Is a call for a beatdown an appropriate response to bad taste? January 16, 2001 6:33 PM   Subscribe

I'm curious about the etiquette issues involved in today's thread about teen sex. Aside from the issue of the tastelessness of this joke, what is the relative appropriateness of the suggestion that someone should commit violence upon the joker? Is a call for a beatdown an appropriate response to bad taste?

posted by redfoxtail to Etiquette/Policy at 6:33 PM (26 comments total)

Personal attacks should not occur at any time on mefi, unless it's Matt doing the attacking. That is one of the reasons i like Metafilter, most people remain civil most of the time, no matter what the topic of discussion.
posted by Zool at 7:21 PM on January 16, 2001

My take on it: I thought the original joke was obviously a joke. Maybe that's because I know Lileks has a new baby, and because I made and heard similar jokes when I had a baby daughter. It's different when it's coming from a total stranger called "UrineSoakedRube," I'm sure. Either way, I think there should be a principle of charity involved--when people say something that *could* be taken badly. . . you don't. Especially when it's someone who has some history, and hasn't given any evidence of being a jerk.

I couldn't help but feel that the response was a little extreme. It was a gaffe; let him who has never committed one cast the first stone. There was a whiff of leaping to Lileks' "defense," like he's "one of us" and USR wasn't, quite. I understand the urge, but it briefly threw the insider/outsider status of things into sharp relief. You could see that USR was aware he crossed the line too, and went to some length to apologize. It's the exact opposite of the trolls we've been seeing lately, who don't really care what anyone thinks.

(And James isn't a newbie. He can speak for himself if he thinks it's necessary.)

posted by rodii at 8:01 PM on January 16, 2001

The joke may have fallen flat, but it was still a joke. The suggestion to kick his teeth in didn't sound like a joke.
posted by pnevares at 8:38 PM on January 16, 2001

I only heard about what was going on after the fact. Someone let me know what was going on and that it was in very bad taste. So that probably colored my reaction. I saw it as a pretty stupid thing to say, and it seemed to creep James out.

A threat of kicking someone's teeth in on a website doesn't seem like a real threat to me, but it's totallyl uncalled for and over the top.

But what should I do about it? Should I delete every comment in that thread that came after the Rube's post?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 9:39 PM on January 16, 2001

Could you just put in a '[response deleted]' line in there where the post was?
posted by aaron at 10:25 PM on January 16, 2001

The someone I meant was lileks himself. I would have said "If I were lileks, I would make you eat your teeth", but lileks had already responded, and clearly was not going to take that direction, and I did not think it my place to mention his name. It did not occur to me that anyone would have any problem with my response, as I thought it was fairly impersonal, especially in reply to what I took to be the ugliest personal attack I have ever seen here. It did not seem like a joke, USR was referring to a specific baby, and went so far as to show us a picture of the very baby he was talking about. If I had a baby, and someone perverted the intent of my pictures, they would find my skin very thin indeed. I suppose the proper thing would have been not to post at all, please consider it a rare act of empathy, sure to be never repeated again.

I don't know anything about lileks, I certainly was not protecting one of my pals. Had the roles been reversed my response would have been the same. I think it really sucks that the man was moved to take down a page of his website over this. Who was damaged the most in this transaction? My money is on the father.

If I helped pollute the environment around here, I apologize. That apology would not extend to USR to whom I thought I gave an honest reply. He gave as good as he got, and I do not see him in any way as being a victim. I think he apologized nicely, and he and I wound down any friction that was lingering between us. I would have no problem seeing my posts on the subject given over to the ether.
posted by thirteen at 11:29 PM on January 16, 2001

Time to put something in the guidelines to the effect that, “Metafilter requires more decorum than most internet discussion forums.”
posted by capt.crackpipe at 12:52 AM on January 17, 2001

I'm with thirteen. Delete the posts, close the thread. It won't take away the nasty taste from seeing it, but it'll save others from doing so. Leave no trace.
posted by holgate at 1:41 AM on January 17, 2001

Posts deleted (I accidentally snarfed up yours too redfoxtail, sorry!).
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:50 AM on January 17, 2001

That's fine; it was mostly solipsistic academic musing, anyhoo, and it sure wouldn't have made sense without the posts that went before.
posted by redfoxtail at 5:01 AM on January 17, 2001

1 vote for overreaction and overblown.
posted by rushmc at 8:21 AM on January 17, 2001

Dang! I missed it! What was the joke?!
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:46 AM on January 17, 2001

Miss a day, miss a lot.
posted by thirteen at 8:52 AM on January 17, 2001

Not even a day, it was less than 12 hours :)
posted by pnevares at 10:05 AM on January 17, 2001

I found the post "If I were lileks, I would make you eat your teeth", honest and well-meaning in the heat of the moment.

The post by USR struck me as being incredibly tastless. If it had been directed towards me or my family, I would have appreciated the above comment. In fact, I did appreciate it.

The only problem with the removal of posts is that it confuses new users. The only way we have of knowing what people are like, who's comments aren't worth the time, and seperate the stirrers and brain-dead from the interesting and reasonable is by their user history. For this reason, unless Lileks had requested as much, I would have left the comments up.

Otherwise, it puts people who aren't in the "in" crowd at a real disadvantage. There's no one I can email for clarification if a heap of posts have mysteriously vanished.

posted by lucien at 12:08 AM on January 18, 2001


I don't understand the possible confusion. That's what MetaTalk's for, that's what this thread's for. Wander through the archives a bit, there's tons of "Hey, what happened to these posts" and Matt answers.

There's an "in" crowd? Damn, I think my memo machine's on the fritz again.

The reasoning behing every move Matt's made has been explained time and time again.
posted by cCranium at 5:41 AM on January 18, 2001

Thanks for the response cc.

I’m sorry I didn’t make clear the “possible confusion” I have re-read my note, and I’ll try and express my meaning in a better way so that you can deal with my ideas (such as they are) rather than try and work out what exactly it is I mean.

I think that new users do a lot of re-reading of archival notes, and that the more notes that are removed, the less chance they have of understanding what people are like. If they get a bit of an off comment from someone, and they can see that other people have had the same experience in the past, they will probably just choose not to respond to it, rather that engaging in a flame or whatever, which is probably exactly what the poster intends anyway.

Yes, there are some comments up here about what occurred. I have re-read them. I don’t think that they give a clear idea of what occurred to a person who wasn’t there.

“There's an "in" crowd? Damn, I think my memo machine's on the fritz again.”

Well ok, I know it sounds lame but I didn’t come up with the idea. If not in this thread, it’s mentioned several times in other recent metatalk threads that deal with the difficulties of retaining old users and gaining new users who have something real to contribute. As I often browse with more than one window open, I may have taken the quote from a totally different thread and should have been more clear about that. I don’t know anyone here, and given that I haven’t spent much time here, don’t expect to. It’s intended as a fact, not a whinge.

“The reasoning behing every move Matt's made has been explained time and time again.”

Yes. I was just responding to a question about what should be done here, and extrapolating it to the wider picture. It doesn’t seem unreasonable for me to give my opinion at least once (or twice, as I didn’t make myself clear the first time, and I apologise for that) No matter how many times Matt has explained it, and I have read the archives here, I still think that I should be able to put forward my point of view. I wasn’t asking a question, I was responding to one.

I don’t mean to blow this out of proportion, I don’t have a big issue with notes being removed (particularly if one has a legal obligation to do so, which I assumed wasn’t the case here, or the query would not exist) I am not against moderation, some of the best communities I have been a part of have been moderated.

I just wanted to ask, what would happen if you left the notes up? Do you lose more than you gain by taking them down? I haven’t formulated a strong opinion, but I feel that as a reasonably new user I appreciate being able to read people’s histories, and if notes are removed, I find it more difficult to do that. As an added point, I feel more on the outer from the community, when I am not able to understand fairly clearly what is going on, or add my opinion.

Just because topics may have been talked to death in the past, doesn’t mean that your newer members have had a chance to give some input on them, that the future of metafilter will always be determined by the first few people who logged on (ok, I know matt determines what happens, but he seems like a nice guy, who asks for feedback from his users) Assuming that they just haven’t read the archives, isn’t very helpful imo. They may have read the archives, and just wish to give their opinion when asked.
posted by lucien at 2:43 AM on January 19, 2001

lucien, thank you for clarifying your point, and it does make a lot of sense.

I'm going to sneak this in here, since it's somewhat related. Over the past week or so I've been slowly trying to compile common questions, concerns and issues of Metafilter into an Unofficial Metafilter FAQ. I think it's the best way for new users to really get a feel for what we, as Metafilter users, expect.

There's a very rough XML file at (excuse the self-link :-) that has what I've currently put into it. I would love to hear suggestions as to what should be included. Everything from technical questions (like the earlier "What HTML works on MetaFilter?" to silly little quirks about the site that define it's character, like Mo's Law of Poorly-timed Levity.
posted by cCranium at 8:01 AM on January 19, 2001

(I was testing the link and noticed that my site doesn't seem to be responding to requests right now. So if it doesn't work for you, but you have suggestions, just e-mail them to me, they'll all get included.)
posted by cCranium at 8:03 AM on January 19, 2001

I think Lucien makes a lot of sense.

Thirteen, I feel as if my comments above sounded harsh at you. I didn't mean them that way. I was explaining my gut reaction to the incident, as a joke-gone-sour and a sharp reaction. that happens all the time, here and in real life, and someone apologizes and it blows over. It's that special edge to online communication that makes it into something stronger. I didn't hear what you said as a call for a beatdown, just a way of expressing your anger. Sorry if I sounded like I was getting on your case.

There *is* an in-crowd effect here, I think. When someone like thirteen says something, who's an established voice and a contributor who many of us like, I think there's a tendency to automatically give slack. When it's a relative unknown with a crass name, less slack is forthcoming. If, say, holgate started talking about "sodomites," my satire detectors would be engaged and I would start trying to figure out the subtext. When some unknown does, I just go "ugh" I don't think I'm a total outlier on this, am I?

> There's an "in" crowd? Damn, I think my memo machine's on the fritz again.

Well, no, there's a simpler explanation. :)

posted by rodii at 1:37 PM on January 19, 2001

rodii: I don't think that's so much an "in crowd" as it is active posters. I don't know. In crowd just spanks of elitism, and that's really and truly not what people who post regularily are about.

I mean, there may be a degree of slack given, I can accept that argument, but generally speaking there's indication of that intent. Like, actual visual indication, be it a smiley, or a <grin> or [sarcasm] pseudo-tags or whatever.

Joining the community is like meeting with a group of people in real life. It's very rare that you (generic, not you rodii) would wander up to a group of people and listen to them chat. If someone else wandered up and insulted them and they laughed, you (again, generic) certainly couldn't suddenly burst in and say "Wow you people are all crazy bastards HAHAHA!" and expect them to slap you on your back and say "Good one, man, lemme buy you a beer!"

Online communities aren't all that different from real life, and I think one of the faults of people who irritate members of an online community (and I'm not talking about USR here, I'm more referring to the rash of trolls in early december) is that they don't consider the fact that there are real people on the other end of the wire who are here for a specific purpose.
posted by cCranium at 2:10 PM on January 19, 2001

OK. I don't think that we're in disagreement on this, really.

But wait. . .

It's very rare that you (generic, not you rodii) would wander up to a group of people and listen to them chat.

Are you saying it's NOT rare that I would do this? I think I'm insulted. :)
posted by rodii at 2:26 PM on January 19, 2001

heh. Yeah, well, I guess you caught me. I've seen you snooping around those places with the 3000 people chatting away, bursting in and shouting insults.

Oh yes, you thought you were being subtle, but you aren't.

I agree that we're not in disagreement, I think we're just expressing it differently. Mostly I just don't like talk of in-crowds or a-lists.
posted by cCranium at 7:22 PM on January 19, 2001

rodii: I took no offense to anything you wrote. I think keeping this forum polite is a noble goal. I think we are fortunate to have this breakdown lane to pull over to and sort things out.

I will say that my heart sank when I saw my post flagged here. I stand by my sentiment, but think it was a useless expenditure of goodwill on my part. Reading over some of my old posts, the only ones that I wish I had not posted were of the "hey guys, break it up" variety. Matt has clearly demonstrated that he has a cleaner way of dealing with ugliness. I will leave the job to him.

Also, thanks to lucien for his support of my explosive anger.
posted by thirteen at 10:37 PM on January 19, 2001

Politeness is for sissy civilized people. Good barbarians care about kindness, which is a much higher thing to aim for. I never doubted the essential kindness of your responses in the MF thread.
posted by rodii at 2:26 PM on January 20, 2001

Damn; I completely missed the fun.

I will note here that those who consider USR *not* to be a regular poster haven't been paying as much attention as they might... and I've been, to date, very impressed with the thoughtfulness of his posts, classing them personally with SDB's, which is to say, half a notch above my own.
posted by baylink at 12:02 PM on January 25, 2001

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