BBS Aggression and moderation

There’s been some discussion around the idea of “decorum vs content” and the idea that agressive posts that are otherwise rich in content should remain. I’m a firm believer in the idea that folks don’t have to resort to aggressive rhetoric just because either a) the person you are conversing with has, or b) because the topic is sensitive or emotional.

Just because mocking and ridicule can drive away aggressive or negative commentors does not mean it is something we want to support here. I’ve been here long enough by now that I’m perfectly happy letting my record stand on the fact that I care a lot more about this community than simply enforcing decorum for decorums sake. I’ve tried to be extremely consistent in my actions, and I intend to continue to do so.

Direct insults to other users are never going to fly here. Neither is bigotry. Not even in well-worded comments. :slight_smile:


It’s attempting to fight tribalism with tribalism, and yields regressive kinds of discourse. I think that the “community guidelines” are already nearly perfect - apart from the fact that they are not enforced consistently. By which I mean that nearly all problems of incivility and personal drama are easily remedied by simply not making personal remarks about people. At all. Apart from outright spam or abuse of protected categories of person, this should be the main flaggable offense. Not liking a person or their positions on issues (assuming that one can be said to truly know either) is never an effective excuse to start talking about them themselves, despite how cathartic many seem to find it.

Where this goes wrong -

• Be cool. Don’t post insulting, bullying, victim-blaming, racist, sexist, or homophobic remarks.

Some people seem quick to claim personal insult based upon a person’s views on a topic, or supposed ideological bias. But disliking it is not the same as an insult directed towards your person. That would be egotism, and it is not all about you. If somebody’s views are inaccurate, then explaining why or how does not involve personal insults or remarks. Also, it might take time and patience. And you might need to agree to disagree.

Be Agreeable, Even When You Disagree You may wish to respond to something by disagreeing with it. That’s fine. But, remember to criticize ideas, not people. Please avoid:

• Name-calling.
• Ad hominem attacks.
• Responding to a post’s tone instead of its actual content.
• Knee-jerk contradiction.

Instead, provide reasoned counter-arguments that improve the conversation.

It sounds fairly straightforward, does it not? And every person who participates here is assumed to abide by those axioms. But I think it puts moderators in a difficult position, where if they had to delete 80% of the discussion in a controversial topic upon this basis, there might not be much of a discussion left, and they would be getting annoyed PMs from more members. I wonder if there is some way a forum can self-select with those criteria at the door, rather than need to constantly police for that behavior.

Members seem to often be indecisive about whether we are all “just hanging out” or actually engaging in pointed argumentation. Some of my most frustrating experiences here have been when a few outraged people call me out to “justify” my views upon something that was never explained at much length in the first place - which then leaves others annoyed that some massive digression has occurred. This has often been used as a passive-aggressive tactic where personal accusations are made, but then those who make them withdraw and flag the responses. No one is obliged to engage with anyone else - except arguably when they take it upon themselves to make a public accusation. But if people could resist that temptation and handle it through mods, this would not be a problem. Don’t make personal comments!

Where this gets sticky is that “bad faith” implies a conflict of views, which can be worked on to attain some sort of resolution. So this model of debate/argumentation presents diversity of opinion as something of a problem to be solved, rather than something to be celebrated. Yet most here have neither the stamina nor interest in going through a rigorous argument to arrive some philosophical Truth, they simply have different ideological positions on contemporary social issues. And that in itself can be something worth discussing! A lot of the supposed conflict takes the form of trying to silence others in order to force discussion along certain lines, supposing that somebody else’s different views or framing of a situation somehow preclude you from discussing yours, when they do not, in any way. It’s a purely exclusionary tactic. Because open discourse requires a lot of discipline, and many would rather champion their pet norms and push others for consensus because it is easier, and they feel justified.


One could just as easily ask: “At what point does the decision to take personal offense at one’s views cease to be reactionary?” Sensationalist tactics such as trolling and terrorism are used because people allow themselves to be emotionally manipulated. But therein is also the (arguably) only actionable solution, to not allow oneself to be provoked. It is the basic psychology of dealing with the destructive tantrums of a toddler. You cannot prevent a person from trying to push your buttons - but if you don’t react, then you remove all incentive for them to do it in the first place. That’s not easy. But once you give up and yell at the kid out of frustration, then you have set the counter-productive precedent that YES, they can indeed push your buttons, they can indeed manipulate you into reactionary behaviors.

People claim different kinds of disruption. The claim that a person’s weird perspective on an issue somehow prevents one from criticizing it, or simply stating their own alternate perspective seems to hardly ever be true - at least with BB discourse as I have experienced it. A peculiar claim I encounter often is that a certain framing of an issue may not be demonstrably incorrect in itself, but rather the person decides that it would not be productive to discuss. But what obligation do others here have to further your (or my) preferred perspectives or agenda? People don’t complain that these points are safely ignored, they complain when others engage talking points that they dislike, that others “missed the point” of what they found meaningful/obvious/important about a blog post, and that puts their own egotistic interpretation in a privileged position over open discussion.

In short, ANYTHING can be disruptive by circular reasoning, because our claim that it disrupted conversation is self-proving. So not unlike “I take offense” it makes for an IMO unrealistic benchmark for health of discussion. It leads to no-true-Scotsmaning of participants by some arbitrary ideological yardstick. It happens in US law all the time with the construction of the hypothetical “reasonable person”. Why entertain somebody espousing non-heteronormative morality when they are “literally” a sex criminal? Why let a communist vote when they are by (some) definition seditious? That type of rhetoric is not dependent upon the content! So where I think things on BB get difficult are that people more easily recognize when the tactic is being used against them by those on the right, then when they are using it themselves. And while they may suppose that is just desserts, because it hurts those on the right, it also hurts those further to the left as well. If I had to characterize the political philosophy milieu of BB generally I would say that it tends towards the center left. And while it argues for pulling the overton window towards the left, it is paradoxically outright hostile to those who already are farther left. Probably half out of honest confusion, and half about fear that those views aren’t sufficiently “mainstream” for good optics. I am not complaining about that, as such - merely pointing out that in practice, it can feel a bit hypocritical.

If the only way to get rid of a Bad Faith Poster is to stoop to direct insults, the BFPs have succeeded in destroying civil society.

BB’s BBS is built on the principle that anybody can participate, as long as they’re civil. This is supposed to lead to greater diversity of opinion and more varied discussions. In practice, I can think only of one poster who routinely contributes varied viewpoints - Popo.

Whether or not the principle works in practice…


Well, I do try. S/he/it just does it better than me.

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Well, the new Muting script you kindly offered the users and admins of this BBS can fill in the rare instances here where it doesn’t work.


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