Letter to twelve rabid weasels

Seen from the lofty perspective of history, anything that isn’t a revolution may look like smooth, gradual change, but from the point of view of individuals history can be a series of monumental struggles. Like enduring a dozen years of continual sniping from old white guys with sexist-grandad syndrome for the sin of being president (of SFWA) and female, then waking up one day and realising that you don’t have to take that crap alone any more.

You hellban her – that is, you sequester her with other old racist folks who can all hang out all day together and talk amongst themselves about how the mud people are the cause of all their problems, without poisoning tender young minds. That is the real risk of Racist Grandma, that some kid would hear grandma ranting her nonsense and start believing it and propagating it into the future. But kids are usually smarter than that; they learn early to distrust old people. Can’t say I blame them.

Incidentally, that’s also what you have to do with communities that have these kind of schisms. The angry, hateful people get banished and have to go found another community where being angry and hateful is an acceptable behavior. Kind of depressingly Lord of the Flies, but that’s sort of how they like it, unless you believe they can be reformed.

(I got a lot of flak for this, but we studied stormfront.org as part of our forum research and it is really fascinating to me that the racists have comprehensive, coherent, detailed rules about not being dicks to other racists.)


Couldn’t agree more, but generally a series of monumental, largely personal and largely absent from the public consciousness struggles. A SFWA spat may make waves where it will matter but it isn’t close to being even local TV news. Now I know that sounds like I’m disagreeing with you but I’m not. I’m probably closer to your thinking that it appears and I only stepped into this debate because people were, in my opinion, making ill-advised, hyperbolic declarations.

And that’s me out of this discussion because otherwise it’ll just be me and a bunch of folk passive-aggressively agreeing with each other until it all ends in a blood feud.


Oh, no! People agreeing with each other!? Where will it end? :wink:

I know what you mean, and it feels hard not to give some leeway to the snowcaps, but the fact is (1) they’re still being racist, always were, just nobody did anything, and (2) they’re contagious, and love nothing more than to attempt immortality by infecting young minds.

My own parents sent some round robin email critical of Mexicans, some pseudo-comedy racist content thing. I called them out on it, told them simply from the title of the email I knew it was for the bin. They declared “but we didn’t find anything wrong with it!”, and I let them stew in that soup for a while, then asked politely that they not send me anything else similar in the slightest.

Their grandkids are half Chinese. I pointed out that when they forward on another round-robin making fun of Chinese people, it’s not going to be good for anyone’s relationship.

Old? Used to being a bigot? Tough cheese. No-one alive today in the developed world grew up unaware of major cultural events like Abe Lincoln, the Civil RIghts movement, and so on.

The trick to not being an old bigot is to constantly refresh and invigorate your thinking - never stop. Not till your last synapse fires its last pulse.


“these people are poison.” - Here Here!

the sooner we find a way to banish or at least declaw these people the sooner the internet becomes the universally glorious utopia we occasionally believe it to be.

that said, i always appreciate one troll on a forum, keeps the skepticism sharp.



In what way does Discourse handle trolls?

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Thanks for the effort - laudable intent.

Where’s the “ignore” button on profiles? As individual participants, we should be under no obligation to get shouted at by any particular troll’s user ID more than once.

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Assuming that Niven/Pournelle et al are obnoxious trolls just because you dislike their politics is ridiculous. Consider that the offenders are less than 1% of the members of the SFWA … you really think the first big names you can think of are the guilty parties?

Your links provide one example of actual academic work related to small teams, and another piece of anecdotal evidence along the same lines. I don’t see how this is directly relevant to trolls/griefers in online communities. I’m not sure the problem really needs a new solution beyond community moderation, anyway - Slashdot and reddit being examples where people who are deliberately obnoxious are easily rendered invisible (reddit has another layer of moderation as well, I’m aware). Granted those systems have the problem of muting unpopular opinions as well as (or even more than) deliberately hostile ones…

I knew I’d heard the term “rabid weasels” before:


Just a heads up. If we’re talking sensitivity here, “lynch mob” is often not the best term to use. If you care about such things.


Make sure your children are never alone in the same room with her, and in her presence as little as possible in general.

Oh, you didn’t mean literally?


Reading through these comments, I think some folks saw Gattaca as a story about a beautiful utopia ruined by a few inferior troublemakers.


I’m not Jeff, but take a look at this piece about Discourse and Mathew Ingram wrote a nice piece on trust metrics, heavy on Discourse discussion.

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As an old (Social Security/Medicare/trifocals/bad knees-qualified), white, straight, middle-class man, it may be impossible for me to make a comment without being seen as engaging in some kind of generational/entitled-class mansplaining, but–

This it-will-be-better-when-the-old-farts-die stuff strikes me as an unlikely and, if I might put it more strongly, unreflected-on notion. One of the things that being old (and not yet senile) has taught me is that the assholes we have always with us. I have plenty of contemporaries who are not assholes, who do not harbor asshole attitudes, who occupy and articulate political positions to my left and right without making asshole arguments. And I encounter (on line mostly, thanks to the way I run my social life) plenty of younger folk who behave in spectacularly assholey manners. Some of their assholery is even located to my left (and I’m an old lefty), though that’s a minority condition.

I’ve observed on-line behavior since you needed an acoustic coupler to do so, and what I’ve seen is not different in quality from what I saw in other social settings my whole adult life. It is, however, different in visibility, which means that it’s harder to avoid. In 1968, there were bars where a guy like me would not enter, let alone start an honest conversation. When I worked blue-collar jobs, there were topics I didn’t participate in, groups I didn’t hang out with at lunch.

Now any unmoderated forum can draw the attentions of badly-socialized loudmouths with many of the traits of the schoolyard bully, and it’s hard to figure out how to make such spaces comfortable for those who would prefer not to have their conversations derailed, dominated, and generally made unpleasant by resident or drive-by assholes. In the old off-line, real-presence world of, say, the corner tavern, the response to an offensive loudmouth might be for the host to throw him out or for an offended patron to kick the shit out of him. There’s also the military tradition of the blanket party. Of course, the latter mechanisms depend on the kind of primate/guy social machinery that I have spent my life avoiding, and in any case I’m not sure what the virtual equivalents would be.

By the way, just to reinforce my proposition that this is not a new thing under the sun, as clever and apt as the shitting-in-the-cornflakes phrase is, there are much older metaphors for this process: the turd in the punchbowl, and (one I learned from my father) “who pissed on the campfire?”

BTW-II: I regret to acknowledge that almost all the really satisfying terms of dismissal or scorn have the potential of offending someone in a non-trivial way. I once made a list of as many non-ethnic/gender/sexual-preference putdowns/insults/denigrating labels as I could recall, and many of them would be seen as being hurtful to some innocent class. As a lifelong bespectacled, unathletic, bookish dweeb who has been the target of much verbal assholery, I may have such a thick skin that I don’t notice such things. I suppose part of our social evolution must be to find ways of expressing scorn without injuring innocent bystanders.


It reads a bit like ‘we’re gonna do it, but we’re not sure how yet.’

I do like the StackExchange model of gradually giving someone more edit/moderation rights, but I’m not sure if that would apply well to a forum.

One other thing I’m curious about is how to handle groups of users behaving badly. Or even two groups of users who think the other group is behaving badly.

I was a little appalled at the ageist comments on this thread, and how many positive ratings they were getting.

I wonder if the tendency on BoingBoing to react positively to bigotry they like, will lead to the trust metric being skewed. As a Midwesterner whose hair has already started turning white, I have a feeling I won’t be allowed to comment after a few months.

Oh, well, it’s an improvement to the ban-everyone-the-moderator-doesn’t-like model they’d been operating under.

If they are serious about their racism(and they certainly seem to be) that’s actually to be expected: being assholes to ethnic undesireables is the most visible trait(and often one of the few life skills that rank-and-file racists actually have to any significant degree); but it’s really a fairly minor part of the theoretical Overarching Plan, which requires actually having an (ethnically homogeneous) society worth living in, ‘a future for white children’ and all that(this is presumably the same reason that they have aryan dating websites).

Various sorts of deeply abrasive and/or overtly violent behavior are accepted as part of excluding The Other; but they aren’t dumb enough to think that that sort of behavior is going to build them their whitebread utopia after it has driven the undesirables out.

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