First, I want to make something clear. It has been standard site policy for a long, long time now that forcibly "outing" other posters -- referring to them with any information that identifies them, if they don't want to be identified, or attempting to do so -- is an instantly bannable offense. I don't know if an admonition against that behavior in the FAQ or not, but I'd be damn surprised if it needs to be. I don't care what someone's interest in being anonymous might be, and it doesn't matter. There have been several recent occurrences, and to say that there is literally zero tolerance for it wouldn't be expressing the policy forcefully enough.
Second, I want to get into an argument. Or rather; I want to skip abuse, head into the argument, and if possible have us all avoid the getting-hit-on-the-head lessons altogether. If I know this site and the progressive movement in general, we're a day or two off from being due for some damn good live-and-let-live diaries to try and bring people back together. Before then, I'm going to put some medicinal leeches on this wound, and see if we can't guide the eventual results into something better than what we had before.
Here's the thing. I'm tired of aggressive, controversial posters complaining about aggression and controversy. I'm tired of posters lambasting others for being sexist, then jumping into their sexism pool with both feet the next time they feel like it. I'm tired of posters telling us that characterizing people according to their generation is wrong-headed and offensive -- then telling other posters that the only reason they don't understand that is because of their crap-headed generation.
I'm tired of Kos or prominent diarists absolutely crucifying the DLC at every opportunity, to much consternation from others, only to have numerous posters opine mere days later that they are possibly paid operatives for the DLC or for right-wing interests because only an operative could make statements that disagree with your own personal thoughts on matter X, Y, or Z. Are you serious?
No offense, purity testers and halo-wearers, but MetaJesus is coming to kick your ass.
What we need around here -- and by that, I mean all progressives, not just on this site, but everywhere -- is a big, heaping bowl of Get The Flying Hell Over Ourselves.
I then took words from that diary, characterized their meaning in accordance with my own understandings, and used it as a general jumping-off point for my own opinions. This was also a good and perfectly fine thing... unless, hold the phone and prepare the TiVo, you're on the disagreeing side. Then it's a heartbreaking attack; a terrible manipulation; an unfair extrapolation.
Yes, I know. Funny how that works.
Now I'm going to do it again.
Here's one response I got yesterday. Out of a sense of basic fairness, of course, I'm not going to identify the poster. But I am going to use it as a drop-dead clear example that everyone might actually understand of what I'm going to be talking about.
watch out for the swinging dick
It's ironic that you use your privileged front pager status to respond to a diary that had to be recommended by many to gain any substantial readership at all. You're no better than the SCLM that has to include a nutter to "give the other side" of every fact no matter how commonsensical it happens to be.
Your post is a classic case of the stubborn insistence to maintain masculine and male domination on dKos. I can't decide whether I'm reacting so strongly because of my annoyance at your incorrigibility or a painful sense of fardo.
Oh. look. Here come the pledges earnestly shouting, "thank you sir, may I have another?"
Fortunately, the majority of readers are intelligent enough to recommend diaries like the one you undemocratically responded to, using your bully pulpit (and I do mean bully) to beat it into everyone how you fratboys really aren't that bad.
And for completeness, my response, so you get to yell at me too:
I'm sorry that you feel that way,
but somehow I doubt that a poster of the high caliber of the one I linked to, in a highly recommended diary, is being unnecessarily picked on by another poster on this blog answering back. Yes, even if it's a frontpager entering the debate.
This is all about me being a man? With a "swinging dick"? Imposing "male domination"? A "frat boy", no less?
I'm sorry, but if -- no, when -- male posters posted such utter sexist nonsense against a female poster, you and forty other posters would be writing deeply offended diaries in every progressive blog from here to whatever about the obnoxious, bigoted men, and how they can't have a single conversation without devolving into grunting sexist imagery, and patting yourselves on the back for your conversational evolvedness. You and I both see it happening.
So I don't have to feel sorry for you when you do the same exact thing you accuse others of. I'm not going to be impressed when not one of the people who is so concerned about sexism and civility calls you out on it, and is instead shocked -- simply shocked -- that with calls of "swinging dicks" and "frat boys" you don't get to play the sexist-hounded victim.
I'm sorry, but if you're honestly that unserious about the whole issue, you can't honestly expect the rest of the progressive blogosphere to lick your wounds for you.
Fine, there, whatever. Now both sides of the argument are steaming, right? Oh my God, mild-mannered Hunter responded crossly. Oh my God, someone said "dick". Oh my God, he's using a specific recent example to make a broader point about the transparent hypocrisy of the perpetually offended. Oh my God, he actually recognized that there are people on the planet who spend their time being perpetually offended. Oh my God, a blogger had the audacity to be irked about something -- only I have that right! Oh my God, he said "God", like, seven times in a row!
I'm glad both sides are sitting up in their chairs, now. But now comes the productive part of the discussion. Posts like the one I cited, above?
I'm sick of them. From all sides.
Hopefully, the sexism, noble self-puffery and self-righteous indignation of that particular "swinging dick" post, since it was directed at men, is something the men in the audience can finally actually understand as an example. Right? Get it now? So now use that example -- if you do that level of thing to a woman, here, you can expect to get called on it. If not before, then starting right now. And vice versa, and in all debates, among all parties, about all similar over-the-line invective.
We have an imperfect but effective tool here for telling people what is and isn't acceptable behavior. It's the rating system. And as a shocking experiment, I'm going to encourage everyone to use it.
If you see a post that is pointlessly ad hominem, rate it a two. Women: if you see a particular post as unintendedly sexist, rate it a two. Men ditto, for that matter. Don't leave everyone guessing about which mysterious offensive posts you're talking about, in this forest of sexism and bigotry that supposedly clouds every mind but the most pure and noble here. Mark them, so that others can begin to see the offensive behavior you're talking about, and correct it.
Deeply and intentionally offensive posts, of course, should always rate a one (or zero). But two is a fine rating, in and of itself. A "two", unlike a one, isn't a reduced enough rating to affect someone's trusted user status much. That makes a "two" a fine rating for saying to someone, I don't think you meant to be sexist, or meant to be offensive, but it definitely came out that way.
And let the poster know why, if necessary. Politely.
And if that gets known as the "Hunter Two", then fine -- I'll be a happy camper.
Now, here's the problem. If you're going to start rating people more quickly for ad hominems and unintended sexism, as I think we all need to start doing, you better make sure your outrage meter is tuned properly. Because if you're one of those very few people that are offended twenty times per day by things that nobody else can fathom, guess what -- I'm trying to get rid of you. Not because I don't value you as a person, but because I don't value you in our coalition. I don't have enough time in the day to keep you happy, if you're intent on being pissed off. If your single-issue is "look at me, and be impressed with my halo of righteousness", then forget it.
Whether it be "single-issue" fights, or sexism fights, or Nader fights, or "hippie" fights, I have news for you -- I haven't seen anybody who gets to wear that halo. Not a damn person, on any of the sides. All I see, at the point when a conversation becomes an argument, is a bunch of people declaring that their sex, or generation, or issue deserves more respect than any other, and the other sex/generations/issue people don't deserve the same. With nine-tenths of the site rightly staying the hell out of it, I might add.
So if you're going to start giving Hunter 2s, meaning "can we please not post this stuff here?", you'd better have your outrage meter tuned waaaaaay down. If you're giving more than a few a day, turn it down again. If you're rating the same poster more than once in a blue moon, look upon yourself with deep suspicion. This is one circumstance where I, for one, am going to be looking at both the posters and the raters, and trying to figure out where the problems actually lie.
Here's the next thing on the list, something I'm calling people out on. I'm especially sick of the posters most responsible for aggressive, mean-spirited attacks being the most self-righteous when they themselves are treated in similar fashion. You don't like someone else's tone? Then you need to figure out if maybe they're responding to you in kind. Because I've never seen a fight here in which one side was dishing it out, and the other was meekly taking it. The same posters, time and time again, are responsible for the same attack threads. Then, surprised, they bleat about their injuries.
No. If you post a controversial thread, and are met with controversy, you don't get to act hurt and astonished. If you post a mean, divisive comment, you don't get to be outraged when someone responds back in kind.
With great regularity, to give an off-site example, I visit other sites with connections to DailyKos. And with great regularity, I run across diarists who post strongly opinioned threads to both that site and this one, and comment about eagerly waiting to see the differences in response on the two sites. Will they get to be offended? Sometimes. Sometimes not. Luckily, the experiment is repeated often enough that there's always something, at some point.
Here's the thing. Let's suppose you get two divergent response threads. You want to know why that happens? Because the community interactions of ten thousand are not the same as the community interactions of a heavily-self-selected few hundred. You haven't invented the phenomenon, you haven't proved your own group's noble self-enlightenment, and you haven't discovered anything but that self-selected groups agree with each other more often on the topics specifically of their own choosing.
It's a game, a kind of online Munchausen by Proxy. Oh, look how rude everyone else is -- I think I'll start throwing punches and see what happens! Oh no, I've been hit! Pity me, everyone!
No. No dice. You can have your Fortresses of Pissitude if you want, but don't think for a moment that the rest of us find you as impressive and enlightened as you find yourself. Don't post here with the eager anticipation of getting to have your feelings hurt.
Betcha that quote ends up somewhere, in precisely one of the cross-posted threads I'm talking about.
And you know, that's precisely one of the problems, with the current progressive Democratic movement. We demand aggressive, unafraid, in-your-face leaders.
But at the same time, if someone is being that aggressive, in-your-face leader that we worship, and accidentally goes over a line or steps on the wrong toe, a great many of us declare that person finished, and opine at great length about how we will never, ever trust them on anything again.
Gee, can anyone guess why they might be a bit skittish? Exactly what kind of leaders do you think you're going to get? Which ones have we been getting? And why do you think the entire DLC strategy is predicated on their candidates holding their breath, smiling, and for the love of God not saying anything of substance?
You want cowards, you've got cowards. You want fighters, figure out how to back them up even when they slip in the bathtub and break a rhetorical tooth or two.
I don't like playing policeman. I'd rather spend 3,000 words, say, pondering what a cross-Nevada drive and a visit to the lights, dust, heat, sin, chaos and concrete of Las Vegas can teach about America. But I see my job as doing both, and damn it, sometimes I have to put on the hat I don't want, and leave the rest of it in my desk drawer.
You don't have to like this post. You don't have to agree with it. You don't even have to read it. But you are required to spend as much time trying to understand the rationales for someone else's deeply held opinions as you do being shocked and outraged over the thought that they exist.
There are a lot of very, very skilled political voices on this site. Now, activists, welcome to the largest audience you've probably ever had. Use it wisely.