness and like most people outside your country realize that I am completely powerless while the inmates take over the asylum. I admire those who are actively fighting back rather than just snarking and I wish that there were more and I wish they were more cohesive and effective.
I am hoping that as a global interferer that American foreign power is considerably reduced, far too many of my friends lives have been adversely affected.
Metafilter is still metafilter and there are more non political than political threads until some arsehole drops a one liner and runs. Normally the mods sort that out. The world is more political. The old order is under duress and the political threads from whichever countries shine a light on this which in my opinion is optimal. We live in a political age so maybe the apathy of the past is being chased away.
As to nuclear armagennon, I am old and live far away, but maybe this threat will activate more people to actually take an interest and try and do something both now and in the future.
Metafilter is words, often very interestingly and eruditely put together. I hope it stays that way both on the political fronts and elsewhere.
posted by adamvasco at 5:31 PM on October 29 [6 favorites]


The above seems like precisely the kind of comment at issue here. Whether or not you're "fond" of the US has nothing at all to do with any topic at hand, your distinction between people "actively fighting back" and "just snarking" is exactly what cortex asked people to drop two comments earlier, and the rest is simply incoherent.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:46 AM on October 30 [1 favorite]


Well just to provide an alternate view, I had no problem with the above comment. Criticism is not a problem in my book, nor is distinguishing between different responses to our political crisis. I'm also troubled by the mean-spiritedness of calling the comment incoherent
posted by latkes at 7:07 AM on October 30 [11 favorites]


yeah come on, adamvasco's been here forever, I am Very Aware that he isn't fond of the U.S., it's not a knee-jerk reaction; he is truly concerned about injustice and atrocities in the world, and this is how he writes and speaks. No problem with that comment here.
posted by lalex at 9:22 AM on October 30 [9 favorites]


he is truly concerned about injustice and atrocities in the world, and this is how he writes and speaks.

Well, he didn't include Nazi comparisons this time around. That's an improvement.
posted by zarq at 2:01 PM on October 30


zarq I do apologize I didn't realize you would be so interested in my thoughts otherwise I would have mentioned that one of the more disturbing repetitions of history is that of how traditional and radical conservatives come to speak a common political language—that ultimately benefits the extremists.
posted by adamvasco at 4:57 PM on October 30 [1 favorite]


[One deleted. I don't care at all whatever is between you guys, but it stops now, instantly, or else.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 6:18 PM on October 30


I'd like to see maybe a monthly Political roundup thread. These every couple days posts are.....it's not even the end of 2017, DJT has three more years, maybe more.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 7:47 PM on October 31


it's not even the end of 2017, DJT has three more years, maybe more

This remains to be seen.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:53 PM on October 31 [2 favorites]


I'd like to see maybe a monthly Political roundup thread.

I don't know how to handle the problem of thread length becoming unmanageable on devices.
posted by lalex at 9:12 PM on October 31 [1 favorite]


if you are telling them to just deal with it that's emotional labour you're demanding they do

Yes, emotional labor is intrinsic to positive community dynamics. When did emotional labor go from “unrecognized but vital intellectual and social work that women often do” to “despised thing I should never be responsible for”? The point is that everyone should probably do emotional labor, unless they are intentionally an outcast. But if that is the case, your opinions on what makes a strong, prosocial community are less valuable.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:32 AM on November 1 [8 favorites]


I haven't posted much in the past year or so, though I try to keep up with what's going on in politics. I have been going through a lot of personal stuff with family, and I don't have the time or energy to spare. So, I will skim through, looking mostly for links.
The name-calling doesn't usually phase me, though I think that the political situation has gone so far as to make jokes about it less funny, and more painful.
So, though my comment is not directly about the OP, I use the political threads as a screening tool for political news.

Whatever, I just want to thank the mods. You are the best!!!!
posted by annsunny at 6:25 PM on November 1


Maybe it's just me, but I find the political threads with all their inherent chaff quite a delightful place to offer commentary what with the current state of the internet. I'll stipulate that there has been a recent shift to a more dystopian outlook, but for a ton of people, even on this site, we're in a dystopia. No hypothesizing required.

I'm American. I consider myself moderately politically active, and as I give a shit as to what's going on globally and I consider Metafilter one of the places I can find reasonable, thought out opinions and facts on political and non-political subject matter I'm interested in. Sure, there's a ton of "Orange Cheeto did x today" posts in the politics threads, but I for one am willing to sift through that chaff to get the wheat that is the truly great commentary.

Maybe I'm just getting old. I've been online since the early '80s, this isn't my first rodeo. Yet I keep coming back to MeFi. I can't be the only one.

Nthing that the mods are doing a real stand up job here.
posted by Sphinx at 7:15 PM on November 1 [2 favorites]


re dystopia and speculation about war etc., I thought jessamyn's comment today was right-on:
certainly we must be able to talk about whether Trump is moving the country towards a war, with North Korea any other country.

Realistically, showing concrete links to things that are getting done and saying "This looks bad because of A, B and C reasons." is usually okay. Putting together a whole bunch of speculation and/or terrible sources to tell people to start building bomb shelters or saying goodbye to their families is not okay. I understand that not everyone feels that they can either

- be that dispassionate of a writer, or
- be that dispassionate of a reader

And I would also suggest that people who feel strongly about this meta-topic bring it to this MetaTalk thread.
posted by lalex at 7:38 PM on November 1 [1 favorite]


I think the problem is, for at least some of us, this isn’t speculation anymore. How do we talk about our lives when the things that are happening are terrible already? I am trying to keep my comments light but it is so hard. I don’t think it’s fair to ask that we all be able to be dispassionate about what is happening to us.
posted by corb at 9:09 PM on November 1 [1 favorite]


The sense I get from the threads is that complaining about things actually happening to ourselves, the people we love, or just our fellow citizens is generally considered okay, and even welcome by most. If those comments about real harm being done are being deleted, I'm not noticing it. Furthermore, as jessamyn noted, it's fine to engage in reasonable speculation about how the path we're on is bad, and might be leading us toward even worse outcomes.

The problem, of course, is that one MeFiite's reasonable connecting of dots is another person's nightmare scenario fan-fic, which means there's a large swathe of gray area between justified horror at current events and paranoid conspiracy mongering. There are no agreed-upon standards for which sites/authors are okay to cite when speculating about what else might happen. It'd be great if we had bright line rules to rely on, but once again, it's going to come down to moderator judgement and flagging to arrive at some sort of compromise as to how much nightmare fuel is okay in the threads.

Things really are nightmarish for so many people right now, and we have to be sensitive to folks who want to share their personal stories, but we also have to accommodate people who want to interact with the potus45 threads but can't handle the sort of pessimistic and morbid thoughts that some are sharing about how bad things could get.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:13 PM on November 1


There was another argument about making fun of people's names in the mega thread and it's relevant to my comment above about the underwear rule - Names are fundamental to a person's identity.

Respecting someone's name is fundamental to respecting their humanity. Not even respecting them as a person - but just respecting that they are a person, and their identity is theirs to choose.

I have never once seen someone making fun of a Mefite's username here. Think about why that is.

When you make fun of someone's name, even someone we both dislike, it fills me with distrust, and discomfort. The person you're making fun of is not in the room. But I am.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 7:41 AM on November 2 [4 favorites]


Having just wandered over to the US political threads and taken a look today, I would like to say, fuck me. Metafilter would be much improved if they were burned with fire. Please someone start a spinoff site.
posted by tavegyl at 9:23 PM on November 2 [4 favorites]


In fairness, today was a noticeably bad day.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:24 PM on November 2


Today was a really, really crappy day, and I miss the cake-eating sunshine, lollipops, and rainbow days of Monday.
posted by zachlipton at 9:28 PM on November 2 [1 favorite]


unreliable people on Twitter are spreading rumors about a Flynn endorsement tomorrow. KNOW HOPE ZACH.
posted by lalex at 9:57 PM on November 2


indictment. SIGH maybe today was a bad day.
posted by lalex at 9:58 PM on November 2


That's fine, but it has to happen AFTER I get back from Costco.
posted by Chrysostom at 10:13 PM on November 2 [2 favorites]


METAFILTER: In fairness, today was
posted by philip-random at 12:43 AM on November 3 [1 favorite]


Are comments in the megathreads being deleted well after the fact? Like over a couple hours? Or am I losing my mind?
posted by lalex at 10:23 AM on November 3


Potentially, yeah; flagging can come in late. Most of the deletions in faster moving threads tend to happen closer to the time of original comment just because it's more difficult to effectively get at comments after the fact, but it happens sometimes just like it does in slower-moving threads.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:48 AM on November 3


In lieu of wishing unspeakable harm to others, I'm wishing that access to alternate realities (think the tv show "Sliders") was an option instead.
posted by ZeusHumms at 12:36 PM on November 3


The Guardian had an article yesterday which might be of some relevance to this discussion: Keeping calm in an anxious world.
“Anxiety is conductive,” the designer and anti-Trump campaigner Mike Monteiro has written. “It wants to travel from one person to another person. And, once it sees itself in that person, it feels justified in being in that first person.” Ever since Trump’s inauguration, many commentators have stressed the importance of refusing to “normalise” his dishonesty, bigotry and disdain for the democratic process. Well-intended as this is, in practice it has usually meant normalising the state of being constantly agitated about them instead.
posted by pharm at 8:40 AM on November 5 [1 favorite]


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