Back to previous post: Where the Hell Is Matt?

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: McCain, sockpuppets, and comment spam

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

July 1, 2008

Got it in one
Posted by Teresa at 10:48 AM * 608 comments

There’s a reason everyone says Anil Dash is smart.

Comments on Got it in one:
#1 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 10:51 AM:

I'm hereby declaring open season on anything unfamiliar that comes through the door. Newbies: behave or die.

#2 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 11:01 AM:

Teresa: I recommend Purdeys.

#3 ::: Mike Booth ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 11:21 AM:

I'm hereby declaring open season on anything unfamiliar that comes through the door.

I am somehow reminded of a scene from Sethra Lavode:

"I wonder how many of them there are."

"Let us count them as we go."

"Very well."

---

Incidentally, I've never been a MeFi reader, and a quick scan through the linked thread suggests that I never will be. I'm not sure what kind of Filter the MetaFilter is, but it needs some maintainance, because it seems to be clogged.

#4 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 11:26 AM:

Teresa, it's tempting at this point to arrange for a singing telegram or something just to see what this open season involves. Then I reflect on videos of firepower in action and reconsider.'

#5 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 11:39 AM:

"Troll season!"

"Crank season!"

Anil Dash phrased clearly just about what I was thinking. I assume that there's some very good reason for what's been happening to the VB-related material, and I'm guessing that there's fire-fighting going on. And from little what I know of the people involved, I'd be surprised if, once they cease to be up to their collective asses in alligators, they didn't provide at least a bit of an explanation about why it was necessary to do some swamp drainage.

#6 ::: Andrea A. Phillips ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 11:50 AM:

The interesting phenomenon here, to me, is how not how quickly people are willing to jump to conclusions with little to no information, but instead how passionately they will defend those conclusions.

I guess if I were running BoingBoing I'd be pleased that I'd succeeded in creating such intense emotional engagement. People don't get this worked up over stuff they don't care much about.

#7 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:07 PM:

Just the same, I think I'll hide backup copies of my favorite rants in the Curmudgeons League apocalypse-proof data bunker, if I can just find the durned key....

#8 ::: not_scottbot ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:15 PM:

This is why some of us love scooting over to Metafilter - what a great community. You can even find links to posts here - what a convenience.

#9 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:19 PM:

An ounce of data is better than nothing. Thanks, Teresa. I'm sure looking forward to the full payload, of course.

#10 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:22 PM:

Forgive my ignorance, but where does Anil Dash fit into the MF link? Does he have a pen name I don't know but everyone else does? Firefox findeth not his name on that page...

I find myself mystified by the whole BB/VB/TNH kerfluffle. I don't know what is going on or why, but it seems many people are in a high state of outrage/excitement over it.

I will admit to rarely if ever reading the comments on BB.

#11 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:25 PM:

Anil's handle on mefi is "anildash".

#12 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:26 PM:

Incidentally, I've never been a MeFi reader, and a quick scan through the linked thread suggests that I never will be. I'm not sure what kind of Filter the MetaFilter is, but it needs some maintainance, because it seems to be clogged.

MetaFilter isn't for everyone, but I would recommend not dismissing it so cavalierly. The operating principle there is freedom of speech; the moderators are extremely chary of deletions and depend on speech (theirs and others') to counteract speech they dislike, which I find exemplary behavior. Yes, it can get noisy, especially in a controversial thread like that, but more interesting things tend to emerge than in a comfortable round-table discussion where everybody knows everybody else and is on the same page.

In that particular thread, John Scalzi and I got hot under the collar, snarled, came to our senses, and shook hands. That couldn't have happened had our initial snarls been deleted for lowering the tone, and that sort of thing is very common at MeFi.

I fully understand that the vigorous, often jokey, sometimes confrontational discussion style at MeFi can make people uncomfortable, but on the whole it provides the most wide-ranging and interesting debate of any internet site I'm familiar with. You might want to give it another chance -- though I'd recommend trying another thread!

#13 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:29 PM:

Anil Dash

Teresa's link should hop right to his post. If not, search for "anildash".

#14 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:33 PM:

#11 Josh: Wow. I saw the post here, looked at the MF link page, found no posts by Anil Dash, etc. Now, prompted by you I went back and the thread is ten times longer than it was when I went there the first time, including posts by Dash, Scalzi, etc. Weirdness.

#15 ::: Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:37 PM:

Ah. I believe I now have context for Patrick's remarks of the other day. Sympathies all around, to thems as need it. And yes, Anil Dash has got some mighty brane on.

#17 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:44 PM:

Had the BB people had just said that in the first place (even by private email) when asked instead of deleting all questions on the spot, this whole thing probably would never have blown up in the first place.

#18 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:45 PM:

Yeah, probably just a burp, DaveL. It's a big pile of thread.

And I'd second much of what language hat just said. I'm one of the folks who runs the site -- "cortex", over there -- and while I will never imagine Mefi to be for everyone (any more than any other interesting community site would be), I think there's a worst-possible-light aspect to the kind of vaguely-antagonistic cross-site interactions that come up in a context like this.

It's more or less impossible to prevent a large community from having some sharp edges and some loudish mouths. Commentary is more or less laissez faire on mefi, and we only pull really out-of-line or willfully, continuously disruptive stuff getting pulled from threads on metafilter proper if we can help it. Between that and the degree of inscrutibility that comes with in-jokes and localized lingo, it's always odd having eyes coming into the site when there's a contentious topic about.

Insofar as that means that there are some obnoxious cheap shots in the thread, I'm annoyed at some mefites' behavior but accepting that that's how we can look. It's like having a very large, very weird family out to eat at a restaurant sometimes. But get past the drunken uncles and it turns out there are some fascinating folks involved, having some pretty solid discussions about everything under the sun.

#19 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:46 PM:

Sorry about the stuttering of first places there. Note to self: must proof read more conscientiously.

#20 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:48 PM:

Phil, to repeat what was said on Boing Boing, they were trying to avoid embarrassing people. You can't say that without causing the embarrassment you're trying to avoid. In the end, it wasn't possible to avoid it.

#21 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:49 PM:

language hat @ 12--You're right that it isn't for everyone, though. It's a place that privileges the more aggressive commenter, and effectively silences the shy. That's also a form of speech-control, and just because it happens invisibly doesn't make it not so.

#22 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:53 PM:

It's a place that privileges the more aggressive commenter, and effectively silences the shy. That's also a form of speech-control, and just because it happens invisibly doesn't make it not so.

Oh, come on. To allow free speech is neither to privilege the aggressive nor to silence the shy; it's simply to let people say what's on their minds. To call it "a form of speech-control" is Orwellian (in the sloppy but now accepted sense of that much-abused term). Shy people silence themselves; that's a pity, but it's not the fault of the agora.

#23 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 12:56 PM:

Teresa: I appreciate that entirely, but once you'd got to the point where the BoingBoing moderators were deleting comments asking about the issue you'd already lost control. Doing stuff like that is just guaranteed to stir people up and make things worse, not better.

Personally I'm really surprised that a new media savvy organisation like BoingBoing couldn't (or wouldn't) see that.

#24 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:00 PM:

I didn't say the control was being exercised by anyone but the shy people themselves (which is one of the reasons I carefully avoided the word "censorship"), but if it seemed I was implying that, I apologize. Still, I think it's illustrative of the lack of middle ground between the idea that fora are wholly public spaces that should have little or no control over what is said, and the idea that they are more private spaces where active moderation is desirable to create a safer space for communication.

#25 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:04 PM:

language hat@22: I'm not sure I agree with you on that front. Much as I love the cut & thrust of metafilter, I can quite see how such a culture would be anathema to certain types of people, who will simply choose not to post at all, and metafilter is in some senses poorer as a result.

Other forums (like ML) choose a more aggressive approach to moderation partially in order to demonstrate that they value the contributions of people who don't necessarily want to engage in the kind of in your face debate that often occurs in metafiter threads. Neither option is necessarily "better" than the other.

#26 ::: Wakboth ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:07 PM:

Andrea A. Phillips #6:

I'd guess that when defending a snap judgement - especially a jumpy one - you are not defending just that particular conclusion, but your confidence in and capability to make such quick decisions.

#27 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:08 PM:

LanguageHat, there really are people who can't speak up in an environment like that. Honest. I'm not one of them, but I know they exist. I also know they aren't rare.

Some kinds of speech exclude others. It's a matter of environment. I'm glad MetaFilter exists. I'm glad for the existence of other forums as well.

#28 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:11 PM:

Phil (23), if we were not entirely in control of the situation, neither were the commenters who were trying to force an issue the Boingers were still debating.

#29 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:12 PM:

Teresa, thanks for linking to that statement. It's about what I figured.

I'm still curious about why the content was removed, but... as I've said to friends who've touched on the edge of something very personal in their lives, "I'm curious about this, but I know that it's none of my business and I don't want to pry. If you'd like to talk about it, I'm willing to listen."

#30 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:16 PM:

Other forums (like ML) choose a more aggressive approach to moderation partially in order to demonstrate that they value the contributions of people who don't necessarily want to engage in the kind of in your face debate that often occurs in metafiter threads.

Which is a totally reasonable approach.

Oddly enough, the dichotomy between unchecked-and-rough and more-closely-moderated modes of community administration exists within Mefi itself:

Ask Metafilter has a somewhat more restrictive, more actively moderated commenting culture than Metafilter proper -- the goal of that part of the site is to get folks answers to questions, not to host free-form discussions attached to interesting links, and so we're pretty attentive about removing derails or infighting in order to keep the utility of the site high.

Metafilter itself isn't utility-driven, and so the (mostly) free-for-all approach reigns there.

As you say, it's not one option being better than another in any absolute sense: there are just different trade-offs and compromises that come with any given choice.

One of the heartening things about mefi, for me, is that as often as you have someone swaggering and shouting, you may have someone else telling them to can it and let the shy guy talk. There's an aspect of community policing there that, when it shines, mitigates well the chase-out-the-bashful effect of a busy and boisterous conversation.

#31 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:16 PM:

And Phil again (25): Making Light is fine with in-your-face debate. I believe there's an inherent respect shown by fully engaging with someone else's argument. What we don't like is careless habitual rudeness, or the use of rudeness to bolster what would otherwise be a weak argument.

#32 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:20 PM:

Well, I for one just melted the hell down on BoingBoing. Jesus, I hate this maleficent energy that BoingBoing lightning-rods in from (apparently) the entire human race. It's a talent. One wonders why the boingers still boing. I would have packed it in years ago, faced daily with such evidence of the fundamental hopelessness of humanity.

Normally, only ruling Republicans can arouse my ire so effectively.

#33 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:20 PM:

Ah well, too bad that statement didn't get made earlier. It is scary but not surprising just how fast general indignation and flamage can blow up.

Because it'll go far better if you completely clear the air now, rather than seeming that there's something to hide later, may I suggest an addition?

There were some general flames suggesting that Boing Boing had also deleted all posts and comments referencing Ursula Le Guin. That's manifestly false, as I found a number when I did a simple search on the site.

However, I did also find some subtle indications that one or more past posts about Le Guin might have been deleted some time back - probably in haste at the time of all the foofaraw about quoting her one-paragraph story. I humbly suggest that now would be the best time to check with the proprietors, and if that is what happened, to acknowledge it now (e.g. in a postscript to the VB post) and deflate any head of steam over that topic. Otherwise next time there's a "controversy" it'll be dragged out again with even more real or faux indignation behind it.

Last thought: next time something like this has to be done, if ever, replace the deleted posts with placeholders such as [original post removed by author] rather than vanishing it? I suspect this would somewhat reduce the fears about "rewriting history".

#34 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:23 PM:

P.S. Teresa, email me if you need a hint on what I'm talking about re UKL, if the parties involved forgot.

#35 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:27 PM:

Phil@25: Neither option is necessarily "better" than the other.

hmm. I disagree, and I think that in this case quality is actually measurable -- at least in theory.

It's my observation -- and not just mine -- that what you call "the cut & thrust" is especially off-putting to woman, not least because of the way guys will casually insult each other with gendered language. I think this is co-extensive with the real problems with misogyny in tech workplaces.

Now, IIRC if you have a group of people with men and women talking, when women make more than 30% of the comments people (M & F) say that the women are talking "all the time". In other words, unless you have the gut (though mistaken) feeling that the women in your group are talking "all the time", you're not hearing women's voices. And any space that's supposed to be for "free speech" but where only some people's speech is free ... isn't.

#36 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:31 PM:

Clifton @33 -- that's an eminently reasonable suggestion.

Phil @ 23 -- I don't think you understand the nature of BoingBoing's burden. I'm not joking that they draw the negative vibes out of the very atmosphere itself. There is literally nothing they can do -- ever -- to avoid shitstorms.

Also, in general, (1) I can't even read contentious and voluble crap like mefi (tho I wish I were parent-supported so I'd have that time) and (2) it's fine if you keep the arrogance and general snot-nosedness within your own walls, but when you spill out into the world at large, there are many people who aren't liable to chuckle and say, "Kids will be kids." Civilization is a thin veneer over primate nature. There are reasons for the basic rules of politeness, and while it may appeal to the adolescent in all of us to run rampant over them (again: primate behavior), that is not the world we actually want to live in.

I guess I'm just saying, fine, you can keep your drunken uncles, but if you wheel them out in public, it's your problem if they end up in the drunk tank overnight.

#37 ::: Grobstein ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:33 PM:

@34-5, the Le Guin affair you're referring to is largely a matter of public record. Something was posted, then it was deleted, and very shortly thereafter Cory posted an exhaustive explanation.

I think it's pretty clearly different from the current kerfuffle, most obviously because the Boingers were responding to a legal threat.

Link.

#38 ::: Grobstein ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:35 PM:

Oh, sorry -- my last post turned out to be based on a hasty misreading. Apologies to Clif.

#39 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:36 PM:

Teresa: I did not mean to imply that debate does not occur (or is not permitted to occur) here. Clearly it does. The tone differs markedly from metafilter of course, as a consequence of the moderation policy & the culture built up by those who choose to participate, which obviously interact and feed upon each other.

I was merely suggesting that the tone adopted by ML might be more conducive to certain types of people that that adopted by metafilter. I hope there's nothing controversial about that!

#40 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:38 PM:

I think this entire situation is complicated by the fact that many people have a personal relationship with the principals involved. Or, at least, are close to people (like our hosts here) who do have such a relationship.

Anytime you have a personal connection to someone you are going to be willing to cut them more slack than you otherwise would. There isn't anything wrong with that; it's how the world manages to keep chugging along. But from an outsider's point of view, I still see that BB generally doesn't grant other entities that level of slack. There certainly aren't a lot of "this is weird and potentially troublesome but let's all settle down and wait to see what happened" posts there.

Anyway, I'm glad a statement went out and I think BB would clearly have been better off if they had listened to and followed Teresa's rules for PR management. At the least they probably should have anticipated that actions like they took coming from a site like Boing Boing would provoke widespread interest and had a statement ready for that eventuality. Lastly, I think BB should probably decide if they are a site that's partially a media outfit (boing boing TV, media watchdog activities, etc) or if they're just a personal blog for a couple people to throw out some things they think are cool, because they seem to want to be both depending on which costume advantages them in the current situation.

My sympathies to anyone involved in any embarrassment. Live your life partially online and out there for everyone to see and that sort of thing is inevitable but still, no doubt, uncomfortable.

As to moderation in general, I still believe that the completely uncensored Usenet circa 1991-1993 was the Amber that all other online communities are but pale shadows of. With the commercialization of the internet I recognize that being able to delete spam is probably necessary now, but beyond that, well, the solution to speech you don't like is, in my opinion, more speech. Yeah, there are downsides to that. Yeah, it can be obnoxious and uncomfortable. Sometimes life is like that.

#41 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:39 PM:

Teresa @ 31... Making Light is fine with in-your-face debate

Hear, hear. And the supposedly aggressive moderation suits me just fine, but one's kilometrage may vary.

#42 ::: Mike Booth ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:39 PM:

Ask Metafilter has a somewhat more restrictive, more actively moderated commenting culture than Metafilter proper...

Thank you, now I understand. Like duct tape, Metafilter has a light side, and a dark side!

(Okay, okay... With due respect to those of you who cherish the Howling Mob Experience, let's call them the "formal side" and the "wild side".)

I was wondering why this thread was totally unlike any other Metafilter link I'd ever followed...

#43 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:40 PM:

I guess I'm just saying, fine, you can keep your drunken uncles, but if you wheel them out in public, it's your problem if they end up in the drunk tank overnight.

Er? When did I suggest otherwise? People from mefi say and do embarassing things. There's thirty-something thousand of them, all told. I don't think impromptu cross-site interactions -- between any realistic sample of community sites -- tend to go well, or to scale well, or to make either side of the interaction look particularly good.

I don't fantasize that I have any real ability to prevent someone who hangs out on mefi from being a jerk elsewhere, though I occasionally make a point of asking someone threatening a ruckus to calm the heck down and walk away.

I'm having trouble parsing the "I wish I were parent-supported so I'd have that time" thing, though. Is that a "mefites live in their parents' basements" jab, or something aimed more at site administration, or what?

#44 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:45 PM:

The LATimes has an article on this:

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/webscout/2008/06/violet-blue-scr.html

Oh yes, and Fark has a comment thread set up on it too...

#45 ::: Andrea A. Phillips ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:46 PM:

Wakboth @26: Hmm, that's an excellent point. Thank you for making it!

Separately, on MeFi: I find it a very useful community. It helps me to work out how people can arrive at very different, reasoned points of view on many, many subjects. It's worth the price of admission for that alone. The signal to noise is fairly high (though not as high as here) and even the noise is educational in its own way.

It might not be right for you, but that doesn't make it (or its participants) a festering barnacle on the face of the internet.

#46 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 01:59 PM:

You know, I may have to memorize Anil Dash's comment so that I can haul it out (attributed to him) at key moments.

I think maybe I'm more naive than I want to be. However, I was surprised by the sheer rate of blog posts and comments which, in the lack of any actual data, simply assumed the absolute worst. Once that started, I wasn't surprised that it took a life of its own. But I'm always taken aback by what can grow in a vacuum.

I'm glad that BoingBoing has issued a statement. Hopefully, this will put a stop to at least some of the hysteria.

#47 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:00 PM:

I comment here. I will continue to do so.

Descriptions of MeFi make me think it's not for me. And I am far from shy. Anil Dash's comment on MeFi was intelligent, but one doesn't have to read far in either direction to find comments to make one shudder, not if one is this one here.

The BoingBoing statement is clear and to the point and ought to lay most questions to rest. It didn't. Some of the commenters on the resulting thread ought to be spanked, or have their heads shoved in the toilet (not to drown them, just long enough to trigger a dive reflex and humiliate them a little).

I think this whole thing is stupid. If I throw away old love letters from (or to) someone I messily broke up with, am I "unpersoning" them? No, I'm decreating them in my own little universe, which is something I have a right to do and may need to do. And anyone who tells me I have no right to do that can really go fuck themselves.

#48 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:00 PM:

John L @44 -- The LA Times Blog has an entry on this. That's slightly different than the Times running an article.

#49 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:04 PM:

Much as I love the cut & thrust of metafilter, I can quite see how such a culture would be anathema to certain types of people, who will simply choose not to post at all, and metafilter is in some senses poorer as a result.

LanguageHat, there really are people who can't speak up in an environment like that. Honest. I'm not one of them, but I know they exist. I also know they aren't rare.

I don't disagree with either of you, but you're disagreeing with a point I didn't make. I didn't say there weren't people who can't speak up in an environment like that; I know some of them personally. I was saying that's their decision, it's not some form of oppression by "free speech," which is what #21 alsafi seemed to be saying ("It's a place that privileges the more aggressive commenter, and effectively silences the shy. That's also a form of speech-control"); I accept alsafi's word that the statement was not meant the way I took it, but I still have a hard time reading "That's also a form of speech-control" any other way.

Whether MetaFilter is poorer for it is a matter of debate. While of course more voices are better, it is impossible to have both vigorous free speech and the participation of those who are intimidated by such speech, and I value the former highly enough to be pretty sure it's worth the loss of the latter. Furthermore, people can learn over time to deal with it; I know some who started out only participating in the "safe" AskMetafilter section, but gradually got accustomed to the rough-and-tumble of the other parts and joined in.

#50 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:06 PM:

Xopher: What you're fantasising about is torturing people. Do you really think that's healthy?

#51 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:09 PM:

language hat@22: Shy people silence themselves; that's a pity, but it's not the fault of the agora.

It's for this reason that the standards of the agora are not the same as the standards of the coffeehouse or the salon, and also why the agora should not be the only venue for the exchange of ideas. A loud voice and a thick skin are useful in the rough-and-tumble of public debate, but the stentorian and the leather-hided among us are not necessarily the ones possessed of the keenest insight.

#52 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:10 PM:

It's my observation -- and not just mine -- that what you call "the cut & thrust" is especially off-putting to woman, not least because of the way guys will casually insult each other with gendered language.

This is absolutely true, and the "boyzone" aspect (as it's called there) has historically been the single biggest flaw in MetaFilter. It has caused some valued contributors to leave, and I have spoken out about it as long as I've been a member. I'm happy to say that after a couple of long and painful MetaTalk threads (which I won't link to, because if people have a hard time with the BoingBoing thread those'll really upset them) a lot of people got the point and things have gotten noticeably better. They'll never be perfect, because MeFi is a human institution, but it's encouraging to see that these things can get hashed out in such a way that minds are changed. Again, I find that better than just zapping all comments that anyone might perceive as "hurtful" or "sexist" and sweeping the problem under the rug.

#53 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:10 PM:

Knock it off, Phil. That's not what Xopher said.

#54 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:17 PM:

Debra Doyle #51 : It's for this reason that the standards of the agora are not the same as the standards of the coffeehouse or the salon, and also why the agora should not be the only venue for the exchange of ideas.

Quite so, and neither should the coffeehouse or the salon.

A loud voice and a thick skin are useful in the rough-and-tumble of public debate, but the stentorian and the leather-hided among us are not necessarily the ones possessed of the keenest insight.

See, this is what bothers me about the discussion here (and other places where similar prejudices are expressed). You seem perfectly comfortable assuming and stating that MetaFilter belongs to "the stentorian and the leather-hided." With respect, I spend time there and you (I gather) don't; which of us is likely to have a better feel for the place? And do I seem stentorian to you? Why not take my word for it that there is subtle, well-informed, and (save the mark) polite discourse there alongside the jokes and arguments? Just because you (or people you know) don't feel comfortable there doesn't ipso facto make it the equivalent of the Colosseum (or, if you prefer, Fark).

#55 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:19 PM:

I'll second what languagehat says about the boyzone aspect of Metafilter.

Metafilter is extremely self-aware and there were multiple 1000+ comment threads in Metatalk in a very short period of time about how to make Metafilter more accessible to women in particular without sacrificing what makes Metafilter valuable in the process. So the observation that Doctor Science makes is not only something Metafilter is aware of, it's something that Metafilter spends a hell of a lot of time grappling with, discussing, and taking action over.

I don't think the BB blowup can reasonably be set at Metafilter's feet. It was a car wreck waiting to happen given BBs very high profile and sought-out reputation in terms of being on the forefront of issues regarding online censorship.

#56 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:21 PM:

Michael Roberts #36:
I can't even read contentious and voluble crap like mefi (tho I wish I were parent-supported so I'd have that time) and (2) it's fine if you keep the arrogance and general snot-nosedness within your own walls, but when you spill out into the world at large, there are many people who aren't liable to chuckle and say, "Kids will be kids." ... I guess I'm just saying, fine, you can keep your drunken uncles, but if you wheel them out in public, it's your problem if they end up in the drunk tank overnight.

Honest question: does this kind of childish insult represent the accepted standards around here? If so, with what right does anyone look down at MetaFilter?

#57 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:24 PM:

Grobstein: No problem, I can see how you might have misread it at first.

#58 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:25 PM:

And having looked at the comments on that LA Times blog, it reads very much like the other thread here.

#59 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:30 PM:

language hat #49: I think the best solution possible for that is the one the net seems to be evolving--lots of different venues for discussions, without the notion that one kind trumps the others. The world is better for having both loud biker bars and quiet coffee shops.

Phil #50: I'd hate to hear what you'd accuse me of fantasizing about, after seeing me drive on the Beltway. (How does that Woody Allen quote go? "I told him to be fruitful and multiply, but not exactly in those words.")

#60 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:36 PM:

albatross #59: I think the best solution possible for that is the one the net seems to be evolving--lots of different venues for discussions, without the notion that one kind trumps the others. The world is better for having both loud biker bars and quiet coffee shops.

I entirely agree. Well said.

#61 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:41 PM:

language hat@54: Me, I cut my internet teeth on GEnie's Science Fiction RoundTable, where they used to issue you a flamethrower when you logged on just so you'd start out even. But I am willing to believe that a certain percentage of people find Metafilter's rules of engagement intimidating and offputting, not least because much the same thing was often said of the old SFRT, back in the day.

(For that matter, I'm willing to believe that a certain percentage of people find Making Light to be intimidating and offputting, both because of the generally high level of play and the unwritten but generally understood rules of decorum that apply.)

But it doesn't do much good to tell somebody who's trying to run a coffeehouse that they ought to follow the market-square rules instead.

#62 ::: Ms. Jen ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:42 PM:

#12 Language Hat - Thank you for such a new lovely word - chary.

I like chary, esp. when it comes to commenting on fora.

;o)

#63 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:44 PM:

Debra Doyle #61: But it doesn't do much good to tell somebody who's trying to run a coffeehouse that they ought to follow the market-square rules instead.

Very true, and I wouldn't do that. To each venue its own decorum!

#64 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:55 PM:

Meta filter trikes me as being too much like school kids bickering at each other over their guesses about what the parents are discussing with teachers in the office.

#65 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 02:59 PM:

Teresa@16: Thank you for posting the statement and starting the thread at BB.

I would also like to second Clifton's recommendation at #33: If you're going to "unpublish" something (whether temporarily or permanently), it's best to put something in its place indicating what you've done (which can be as simple as "this post has been removed by its author" or "this post is unavailable pending review by the editors") instead of having it look indistinguishable from a URL that never existed.

This isn't just a sop to the suspicious: it's a courtesy to folks who were linking to, or following links to, old posts that aren't there any more. It's compatible with the desire not to embarrass people you mention in #20 -- anyone specifically looking for the post can see that it's been removed, and can see who's responsible for that decision-- but it doesn't in itself draw attention from folks who weren't interested in the issue.

#66 ::: John L ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:00 PM:

Sorry about that; it was indeed an LATimes blog that Fark had linked to.

#67 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:15 PM:

What John Mark Ockerbloom said in #65. Silently breaking links to stuff you own is bad internet practice, however much right and power you may have to do so. I expected better because of the respect and admiration I have for Boing Boing on internet issues, and I'm disappointed that Boing Boing seems not to care about the damage to the broader internet that they created while exercising their undisputed sovereignty over their own realm.

#68 ::: Joanne Merriam ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:20 PM:

For the benefit of people whose only exposure to MeFi is the boingboing thread, just so you know, this sort of thing is much more usual for Metafilter.

#69 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:27 PM:

Serge 53: Thank you.

albatross 59: Thank you, too.

Phil 50: [somewhat different phrase, oddly enough also ending in '-k you'.]

#70 ::: Sisuile ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:33 PM:

LH,

I rarely read the Mefi comments, because the level of commentary is so off-putting. Fun links, yes, but I prefer a more civil discourse. You do that naturally, partially because of the subject matter of your blog, and so I read your commenters extensively. I read comments here. I skip the ones on BB and Mefi, and often when I dip my toes into those waters, I run screaming. It amazes me that even as a discriptivist, you can stand some of the language and phrasing common in the communities of both of those websites. MetaFilter is esp. bad about this and creates a problem for me as I won't wade through the crap to find the content. On the other hand, I don't believe there is any "content" to be had on the original mefi post on this subject.

#71 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:36 PM:

Well, to clarify my earlier comment, I do not think 404 pages are breaking the Internet, oh noes!!

I simply think that a notice/placeholder would serve better to manage the general public's odd expectations about permanency, however unreasonable they may be.

#72 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:37 PM:

I'm an old GEnie hand too, and was on the Well for ten years, which was frequently accused of being too rough-and-tumble but which had great conversations amid all the frank (and sometimes frankly nasty) talk. (And it somehow managed to have lots of active women, too.) On the open Web, I tend to prefer a lively but firmly and intelligently moderated conversational forum, because it's easy for assholes to poison an open place if they're not smacked down. But I agree with the value of having places with looser rules that are policed by little more than community mores, even if I think that's a very uneasy balance to try to maintain.

Which is a longwinded way of saying, I'm sympathetic to Language Hat and David's defenses of Metafilter, and am not making any assumptions about the community based on what I've read here. Just a few of its members.

#73 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:40 PM:

#65 If you're going to "unpublish" something (whether temporarily or permanently), it's best to put something in its place indicating what you've done (which can be as simple as "this post has been removed by its author" or "this post is unavailable pending review by the editors") instead of having it look indistinguishable from a URL that never existed.

I don't know about the back end of Boing Boing, but I can tell you about the back end of MT as I see it here:

If I click "Unpublish" on a post or an article, it's still available to be put back in its same place, unaltered and unharmed, again with a single click. But if I replace the text with "This post has been removed by its author" the original text is gone and cannot be easily reconstituted.

#74 ::: Johne Cook ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:46 PM:

I'm shocked and outraged at Jerry Pournelle's comments!

Oh, wait, that was a different fracas. ;)

I think things like this, once they achieve critical mass, are pure blogosphere spectacle. Almost none of us have all the facts, but almost all of us have /staunch/ opinions, and we'll argue and agree among ourselves until we're blue in the face.

I'm waiting for the wonk to write the inevitable article about how much money this scandal causes the country in lost wages or some silly thing. You know it's coming.

When Teresa makes a statement, instead of immediately jumping to "Cover up!" I'm inclined to take her at face value. I'm inclined to give BB the benefit of the doubt. The character demonstrated there over years counts for something.

#75 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:50 PM:

It amazes me that even as a discriptivist, you can stand some of the language and phrasing common in the communities of both of those websites. MetaFilter is esp. bad about this and creates a problem for me as I won't wade through the crap to find the content.

Really and truly? If anything, a lot of folks at metafilter sometimes strike me as overly pedantic, too quick to worry over the niceties of language instead of just proceeding with the conversation. This is something I imagine language hat would back me up on.

But it's a diverse crowd. We also have younger folks; poor typists; folks for whom English is not a first or a primary language; even some (god help us!) linguistically lazy people who merely care more about making their point than they do about making it look pretty or feel pithy.

Which, I don't know. I can see it being off-putting at a glance, that weird mix of careful and not-so-careful writing, and if it's just that one glance and a shake of the head and going on your way, so be it. But I've loved mefi for a long time in large part because of the language of the site and the cleverness and expressiveness of its members.

That's something that, granted, rarely shines through its brightest during noisy, much-busier-than-normal internet drama threads like the one tied to this issue.

#76 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:55 PM:

Scraps #72: Thanks, much appreciated.

T.W #64: My, another commenter who exhibits the very vice meant to be pinned on MetaFilter.

just so you know, this sort of thing is much more usual for Metafilter.

While that's true, I would also point to this sort of thing as examples of what I love about the place.

#77 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 03:57 PM:

James D. Macdonald @ #73:

That's a very interesting point as to good reasons for simple removal vs. place-holder replacement. Actually, I find fascinating the simple mention that there's an "Unpublish" button. I had no idea...

#78 ::: Gursky ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:03 PM:

Nice statement Teresa. I'm glad it's gone up, if only because I was imagining your frustration at seeing the option of quick measured response to this brouhaha slowly slip away.

As a note, David P. at BB has a wicked sense of humor today.

As another note, can anyone believe the nerve of zota over in the other thread? Goddamn. Sockpuppetry is one thing, but using the name of a principal in the argument at hand is maybe the lowest I've seen. I still wish it hadn't been closed off, but it was getting a bit more incendiary, I guess. Still, glad to see this one opened up. Makes me sad when threads are closed off in what I think might be premature defeatism and frustration. I guess because I haven't been reading the commentary anywhere but here (and the ridiculous post at Tomorrow's Futures) I hadn't yet had my fill, whereas Patrick was steeped in the thing.

#79 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:06 PM:

Actually, I find fascinating the simple mention that there's an "Unpublish" button.

For CMS purposes, I'm a Wordpress guy rather than MT. There (at least in the current interface), there's no "Unpublish" button, but the same functionality is handled with a drop-down menu with the options "Published", "Pending Review", and "Unpublished". Pick an option, hit the Save button.

It's useful functionality in a number of situations (though I've only ever used it once or twice in a panic when I accidentally published an unfinished draft) and so a neologistic "unpublish"-as-verb usage makes sense and does go to explain the otherwise kind of doomy-sounding term.

Unfortunately, that doesn't make it sound much less doomy to folks encountering it for the first time in an unflattering context.

#80 ::: TomB ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:15 PM:

It's really hard to handle a situation without embarrassing the parties involved. This fits in well with my long-term observations that it is a lot easier to generate negative karma than it is to get rid of it.

If you do nothing, you feel embarrassed, and other parties may do more of whatever it was that was embarrassing you.

If you take action and say nothing, people will wonder why, and imagine all sorts of possible motivations for your action, many of could be much more embarrassing than the reality, so you feel even more embarrassed. Meanwhile, the other parties involved feel surprised and embarrassed by the whole thing, or at least they say so.

If you take action and say something, at least you have a chance of explaining it without going into all the embarrassing details. Also, you have a chance it will blow over faster. But there's no way to completely avoid the embarrassment.

#81 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:23 PM:

Gursky 78: Yes, re zota. Just astonishing. I mean, I'd tagged hir as a troll fairly early on, but identity theft (of a sort) really crosses the line. I'm glad Patrick banished hir.

#82 ::: Anil ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:28 PM:

Thanks for the kind words, Teresa. And Josh, yep, in the version of Movable Type they're using, one of the status settings for entries is "Unpublished (Draft)". I can see how that might have influenced the languaged used.

#83 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:29 PM:

#69 Xopher: man what. Seriously. I know you're not a Buddhist, but I think this is a situation where attachment is leading to suffering.

You don't understand what the blowup is about; cool. But saying "All these intelligent people who are mad are being stupid" is not cool: these are smart reasoned people and if they have a beef your job as a polite respectful person is to sit back and try to figure out, why do so many people have a beef?

Telling people to fuck off because they're like, "Whoa, dude, suggesting torture of the people with a beef, is that maybe too much?"... It's not the kind of play I expect from you.

#84 ::: Nat ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:37 PM:

Madeline @ 83: Except, well, it's more than a bit of a stretch to imagine that Xopher was actually literally suggesting that commenters be tortured.

Phil's condescending response was out of line, and Xopher didn't owe him anything in return.

There's been far too much posturing and faux-outrage over this issue already; let's not add to it unnecessarily.

#85 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:41 PM:

Phil Armstrong #17:
I doubt it myself. Some people will contrive any excuse.

Posting in haste, jumping to conclusions or assuming the worst are not uncommon actions. Done it myself, regretted it later. But I'm trying to do better.

#86 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:49 PM:

#65:Putting up a note that a post used to be here and has now been removed preserves history. That's a good thing. However, it's also the sort of thing that could easily spark an internet firestorm, especially if the note has a formulation like "this post is unavailable pending review by the editors." That statement inspires an obvious next question, so people will ask it. Of course, the internet firestorm could happen regardless of what the note says or whether there is a note or not, as it did in this case.

Not making silent changes is good practice. But how you make changes turns out to be rather tricky. (e.g., if you need to redact to avoid embarrassment, it would be bad if your note pointing out the redaction provokes the embarrassment you sought to avoid.)

#87 ::: T.W ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:51 PM:

Language Hat,
Metafilter gives me a bad impression every time and I will throw what ever stones I like at it. You being a preachy elitist at me does nothing positive.

#88 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 04:55 PM:

"Preachy elitist"?

#89 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 05:03 PM:

Sigh. Perhaps in retrospect I should have emailed Xopher directly rather than called him out in public.

Nat: To be absolutely clear, I certainly don't believe that Xopher intends to torture people for making comments posts he dislikes.

I do believe that a) simulated drowning is torture {wasn't there a making light thread on this very issue not so long ago?} and b) publicly fantasising about doing it to people gives aid and comfort to those who want to make such behaviour acceptable.

For these reasons, I belive that Xopher's comment was out of line. Telling me to f off in response is just the icing on the cake.

#90 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 05:04 PM:

Is that darn Krell Machine going to blow up again?

#91 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 05:15 PM:

Madeline 83: I never said any of that. I said I think "this whole thing" is stupid. I think the fact that some intelligent (and some less intelligent) people are wasting huge amounts of time and energy arguing about this is stupid.

Last night I left most of a large container of sour cream sitting out all night, so I had to throw it away this morning. That was stupid. Does that mean I'm stupid? Arguably I am, but saying I did something stupid on one occasion is not the same as saying I, as a quality, am stupid.

I HAVE figured out why they think they have a beef. It's been explained. I don't agree, but I don't think they're stupid (or even being stupid) for thinking it was not the best thing for BoingBoing to do either. I also don't think they're stupid for thinking it's not consistent with BB's ideals (I don't agree with them there either, but I don't think they're being stupid).

I think it's stupid to go screaming and yelling and bandying about words like 'hypocrisy' and issuing scathing denunciations and so on, over something that is AT MOST a peccadillo, and more likely has a perfectly reasonable, even kind explanation. I think it's stupid to leave the blogosphere metaphorically littered with corpses, so that vultures like "zota" can come and feed.

You were speaking about attachment leading to suffering?

As for the "torture" comment, did you really think that Phil's comment at 50 was sincere criticism? (For the record, I did not.) Did you not notice that Serge and albatross both pointed out that I was not advocating torturing them? Did you notice that in my post at 47 I said "some of the commenters on the resulting thread"—that is, not "suggesting the torture of the people with a beef"? To clarify, I meant the nasty zota-like troll-vultures.

If you read what I said there, I said "just long enough to trigger a dive reflex." Maybe you don't know this: the dive reflex kicks in instantly when cool water hits your face. If throwing a bucket of cold water over someone is torture, then so is what I said. I do not think so. Or maybe it was the humiliation? Sticking someone's head in the toilet is a way of reifying calling them a shithead (in other words "they ought to have their heads stuck in the toilet" is a metaphoric way of saying "what a lot of shitheads"). Or maybe I've got the whole thing wrong, and it was the spanking? Saying "they ought to be spanked" isn't advocating torture. For $DIETY's sake.

Add to that the fact that, had I the entire spate of trollish commenters before me, and my legion of hunchback guards said to me "Mathter, shall we thpank them? Or thtick their headth in the toiletth?" I would say "Thert—that is, certainly not. Banish them from Our Presence, but do not harm one hair of their heads." I was not seriously suggesting anything of the kind, in other words.

In case that's still not entirely clear, I fantasize about torturing very few people. Osama bin Laden is one, and even that hasn't happened in a while. The other one is my ex-boyfriend, and that's only because a) the "tortures" involved do no lasting harm, even psychologically, and b) he enjoys it so very much.

Nat 84: Thank you! "More than a bit of a stretch," absolutely. One might also say "patently absurd."

Phil 89: What, you again? Honestly. I wasn't talking about simultated drowning (or even non-simulated partial drowning, which is what waterboarding is), and you know it...or...I assumed you knew that perfectly well when you posted your response at 50, and gave it the reply it deserved. If you didn't, then a) my response above to Madeline should enlighten you and b) I withdraw the "-k you." And as for "the icing on the cake"—do you prefer ganache or buttercream? I can do either, and they both taste better than telling someone to f off, or (I feel certain) being told!

#92 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 05:30 PM:

Xopher: I've always been partial to buttercream as it happens.

I'm glad to hear you weren't talking about fantasies of simulated drowning of any sort.


#93 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 05:31 PM:

Sometimes it's worth it to read to the end of a thread in which one has no, nada, zero, zed, zip interest -- hell, I can't even figure out what the argument/discussion/spat/disagreement is about (and no, don't tell me) -- just to get to Xopher's post.

*waves* Yeah, Xopher!

#94 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 05:35 PM:

Xopher @91, I agree with you and have said so twice now over at BoingBoing (not "I agree with Xopher" but comments whose intended communication was substantially similar to your point, although significantly angrier, more insulting, and less patient).

I've been disappointed in, and lost respect for, certain blogs and bloggers and quit reading them. If that's how you feel about BoingBoing, of course that's your right. But the dramatic proclamation of censorship and Orwellian revisionism is just ridiculous.

And I know your offer wasn't to me -- but when you are done with make-up icing, I'd like to put in a request for ganache please.

#95 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 05:36 PM:

T.W #87: You seem unable to disagree without insulting someone. I take it, then, you stand in solidarity with Michael Roberts #36? (I'm still waiting to hear whether ML people consider that acceptable discourse.)

#96 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 05:44 PM:

Oh! Oh! I see the problem now! I said dive reflex (OK, apparently it's really called the "diving reflex," but please note the phrase "Immediately upon facial contact with cold water") and was taken by Phil and later Madeline to mean the various drowning reflexes as described here.

With such a misconstrual, they were not being unreasonable to think I was being fairly outrageous. Good gods.

However, I thought Phil knew I was talking about the DIVE reflex—the one that a cup of cold water in the face can elicit—and took offense to his calling that torture. I do apologize, Phil, if only for not realizing from your other quite reasonable posts that you weren't the sort of person who would say something like that if you understood what I actually meant.

Lizzy 93: *blushes* Thank you!

Caroline 94, if I can get my act together there will be both buttercreams and ganaches at WorldCon. Are you going?

#97 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 05:45 PM:

NB. Xopher and I have had a short email exchange in which it became clear that I had conflated the dive & drowning reflexes, and read more into his post than he intended. Our subsequent exchanges were exacerbated on both sides by this initial misreading.

I therefore withdraw my comment@50 above & apologise to Xopher.

On preview: I see Xopher beat me too it!

#98 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 05:53 PM:

*Phil and Xopher join hands and sing boom-de-ah-dah, boom-de-ah-dah* :-)

And Phil...if you're going to WorldCon There Will Be Chocolate (if, as I said to Caroline, I get my act together in time).

#99 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 05:54 PM:

I am pleasantly surprised to hear that MeFi has been discussing the "boyspace" issue. I tend to think of it as the "Jerkosphere" problem, because it's not really about anything particularly XY-like IMHO, it's a part of the general culture that is coded masculine and tends to be amplified online. But holy cats, there are certainly some mostly-female online spaces that are full-fledged parts of the Jerkosphere.

I guess I want to break the association between "acting like a boy" and "acting like a jerk". You can have boyspaces that are not part of the Jerkosphere -- and women shouldn't get complacent, because as the Law of Proctouniversality says, "There's a little asshole in all of us."

For me, though, MeFi will have to change a lot before I stop thinking of it as on the edge of the Jerkosphere.

#100 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 05:57 PM:

<breaks out hug-o-matic>

Sadly I won't be going to WorldCon. But thanks for the offer! Chocolate always appreciated, etc.

#101 ::: alsafi ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:04 PM:

I wouldn't even begin to claim to speak for anyone here but myself, but no, I don't think being deliberately insulting is acceptable discourse or behavior, here or elsewhere.

However, and I mean this in the kindest way it is possible to mean a gentle remonstrance, I also think the "you people..." construction implicit in the challenge to all of the commenters here to repudiate someone else's insults is skating right on the edge of what's generally considered acceptable here, though I am aware that is a community standard of Making Light, and not a universal one.

#102 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:10 PM:

The thing I had posted over at BB (and will repeat here) before reading Anil Dash's comment was that it almost certainly was a personal situation of some kind.

Which means somebody's out there hurting about this - whether furious or sad - while a zillion uninformed people chime in with how terrible it is that *links* to someone else's stuff aren't online. <sarcasm>Oh the humanity</sarcasm>.

I have the greatest sympathy for whoever it is. I'm guessing the BB'ers are standing together as friends while they try to thrash this out without publishing the details. That they're willing to take the reputation hit rather than release any of the details and hurt someone worse? I'd hope my friends would do the same.

#103 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:15 PM:

{shrugs off shiny metalized asbestos Michelin Man suit, wipes forehead}

Whew! Finally, a thread that isn't too hot to enter without heavy protective gear! I wanted to post on the BB thread, but couldn't think of anything original enough to stand out there.

Interesting things I've learned here that I've not seen elsewhere: Moveable Type and WordPress database functionality is such that unpublishing content is less damaging than replacing the content with an explanation about why it is gone. Thanks to James D. Macdonald @#73 and Josh Millard @#79 for those factoids. It also neatly shows why the creepy-to-the-uninitiated word "unpublished" was used without any creepy intent, and without realizing at first (or second, or third) thought that it would seem creepy. I'm sure there are technical terms I use without thought that would make others go "WTF?" that I can't think of right now because, well, I'd use them without thought... Not that explaining that in the BB thread would damp the existing flames much.

As for the bit here about shy people being discouraged from posting due to the boisterous nature of a conversation - that happens to me a lot when things get too heated. 'Tis why I'm commenting in this thread rather than the BB one or MeFi or other places.

I hope the hoopla gets buried off the BB front page soon so I can read nifty stuff without being drawn to the geometrically-increasing post number, which on ML and BB usually means "something interesting here". I also hope that everyone who is involved in this mess comes out of it not too singed. Yes, even the gasoline-flingers - burns ain't fun. It is at least kind of funny to watch the post numbering on BB jump around, especially when I hit refresh and the last post I read has a few new ones *above* it in the thread...

Oh, and Greg London is posting some *good stuff* in the high 300's/low 400's over there, reminding me of the "Blog." entry mentioned a while back.

#104 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:17 PM:

A long, long time ago one of my pages/locations/identities on the internet was metafiltered, as one of two or three excerpts from an analysis of a social networking site.

At the same time as I was flattered and amused to see a small fuss being made over something I'd done on the internet, as the people began to play the "what else has this person done" game, I began to rush to take down a lot of images I had on sites related to that online identity, simply because I knew some of them were unflattering and... well... I know what happens to unflattering images of girls on the unfiltered internet. I didn’t think that ALL of metafilter would react negatively, but I knew that SOME of it would, and I did not want. Absent the dangerous pics of imperfect female, the discussion went well and concluded not unpleasantly. A lot of discussions on metafilter are very nice, and some are very bad and stupid, like many places on the internet.

The following is not a commentary on Metafilter itself, but rather on the quality and freedom of discourse on sites that are moderated versus sites that are unmoderated.

I can name you half a dozen places I used to frequent until misogyny got too high. One thing that would often drive me away were the horrible ‘cosplay commentary’ threads on a lot of fan boards. What started out as generic threads about skilled or unskilled costuming degraded into people spending pages analyzing every inch of the bodies of girls in found cosplay pics. I remember a side by side comparison between a pic of Kiera Knightly with a Pirates cosplayer. The Pirates cosplayer was an average-sized, normal-looking woman (ladies size 6-8, if I can hazard a guess). I would have said she was pretty. However the commentary on this picture implied that she was hideous and defective for making the attempt without being a size 2. I know from experience that if a girl responds to that kind of thing the ‘return response’ is usually “I bet you’re fat too, lol, lose 50lbs and{implied sexual act that will set the woman straight}.” There’s then about a 50/50 chance it will spark a lengthy derailing of the thread with a heated argument about whether or not asking people to stop active misogyny is censorship or not. Almost never will the “I bet you’re fat too” poster be universally repudiated by his peers.

That’s not free speech. That’s abuse. There IS a difference. It’s just like how freedom of action does not include the freedom to give someone electric shocks or Indian burns or inflict any other kind of physical pain.

I’m not saying here that Metafilter is like that all the time, or that a culture of abuse is typical of metafilter. I’m saying that the less moderation you get, the more you risk that kind of ‘speech control through abuse’ situation.

language hat wrote the following at 49:
"While of course more voices are better, it is impossible to have both vigorous free speech and the participation of those who are intimidated by such speech, and I value the former highly enough to be pretty sure it's worth the loss of the latter."

I disagree very strongly with the implication that this is the difference between moderated and unmoderated sites. This makes me incredibly angry, and I'm having to be quite careful with how I phrase my next few sentences to avoid sounding histrionic.

I'll go ahead and add my own opinion on moderation versus non-moderation: "it is impossible to have both unmitigated abuse and the participation of those who are intimidated by such abuse. I'm willing to give anyone a chance to participate without resorting to abuse, several in fact, but I don't believe that abuse is conducive to free speech."

Speech that is controlled by abuse and fear is no freer than speech that is controlled by deletion. A place where people are free to abuse others is possibly more ‘unfiltered’ but it is not more ‘free’ than a place where abuse (and only abuse) is filtered out. (Just as a society that punishes randomly punching a stranger in the face isn’t any less ‘free’ than a society that allows it).

I think there's a reason why alsafi used the term "speech-control" instead of censorship. Furthermore, I think that speech control is much more insidious and dangerous than outright censorship.

Imagine that every time someone said the word “tuna” they were punched in the face. They’re still allowed to say tuna, but with the knowledge that it will result in punishment. Is this censorship? I’m not sure, but it’s definitely speech control.

Now, say that every time someone says the word “tuna” they’re not physically attacked, but instead receive death threats, slurs, stalking, public humiliation, or revelation of the contents of supposedly confidential information. Is this censorship? The line is even blurrier here, but that is definitely speech control.

Some time ago I wrote about a few problem people on an otherwise positive forum I participated in. On that forum was a woman who utterly terrified me. Any time anyone disagreed with her opinions or questioned her actions she would utterly flip out, accuse them of harassing her, and bring her army of followers down on those people. Sometimes they’d become outcasts. Sometimes they’d quit the forum. Sometimes they’d just learn to never publicly disagree with her again. No post disagreeing with her was ever actually deleted, but over time it became the case that no one ever posted any opinions that dissented with hers.

While no one ever made any rules or deleted any posts, emotional abuse IS as valid a tool as a punch in the face. Hell, for me, it’s worse. If I knew I’d be punched in the face for saying “tuna” or that any post containing the word “tuna” would be censored by the government, I’d go around shouting it all day long and writing it on the walls. I can deal with a punch in the face. But the way that woman degraded and lied about the people who disagreed with her was very effective, and I was terrified of what she might do to my reputation – much more so than I am of prison, or personal injury. She ruined friendships, because she was an extremely convincing liar. I'm currently friends with someone who was once deep in her cadre, and he is very embarrassed by some of the things he did, as well as frightened of the kind of power she had.

I remember at some point there was an attempt (on a different site) to call her out for the things she had done, to combat her deriding, negative speech with more speech. It resulted in all participants who did not make themselves anonymous before posting being labeled as ugly and jealous if they were female or bitter stalkers if they were male.

There was very little moderation on that site, and there were a lot of other bullies. People who would respond to an opinion piece with phrases like “Anyone who thinks ____ should have {insert really horrible possibly sexual thing here} done to them.” The people who wrote those horrible things thought they were entirely harmless, and often gloried in the fact that the forum fostered ‘free speech.’ Anytime someone asked them, politely, to not say things like that they exploded in a storm of derision, flying the ‘censorship’ flag high and wearing their slurs and derision as a badge of honor.

To me this is a corruption of the idea of free speech. I think a society where you’re allowed to pants or spit on anyone you see with no repercussions is a corruption of the idea of a free society. To tout such places are MORE free than places where any opinion can be stated as long as it is stated civilly is, in my eyes, a fundamentally flawed argument.

language hat, I realize that your more recent posts have agreed with some of the more balanced statements regarding the fact that different venues are better for different people, but at the same time you never recanted on the statement that an unmoderated forum is freer than a moderated one. I guess I just wanted to make it crystal clear that I disagree with that, and why.

Sorry for the rant.

#105 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:28 PM:

#96/98 Xopher/97 Phil Armstrong: Ok, that was pretty cool. :)

#91 Xopher: Sorry, I was taking your metaphor of "it's my right to burn my old love letters" to mean that you didn't grok the situation, which I'd put more as "it's my right to have my old love letters removed from the next edition of a love letter anthology without telling my ex-lover who I never actually broke up with, I just stopped calling". And yeah, I agree, there's more attachment and suffering on all sides than is best. I like the comments of Clifton Royston and John Mark Ockerbloom and so forth.

On a separate thread, one of the best fruit salads I ever made happened after a pineapple/mandarin orange/grape/banana/shaved coconut/sour cream mix sat in the sun for a couple hours and then went into the fridge. After a week or so the mixture fermented and had this amazing and excellent zizz to it.

For the main thread, seems that there's been a maturity fail on the part of someone at Boing Boing; if they thought well enough of Violet Blue to let her post, that past shared feeling should have indicated they tell her why their opinion had changed so much. Unfair to not give her a chance to learn from her mistakes.

#106 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:37 PM:

Violet Blue never posted to BB. These were posts ABOUT her, and links to her work.

They were unpublishing their own content, not hers.

#107 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:41 PM:

For the main thread, seems that there's been a maturity fail on the part of someone at Boing Boing; if they thought well enough of Violet Blue to let her post, that past shared feeling should have indicated they tell her why their opinion had changed so much. Unfair to not give her a chance to learn from her mistakes.

While folks have been quick to assume that Cory, Xeni, Teresa, Patrick, and who-knows who else is lying, why doesn't anyone ask if Violet Blue may not be shading the truth? I think it's within the realm of possibility that she knows darned good and well exactly why those posts were hidden.

#108 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:46 PM:

alsafi #101:

However, and I mean this in the kindest way it is possible to mean a gentle remonstrance, I also think the "you people..." construction implicit in the challenge to all of the commenters here to repudiate someone else's insults is skating right on the edge of what's generally considered acceptable here, though I am aware that is a community standard of Making Light, and not a universal one.

In general, I agree with you, and I would not ordinarily haul out that particular blunderbuss. But I'm pretty fed up with people sneering at MetaFilter for allegedly being impolite and crude and all that nasty stuff, while winking at equally nasty behavior on their own allegedly superior site. I'm not so much looking for a mass "we reject the evil one!" as an honest admission that all sites have their better and worse posters, and that the very nastiness hurled (by a few) at MeFi in this thread makes the silliness of the claim to a Higher Level evident.

#109 ::: Scraps ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:47 PM:
For the main thread, seems that there's been a maturity fail on the part of someone at Boing Boing; if they thought well enough of Violet Blue to let her post, that past shared feeling should have indicated they tell her why their opinion had changed so much. Unfair to not give her a chance to learn from her mistakes.

In addition to Xopher's correction: my idea of maturity has more to do with understanding that there are many valid ways to deal with fallings-out other than the ones I would use or prefer be used toward me; that there are lines that can be crossed that preclude deserving a chance to learn from mistakes with me -- nothing stopping them from learning how to behave next time with the next person; and that when I don't know who said what to whom when, I'm a long way from being in a position to pass judgment on the affairs of strangers.

#110 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:48 PM:

Xopher @96, sadly, I am not. I will have to eat it in spirit.

Doctor Science @99: holy cats, there are certainly some mostly-female online spaces that are full-fledged parts of the Jerkosphere Good lord yes. Sadly, some feminist online spaces are like that. I am Done with so many places because of the Jerkosphere effect. It's even driven me away from blogs where the actual bloggers are great, but I cannot deal with the commenters.

Man. Between blog politics and national politics I am really just about ready to move to Mars. They have water and dirt there. I will just have to figure out how to provide an atmosphere.

#111 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:48 PM:

Leah Miller #104: MetaFilter is not unmoderated and I was not touting it as such. I have seen the results of lack of moderation, and they're not pretty. I was saying that the moderation is as light as possible, and that I strongly approve of that. As for free speech, we'll have to agree to disagree.

#112 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:50 PM:

Xopher #106, that's simply not true, although Xeni did say it today, so you can hardly be blamed for believing or repeating it, as I myself would have before all this blew up. I personally saw at least one post written by Violet Blue on Boing Boing with my own eyes, at the time it was posted (by Xeni).

Here's Xeni today, and note the cool "this person" for someone she was once kissing close to:

"This person never 'posted' items to BB, they were not an author or a guest blogger."

And here's Xeni in 2006, introducing one of the now-deleted posts by (not about) Violet Blue:

"Blogger and San Francisco Chronicle columnist Violet Blue shares this roundup of memorable moments in memehood with BoingBoing readers. Full text follows after the jump."

Follow that archive.org link and you'll see an after-the-jump Violet Blue byline.

I'd like to believe that Xeni simply forgot this one counter-example to a generally true statement, but sadly her comment was in response to a question that specifically cited the 2006 post in question.

Yeah, I'm growing angry and desperately sad about this situation, because I hate to see people I had so much respect for throwing away their formerly high ideals, and then trying to pretend they never did any such thing. I'm not a Boing Boing hater, I am one of their long term fans, and right now I'm not a happy camper.

#113 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:59 PM:

#106 Xopher: Doh! I am wrong. I am chagrined, and I apologize to the Boingers. I agree that "person you have linked to as cool" does not demand the same level of respect, and that depublishing them is not out of the bounds of respectability.

#107 James D. Macdonald: Hoom, that she caused a shitstorm by pretending she didn't know when/why the posts went down when she actually did know, or should have known if she'd thought it through? Possible, but it doesn't fully jibe with the Boing Boing statement "noticed that we unpublished some posts related to her". Worth keeping in mind though, particulary when paired with Joe McMahon's comment at 102.

#114 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 06:59 PM:

A footnote to the closed thread:

Elusis took me up on my wager (basically, I staked $20 on the idea that nobody was likely to really need any off the unpublished posts anyway). She laid out a claim and backed it up in e-mail with more than enough detail to let me check and be convinced, and I've paid up.

#115 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 07:23 PM:

James @ 107: Agreed; the "not knowing" could be real, or could be self-deluding ingenuousness, or a lot of other things. I didn't post that because I felt I didn't know the person in question at all.

Which is the part I have to keep reminding myself: I don't know the Boingers personally, and I don't know Violet Blue personally. Getting personally involved for me is dumb. Wishing *everyone* well and hoping this will get cleared up somehow is as much as I feel is proper.

Though I am quite happy to have been inspired to call an allergy to light in the 435 nanometer range a chromatic aberration.

#116 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 07:34 PM:

Props to Bruce @114. Good man.

#117 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 07:43 PM:

Seconding everything John Chu said at #86.

As far as I can tell, BB is in a no-win situation as regards public opinion. They make the silent changes to avoid embarrassment, and when the changes are noted a year later*, embarrassment ensues, along with vicious assumptions of bad faith**. They (well, Teresa) finally post(s) a reasonable statement explaining that certain behavior on the part of VB led BB to disassociate from her, and people on that thread scream that BB ought to make explicit what that reason is. Also, the assumptions of bad faith continue.

If the BB principals were then to go against their better judgment and explain exactly what VB's offense was, then everyone would be arguing with them over whether her offense merited disassociation. Which would be stupid, because it's the right of any person to choose to disassociate from another for whatever reason, no matter how many readers disapprove of the reason.

I agree, in abstract, that silent removal of content is often unwise; Teresa's rules for PR, mentioned already, observe as much. But I'm not certain anything else would have been better, given that no matter what BB do in this situation (or in any situation, as Patrick has noted in the previous thread), there always appears to be a horde ready to condemn them for it.

My personal thought is that perhaps VB's behavior should be explained, so that BB can take a public stand against it. But I wouldn't tell the BB principals to do so, because I don't want to presume about a situation I don't have all the data on.

Heck, I've just now recently been in a situation where I felt the need to disassociate from someone because I could no longer bear to tacitly condone their personal conduct; yet because that conduct was personal, I considered it inappropriate to tell everyone in our social group what my gripe was. I didn't even feel empowered to tell the person themselves why I now felt squicked out to be around them, because it's not my place to tell them to change this particular personal behavior. "If you want me to associate with you anymore, you need to be a different person." No.

That my situation involved a social group of 10 and BB's one of thousands doesn't change that such a situation could arise for BB.


*"Bottom line is that those posts (not "more than 100 posts," as erroneously claimed elsewhere) were removed from public view a year ago.***" So what the fudge causes the outcry this week?

**It's extremely easy to insert 1984 references into an argument. It does not follow that every mention of "doubleplusgood" and "Winston Smith" is actually deserved.

***I see no contradiction between this statement and the statement that it takes time for a group to decide how to react to a firestorm that started a couple days ago.

#118 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 07:44 PM:

Bacchus, look at the words you yourself chose:
I personally saw at least one post written by Violet Blue on Boing Boing with my own eyes, at the time it was posted (by Xeni).

Consider the last clause as you wrote it, and compare to the wording you criticize from Xeni:

"This person never 'posted' items to BB, they were not an author or a guest blogger."

Isn't that making literally the same statement as you, namely that while VB wrote it, Xeni posted the article?

When somebody's words get quoted as a whole, verbatim, by someone else, trying to call it either way (the former "posted", or they didn't) involves hair-splitting, and universal agreement on the definition of exactly what constitutes a post or who is the author seems unlikely at best.

One more factor to weigh:

All people have notoriously flawed memories. Memory is a reconstructive process; without any hypocrisy or intent to deceive, people tend to remember things day-to-day in a way that fits their current mental narrative, and the events they remember will "drift" over time while retaining the aura of exact truth. There are now a zillion psychology experiments demonstrating this in various ways. I've misremembered simple facts in some bizarre ways at times, and I now try to cut people a little slack for misremembering things before assuming malice or deceit, particularly when they are in a "hot" emotional state.

#119 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 07:50 PM:

I'm assuming this was a personal problem with at least one of the Boingers and Violet Blue, for the reason that a professional problem would almost certainly demand explanation of the details.

Not specifically about this situation: Has it always been this difficult for people to untangle the personal and the professional? Or has the knottiness (heh. double heh.) simply become more visible?

#120 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 07:56 PM:

John #118 -- Good question. I noticed a while back that the Internet, blogging especially, makes it very easy to lose track of the line between the personal and professional.

#121 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 07:58 PM:

Clifton Royston #118, I myself have found things in my blog archives that I would have took an oath before a judge I'd never seen before, and I posted them. So I'm very sympathetic to the memory issue. However, in this case Xeni was specifically denying something that had just been cited to her. Yeah, it's possible for us to lawyer-lips her out of a falsehood by raising the distinction between authoring and posting, so I'm not arguing deliberate falsehood. But it seems odd that she'd be focusing on who hit the post button, when everybody else is talking about who, you know, wrote the deleted material.

Anyway, please recall that I was contradicting Xopher's claim that the deleted content was not Violet Blue's content. I am confident that Xopher made that claim in good faith, but it's simply not the truth, as the links demonstrate. Only he can say whether he was led astray by Xeni's comment.

#122 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 07:59 PM:

At what point (assuming the person possibly embarrassed is VB or an affine thereof) does VB's continued agitation of the trolls justify embarrassing her?

#123 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 08:01 PM:

language hat @ various - it's not typical, no. And to be fair, I don't actually know much about MeFi besides this particular flamefest and the fact that I've kind of bounced off threads there in the past. In fact, the only thing I really have to categorize MeFi is the fact that if they hold BoingBoing up as indicative of evil, or express that lovely sense of entitlement we all cherish so very much on the Internet, I have no time for them.

Whether or not you consider my invective childish or not -- well, if you think my post was as childish as what I've been seeing spilling over from MeFi around here and on BoingBoing, all I can say is that the many levels of analogy make my brain hurt.

I do like the occasional invective, by the way; it reminds me of my family, now mostly dead. Get a case of Pabst into them and they'd go on all night. But a little of it goes a long way, and I like BoingBoing and ML and resent it when people come in with an attitude.

Bah. You can single me out all you want, language hat. MeFi is still more than I can take. Sorry if that makes you sad.

#124 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 08:19 PM:

At what point (assuming the person possibly embarrassed is VB or an affine thereof) does VB's continued agitation of the trolls justify embarrassing her?

Er, exactly what are you calling continued agitation? She posted once about this, claiming to not know what caused it. Was she being disingenuous? Possibly, but that's all she's said about it.

It's BoingBoing that has been doing the agitating; they deny things that are true -- Cory claiming never to have criticized Digg over the AACS key, Xeni claiming that none of the posts were actually Violet Blue's. In a geek fight, that's the sort of thing that is really going to ruffle feathers; denial of reality never goes down well.

They failed to be transparent about it on BoingBoing, while letting little passive aggressive comments slip out all over the place, either directly or from surrogates. They've been silently editing their own posts, also something sure to gin up a geek fight, especially when the people doing the editing have been very loud on the subject of transparency and how it is best to show a change and an explicit edit.

Sure, they have every right to do whatever they want with their archive and their site, as a private entity. But if the publisher of the New York Times had a bad breakup with an contributor and had every mention of them sterilized from the paper's archives, it's unlikely that the BoingBoingers would be so cavalier about it.

#125 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 08:27 PM:

the only thing I really have to categorize MeFi is the fact that if they hold BoingBoing up as indicative of evil, or express that lovely sense of entitlement we all cherish so very much on the Internet, I have no time for them.

Would you have time for them if all they did was set up and then decry obvious strawmen?

#126 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 08:32 PM:

In a geek fight, that's the sort of thing that is really going to ruffle feathers

eeeehhhh, No.

Geeks actually care about facts, and a day or two of lag is not unusual. The facts are what they are, and a few hours delay will not surprise actual geeks like me.

#127 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 08:34 PM:

Leah @104: applause in the form of standing ovation lasting some 15 minutes or longer filled with increasing shouts of "Brava, Brava, Bravissima, encore!"

Also, me too.

I think I enjoyed my time on USEnet during the early 90s mainly because of the convergence of two factors: first, it was an utterly wild and new and wonderful thing to be able to talk with people from all over the world on any niche interest I could think of, and second, I was a teenager with the boundless energy of some teenagers for high-velocity, oft-incendiary discussion. It didn't hurt that I was often the recipient of compliments along the lines of "You're only 16? But you're so well spoken!" It is possible that some of the flamers pulled their punches around me because of my age. It is possible that I put up with things I wouldn't have ordinarily because there were no readily accessible alternate discussion forums (at least that I knew of).

Years later, I do not have the energy for trying to make signal heard against increasing, ill-spirited noise; I am more sensitive to online invective and thus more likely to shut up and leave when people get ugly; and there are other places to go for rewarding discussion about my old favorite USEnet topics (writing, progressive rock, Paganism/religious rights, etc). Also, since an adult is less likely than a teenager to be treated as a precious gem just for stringing sentences together into meaningful paragraphs, I no longer enjoy the natural protection and kudos I received in those years (nor should I).

I don't hang out on USEnet very often anymore.

USEnet hasn't changed, but the world around it has. Well, perhaps the world's changes have changed USEnet: with so many other venues, some moderated and some not, the concentration of ugliness in unmoderated fora increases. Where once everyone piled into the same room for lack of anywhere else to go, now rude/malicious posters can gravitate to unmoderated fora, and more soft-spoken, sensitive, or simply respectful posters can leave them.

#128 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 08:38 PM:

Hey, Tavella, what if the NYT backed a disastrous war in the Middle East .. but I suppose that's not worth your time...

#129 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 08:41 PM:

Geeks actually care about facts, and a day or two of lag is not unusual. The facts are what they are, and a few hours delay will not surprise actual geeks like me.

That's not what I was commenting about. My paragraph:

"It's BoingBoing that has been doing the agitating; they deny things that are true -- Cory claiming never to have criticized Digg over the AACS key, Xeni claiming that none of the posts were actually Violet Blue's. In a geek fight, that's the sort of thing that is really going to ruffle feathers; denial of reality never goes down well."

I did not comment that the *wait* ruffled feathers -- I commented that denying things that people can prove with a simple link *will* ruffle geek feathers. There's a reason why the phrase "reality based community" became a popular catchword on geek blogs.

#130 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 08:42 PM:

if they hold BoingBoing up as indicative of evil

Reasonably speaking, they (we) don't. It's hard to know how best to treat the perception of an aggregate vs. individuals here when I know full well that, for example, while I recognize on the order of eighty distinct metafilter members commenting in that thread, each in their own distinctive style and with their own established history of site contributions, someone unfamiliar with the site is going to see something like an undifferentiated mob.

And that difference is neither your fault nor mine, just as it's neither my fault nor Teresa's that I'm not particularly familiar with most of the regulars over here on ML and have only been able to glean a small sense of your various personalities in the last couple days of discussion. So it goes: it's hard to get acclimated to a new group, and much harder yet under stress and when one's friends (whether BoingBoing or MeFi) are the topic of critical discussion by the unfamiliar group.

Folks on mefi have all kinds of opinions about BoingBoing, and about Cory and Xeni and so on, that they've come to by whatever means. Who shows up in a given thread is obviously self-selecting -- for all the hundreds of comments in the mefi thread at this point, it's only a very small fraction of the active userbase who has spoken up -- so it's not really surprising to see a strong showing of folks with something critical to say, but it's a pretty bad misreading of the userbase and of the site to take from that thread the notion that MeFi Thinks BoingBoing Is Evil, or anything close to it.

Cory, to folks who are not friends with him, is a Big Personality, and an Internet Personality, and there's a degree of jokey, low-grade "rivalry" that exists in mefi conversations re: BB on account of the two sites moving in somewhat overlapping circles. And while this is probably the least sympathetic place I could choose to point this out, Cory and his writing and his net persona and his pet subjects are in that context a kind of lazy running joke -- not meant with any more invective by most of the folks who invoke "him" in conversation than a tepid Leno monologue, just easy, accessible material.

All of which is to say: I think this is about the least flattering way for such stuff to be exposed to folks who are (as it seems a lot of ML regulars are) actually a bit closer than average in however loose a sense to the BB crew, but a whole lot of the BB/Cory riffing in that thread, and elsewhere on mefi, is exactly that: riffing, people on the site that they hang out on just jawing while something interesting unfolds. I'm sure there are a few folks in there who are feeling genuine anger or upset at BB, but by that token there's also a lot of us having, and expressing, substantial but far-from-angry reactions to all this.

#131 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 08:46 PM:

David @ 125 - I don't know, David. Would you like to be more explicit about what you actually mean to say, or would that be too direct for you? Do you mean to imply that all I do is to set up and decry obvious strawmen? That's pleasingly circular. Or do you mean to imply that MeFi sometimes sets up and decries subtle strawmen, and that I should make more time for it?

Frankly, I'm confused. You seem to have some clear concept you're objecting to, but I'm not sure what it is. Would you like to try again?

#132 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 08:50 PM:

Also with the props to Leah #104. Good one! I have also left otherwise useful discussion forums that were not moderated to remove sexist abuse.

Newish thread: "sausagefest" is the term I've heard for an overwhelmingly male space (a la "Yeah, the fishing club is a real sausagefest"), but does anyone know a term for an overwhelmingly white space? Not looking for something pejorative or suggestive that the racial balance is the result of poor intent, just looking for something descriptive.

#133 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 08:51 PM:

tavella @ 124: Actually, she posted twice, but I do agree they weren't particularly incendiary posts.

Avram @ 120: That's part of what I was thinking. I was also thinking that Violet Blue is a sex worker. That's much more respectable now than it was in recent memory. It's also a profession that, like writing, blurs the boundary between personal and professional. I was also thinking about the greater openness to personal detail in public. Consider the confessional poets. Consider Oprah.

You know that Lou Reed song that goes "Growing up in public with your pants down"? I do.

And there's another thing. The internet doesn't just make communication easier, but it makes memories much, much longer. I think that might be the more operative factor.

#134 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 08:55 PM:

Josh @130 - Actually, I don't know a damn thing about MeFi, and I'm sure you're right. And while I'm not friends with Cory, I also don't feel the sense of entitlement that many of the negative posters on BoingBoing do. I don't know if they're MeFi or not. I really don't have time to read any of it -- I'm stealing time from my wife and children just to type this post.

All I really want, when I boil all the rhetoric away, is for all you people to stop being wrong on the Internet -- so clearly, I'm the one who should be shutting up and going away. No, sirree, I'm not one of those who doesn't know how to shut up when told to shut up. When it's time to shut up, I shut up! I can shut up with the best of

(Yosemite Sam: Shut up shuttin' up!)

#135 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 08:55 PM:

Niall McAuley@#128:
Hey, Tavella, what if the NYT backed a disastrous war in the Middle East .. but I suppose that's not worth your time...

Er, what? Care to clarify what you were trying to imply with that? Given that I just criticized exactly that sort of silent editing.

#136 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 09:01 PM:

Tavella @ 129 - Cory claimed not to have criticized Digg? Heck, I remember that myself. Where did he claim it?

#137 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 09:04 PM:

I'd probably only describe the current situation as really "evil" if it turned out that DECA interfered with BB's editorial content. That would be simple enough to clarify, though.

#138 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 09:07 PM:

alsafi @101:
I don't think being deliberately insulting is acceptable discourse or behavior, here or elsewhere.

Whether you consider it acceptable or not, it is empirically true that "being deliberately insulting" *is* considered acceptable in many parts of the Internet and in parts of society as a whole, and if you're witty or transgressive enough it's even considered admirable, a valuable social coin. Saying "this is not acceptable" doesn't work, when the behavior clearly *is* acceptable some of the time.

Leah's story @104 is exactly why I talk about the Jerkosphere, not "boyspace". The problem isn't boys, it's *humans* -- and, as Leah's story illustrates, women have often been trained to be extremely high-level social manipulators. If the MeFi-ers (??) think of their Jerkosphere problem as a "boy" problem, that's a misdiagnosis IMHO.

language hat @111 : I frankly have no idea why you say to Leah, "as for free speech, we'll have to agree to disagree". Leah presented evidence about how "free speech" can lead to unfreedom; what evidence are you presenting to the contrary? Just FYI, in my experience "we'll have to agree to disagree" is a line used by people who are feeling overwhelmed and put upon by the weight of evidence on the other side of an argument.

#139 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 09:07 PM:

I also don't feel the sense of entitlement that many of the negative posters on BoingBoing do.

I could go on at length divvying out the things I've seen in comments, both on BB and mefi, that I think fall fairly into realm of "entitlement" vs. those which fall more to the camp of "stating an ethical position" -- I think there's a pretty broad spectrum in play the last couple days, along as well with the aforementioned riffing -- but I've already gone on at length a lot today. In the spirit of shutting the hell up (something I have trouble with myself), I'll save that for another day.

I don't know if they're MeFi or not.

I recognize a few mefites over in the BB thread (some of whom are regulars at both sites), and there are probably a few more who I don't recognize due to a different handle, but my impression is that most of the mefite conversation has been kept to the mefi thread itself and a few of us over here.

To save you the trouble, I've read both the BB and the mefi thread through, and there's a lot of noise in both. It's striking to me how many folks over on BB have been making a point of pointing out how little they care that any of this happened, but that's probably just a difference in site cultural norms from what I see at mefi (where folks tend instead to tear intensely into the details of meta-commentary threads). Other than that, there's nothing really unusual going on as far as net-brouhaha threads go.

And Teresa, I just want to say that I imagine you've had a hell of a day. I appreciate you opening this and letting it keep running while the center ring over at BB has been cranking along as well.

#140 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 09:12 PM:

Michael Roberts - Your initial interpretation was correct. I was implying that you set up a strawman caricature of Metafilter posters. Nobody is seriously portraying Boing Boing as evil, and I don't know how you got that idea. People are saying things that range from the claim that Boing Boing has handled an internal matter in a ham-handed manner to the claim that Boing Boing is acting in a hypocritical manner.

I'm in the latter camp; I think they're clearly engaging in special pleading by refusing to apply to themselves the same standards that they regularly apply to other entities and websites. I also, let me be clear, don't believe this is a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. It blew up on the internet because, well, that's what happens on the internet. It is not of earth-shattering importance.

But I don't think you do anyone a favor with unwarranted over-the-top attacks on Metafilter when no-one from Metafilter has come here and done anything to deserve it. You've called Metafilter full of crap, you've called it full of snot-noses, you've called it arrogant, and you've despite that) admitted you don't know much about it.

I'm suggesting that if you don't know much about something you refrain from calling people arrogant snot-noses who are full of crap.

Has Cortex been anything but polite and eloquent here? Why the bile? You do know that there is considerable overlap between readers of ML and readers of Metafilter, right?

For example, you might recognize user 18393. His username is "pnh". I leave it as an exercise to guess his name. Or perhaps user 15351, username "jscalzi". I leave that one as an exercise as well. And so on.

Metafilter is not the enemy.

#141 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 09:13 PM:

Cory claimed not to have criticized Digg? Heck, I remember that myself. Where did he claim it?

Cory, if it was him*, said as much in the thread Patrick started yesterday.

*Patrick's final comment in that thread original suggested that he had it from a reliable source that Cory's comment was, like zota's "Xeni" impersonation, a forgery, though it hadn't been confirmed. That's paraphrase, I have the quote over in the mefi thread somewhere.

That later disappeared from the comment, however, implying that either Cory's identity was confirmed or the shady provenance of the comment was much less certain than Patrick originally believed. I'd kind of hoped for an update on that front either way, but I can understand if it's not high on anyone's priority list right now.

#142 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 09:21 PM:

After skimming the Boing Boing thread I agree that it sounds like you've not had a very fun day, Teresa, and I hope the rest of your week is an improvement. I don't think I'll be participating in the BB trainwreck thread... just reading it makes me feel icky. I don't envy you your job... or if you volunteer, I envy it even less!

#143 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 09:40 PM:

Doctor Science #138:

(To language hat):
I frankly have no idea why you say to Leah, "as for free speech, we'll have to agree to disagree". Leah presented evidence about how "free speech" can lead to unfreedom; what evidence are you presenting to the contrary?

I'm not language hat, but as I read Leah's comments, two thoughts bubbled up to the top of my consciousness, simultaneously:

a. I know what she's talking about, I've seen that, and I've chosen online fora based on avoiding the stupid nastiness.

b. There is no way, short of some kind of central control of the internet, that we will ever see an end to many of this kind of fora, because a fair number of people like them, and they will vote with their (virtual) feet.

In particular, the only way to stop adolescent males of any age from having the "look at the hooters on that one" or "damn, what a fat cow" sorts of discussions is to ban that sort of discussions from the internet. Otherwise, in a big wide world with lots of free discussions, those discussions will exist, and they will be findable on Google, and they will link to pictures put on other, better-moderated sites.

Similar comments apply to all sorts of stuff, because some people feel threatened or offended by some kinds of discussions, by some topics, by some positions held on those topics, by some styles of debate. Some people, for example, are deeply offended by skeptical or irreverent discussions of their religion. Others are very upset by open discussion of homosexuality. Still others are squicked out by the very existence of fora dedicated to discussing BDSM. Someone offended by irreverent, sarcastic discussions of religion (these folks outnumber feminists by about 20 to 1, I think) will feel as unwelcome on Respectful Insolence or Pharyngula as Leah will feel on the kinds of places she's decrying.

The only answer I can see that is workable is to accept that the net is full of places where you (and I) don't want to go. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try to enforce or encourage better values on our parts of the net. But there is no good solution to the problem of people having discussions that offend you, or make you feel upset and unwelcome. There is no way to avoid having common comments in a place that deeply offend some people, without strictly regulating what is allowed to be said.

Similarly, personal insult happens in most fora, and it's hard to see how to avoid it. There are different rules, sometimes formal, mostly informal, in different places.

My best solution is to patronize nice coffee shops, and avoid biker bars.

#144 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 09:42 PM:

David @ 140 - the bile's mostly from reading too damned much of that thread over at BoingBoing, I'm afraid. And as to why it got directed at MeFi -- now that you mention it, I'm not sure. Here's how it played out in my head:

- Patrick posted a cryptic note a couple of days ago. Being unaware of many Internet traditions, I was intrigued but -- correctly! -- diagnosed it as something that would suck me in if I looked too closely, once I discovered it wasn't national politics.

- A bunch of yahoos came out of nowhere on that thread. I already have a lot of bile about the haters on BoingBoing, so I naturally assumed that was where they were coming from and rolled my eyes, still successfully staying away from it.

- Somebody said, no, these aren't BoingBoing haters, they're mostly spillover from MetaFilter. (And Digg.) What? I said. I remember MetaFilter from when it first started before we coined the term "blog", but jeez, can't they shut up and not suck me in? But I still didn't get sucked in!

- Then today, Teresa posted on BoingBoing about it. I read everything on BoingBoing except the WebZen and gadget articles, so I read it. And then I was stupid enough to read the comments. Oy. And then I got all worked up and posted.

At which point, all hope was abandoned.

So -- true. It seemed I went off half-cocked. Probably I should be hating on Digg, actually. Or somebody. Mostly I'm mad at myself for being a day behind schedule on work and still allowing myself to read any of this at all, much less post, but clearly, it would be far too introspective to permit myself to acknowledge that, and only one of you MeFi people would ever suggest it such an unreasonable course of action.

Now please, everybody, stop being wrong on the Internet, so I can concentrate.

#145 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 09:55 PM:

Now please, everybody, stop being wrong on the Internet

Good luck with that!

#146 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 10:02 PM:

Just FYI, in my experience "we'll have to agree to disagree" is a line used by people who are feeling overwhelmed and put upon by the weight of evidence on the other side of an argument.

Without getting into the specifics of the argument, I don't think this is fair at all -- at least, it doesn't match my own experience. I've heard people say "we'll have to agree to disagree" who were obviously in the right, obviously in the wrong, and every variation you can imagine. I don't think saying it means anything other than that the person is tired of the argument.

#147 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 10:26 PM:

Stephen - I agree.

Josh up there somewhere - Well, regarding Cory's having posted that or not, I can confirm that the IP that post was from was unlike any other Cory Doctorow IP in history. Unfortunately, every other Cory Doctorow IP is also unique. Damn his nomadic habits!

So yeah, there's no way for me to tell whether Cory actually claimed that or not. I'm not inclined to believe he would lie about it, but that's my own judgment and I have no reason to trust it especially.

David @ 145 - I can dream.

#148 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 10:34 PM:

Another agreement with Leah Miller at #104.

#149 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 10:35 PM:

Michael Roberts #144:
And then I got all worked up and posted. At which point, all hope was abandoned.

There are times when not engaging in a shit fight is the only way to avoid splatter damage*.

*Speaking as one who's posted in haste**, only to repent at length.
**Guilty of not investigating the backstory first.

#150 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 11:01 PM:

Ah, thanks for the update, Michael. I'm fine with uncertainty, it's just nice to know that it's a verified uncertainty, so to speak.

#151 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 11:26 PM:

All of which is to say: I think this is about the least flattering way for such stuff to be exposed to folks who are (as it seems a lot of ML regulars are) actually a bit closer than average in however loose a sense to the BB crew, but a whole lot of the BB/Cory riffing in that thread, and elsewhere on mefi, is exactly that: riffing, people on the site that they hang out on just jawing while something interesting unfolds. I'm sure there are a few folks in there who are feeling genuine anger or upset at BB, but by that token there's also a lot of us having, and expressing, substantial but far-from-angry reactions to all this.

That's an important point to remember. It also reminds me that there's sometimes this belief people have that if someone qualifies to them as a public figure, they can say anything they like about them because somehow that person is not real, and stuff said about them is somehow merely entertainment or something.

I remember that after Jim Rigney died, I was reading some condolences and remembrances that various people had written, because sometimes it feels good to have company missing somebody, if that makes any sense. I ran across one completely poisonous and apparently offhand screed of such casual meanness that I had to go sit somewhere and shake for a while, just to let my reaction go by.

One person's life is another person's free entertainment, to people like that. I don't much care to be around that, and I try to avoid doing it myself.

Not sure this is really germane to the whole BB thing, but it's what the comments raise in my mind just now, so there ya go.

#152 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 11:28 PM:

Um, 151's quote was from Josh in 130. Sorry for leaving out that attribution.

#153 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 11:31 PM:

Common sense triumphs!

(I just deleted the comment I'd written and was about to post.)

#154 ::: hamletta ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 11:41 PM:

Golly, you guys! Would anybody like a cigarette?

#155 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 11:46 PM:

I’m really glad that Boing Boing finally came out and said something. It makes me feel a lot better. Though I still think their decision wasn’t the greatest, it was the silence that really weirded me out. But frankly, I’m not taking kindly to all the people saying, “SEE? It was perfectly innocuous! You were just being ridiculous getting upset about it.” Yes, there were a lot of people out there being ridiculous and casting this as the WORST THING EVAR, but the simple act of noting the inexplicable disappearances and worrying about them wasn't foolish, or wrong, or whatever. We weren't wrong to be concerned and curious when this first came to light: wanting to know what's going on isn't a bad habit to be in, and I'm kind of upset to see so many people stomping all over it.

The sensation of being told not to worry my pretty little head about what those people over there are doing but won’t explain is pretty familiar to me these days. The weird part was hearing it from typically pretty paranoid liberals and other free thinkers—generally I get it from right-wing authoritarians trying to wave away the latest Bush monstrosity. Isn’t that exactly what they say, when we question them about illegal wiretapping or extraordinary rendition? “Don’t worry, these are good people, I know them personally, and they would never do this without a really, really good reason! No doubt there’s an excellent reason you just don’t have the security clearance to hear!”* Well, good for you that you’re a personal friend of Cory Doctorow and the other Boingers. If it was my good friend, I’d be inclined to cut them a lot more slack myself. Thing is, though, they aren’t: I don’t know them, I can’t peer into their eyes and pronounce them Good People. All I have to go by is what they’re doing, and if what they’re doing looks suspicious, I want information and facts, not personal testimonials from their friends. Everyone has friends.

*I realize there are gaping holes in this analogy. For one, disappearing a couple of posts from the archives isn’t even vaguely the same as disappearing a couple of human beings. For another, Boing Boing isn’t accountable to its readers,** whereas the United States government (theoretically) is. However, the appeals to blind trust were structured in the same way, and were (to my mind) equally unconvincing.

**Except, they kind of are. They ask people to come to Boing Boing, to comment there and form a community, to care about it, and then when something strange happens they turn around and tell them that it's a personal site and the BBoingers owe them nothing? If what you're trying to build is a community, then you have to treat people with respect.

#156 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 11:55 PM:

#99 Doctor Science

My lifetime tolerance for Stupid Wife Jokes got exceeded long long long ago from a preponderance of the damned things at e.g. military technology conferences, the first few speakers at the limited access sessions all seemed to feel compelled to use them as "ice-breakers." They were ice-makers for me, however....

#157 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2008, 11:59 PM:

Happy Canada Day, all. I was just watching the fireworks over Parliament Hill, and let me tell ya, they were a lot prettier than what's been going off in blogspace...

I think I've inferred what prompted the removal of VB-related items, a year ago. Would it be inappropriate for me to speculate on that matter here?

#158 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:06 AM:

I would love some inferred speculation, Joel.

#159 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:18 AM:

#143 albatross

One of the most noxious things about such fora, however, is that they spread hatemongering, sometimes even lethally offensive, memes.

People's learning methods include copying words, phrases, intonations, ideas, and actions.

"You don't like this? But I see it on TV and in films and in books...."

"That's FICTION!...."

#160 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:24 AM:

Xopher @ 96: "However, I thought Phil knew I was talking about the DIVE reflex—the one that a cup of cold water in the face can elicit—and took offense to his calling that torture."

From the Gaurdian:

Yasir Rubaii Saeed al-Qutaji describes how loud western music was played and cold water poured over his body; he said he was also threatened with sexual abuse.

"For the next 15 hours they tried to break me down by taking me frequently inside and repeating the stripping, cold water and loud music sequence," he says.

From the Defense Department Memo outlining Interrogation techniques. Warning: PDF (page 13):

Category III techniques. Techniques in this category may only be used by submitting a request through the Director, JIG....These techniques are required for a very small percentage of most uncooperative detainees (less than 3%)....

(2)Exposure to cold weather or water (with appropriate medical monitoring.

I'm trying very hard to be civil here, because do you know what this is? This is defining deviancy down, and it is happening right in front of me. You are advocating torture. I am so angry I am sick to my stomach.

Xopher @ 91:? "Did you notice that in my post at 47 I said "some of the commenters on the resulting thread"—that is, not "suggesting the torture of the people with a beef"? To clarify, I meant the nasty zota-like troll-vultures."

Oh, thank goodness. You only want to torture the really bad people! Color me reassured.

#161 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 01:13 AM:

albatross @143:

In particular, the only way to stop adolescent males of any age from having the "look at the hooters on that one" or "damn, what a fat cow" sorts of discussions is to ban that sort of discussions from the internet.

Because boys will be boys? Nope, sorry, this argument is made, as they say, of FAIL -- not to mention privilege, double standards, and misogyny.

The way to stop that sort of discussion is to *not accept it* -- for other men, in particular, to say, "no, this is not funny; no, I do not think that way; no, being a jerk does not make you one of the boys, it makes you a jerk."

My best solution is to patronize nice coffee shops, and avoid biker bars.

In Real Life, this is the kind of widely-accepted attitude that leads to women being raped in biker bars -- and then blamed, because what did she expect, asking for a drink in a place like that?

The problem is not that some people say things online that make me uncomfortable or unhappy, the problem is that they make me *unsafe*.

#162 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 02:26 AM:

By the way, language hat @ 95, I think "I'm still waiting to hear..." will make an absolutely dandy addition to the troll bingo card.

Stupid Michael, stupid Michael. I got out of bed to post this.

#163 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 03:06 AM:

heresiarch@160: Context matters enormously here I think.

Some actions will be clearly torture in one context but not necessarily in another. From his emails to me, I don't believe that Xopher indented what he wrote to be interpreted that way: ie with all the context that would make such actions unquestionably torture rather than the relatively minor revenge fantasies that they actually were.

Given that the action is defined by the context, some readers will project a "torture" context onto Xopher's words, so there's still the potential to give aid and comfort to those wanting to normalise torture even if one didn't intend to do so.

It's a thorny area: One can think oneself completely innocent, but be read as advocating the darkest deeds. I guess that's an argument for defining the context yourself, lest others project their own on your words.

#164 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 04:23 AM:

NB. The poster who spoofed the post from Xeni has apologised on the metafilter thread here, for those who care about such things.

#165 ::: Wakboth ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 05:30 AM:

Just as an aside, like so many other people in this thread, I'm all for moderated forums.

Unmoderated forums start, theoretically, with freedom of speech; but in practice, they tend to quickly descend into a tyranny of the loud, the lewd and the aggressive.

#166 ::: Tom P (aka flashboy on MeFi) ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 07:14 AM:

It's all very sad, and while I do think that the BB crew haven't acted anywhere near as well as they could in this, they certainly have my sympathy for what must have been a hellish few days. Even moreso for people like Patrick, who aren't even part of BB but have been swept up by the whirlwind along with them.

I hope that in a while, once things have (hopefully) calmed down a bit, the Boingers can take a look again at what went on, and realise that a large portion of the criticism was coming not from trolls, haters and various other varieties of internet asshole, but from some of BB's most enthusiastic fans. It wasn't all outrage and accusations of evil, it was genuine disappointment, and an attempt to hold a valued source to the standards we'd like to see it maintain.

It's the nature of internet pile-ons that, where one or two comments of honest criticism would have been taken on board, when that stretches to tens, hundreds, thousands - with a huge dollop of nasty mixed in with the honest responses - it starts to look that the whole world hates you, and all negative comments look like they're motivated by malice. The "don't let assholes rent space in your head" approach is certainly an essential mechanism for not going mad online - but it's also one that requires constant checking. It should be a shield, not a fortress - you can't completely wall yourself in with it, because you quickly lose your ability to tell who's an attacker and who's not.

If there's a plus side to this (I know, I'm reaching rather desperately for some silver lining) at least its got out in the open a whole host of issues about online publishing that are worth thinking about for lots of people, from amateurs to professional bloggers to traditional media outlets. (I took a stab at teasing out a couple of them on my blog, but it mostly just ended up over-long and blathery, and I won't try to rewrite it here.) Hopefully, this business won't become so tainted with prurience and blogdrama that everybody just wants to forget about it and nobody learns anything.

Another plus side is that it's pretty clear that Making Light, even when it gets caught up in the worst kind of internet shitstorm, still manages to be a place for intelligent, polite and interesting conversation. So - good work, Patrick and Teresa, and thanks for providing these threads for people to talk in.

(Having said that: Michael Roberts@162 - did you really just call langaugehat a troll, or am I misreading that? Because, you know, that would be pretty off base.)

#167 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:13 AM:

#161:

albatross @143:

In particular, the only way to stop adolescent males of any age from having the "look at the hooters on that one" or "damn, what a fat cow" sorts of discussions is to ban that sort of discussions from the internet.
Because boys will be boys? Nope, sorry, this argument is made, as they say, of FAIL -- not to mention privilege, double standards, and misogyny.
The way to stop that sort of discussion is to *not accept it* -- for other men, in particular, to say, "no, this is not funny; no, I do not think that way; no, being a jerk does not make you one of the boys, it makes you a jerk."
There's a difference between condoning something, and acknowledging your inability to completely eradicate it. (See also: Prohibition, War on Some Drugs.)

Even if you slap down jerkish behavior at every opportunity, it will still scuttle off somewhere and continue existing. I think (although I could be wrong) that was albatross's point.

My best solution is to patronize nice coffee shops, and avoid biker bars.

In Real Life, this is the kind of widely-accepted attitude that leads to women being raped in biker bars -- and then blamed, because what did she expect, asking for a drink in a place like that?
The problem is not that some people say things online that make me uncomfortable or unhappy, the problem is that they make me *unsafe*.
Unsafe? On the internet? That's a neat trick.

If they make you *feel* unsafe, then they're making you uncomfortable or unhappy. But a genuine risk of physical harm doesn't begin until the cyber-stalker logs off and starts stalking in the real world, which makes your rape analogy strained, at best. Making sure nobody follows you home from a biker bar is probably wise. Torching the bar is not necessarily the best way to achieve that goal.

In any case, rapes that take place in biker bars generally *are* prosecuted, AFAIK, regardless of any jerks that may engage in victim-blaming.

I'm not sure I understand the point of the analogy, anyway. Are you seriously advocating the complete destruction of biker bars, or an attempt to impose coffee-shop behavioral standards on them whether the bar owners want to or not? (The real ones, as well as the online equivalents.)


P.S. The blockquote tag apparently fails here when the quote includes multiple paragraphs. (Workaround: blockquote each paragraph separately.) That's annoying; it's a useful tag. I can understand auto-closing things like italics and bold, but blockquote is *supposed* to include substantial amounts of text.

#168 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 09:04 AM:

Doctor Science #161:

Not "boys will be boys," but "a--holes will be a--holes." This isn't a winking acceptance of bad behavior, it's a recognition that nobody has the power to suppress all the bad behavior, and that giving anyone that power would be a cure many, many times worse than the disease.

I think you're mixing two bad things in your post: feeling unwelcome/offended, and being objectively threatened.

My point is that the first one isn't a matter for law or regulation, and won't in practice ever be fixed. To fix that for you, we have to fix it for lots of other people, and the end result will be literal say-this-and-go-to-jail censorship. Subtle social pressure will not work.

As an example of why, go read the posts in the next Skeptics' Circle, and imagine how welcome an evangelical Christian is likely to feel in those discussions. There is no way to make the Christian feel comfortable and welcomed in those discussions, without basically shutting up a lot of the commentary, because the whole premise of those posts is that her ideas and most deeply held beliefs are bullsh-t, and that she's a gullible fool for believing them. And this is one of a million examples[1]. Note that there are millions of loud, politically active, willing-to-flame evangelical Christians on the net. Their social pressure does not cause those sites and their discussions to either go away or to become kinder to Christians.

Threats of death or other harm look like genunine matters for the police, to me. As with all speech, there will inevitably be gray areas, but credible threats of harm are, in fact, handled now by existing law, and that ought not to change. It may or may not be possible to do anything about those (the amount of spam in my filters implies that internet law enforcement is hard), but it's not unreasonable to try.

This is broadly what we do now with speech of all kinds. I think it's the best approach we can hope for on the net.

[1] I'm using this example because it's not one that enflames most of the people on ML. But there are many others. I cannot imagine a real-world mechanism that stopped the "look at the hooters on that one" kind of discussion, but not the Skeptics' Circle kind of discussion, because any such mechanism would ultimately draw its authority from majority beliefs and politics.

#169 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 09:20 AM:

Jeez, a girl goes away for a few...weeks...

One question: can anyone put into words what it is about Cory Doctorow that seems to set off so many? There are hundreds of blogs written by well-known authors and they don't seem to get such abuse; and Doctorow seems to be, pardon the expression, another garden variety excellent writer (y'all know what I mean, he doesn't have intellectual halitosis or whatever); I've been at Scalzi's blog when everyone has had a good rant fest; yet...this isn't the first time that something that seemed to me to be just another everyday statement/event gets a bunch of people just like to drop dead from heart attacks.

What is it about Doctorow that gets people foaming at the mouth?

#170 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 09:35 AM:

#169: "intellectual halitosis"

That's a great phrase. I may have to borrow it sometime -- since, while Doctorow doesn't have it, there are plenty who do...

#171 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 10:11 AM:

Tavella@124: [BoingBoing] deny things that are true -- Cory claiming never to have criticized Digg over the AACS key

I've seen this asserted multiple times during these discussions. Frequently, there's a link to this article. Oddly enough, I don't see Cory criticising Digg here. In fact, it seems to me to be fairly complimentary on how Digg handled a sticky legal situation, while criticising AACS-LA for generating that situation. Nor do I see criticism in any of the other top few results for 'site:boingboing.net aacs digg' on google. So if you want to insist that Cory did criticise Digg, please point out a specific criticism he made.

#172 ::: Mike Booth ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 10:14 AM:

Emma @169 asks:

What is it about Doctorow that gets people foaming at the mouth?

Boing Boing gets a lot more hits, I would imagine, than the average author blog. My obscure blog has about five comments... and one of them is a troll. Scale that up and you get the Boing Boing comment section.

Boing Boing doesn't focus strictly on noncontroversial or obscure topics.

Doctorow is not a quiet, unassuming little mousy guy. His cartoon alter ego is a caped superhero. People tend to carelessly assume that he's immune to bullets and that they're free to use him for target practice.

Doctorow is a political activist. Inevitably, speaking out about political issues creates a body of people who will actively seek to flame you every chance they get. Cory is a big enough target that some of his critics may even be professional character assassins -- I certainly wouldn't put that past the folks who are promoting all these lousy copyright bills.

People will say rude things on the web that they would never say to your face. People will say rude things to groups that they would never say to individuals. People will say rude things to your official representative that they would never say directly to you. People enjoy being rude when they're jealous. Boing Boing is a group, on the web, with the kind of traffic and influence that inspires jealousy; a group which (because of limited bandwidth, the need for coordination, and the very important goal of keeping the bloggers' blood pressures within an acceptable range) often speaks through an official representative.

But, ultimately, I don't think there's necessarily anything special about Doctorow or Boing Boing which provoked all this bile... just as I'm not convinced that Kathy Sierra made any particular wrong move that led to her being hounded off the web in a hail of emotional abuse. Rampaging mobs are a sociological phenomenon, not a personal one. The default state of the web provides good conditions for them, so sometimes they form, no matter what you do. Perhaps the next one will be centered on you, or me -- I hope not, for our sakes.

#173 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 10:14 AM:

Emma @ 169

I'm going to take a very cautious stab at this one.

I suspect, though I'm not certain it is that to a certain subset of readers his style in his non-fiction posts comes across as astonishingly arrogant. Mind you, I am not saying that he is arrogant, or that he intends to come across that way, or even that the problem is anywhere but in his readers' heads. I am one of those who simply can't read his non-fiction without raising my blood pressure, and this is despite very often agreeing with what he is saying.

Quite a number of people that I respect like him and his writing a great deal and I don't think that my reaction to his work is at all his fault. Nonetheless, even when I vehemently agree with him there is something about the way that he couches his arguments that gets my blood pressure up and makes me want to argue against whatever it is that he is saying.

(Italics qualifying the next statement) I don't believe for an instant that this is what he intends but his non-fiction stuff often reads to me as though not only does it never enter his mind that he might be wrong, but he believes that anyone who disagrees with him in so much as the slightest degree is a moron. Again, to me, it reads like his mind is utterly and completely closed.

I am not sure why it reads that way to me, possibly different cultural assumptions based on the place we were raised, possibly just basically different wiring for argumentation. I don't know. I do know, from discussions with a number of other people in RL that I am not alone in reading him this way.

I often agree with him but I avoid reading his work because it's not going to do either one of us any good. However, I absolutely don't blame him for it and don't believe it's his intent. I just know that I should not read any of the non-fiction he writes no matter how much I agree with him. As an interesting side note, a couple of the people I know who have the same problem reading him have had very different reactions to him in person which do not carry back into reading him again afterward.

That's only one perspective, and I really wish that his non-fiction writing did not read to me that way as it means I am missing some very cogent argument, but it's one possible explanation.

#174 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 10:15 AM:

Leah Miller, 104,
That was very well said.
I'm with you 100%

Josh Millard, 130,
I'm not particularly familiar with most of the regulars over here on ML and have only been able to glean a small sense of your various personalities in the last couple days of discussion. So it goes: it's hard to get acclimated to a new group, and much harder yet under stress and when one's friends (whether BoingBoing or MeFi) are the topic of critical discussion by the unfamiliar group.
Quite true, that. Say, you wouldn't happen to do poetry, would you?

Bruce Arthurs, 153,
Common sense triumphs!
(I just deleted the comment I'd written and was about to post.)

milk -> keyboard

albatross, 168,
Note that there are millions of loud, politically active, willing-to-flame evangelical Christians on the net. Their social pressure does not cause those sites and their discussions to either go away or to become kinder to Christians.
I initially read this as the politically active, willing-to-flame evangelicals are not becoming kinder to other Christians. Which is really funny (and sad) because it's quite true.

#175 ::: cajunfj40 ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 10:25 AM:

@Caroline #110:

Man. Between blog politics and national politics I am really just about ready to move to Mars. They have water and dirt there. I will just have to figure out how to provide an atmosphere.

Just bring a couple of Rickover reactors to provide power for your Von Neumann self-replicating ice/ore harvester bots and atmosphere generator. If there's water, and you have power, you can make (high O2 content at first) air to inflate your temporary bubble tent. Keep plenty of patches around, and you might want to armor the lower levels of the tent against punctures. Oh, and keep the Vitamin C tablets tightly sealed in their container, with an oxygen sequestration device in with them.

#176 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 10:33 AM:

Bruce Arthurs #153: Common sense triumphs!
(I just deleted the comment I'd written and was about to post.)

Oh, man, you just whacked 50 points off your Internet Curmudgeon's certification total; you'll never win Flamer Bingo that way, you know....

On the other hand, gaining 53 ML Egoboo points means you came out ahead overall. heh.

#177 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 10:36 AM:

Mike @172 & Kelly @173: Thanks for the answers. you both make sense. I suppose my problem, if it is indeed such, is that whenever I find one of those "look at what that bloody Doctorow has done now" threads somewhere, it seems to deteriorate into "you should do things the way I think you should" with a dash of "how dare you behave differently than my ideal of you is!" Please note that I'm not saying that's what happening in this thread; at ML folks are much more thoughtful than that!

Of course, my usual way of dealing with someone who raises my blood pressure in such a way is to avoid them completely; life's too short to spend it in a closed-loop argument with someone you're not intimate with... and even then there's a diminishing rate of return! So my usual response would be "don't like it don't read it". So many interesting websites, so little time...


#178 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 10:43 AM:

Michael Roberts #123:

language hat @ various - it's not typical, no. And to be fair, I don't actually know much about MeFi besides this particular flamefest and the fact that I've kind of bounced off threads there in the past. In fact, the only thing I really have to categorize MeFi is the fact that if they hold BoingBoing up as indicative of evil, or express that lovely sense of entitlement we all cherish so very much on the Internet, I have no time for them. ... Bah. You can single me out all you want, language hat. MeFi is still more than I can take. Sorry if that makes you sad.

I was going to pillory you for your disingenuous combination of "I don't really know much about MeFi" and "MeFi sucks anyway," but then I read your later semi-backdown where you elaborately explain how you came to somehow identify MeFi as the enemy (without, however, actually apologizing for your uncalled-for nastiness), and I was going to give you a pass.

Then I scrolled further down and got to the part where you called me a troll. You, sir, have no business commenting negatively on anyone else's behavior. I have not said a single even vaguely trollish thing either here or in the MeFi thread. If this were the eighteenth century, I'd call you out. In the civilized twenty-first, I will merely call you on it. You are neither a rational nor a civil person.


Doctor Science #138:

language hat @111 : I frankly have no idea why you say to Leah, "as for free speech, we'll have to agree to disagree". Leah presented evidence about how "free speech" can lead to unfreedom; what evidence are you presenting to the contrary? Just FYI, in my experience "we'll have to agree to disagree" is a line used by people who are feeling overwhelmed and put upon by the weight of evidence on the other side of an argument.

Others have addressed this well, but I will add that I specifically did not want to get into a discussion with Leah about it because she is clearly very touchy and was bound to resent anything I had to say on the topic. (And I'm sure she's going to resent my saying that, and probably write several impassioned paragraphs about it. Nothing wrong with that, she's entitled to her sensitivities and prose style, they're just as valid as mine, but that's why I didn't want to get into it.)

As for the "feeling overwhelmed and put upon by the weight of evidence on the other side of an argument," that's childish and unwarranted. There are very often occasions when it makes sense for civilized people to agree to disagree rather than waste time and emotional energy arguing about things they are not going to chenge their minds about; this is such an occasion. If you want to discuss some particular point, I will be happy to do so -- I have never run from an intellectual argument in my life. But I have been in many, many free-speech discussions, and I know that, like discussions of religion and cat declawing, they very easily turn into emotional time-sinks. Your experience may differ.

#179 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 10:55 AM:

Tom @166 - yeah, I guess I -- well, no! I did not categorize language hat as a troll -- just the behavior as trollish. Because when somebody comes and tells the entire venue, "I'm waiting for you to respond to my challenge," I don't call that friendly. I call that argumentative for the sake of argument. And in fact I'd have to say that sentence was there purely to evoke anger or -- equivalently -- as a bludgeon.

Are you saying that if language hat does it, it's OK? Because again -- that would be really, really circular in this context. Wouldn't it?

#180 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 10:58 AM:

Sigh. lh @ 178 -- I'm neither rational nor civil. You, however, are. Apparently, you're so rational and civil that you qualify to pass judgment on me. Congratulations, language hat. You have won an argument on the Internet.

The prizes are over there in the corner.

#181 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 10:58 AM:

Quite true, that. Say, you wouldn't happen to do poetry, would you?

Not since open mics in high school, no. I'm terrible at the stuff. I hedge my bets and just write songs instead.

#182 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 11:02 AM:

And one more thing regarding trollishness. Language hat, my physical address is 2203 Paseo del Rey, Ponce, Puerto Rico. If you want to make physical threats -- or elaborately and graciously refrain from doing so -- you can do that any time.

If that's what you call civil, well, I'm just glad I don't spend more time around you.

#183 ::: Tom P (aka flashboy on MeFi) ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 11:22 AM:

Michael Roberts@180 - that might be an arguable point if it was an indisputably accurate summary of what langagehat did, but it's pretty far from that. In the midst of an (understandbly, forgivably) heated discussion about the relative tone and manners of conversation here an at MeFi, languaghat made the point (certainly arguable, but also undeniably reasonable, I think) that the only truly vitriolic comments at that point had been made by a small number of people on the ML side of the debate. Then he said "I'm still waiting to hear whether ML people consider that acceptable discourse."

You can read that as a challenge to "the entire venue" if you want. I read it as doing the courtesy to Patrick, Teresa and the regulars here of not assuming that it was their number one priority right now to admonish some people for intemperate language in this thread. As in, he was literally waiting, with genuine interest, to see if this was the way people are talking around here right now, because that was in fact the subject that was being discussed at the time.

And yeah, the fact that languagehat has a long webby history of not being a troll does give him a little bit of slack. Not slack to get away with whatever he wants, but the sort of slack where you don't immediately assume the worst, most malicious interpretation of what he said.

But, as cortex said above, it's all pretty understandable when two communities of people cross over, and suddenly people don't know the history and personalities of everyone involved. It's easy to project the worst onto blank slates, especially when you're riled up.

#184 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 11:46 AM:

Thanks, Tom P. I appreciate not having to say that myself. (I had expanded on the "waiting to hear" comment earlier in the thread, but my Ponce-dwelling friend evidently didn't read it or found it convenient to ignore it so he could continue to pretend with a clear conscience that I was saying something else.)

#185 ::: vito excalibur ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 11:47 AM:

Emma@169:

What is it about Doctorow that gets people foaming at the mouth?

God knows. I used to be surprised that the BB crew continued to blog and even to allow comments in the face of the way their commenters collectively treat them. After watching people wank for over 60 comments over whether it is evil to give your kid a bucket of water to play with, I am now just surprised that they haven't taken an AK-47 to a shopping mall yet. I have to assume that Mr. Doctorow broke a cursed mirror or something during one of his caped adventures and isn't telling.

(Note: I am not fantasizing about mass murder! I am merely referring to it in a callous fashion!)

#186 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 11:54 AM:

Tom/flashboy @ 183. No, language hat specifically singled my comments out as childish. Once he cut me out from the herd, he bellowed whether anybody wanted to defend me -- that's how I read it, and given his posting just above this one, I feel fairly justified in believing that's how he meant it.

He also thinks my posting is tedious, talks about giving me a pass, indirectly demands apology for my uncalled-for nastiness, passes judgment on my rationality and civility -- without, I might add, any knowledge of my own history on the Internet, to use your own apology for him -- then calls Laura touchy and long-winded for opposing him, calls other commenters on his behavior childish, and says if we weren't living in a civilized country, he'd shoot me dead.

I don't know language hat. I don't know his history. Hell, I didn't know his gender before you mentioned it. I've read his blog (I'm assuming it's unlikely there are two people called "language hat") and liked the snark. As I said above, I wasn't implying language hat is a troll per se. But his behavior here is really unconscionable, and if this is the civil discourse he holds up as superior, then I, for one, am underwhelmed.

As far as I'm concerned, this exemplifies the very snot-nosedness that I find so off-putting with BoingBoing's detractors. Feel free to defend language hat -- I really don't care, except insofar as the adrenaline is rushing in my bloodstream at the moment. I have nothing personal against him, and since he doesn't know me from Adam, he clearly can't have anything personal against me. But his claim to represent something superior -- and your incredible demand that I respect him for his demonstrated non-trollishness when I can see his behavior right here in front of my face -- I find this to be exactly what I was complaining about in the first place.

Really, it all boils down to this: Just who the hell do you think you are?

#187 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 11:57 AM:

I'm waiting for the disemvoweller to appear. (I have no dog in this fight.)

#188 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 11:57 AM:

lh @ 184 - you're still doing it. I acknowledge your desire to have moment-to-moment conversation on the topics you choose, but some of us have to work for a living, and otherwise have obligations that don't include servicing you.

So go ahead. You continue demonstrating your rationality and civility, and I'll just sit over here. Have fun.

#189 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:02 PM:

Staying out of the cesspool of the Boing Boing thread, I have to say that pointing to the Boing Boing policies page (which now references "unpublishing") to support the idea that Boing Boing did nothing out of the ordinary or unusual would have been cool... if not for the fact that the bit about unpublishing was quietly and without notice slipped into the policies page after this whole fiasco blew up.

This line didn't exist a week ago: "We reserve the right to unpublish or refuse to unpublish anything for any or no reason."

Changing the policies page after the event and then linking to it in support of the event is not a way to appear less controversial.

#190 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:03 PM:

TNH #1: I'm hereby declaring open season on anything unfamiliar that comes through the door. Newbies: behave or die.

I just got here -- I've been on vacation and mostly off-net for the past week -- and I've already had to lay down the law in the direction of a nasty little troll dropping in on my blog (which had absolutely nothing whatsoever to say on the subject of VB, because I wasn't even aware it existed, and I'm still not sure what it's all about).

As internet firestorms go, this one's halfway to Hamburg.

#191 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:04 PM:

Me @ 188 - well, that response was full of fail. I now see what language hat is talking about. Of course, he does acknowledge in that very post that he intended that as a blunderbuss. How's that different from a bludgeon?

Beyond me.

#192 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:06 PM:

Hi, Charlie. I give up. I can't tell whether it's me that goaded language hat into being an asshole, or he that did it to me. What's your take?

#193 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:12 PM:

Oh many's the time
That I have seen
The world through a lining of colon,

And many a time
I have been seen
As someone most def'nit'ly not Solon!

#194 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:13 PM:

heresiarch 160: I respect you, and I'm trying to be civil back. But "cold water poured over his body" is not the same as a cup (eight ounces!) of water splashed in the face. And I said earlier that I was mainly using "they should have their heads stuck in the toilet" as a metaphor for "they're shitheads."

I've been "ducked" in a pool by my older brothers. That wasn't torture, annoying as it was. I've also been held under water by a big guy who thought he was playing, and who was surprised and offended when I kicked him in the balls to escape (I think—it was more than 35 years ago and my memory is vague); that, I contend, WAS torture, fun as it was for him. Don't you see a difference between these cases?

Do you think it's torture when an angry person throws a drink in someone else's face? I think it's assault, certainly (especially if there are ice cubes), but I don't think it rises to the level of torture.

Didn't you read the part where I said that if I actually had them (even the really bad people) in my power, I would not harm a hair of their heads? In case that was still unclear, that includes even splashing a cup of water in their faces. Even if you think sticking someone's head in the toilet (once, briefly) is torture (and actually I can see an argument there), I was not by any reasonable standard advocating doing so.

There's certainly a danger in defining torture too narrowly, as we've seen with the Bush Administration's attitude toward waterboarding. It's also dangerous to define it too broadly, robbing it of any meaning. For example, if verbal abuse is torture (and it certainly can be), that doesn't justify accusing someone of torture when they tell someone to fuck off, or of advocating it when they recommend such an action.

But let me just state categorically: I do not really think the bad posters in the BB thread should be spanked, nor that they should have their heads shoved in the toilet. I meant they were childish shitheads. I chose a bad (that is, unclear) way of expressing that, and I apologize. I do not advocate torture of anyone,* and I apologize for the impression, unintentional as it was, that my remarks created.

Phil 163: Thank you, and your comment here is partially responsible for my bolded statement above. You're right, it was too easy to misconstrue, and I ought to have been more careful. One could say such things without worrying, back when America was the good guys and would never actually torture prisoners, but in the 24 society one must be more careful. I was not, and should have been.

*No, not even OBL. Him I really would torture if I had him in my power, but I believe it would be wrong to do so, and I rely on my friends and the justice system to restrain me from this understandable but ethically indefensible impulse. I know my own (moral) strength, and I'm grateful that I live in a community that would keep my actions sane and ethical in a circumstance where I would lose my self-control.

#195 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:17 PM:

language hat and Michael Roberts:

You guys are spiraling into a pointless flamewar. There is nothing to be gained by that. Please stop.

There are many loud biker bars that will not have their ambiance messed up by your desire to crap on the floor. We mostly like crap-free floors here. Please don't crap on the floor. I say this as someone with neither power nor authority, just a desire for crap-free floors in this nice coffeeshop.

#196 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:21 PM:

albatross @ 195 - Yep, I agree with your diagnosis. I'm stopping.

#197 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:25 PM:

vito 185: (Note: I am not fantasizing about mass murder! I am merely referring to it in a callous fashion!)

LOL, yes, one must be careful! :-)

Michael 192: I think you started out with a misunderstanding, and it turned into a pissing contest. I think you and language hat need to each take a walk around your respective blocks, come back and shake hands, and never again refer to this silliness between you, except in later years to laugh about it.

If you look at the conversations between me and Phil Armstrong, you will see that it can be done. Your post here is a good start, if language hat is agreeable.

#198 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:25 PM:

albatross @143 says: In particular, the only way to stop adolescent males of any age from having the "look at the hooters on that one" or "damn, what a fat cow" sorts of discussions is to ban that sort of discussions from the internet.

Doctor Science@161 says: Because boys will be boys? Nope, sorry, this argument is made, as they say, of FAIL -- not to mention privilege, double standards, and misogyny.

No, I think you're going too far, here. This is not about privilege, or double standards, and if it's about misogyny, then I'm sure we could, if we cared to go looking, find comparable examples that are about misandry(*).

There are things you are allowed to say when you have a reasonable expectation of being in private, among friends. "Look at the hooters on that one" is a thought that's inherently part of part of being an adolescent male. People will think things that aren't polite. People are social creatures -- they *will* say the things they think, somewhere, somehow. And if you demand that they think three times before saying anything, they will look for spaces where they can go to relax and be themselves.

In real life, we rarely have a problem with this. Generally I know when I'm among friends or not, and for every troublesome incident of "creating a hostile work environment" or whatever, I bet there are hundreds where nobody cared because the speaker actually was among friends. The times when we humans screw up our judgement of these lines can be bad, but they're very much the exceptions.

On the internet, it's more problematic. How do you know when you're among friends? Even things you imagine are transient often live on in unexpected archives, and the most obscure untrafficked teenager's blog is indexed by Google. If you're going to say that, say, frat boys can't say what they think in a place like Fark, then where can they? If the answer is "nowhere", then who's being privileged?

(*) Interestingly, I seem to have a sexist spell checker. It thinks "misogyny" is fine, but doesn't like "misandry".

#199 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:26 PM:

Actually it was Michael's comment at 191 that was "a good start."

#200 ::: Kate ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:46 PM:

language hat @ 178

At the risk of setting more sparks to tinder, I'd like to point out something that's been making me twitchy about the tone in this comment. You said:

Others have addressed this well, but I will add that I specifically did not want to get into a discussion with Leah about it because she is clearly very touchy and was bound to resent anything I had to say on the topic. (And I'm sure she's going to resent my saying that, and probably write several impassioned paragraphs about it. Nothing wrong with that, she's entitled to her sensitivities and prose style, they're just as valid as mine, but that's why I didn't want to get into it.) (emphasis mine)

In response to what read to me and others as a clear, well-written and, yes, impassioned (which oddly enough feels like a criticism in your quote), argument, some of your words seem to be recalling the old trope of the hysterical female. I sincerely doubt this was your intention, but in a thread with a great deal of discussion of tone and intent, I thought it important to point out.

#201 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:46 PM:

WHY do they have the "look at those hooters!" way of expressing themselves and viewing the universe?

As someone who's gotten verbally assaulted by yutzes in cars driving past hollering at me because the yutzes were multiple asshole males being assholes in a car egging one another on, I am opposed to ANYTHING which encourages them to verbally assault unconsenting driveby-victim third parties.

That is, their "private" behavior not only is not private, it inspires them to go and act the same way in public, and treat women like jack-off appliances for their enjoyment.

"What don't you understand about not being an offensive asshole with offensive asshole attitudes?" applies. The attitudes are offensive.... Years ago technology conferences used to be full of Stupid Wife jokes. That went by the wayside for some amount of time (I wouldn't be surprised at it coming back with the Misadministration's recidivism of "traditional values" of locking most women in a Christian equivalent of purdah; deprecation has been one of the major tools to bar gates and build barriers and make people Go Away in fear/discouragement/dejection/defeat/"I'll try for something else that is less painful and offers more of a chance for acceptance and position and appreciation and less stress."

I didn't/don't appreciate being regarded as an disposable appliance for someone to get their rocks off in, and I expect that most of the people in this forum do NOT want the TMI stories, even though some of them hit a high level of absurdity (telling one fellow flat-out direct to his face to go to hell, didn't faze him, he persisted even after that it it trying to persuade me....).

Attitudes CAN change, provided it gets made very clear, "these are NOT socially acceptable values!"

"Look at those hooters!" is obnoxious. "She's pretty" or even "She has a nice shape" isn't.

#202 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 12:59 PM:

#198 colin

Experiment--see how enthused you are with a group of females staring at your crotch making valuation comments about size, size, etc.

Years ago there was a big uproar at MIT when there were ratings published of male students' sexual performance with female students.... It was regarded as going far beyond the bounds of appropriate content. Sauce on the gander didn't go over well.... turnabout got regarded as unfair play....

#203 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 01:01 PM:

"Look at those hooters!" is obnoxious. "She's pretty" or even "She has a nice shape" isn't.

We're talking about adolescent males here. Do you really expect that any amount of social conditioning would result in a couple adolescent males sitting around and saying things like "she has a nice shape"? Because you're doomed to disappointment if you do believe that. It's never going to happen. Ever ever ever.

What needs to happen is a better delineation between public and private behavior. If an adolescent male (or, really, anyone) wants to think or even say (in private) "wow, nice hooters!" there really isn't anything wrong with that. The problem arises if said male is unable to restrain himself from making that opinion public.

#204 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 01:02 PM:

Upon further thought regarding Tom/flashboy @ 183, "And yeah, the fact that languagehat has a long webby history of not being a troll does give him a little bit of slack. Not slack to get away with whatever he wants, but the sort of slack where you don't immediately assume the worst, most malicious interpretation of what he said."

I agree with that wholeheartedly. In fact, I sincerely wish people would apply it to BoingBoing, which was the entire point of this debate to start with.

I might even suggest that you consider applying it to me, Tom, because I am pretty much a regular here (as regular as I can be, which isn't very), and I do, in fact, have a long webby history of not being childish, irrational, or uncivil -- my fit of pique here notwithstanding.

Sorry, Xopher and albatross -- and probably everybody else at this point -- I'll shut up now. If language hat wants to stand down, I've got nothing against it. I just can't get over the irony in this entire exchange, is all.

#205 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 01:04 PM:

David @ 203 - try putting this into a different set of categories and see how it sounds: "We're talking about white men. Do you really expect any amount of social conditioning to cause them to stop saying, 'Looka that damn nigger' and hanging them from trees?"

Yes. Yes, we do.

#206 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 01:08 PM:

MR #205 - That analogy only holds true if you equate gaucheness with racism. They are not equivalent.

Being obnoxious is not the same as being a bigot.

#207 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 01:10 PM:

David Bilek,

The adolescent girls I know don't seem to have problems not saying, even in private, "Damn, he has a big dick!" Why do you suppose there is this difference between adolescent boys and girls? (That was a rhetorical question. Let me answer it: because boys are allowed and expected treat women's bodies and appearances like meat, and girls are never expected to treat men's bodies and appearances the same way.)

In addition, the type of public abuse ("Nice hooters!" "Wanna fuck?" "Hey baby!") that gets heaped on many women, daily, is not heaped on men. I cannot recall a single guy, of my acquaintance, a friend of a friend, or even some random stranger on the internet, who has ever related a story to me of being catcalled in public this way.

Life is different in a woman's body.

#208 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 01:13 PM:

David, to the person targeted, I don't see the difference. Seriously. And I was an adolescent male and somehow managed not to enjoy chuckling of this nature, so I know it's humanly possible. I think I've sufficiently demonstrated my susceptibility to emotional fail, right?

I'm not saying it's possible for (most) men not to look and appreciate -- that really is human nature. But this type of crudity is a way of making sure the speaker is in the in-group, and the target is in the out-group. It's bigotry.

#209 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 01:14 PM:

The adolescent girls I know don't seem to have problems not saying, even in private, "Damn, he has a big dick!"

We obviously know different people; the women of my acquaintance regularly and with relish comment privately on the physical charms of passing men.

If the issue is the specific term "hooters", I'd be happy to concede people shouldn't use the word. It's obnoxious.

#210 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 01:15 PM:

Nancy @ 207 - for what it's worth, I was in fact catcalled in that way by an older woman in Germany once. She liked my legs.

#211 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 01:17 PM:

nancy @207: Amen, sister!

The women in my family develop early. There's nothing more threatening to a twelve year old girl than a bunch of guys making lewd comments and, in some cases, reching to touch.

Free speech my tochis.

#212 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 01:19 PM:

#207 Nancy

It sometimes, not that often, but sometimes, happens to males, generally from other males.

"I never understood when women went through until I visited San Francisco." Then-Capt. George Mills, USAF, when I was in Thule.

Up at Thule there were bisexual Danish nationals. After being turned down making passes at the female US service members there, they tried hitting on the male US service members. I laughed seeing the reactions of the male US types having to fend off the passes made by other men, it wasn't nice of me, on the other hand, the Danish males didn't hit on the US males until after being turned down by the US females, including -me-....

#206 David

It IS bigotry.

#213 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 01:20 PM:

I don't... let me rephrase... has anyone suggested or even hinted that it should be acceptable for guys to physically or verbally harass girls or women?

#214 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 01:20 PM:

#200 Kate: Word. Kudos on coming up with a more delicate way of putting what I was going to say, which was, "You're telling a woman that you're not going to have a discussion of sexism because she's too sensitive? And for your next trick, telling a black guy that you're not going to have a discussion of racism because he's too ignorant! Were you on vacation the days metafilter had their 'let's not be priviledged jerks' discussions?" So language hat can respond to you instead of me.

#167 Chris: Yeah, you really don't understand the analogy, which is pretty wrong inandof itself (all the bikers I've met have been great people, champions of equality, and I'd feel a lot better asking for help in a biker bar than, say, on the internet). The attitude that women exist for men to judge transfers off of the internet into real life, and without people to say constantly "no that's bullshit", it's a self-reinforcing echo chamber that ends up telling people they're justified in treating women like things/dirt. And seriously, you think rapes in sketchy bars are prosecuted? Case law says clearly that a woman who goes to a bar should have known she was going to get drugged and raped (can't find the specific story I remembered from last year in Kansas, but the phenomenon is so common here's an article about a scientific paper about it). There are plenty of hellholes on the internet that don't contain anyone courageous enough to disagree with those rulings.

#215 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 01:59 PM:

David @ 213 - on more exact reading, no, you didn't. You just effectively implied it was OK to categorize woman as the out-group, as long as they didn't hear it done.

What makes it bigotry is exactly that -- defining women as nothing but carriers for hooters and babies (even such definition in certain contexts) is bigotry. The overt action is when it becomes truly threatening, but it's the attitude that makes those actions feel acceptable. And yes, social conditioning will make that attitude feel less acceptable.

I take your point, sure. It's relatively harmless when people jawbone in private. But is it just as harmless when white men sit around in private, talking about how they're going to hang niggers and Jews? Don't you think that contributes to a few of them being more likely to take those actions?

#216 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 01:59 PM:

Paula Lieberman@202 says: Experiment--see how enthused you are with a group of females staring at your crotch making valuation comments about size, size, etc.

Oh, sure. I was trying to be careful not to claim that it is decent to say such things. But equally, there must be some venue where it is okay to say them *anyway*. It's an important part of the process of coming to terms with one's sexuality.

I am not saying that most or even many fora should have norms that allow this kind of thing. And they should recognize that allowing it marks them as uncivilized in important ways. And personally, I can't stand Fark or its ilk and won't spend any time there myself. But I do think they're legitimate, and allowing their existence is not a question of privilege or double standards or even anything gender-related. We've already had the examples of the fanatic skeptics vs the fundamentalist religious.

It's one thing to say that there are things you can't say in public. But we can't then define the entire internet as "public". It seems sensible to me to allow each forum to define its own norms.

#217 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 01:59 PM:

First, I want to clarify my stance on profanity/abuse on the internet, especially in light of albatross’s comments at 143. I’m not saying that abuse needs to be abolished from the internet. (I’m not sure if albatross was attributing this view to me or not, but I just wanted to be clear.) I’ll ‘your mom’ with the best of them. I consistently have to edit myself on ML, because I’m actually not crystal clear on the rules on swearing here, and as someone deeeeeeeep into video game net culture I can curse like a sailor on occasion. I’m not even going to argue with the intrinsic value of good sarcasm vs. vulgarity vs. parody vs. insults vs. slander vs. abuse. They all have places, they all contribute to different forms of communication. I’m not saying they have to go away. Some of them are incredibly powerful forces for free speech, in certain contexts. I’m saying that the contribution of one specific aspect of these (abuse) to free speech is, in my mind, highly questionable, and portraying it as generally positive is unwise.

Now, onto language hat @178

After Kate summed this up quite nicely at 200, I almost refrained from posting the rest of this. But well, I already spent a lot of time on it, so... what the hell.

I thought things were pretty courteously settled at 111. I didn’t think you were backing down because your argument was weak (I’ve had this argument before for DAYS. It's one of the ones that can go on forever.) Also, I was insufficiently clear in pointing out that my contrast of moderated to unmoderated was not meant to indicate that I thought MeFi was unmoderated, but just to show how the extremes of the continuum highlight the benefits of different parts of the center. (Though I thought the phrase “I’m saying that the less moderation you get, the more you risk that kind of ‘speech control through abuse’ situation.” Might have given a clue as to my intent).

But pulling out “touchy,” “bound to resent” and then saying “probably write several impassioned paragraphs about it” with the implication that that the writing of such paragraphs would illustrate my touchy-ness and sensitivity. Holy crap. That’s a catch 22 right there, innit? If I don’t agree that I’m ‘touchy’ then I should respond with more speech. But if I do, I confirm that I am, in fact, ‘touchy’ and you are right about me. I’ve seen this a hundred times before. It used to work on me. It’s not the oldest trick in the book (that’s ‘no, u’ I think), but it’s somewhere in the early chapters: It’s so pure - call someone a whiner, and then predict they’re going to respond, because they’re such a whiner. It’s dirty pool. Sophisticated rhetorical dirty pool, but come on! I wasn’t born yesterday! Do you know the parts of the internet I’m from? If you were from where I was from, you’d be ****in dead!

Sorry, sorry. I was watching the TF2 “Meet the Scout” video yesterday. (If you want a real treat, search for 'meet the demoman,' on youtube. I had to exercise substantial restraint to not use his end rant somewhere in this post.)

I remember reading somewhere that the best way to make readers not like a character was to characterize them as a whiner. Just replace a few saids with whineds, and you’re cooking with gas. Accusing your rival of being a whiner is a powerful and easy way to discredit them, and the more passionate or vocal they are the better it works.

I contemplated not posting this, but I do tend to stay in the fight longer than I should. If I stepped out of every fight where someone accused me of being touchy or a whiner or of posting walls of text… I’d be out of 90% of my fights in a few rounds. And sometimes I slip up myself. Hell, an earlier draft of this post contained a section where I listed the things I refrained from calling you, which is dirty pool itself.

I guess the question is, why use that phrasing, if not in an attempt to make me worried about seeming oversensitive or to discredit me? I’m not even specifically offended by it, but I get from your handle that you’re someone who cares about language. I can think of a half-dozen ways to convey that you don’t want to engage in a messy argument without going pejorative.

#218 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 02:08 PM:

Josh Millard, 181, said,
I hedge my bets
and just write songs instead.

Ah, I see you did one on the early romantic life of the Japanese gods Izanagi and Izanami! Thats really quite cool!

Did you know that one of our hosts, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, has/is in a band called Whisperado?

#219 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 02:08 PM:

MR - What makes it bigotry is exactly that -- defining women as nothing but carriers for hooters

Nobody would defend defining anyone, male or female, based on one attribute. But I reject the idea that we're talking about defining women as nothing but carriers for hooters in the first place.

Noticing someone is attractive is no more defining them incompletely than noticing someone's intelligence is defining them incompletely. Everyone is the sum of their parts; physical, mental, emotional. The phyiscal is the most obvious because it is the first thing we see; noticing that fact is not defining them.

#220 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 02:08 PM:

Nancy C. Mittens #207: I've been groped by women I did not know. Granted, this was in Belize.

#221 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 02:13 PM:

Nancy C. Mittens@207 says: The adolescent girls I know don't seem to have problems not saying, even in private, "Damn, he has a big dick!" . . .
Life is different in a woman's body.

Um. The adolescent *girls* you know aren't learning to deal with being pumped daily full of testosterone. It's a drug. It affects mood and the brain. Life is different in a man's body, too.

Please understand that I also expect adult men to have damned well learned to deal. But adolescents have to learn somehow, sometime. The body drives the thoughts; there needs to be an outlet for them *somewhere*.

To Michael Roberts@205: That's why I think this is different. But to the extent it's not -- yes, I think Stormfront should be allowed to have their own website. I also think they should keep the hell out of any ones I frequent.

#222 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 02:24 PM:

Did you know that one of our hosts, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, has/is in a band called Whisperado?

I did not! Listening to clips now. Fun bar country-rock feel so far. Patrick, you should come post something over at MeFi Music some time.

#223 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 02:27 PM:

Michael Roberts #191:
Me @ 188 - well, that response was full of fail. I now see what language hat is talking about. Of course, he does acknowledge in that very post that he intended that as a blunderbuss.

Very much appreciated, and as I did with Scalzi on MetaFilter, where we had a similar exchange, I extend the hand of reconciliation. We seem to be somewhat similar people, which often results in difficulties (see: me and my brothers). Thanks, and there will be no more blunderbussery from me.

Kate #200:

language hat @ 178
At the risk of setting more sparks to tinder, I'd like to point out something that's been making me twitchy about the tone in this comment...
In response to what read to me and others as a clear, well-written and, yes, impassioned (which oddly enough feels like a criticism in your quote), argument, some of your words seem to be recalling the old trope of the hysterical female. I sincerely doubt this was your intention, but in a thread with a great deal of discussion of tone and intent, I thought it important to point out.

First off, thanks for your assumption that such was not my intention; that's both generous and accurate. In fact, the worry about the kind of reading you tentatively gave it is precisely the reason I didn't want to get into it in the first place. These are thorny issues, and presumptions are easily made, especially when you don't know the other person.

I'm in something of a bind here, because I'm pretty much an unknown quantity except to a few who know me from my blog and/or MeFi. If we were on MetaFilter I'd have a reasonable expectation that my interlocutors would be aware of my six-year history of being a strong and consistent feminist voice on the site, and if they weren't it would be fair for me to say "look through my comment history if you don't believe me." But I can't do that here, and obviously just saying "but I hate sexism and have been a vocal feminist for decades and I know all the issues!" just comes across as whining. So all I can say is: some people, male and female both, are in fact touchy, sensitive, and verbose; in the sexist culture we inhabit, females are unfairly stuck with those characterizations whether they deserve them or not, whereas men are either given a pass or lumped in with women and mocked; and that makes it difficult to address the issue of a woman being touchy, which is why I didn't want to get into it. I knew that if I said anything like that I'd get the "hysterical" accusation. And I don't even blame those who make it; I understand the problem and why they would react that way, which is why I didn't want to get into it. But since I was called on it, I had to say what I thought.

Look, as soon as I read "emotional abuse IS as valid a tool as a punch in the face" I knew I was dealing with a person I could not have a meaningful dialog with. This is not an insult, I am not putting myself on a higher plane, I am just saying her ideas and mine are irreconcilable. I've known, online and off, plenty of people with that attitude, and of course it leads to conclusions like Leah's:

To me this is a corruption of the idea of free speech. I think a society where you’re allowed to pants or spit on anyone you see with no repercussions is a corruption of the idea of a free society. To tout such places are MORE free than places where any opinion can be stated as long as it is stated civilly is, in my eyes, a fundamentally flawed argument.

I understand why she thinks that way, and I respect her feelings, but there is no way we can argue meaningfully about free speech. But (those who have accused me of refusing to debate or of not answering arguments, listen up) she is not making an argument, or rather her argument is of the form "I feel X, therefore I believe Y." What am I supposed to say other than "I do not feel X, and I believe not-Y"? To me, free speech is the highest intellectual value and is worth all the hurt feelings it causes. She does not agree. How are we supposed to discuss it and come to a conclusion? It's like a religious person arguing with an atheist: there's no point.

I am, by the way, extremely impressed with the level of discussion around here. Kudos to all.

#224 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 02:28 PM:

190: Hi, Charlie. I was so tempted when I saw that particular troll to floridly compliment him on how appropriate and helpful it was for him to encourage you to speak up. It's a big problem, what with you being the shy and retiring type who has trouble asserting yourself, and you being so reluctant to speak his^Wyour mind without encouragement.

#225 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 02:29 PM:

David, it seemed like you were saying that bigoted behavior is unavoidable (for young men, but not for whites) and should therefore be overlooked. If you weren't, then ... never mind.

#226 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 02:33 PM:

Leah Miller #217:
Hadn't seen your latest when I posted (as you can imagine, that post took a while). All I can say is, I do think you're touchy, but I don't think that's an insult. If you take it as one, I apologize for causing offense, but I say what I believe. I did not, and do not, mean to attack you.

#227 ::: Tom P / flashboy ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 02:37 PM:

The conversation's kind of moved on, but to wrap one part of it up:

Michael Roberts @204 - I certainly intended to give you exactly that slack. I don't think I said anything bad about you as a person, simply that I thought you'd misread languagehat and made an unwarranted accusation based on it. As I said in my last paragraph of @183, it's pretty understandable, especially when people are on edge - I wasn't demanding that you magically gain knowledge of his posting history, I was explaining why I would cut him some slack. But I was typing quickly, and so it was probably both less clear than I intended, and snippier in tone. Sorry if you thought I was ragging on you.

I guess I've got an advantage in that I read both ML and MeFi (which explains the unwieldy handle, btw - I wanted to be clear about who I was in both places, even though I only rarely comment over here). So I do have a sense of the backgrounds and characters of probably a majority of the commenters in this thread, and as such am more inclined to make free with the slack-cutting. Same goes for BoingBoing too - I'm having fresh supplies of slack shipped in just so that I can cut them some of it.

Of course, that doesn't preclude telling people that you think they're wrong. It just means making it as clear as possible that you don't think they're an asshole because you think they're wrong.

#228 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 02:41 PM:

Michael Roberts@215 said: You just effectively implied it was OK to categorize woman as the out-group, as long as they didn't hear it done.

Well, that's about the most hostile possible spin, I think.

The main place I disagree I think is in the notion of a singular "the" out-group. Humans are tribal creatures. We form in-groups and out-groups as naturally as breathing. But they don't need to be fixed, and they evolve as you gain maturity. One of the ways to gain maturity is by having a place where you're allowed to express your idiot ideas.

In fact, I suspect that the more thoroughly we wall off the idiot ideas, the more they fester underground, and the longer it takes for people to grow out of them.

#229 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 03:06 PM:

#221 colin

To be crass and indelicate:

Women don't get the green flaming hornies? Go look at the work published by the likes of Ellora's Cave, Red Sage, the Brave imprint of Kensington, etc., available at Borders and Barnes & Noble on shelves, go look at Laurell K. Hamilton's most recent several years of best-selling darkish fantasy novels, go look at the Kushiel books by Jacqueline Carey, etc.

The range of human sexuality is QUITE wide, and is NOT what I consider all that dependent on whether one has a penis and/or testicles, a clitoris and/or vagina and/or ovaries.... contrary to the play and film _Becket_, Thomas a Becket apparently was a lifelong virgin, and when associated of his in the English army sent a prostitute to his tent, she came out of it being extremely annoyed about the situation. The reason I mention that, is that Becket is hardly unique in human history as regards being a male lifelong virgin.... and at the other extreme, perhaps, was the reputation of one of Emperor Cladius' wives....

However, historically it remains generally socially unacceptable for females to sexually promiscous unless part of the "demimonde" while the old double standard sometimes even has extolled extreme sexual promiscuity in males.

That is, there is negative impartiality and an enormous amount of bias when discussing human sexuality, due to all the mass of cultural baggage and judgmentalism involved. I've seen people lying to themselves about their drives and motivations.... the extreme cases including the fellow who said, "I'm not making a pass at you" when his hand was trying to get inside of my shirt, and yes, he really was genuinely dissociating to that degree of the concious and unconscious neural processing!

("Then what is your hand doing trying to get inside my shirt?" I asked him, and he seemed genuinely surprised that that's where his hand was trying to go...)

The assumptions involved tend to be based on cultural values and belief rather than the product of research without a bunch of cultural taboos and baggage as the starting points and analyses futher skewed with the cultural biases and historical blind spots and avoidance areas....

#230 ::: Kate ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 03:18 PM:

language hat @ 223

Your response makes a lot of sense, and I too have been known to use "let's agree to disagree" (often when I've seen that a discussion is likely to take me into a non-productive, spitting rage).

I think one point where I'd disagree is when you say,

But...she is not making an argument, or rather her argument is of the form "I feel X, therefore I believe Y." What am I supposed to say other than "I do not feel X, and I believe not-Y"? To me, free speech is the highest intellectual value and is worth all the hurt feelings it causes. She does not agree.

I don't think that's at all the point she's making. Rather, she's pointing out that your definition of "free speech" isn't any more "free" than moderated forums. You seem to be arguing that completely unmoderated, unfettered speech (which of necessity would include abuse, intimidation, outing, and anything short of direct personal threat or even including that) is the freest speech around. And you're right - that is absolutely free speech. But some people won't feel free to speak in that environment. They will silence themselves or be silenced by the ridicule or abuse enforced upon them by others in the community. To say that they have a choice not to speak and no one is taking their freedom away from them is to ignore that there are systems of privilege and disenfranchisement within which we are all socialized and learn to interact. Which is why totally free speech should absolutely be protected, but is not always (or even often) the most useful way of getting as many voices as possible into a productive conversation.

#231 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 03:23 PM:

To Paula@229: If you believe that the only reason that boys and girls act differently is cultural conditioning, well, okay then. Fine. I don't agree, but I was not actually trying to start a debate about gender.

If girls want to have a forum where they can say things without worrying what the hell boys will think, that's fine with me. In fact, I presume they already do.

#232 ::: tavella ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 03:27 PM:

Jules@#171:
I've seen this asserted multiple times during these discussions. Frequently, there's a link to this article. Oddly enough, I don't see Cory criticising Digg here. In fact, it seems to me to be fairly complimentary on how Digg handled a sticky legal situation, while criticising AACS-LA for generating that situation. Nor do I see criticism in any of the other top few results for 'site:boingboing.net aacs digg' on google. So if you want to insist that Cory did criticise Digg, please point out a specific criticism he made.

If you see no criticism of Digg in all the relevant links, we are working in sufficiently different universes of discourse that I doubt that we will find much of use in continuing discussion. I regard articles that portray Digg as censors foiled by the brave and creative revolt of their users as criticism. You, apparently, do not.

#233 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 03:33 PM:

Kate #230: Thanks again for your kind and civil response. We don't actually disagree at all, as far as I can see.

But some people won't feel free to speak in that environment. They will silence themselves or be silenced by the ridicule or abuse enforced upon them by others in the community. To say that they have a choice not to speak and no one is taking their freedom away from them is to ignore that there are systems of privilege and disenfranchisement within which we are all socialized and learn to interact. Which is why totally free speech should absolutely be protected, but is not always (or even often) the most useful way of getting as many voices as possible into a productive conversation.

I agree, and in fact I think I said something like this above (though damned if I'm going to go search for it). But, possibly because I grew up mainly abroad, I've never shared the common American delusion that we can Have It All. Everything in life comes with a tradeoff; one tradeoff for free speech is that some will feel silenced because they perceive the environment as too harsh for them. That's a damned shame. (Another tradeoff is that people with very bad speech indeed, like Nazis and other racists, get to be heard publicly. That's more than a shame, but like the ACLU, I grit my teeth and accept it, because that's what free speech means. If speech isn't free for my enemies, it's not free.)

Fortunately, those who feel uncomfortable in unprotected enviroments can create protected ones, and I'm all for that. (Which is why, though I've gone back and forth on this difficult issue, I'm in favor of the existence of women's colleges, not that anyone asked.) But the public space must be free.

#234 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 03:39 PM:

I obviously agree with tavella; choosing what to cover and how to cover it is an important editorial decision regardless of whether you blatantly append your own opinion on to the end of your article. Boing Boing regularly and enthusiastically highlighted things like the Digg user revolt and pilloried other sites from silently editing archives.

I'm not sure the fact that they didn't come out and say "GO DIGG USERS!" is all that relevant except from a "plausible deniability" standpoint. And I don't find the deniability all that plausible.

#235 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 03:40 PM:

"pilloried other sites from silently editing" should obviously be "pilloried other sites FOR silently editing".

#236 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 03:44 PM:

lh @ 223, I accept your proffered reconciliatory gesture and return it, with only the minimum of grumbling required to save face. I draw the line at hug-o-matics.

In further reconciliatory gesticulation, I will refrain from commenting on your ongoing conversation with Leah. Or alleged lack thereof.

#237 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 03:46 PM:

*gives chocolate to Michael Roberts, language hat, and Leah Miller*

#238 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 03:54 PM:

Mmm, chocolate!

#239 ::: Phil Armstrong ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 03:57 PM:

I've got the hug-o-matic right here you know. Hold on while I get it plugged in...

#240 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 03:59 PM:

#231 colin

There are people who have had a difficult time believing that from my on-line postings, that I am female....

There are all sorts of axes, and the -variation- among individuals on the average, my experience is, is greater than any systematic statistical differences arising from XY, XX, XXY, XYY, and the sexual organs one was born with....

Differences in math scores worldwide show rather large differences from country to country... there is a lot higher percentage of female scientists and engineers in a number of Islamic countries, than in most of the countries of the western world... see e.g. _Scherezade Goes West_ which rather explodes a lot of myths about seraglios and odalisques and views of women generally.... Scheherzade triumphs by being an intellectual skilled not only in storytelling but in art and science--as opposed to the western ideal of bimbo dumb blonde with big boobs, or though the book didn't refer to it, Richardson's character Pamela who elicited a reponse in the form of the book Shamela from the author of Tom Jones (I attempted to read Pamela when I was a teenager. I found it utterly revolting and repellant....)

"We're male, we have TESTOSTERONE to use as an excuse!" What about all the teenage males who never act like assholes, and the female ones who do? The relative numbers of BadGirls versus BadBoys has gone up dramatically from the 1940s and 1950s, and I don't think that "biology" is the reason for it, I think it's cultural changes, just as the difference between the murder rates in the USA versus Great Britain tend to be cultural values (and apparently the rates for the latter have been increasing over the years, and there have been cultural changes....)

#241 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 04:09 PM:

Me @ 236 - bah. Thanks to this whole thing (not this thread, but the aforementioned BoingBoing meltdown) I'm operating on three hours of sleep. So that response was likewise more grumbling than it had to be.

Language hat @ 233, though:
I don't agree with you on your characterization of free speech -- like Leah, I see verbal intimidation as beyond the pale. I don't like the rhetorical tricks you use, even though fundamentally you look as though you pretty much share my philosophy and outlook on life. You enjoy the game and don't see why you should have to worry about others' feelings when all you did was use words.

To an extent, of course, you're right. Snark is fun. Words aren't actual weapons, and they don't actually hurt anybody. Physically. All they do is cause people to shut up who often shouldn't have been shut up. You don't even notice. So why should you care?

In many cases, you will be absolutely correct to think this. But in many others, you will be absolutely wrong. And this goes to David Bilek's address, too -- because a lot of this "verbal cut and thrust" is gender-correlated. Men usually don't react with as much ... what? Self-repression?

So really, language hat, the question is -- there are a lot of people out there who dislike rhetorical byplay. Do you feel it's at all important for them to participate in discussion? Or is that part of the trade-off you, personally, don't mind making in return for your being permitted to conduct yourself as you will?

There's really no non-antagonistic way to make that point, and if I'm out of step with our reconciliatory overtures above, then I really and truly apologize. Maybe I would break out the hug-o-matic if it's needed.

#242 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 04:10 PM:

Paula: Thanks for pointing me to Mernissi's Scheherazade Goes West; it sounds great, and I just added it to my wish list.

#243 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 04:11 PM:

Damn, I wish I could eat chocolate. I'll just eat it symbolically.

#244 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 04:18 PM:

Michael Roberts #241: Don't worry, I don't feel you're being antagonistic in the slightest. (But then, chocolate makes me all mellow.) But I disagree strongly with your implication that everyone must censor themselves to protect those whose feelings might be hurt. (Yes, I realize you wouldn't put it that way, but that's how I perceive it.) As I said above, there should be protected spaces for those who feel they need them, but I absolutely feel it is both my right and my obligation to speak my mind in whatever way seems fit to me at the moment and, if necessary, apologize later if someone was offended -- something I do whenever it seems called for. (As a matter of fact, I got mildly taken to task for this over at MetaFilter: Man, why'd you apologize (http://www.metafilter.com/72928/Boing-Boing-Finds-21st-Century-Trotsky#2167175) to jscalzi? You were in the right, he was (whatever his reasons, loyalty or what-not) a complete dick. I responded that I'd been a dick too, and in any event I'd rather apologize and stay on friendly terms with someone than have an Internet Enemy, which gets exhausting.)

Don't worry, I don't expect you to agree, but them's my views and I'm holding to them.

#245 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 04:19 PM:

All they do is cause people to shut up who often shouldn't have been shut up. You don't even notice. So why should you care?

While I don't want to dig into this too much, I'd like to say here that I don't think that the emphasized bit there is at all fair, actually.

What I've gotten from what lhat has said is in part that he believes strongly in the importance of unconstrained free speech in the public square, despite the costs that come with it. It's not that you don't notice, or further don't care about the loss of some more-timid voices in that context. Anybody who is paying attention will notice; anyone who is empathetic will care.

It is a compromise; and the cost of that compromise is an argument for the importance of having alternatives to the public square. And those alternatives abound, both in public and in private life, and much of the internet at this point can be described as a series of parallel experiments in refining different models for these alternatives.

While you may not have intended it as such, Michael, the quoted line comes off as a very low blow.

#246 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 04:43 PM:

*gives Michael chocolate-free goodies*

#247 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 04:45 PM:

colin roald @231 -- we try to have such spaces. But the fact is that because of The Way It Works, people nearly always end up playing out the dynamic of man-as-default-person. Women's space is something that has to be constantly fought for. I quote briefly from a friend of mine: I want us to create a space to spread our wings: a space to remember how to take up space, to unlearn self-doubt and internalized oppression, to take joy in things about ourselves that otherwise we’d feel shame about, and to recharge our batteries for resisting sexism, in particular internalized misogyny....

In general, yes, I agree that you can't and shouldn't try to make every space safe space by universally policing speech. (I don't mean policing to be a pejorative -- a moderated community is a good thing precisely because it declares some things to be unacceptable.) The world is unmoderated; that's just a fact. But you can, and should, stand up for decency and let others know when their "free speech" is hurtful and unacceptable.

And a completely unmoderated conversation is not necessarily better, more honest, or more "free" than a moderated one. Even though it's impossible for every conversation to be moderated, and it would be intrusive if every conversation was. Even though you have to trust the moderator to be right about what should and shouldn't be allowed, and if they're wrong, that's not a good space for free discussion.

I think the point really is that usually, "moderation" is accomplished by communities enforcing their own social norms and standards -- and unmoderated discussion on the internet often turns into a place where there are no norms or standards, a Hobbesian state of nature. And a Hobbesian state of nature may be totally free in some sense, but it can't guarantee life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to everyone -- in fact, it ensures that many people will be run over. Kind of a social contract thing.

#248 ::: Leah Miller ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 05:10 PM:

Thanks for the chocolate Xopher.

Thanks for everything you've said, Kate.

language hat:

I know you wanted to avoid an argument, but I hope you also understand that analyzing someone’s writing in front of them while not directly responding to them is, in fact, continuing the argument?

Right now I mostly want to know about this line
“Look, as soon as I read "emotional abuse IS as valid a tool as a punch in the face" I knew I was dealing with a person I could not have a meaningful dialog with.”

I’m very curious about why that particular sentence embodies a concept you can’t even remotely begin to discuss, so I’m going to try to clarify the statement and add context. I’ve talked with kids who got beat up at school, but chose to stick with it, only to quit when the verbal abuse got really bad. Having people mutter slurs at you whenever you walk by, or even spread nasty rumors about you can have a greater long-term-effect on your well-being than swirlies or Indian burns or getting punched.

I would very much like to know this: what about my statement, given that context, is so disagreeable? Do you feel that verbal and physical bullying do not have similar effects? If so, what brought you to this conclusion?

You also wrote this, about me:

“To me, free speech is the highest intellectual value and is worth all the hurt feelings it causes. She does not agree. How are we supposed to discuss it and come to a conclusion? It's like a religious person arguing with an atheist: there's no point.”

Kate has it right. That’s nowhere near my argument, and I’d be interested in seeing how you came to that conclusion, and I would like to clarify any possibly confusing statements. I believe free speech is of the utmost importance. I will defend to the death the idea that any person should be able to make a website, print a comic, or hold a meeting where they can say anything they like.

However I feel equally strongly that a person having specific rules of discourse for their own site in no way limits free speech, and in no way devalues the text written there, and in many cases produces more valuable discourse with greater contribution from a wider range of voices.

Let me make this crystal clear and state this explicitly: I care about free speech extremely strongly and feel it is one of the most fundamental human rights. I support the CBLDF and am strongly against the corporate-sponsored-censorship of the MPAA.

My argument isn’t whether or not free speech is valuable. It isn’t about how important it is. I’d appreciate it a great deal if you wouldn’t couch it in those terms. The argument between us is, quite simply, whether or not having stronger moderation on a site makes the speech on that particular site less valuable, or less free.

Here’s an example: you can’t make someone go home for sanding on the sidewalk on a soapbox spouting nazi propaganda. It is legal for the owner of a restaurant to ask someone to be quiet or leave if they start spouting nazi propaganda. I believe that a conversation taking place on the street where you can’t be sent home no matter what you say is no less valuable than one taking place in a restaurant where you know they will ask you to leave if you start spouting nazi propaganda.

I also believe that, while the internet itself is a public space, every single site on the internet is someone’s restaurant, or home, or some form of property that belongs to the people who create or maintain it.

I would object to any law that would tell you what you can and cannot say on your own site, or throttle bandwidth to it, or prevent people from linking to or accessing it. That would be censorship. The ‘net itself is a public place. However I don’t believe having private places that limit abuse devalues the speech that takes place in those spaces, and I don’t believe that speech generated in places that don’t have such rules is in any way inherently superior.

Of course, after I spend an hour typing this up, Caroline sums it all up perfectly in her post at 247. That is the way of the internet, I suppose.

#249 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 05:10 PM:

Paula Lieberman, 229,
...go look at Laurell K. Hamilton's most recent several years of best-selling darkish fantasy novels,...

Did someone say Laurell K. Hamilton? I believe that penny-arcade had something to say about that :)

#250 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 05:23 PM:

Leah Miller #248:

Thanks very much for your elaboration (which was certainly not preempted by Caroline, because nobody can speak for you but you). I obviously misread you, and I apologize. When I wrote:

as soon as I read "emotional abuse IS as valid a tool as a punch in the face" I knew I was dealing with a person I could not have a meaningful dialog with

...I was thinking of a million exchanges I've had with people who say that and concomitantly believe that free speech should be restricted to avoid people having to deal with emotional abuse. I shouldn't have assumed you were one of those people, and this is one of those occasions when I'm glad to be proven wrong, because it forces me to keep my mind open a little wider, always a good thing.

It seems to be true that "The argument between us is, quite simply, whether or not having stronger moderation on a site makes the speech on that particular site less valuable, or less free," and I'm not even sure we disagree, or disagree all that much. As I said above, I'm in favor of the kind of moderation that keeps trolls and nasties from dominating and destroying the conversation, and that's the kind of moderation I practice on my site. (Happily, language is not a topic that attracts many nasties--kooks, yes--so I don't have to do much deleting/banning.) Moderation is inherently a slippery slope, but it seems that although we might place the STOP sign at different places, we agree in principle.

Here's the Hand of Reconciliation, if you don't mind I've just been using it upthread...

#251 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 05:24 PM:

caroline@247 said: Women's space is something that has to be constantly fought for.

I completely respect that. Ironically, somehow I find myself fighting here for the idea of also allowing boys' space, which also seems to need defending.

For the record, in case I haven't been completely clear: I think default public space should be moderated to be comfortable for most civilized adults, as many as possible, like 90%+. I think the rules of public space should make sure women are as comfortable as men. And I think there should be private spaces available for people who are too shy to be comfortable with the public space, as well as spaces for people who are too aggressive to be comfortable.

#252 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 05:26 PM:

However I don’t believe having private places that limit abuse devalues the speech that takes place in those spaces, and I don’t believe that speech generated in places that don’t have such rules is in any way inherently superior.

I'm not languagehat, but I agree with this in theory. In practice I don't believe that's what happens in most places. Because the problem with significant moderation is that it requires a moderator, and moderators have their own biases and agendas.

What generally happens is that discours improves... at first. But you also start seeing an echo chamber effect where people who disagree start being more heavily moderated than people who disagree. You can see that at work in this thread; There are a few posts that I believe would have been disemvoweled if they had been targetted at Making Light or Making Light people, but as the target was elsewhere, they were left to stand.

It also fosters an atmosphere of insiders and outsiders. People who are buddies with the moderators are given more leeway than people who aren't. This is human nature. But it tends to drive away the outsiders and reinforce the cliquish nature of the moderated space.

So while, in theory, I agree that moderated spaces aren't inherently stifling I think in practice you usually end up with exactly that result. But the insiders don't feel it because it isn't their viewpoints and attitudes that are deprecated.

#253 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 05:29 PM:

Man, there are so many typos and mistakes in that post it's not worth fixing. Sorry, I will proof-read more effectively from now on. That's just embarrassing.

#254 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 05:33 PM:

Ah, public speech....
"feminazis" and the speech pattern taking the word "whores" and minimizing the r sound in it and referring generally to women by that term, the "can't take a joke can you" nastiness stuff, and the accusations that women are intent on taking away the rights of males and particularly boys to act "naturally"--the whole "boys are discriminated against and being feminized screed-spreaders and media reporting, the we=want-Title-IX-repealed-because-the-football-team-eats-up-all-the-sports-money-for-males-we-don't want-to-spend-money-on-sports-for-females-because- we-aren't-willing-to-redistribute-funds-off-the--men's-football-and-basketball-programs-for- other-sports-programs-for-male-students"...

And, of course, all the agenda from McCain and the current malfeasants in the Executive Branch squelching religious freedom and pluralism and removing emancipation and self-determination for women and those without Personal Finance Managers, replacing peer-reviewed research results with official appartchik policy sanitized revisions compliant to official ukases, and replacement of the scientific method with religious dogma....

#255 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 05:38 PM:

colin roald, 251, you wrote:

I think default public space should be moderated to be comfortable for most civilized adults, as many as possible, like 90%+.

Out of curiosity, what part of the world do you live in, and what scope does your government have to enforce polite speech?

I don't mean this as a criticism; it's just on Making Light it does not pay to assume what country someone is in (which isn't necessarily the one they 'belong' to.) As a for instance, Language Hat above mentioned living outside of the U.S., and consequently, I have a hunch that "requiring polite speech in public spaces" might mean something quite different in LH's milieu. In this discussion I have read the idea of "requiring polite speech" in the frame of American libel laws, the CDA, and 1st Amendment rights. In other words, advocating less-free speech is pretty darn innocuous, since it's really hard to get government endorsement of speech regulation. This would read much differently to me in the frame of, say, Great Britain's libel laws.*

*which I only know about thanks to Charlie Stross' moderation policy. Thanks Charlie!

#256 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 05:44 PM:

language hat 250: Here's the Hand of Reconciliation, if you don't mind I've just been using it upthread...

The Hand of Reconciliation is always clean.

#257 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 05:47 PM:

The "you're not me!" stuff applies massively--what Person A regards as mortal insult, Person B may regard as high praise... and sometimes the exact same words, from two different people, to the same person, can have spectacularly different results on as regards the same person reacting....

There are all sorts of disequalling factors--hearing idiosyncracies, visual processing artifacts, sensitivity to touch/impact, different arousal stimuli, differen squick stimuli, different odor responses, different cultural background, different literally point of view (the view is quite different if one is 5' versus 6'10" and what one's instantaneous default field of view is!), different learned experiences, different social interactions assumptions....

Every time I use a credit card in the local supermarket I get pissed off because the chain installed card readers that the customers are supposed to sign at the level of my CHIN... so I request "paper printout" to sign, which most of the clerks have learned out to do. I get pissed off because of the complete and utter disregard of the existence of people who are -short- and can't SEE the damned things and don't appreciate being expected to sign something at chin level.

Someone 6'10 isn't going to have any issue with the reader being too high for usability, however, and my opinion is the the persons responsible were at least 5'10" tall males who put things where it's comfortable for -them-....

#258 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 05:51 PM:

As a for instance, Language Hat above mentioned living outside of the U.S., and consequently, I have a hunch that "requiring polite speech in public spaces" might mean something quite different in LH's milieu.

I should clarify: although I grew up abroad (Foreign Service brat: Tokyo, Bangkok, Tokyo again, Buenos Aires), I have mostly lived in the U.S. since college (Los Angeles, New Haven, New York, currently western Massachusetts). And while I object to many things about life in the U.S. these days, and to its government pretty much in its entirety, I take tremendous pride in the First Amendment.

#259 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 05:56 PM:

Also: Leah, don't miss the chocolates Xopher is handing out!

#260 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 05:56 PM:

re: language hat, 258,
See? What did I tell you about making assumptions about people on Making Light :) [this is intended to be a humorous statement]

language hat,
I did not mean to suggest in any way that you didn't like the First Amendment, but I think you know that. Also, sorry for capitalizing your name - usually I try to follow the example given. Chocolate?

#261 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 06:10 PM:

LH: But I disagree strongly with your implication that everyone must censor themselves to protect those whose feelings might be hurt. (Yes, I realize you wouldn't put it that way, but that's how I perceive it.)

You know, I think this difference in perception is really, really, important, and deserves more than a parenthetical "Yes, I know" aside.

You are inaccurately rephrasing Michael Roberts, Leah, et al. here. They said that unfettered free speech ought not to be used to intimidate; you rephrased them as arguing for people to censor themselves out of fear of hurting others' feelings, to which you then objected. I call straw-man. Your concern is valid, but what you object to is not synonymous with what they argue for, and either you are misunderstanding them or being disingenuous when you paraphrase them this way and then make fly-shooing hand-wavey motions at any objections they might have to the way you misrepresent them.

There's a line between the two concerns: shouldn't have to self-censor, and shouldn't have to put up with verbal intimidation. I fear I'd disagree with you as to where to draw that line. From what you've been saying so far, I think you truly believe that the Mature Rational Adult can disassociate himself from his feelings 100% and thus it is always his 100% free choice to speak up or to leave the discussion no matter how hot, threatening, or hurtful the invective.

Remember elise's self-description of having to go away until she stopped shaking after seeing some vicious rhetoric about Rigney upon his passing? Do you think elise is abnormally "touchy"?

Remember Teresa's oft-repeated assertion that words on a screen can and do cause PTSD in some readers, and those readers are just as worthwhile as the ones with leather-thick skins? Do you think Teresa is abnormally "touchy"?

You're dealing in this audience with people who think very differently from you about how words on a screen can affect the reader. To call us "touchy" is insulting, no matter how much you say "I mean no offense by it." There are ways and ways to say things such that you can speak your mind and avoid dealing unnecessary hurt. "Touchy" is not a neutral word, and I think you know that.

I think the reasonable compromise between self-censorship and intimidation/harrassment/insult is simply to choose words both accurate to the subject matter and your intent. If you want to neutrally describe something, use a neutral word. It is very rare that an insulting, patronizing, demeaning word is necessary to accurately speak your mind when you truly don't intend to be patronizing, insulting, demeaning.

Example: A discussion about obesity oughtn't to be silenced just because overweight people might be offended by it. However, there's no damn reason under the sun that such a discussion should be involve insults like "fat broads" and "cows" and "thunder thighs". Anyone complaining that they shouldn't be expected to "self-censor" such insults out of their speech belongs in the same category as the people who lament how Political Correctness (TM) has taken away their God-given right to refer to black people as niggers.

--

As for adolescent boys: what, y'all think that respectful speech and action towards women magically happens with the passing of puberty? What the young boy learns is accepted, the young boy will continue to do. If we can expect testosterone-raging adolescents not to rape women, we can damn well expect them to speak respectfully to and of them. Socialization begins early. We need men to speak up to other men, and women to speak up to other women too: "You know what? That's not cool." There's no good reason not to say that to an adolescent boy. He may go off and be crude in private, but he learns that in public that ain't OK. If we expect him to learn that by adulthood, we can't just sit around going, "Oh, boys will be boys - I mean, he's so full of testosterone he can't help it" and looking the other way.

#262 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 06:12 PM:

Paula Lieberman@240 wrote: There are all sorts of axes, and the -variation- among individuals on the average.

Yeah, of course. I don't think that has anything to do with the point I was trying to make, though -- perhaps I didn't make it very well.

I say that variation between sexes is not *only* cultural; that is, at least some of it is genetic. If you think there isn't a meaningful difference in distribution of aggressiveness between the sexes, then I would ask why the large majority of the prison population is male. If you think that difference is just culturally driven, I'd ask how you can be confident of that, given that as far as I know it's true in every society in the world and at every time in history. (So far as I know! If I'm wrong, I'd be fascinated to learn the counterexample.)

#263 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 06:16 PM:

don delny #260: Don't worry about it -- my blog is Languagehat, I'm either languagehat or language hat depending on where I am, it's all too confusing to bother with. Just don't call me late for dinner.

Speaking of which: goody, more chocolate!

#264 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 06:29 PM:

Appears the conversation moved on around me, and Leah and language hat have reconciled their differing modes of speech.

I just want to add this:

language hat: ...I was thinking of a million exchanges I've had with people who say that and concomitantly believe that free speech should be restricted to avoid people having to deal with emotional abuse.

I have no idea whether I am one of those people, because at this point I can't confidently assume I know what you mean here. After the way you've been rephrasing people throughout this discussion, for all I know, you might include in the set of "people who... believe that free speech should be restricted to avoid people having to deal with emotional abuse" people who object to misogynist jokes in the work place, drivers yelling sexually charged slurs at random women walking by, and comments left at blogs expressing the wish that the [female] blogger would get raped.

(I know I'm focusing on feminist issues here, which is only one slice of the spectrum of hurtful, threatening, hostile speech-control speech. It's the slice I am personally familiar with and have had to put up with since the first time I entered the public sphere without a parent holding my hand.)

So, I don't know. Am I "one of those people"? I certainly think that causing emotional abuse is worth avoiding, and the desire to avoid causing emotional abuse is something that marks a mature, respectful adult. And I think, if I may assume from some of the things you've said here thus far, that the amount of situations in which one must risk causing emotional abuse in order to freely speak one's mind are vastly fewer than you would argue.

#265 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 06:33 PM:

Leah @ 248, I sincerely doubt I summed it up perfectly or even close to perfectly (I was thinking aloud), but thanks.

#266 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 06:35 PM:

Nicole @ 261 - This is fantastically well-said!

Josh @ 245 - actually, I consider the possibility that language hat doesn't notice his silencing effect to be the charitable interpretation. The alternative is that he crushes the weak for the sheer enjoyment of it, in full knowledge of what he is doing. In the spirit of reconciliation, I thought that might have been a little harsh.

#267 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 06:50 PM:

actually, I consider the possibility that language hat doesn't notice his silencing effect to be the charitable interpretation. The alternative is that he crushes the weak for the sheer enjoyment of it, in full knowledge of what he is doing. In the spirit of reconciliation, I thought that might have been a little harsh.

Really? Those are the only two possibilities that occurred to you? What I said in my comment didn't even occur to you as a likely or plausible interpretation?

#268 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 06:51 PM:

#262 colin

Assumptions do lots of biting--if women are locked in purdah, they're already imprisoned!

There are people who don't get locked up as a general rule in prison, due to special considerations such as being locked up in the house (all those madwomen in the attic in gothic romances of days gone by) or otherwise (Lady Caroline Lamb, or "the Blood Countess" Elizabath Bathory (spelling/remembering name correctly...).... or Laura Bush who was never charged with vehicular homicide but hit the car in front of her killing its driver while a teenager.

Prison is a public incarceration by government for social crimes, as opposed to labelling unwanted women "witches" and putting them to death, or getting rid of unwanted excess female babies by infanticide... however, another factor was that in the past women tends to have high death rates from pregnancy and childbirth....

Another factor, opportunity--locked in purdah, how much opportunity is there to commit a crime of theft or public nuisance!? Prevented access from trades, how much opportunity is there to steal from an employer?

Another factor--protection and not being charged--in cultures which treated women as chattel, father/husband/brother/son/nephew/uncle/etc. get charged as responsible for the crime committed by the -property-. The propery might get put to death, however... Pater Familias in ancient Greece and ancient Rome held the power of life and death over the members of the family. Adulterous wives or wives accused of adultery didn't get imprisoned, they got beheaded if they were married to Henry Bolingboke; Henry Bolingbroke however had a variety of bastards, nobody beheaded him for adultery!

Renaissance Florence did some sanctioning of "notorious sodomites" who were homosexual or bisexual males, however, it didn't seem to charge women with the crime of lesbianism.

"Crime" involves social issues--different societies have different things regarded as criminal, and different responses to people convicted of criminal activity, and often different rules for different classes of society, and different access to activities where someone can commit the various crimes.... if a locality doesn't allow women employ as locality workers, the women can't commit crimes such as embezzling from the locality treasury....

Access and training and treatment and expectations are not equal. However, there have been notable rises in the USA over the past generation, apparently, in the level of violent crimes committed by girls--the changes, again, are social ones, the 'training" is different--Buffy going around bashing up monsters etc. is not something that would have been a common cultural icon much less on TV a generation ago.

Life does imitate art, and art has changed over the past couple generations in the US to showing girls and women being more violent over time--and the rate of violent crime committed by females has gone up, I thnk that it's rather higher in the USA, than the violent crime rate of males in most other western countries....

#269 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 07:20 PM:

and the rate of violent crime committed by females has gone up, I thnk that it's rather higher in the USA, than the violent crime rate of males in most other western countries....

You might want to check your numbers. The United States does not have a significantly higher violent crime rate that most other western countries so it is impossible, given that women are responsible for only a fraction of all violent crime, for the female violent crime rate to approach much less surpass the violent crime rate of males in most other countries.

It's true that the USA has a much higher homicide rate than many western countries, but we often have a much lower rate of other crimes so the overall violent crime rates are similar.

#270 ::: Matt Austern ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 07:20 PM:

My position: moderated online discussion forums are usually better than open unmoderated forums. Bad speech in an online forum can easily drive out good; it's too easy for someone whose goal is something other than conversation where participants learn from each other and refine their views to disrupt that conversation, it's too easy for "debate" to be elevated to an end in itself, and it's too hard for respectful conversation and unrestrained attacks to exist in the same place. I stopped reading unmoderated Usenet groups long ago because the quality of the discussion got too low; the people I liked to read and talk to got driven away. Telling me that I would like Usenet better if I and everyone else had thicker skins isn't a useful suggestion, and doesn't make Usenet more readable.

I also don't think that using the phrase "free speech" without qualification is a useful contribution to a discussion about online conversation groups, in part because I don't think it's being used consistently. Sometimes it's used in the sense of government censorship, and sometimes it's used in some other sense that appears to apply to online discussion forums' moderation policies. This ambiguity makes it a poor phase to use in this discussion: it's too easy to slide from one sense to the other without noticing, or to silently appropriate moral weight that belongs to one sense and shift it to the other.

#271 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 07:26 PM:

Josh -- seriously, no. I don't believe that anyone can logically believe that you have to be allowed to be an asshole to everybody in order to protect freedom. So your interpretation did not, in fact, occur to me. To me, the only question here is whether one uses intimidating rhetorical tactics in one's arguments. (Others' mileage may differ.)

I believe to the fullest that language hat supports freedom of speech, and I defy you to find anyone here -- at Making Light -- who disputes the value of freedom of speech. But there is a vast difference between freedom to say what needs to be said, and the freedom to say it in any way one chooses. LH clearly relishes a good verbal sparring match, and practices a lot, and I enjoy snark to an extent which is less than seemly.

What I've been trying to say is that his insistence that the entire Internet is fair game for that sport is not really beneficial to the freedom of all to speak. Just to his freedom to speak. So to speak.

Josh, I am really trying to be charitable. I am honestly attempting to engage language hat on a less rhetorical, and more real, level. He himself does not appear to take that amiss. I think you can let him defend his own position -- he seems to be a grownup.

Plus there's chocolate. You can't argue with chocolate.

#272 ::: Dom ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 07:34 PM:

For anyone interested in insightful book-length analysis verbal argument and gender, I highly recommend books by blogger Suzette Haden Elgin, including The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense and Genderspeak.

#273 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 07:34 PM:

Nicole@261 said: There's no good reason not to say that to an adolescent boy. He may go off and be crude in private, but he learns that in public that ain't OK.

Is all of the internet public, or is one allowed to be crude on, say, Fark?

#274 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 07:37 PM:

Are you allowed to advocate hanging blacks on Fark? Or just boning chicks? How comfortable are you with that distinction?

#275 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 07:49 PM:

If I were distracted by all of the navel-gazing going on in the latter part of this thread, I'd no doubt ask "what the heck was this thread originally about, anyway?!" heh.

#276 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 07:52 PM:

What I've been trying to say is that his insistence that the entire Internet is fair game for that sport is not really beneficial to the freedom of all to speak. Just to his freedom to speak. So to speak.

Which is a perfectly reasonable objection to make, but I don't believe that has anything to do with what he actually said, and so your last couple jabs seemed about on par with an inquiry into his wife-beating status.

The entire internet need not be fair game for the rawest of free speech. No one in this thread, lhat included, has suggested otherwise. It seems like there's been a lot of discussion of the value of different kinds of place -- from the biker bar to the coffee klatch, and everything between and beyond.

I don't personally think there's much question that there exists a usefulness for even those places that allow the most raw and unmoderated of speech. They may be ugly, unfriendly places where most people don't want to spend their time. I don't want to spend my time in those places, generally.

But advocating the importance that such places exist is not the same thing as claiming that such places are ideal, or that it's to someone's fundamental detriment not to want to spend time there. And it feels more like you're trying to suggest just that than actually treating his position as he stated it. That seems less than charitable.

#277 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 07:55 PM:

Dom @ 272 - how incredibly a propos! Although it's kind of a giggle to me to think of Suzette Hayden Elgin as a blogger first, author second.

And in fact on June 24, she posted something which expresses far better the haphazard point I've been trying to make: here.

The attacker's intentions are irrelevant to the question of whether an utterance is verbal abuse or not. The only meaning an utterance has in real-world spoken language is the meaning the listener understands it to have .... When the target's understanding of the utterance is that it was intended to do harm and is hostile, that's the relevant real-world meaning. In both cases, the target may have misunderstood, but it's the target's perception that matters.

If language hat doesn't intend to have an intimidating effect, then all I can say is "ur doin it rong."

#278 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:02 PM:

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little #264:
I have no idea whether I am one of those people, because at this point I can't confidently assume I know what you mean here. After the way you've been rephrasing people throughout this discussion, for all I know, you might include in the set of "people who... believe that free speech should be restricted to avoid people having to deal with emotional abuse" people who object to misogynist jokes in the work place, drivers yelling sexually charged slurs at random women walking by, and comments left at blogs expressing the wish that the [female] blogger would get raped.

(I know I'm focusing on feminist issues here, which is only one slice of the spectrum of hurtful, threatening, hostile speech-control speech. It's the slice I am personally familiar with and have had to put up with since the first time I entered the public sphere without a parent holding my hand.)

So, I don't know. Am I "one of those people"?

No, as far as I can tell, you're not, and I repeat that I've found ML to be full of thoughtful and interesting commenters. But surely you're familiar with the attitude I'm talking about, the "you mustn't say such things because somebody's feelings might be hurt"? I certainly don't mean "people who object to misogynist jokes in the work place, drivers yelling sexually charged slurs at random women walking by, and comments left at blogs expressing the wish that the [female] blogger would get raped" -- as I've said, feminist issues are important to me, and I've objected to such things myself when I've had the chance (and was one of the people loudly calling for a "sexism" flag at MetaFilter to call the mods' attention to such comments).

But as someone whose heroes include such humorists as Lenny Bruce and George Carlin, and who used to enjoy Howard Stern back when he was funny, I am very sensitive to any hint of the kind of attitude that led to attempts to suppress such humor. To me, the difference between vulgar, offensive humor and vulgar, offensive behavior to women on the street is clear. I appreciate that lots of people don't agree and think the former contributes to the latter, and obviously the debate on that will go on for a long time, but I will always come down on the anti-censorship side. I'm happy to debate, as long as the person I'm debating with is willing to grant me the benefit of the doubt and accept that I can be a decent person, even a feminist, and hold the views I hold. Alas, it is all to common for Defenders of the Good and Decent to make the lazy assumption that anyone who differs supports the oppression of women (and probably longs for the return of patriarchy and slavery), so I can be a little touchy and reluctant to engage, as has been apparent here.

#279 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:05 PM:

Michael Roberts #277:

Returning to the attack? What happened to the Hand of Reconciliation? At any rate, I entirely disagree with this:

The attacker's intentions are irrelevant to the question of whether an utterance is verbal abuse or not. The only meaning an utterance has in real-world spoken language is the meaning the listener understands it to have .... When the target's understanding of the utterance is that it was intended to do harm and is hostile, that's the relevant real-world meaning. In both cases, the target may have misunderstood, but it's the target's perception that matters.

It's precisely that kind of attitude that leads directly to censorship. "I felt attacked by what you said, and I don't care how you meant it, you must be silenced!" No. People's feelings are not the court of final appeal, and if you're going to live in this world, you take the risk of having your feelings hurt.

#280 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:07 PM:

If language hat doesn't intend to have an intimidating effect, then all I can say is "ur doin it rong."

Really? You think my contributions to this discussion are intimidating? Really?

#281 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:08 PM:

Josh, what he said was this:

I absolutely feel it is both my right and my obligation to speak my mind in whatever way seems fit to me at the moment and, if necessary, apologize later if someone was offended.

That's what I responded to. I'm saying he's wrong; that it is not, in fact, his obligation to couch his rhetoric in whatever inflammatory style suits him at the moment, that in fact it might be a better idea to tone it the h-e-double-toothpicks down, especially when in places where he's neglected to establish the reputation as the straight shooter he undoubtedly enjoys where you have seen him most. Because in failing to establish his identity as a well-meaning person, the actual content of his communication has a chilling effect on discourse, whether he likes it or not.

In assuming that he is well-meaning and that he simply doesn't realize that that chilling effect is a real thing, I am being charitable, but that charity is the basic right of every human being, and I do apologize for having failed to be so charitable earlier.

Am I expressing myself clearly enough at this point? Because this is something I find really important. I apologize for the syntax. This always happens when I'm translating from German.

#282 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:15 PM:

Yeah, lh, I do. I certainly find myself responding in ways I'd rather not. Was it your intent? I don't believe it was -- you took exception to my description of your peeps, said so in the style you chose to use, and voila! Here we are!

As to attack -- no. If you take the Hand of Reconciliation to mean that I have to like your style of argument, well, I don't. But if you take it to mean that I accept that you're an OK person -- well, I accepted that from the start. I took the reconciliation to mean that I explicitly stated that, because it's by no means obvious from what I've actually posted.

And really: What is the final court of appeal, then? If not the emotions of your interlocutor, then what? Seriously -- I think that's exactly where our misunderstanding lies, so don't take this as an attack, because it isn't.

#283 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:17 PM:

Michael@274, I think you have to go to Stormfront to be allowed to advocate hanging blacks. (Though I'm not sure, because Fark tends to repulse me, so I don't know the fine detail of whatever social contract they have over there. Conceivably it's "you can advocate hanging blacks as long as no one thinks you're serious.")

In any case, I don't care. I think people on Fark can do or say whatever they want, and it's only the business of other people on Fark. Fark is not the Old Boys Club. It is not a place that anyone who doesn't want to visit, has to go to. It is not associated with any "real world" organization. It's not the gateway to any positions of power in society. It's a place that exists purely and solely for the juvenile to get the thrill of being crude.

It seems to me they are people too, and have just as much right as the extremely shy to have a discourse that they enjoy.

Stormfront I think is quite a bit more hateful, but I think *they* have a right to exist, too. That's where the rubber of Freedom of Speech really meets the road.

I mean, do people believe in freedom of speech or not? It would be bizarre if we're willing to cut more slack for real neo-Nazis than for random frat boys who like boobies.

#284 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:20 PM:

lh, #244: But I disagree strongly with your implication that everyone must censor themselves to protect those whose feelings might be hurt.

Did you really mean to imply that common courtesy is a BAD thing? Because that's what courtesy is all about -- thinking of how what you say or do may affect other people, and expecting them to do as much for you. It's what makes human society possible. And yes, that does indeed involve some level of "self-censoring", which is why I'm asking you politely rather than flaming you as a free-speech troll.

Also, your statement upthread that "the public space must be free" disturbs me for much the same reasons. The public space must be accessible to all if it is to be truly public. When people are being forced out of it by fear of harassment, it's not "free" at all.

#285 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:29 PM:

Ah - I'm reading too poorly, and quoting too sparsely. I think it might be better to put it this way. If you intend to be hostile, and your target takes it as such, then you've succeeded. If you did not intend to be hostile, but your target takes it as hostile, your communication has failed and you should try again. Except that on the Internet, it's too damned late. Hence the Hand of Reconciliation.

It's the intent which is difficult to divine from the actual utterance. And it's the intent which is really important here.

Let's take your response to my rant as an example. It could well be that for some unfathomable reason, your intent in calling me childish was to piss some guy in Puerto Rico off royally. If so, you were quite successful. But that intent doesn't really make a lot of sense. If instead, as you say, your intent to ask whether my rant above was permissible on Making Light, then your rhetoric was ill-chosen. You may really have enjoyed it, but unless you wanted to inflame debate, your intended effect failed. (Yes, clearly I also failed -- but the issue in question here is the next paragraph.)

The question in rhetoric, then, is what is your intent? And the effect on your interlocutor is the gauge of success. It is the "court of final opinion". Modifying your rhetoric to have the effect you intend is not censorship, not even self-censorship. It's just rational.

I'm trying to be as logical as I can about this. It's damned important, it really is, because I'm well-meaning, I have to assume you are well-meaning, and if we let a mutual love for snarky rhetoric get in the way, then the outcome is less perfect than I would like.

So that's the real hand of reconciliation. Truly.

#286 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:32 PM:

Michael Roberts #281: I did not say it is "obligation to couch [my] rhetoric in whatever inflammatory style suits [me] at the moment," and for you to phrase it that way shows (as far as I am concerned) ill will on your part that belies your claims to the contrary. I said, and meant, "I absolutely feel it is both my right and my obligation to speak my mind in whatever way seems fit to me at the moment." Do you really think that translates to "I want to be inflammatory"? Really? Surely "I speak as I please" is the basic statement of free speech. I would have thought it was apparent from everything I've said here that I try to be civil to people (and expect them to give me the same courtesy); if I feel I've been attacked, I will respond in kind, but since you are exactly the same, I don't think you have much standing to complain about it. In any event, it should be obvious that it is impossible to foretell the effects one's words will have on everyone who might hear them, and that if one worries too much about that, one will say nothing but platitudes, so one might as well speak freely -- which does not mean "deliberately offensively" -- and apologize to anyone who has been offended afterwards.

I mean, shit, you've offended me with some of the things you've said; why aren't you turning your blunderbuss on yourself? Could it be because you're sublimely convinced that you're on the side of All That Is Right and Good, and therefore anything you say is ipso facto good? You want to watch that kind of thinking.

#287 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:33 PM:

Josh #276: I think that summed things up nicely. I'd add one more thing: The discussion at the quiet coffee shop is not more valuable or better or more inherently likely to get to the truth than the discussion in the loud bar (biker or otherwise) or the locker room or even the unregulated town square where wackos can put up a stand and hold forth on their particular bit of nutjobbery as desired. All those places are valuable.


#288 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:34 PM:

Woops, didn't see your latest before I posted that! Please deduct 50% of the snark and 90% of the hostility. I take your concerns seriously, really I do. But I don't like being misinterpreted.

#289 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:45 PM:

colin @ 283 -- hmm. I agree, actually. The question has to be where the fine line between crudity and harassment lies, and to what extent crudity should just start feeling gauche, you know? I'm not advocating forcing Websites to be less crude (my God am I ever not) -- but I am saying that crudity is symptomatic of an underlying set of attitudes about acceptable roles, and in general, if we're making progress as a species towards equality, a lot of crudity will logically start to feel pretty gauche to the person being crude. Or his kids or grandkids, anyway.

#290 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:48 PM:

Har! LH, I'll spot you the whole snark and another 20% of the hostility, you've earned it.

I think my misunderstanding was what the meaning of the word "as" as .. I mean, is.

#291 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:50 PM:

Heh. Thanks, amigo.

#292 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 08:59 PM:

Herein lies the kernel of the disagreement. You intend "I speak as I please" to mean "I state the propositions I want to state". Yes! I agree! That is, in fact, precisely what free speech is, and it is unquestionably vital.

But "as" can also mean "like" -- and so an alternative (and, it appears, less charitable) interpretation of your statement is that you believe it is your obligation to speak "in whatever manner you choose". That's a hell of a difference, and frankly, I think I chose it because "as I please" has more of that meaning in Indiana (I'm in Puerto Rico, not of it) than you probably intended. That sounds, if interpreted uncharitably, as though you mean to say that freedom of speech requires you to be as ... as ... barbed as you want, when stating the propositions you want stated.

Sigh. Reading over that, it probably sounds as though I'm on some kind of medication. (If only.) But it's still important.

#293 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 09:00 PM:

Nicole, #261: I don't think there is a neutral synonym for "touchy", because part of the meaning of the word is pejorative, and hence any other term which can be substituted for it (such as "oversensitive") is going to carry the same meaning.

Matt, #270: Hear, hear!

Dom, #272: Having read Genderspeak, I'd like to make one caveat about it: times have changed since it was published. I kept tripping over examples in which it seemed clear that the problem ran much deeper than communication gaps -- for example, one in which a woman's husband feels free to relate things she's confided in him about a sensitive workplace situation to one of her co-workers, who is also his golf partner. If she can't trust her husband to keep his mouth shut about something like that, she's got much bigger problems than anything specific he could have said! All in all, I consider that book more instructive as an illustration of how our social attitudes have changed in just one generation than anything else.

Oh, and GAVSD is in the process of being revised. I'm not sure when the publication date on the new edition is, but it might be worth waiting for -- because I know one of the things she does intend to address is verbal abuse in online fora.

#294 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 09:04 PM:

Lee #284:

Courtesy is important, and it's often possible to avoid giving offense by being careful about wording, not being insulting, etc. But sometimes, the offense comes from the ideas being conveyed. Those ideas can be good (gays ought to have the same legal rights as straights) or bad (gays ought to be locked up as deviants and forcibly "cured"), but the thing that's going to give offense there is the ideas. There's not really any way to prevent this kind of offense being given, without suppressing some ideas.

In practice, we do that a lot in the name of both politeness, and private policing of private spaces. Everyone knows you need to tread carefully when discussing politics and religion and sex in the office, because some folks will indeed be offended by your ideas. Just not discussing those things is a way to avoid the conflict.

Another issue is that discussions spill over across different places. Leah talked about taking down some images, because they'd been linked to in a different place, with different moderation rules, and about fairly nasty discussions about images posted someplace else for costumes. I have no idea how to address that. To paraphrase Trotsky, You may not be interested in Fark, but Fark is interested in you....

#295 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 09:33 PM:

Now I'm sure this kerfuffle is hurting Boing Boing. My daughter is stomping on her Mickey Mouse floaty boards saying, "I hate Disney!" Or, wait--does that mean it's helping Boing Boing? Damn. This is hard!

#296 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 09:38 PM:

Bruce@114: so, the loss of a single $20 bet? Is that the extent of takers on the deleted content?

#297 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 10:35 PM:

albatross@294 said: To paraphrase Trotsky, You may not be interested in Fark, but Fark is interested in you....

Yes! That's the question. Is Fark a private space? Can they say whatever they want?

Reflexively I want to say yes, but the line is so weird and new. At what point does harmless snarking about random strangers become harassment? Does it matter if to them, it's just a funny picture and they truly neither know nor care who you are? Does it matter if your name isn't attached, and you don't even know it happened? What if no one person says anything that could possibly be legally actionable, but the cumulative gestalt of the dogpile is horrifying -- can you hold anyone at fault?

#298 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 10:36 PM:

Colin @ 273: Where I see people treating people inexcusably, I speak up; to not do so is to tacitly condone it, which I cannot in good conscience do. Where I feel like speaking up is a losing battle, I simply don't go.

Fark is one of those places I don't go.

That said, there are many other public places online and off where I would not accept being made to feel unwelcome by crude, misogynistic conduct, and you can bet I'll make a fuss. Have done and will do again.


language hat @ 274: But surely you're familiar with the attitude I'm talking about, the "you mustn't say such things because somebody's feelings might be hurt"?

I am quite familiar with it. But in my experience, that very line is usually used as a strawman by people who use "Don't expect me to be politically correct!" as an overture to abusive, hateful, insulting language. A friend of a friend uses "Oh, that's so gay" as a synonym for ugly, tactless, stupid, whatever, one too many times; I speak up; he says, "I know it's politically incorrect. That's why I say it. Because I refuse to be silenced just because someone might get their feelings hurt!"

I'm glad to hear that you are not that sort of person. You are, however, using language tropes that that sort of person uses. That's why I have been seeing you as that sort of person in this thread.


More later - not caught up yet - laptop battery gooooiiiinnnnng....

#299 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 11:11 PM:

Greg London: Well, I only promised to pay to the first taker, after all. But I want to give full faith and credit to Elusis' claim - she actually does have a solid, academic purpose that would have been served by Boing Boing commentary on Violet Blue posts. Which is a lesson to me to be a little careful in some of my own generalizations.

#300 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2008, 11:28 PM:

Nicole 298: A friend of a friend uses "Oh, that's so gay" as a synonym for ugly, tactless, stupid, whatever, one too many times; I speak up; he says, "I know it's politically incorrect. That's why I say it. Because I refuse to be silenced just because someone might get their feelings hurt!"

OK, your FOAF is an asshole. But I have sometimes been able to get the point across by picking some characteristic they have, and using it as a word that means ugly and stupid. I had a Hispanic friend who had that habit. I kept saying "that's so Hispanic." Unfortunately he then started using 'Hispanic' to mean 'gay'—in the homosexual sense. It was weird. But he did stop saying 'gay' as a generic pejorative.

Sometimes it doesn't work. But it at least annoys them, and that's worth it by itself.

#301 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 12:11 AM:

*staggers in, panting* I made it to the end of the comments posted since the last time I commented! So now I get to do it again! But it'll be the Reader's Digest Condensed Comments.

My opinion, which is mine:

Whoever said above that "free speech" is a poor term to use is IMHO right. My experience is that lightly-moderated, adult fora like ML or Obsidian Wings or Slacktivist or parts of livejournal (esp. many of those likely to be linked from the metafandom community) have the truly freest speech on the Tubes, much free-er than Central Jerkotopia, even though "free speech! free speech!" is much more of a rallying cry in the latter fora.

Part of what I am doing in using the term Jerkosphere is to emphasize that flagrant assholery is part of a whole flowing culture or pattern of behavior, found on many sites and cropping up sporadically all over.

Do the rest of you-all feel that you instinctively recognize what I mean by The Jerkosphere? Does it convey a meaning?

When I eat made chocolates, I get them freshly-made from Munson's if possible. If I'm buy choc for cooking or life-sustaining munching, it's Ghirardelli. hmm. The Guy is heading thataway for the Fencing Nationals -- what should he bring back as loot? Any suggestions?

#302 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 12:28 AM:

Doctor Science, I'm not touching a response to your question with a ten-foot pole. There's nothing I can say that wouldn't exude snark.

There are bacteria in my cells!

#303 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 02:03 AM:

language hat @280:
Really? You think my contributions to this discussion are intimidating? Really?

Really. Or possibly just annoying (in the sense that they have annoyed a lot of people, not in the more juvenile sense in which the term is often used.)

That's one reason, along with massive house painting tasks, that I have not been involved in this discussion. I have one meta-comment to make, and then I need to go buy pink paint.

I think Nicole puts her finger on the problem in comment 264 when she says:
After the way you've been rephrasing people throughout this discussion...

You—and other parties in this conversation—have tended to rephrase people's points rather than using direct quotation. Unfortunately, many of these points are nuanced, ambiguously phrased, or both. The restatement, although valuable when it shows what you understood the point to be, is prone to include a certain amount of misinterpretation and simplification.

This has two effects. First, it makes people feel like you're not listening to them. That's frustrating in an online discussion, and some of that frustration boils over. And second, it leads to a lot of strawman accusations, many of them arguably correct despite their innocent origins.

I must emphasize that you are not the only one doing it in this thread. However, I found your manner indefinably grating until I read Nicole's comment and realized that that tendency is what was getting under my skin.

Could I request, for the increased pleasure and productiveness of further discourse, that everyone tend toward quotation and re-use each other's words rather than restatement?

(To anyone who has recently arrived at, or returned to, Making Light, it is possibly useful to know that I am a moderator here.)

#304 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 02:08 AM:

Doctor Science, your comments in #301 very much match my experience. Back in the day, I was part of a cabal that set up a moderated companion newsgroup to one in the rec hierarchy, which was popular but infested by a few very determined resident disruptors and, for no very good reason, increasingly targeted by the sorts of trolls that would crosspost disruptive flamewar kindling. Old folks were dropping off faster than the general rate of decline in Usenet usage by that point, and new voices were scarce.

What we found with the moderated group - which killed excessive crossposting and very little else besides really flagrant attacks - was that overall traffic was about the same as in the unmoderated one, but that the number of participants was larger, and got larger over time. Essentially, we trade about three to five shouters for ten or twenty regulars posting at more temperate rates, plus a lot of occasional posters. That was a good deal. We had some very good years, before the structural weaknesses of the Big 8 hierarchies and the rise of web forums made the whole thing increasingly moot.

So...yeah, if the goal is to maximize the opportunities for self-expression on the part of those least susceptible to being put off by others' shouts and abuse and all, then no moderation is the way to go. But if the goal is to maximize actual diversity of voices and scope of participation, then a light dose of moderation is necessary. I prefer beneficial outcomes to rules purity in cases like this - it matters more to me that a lot of people feel able to contribute safely and productively than that the hardiest feel altogether uninfringed.

#305 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 03:00 AM:

# 40, (David Bilek) "I think BB would clearly have been better off if they had listened to and followed Teresa's rules for PR management."

To make this more explicit, I suspect that Teresa gave them some good, very specific advice, which was ignored. Now she's in a situation where she must follow her employers wishes about a very public matter and keep her mouth shut about how clueless her employers have been.

# 107, (James D. MacDonald) While folks have been quick to assume that Cory, Xeni, Teresa, Patrick, and who-knows who else is lying, why doesn't anyone ask if Violet Blue may not be shading the truth? I think it's within the realm of possibility that she knows darned good and well exactly why those posts were hidden.

I've been thinking the same thing. Carefully following the links around the story confronts one with the possibility that Violet is something of a loose cannon. Obviously I can't prove that one way or another, but I'm familiar with a particular type which she seems to fit.

# 117 (Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little) Heck, I've just now recently been in a situation where I felt the need to disassociate from someone because I could no longer bear to tacitly condone their personal conduct; yet because that conduct was personal, I considered it inappropriate to tell everyone in our social group what my gripe was.

I've been in a similar situation. Sometimes the best thing to do is be quiet - this is the only thing the Boing-Boingers have done right.

IMHO, the best thing to do would have been to leave the Violet Blue stories there, but remove the links, possibly substituting the phrase, "Link removed by the author."

Alex

#306 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 04:34 AM:

Xopher @ 194: First of all, thanks for your civility. I really do appreciate it--this can't be an easy accusation to hear. However:

"But "cold water poured over his body" is not the same as a cup (eight ounces!) of water splashed in the face."

That isn't what you said. You said (@ 47): "Some of the commenters on the resulting thread ought to be spanked, or have their heads shoved in the toilet (not to drown them, just long enough to trigger a dive reflex and humiliate them a little)." [bold mine]

Giving someone a swirlie may be all in good fun when done by an older brother (or maybe not), but it certainly isn't when done to humiliate. When it's used like that, then I think it is torture.

"But let me just state categorically: I do not really think the bad posters in the BB thread should be spanked, nor that they should have their heads shoved in the toilet. I meant they were childish shitheads. I chose a bad (that is, unclear) way of expressing that, and I apologize. I do not advocate torture of anyone,* and I apologize for the impression, unintentional as it was, that my remarks created."

When you use violent, evocative language, saying "but I don't really mean it" afterwards is not, in my mind, any sort of defense. Violent language is violent in and of itself, even when separated from the possibility of real-world follow-through. If you heard someone say, "She deserves to be raped to death with a rusty knife," how comforting would a subsequent "Well, not really" be? The language itself is hurtful.

When you use this sort of violent language (and you use it quite regularly) it freaks me out. Even as mere rhetoric it crosses lines that should not be crossed. People (me included) will think up all sorts of terrible things to do to people they don't like, granted. But it's not a part of human nature that should be indulged, either physically or conversationally.

#307 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 05:16 AM:

heresiarch, #306: I think your final two paragraphs make a very good point. We've been talking upthread about the effects of language on social customs -- how what is perceived as safe to discuss publicly can become perceived as safe to do as well. (Hate radio, anyone?) That's a sword which cuts both ways.

IMO, that sort of venting is something preferably done in private. Xopher, you've listened to me a time or two when I needed to rant and didn't want to do it here. My inbox is always open to you for the same purpose.

#308 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 05:32 AM:

language hat @ 223: "If we were on MetaFilter I'd have a reasonable expectation that my interlocutors would be aware of my six-year history of being a strong and consistent feminist voice on the site,"

Speaking only for myself, whether we'd had that history or not, I still would have raised an eyebrow at your comment. Being feminist doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed never to act in a sexist way, nor does it exempt you from criticism from other feminists when they think you might be doing so.

"So all I can say is: some people, male and female both, are in fact touchy, sensitive, and verbose; in the sexist culture we inhabit, females are unfairly stuck with those characterizations whether they deserve them or not, whereas men are either given a pass or lumped in with women and mocked;"

While I’m very glad you recognize that being touchy isn't a trait limited to or defined by females, I’d be even gladder if you recognized that being "touchy" is a universal human trait, one that includes to some degree everyone who isn't a sociopath, even you. Really—I’ve seen your emotions get the better of you time and time again on this thread alone. Given the evidence of your own posting history, how can you accuse other people of being too "touchy"?

The idea that some people (men) are capable of complete rationality, and can argue unencumbered by emotion is just as sexist as the idea that women are all touchy and emotional.

#309 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 05:46 AM:

Lee @ 307: Thanks. =)

#310 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 05:48 AM:

colin roald @ 198: “"Look at the hooters on that one" is a thought that's inherently part of part of being an adolescent male.”

No, it isn’t. (Especially not for the gay ones!) It’s inherently part of being socialized as an adolescent male. Feeling a deep and profound appreciation for the physical beauty of one’s preferred gender(s), now that’s an inherent part of life—equally so for women. How you express it, though, is entirely social. “Look at the hooters on that one” is a back-handed compliment that simultaneously reduces the woman to meat and reinforces the macho heterosexuality of the speaker.

228: "One of the ways to gain maturity is by having a place where you're allowed to express your idiot ideas. In fact, I suspect that the more thoroughly we wall off the idiot ideas, the more they fester underground, and the longer it takes for people to grow out of them."

I’m deeply confused. Let me get this straight: being a sexist asshole is something that every boy’s got a certain amount of, and he’s just got to get it out of his system some way or another? That having places where he can treat women like dirt to the LOLZ of his peers will teach him how to reign in his worst instincts and respect women as equals?

This strikes me as landing somewhere between foolish and downright insane: being sexist and objectifying women is a learned behavior, and engaging in sexist cat-calling (as opposed to the wider category of appreciating human beauty, which can be done respectfully) only teaches them to do it more, better, and be less apologetic about it. The only way humans, boys included, learn to act in an acceptable manner is by being praised when they do and criticized when they don’t.

@ 262: "If you think there isn't a meaningful difference in distribution of aggressiveness between the sexes, then I would ask why the large majority of the prison population is male."

They're mostly black, too. Do you think that that's due to genetic factors?

#311 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 05:53 AM:

I'm glad to hear that you are not that sort of person. You are, however, using language tropes that that sort of person uses. That's why I have been seeing you as that sort of person in this thread.

Nicole ... brilliant! That is an absolutely crucial point...

Languagehat, even you alluded to this before, when speaking about people not knowing your history here. That showed us you were aware that all we had to go on were your immediate comments, but then you still seemed surprised and offended when we did just that.

You didn't really adjust your manner of wording to account for our lack of knowledge, and so didn't really have the right to be put out by our "failure" to see what you "really" meant. When some of your statements were paraphrased in a decidedly negative direction, it seemed justified by what the implications of your words seemed to be. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's been following along this entire thread thinking the same way as Nicole. She is by no means a PC-nazi, but she does typify the level of sensitivity this board tries to uphold.

So the lesson of this whole thread, all 300+ pieces of it is: While meaning may be defined by the listener, it is controlled by the speaker, and both are bloody damned useless if they don't try to understand the other...

/soapbox

#312 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 06:12 AM:

Giving someone a swirlie may be all in good fun when done by an older brother (or maybe not), but it certainly isn't when done to humiliate. When it's used like that, then I think it is torture.

heresiarch, I thought your first post to Xopher was way over the top, and I'm glad this one is more in keeping with his (more generous than I would have been) reply.

However, it is just as incorrect as the first. How can humiliation automatically be torture? Humiliation is the basis for nearly every system of judicial punishment ever created. It is certainly fitting that those commenters suffer a little tweaking for their obnoxiousness. Xopher's particular choice of punishments was clearly meant as much for its humour value as for any actual merit. At least you had the good graces not to continue to suggest that a swirlie ranked as water torture.

I've been reading Xopher's posts, as well as his LJ entries for years now, and fail to see how anyone could be freaked out by them. I know we've just been discussing how meaning is defined by the reciever, but some definitions could use with a dictionary; Xopher is controlling his meaning just fine...

#313 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 07:33 AM:

Edward Oleander @ 312: "Humiliation is the basis for nearly every system of judicial punishment ever created."

What makes you think that judicial punishment can't also be torture?

"At least you had the good graces not to continue to suggest that a swirlie ranked as water torture."

Although I'm reluctant to point it out, that actually was what I was saying. Or rather, that it can be. It's hard for me to imagine how being forcibly seized (since I doubt anyone would voluntarily submit), dragged to the nearest toilet, and having one's head shoved in would fail to qualify as severe mental suffering. There isn't an exculpatory "*Things typically associated with grade-school shenanigans are automatically disqualified" footnote after the UN Convention Against Torture; this stuff still counts.

"I've been reading Xopher's posts, as well as his LJ entries for years now, and fail to see how anyone could be freaked out by them."

Part of why I was so shocked and appalled when Xopher denied that what he was advocating was torture is that it came from him, who is sensible and eloquent in almost every case but this, and that it happened on Making Light, which is so often a voice of sanity and reason. This was the last place I expected to encounter this sort of thing, and my defenses were down.

#314 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 08:15 AM:

Bruce@299: I only promised to pay to the first taker

Ah. Sorry. Missed that part.

#315 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 08:19 AM:

Dr. Science@301: Do the rest of you-all feel that you instinctively recognize what I mean by The Jerkosphere? Does it convey a meaning?

Oh, gawd, yes. Some might suggest that my ability to recognize the term is because I'm a member of said group, but that's a different conversation.

#316 ::: Dom ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 08:25 AM:

I think the Jerkosphere is simple vandalism, extended into the realm of reputation and self-esteem.

Consider customer-vandals who steal towels, urinate on bathroom floors, or take hundreds of ketchup packets which they never use. Their thinking seems to be roughly: the hotel/restaurant owner is rich, in part due to my spending, so if it is possible for me to make her poorer, I will take the opportunity to do that.

It doesn't make economic sense, but as a behavioral-economic model it predicts the behavior of a tiny fraction of the population quite well.

Analogously, if someone has a good reputation (like Boing Boing) or high self-esteem (like the cosplayer in #104), then online reputation vandals will take every opportunity to reduce that person's or company's reputation or self-esteem, even if there is no direct benefit to them, just because it's possible.

#317 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 08:36 AM:

heresiarch@306: When you use violent, evocative language, saying "but I don't really mean it" afterwards is not, in my mind, any sort of defense.

Hm, that's weird. Using violent evocative language usually triggers my "Must destroy arch enemy" response. I don't think xopher's comments ever triggered me. I think part of it is probably because I'm somewhat familiar with xopher and know he's not serious. A quick look at those examples you posted seem obviously meant to be over-the-top language to the point I don't take it as an actual threat, but more an expression of frustration taken to an absurd (and somewhat funny) conclusion.

That said, I could see how it might land the wrong way for other people or send them into a different interpretation that might not even come to a conscious level between that person and Xopher.

The thing going on over at BB lately that got my goat was folks taking the deletion of some old blog posts and comparing it to Stalin. That was done specifically to overinflate the damge done by the actual act. And to me, that's little different than someone talking down the damage of a war in order to make it sound like it'll be a cakewalk (we'll be welcomed as liberators. Out in six weeks. that sort of thing.)

As long as some folks were bringing up stalin's revolution, 1984 totalitarian states, and other absurdities, it seemed clear to me that nothing was going to get resolved because no one was having a conversation about anything real. It was all metaphors getting thrown around, which can be OK if the metaphors match. But they didn't in this case.

But I never read any of xopher's comments as doing anything like these BB folks invoking Stalin were doing.

#318 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 09:24 AM:

Both the Xopher/heresiarch comment thread and some comments by language hat raise an interesting problem here. Statements have a context, based partly on what's previously been said both within the thread and by this person over the years. In private conversation, we all do this all the time. It's one reason why friends can talk to each other in ways that would cause a fight among strangers ("Hey, nigga!"), and have it work out. This context is the only thing that keeps every post on every issue from having to include twenty pages of legalese type disclaimers.

One interesting sideline of this is that different participants know different amounts of history, and different participants also weigh previous posts differently. I recall someone inferring from one post of Lee's that she was a fundamentalist Christian, which was hilarious. More to the point, when I'm reading a post by a regular poster, some part of the process of decoding the meaning of that post involves the context of other things they've written, what I know of their beliefs and background. The same short post by, say, Xopher, abi, Fragano, and Patrick might be read rather differently, because I know their styles, and infer some stuff.

My default here is to try to understand what's said, but to "receive liberally"--that is, to try to parse what's said in the least offensive or attacking way possible. Just as my comments to other drivers on the beltway don't really indicate a desire to send them home to fornicate with their mothers and pleasure men orally, I figure that Xopher's comments imply frustration and anger, not any kind of actual advocacy for violence. Similarly with people who express the wish to improve someone's understanding with a clue-by-four. And I do this largely based on past comments and assumptions common to ML posts.

This makes cross-site quoting very subject to misinterpretation, in much the same way that it's easy to take a quote from a book or speech out of context and smear someone with it. It also means that different readers with different weights for history vs current post will interpret things differently.

#319 ::: Tom P / flashboy ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 09:51 AM:

albatross, I think that's spot on. And of course, the context isn't just about shared backstories between people, or the personal history of the speaker, it's also about how the listener wraps contextual elements from their own history around what they've heard.

So often on internet arguments, the more you read, the stronger you get the sense that people aren't attacking each other's arguments, they're attacking something else that those arguments happen to remind them of.

You can see hints of that in this thread: languaghat thinking of the "million exchanges" he's had with people who want to priviledge their right to never have their feeling hurt over all else; Nicole pointing out that languagehat's tropes sound too much like those used by people with an unpleasant agenda; Greg getting strong whiffs of the Bush administration from people casually slinging Stalin references over at BB.

It's a perfectly natural way to behave and we all do it - we have to interpret things through the filter of our previous experiences, because that's pretty much how our brains work - but it can also be a catlyst for grumpiness and non-hugging.

#320 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 09:57 AM:

colin roald @ 198: “"Look at the hooters on that one" is a thought that's inherently part of part of being an adolescent male.”

heresiarch@310: No, it isn’t. (Especially not for the gay ones!) It’s inherently part of being socialized as an adolescent male. Feeling a deep and profound appreciation for the physical beauty of one’s preferred gender(s), now that’s an inherent part of life—equally so for women. How you express it, though, is entirely social.

Okay, I'm not talking about how you express it. I'm talking about the *thoughts*, the *urge*. If you're focusing on the precise wording, I'm failing to communicate.

The thought that goes repeatedly through the head of an average teenage boy is an intense and irrational: "oh my god i want to copulate with that person. oh oh look at her." If you water that down to describing it as merely "deep and profound admiration", I think you've pretty much missed the point.

Personally speaking, *I* grew up in an environment very close to the feminist ideal. I learned that this was a bad thought that "reduces the woman to meat". I internalized very very early that women were delicate flowers and they never wanted anyone to make them uncomfortable. In short, I learned that *my feelings* were *wrong*.

Please note very very clearly: this is *before* I ever expressed any of it. I have never catcalled a woman in my life. *Expression* doesn't enter into it -- I learned that my *feelings* were wrong.

Over the subsequent 20-25 years of my life, I have become convinced this damaged me rather significantly at a deep level. I think it's not unlikely that it's an important contributing factor to why I am 37 years old, unmarried and childless. And I'm just going to have to say I'm accustomed to be attacked at this point in the conversation by feminists who accuse me of variants of Nice Guy Syndrome, or whatever. That's a whole nother 3-day flamewar, and I think I'm going to refuse to go there. Please allow me to stipulate (a) sexism is bad and (b) I am not blaming anyone for my personal problems.

All of the above I'm saying just to provide context for this: (c) there are real potential costs of telling adolescents that their emotions are wrong; (d) that boys have emotions, too; and (e) be careful what you wish for.


heresiarch: That having places where he can treat women like dirt to the LOLZ of his peers will teach him how to reign in his worst instincts and respect women as equals?

Um, no. I don't think that's what I'm saying at all. Apparently you can't see a difference between boys being allowed to actually talk about lust, and "treating women like dirt".


me@ 262: "If you think there isn't a meaningful difference in distribution of aggressiveness between the sexes, then I would ask why the large majority of the prison population is male."

heresiarch: hey're mostly black, too. Do you think that that's due to genetic factors?

Again, no. But I still think there's a meaningful genetic difference in aggressiveness between the sexes. Is it necessary for you to accuse me of racism, to respond to my question?

#321 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 10:02 AM:

Heresiarch, re: Xopher's comments and torture, perhaps it's worth noting that the thread began with Teresa's "I'm hereby declaring open season on anything unfamiliar that comes through the door. Newbies: behave or die.". I don't think anyone thought for a moment that she was really intending to go and shoot anybody, nor advocating same.

#322 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 10:12 AM:

heresiarch: That having places where he can treat women like dirt to the LOLZ of his peers will teach him how to reign in his worst instincts and respect women as equals?

What I think I've been *trying* to say, is boys need to come to terms with their urges sometime, somewhere. Suppressing them entirely is not healthy. And so it seem to me better that there exist someplace private, that doesn't have to be made safe for girls, so that actual girls don't have to be in the crossfire while it's happening. Ideally, there *will* be more mature men present to exert guidance.

#323 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 10:30 AM:

320, colin roald &
320, heresiarch

If you think there isn't a meaningful difference in distribution of aggressiveness between the sexes, then I would ask why the large majority of the prison population is male.

That's not the most elegant way to put it, but...basically colin is right-ish.

Males* have more testosterone (T) in circulation than females, have more T receptors than females, and during adolescence have surges of T that are unusually large compared to both adult males and females of the same age. T is correlated with aggressive behavior, something that can be demonstrated through observation, animal models, and direct experiment.

It's not unreasonable to take this information plus the subjective, introspective accounts of post-adolescent males and come to the conclusion than most (51%+) males have very intense experiences of lust as teens, that may very well be substantially more, er, animalistic than most (51%+) females experience.

In other words, men are dogs. No, not all the time, not universally, not every last one. But most men, in most times and places, have at least gone through a period where they really wanted to do it with anything that moves. What actions (including speech) a male takes separates the men from the boys.

p.s. I did hedge the discussion of T above in regards to women: women have T and T receptors, and more importantly, the sensitivity of those T receptors counts for a lot. You can have fewer receptors that activate quite easily and get the same magnitude effect.

*I'm thinking of most, if not all mammals. Primates, at least.
**almost all, caveat, etc.

#324 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 10:35 AM:

Dom, 316,
hey, that was really insightful! Very cool!
No, I really can't think of a way to elaborate on that, I just thought it encapsulated the motivations of many in the Jerkosphere perfectly.

#325 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 10:38 AM:

colin @ 322 -- Very good points. I actually started getting fed up with some aspects of Quakerism when I started taking karate for exercise. Given that violence is in our nature, it doesn't seem reasonable to me to simply pray that it isn't -- better to get to know our violence, understand it and love it, and thereby channel it. If God made us violent, who are we to deny it? If we fail to channel our rage, we're liable to do all sorts of things -- bomb Iran, say, or tear random stranger's heads off on online fora. (I should probably look into a karate class again, actually...)

The same could be said of sexual urges. They're real, clearly. They don't go away if you're told the feelings are bad; they can't. All you can achieve is neurosis.

#326 ::: DavidS ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 10:46 AM:

#320, colin, wrote

"The thought that goes repeatedly through the head of an average teenage boy is an intense and irrational: "oh my god i want to copulate with that person. oh oh look at her." ...

Personally speaking, *I* grew up in an environment very close to the feminist ideal. I learned that this was a bad thought that "reduces the woman to meat"... In short, I learned that *my feelings* were *wrong*." "

That makes a lot of sense, and makes you come off much better than your earlier posts.

The way I think of this is that people should almost* never be taught that desires are wrong. But they almost always need to be taught how to channel desires appropriately, so that they are not harmful or threatening to others; the first step is to teach kids to ask for others' toys, not grab.

Creating a space where people post "look at those hooters!" isn't making progress on this front; it's indulging the grabby approach. Now, in a lot of cases, I think there is a place for environments where we can temporarily enjoy our sloppy selves. I don't have a problem with sites like foodporn.com. (Link is not erotic, but may set off badly written internet filters.) But what I've read a lot of women saying is that it is threatening for us to express our desires in this sort of blunt way, and that environments where this is encouraged only hinder boys' process of maturing.

I should say that I am still a young guy (27) and haven't raised any kids yet; I'm sure these opinions will change when I do.


* If you tell me that your desire is to cause pain and humiliation to innocent, genuinely unwilling victims, I guess I am going to tell you that that desire is wrong, and perhaps you should seek professional help.

#327 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 11:02 AM:

colin @322: Feelings are neither objectively good nor bad, they just are. It's the expression of feelings that can be labelled as right or wrong.

I think much of this thread has been focused on expression, specifically through language, and its effects on others. How young men (or any of us, really) feel is not at issue; how they feel, whether lustful, angry, happy or whatever, is just how they feel, no more and no less. How they express their feelings can be judged right or wrong.

Also? Women are not "delicate flowers". They're people, in the same way you are people. If you interact with them on any other basis, you may have some extra difficulty communicating.

#328 ::: sherrold ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 11:11 AM:

David@269 said The United States does not have a significantly higher violent crime rate that most other western countries...

I know statistics on this sort of thing are difficult to compare, so I just concentrated on assaults, and found this:
United States 38%
United Kingdom 12.3%
South Africa 9.3%
Mexico 4.3%
India 4%
(US numbers were even more disproportionate on rape, but I decided to be charitable, and hope that the % of US women who report rape was also higher than other countries, thus skewing the data.)

We're also inching closer every year to reaching the 1% of our population in prison -- what an amazing achievement that will be.

It's true that the USA has a much higher homicide rate than many western countries, but we often have a much lower rate of other crimes so the overall violent crime rates are similar.

The stats I found were also higher for burglaries, homicides (even non-firearm homicides), car theft, you name it. Not sure I've got a point to make -- maybe just a "someone on the Internet may be wrong" moment.

#329 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 11:20 AM:

Don, Michael, and DavidS -- thank-you.

pericat@327: Also? Women are not "delicate flowers". They're people, in the same way you are people. If you interact with them on any other basis, you may have some extra difficulty communicating.

I know that *now*. I didn't when I was 15. It took me a long time to figure out that I had internalized a false belief, and I'm *still* working on rooting it out.

I think you will find, though, that if you imprint an impressionable 15-year-old with too much theory about the chilling effect of gendered communication, he will acquire the idea that women are extremely delicate. Particularly if the blunter counterbalance gets completely chased out of polite company.

Whatever. The horse is dead now. I'll stop.

Meanwhile, you are correct that I have been confused and entangled about when I was talking about expressions and when I was talking about feelings. I tend to find one of the main benefits of arguing on the internet is that teaches me where I don't have my thoughts straight.

#330 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 11:27 AM:

[skimming over the past 12 hours' comments....]

From off a mailing list I'm on... the "contributor" of the material below is British, and persists in posting his variety of "humor" to that list which he regards as humorous, and most of which I regard as verminous and vile and promoting vile attitudes/memes...
=========

A Mexican maid asked for a pay increase.

The wife was very upset about this and asked:

'Now Maria, why do you want a pay increase?'

Maria: 'Well Seniora, there are three reasons
why I want an increase.
The first is that I iron better than you.'
Wife: 'Who said you iron better than me?'
Maria: 'Your husband said so.'
Wife: 'Oh.'

Maria: 'The second reason is that I am a
better cook than you.'
Wife: 'Nonsense, who said you were a better
cook than me?'
Maria: 'Your husband did.'
Wife: 'Oh.'

Maria: 'My third reason is that I am a better
lover than you.'
Wife (really furious now): 'Did my husband
say that as well?'

Maria: 'No Seniora, the gardener did.'

SHE GOT THE RAISE!!!

========================
Getting back directly to the discussion on-going here, different people organically has different sensorsory systems, reactions, processing, reactions, etc., for a whole range of different varieties. There are people I've known with varying degrees of sociopathy--none so extreme as various David Drake characters, who glom onto someone else who they give in effect the complete keeping of what would be a conscience if they had one in the first place, to, to tell them absolutely what to do--who have gone to the lengths of using other people as their moral compass.... "what would Jesus do?" as a guide is a sort of analogy, since their internal moral compass is at best unreliable for them, they use external instructions/directions.

What that has to do with the discussion at hand:
1) There are people with internal judgment systems which not only they rely upon, but which other people navigate by, willingly (or sometimes unwillingly, consider Mr Mugabe... most of the Zimbabwe's population probably wants him gone, but they have to dance to or carefully around his strings if they value their continued existence).
2) There are people who -lack- usable internal judgment systems or don't trust their own, and who therefore base all their decisions, on what other people say/do/have taught then, and are effectivly complete and utter followers.
3) Most people are somewhere between 1) & 3)

Having said all that, there are other situations which are analogous. Different people have reactions etc., and just because A is male and aroused fast, doesn't mean that B who is male ALSO arouses quickly, or that C who is female doesn't around as quickly as A does.... one's PERSONAL perceptions and responses and reaction time and hotspots are NOT necessarily congruent to anyone else's.

I keep hearing what I consider sociobiology horseshit... I went to MIT. It would have been interesting if sociological studies had been longitudinally done there.... there were a higher percentage of men living in the women's dorm, than there were women living in some of the officially co-ed dorms I think! The ratio in my class was 125 women in an entering class of 1000, and it was the early 1970s. There was a lot of pressure in all sorts of ways. There was at least one woman who was a virgin in my class at graduation, she might have been the sole one, however--I expect that there were a lot more men who were. There were male Air Force officers = college graduates I was acquainted, with, who were virgins past college graduation and more than two years' service in the military...

The phoney baloney of "every male thinks about sex sex sex all the time as an adolescent," or at least, "all boys think about it more than all girls" is a bunch of bullshit.... mentally stripping people is -rude-, actually, and I have to wonder if it never occurred to those who do so, what the feelings of the people they're doing it to might be, and that the people they're doing it to, might not be AWARE of it and annoyed about it?! And that if it were done back to the people doing it by someone they did NOT find appealing, they would be ticked off? .... or, they might get caught at it and the person catching them at it, take it as a signal to hit on them?

That last can put quite a -clamp- on roving thoughts about such things....

#331 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 11:56 AM:

"Mentally stripping someone is rude..."

...which is why you never let on that you're doing it. We're completely allowed to think rude things. I do it ALL the time. I cannot and will not censor my own thoughts for fear of hurting someone's feelings if they found out what I'm thinking. They won't, and to censor myself as if they could would lead to madness, possibly quite literally.

I think the "mental stripping is rude" thing is like the people who claim that hypermilers are rude. Because we only notice it happening when people are being rude, we think that doing it at all is rude, but that's not true. It happens all the time and we never notice, because those people are being polite about it.

#332 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 12:05 PM:

I actually wrote this comment to someone at work today, in seriousness, and expect a serious answer:

Sigh. What is the cleartext of the smiley?

Somehow, it seems appropriate to this thread at this point in its drifty life.

#333 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 12:31 PM:

sherrold: The stats I found were also higher for burglaries, homicides (even non-firearm homicides), car theft, you name it.

You were looking at PER CAPITA rates right? Because the USA has many more people that most countries so the absolute numbers will, of course, be higher. Some examples of burglaries per capita (per 1000): Australia 21.75, Denmark 18.33, Finland 16.77, UK 13.83, Canada 8.94, USA 7.1. Note I left out a lot of countries, just giving examples. But you can see the per capita burglary rate for the USA is a third of Australia, half of much of Europe, and 20% less than Canada.

I checked assault and the numbers for the USA are higher than I remembered, so I'll be happy to retract the "much lower", but I wanted to provide one example of crime rates to show I wasn't completely off base.

#334 ::: colin roald ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 12:53 PM:

sherrold@328: 38% of what?

#335 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 12:54 PM:

#332, John A Arkansawyer -

That's an interesting question! (I wonder if there are any linguists studying that yet.)

I suspect it's not a simple question, either, because it's going to be fairly context-specific. "I'm only teasing you," "I'm very happy," and "I'm mocking myself," are three the spring to mind right away.

As an aside, I gave up smileys almost entirely about a year into my internet career. Someone who didn't know what they were got offended by something I said on a mailing list, and it took a lot of talking back and forth and groveling on my part to make peace. I adopted instead the style of putting my purported actions inside a pair of asterisks and found it to be more useful and fun than smileys. I've only just recently started using smileys again with people I know are familiar with them, out of laziness.

*exits right, doing the cha-cha*

#336 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 01:03 PM:

albatross @ 318: "Just as my comments to other drivers on the beltway don't really indicate a desire to send them home to fornicate with their mothers and pleasure men orally, I figure that Xopher's comments imply frustration and anger, not any kind of actual advocacy for violence."

I don't feel that calling people cock-suckers is blameless either. Cock-suckers are, by and large, quite generous and loving people. Which is to say: the fact that there are, in our language, kinds of shorthand used to designate things as good or bad that are exceptionally sexist/racist/whatever, and that those shorthands are often used by people who aren't in fact sexist/racist/whatever doesn't make those shorthands less offensive. I think Xopher would agree, based on his comments about trying to get non-homophobic friends of his to stop using "gay" to mean "lame" or "stupid."

When someone without a hint of homophobic intent calls something gay to show their distaste, I don't like it. When someone calls for violence to show their hatred for their opponents, I don't like it. Either way, what they are doing is reinforcing ideas that being gay is bad, or that violence is an acceptable response to disagreement.

Tom P / flashboy @ 319: "So often on internet arguments, the more you read, the stronger you get the sense that people aren't attacking each other's arguments, they're attacking something else that those arguments happen to remind them of."

This is such a perfect summary of this thread that I don't have anything at all to add to it.

colin roald @ 320: "I internalized very very early that women were delicate flowers and they never wanted anyone to make them uncomfortable. In short, I learned that *my feelings* were *wrong*. Please note very very clearly: this is *before* I ever expressed any of it. I have never catcalled a woman in my life. *Expression* doesn't enter into it -- I learned that my *feelings* were wrong."

Two things: first, you're right, that is absolutely fucked up. To me, that borders on child abuse. No one should ever be taught that feelings are wrong, and that they are bad people for having them. Feelings aren't wrong--they're simply there, like the weather. Trying to repress the bad ones only gives them more power to destroy you.

(Note that in my post to Xopher, I mention that everyone, even me, gets violent urges. It was the expression of them, not the having of them that I was objecting to.)

Second thing: Like pericat said, no one was criticizing adolescent males for being horny and wanting to have sex. They were objecting to expressing those urges in a particular, misogynistic way. The reason I was focusing narrowly on "Look at the hooters on that one" was because that was precisely what I was discussing, what Leah was discussing way up there.

There's a chunk of feminist theory that discusses what is called "homosociality." It tries to describe the ways in which a man interacting with a women has nothing to do with the woman, and everything to do with his buds who're watching. The kind of insulting objectification permeating the discussion Leah mentioned is a textbook case of homosociality.

Can we agree that powerful sexual urges among young men is healthy and normal, and discussing those urges is fine, but that using that as an excuse to behave badly is wrong?

R.M. Koske @ 331: Seconded.

#337 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 01:08 PM:

colin @ 329: "I tend to find one of the main benefits of arguing on the internet is that teaches me where I don't have my thoughts straight."

Saying exactly what I mean, and only that, is a rare event for me, and usually follows much tummy-clenching. I suspect this has something to do with not having ordered thoughts.

#338 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 01:09 PM:

sherrold @ 328 -

Make sure you're comparing like with like - crime statistic numbers, without the accompanying dates, and statistical sources (per capita, absolute percentage, conviction vs. reported) isn't, unfortunately, very useful.

(I once saw a comparison of UK vs. US crime rates that suggested that the UK was utter paradise, crime wise - unfortunately, it turns out the report was counting UK convictions vs. US reported events - this was nowhere evident in the data or the comparison. Charitably, I presumed that the reporter was not, in fact, trying to skew opinions with near-falsified data.)

#339 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 01:32 PM:

R.M. Koske, #331: Yes, exactly. What you think or feel is your own business; what you do becomes the business of others. And David's analogy between teaching young children not to grab for someone else's toy and teaching young men not to say rude things about women (@326) is spot-on.

Tangentially, this is also why I have no patience with the Christian teaching that having lustful thoughts about someone is "committing adultery in your heart". If the thought is the same as the deed, why should I resist the deed once I've had the thought?

#340 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 01:46 PM:

#336 heresiarch

There's a chunk of feminist theory that discusses what is called "homosociality." It tries to describe the ways in which a man interacting with a women has nothing to do with the woman, and everything to do with his buds who're watching. The kind of insulting objectification permeating the discussion Leah mentioned is a textbook case of homosociality.

I'm not particularly versed in such feminist theory, but I have a number of TMI stories... and for that matter, I remember some stuff from college in which people got boxed into doing things they might not have wanted to do, but felt expected to do/pressured by others to do.

Thinking further along that, that sort of group-thing prove-to-group stuff is what's involved with frat initiations that get out of hand into lethality, what's sometimes involved in drinking contests, etc... it's peer pressure, both actual, and perceived.

#341 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 01:52 PM:

OK, I have to admit there are some people whose deaths I really do desire. I really, truly think the world would be a better place if they dropped dead this very instant. That doesn't necessarily mean I think any method of getting rid of them is OK, or that they should be eliminated "at any cost." Here is my list:

DEFINITELY SHOULD DIE:
Al Qaeda
The Islamic Court in Iran that sentenced those 16-year-olds to death for being gay
Any other Islamic Court that has handed down a similar sentence
Robert Mugabe
The Janjaweed militia in Darfur
The Saudi "Religious Police"
Men who have done "honor killings"
My "Plastic" tormentor (see below)

MAYBE SHOULD DIE:
The Taliban
Hezbollah

I'm sorry if this upsets you, heresiarch, but I really think that those people's deaths would benefit the world, in some cases instantly (I'm speaking of the first group). Would I advocate executing them if they were captured? Difficult. I don't think so, because if they were in custody they couldn't do any more harm, provided they were doing LWOP in a secure facility.

I'm a gentle and kindhearted person by nature, and that's exactly why the sort of thing the people on my first list do has to be stopped, and stopped at once. Any time a member of Al Qaeda dies, I rejoice. I know there are people who regard that as unseemly, but I disagree.

heresiarch, I wonder how long you spent hunting examples of my violent rhetoric to try to make me look so wicked? Never mind. To address your examples in turn,

  • "I want every member of that reprehensible body to die a sticky death" (July 1, 2007)—since my "this" link goes nowhere now, I conclude that you don't think it matters what reprehensible body I was discussing. That astonishes me. I didn't remember, but later comments suggest it was the Saudi Religious Police (whom I'd forgotten about but have now added to my "Definitely" list). They are responsible for so much death, so much pain, and so much social repression.
  • "I did think that one particularly reprehensible Plastic (the real kind, not the movie kind) deserved to be horribly disfigured in a car accident" (more graphic details follow) (June 8, 2007)—here I'm discussing someone who systematically tormented, libeled, and incited others to torment and libel me (and anyone else who crossed him or looked like a vulnerable target) over a period of many months. He organized a group of people to come into a group where I and some others could get support to talk about difficult matters such as personal relationships; they came in and ridiculed anyone to spoke about feelings, and published more libel about me and others, basically driving everyone but themselves out of the group. His own webpage advocates cruelty toward any less fortunate person (he really said "being cruel to people who are poorer or less attractive than you is the right thing to do"). He has systematically, deliberately, and by his own admission attempted to drive a troubled teenager to suicide. Since I have some distance now I no longer want him to live in torment for 80 years. I do, however, still think the world would be a better place AT ONCE if he suffered instant death from a cocaine-induced brain aneurism.
  • I assume the issue here is "I want everyone who has ever sat on an Islamic Court in Iran to die horribly, too."—if you read the entirety of that post you will see that I don't necessarily stand by those sentiments, but explain that they were an expression of my rage. I'm talking about feelings, not advocacy. I do still think that about the court that sentenced those teenage boys to death by hanging though.
(OK, I'm glad I refreshed, because I thought heresiarch was on the team that said some feelings were intrinsically bad. This part of the paragraph is still relevant, but supports heresiarch's position on the matter instead of attacking the position I imagined heresiarch having.) I think trying to deny feelings (ANY feelings) makes them stronger, and never expressing them at all makes them force their way to the surface in more destructive ways. Yes, a person with rape/murder feelings should see a therapist. But the key is how you act on your feelings, not whether you feel them at all. Concentrating on controlling actions alone is the strategy that works (and yes, actions include speech).

Specifically to heresiarch, I note that you not only dismiss my explanation of what I meant (on the grounds that the rhetoric itself is hurtful), but also, apparently, my apology for the impression I created. I apologize now for the hurt my rhetoric created. If you want more than that, you're out of luck.

This is the second time in this thread that I've been called out publicly for something that would have been better addressed in a private email. I would not have had to write the above had heresiarch done so; it probably wouldn't have gone in the email either. You think I sound angry? Well, yes, I damn well am angry.

I grew up in a violent home and I have violent feelings, and a core of rage that three decades of therapy have failed to drain. I have focused on controlling my actions and have struck another human being in anger only twice in the past 20 years. I will attempt to remember to avoid violent rhetoric in the future, to avoid offending heresiarch (and any others who felt the same way but did not speak up). Unfortunately that means I can't necessarily express my feelings here. Lee will be hearing from me; thank you, Lee. But it still makes me sad.

Lee 339: The wrong-headed Christian idea you cite is a special case of the general principle of "trying to suppress feelings leads to worse, not better, behavior." But you know that.

#342 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 01:56 PM:

There's a huge difference between wanting to mental strip someone naked, and actually doing it.... here's a challenge to R. M. Koske--stand in front of me while I look at you and mentally remove your clothing, etc., and smile at you knowingly, and let's see how you feel about the situation....

That is, since you think that it is something lacking in offensiveness and rudeness etc., let's see how you feel if aware of it happening, and a couple additional conditions--you're not allowed to object, not allowed to react, etc.

#343 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 02:02 PM:

Catching up (and with the sure and certain expectation that the comments posted between the loading of this page, yesterday, and the posting of these comments now, will make me look less than clueful in some regards).

language hat: I am not what one might term a, "shy commenter", nor am I, "intimidated by such speech", but metafilter isn't a place I enjoy enough to make the effort to become a more than occaisional reader; much less commenter.

The rough and tumble I see there is more hard edged than I want to engage in on topics which don't stir me to passion.

It's certainly not true that heated debate doesn't happen here, nor that I've not taken part in some, but the dynamics at metafilter just don't work for me.

Xopher: re torture... if I thought you were serious about it... it borders on torture. It's certainly degrading. I don't think Phil was being fair in his response (and now I see why I thought that). Taken in light of knowing you, and accepting you were being hyperbolic for effect, it passed me by. Had someone else said it...

Doctor Science: I won't say being deliberately insulting isn't allowed here. I won't even say it's not acceptable (I know, because I have done it, and not been sanctioned... on occasion even been told it was perfectly reasonable).

That's because there are times when insult needs to be given. Needs is a tricky word, and social norms will determine when a groups accepts that it was needed.

What I see in Boing-boing, and Mefi is a much looser standard of acceptable. I don't know that either of them (much for lack of steady observation) has a sense of, "need" when it's allowed, vs. "It wasn't so pointless/rude that we condemn it.

Leah @ 104 Hear! Hear!

#344 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 02:07 PM:

Paula,

I think that when R.M. said, "...which is why you never let on that you're doing it, " she meant that if you are doing it, your behavior should not indicate in any way that you are. Smiling knowingly would indicate that you know that you are doing it. So if I am standing in front of her, and stripping her naked in my mind, none of that should be reflected on my face, my words, or any other part of the interactions between us.

I think you and R.M. are in violent agreement.

I could, however, be wrong in my interpretation of R.M.'s words.

#345 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 02:10 PM:

Paula, you didn't read RM's comment carefully enough. She said "don't let on you're doing it." You're describing a situation in which the object of lust knows EXACTLY what's going on, and where the luster is "smiling knowingly."

If you can describe a way that mentally stripping someone can be offensive to them when they remain completely unaware that anything is happening at all, then you will have a challenge to RM. Right now you don't have a challenge, but just a misreading.

#346 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 02:11 PM:

Whoops, that was a cross-post. No pileon intended.

#347 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 02:13 PM:

There's a huge difference between wanting to mental strip someone naked, and actually doing it....

I think there's an awful lot of wiggle room in how different folks might interpret that. While (see below) there's a reasonable distinction between thinking lewd thoughts and signifying or displaying the results of lewd thoughts to external observers, there's a much less clear difference between merely thinking lewd thoughts vs. thinking about thinking lewd thoughts. Both of the latter can be wholly internal processes, and I don't think they're even that cleanly seperable.

here's a challenge to R. M. Koske--stand in front of me while I look at you and mentally remove your clothing, etc., and smile at you knowingly, and let's see how you feel about the situation....

But "smiling knowingly" or giving someone perceptible Elevator Eyes is not thinking, it is acting, regardless of whether you verbalize. There may be a degree of miscommunication here, is what I'm saying, over what it means to e.g. "mentally strip someone naked".

#348 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 02:14 PM:

Um, Paula -- I could stand in front of someone and smile at them "knowingly"..... and be thinking about rutabagas. Professional actors do it all the time. I would posit that we all, in our personal lives, push others' buttons through our body language*. Sometimes we may even do it fairly consciously.

But the body language and the thoughts/intentions*** behind it, and the recipient's interpretations, have to be kept separate. If I tell someone I'm thinking about stripping them, AND looking at them maddeningly, AND not letting them respond, well, that's not at all comparable to what R.M. Koske was describing.

And come to think of it, the converse is actually pretty conducive to civil society -- how often have you smiled pleasantly, projected positive attitude by your behavior, and all the while been thinking (about a boss, say), "what an idiotic so-and-so"?

*or choice of wording online
**hate? teasing? contempt? all possible

#349 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 02:15 PM:

Or what they said.

*kicks rocks*

#350 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 02:18 PM:

#342, Paula Lieberman -

But then you're doing it rudely, because you let me know you're doing it.

If we ever meet, at a con, at a ML party, you're more than welcome to do it as many times as you like. But if you let me know you're doing it, THEN you're being rude, and not until then. If you felt the need to do it to prove a point, then I'd decide that you were definitely too rude to talk to and never associate with you again. (I'd cut you less slack than I'd cut a man doing it, actually, because I know you have firsthand experience with exactly how hurtful you're being. You would be trying to hurt me on purpose. I've got no use for that.)

I never said that the people who did it to you weren't being rude. You know they did it, of course they were rude. I said that merely doing it isn't intrinsically rude. It's the letting people know that's the rude part.

And "actually removing someone's clothes" isn't the "do" in this case. It is letting it show in your face that is the "do" that shouldn't happen. I can think anything I want. I can think someone is an idiot, I can think that they should shut the hell up, I can think that they're a waste of skin, I can think they're a jerk, I can think they'd look fabulous naked. As long as they never know I think any of those things, then I'm not being rude.

I don't think that imagining someone naked is rude, and you can't convince me that it is. I think that LETTING SOMEONE KNOW that you're imagining them naked is rude.

You have no idea how many people have imagined you naked. You only know about the rude ones.

#351 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 02:23 PM:

[regarding violence by girls in the USA...]

http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=254029

What's changed, some say, is girls' attitudes.

"It's being flipped around. Girls are getting sick of being treated badly," said 14-year-old Cierra Cunningham of Racine, who remembers her aunt giving her a talk about the importance of being tough after a male relative hit her in the jaw.

girls interviewed...said they viewed the rise of female violence as a sign of women's equality with men. [article then cites that film, video games, and TV having an increased propensity for having female leads who commit violence]

http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=254040

[chart showing arrests of girls for assault in Wiscons from 1986 - 2002, with the the number going from 813 in 1986 to 1906 in 1994, dropping off to level out around 1650 in 2000]

http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0915/p16s02-usju.html
Behind the Surge in Girl Crime

"girls' violence...was always there but largely ignored...."

#352 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 02:38 PM:

Well, it looks like I didn't need to elaborate - I saw Paula's post and didn't read what came after when I was previewing mine. We must have all jumped to answer in the same moment. (Nancy, you've got my position exactly right, as did pretty much everyone else.)

I'm sorry for jumping on your comments after everyone else did, Paula, it was careless of me to not read what came after your post before I posted.

#353 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 02:39 PM:

#351 RM

There is a definite chasm in our perceptions of the world. I regard it as rude to mentally persist in imaging someone naked without their permission to do.... I had WAY too much experience with people who had probably mentally stripped me naked taking THEIR fantasy as substantiation for hitting on me, repeatedly, and not caring what MY opinion in the matters were.

I specified I wanted your permission, because I wanted you to KNOW I was doing that as an experiment, with your permission -- the reasons, again, include that I consider it RUDE to mentally remove someone's clothing etc., without permission (involvement with the person tends to imply there is that permission) from the person, and I have my OWN self-respect to consider, and there is that legacy of having been RESTRAINING myself from going around regarding everyone as an applicance for mentally stripping as a privileged sport for decades.... that is, there is that control involved. I resent being expected and having had to restrain myself from all sorts of things, that were considered "boys will be boys" stuff....

#354 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 02:42 PM:

language hat @ 233 on speech

Fortunately, those who feel uncomfortable in unprotected enviroments can create protected ones, and I'm all for that. (Which is why, though I've gone back and forth on this difficult issue, I'm in favor of the existence of women's colleges, not that anyone asked.) But the public space must be free.

I'm not at all clear how you define "public space," but you clearly can't mean MetaFilter, a site you have to register - and pay - to comment on, and which has a code of conduct enforced by summary removal of offenders.

This is what the code of conduct has to say about the behavior that's expected of commenters

One of the guiding principles here is trust in each other. The index page of metafilter.com can be added to by almost everybody that has signed up, as there is very little editing or deleting going on. Anyone can post a comment in a thread, and say whatever they feel.

I give you the ability to do this because I trust you. I trust that you'll act in a civilized manner, that you'll treat others with opposing viewpoints with absolute respect, that you'll contribute in a positive way to the intelligent discussions that take place here everyday.

I give you the benefit of the doubt, because I trust you, so all that I ask is for you to honor that trust and promise to become a good contributor.

and, in fact, deliberately posting inflammatory things and treating others without respect are specifically listed in the guidelines as reasons for deletion and banning.

From that, I would glean that

a) MetaFilter is not, in either sense, a free space
b) MetaFilter does in fact control content

and

c) if MetaFilter does not control Certain Kinds of content, it's not freedom at play. It's community standards, and it's a choice.

and the thing about that choice is that you, who are apparently of an absolutist tendency on this issue, say yourself in 278 that you find yourself reluctant to engage in civil debate on this subject because people might read what you have to say in a way that causes them to view you in a negative light.

So, self-censorship in the face of being portrayed offensively is, apparently, a real problem after all.

I'm really uncomfortable myself with these sorts of debate, specifically because this is private speech, and protected, _in the same way that boingboing is_, and whether or not I approve of it is really beside the point.

But, WADR, ain't nobody here but us oranges, and it's a little disingenuous to claim to speak for the apples here.

#355 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 02:48 PM:

#351, Paula

I have read in several places that some people* were annoyed/upset about the uproar over sexuality in film and entertainment, when there is almost no uproar about violence. I wonder if the increasing amount of violence by girls and women will make violence in the media more of a big deal?**

Increased violence by women sounds like a case where we're moving in the wrong direction to get equality - wouldn't it be better if male violence decreased toward equality?

*I can't be more specific because I can't remember who, or where.
**I do think violence in the media is demonized more than it should be, but when a bigger fuss is made over a wardrobe malfunction than over the torture depected on 24, something is wrong.

#356 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 02:54 PM:

Paula 353: As Miss Manners says, "In manners, unlike morals, if you don't get caught, it doesn't count." You can take the (to me bizarre) point of view that mentally undressing someone is immoral, or that it will lead to unethical and rude behavior, but to claim that something going on inside someone's head is RUDE to someone who doesn't even know it's happening...is absurd. Patently absurd.

By asserting it, you put yourself in the "you have to control your thoughts and feelings" camp. Boy, are we never going to see eye-to-eye. If it's rude to mentally undress someone, what on Earth are you going to think of my fantasies about doing various other things (which I won't describe to avoid offending heresiarch) to people who anger me?

Rudeness, like courtesy, is a social action. There are no rude thoughts or rude feelings. Period. Paragraph. End of story.

#357 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 03:07 PM:

#353, Paula -

I think you're right, we do have a vastly different way of looking at things. *grins*

You absolutely have my permission to imagine me naked. (There's a photo on Serge's collection of faces, for the little good it will do you.) You do not ever, under any circumstances, have my permission to let me know, through word or deed including but not limited to facial expression, forum post, carrier pigeon, or rumor whispered to a mutual acquaintance that you're doing it, either at the time or after the fact, past our agreement here. I really will never feel the difference, and it doesn't bother me if you do it, so long as I don't know.

And on a different but related topic:
I've never said this to you, and I don't know if anyone else has said it lately either - you did an amazing thing, being at MIT in the 70s. That had to have been unbelievably hard. I cannot imagine how hard it was (and I'm not entirely sure I have the guts to hear the stories.) Things were hard then, and they're far from perfect now. But you're a part of the reason they're better. Brave, tough women who went into these boys' clubs and took (or fought against) that crap and helped show that women really are people too are part of why things are better.

Thank you.

#358 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 03:07 PM:

#355 R. M.

I agree that that violent behavior increases are wrong-headed ways to equality!

2000+ years ago one of the rabbis said, "Do not do unto others as as you do not want done unto you" -- the negatives in that were deliberate.

Some things I read/heard about violence, include that violence showing that there are bad things resulting from violence, is more "moral" and does not result in the viewers having the value that they should copy violent attitudes that they see on film/TV.

I was distressed at at least one of the Hugo-nominated films because there it was, a killing field, and there were stabbings, dead and dying fighters, and no blood and no gore, none--it was sterile no pain no suffering no blood not guts no squicky stuff, no stomach-churn, no remorse.... sterile battle and no-gut-impact cold death.

Sqqqqqqqqqqquuuuuuuuiiiiiiiiiccccccckkkkkkk.

That is, the scene horrified me for it distancing of violence from gore and pain and suffering and messiness, the utter lack of conscience and downside and moral repugnance and ethics.

Years ago Star Trek Next Generation bothered me with the Tasha Yar character because the writers had her not act to use violence as last resort, but rather had the character kick first and ask questions later... that is no mature professional way for a security head to act.

Perhaps the grossest example of film/TV making life follow art, was the Tailhook scandal.... Top Gun apparently was a major influence on causing the conference to descend into juvenile deliquent assholishness, with the jackass character portrayed by Tom Cruise, having become the standard to live down to....

#359 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 03:13 PM:

I'm not at all clear how you define "public space," but you clearly can't mean MetaFilter, a site you have to register - and pay - to comment on, and which has a code of conduct enforced by summary removal of offenders.

I don't think language hat meant MeFi was a "public space" in the sense we've been discussing it (re: unmoderated speech) in this thread, no. I'm one of the three people who actually enforces the guidelines you're citing, and you're correct: sufficiently bad behavior is grounds for getting one's comment(s) deleted and, in extreme cases, one's account disabled.

How we got to that, as far as MeFi vs. ML vs. BB vs. USENET and so forth, is I think more a matter of comparing degrees and styles of moderation. Neither Mefi nor ML is a public space in the sense of having unmoderated speech; it sounds as if most folks here agree that, on the other hand, Mefi is closer to that notion of the public square in that the threshold for moderation there is higher than it would be here in a lot of respect.

That language hat likes spending time on Mefi has, as I understand it, in part to do with just that relatively open discourse model that we try to support. That model has advantages and disadvantages. Much of this has been discussed upthread, I won't retread it right now.

And there are folks on Mefi who have been vocal, in on-site discussions of this issue, in their respective support of both less and more moderation of discussions. Some feel it should be, as in e.g. unmoderated USENET groups back int he day, a place where no speech is limited and moderation is wholly a matter of community response to problematic speech. Others feel we should move more aggressively or more proactively to quell or block ugly or heat-not-light commentary, and ban folks from the site for bad behavior much more often than we do.

That spectrum, that great collection of stops along the line from a wholly unmoderated public square to the most restrictive of moderation protocols, is a fascinating thing to explore, and I think that while on the one hand some of that exploration has happened in this thread, on the other hand there may be some misreadings of we're saying to one another about these things -- mistakes of intended scope and target -- such as the idea that lhat is equating Mefi with an unmoderated (rather than, say, a more lightly moderated) space.

#360 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 03:14 PM:

Paula, R.M. is right in 357.

If you, and women like you, hadn't done a lot of the work in the '70s, I wouldn't be sitting here now, posting to making light when I should be writing code for my PhD.

Thank you.

#361 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 03:18 PM:

#357 R. M.

The MIT stories were a lot more civilized than the military service stories. Student engineers and scientists contemporary with my college days had a respect/love/yearning for Truth and sometimes even Beauty, that tends to involve accepting "You are actingly like a jackass and here is why" as an honest non-offending appraisal. The MIT students generally tried to be honest about their intentions and goals and such, and wanted to -know-, and were curious about the world.... it was the first time in my life, that when I used a word that a classmate didn't know, that the classmate said, "I don't know that word, tell me what it means" with the eagerness to learn something new--as opposed to getting ticked or beating me up for I surmise their feeling stupid or feeling I was showing off or something....

#362 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 03:27 PM:

#361, Paula -

I'm sorry that you had to deal with the crap wherever it was. But I'm glad to hear that you ran into genuine lovers of learning too.

(I'm especially impressed with the ones you ran into that could take "You're acting like a jackass and here's why." I don't always do well with that one. If I get that far, it usually takes a bit of effort to get the old cranium out of my posterior. *grins*)

#363 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 03:29 PM:

Josh Millard @ #359

I appreciate the clarification. Thanks for responding.

That spectrum, that great collection of stops along the line from a wholly unmoderated public square to the most restrictive of moderation protocols, is a fascinating thing to explore, and I think that while on the one hand some of that exploration has happened in this thread, on the other hand there may be some misreadings of we're saying to one another about these things -- mistakes of intended scope and target -- such as the idea that lhat is equating Mefi with an unmoderated (rather than, say, a more lightly moderated) space.

Agreed, and the tendency of conversations about things people react as viscerally to as they do speech to spin into absolutes never helps.

What point I have is that it seems to me that the current debate isn't about freedom v. unfreedom but about models of private discourse, and (jmo) models of private discourse are better measured in terms of degrees of latitude than in terms of rights.

#364 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 03:36 PM:

Might I suggest we direct the conversation away from evil thoughts and towards something more... measurable.

If we start getting into evil thoughts, and whether or not I should or should not have this or that thought, it goes beyond telling me what to do in my bedroom and gets into what I can think in my head, and I can't see any difference between that and the "thought police". (If it's "should" versus "legal", then change "police" to whatever enforcer/preacher there is for politeness.) Call it "mind crime" or "thought bleach" or whatever, it's neither something you can tell me how to think nor is it justification for actions.

So, I won't use my thought to justify acting like a male pig and you won't use my thoughts to convict me of thinking like a male pig, and we'll call it even.

#365 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 03:37 PM:

#362 R. M.

What was unnerving was such behavior as, "I'm next in line for being involved with you once you stop being involved with the person you're involved with." That's related in some ways to the sort of thing heresiarch was referring to in #336 with It tries to describe the ways in which a man interacting with a women has nothing to do with the woman, and everything to do with his buds who're watching. The kind of insulting objectification permeating the discussion Leah mentioned is a textbook case of homosociality. I wasn't to have the choice of who I would be involved with next, I had the choice of if/when to break off with the person I was dating, at which juncture this other fellow would be the new boyfriend.... He got quite offput when things failed to go the way of his expectations in that matter.

#366 ::: don delny ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 03:45 PM:

heresiarch, 336,
Can we agree that powerful sexual urges among young men is healthy and normal, and discussing those urges is fine, but that using that as an excuse to behave badly is wrong?
I agree :)

Lee, 339,
Tangentially, this is also why I have no patience with the Christian teaching that having lustful thoughts about someone is "committing adultery in your heart". If the thought is the same as the deed, why should I resist the deed once I've had the thought?
That bit is best understood as saying that the psychic consequences of an act counts, aside from all other physical consequences. If you are a man accustomed to thinking of women as possessions to be used, you are corroding your own humanity.

The context for that teaching, btw, was a God addressing a bunch of men in culture where adultery was punishable by stoning - but only for the woman - in the middle of laying out all the reasons why His audience needed to be honest with themselves and own up to what kind of people they were really being.

To put it a different way, the original audience was already quite clear that there was a difference in consequences between putting your penis in someone else's wife and not doing so. What was new was that they were being taught was that there was a difference in consequences between being the kind of guy who had every intention of doing so (but couldn't due to fear or circumstance) and the guy who never intended to at all. Is this an important difference? Probably yes; consider which kind of guy you'd want to be your neighbor.

(There's a parallel teaching about hate, which would be apropos for this discussion, but I'm a little tired to draw out the text. I realize I'm responding to a tangent, but I just couldn't resist this time. No offense?)

#367 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 04:28 PM:

What Don Delny said (@366).

I think Miss Manners got it right about there being a distinction between manners (where "rudeness" applies) and morals (where other terms like "evil" or "sinfulness" apply).

But I'd draw the line at a different place she does in her "if you don't get caught, it doesn't count" quip. For instance, I'd consider spying on someone to be rude (as well as wrong) even if the person you're spying on never knows. But the rudeness still comes from it being a social interaction-- it's just an interaction that you weren't permitted to partake in, rather than an interaction where you communicate something unwelcome.

(Or, to look at it another way, it might not be rude per se-- though it might be wrong, depending on the circumstances-- to *imagine* someone naked. But it is rude to actually *watch* someone naked, if they didn't intend to be seen naked, even if they never find out about it.)

#368 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 04:33 PM:

Paula, #353: You're still not getting it. If they allowed their fantasy to influence their actions, that was very rude indeed. But just having sexual fantasies about someone, without ever acting on it? Hell, no. What you're describing is rude ACTIONS, not rude thoughts... along with a certain inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy. That ability is exactly what needs to be taught, and is too often not taught to men in the specific area of gender relations.

R.M. Koske, #355: The way I remember it being phrased was, "You can show a man cutting off a woman's breast and get an R rating. But if you show a man kissing a woman's breast, it's an automatic X."

Paula, #358: Re Tasha Yar -- true, but it was still a huge improvement over the female "security guards" in ClassicTrek, who had 3 stock responses to anything that happened: scream, cry, or faint. And it cleared the way for more balanced kick-ass women such as Kira Nerys and Susan Ivanova. In order to reach the point at which it was okay to show a woman using violence professionally, we first had to get past showing a woman using violence at all.

don, #366: That's the first explanation I've ever seen anyone make of that teaching which has MADE SENSE. Thank you! It sounds to me as if you're saying something very like my own view of morality: if the only thing that keeps you from doing X is fear of the consequences (whether that be going to jail or going to Hell), then you really cannot claim to have any personal morality -- what you've got is somebody standing over you with a whip. Personal morality comes into the picture when you don't do X because you know it would be the wrong thing to do, even though you might not suffer any significant consequences for doing it.

Shorter me: Morality must be internally rather than externally enforced to be of value. External enforcement leads to the law of the jungle.

#369 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 05:00 PM:

#368 Lee
Being the object of someone's unrequited sex fantasies--ICK!

There are lots of boundary issues--stalkers for example, whose fantasies play a part in their impetus to stalk.

I remember years ago someone having a really obnoxious crush on (if I mentioned the name of the person the crush was on, there likely would be much "someone had a crush on whom?!"), and the person kept spinning all sorts of fantasies in about it. The person who had the crush, kept trying to interact with the object of desire, while the object of desire presumably was completely undesiring of the attention and interest.

I think that it would have been a much better idea for the person with the fantasies to have clamped down on them instead, or at least made some effort to try to.

There's another thing about fantasies--who can live up to them?!

Regarding Tasha Yar--I didn't object to Tasha Yar shooting and hitting per se shooting and hitting, but rather, the use of violence first. The character wasn't walking softtly and carrying a big stick and using the big stick after diplomacy failed, the character was acting like a certain chief Executive of the United States of America, who when authorized to use force as an intended last resort if and only if diplomacy of the talk-talk-talk-persuade-and-attack-only-after-
making-threats-of military action, used that authority to go forward with apparently what had been a premeditated intention and plan to invade of a sovereign nation, without any interest/attention/attempt to do anything but attack with a large military force and take over.

I didn't object to Tasha Yar fighting/ordering people to fight, I objected to the writers having her fight and give orders to fight without even attempting to analyze the situation and use non-violent intervention methods first, or use defensive measure of shielding, etc., and waiting to shoot or hit back, instead of essentially using pre-emptive first strike actions.

#370 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 07:27 PM:

Paula Lieberman @ 340: "Thinking further along that, that sort of group-thing prove-to-group stuff is what's involved with frat initiations that get out of hand into lethality, what's sometimes involved in drinking contests, etc... it's peer pressure, both actual, and perceived."

I think that's a really good way of putting it--homosociality is sexism plus peer pressure. From which description it's pretty obvious the damage it can cause.

Lee @ 368: "The way I remember it being phrased was, "You can show a man cutting off a woman's breast and get an R rating. But if you show a man kissing a woman's breast, it's an automatic X.""

The documentary This Film Is Not Rated makes that point quite well, with the added twist that homosexual sex scenes are far more likely to get X ratings than almost shot-for-shot identical hetero scenes.

#371 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 07:50 PM:

More extended catching up:

Colin Roald: I am bothered by the false equivalence of misandy/mysogyny. The latter is both more prevalent than the former, and far better recieved.

Paula @ 201 hits on something which slipped past me earlier (no, it didn't, I was lazy and let it go by). Things said on the internet do make me less safe, just as things said in newspapers do. When someone goes ranting about how, "those people" (insert target of choice) do "those things" (insert behavior of choice) others take it at tacit approval for actions which will "keep them in their place".

I can't stop it, but no more than Jesus comment "the poor will be with you always" means I can just ignore the plight of the poor, should I just raise my hands and say, "this is just people being assholes on the net, it doesn't touch me."

So, though I don't do it enough, I don't think it's acceptable, and I should say so more often. I hope that when/where I do, it adds to the chorus of social reprehension, and works to arrest it.

Dave Bilek: Social opprobrium worked on me, so I don't think you are right. I also don't think, "wow nice hooters" is the best of things to say. Yes, I do think that sharing one's opinion of people going by is 1: not offensive on it's face, and 2: something I have done/do. I also think that how one does it (and to what level of public awareness) matters. "she looks good in that dress" is one thing, "look at that rack" is another. What you think is one thing, what you say is another, and what you tolerate others saying yet a third.

The difference between the women of your acquaintence and the men/boys in this example is right here, comment privately . The issue isn't private behavior, it's public.

It's not, as you say to Micheal Roberts, gaucheness. It's (in this context) sexism. It's public expressions of objectification, not just the acceptable level of seeing people for form when one doesn't know them.

I don't know if you saw the SA nonsense about Wiscon, but that' was exactly the sort of thing you are saying is just, "boys being boys".

You ask if anyone has said it was socially acceptable... not in so many words (see comments on contextuality of Cory's comments about Digg, and implicit, vs. explicit assent). The thrust of your argument seems to me (which is why I've said so much about it) is that, since they will do it, we just have to put up with it, because nothing can change adolescent boys.

That's tacit acceptance, and you seem to be encouraging us to do the same.

Language Hat: one tradeoff for free speech is that some will feel silenced because they perceive the environment as too harsh for them. No, the tradeoff isn't they will feel silenced, it's that they will be . You may not think emotional abuse is as effective as a punch in the nose, but your feeling is wrong (though it means we cannot have meaningful discussionl; because you are dismissive of those who disagree on this).

I don't think it means we need to silence them, but it doesn't mean I think those places were moderation doesn't take place are somehow less free, just differently free.

They certainly allow (IMO) for a broader range of opinion, because making those of more uninhibited response restrain themselves is less difficult that insisting those who are put-off, offended, or abuse, "just deal" if they want to take part is a very different set of limits.

Your characterization of those who prefer not to enjoy those wide open spaces as being in need of protection- across the board- is dismissive, and a little belittling.

As to the problem of, "self-censorship".

When I was studying communications theory, the model included "noise", and the understanding that, "The meaning of the message is the message that's received." When I write my hope is to communicate. If a given turn of phrase is going to alienate the audience, it doesn't matter at all how clever it is, nor how heartfelt, it's not effective communication. Which sort of defeats the purpose.

Caroline: Even the "unmoderated" spaces have rules. Show the least sign of "weakness" at SomethigAwful, and you can be ripped to shreds; no one, much, will rise to your defense.

So one has to conform, or leave. It's just that nothing, in those places, is explicit. The bar is to find out what the rules are before you break them, or be "tough" enough to ride out the penalties.

Edward Oleander: Humiliation isn't, ispo facto torture, but when added to a thing, for the express purpose being humiliating, torture is much closer to the result.

That much judicial punishment has elements of humiliation is not to our credit.

And, speaking from a small place of expertise... a swirlie most decidely can be torture.

#372 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 08:47 PM:

Greg @ 315: "Some might suggest that my ability to recognize the term [Jerkosphere] is because I'm a member of said group."

No, I wouldn't say that. Hardcore members are too oblivious to realize that they're in the Jerkosphere.

#373 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 08:53 PM:

"Look at the hooters on that one."

This was, I think, Ben Stein's only line in Soap Dish, and I keep hearing it in his dull, slow delivery.

#374 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 09:49 PM:

Paula, #369: No, you're doing it again. You keep talking about ACTIONS -- stalking, obnoxious hitting-on -- and yes, those things are rude. But the THOUGHTS themselves, if not translated into action, just aren't. You seem to be making the assumption that everyone ACTS on their sexual thoughts, all the time, and that just isn't true.

Someone else mentioned a different kind of example up-thread -- being outwardly polite to your boss, or a co-worker, even when they've done something so egregiously stupid that it makes you want to shake them until their teeth rattle. As long as you don't let on what you're thinking, you can THINK any damn thing you please and it does no harm. Same-same for sexual thoughts.

And yes, it can be squickful to one level or another to think about being the object of someone's unrequited sexual fantasy... although anyone who lives in the public eye has to deal with this, and somehow they manage. Realistically, though, it is not something you can control, and therefore the amount you can accomplish by freaking over it is severely limited.

#375 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 10:22 PM:

#375 Lee

Dissembling is not one of my talents....
And the art of the plastic smile got used against me so much that I loathe the things....

#376 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 10:51 PM:

Terry @ 371 - actually, David didn't use the word "gaucheness"; I did. And what I meant wasn't the categorization of certain acts as gauche versus sexist, but rather the fact that considering sexist actions to be gauche is the first step in eliminating sexist actions. In other words, the feeling that what you've just said was gauche (or, to use a less latte-swilling word, "uncool") is the corrective mechanism in action -- a positive thing.

Mm. Now I want a latte. Wait, no -- I've never had a latte in my life! Actually, I just want another Coke.

Paula @369 - your example of the person with fantasies -- the squickiness might be from the existence of the fantasies, but the rudeness (and I argue, the squickiness too) arise from the attempts to interact, not from the otherwise undetectable neurological events in somebody else's brain.

#377 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 03, 2008, 10:55 PM:

Paula @375 - the art of the plastic smile is itself a (deniable) means of communicating a particular proposition of your worth in the smiler's eyes. To ignore that channel as not being communication is, well, is what makes it so effective in our society.

Court French in Louis XIV's day actually shaded (or inverted!) meanings of vocal speech depending on the facial expression used when saying it. Well, duh -- look at Jon Stewart sometime (or even better, Stephen Colbert) and you'll see that in action.

There's more to communication than just the words said. So the rudeness there is, again, the plasticity of the smile, not the thought behind it.

#378 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 01:17 AM:

#341 Xopher
OK, I have to admit there are some people whose deaths I really do desire. I really, truly think the world would be a better place if they dropped dead this very instant. That doesn't necessarily mean I think any method of getting rid of them is OK, or that they should be eliminated "at any cost." Here is my list:

This is my guilty secret: I have a mental game called Three Deaths. Three peaceful, pain-free, immediate deaths from natural causes that improve the world. Which would you pick?

#379 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 01:46 AM:

Xopher @ 341: "Specifically to heresiarch, I note that you not only dismiss my explanation of what I meant (on the grounds that the rhetoric itself is hurtful), but also, apparently, my apology for the impression I created. I apologize now for the hurt my rhetoric created."

I didn't mean to disregard your apology--I do appreciate it, and I do believe it was sincere. Thank you. I'm sorry for ignoring it earlier.

#380 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 02:00 AM:

Brenda @ 378 - only three? Whew.

#381 ::: J. Random Scribbler ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 05:38 AM:

Hi. De-lurking for a moment here...

This thread is a perfect example of why I keep coming back to ML. Though there were plenty of disagreements and misunderstandings, in most cases the people involved actually worked through them, figured out where miscommunications happened, apologized when necessary, and carried out the whole process with an entertainingly high degree of flair and verve.

In so many places, the norm seems to be that discussions degenerate into flamewars full of people talking past each other. ML isn't immune to that, but I can't think of a place where it's rarer, except maybe some obscure little messageboards among friends. Kudos to all of you, except for the one or two trolls early on.

I always learn a lot here. Maybe someday I'll learn enough to feel less intimidated about commenting at a place with this level of discourse. Yeah, OK, maybe I sound like a squeeing fankid, but I am genuinely in awe of what I see here, dangit, and I'm tired of keeping quiet for fear of not having anything clever enough to say.

#382 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 07:02 AM:

J. Random: If I may offer a bit of encouragement...very few of us ever start off getting everything we'd like just right. But this is a place where good will counts. Chime in more often!

I'd like to come back to some things Terry Karney said, and old thoughts of my own. I think that the "free self-expression" vs. "self-censorship" dichotomy is ultimately a sterile one, and one that misses a bunch of the really interesting things about our choices in writing for others.

Since few of us are reliable telepaths, everything we say to others goes through at least two layers of filtering. First, I turn the thoughts and feelings inside my head into text. It's not just the individual words I use to encode the message, either; grammar, punctuation, capitalization, everything helps shape the expression.

That last part isn't one that gets as much attention as word selection sometimes, so I'll illustrate:

  • 1st i turn the thots & feelins inside my head in2 text
  • FIRST I TURN THE THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS INSIDE MY HEAD INTO TEXT
  • First, I turn the thoughts - and feelings - inside my head, into text!

Anyway, I do my part and then send the message off. You get it, and you interpret what I've sent, words, formatting, and all. You develop an understanding of what I meant and you have a reaction to it.

One of the basic questions for this sort of long-distance communications we're doing is: How much of the burden for useful signaling is mine, and how much is yours? The answer implicit in the claim that repressing any old thing that comes into my head is "self-censorship" is that it's pretty much all yours. But I find this very unconvincing. When I drive, I don't go just where I please, and it's not just a matter of the law - I don't go driving in the incoming traffic lanes or turning on red lights because it is predictable that someone is likely to hit me, to both our detriments. And while I'm willing to cut slack for newcomers, people who've been using the net for a while can predict most angry, argumentative, and otherwise unhappy responses pretty reliably, too, and persisting in sending stuff that I can expect to generate heat rather than light can and should be taken to mean that I value the heat at least as much as the light.

If, on the other hand, I actually value the light more than the heat, I'm going to work some at shaping my expression so that it can be understood easily and felt to be constructive rather than hostile or destructive. It is, basically, a courtesy to my readers and a service to thoughts and feelings I feel worth sending in the first place. Because I value what I'm trying to say, I put as few obstacles to its friendly reception as I can into my presentation. I do it because I want to be received favorably.

There's an additional argument to the effect that putting out a more thoughtful expression is an act of respect toward the audience, but I think that's trickier in some ways. I don't have to like or respect the people I'm writing for to still wish them to get what I'm saying and find it agreeable, informative, persuasive, whatever. There is something to be said for the idea that dumping poorly crafted junk out is a gesture of disrespect toward the reader, but whether it is or not, it certainly is requiring them to do more work, work of basic comprehension that could have been spent being won over while thinking about the actual message you were trying to send. So it's inefficient, insofar as one wishes to make an impact more nuanced than "whoof! ugh!".

It's my experience that light moderation encourages people to put that bit more effort into their messages, and that this is one of the reasons moderated environments tend to be richer in real signal as opposed to sheer untrammeled emotion, whose ultimate information content is usually quite low. But the distinct styles can both exist anywhere, and it's not moderation that affects how any individual message is received or responded to.

#383 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 07:50 AM:

Bruce Baugh: You are talking about the signal/noise questions of comm-theory. A really interesting aspect of the subject.

The signal (in the case of fora like these) is text. The noise is how one spells, punctuates, capitalises, etc.

It's why I don't mind, so much, minor spelling/punctuating errors. I may have to work a little harder to parse the meaning but they are pretty much harmless noise.

But when grammar is fractured, or the care for spelling is gone, I wonder if the person cares. Unhappily I am often not as charitible as I might be, and assume ignorance; which makes me discount the arguments.

I hate the "defense", "that's just semantics" as if semantics don't matter. In something like this clarity of message is all we have going for us (no, we also have continuty of voice, which allows for slack to the locals; and may even stretch enough to allow for the occasioanly rude, by intent, comment, but that's icing on the cake, and hinders interaction with people new to a site, because they don't know why the other person is getting the slack, and assume it's a case of dimissing the newbie, or not allowing disagreement with a regular).

Because few of us are, as a rule, eloquent, it happens attacks on grammar can be very effective at gatekeeping, preventing someone from getting a foot in the door. That's a dilemma, one I try to avoid by only harping on a point of grammar when it truly causes misunderstanding (language hat's use of, "as I please/like" appears to have been one of those, and I confess I took it in the way which led to much of the heat).

To fix/avoid that requires the active participation of the sender, and the reciever (one of the problems with the model the Army uses for comm-theory is the lack of feedback from receiver to sender). Absent a sense that this is happening in good faith, the noise will swamp the signal.

I think the strengh of ML is that we do engage in that feedback, with regularity, and vibibly. The newcomer can see that misunderstandings are not; usually, going to lead to slagging and ostracism.

And now, as it is late, I am going to get some sleep.

#384 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 07:58 AM:

Terry: Yeah, I've read a fair amount on information theory over the years, but was popularizing and adapting. :)

#385 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 09:14 AM:

Bruce: How much of the burden for useful signaling is mine, and how much is yours? The answer implicit in the claim that repressing any old thing that comes into my head is "self-censorship" is that it's pretty much all yours.

Except the thing at issue isn't whether I translate a thought into action or not. The thing at issue is whether I can have the thought at all.

The argument for policing thoughts seems to hinge on the unproven assertion that every thought I have will always leak through into some action or another such that it is visible to the people around me. The "plastic smile" being one example of how thoughts always come through in action and therefore the thought must be eradicated. Except I have all sorts of thoughts when I'm alone in my office. The counter argument to that is that once I am in physical proximity to anyone I had thoughts about, the thoughts will leak through into some physical sign, and therefore the thought alone in my office ought be suppressed.

And while I tend to agree with Paula that using thoughts to justify sexist actions is "sociobiology horseshit", I think the assertions that impure thoughts leads to impure actions and therefore all impure thoughts must be suppressed, is, similarly based on unproven sociobiology.

when going from thought to action, that is communication. If you have a thought and don't communicate it, you can call that self censorship or self control or self editing or whatever.

But there's a subthread going on here that isn't about thought converted to action or thought NOT converted to action. It's about removing the thought itself because there is something inherently wrong, rude, squicky about even having the thought. With a sometimes implied reasoning that said squickie thought will leak through your brain and turn into actions that will communicate to the other person that you're having a squickie thought about them and make them feel squickie.

part of the argument that thoughts are evil is that it is impossible to NOT communicate them, that they must leak through.

#386 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 09:31 AM:

Brenda 378: Thank you. Good to know I'm not alone. I'm going to a party of thoughtful people this weekend; I'll see if I can get them to play the game.

heresiarch 379: Thank you. More via email.

Michael 380: Think of the game as a meal in a restaurant, where we all try to order something different! :-)

J. 381: I encourage you to post more, especially if this post is an example of your style and content! Also, it's nice to hear. As for "not having anything interesting enough to say," that never stops me! :-) But seriously, try starting by asking clarifying questions. Trust me, if you think a comment's meaning is unclear, there are other people who also found it so—and others who didn't, but interpreted it in a way at serious variance to that intended by the author!

Also, what Bruce said.

Terry 383: I hate the "defense", "that's just semantics" as if semantics don't matter.

The word 'semantics' is popularly used to mean choice of words. Technically, that's diction (whose popular use is for what is technically called enunciation). Semantics is the underlying meaning conveyed by the words, and thus is the most important aspect of language!

But even in the popular sense of the word, the choice of words conveys as much as the translated meaning. If I refer to someone's "glistening torso," I'm saying something different about my attitude toward it than if I refer to his "sweaty upper body."

#387 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 09:54 AM:

Bruce Baugh @ 382: "How much of the burden for useful signaling is mine, and how much is yours? The answer implicit in the claim that repressing any old thing that comes into my head is "self-censorship" is that it's pretty much all yours."

I think that's a very insightful way of putting it. It hints at the existence of an important step in the communication process that you don't explicitly mention: the part of the thoughts-into-words process where I not only try to capture my ideas as well as possible, but also try to shape them into a form that can be best understood by my target audience.

This is what I think bothered me the most about language hat's "I absolutely feel it is both my right and my obligation to speak my mind in whatever way seems fit to me at the moment." This suggests a sort of insensitivity to one's audience that seems really, really inconducive to good communication.* Other than "self-censorship," the phrase I've often heard used to describe modifying your words and phrasing for the sake of your readers is "writing to your audience," and it's generally considered a good thing.

*Having read language hat's blog on and off for a number of years, I can say it's not an opinion that I see reflected in his writing, which is typically quite lucid and interesting, even to an ignorant linguistics noob like me.

#388 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 10:05 AM:

Brenda #378:

I don't think I'd ever use my three, unless I was in some kind of last-ditch self-defense situation. The problem here comes in two parts:

a. There are people I know well enough that I could, conceivably, come to recognize a person who could best improve the world by their absence[1]. But of those people, I don't know anyone who I would kill, given a no-chance-of-being-caught method for doing so.

b. There are many people I don't know, about whom I learn by reading the news. Many of those people come off as being genuinely worthy of death. But I know how amazingly inaccurate the picture of reality from the media can be, and I don't know the consequences of doing away with some apparent bad guy. That's true even for such apparent badguys as Saddam or Osama or the nut running North Korea, though they're at least closer to being sensible targets.

I visualize myself somehow deciding to strike someone dead based on media reports, and then later coming to realize that the media lied/got it wrong, and the guy was really not so guilty as he looked. Or striking someone dead, and then watching as some Iraq-like social meltdown followed the sudden death of the evil dictator.

[1] This phrase is stolen from David Friedman.

#389 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 10:14 AM:

Bruce #382:

I think the main thing that encourages us to write carefully here is the quality of writing that's common. It's like the way that living in a neighborhood where everyone meticulously maintains their lawn will convince you to spend more time on your lawn, just so you don't stand out as a slob.

#390 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 10:42 AM:

heresiarch #387:

I took language hat's comment there to be talking about the topics or ideas expressed, not the wording. Maybe that's me mapping it onto my own beliefs and worldview.

If I'm going to bother to say something, I want to say it well. Part of that means not needlessly giving offense. But if my ideas or thoughts or beliefs are going to give offense, I'm not inclined to censor them to avoid that. (Though I do avoid topics like brtn that lead to unproductive flamewars, at least most of the time.)

And even with jokes or expressions of feelings, spending too much time worrying about offending anyone will kill every bit of spontenaety and life from that kind of writing. The kind of writing I associate with that goal is massively-caveated almost-legalese written by committee, thick with the latest euphemisms used self-consciously. It's hard to imagine a good funny story or poem written with that level of oh-God-what-if-someone's-offended concern.

Finally, there's a duty on the part of the listener/reader, too, as important as the duty on the part of the speaker/writer, to try to find a non-offensive way to parse things. If I do my best not to needlessly give offense, I'd like my reader to do his best not to try to find some way to get offense from it. That won't always work--some people are very sensitive[1] to specific issues, some people will read your words in a different way than you intended, etc. But communication works best when both sides work at keeping it working and civil.

[1] If you think this is an insulting term, please reread the sentence and think about it a bit. I'm pretty sensitive to casual dumping on libertarians, frex. I don't think I've just insulted myself.

#391 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 10:57 AM:

This is what I think bothered me the most about language hat's "I absolutely feel it is both my right and my obligation to speak my mind in whatever way seems fit to me at the moment." This suggests a sort of insensitivity to one's audience that seems really, really inconducive to good communication.

I can dig the idea of what you're saying, but in my opinion there's a great big asterisk here that needs to go next to "good". I might say "comfortable", or "non-confrontational" (for the spikier senses of "confrontational").

The idea of not creating heat through speaker-listener disconnect is a useful one -- more casual discussion and easier understandings, less stress and piqued feelings -- and I'd venture that part of what makes ML so attractive to ML regulars (and Mefi to Mefi readers, and so forth) is that a general acclimation to how the locals communicate makes it easier to achieve that kind of easy-going understanding.

But there's the cost there of a natural (and, I think, at times easy-to-forget) insularity and stasis to conversation. Terry's example there is good:

Because few of us are, as a rule, eloquent, it happens attacks on grammar can be very effective at gatekeeping, preventing someone from getting a foot in the door.

But while surface things like attacks on grammar (or gross differences in e.g. profanity or use of escalating personal attacks) make for a very visible dynamic and thus one that is easy to identify and consider and correct for, there are always more subtle and thus more insidious elements of in-group communication in play in these situations as well.

None of which I think is news to anyone here, so I don't bring this stuff up to lecture. (I gather there are a number of folks here who could do a much better job on the subject than me, anyway; my background is computer science, not communication theory.)

But while I understand that "good communication" can mean clear signals and lack of misinterpretation as discussed above, and agree that there's benefits in that -- precision in the exchange of ideas, peace in the valley -- I also think that what language hat defends is not just some bull-headed self-serving insensitivity but, functionally, a willful rejection of favoring in-group peace over the potential turbulence of broader interactions.

Would ML be a better place without new voices from different conversational climates? Would Mefi? It's a loaded question, but I don't mean it to be so open-and-shut as it might read -- if I'm willing to argue the "good" in "good communication", I'd be dishonest to assume that my "better" in "better place" is etched in stone. It's a real question, and not one with simple answers, but I think it's in that light in part that the defense of the importance of, say, "speaking freely" should in part be considered.

#392 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 11:40 AM:

albatross @ 390: "I took language hat's comment there to be talking about the topics or ideas expressed, not the wording. Maybe that's me mapping it onto my own beliefs and worldview."

If that's what language hat meant, then I think "in whatever way seems fit" was a poor choice of words. I can't quite twist that enough in my head to believe it refers to content, and not manner. Wouldn't the "speak my mind" part cover the content?

"But if my ideas or thoughts or beliefs are going to give offense, I'm not inclined to censor them to avoid that."

The only person I can think of on this thread who even comes close to advocating otherwise is me, so let me clarify: the only idea I truly think shouldn't be expressed at all, no matter how politely it's done, is the advocation of violence, especially against disempowered groups, especially with the intent to silence. In other words, hate speech--I'll tolerate anything but intolerance. Does that make sense to you?

"Finally, there's a duty on the part of the listener/reader, too, as important as the duty on the part of the speaker/writer, to try to find a non-offensive way to parse things."

I almost agree with this. My only problem is that sometimes the speaker/writer honestly does mean the more offensive possibility. If the reader was to deliberately choose the less offensive reading (i.e. the one s/he agrees with more), then the reader would be misreading the piece, and manufacturing agreement where there is none. I think what a reader owes is an honest reading, and a generous one. If something is ambiguous, I think the best thing to do is ask, not to assume they really meant what you wanted them to mean.

"[1] If you think [sensitive] is an insulting term, please reread the sentence and think about it a bit."

I'm not insulted by being called sensitive, or by the idea that people are. I'm insulted by the idea that someone being sensitive is an excuse for not engaging with their arguments, or an excuse to disregard their feelings. What I want is for being sensitive to get some bleeding respect. (Which, here on ML, it almost invariably does. The flailing blows of the preceding paragraph are directed at the aether, not at anyone in this discussion. Nasty, nasty aether!)

#393 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 11:48 AM:

heresiarch, are you advocating doing violence to the aether? I'm just asking for clarification.

(To clarify: I am very much kidding.)

#394 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 12:18 PM:

Greg: Since you want to drag me into your quarrel with Paula, I will say that I don't think that all thoughts are dangerous to simply hold and not express. But some are, and the problem is that nobody can tell from inside their own head which thoughts are corroding their moral sensibilities and which aren't. Some thoughts fester for twenty or thirty years and do nothing. Others fester for twenty or thirty years and produce support for attacking Iraq and engaging in torture. I think it's better to err on the safe side, and to take the mental policing of "but hey, that's not something I want to admit to" as an opportunity to train myself to better reactions in the first place.

I also think, based on my experience with being disabled and sometimes in immediate need of assistance from strangers, that this truly is something where the relatively powerful need to shut the hell up about it, mostly, and listen to the concerns of those more likely to be preyed upon. Bluntly: Paula is more qualified than you or me to talk about things that put her at danger, just as I am better qualified than you (so nearly as I know) to talk about some things that put me at risk. I know you aim for an omniversal perspective, but none of us actually get cosmic awareness, and there are times when there are assymetries of experience that good will alone simply does not cross.

The needs of those at risk are not always fully comprehensible to those closer to power; part of civilization is seeing that risks get reduced anyway. We are never promised the opportunity to grok in fullness anyone else's life, but a moral system that doesn't oblige us to act so as to improve others' lives anyway is a mighty poor one. "You were not put on this earth to get it, Mr. Burton," to quote one of my favorite movies. And it's true: sometimes we can and should and ought to act whether we get it or not. You may judge for yourself how you'd feel about anyone else refusing to do anything differently once you've explained the threat and what helps relieve it, just because they didn't quite, you know, feel it, man.

Since you chose to bring me into it.

Heresiarch: Yeah, I agree very much about the shaping. And if I were to go on at even more length I'd emphasize how one style of phrasing isn't any more natural or free than any other.

#395 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 12:36 PM:

Josh Millard @ 391: "I can dig the idea of what you're saying, but in my opinion there's a great big asterisk here that needs to go next to "good". I might say "comfortable", or "non-confrontational" (for the spikier senses of "confrontational")."

I don't think that sensitivity to the people you're communicating with implies non-confrontationalism. You can be exquisitely sensitive to someone whom you are confronting in a very profound sense--imagine an intervention for an alcoholic friend, for example. "Good" communication isn't non-confrontational, or favoring in-group peace; very simply, it's communication that works, that actually communicates something. I think you're right that having community standards definitely makes that a lot easier, but in my experience, having those standards doesn't enforce stasis--rather, it provides a stable platform from which you can disagree even more profoundly, while still maintaining the respect and emotional investment that are crucial to good, effective communication.

Xopher @ 393: LOL! Okay, that was good. Touché, sir, touché.

#396 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 12:44 PM:

Terry Karney @ 371: Even the "unmoderated" spaces have rules. Show the least sign of "weakness" at SomethigAwful, and you can be ripped to shreds; no one, much, will rise to your defense.

*YES*

language hat said, somewhere way up there, that, while there should be moderated spaces to protect those with lower thresholds of tolerance for high-temperature invective, the public space "should always be free." (Pace abi, who is wise and also made me blush, I simply am having trouble finding the entirety of the exact quote. This is my honest-to-goodness understanding of lh's communication.)

Problem is, "should always be free" never happens. The totally unmoderated public space that language hat appears to be championing is not free for all the reasons Terry listed and more.

Public spaces are always moderated by public pressure and the court of public opinion. Depending on the majority communication mores of the people inhabiting a public space, either jackasses will be chased away or the jackasses will chase everyone else away. Which is a rather blunt and unnuanced way to describe the de facto moderation of unmoderated spaces, since often a combination of both things happen, and "chased away" is not always the right descriptor, but as a summary I think it gets across my meaning.

This is another part of why I was having a hard time taking language hat's argument as anything other than a wish for the jackasses to moderate the public spaces. Because if you make it morally wrong for civility to be required via official moderation (because The Public Space Must Be Free!), it is extremely likely that unofficial moderation will be provided by the jackasses.

It is even more likely that such will be the case if any unofficial requests for civility result in a general outcry of "Oh, here comes the politically correct brigade here to silence my free speech!"

It's a dynamic that seems so obvious to me, which yields so many instructive real-live examples at every turn, that I have a hard time believing that someone as well-spoken and intelligent as language hat can be blind to it. And if he's taking it into consideration but still championing the idea that only an unmoderated public space can be said to be free, what else can I conclude but that he is in favor of jackasses in control of the free space?

Now is probably a good time to link to Clay Shirky's "A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy".

#397 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 01:04 PM:

"Good" communication isn't non-confrontational, or favoring in-group peace; very simply, it's communication that works, that actually communicates something.

But in any setting where there is an existing set of boundaries, of comfort zones and mutual understanding of what generally is and is not permissible, some communication -- some "somethings" that could be communicated -- will fall by the wayside as a result. This isn't a terrible thing on a per-context basis; no place is (or, I think we're agreed, even could be) the end-all be-all venue for all kinds of discussion. But it is a real and unavoidable limitation of having such conventions and comfort zones.

Some discussions become likely only to proceed from miscommunication or violation of the expected norms. There's a reasonably (and obviously very complex and ongoing) question in any worthy community of how much to (a) insulate itself by customs and policies against disruption for the sake of the comfort of the regulars, and how much to (b) inure itself to such disruptions for the sake of facilitating a broader sum total of potential communication.

By what fulcrum and to what point of equilibrium that balance is set and managed and adjusted by any given community is an essential part of the story of communication there. And I think that even in communities that actively and openly pursue such a balance well, it's nearly impossible to truly look from an outside perspective at one's own place of comfort and objectively perceive what is insular, what is static.

In that sense, it's easier for me e.g. to make criticism of ML-as-new-place than it is for me to make the same criticism of Mefi-as-home-place, and not because I believe there's anything fundamentally better about one place than the other. It's just very hard to see one's blind spots -- even when you work very hard at it, the best you can hope for is to identify as many of them as possible, but blind spots are inherently difficult to track down -- and I think as a general rule one's internal definitions of what "good communication" constitutes is tied to that. It's harder to credit something as signal rather than noise when it's a signal that chafes or disrupts, might be one way of putting it.

#398 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 01:24 PM:

Public spaces are always moderated by public pressure and the court of public opinion. Depending on the majority communication mores of the people inhabiting a public space, either jackasses will be chased away or the jackasses will chase everyone else away. Which is a rather blunt and unnuanced way to describe the de facto moderation of unmoderated spaces, since often a combination of both things happen, and "chased away" is not always the right descriptor, but as a summary I think it gets across my meaning.

But the ideal of the public space is that it begins as a blank slate. That from there sub-groups proceed selectively to either de facto or explicit moderation isn't surprising (here we are!), nor does it undermine the value of that ideal as a default starting point.

I'm not going to argue it as a strictly moral proposition -- that's another context where I'm afraid I'd be out of my league -- but I'll make the argument that the notion of a public space that starts truly unmoderated is at least important as an ideal, because the alternative is canonizing some moderative principle or principles as fundamentally correct. I don't believe that's a good idea, at all, because I don't see any authority from whom such principles could be taken, any unquestionable axioms of discourse from which those principles could be derived.

To be clear: I think civility is a very good thing, and I prefer to spend my time in civil places. I think the case is so for most people, most of the time, and I don't think there's anything wrong (and much right) with the communication that takes place in such contexts.

But I do not believe that the value of an uncivil (or maybe I should say "acivil"?) unmoderated public space is nil. I think it's important, for a number of reasons, that we absolutely preserve the ideal (and whenever possible the implementation) of a space where no speech -- even the ugliest, most morally reprehensible speech -- is forbidden. With that goes the understanding that no individual should be required to spend time there.

From there, I guess it's partly a question of how you get to the idea of such a place. Either the default is civility and you create the unmoderated space by stripping something way from that, or the default is tabula rasa and you create the moderated space by building on that. I don't like the idea of the former, for some of the reasons I've gone into above -- manners shouldn't be canonized, however valuable there are -- and so I see the latter, the idea of public space as default ideal onto which we build civility, as the way to go.

I have no idea how closely that hews to what language hat believes or what he has tried to say upthread, but from what discussions I've had with him and what I've read of his feelings on the subject elsewhere, I get the feeling that's the right neighborhood at least.

#399 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 01:26 PM:

Bruce Baugh: I was just bouncing off your opening (comm-theory is really interesting stuff, and I haven't really kept up as I'd like). I was playing pretty fast with the details when I brought it up (a pithy aphorism and a reference to noise).

Xopher: Re semantics Those are my complaints with that defense, yes.

Josh Millard: I also think that what language hat defends is not just some bull-headed self-serving insensitivity but, functionally, a willful rejection of favoring in-group peace over the potential turbulence of broader interactions.

I take, moderate, exception to that idea (in that it seems implicit you are saying there is a streak of that here). I don't favor in-group peace, I favor peace in general. I also know that in-group peace isn't something we refuse to abandon when the need to communicate is high.
There was a thread, now locked, in which Teresa warned us not to go a certain way; informed us our vowels, one and all, were in mortal peril, and we went there (at least some of us, myself included), knowing there was risk of grave offense to peace. We all the polite and the impolitic, lost our vowels.

We've had great fests of hurt feelings and passion and people leaving (most to come back, after greater, or lesser absence). We have people (some of them regulars) who have hot buttons, who get impassioned and say harsh things (don't push me past a certain point on torture).

I think it's, actually, sensitivity. Empathy for the other participants in the conversation, and especially for the specific other person to whom the response is being made which colors the convsersations here. Snark, at people, for the sake of snark is rarely on.

Even when told we have free rein to hose the newbie who knows not the norms, we aren't all that viscious in it.

That has made all the difference.

#400 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 01:46 PM:

But I do not believe that the value of an uncivil (or maybe I should say "acivil"?) unmoderated public space is nil. I think it's important, for a number of reasons, that we absolutely preserve the ideal (and whenever possible the implementation) of a space where no speech -- even the ugliest, most morally reprehensible speech -- is forbidden. With that goes the understanding that no individual should be required to spend time there.

I think there is a conflation of things. I mentioned something about SomethingAwful because the norms there are simple, be cruel to everyone, or die. Show the least sympathy; or even change an opinon, and the dogs will shred you.

Boing-boing has a group which affect the nihilistic hateur of being above it all (which makes the impassioned repititions that BB has sold out funny, not for the content, but because once it works, twice it's even believable, after that, well they aren't above it all).

Incivil discourse has it's place, sometimes that place is here, more often it's not. But giving those who wish to be incivil license to engage in it, at whim, is a recipe for places like SomethingAwful (I was going to say Redstate, but realised that's not true, they are moderated, heavily, and make an interesting; if false, argument that moderation is bad... they want the air to be toxic to dissent).

The public space is a commons, and just as the commons need controls (lest the greedy destroy them) so too the places of public discourse need understandings.

#401 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 01:51 PM:

how you'd feel about anyone else refusing to do anything differently once you've explained the threat

But the "threat" being explained is someone else thinking a thought. Whether they act on it has been removed from the equation. And once you remove the objective measures from the equation, it means Alice no longer judges Bob based on what Bob does, but rather Alice judges Bob based on what Alice fears.

And sometimes fear is valid and actionable. And sometimes it isn't. And fear of impure thoughts seems to be in the "not" category.

And in complete opposition to this idea of thought suppression, every bit of training I've had to do life coaching would say suppressing certain thoughts is about the worst thing a person could try to do. People make certain thoughts in their head "wrong", and that can cause a lifetime of trouble for them.

So I'm not questioning whether Paula is better suited than me to speak about gender discrimination or whether you're better qualified than me to talk about handicapped issues, but specifically about whether or not someone else's thoughts about women or someone else's thoughts about handicapped are valid targets in the fight against discrimination, and whether or not targeting someone else's thoughts and labeling them as improper thoughts, will in fact actually help fight discrimination, and whether it is in fact based in any sort of reality of how to deal with humans who are thinking such impure thoughts.

What little experience I have says not only will it not work, but it will actually make the target individual worse, and turn others away from fighting discrimination because they've become targets of the fight.

#402 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 01:54 PM:

I take, moderate, exception to that idea (in that it seems implicit you are saying there is a streak of that here). I don't favor in-group peace, I favor peace in general. I also know that in-group peace isn't something we refuse to abandon when the need to communicate is high.

I'm saying that there's a streak of it everywhere, inherent in the very existence of group norms of expectation and permissibility. I don't mean it as an attack on ML -- this seems like a very nice place, and I've enjoyed what little time I've spent here so far, which is saying something considering the bumpy circumstances by why I got here -- and I don't exclude from that assertion any other place I like to spend time.

Not Going There is a reasonable and often laudable dictum. We've danced with that directly in the Mefi thread tied to all this in the last couple days, with a couple people stepping over a line and being dealt with through public rebuke for their statement in one case, and by deletion of comments and an account timeout in the other. Setting boundaries and enforcing them is useful and important, and insofar as you can manage to set boundaries carefully to minimize what gets prohibited as a result, it's an art of compromise that I totally support as a good thing for the health of a community.

But it remains, fundamentally, a compromise.

#403 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 01:55 PM:

Josh, #398: But the ideal of the public space is that it begins as a blank slate. That from there sub-groups proceed selectively to either de facto or explicit moderation isn't surprising (here we are!), nor does it undermine the value of that ideal as a default starting point.

I'm going to take fairly strong exception to this on two counts.

First, mathematical and philosophical ideals rarely map well to the real world (cf. any political philosophy you care to name). We don't live in "the ideal of a public space," we live in the reality of one -- and reality trumps ideology every damn time.

Second, you appear to be arguing that "public space" on the internet is fundamentally different from "public space" in the streets, and I don't think that holds. It is certainly not the case that real-world public space starts as a blank slate! There's an entire generally-accepted body of law and custom which defines what you can do in a park or on a street corner. The primary difference I see with online space is that it's so new we don't yet have an internal compass about that generally-accepted standard of behavior. One guideline that I frequently find useful for online discussions is, "Would I say/do that in a real-life situation?" The phenomenon of online anonymity removing social inhibitions (aka "manners") is well-documented, but that doesn't make it a good thing.

#404 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 02:28 PM:

First, mathematical and philosophical ideals rarely map well to the real world (cf. any political philosophy you care to name). We don't live in "the ideal of a public space," we live in the reality of one -- and reality trumps ideology every damn time.

And yet we proceed from ideology and philosophy and models, even when we get down to the business of realistic implementation and the necessary compromises of pragmatism. Nobody drafts a Constitution that begins "In order to make an, I guess, pretty okay nation..."

Unless you're saying that pragmatism outright negates the value of idealism, I don't see that as a bulletproof objection. I hear you, I agree with much of the thrust of what you're saying -- god save us from those who try to make the world unerringly behave according to a model -- but the usefulness of the ideal as a starting point and constant reference point isn't diminished by the various compromises that present themselves in practice.

Second, you appear to be arguing that "public space" on the internet is fundamentally different from "public space" in the streets, and I don't think that holds.

I don't actually mean to make a distinction between the two, though I may have done a poor job of conveying that. The physical public square (which is probably not a great metaphor, actually, since that kind of implies some nice brickwork in an incorporated town -- "non-private meadow", maybe?) and the internet public square are different according to the medium of communication, that's all. Whether I speak my words or type them, whether you hear my words or read them, is a matter of details. (Interesting details, practically important details, but details only regardless).

It is certainly not the case that real-world public space starts as a blank slate! There's an entire generally-accepted body of law and custom which defines what you can do in a park or on a street corner.

I think that's a contradiction in two sentences. See my public square vs. non-private meadow parenthetical above -- that a park or a street corner has had law and custom applied to makes it something less than a starting point. Whether those customs and laws are considered good is beside the point that they don't exist to two cultural strangers meeting in an empty meadow on a desert island (except if those strangers happened to carry congruent customs from wherever they arrived).

Which is an unlikely example, I know, but that is the starting point. That's the blank slate. The laws and customs that exist, that have been applied to that meadow on the island as it became a village and then a city and then a nation, weren't there at the first encounter, and it's safe to say that the shape of the laws and customs that have been established in different places in the world vary wildly. There's nothing baked-in to the default space.

The primary difference I see with online space is that it's so new we don't yet have an internal compass about that generally-accepted standard of behavior. One guideline that I frequently find useful for online discussions is, "Would I say/do that in a real-life situation?" The phenomenon of online anonymity removing social inhibitions (aka "manners") is well-documented, but that doesn't make it a good thing.

I agree with you on pretty much all of that, actually, though I'm going to be stubborn and go and throw a (smaller-point-size) asterisk next to "good" again. What's obnoxious and ugly and ill-considered isn't fundamentally bad, even though I don't want it to be what I spend most of my time dealing with.

#405 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 02:52 PM:

I think it's important, for a number of reasons, that we absolutely preserve the ideal (and whenever possible the implementation) of a space where no speech -- even the ugliest, most morally reprehensible speech -- is forbidden.

This comes up fairly often in discussions of the first amendment, and while I'm not a William O Douglas absolutist on free speech, I'm inclined to give an awful lot of latitude in cases where there isn't actual incitement.

What also comes up fairly often in discussions of the first amendment, and which seems to be a thread running through this conversation, is the idea that since it is a virtue to protect the ugliest, most morally reprehensible speech, it is unvirtuous to object to ugly, morally reprehensible speech, or to assign damaging effect to it.

(I want to make it clear that I'm not responding to any specific commenter here)

It seems to me that if you're going to insist on laying claim to some platonic ideal of communication in which the person you're interacting with is flawed if they respond to speech according to cultural norms of perceived threat, you've pretty much let the wind out of any concerns you might have about the violence inherent in the system if people seem, inexplicably, to want to repress you.

If it's the semiotic wild west out there, any speech of theirs which has the intent or effect of attempting to stifle your voice are equally an unweighted form of pure communication.

If, on the other hand, there are values and real consequences attached to communication, they're attached to all of it, not just the bits that get on your wick.

#406 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 03:11 PM:

What also comes up fairly often in discussions of the first amendment, and which seems to be a thread running through this conversation, is the idea that since it is a virtue to protect the ugliest, most morally reprehensible speech, it is unvirtuous to object to ugly, morally reprehensible speech, or to assign damaging effect to it.

Ah, and that's a good thing to point out; I certainly don't think it's a matter of flawed virtue to object to ugly or unpleasant speech, and I can see arguments for the ideal of unchecked speech seeming to carry that as a subtext.

I consider objections to ugly speech to be wholly defensible -- answering speech with more speech is good, and defining specific places where speech is other than unchecked only makes good sense. I just don't believe those objections should be made into any fundamental policy for speech itself, and I think that the broader the scope of limits to speech are (i.e. book club vs. community vs. nation), the more restraint should be shown in implementing prohibition as policy. And there's no scope broader than the fundamental ideal of the abstract substrate of communication-space itself.

As far as that goes, I think it's unrealistic to believe one can place limits on speech without acknowledging that they're compromising, to some degree, the range of communication permitted in the space they're defining. And compromise is far from a bad thing when done well, but it remains a compromise and it's important not to forget that.

#407 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 03:41 PM:

Josh, in all honesty, I regard compromise as regards some kinds of speech exactly as I do the compromises that, for instance, prohibit assault and battery. There are no doubt times when it would feel great to initiate an attack on someone else...but so what? I genuinely don't care about the disappointment the law inflicts on some people by denying them the chance to attack others without provocation and without reprisal. Likewise, I simply don't see freedom of speech as a good in itself, but as an important means to the end of allowing society as a whole to better discover the truth (where there is one to be had) and (where not) to disseminate as many views as are compatible with the survival of the society and the general well-being of its members.

It's possible that this is not, in the end, something that can be rationally analyzed. I know that I've shifted more and more from a sort of absolutist principles-in-the-abstract view on many issues to a stance that looks at actual results. I'm interested, more and more, in the pragmatic opportunities available to people: can they can change jobs and not worry about their health care, do they have meaningful chances of promotion, do they feel able to participate usefully in public discourse about what matters to them, are they safe from assault and denial of rights because of this aspect or that of their identity, and so on.

Some of that's age and awareness of impending mortality thanks to the multiplying deaths of family and friends in recent years. I find it harder to think about abstractions when I look at real people whose opportunities are now all closed by the grave, and think about what might have given them the practical chance at better choices. But part of it is not at all age-related, and isn't really a matter anywhere close to reason, so much as it is a loss of belief in idealism as such, replaced by a greater concern to make the present as good as possible for as many people as possible even though I know it will inconvenience some stalwarts on the fringe. Part of it is, frankly, feeling less convinced of my own remarkableness, more aware of how much I depend on others, how limited I am in some ways, how...well, average middle-class white guy I am, and how much of what I used to think of as my independence was bought by my share of privilege, unearned and in the end unwanted as I realized its costs.

#408 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 03:49 PM:

Fair points all, Bruce. And lengthy argumentation here notwithstanding, I'm not really much of a raging idealist. I think about compromise and pragmatism as much as I do not because I dislike it but because I spend so much time navigating it. I think the philosophizin' is as much a symptom of wanting to keep myself honest in that navigation as anything.

Plus, it's a holiday, and I have time on my hands. I should probably hush up and get some dishes done.

#409 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 03:49 PM:

I may have gotten tangled in syntax. Just to clarify:

I value the overall diversity of actually speaking voices more than I value the kind of free-for-all which in practice silences many of them and gives over substantial space to those who can't (or won't) function in the presence of even very mild rules. I don't think that the practical domination of many venues by an abusive and loud few is good for society at any scale; I think it's much healthier when the largest possible percentage of those who'd like to speak do speak, and are not silenced by others. I regard this as liberty in action, as opposed to liberty by rule but denied in action.

We're not an anarchistic species, or an anarchistic culture, with mechanisms to strengthen the individual no matter what the outside pressures may be. We thrive in conditions of tempered careful governance.

#410 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 03:50 PM:

I've been engaging in a highly entertaining activity, now that I've mostly caught up with work, and (crucially) slept many consecutive hours: I've been rereading this entire thread.

To my incredulous relief, neither language hat nor I said anything nearly as egregious as I remembered. But the really funny thing is that we're all arguing the same damn points from the same viewpoint! For instance, language hat at one point says something like, "That's not what you meant, but it's how I perceive it." Josh admonishes me that the way I phrased something comes off as a low blow.

And damn if I wasn't misconstruing an awful lot of things. It's truly amazing what parts of posts -- or entire posts -- I missed, 100%. Lh (@56) did say, "Honest question". I read that post several times while getting steamed -- how could that phrase surprise me now? Absolutely fascinating.

Context really is everything. It's been very instructive -- the only flamewars I've ever participated in have been in email, thus were less conducive to later reconstruction. I think I'm going to be rereading this thread for a while, to be honest. Something very interesting happened here.

What is absolute icing on the cake, though, and so perfectly MakingLight-esque, is not only that every one of these barbed comments was really well-written, but that after due administration of chocolate, the entire discussion bumped up a metalevel and started analyzing its own rhetoric.

If there's anything I could compare and contrast between ML and MeFi, it's simply that MeFi is so large that it's just too much to read; even threads here quickly outstrip my ability to follow them, and this is a much smaller community. Which is more or less what I meant when I called MeFi "contentious and voluble" @36 ("crap" was intended to be a syntactic slot-filler with no particular semantic content, and wasn't that word choice incredibly poor!)

What's also amazing as I read back through it is how certain words crept into the discourse and were recycled. Two words in particular -- contentious and gaucheness -- were words that I had used, but had come up in posts before I used them, much to my surprise. I even corrected Terry, saying Dave hadn't used "gaucheness", that I had -- but Dave did, before I did. This goes a long way towards convincing me of the validity of subconscious activation of concepts -- and I am 90% sure at this point that this subconscious activation is what causes a discussion to turn into a flamewar. When the subconscious activations start overwhelming conscious understanding, you're no longer saying what you think you're saying.

I'm just shaking my head in awe at the conceptual ecology here. It's every bit as fascinating as a good hike in the jungle.

#411 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 03:51 PM:

Doing dishes brings us together! :) Or it will, when I get up from the desk and go do mine.

#412 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 03:59 PM:

I've been rereading this entire thread.

Weird, isn't it? I do the same thing over at Mefi sometimes -- it's not really an official part of my duties, but I think it's really good exercise when you can spare the time, because not once have I come out the other side with my opinion of what transpired unchanged. How a thread feels as it unfolds and how it reads as a document can be two very different things, and feeling out that difference now and then is just a tremendously instructive experience.

Or it will, when I get up from the desk and go do mine.

I won't tell if you won't.

#413 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 04:14 PM:

Josh @412 - Hysteresis. Engaging in the discussion in the heat of the moment, you bring with you all that subconscious activation and vague remembrance of things; coming back into it later, you have some entirely different set of activations, most of which is probably off elsewhere, thus doesn't interact with the discussion. And the whole set of activation washing back and forth is a dynamic process, thus subject to hysteresis.

It makes me want to get back into cognitive science. The requirement of having to put food on my family is a harsh one.

#414 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 04:45 PM:

Josh Millard: I'm sorry, I mistook you. Yes, there is a tendency everywhere for in-groups to be preferred. I saw it as something you were positing as a declared (or at least commonly understood) idea we favored.

The thing is (and it's an important thing), the rules here (so far as I can see) are not about prohibiting people, but conduct. The "Don't Go There" dictum was to avoid a certain type of more heat than light discussion, which was certain to happen no matter the good will of those taking part; because others would get involved, some of whom wouldn't understand the rule of empathy here.

When all was said and done, the thread was locked, the vowels restored... because things were stopped before it got that far.

The peace of the in-group was violated, and the violation let stand. That's not the sort of thing which can be seen from strolling in, esp. on a thread as exemplary as this one has been for how to avoid things blowing up.

While no one goes to make a, "pretty okay nation," the idea of a "more perfect" nation presupposes the slate isn't blank.

The blank slate of the desert island isn't blank. The two people each have undsertandings. How they resolve the differences of those understandings is the question to be answered.


#415 ::: Brenda Kalt ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 05:07 PM:

#380 Michael Roberts: Yes, just 3. It's no fun if you don't have to think.

#388 albatross: I never take the game this seriously. Feel free to substitute "is kidnapped by aliens" or "retires to a grotto to contemplate life" for the unfortunately realistic term "death." I'm trying to improve the world.

A further restriction I forgot to mention is that the three must be geographically separated. For a couple of years, I spent a lot of mental energy deciding whether to put the President or the Vice-President of a large Northern Hemisphere democracy on the list. But we're under 180 days and counting, so I reserve the spot for someone else.

#416 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 08:48 PM:

Michael Roberts #410: I hadn't been planning to return to the thread (having actual work to do that I've been neglecting because of all this madness), but I'm glad I did and got to see your reassuring comment. By the way, I sent an e-mail to what I hope is your address (at Vivtek); did you get it?

#417 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 09:31 PM:

For any who may be interested, heresiarch and i have discussed matters via private email, and with that calming situation, and some distance, I've basically come to the conclusion that heresiarch was almost completely right and I was almost completely wrong.

In order for someone to give someone else a "swirlie," the "swirlee" has to be completely in the power of the "swirler." There is no way the victim can tell how long s/he will be held under water, or how many times. That makes it cross the line into torture: the powerlessness of the victim, coupled with the lack of knowledge about the intentions of the perp.

If I had said "they should all stick their heads in the toilet," there would have been no issue of torture or violent rhetoric. Their doing so would have been an acknowledgement of their own lack of worth, and while humiliation can be torture, considered self-humiliation cannot be (however unpleasant it may be for me the person doing it).

I needed to think this out, split the issues of 1. Was I advocating it and 2. Is it torture, and write about it calmly to work out the above. I was pretty upset at first because I'm firmly against torture of any kind, and being accused of advocating it flipped me sideways.

As for other instances of violent rhetoric, I'm going to try to be more mindful of that in the future. I may use <vent> and </vent> tags more, I'm not sure.

I did point out to heresiarch that a truly hostile reader could take "my friend, you have misspelled 'supersede'" as a threat of physical violence.* But though there are limits on the responsibility of the communicator for communication, the primary responsibility still rests on the communicator, not the communicatee. I communicated ineffectively, given what I actually thought and think; and was wrong-headed about the torture-nature of the old-fashioned swirlie as administered by lumpen jocks in, say, Kinawa Middle School in Okemos, MI in 1971. It's a very mild kind of torture (especially if done only once, and quickly), but torture it is.

I even understand heresiarch's reason for upbraiding me in the thread in the first place, much as I was angered by that at the time. It was I who suggested we bring the conclusion back to the thread; heresiarch agreed, but needed to go to bed by the time the discussion reached that point, so we agreed that I would do it. Thus, this.

*It isn't, even though I think people who misspell 'supersede' should be shot learn to spell it correctly.

#418 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 09:42 PM:

Thanks to both of you, Xopher, for thinking it through -- and thanks for putting it out there for the rest of us.

#419 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 10:50 PM:

#85 Greg

The argument for policing thoughts seems to hinge on the unproven assertion that every thought I have will always leak through into some action or another such that it is visible to the people around me.

There's thought-chain versus thought, however. Looking at someone and getting lust in one's heart, is not the same thing as then deliberately engaging or not making any attempt to try to avoid engaging in sex fantasy daydreams about the person.

The "plastic smile" being one example of how thoughts always come through in action and therefore the thought must be eradicated.

There's been some recent research that indicates that people who have to plaster a smile on their face for the sake of the customers, when the service-workers are not happy, get very stressed out....

Except I have all sorts of thoughts when I'm alone in my office. The counter argument to that is that once I am in physical proximity to anyone I had thoughts about, the thoughts will leak through into some physical sign, and therefore the thought alone in my office ought be suppressed.

Pheremones do.... stock stuff, for that matter, in science fiction romance, where, for that matter, the leads usually are trying to repress their lusting after one another....

And while I tend to agree with Paula that using thoughts to justify sexist actions is "sociobiology horseshit", I think the assertions that impure thoughts leads to impure actions and therefore all impure thoughts must be suppressed,

I never wrote "all." My point was that it's one thing to find someone appealing, it's quite another to engage in lurid fantasies or at the extreme delusional daydreams about the person as opposed to attempting to hold down the imaginings and fantasties.... consenting adult scenes and play are one thing, making someone else into a sex -object- is quite another.

is, similarly based on unproven sociobiology.

What about the situations of interviews with rapists where the rapists' rationalizations include, "it was her fault that I raped her because she was in her apartment because where was there when I broke into it to steal" (yes, a convicted rapist actually said words to those effects, to a reporter for the recorder, which interview was taped and broadcast as part of IIRC a PBS show I was in the 1979-1981 time frame) or "I was angry at my girlfriend, I left [the apartment" and went out and raped the first woman I saw" [sounded to me like a transferrence--he wasn't going to take out his mad-on on his girlfriend, instead he took out his mad-on on an _anonymous_ woman who represented Female, but wasn't his girlfriend who wasn;t to be assaulted... but it was perfectly reasonable to him to assault some OTHER woman who was a stranger...) [from the same TV show].

I don't expect neutered/angelic behavior, I do wish there were responsibility and respect.... there's lots of porn out there, and much of it even the porn talent were consenting adults being paid for sex trade activities for distribution to porn consumers [note, I am using "porn" non-perjoratively here, as term and not as judgment/condemnation]. If someone wants to play sex fantasy stuff, there's lots of it available for downloading and in video and bookstores....

when going from thought to action, that is communication. If you have a thought and don't communicate it, you can call that self censorship or self control or self editing or whatever.

Huh?

#420 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 10:52 PM:

This is just a comment that might fit either here or in the Open Thread: Why is so much of the best political coverage disguised as humor? I watched the Onion video in the links, and it brought this question to mind. At different times, Jon Stewart, Bill Maher, Steven Colbert, and The Onion have all managed to make really cutting, good, and very funny political comments.

My theory is that a great many people, all across the political spectrum, have learned the tactic of crying foul and shreiking in protest to almost any discussion of some issues they don't like. You can see this regularly in the current presidential campaign, where the important story each day is almost always about who apologized for what gaffe / impolitic comment / inconvenient outburst of honesty. One result is that commedians can make pithy brief comments on stuff that "serious" pundits must hedge all around with disclaimers.

#421 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 11:08 PM:

Xopher's summary of our discussion is an accurate depiction of my views--thanks for doing the heavy lifting, Xopher!

#422 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 11:17 PM:

#399 Terry

We all the polite and the impolitic, lost our vowels.

What, nobody owed anything in the thread anymore, or you were all obligated to Teresa?! (using the Regency England definition of the term "vowels.")
=======

Some of this thread is reminding me of a thread many months ago, in which it got pointed out that "freedom of speech" does not include the right to force someone else to be an audience... the particular thread included discussion BDSM activity and the insistence of some participants in such activities that there be a more or less public audience, as opposed to scenes conducted in rooms where all those present are adults consenting to being present as involved as at minimum the audience.

The question of "appropriate conduct" applies--what's reasonable "signal" and what's "noise." "The freedome of speech" clause doesn't say anything about amplitude, or "jamming" in which Persons A, B, C, and are so loud, or engaged in activities so loud, that no one else can hear any other conversation, or in more extreme cases, the sound levels, quite literally, are deafening.... Or, for that matter, when the situation is one of verbal harassment....

#423 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 11:32 PM:

#404 Josh

Boston Common is a common space, and once a year cows graze there, as part of keeping Boston Common a public area.... outside of New England with its town and city greens and commons, the most typical name is "public parkland"

Which is an unlikely example, I know, but that is the starting point. That's the blank slate. The laws and customs that exist, that have been applied to that meadow on the island as it became a village and then a city and then a nation, weren't there at the first encounter, and it's safe to say that the shape of the laws and customs that have been established in different places in the world vary wildly. There's nothing baked-in to the default space.

Boston Common got defined very early on, as common public land for e.g. grazing cattle, and remains so to this very day! It wasn't there as common grazing ground first and then a locality growing up around it, it got defined because ther were settlers, and the settlers specified that area specifically as common ground, for the settlement.

#424 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 11:46 PM:

#410 Michael

This goes a long way towards convincing me of the validity of subconscious activation of concepts -- and I am 90% sure at this point that this subconscious activation is what causes a discussion to turn into a flamewar. When the subconscious activations start overwhelming conscious understanding, you're no longer saying what you think you're saying.

The concept of subconscius activiation of concept is behind my objections to e.g. mentally removing other people's clothing sorts of things.... because there are thought-chain concepts and self-validations involved that create feedback and resonances that are reinforcing of "these are perfectable reasonable and defensible and approprite attitudes and views..." which then constitute bases for taking action, based on established thought patterns of "appropriate."

I'm just shaking my head in awe at the conceptual ecology here. It's every bit as fascinating as a good hike in the jungle.

The Fluorosphere, however, is devoid of not only real life poisonous snakes, real life biting arachnids (poisonous or otherwise) real life biting insects, real life poisonous lizard and amphibians, but most of the virtual nasties, too!

#425 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: July 04, 2008, 11:51 PM:

Paula #419:

I think I see the distinction you're making, and it's the distinction I think of when I read the Christian teaching quoted above (basically where Jesus says that to even lust in your heart is wrong). There's a point where you have a choice about whether to let yourself fantasize about sleeping with someone, or telling them off, or beating them up, or whatever. It's important to recognize that your choice can have consequences in how you interact with that person later, and you probably want to think about how to minimize the negative consequences. (Among other things, if you create a romantic/sexual fantasy about some person, even if things develop in that direction later, that person isn't going to follow your fantasy lines at all--they're going to be who they are, which is beyond your ability to simulate.)

At the same time, I'm not sure cherry-picked interviews with criminals on TV are going to give us great insight into this, since most of us are never going to rape anyone, no matter how many fantasies about them we entertain. And I'm sure there's no inherent right to demand that nobody anywhere fantasize about you, since stuff that happens in your head is entirely your business. But it's definitely worth noting that this might change the way you interact with the person you're fantasizing about, and that the point where your fantasies start affecting the interaction is the point where you start potentially harming someone else with your actions.

#426 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 12:18 AM:

Josh Millard @ 397: "But in any setting where there is an existing set of boundaries, of comfort zones and mutual understanding of what generally is and is not permissible, some communication -- some "somethings" that could be communicated -- will fall by the wayside as a result."

While I agree that that's often true, I feel like you’re saying that all conversational trade-offs, permitting speech X in favor of speech Y, are equal. I do not hold with that: some kinds of speech are, I am as sure of as gravity,* better than others. Making witty puns is more worthy than shouting out racial slurs. I am so sure of this that I have no compunction demanding that all spaces which call themselves public disallow that latter sort of commentary.

Certainly there’s a vast grey area where different people will value different things and make different trade-offs about them. Nonetheless, there are some truly black areas that all communities are enriched by excluding. You will never convince me that any community is well-served by allowing people to issue threats against each other. To return to the source, misogyny one of those black things that is far more often permitted in "sites for everyone" than racial slurs or death threats. And when people point that out, well, this is the conversation that results.

*Meaning, mostly sure.

@ 398: "But I do not believe that the value of an uncivil (or maybe I should say "acivil"?) unmoderated public space is nil. I think it's important, for a number of reasons, that we absolutely preserve the ideal (and whenever possible the implementation) of a space where no speech -- even the ugliest, most morally reprehensible speech -- is forbidden."

I’m divided as to whether that’s entirely wrong, so I’ll limit myself to this: whether or not such a place should exist, it certainly shouldn’t be the default. It’s like when language hat said "Fortunately, those who feel uncomfortable in unprotected enviroments can create protected ones, and I'm all for that.…But the public space must be free." Well, no. The public space must be accessible to the public, including the large proportion of it who don’t want to be treated like dirt for holding the wrong opinion or having the wrong genitalia. For this to happen, the default needs to be some level of moderation.

Completely moderated free speech is conversational anarchy. People like the idea of it for the same reasons they like anarchy (I can do what I want! People won’t tell me what to do anymore!), but in practice, it suffers from the same problems as anarchy. Anarchy isn’t a stable isotope: it decays, usually quite quickly, into a form of organization. The type of organization that usually appears is the simplest, most basic form of organization: rule by the strongest. In free speech’s case, it becomes rule by the most willing and able to argue by whatever means possible, i.e. trolls. (This is why a lot of people tend to associate arguments for absolute free speech with trolls, even when the argument isn’t coming from a troll.) Granted, moderation, like government, is far from perfect. But it’s a step up from what it replaces. Returning to the tabula rasa doesn’t get rid of the problems caused by moderation or trolls; all it does is start the cycle over again. The best you can do is try to invent better kinds of moderation.

@ 404: "Which is an unlikely example, I know, but that is the starting point. That's the blank slate. The laws and customs that exist, that have been applied to that meadow on the island as it became a village and then a city and then a nation, weren't there at the first encounter, and it's safe to say that the shape of the laws and customs that have been established in different places in the world vary wildly. There's nothing baked-in to the default space."

I’d argue that any communication between those two survivors is VERY dependent on them both coming to the conclusion that the other isn’t going to kill them, or otherwise act violently towards them. Without that assurance, nothing else will be possible. There are some strictures which are absolutely essential to communication—not a lot, but there are a few. And those few rules, usually relating to violence and who can use it, actually are universal to all human cultures. There’s nowhere you can go where there aren’t any rules about who can kill whom.

Conversation works the same way. Communities where verbal violence is entirely unregulated are usually rapidly depopulated, or some big dog shows up and starts saying, you can pick on anyone but me and mine, or this is okay, but that isn’t—a linguistic feudalism, like Leah Miller describes in 104. It’s not baked into the default space, but it’s an inescapable emergent property of the human interaction.

#427 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 12:39 AM:

albatross @ 420 - Pigboy Limbaugh also calls himself an "entertainer", and arguably is. I think the disconnect is that politics is really not distinct from entertainment, but our culture maintains that it is. I'm sure somebody could -- probably has -- written more than one doctoral thesis on that.

language hat @ 416 - what, this one here that says "failure notice"? Sure did!

#428 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 04:04 AM:

Xopher & heresiarch,

Thanks for working that through, and for the thoughtful post of the results. Knowing you both to the degree that I do, I am impressed but not surprised.

#429 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 04:28 AM:

albatross #420: Any medium of expression that's considered less than reputable by the elite is going to be less closely policed and therefore more able to speak truth. It's why SF and horror have also been able to make pretty cutting commentary. Not to mention pretty much every form of Black music throughout American history, or teen TV, say. It's the court jester thing.

#430 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 07:09 AM:

I woke up from nightmares, and while chatting with friends to regain my footing, I was reminded of an exchange on a local BBS back in my FidoNet days. I'm paraphrasing, but I think I've got the gist of it.

On one side was a guy arguing vociferously against any moderation of a particular forum (and using sock puppets to help his case). His argument was basically a social Darwinist one, that anyone who could survive and flourish in such an environment deserved to, and the free-for-all was most likely to lead to real insight into any issue that came under discussion.

The best response came from one of the older BBBers, whose response was about like this: "On the one hand, you're the king of the free-for-all. But on the other, even the slightest touch of moderation ruins it all, destroys everything for you, and forces you into humiliating surrender. Aren't you the precious little flower?"

#431 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 10:27 AM:

Ethan @ 429 said what I intended to say @427. And with comedy, it's even more so than just with "less reputable" media -- with comedy, you can always say, if challenged, "Oh, I was only joking." Jokes even survived Nazi Germany, and the German-in-the-street could be incredibly cutting in their commentary on the Nazi system -- as long as nobody actually said it directly.

#432 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 11:11 AM:

Michael #431: Right! Hence John Stewart's insistence on describing the Daily Show as "fake news", despite their being pretty much the best mainstream source of real news.

#433 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 12:24 PM:

Paula@419: it's one thing to find someone appealing, it's quite another to engage in lurid fantasies

Maybe there's a better fallacy to describe that statement, but the one that comes to mind is fallacy of the "undistributed middle". According to one definition, it's when "you attempt to argue that things are in some way similar, but you don't actually specify in what way they are similar."

Except, in this case, you're arguing that they're different and don't specify any objective way to distinguish how they are different.

The statement is packed with an implied danger that if lurid fantasies happen, then something bad will happen but that something isn't specifically called out. This has two advantages for you. First, it allows people to imagine whatever their worst fear is. Second, since you don't specifically state the damge and since people don't explicitely state their worst case imagined fear, none of them can be pointed to and shown to be false.

The entire problem I have with this Clean Thoughts approach is that its based not on what Bob does, but on what Alice fears. And this statement is an example of that.

How are these two thoughts different based on what Bob does instead of based on what Alice fears?

to engage in lurid fantasies or at the extreme delusional daydreams

You just did a slippery slope argument from lurid (but sane) fantasies to delusional (insane) daydreams.

Delusional people DO delusional actions, and they can be dealt with objectively based on what they did.

You list sane fantasies and delusional fantasies as being within the same category, different extremes of the same thing. And you haven't provided any objective basis for that. This is another version of the unproven premise that all thoughts must leak through into action.

#434 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 01:37 PM:

I think your public appearance is public property.
I think your public behavior is public property, as is your public persona.

I think anything anyone wants to think about either is entirely up to them. If they behave badly as a result, that's their problem. If they behave badly as a result of a lurid fantasy, it's no different than if they behave badly without a lurid fantasy.

Also, if people do behave themselves, whether they have the lurid fantasy or not is no one's business but theirs. It may squick you to think that they are having them, but a) if they behave properly you'll never know (either way), and b) it's really none of your business even if the fantasies are about you.

You may not like the thought of someone you find unappealing having fantasies about you, even masturbating to those fantasies, but too bad. You do not have any right to impose any kind of control, moral or ethical, over someone's thoughts.* If you want thought control, start by controlling you own thoughts: stop thinking that people may be fantasizing about you, or ever thinking they might.

That's definitely no harder than stopping sexual fantasies, and much better ethically, because you're solving YOUR problem with YOUR action, instead of trying to impose controls on someone else's real or imagined thoughts about you, which you have absolutely no right to do.

*I'm consciously denouncing the idea of "impure thoughts" as sinful here, not least because it's so often used to keep people in a perpetual state of guilt as a means of social control. Guilt is a kind of suffering; deliberately imposing suffering on someone who is in your power is, as we've discussed at length above, torture. (Please note that while the power of, say, the Roman Catholic Church is limited, and its victims usually have an opportunity to escape from it, you don't have a choice unless you know you have it.)

#435 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 05:20 PM:

I think your public appearance is public property.
I think your public behavior is public property, as is your public persona.

I'm really not comfortable with that phrasing. Obviously the public will make of my appearance and my behavior and my persona what they will - they're all out there in the public space - but nothing about me is anybody's property.

Perhaps a Creative Commons model would be appropriate?

#436 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 07:48 PM:

I'll take that as a friendly amendment, julia.

#437 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 05, 2008, 08:08 PM:

My point was this: you don't have any right to dictate what others may think—about anything, really, but certainly about your public appearance, behavior, or persona.

#438 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 02:42 AM:

In Seeker's Mask, the protagonist Jame(Jamethiel) comes across a lifesize doll of herself in Lord Caineron's quarters, made so that Lord Caineron could eviserate the doll pulling out the doll's liver and lights.... He feared and hated her because when Jame had been an unwilling guest of Lord Caineron, she had not only gotten away from his custody, but left him in a particular state of "not quite being in touch with things" that played into a major phobia of his. Plus, she had frustrated his plans for what had intended to use her for, and, hmm, that person in the Oval Office and Lord Caineron seem to have a lot of things in common, including not being the brightest bulbs in the universe, being vindictive and vicious, wanting to play warleader, etc.

But anyway, getting back more directly to the point--I object to being treated as a public appliance sex object/toy. Someone fantasizing about me because they feel like it, is in effect treating me like a sex appliance/toy. Who gave them permission to consider that other people are their playtoys to do that to?

My experiences include that various total strangers in social settings whom I danced with, started breathing down my neck with NO encouragement from me whatsoever except apparently that since I was there and THEY were interested, they were assuming (or even accusing me...) that I had the hots for them or was "leading them on." They were putting their damned FANTASIES as transferrence in the DELUSION of perceiving that because THEY apparently were fantasizing about me, that it was MY [non-existent or limited or ambivalent....]interest that resonating with them and getting them all hot and bothered and excited--when again, it was almost all purely their imaginations....

YUCK, especially since that was back in the days when "No" got taken as "You're just playing hard to get, you don't really mean 'No!'" if the person the "No" was said to wasn't interested in hearing "No." [as opposed to the cases of people making passes to impress their buddies or because they were in a group which decided who was going to make a pass and it was them that the group-think picked out as the person who was going to make a pass [not my fault if there are people who are reading this who think that I'll telling tall tales, misunderstood the situations, or otherwise am incorrectly comprehending or relating this.... it was pack behavior, and going beyond that gets into TMI territory -very- quickly]]--the passmakers in those situations tended to not be "serious" and didn't even necessarily want to be making a pass, didn't want a positive response.... or worse (e.g., --someone who was giving himself a fidelity test....(I indicated that this stuff hits TMI rapidly!))... but pushed hard making the passes because of the social pressure to pursue the situation. All the while, of course, those making "social passes" generally, again, were expecting/requiring a "no" response, which would get them socially acceptably out of the situation "honorably" -- they would have made the pass demanded by their buddies or ritually expected otherwise as proving their masculinity or whatever, and the rejection was supposed to come from the person the pass was being made at.... of course, from the other side, it was impossible to tell if someone making a pass were doing it purely for show, purely out of peer pressure, out of a real interest the person was aware out, out of mixed bases, or out of too much alcohol and having in the inhibitions lowered--case a, someone who if sober wouldn't have because it wouldn't look good/the person was in a relationship/the erson disliked me * /etc, or case b) the person was scared/apprehensive/intimidated/hesitant/whatever and that one time the booze overcomes the shyness/self-doubt/apprehension.

Then there was the reality that the less the person feels they have invested in the situation/to lose, the more they push--the pushiest types who hit on me were married. Yes, -really-. The genuinely single types who weren't involved in relationships, were usually apprehensive about getting involved because of peer-pressure fear of anything that might involve a commitment, were apprehensive about being turned down (if it weren't buddy pressure), etc. etc. etc., and would often dither. The married sorts had little such internal unease, they had Big Mama at home for emotional stability etc.

The mix of motivations sorts could get really annoying, particularly with people who were lying to themselves even more than they were lying to anyone else about their motivations. Then there were the cases of e.g. the colonel who was hot after my ass provided none of his subordinates were around to notice, in which case I didn't exist, but as soon as they were out of that part of the bar at Peterson Air Force Base, he was back chasing me--he was the fellow who had the temerity, when I ignored him on one occasion because I was sitting at a round table with several other people talking to them, literally dragged the chair I was sitting on off with me in it to get my attention.... (the chairs were on rollers).

That's some of the sort of crap I got to deal with back in my twenties, starting before my 22nd birthday even, soaking wet behind the ears and not well socialized to start with, getting hit on from all directions........bbbbbbbbbllllllllleeeeeeeeechhhhhhhh. Oh, and bored out of my mind for the most part, in Colorado Springs as it was at the time. I had a better technical library from the texts I had from college than University of Colorado at Colorado Springs had at the time. The Air Force Academy was north of Colorado Springs, and a couple of the instructors there quite literally had been classmates of mine (from a grad-level math class) but the Blue Zoo and Cheyenne Mountain/Peterson Air Force Base/Ent Air Force Base [which was going out of existence]/the Childlaw Building [NORAD/ADCOM Headquarters) were mostly two separate universes for very different purposes... the "Zoomies" -- Air Force Academy cadets--were kept locked up there most of the time, and their attitudes towards education drove some of the people I knew who taught there nuts... "You don't want to be a pilot, you want to be a truck driver!" one frustrated instructor told me he said in class to a cadet who said he didn't see what there was any need for his to study and know any physics of flight, to fly airplanes....

Getting back to considerations regarding other people's thought, however.... my life was made quite miserable by "transferrence" of other people imputing things and values and actions and interests to me, from out of their imaginings and interests, and being concerned with their own pleasures/convenience/etc. and regarding me as -appliance- or -convenience- as regards e.g. that colonel whose attitude was that I should be receptive and attending to him etc. when his squadron wasn't around, and shouldn't exist if he squadron was around.

That was one of the more extreme cases, but it certainly wasn't the only one. I got some of the same treatment some years later in LA from e.g. a wealthy former entrepeneur who was working for The Aerospace Corporation who was blowing hot and cold at me who regarded it as improper the idea that he working for a federal contractor should be openly involved with an Air Force captain, but that a surreptiously liaison and chasing me around at conferences would be perfectly reason..... snarl

[I am not saying that everyone I ran into anywhere acted like a skirt-chasing jerk of one form or another.... there was a one person who a couple decades ago I kept wondering if the person were interested in me or not, for nearly the entirety of a Boskone.... Then there was the fellow up at Thule in the Blue Nose Club who was imbibing of liquid courage trying to get his courage up to ask me to dance, he finally had had enough reinforcement from the liquid courage, stood up, and then quite literally slid under the table, his tolerance for alcohol exceeded as regards being able to stand up straight. That was pretty innocuous, though embarrassing to the fellow it happened to, assuming he remembered that it happened!].

But anyway, the level of crap I got hit with over the years, some -respect- would have been nice, starting with it would have been nice if there had been enough INTERNAL respect for other people taught, to regard other people has being -due- some respect and not being treated as external appliances!

That's my point, that I DID get treated as if I were appliance/convenience, that there were people who didn't even have the couth to consider what my schedule was before calling me at a time convenient to them (if they even bothered to call....), who were so lacking in couth as to pretend I didn't exist when it wasn't convenient for them.... I wasn't getting respect, I was getting hit on by people trying to -use- me....

I don't know what their fantasies were. But the idea, after all that crap, that it's perfectly reasonable in the minds of other people, to IMAGINE that people should be mentally through of as sex toys... pisses me off. I know what it feels like to be a Disposable Darling, and to me, I really don't in retrospect see all much difference between mentally treating something that way, and the treatment I got.... it's all disrespectful.

#439 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 02:46 AM:

I know what it feels like to be a Disposable Darling,

should be
I know what it feels like to be treated like a Disposable Darling

[miserable keyboard and WIMP-GUIs.... finger slides and words get dropped...]

#440 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 03:47 AM:

Paula, you're still not getting it. Every time you talk about this, you persist in conflating THOUGHTS and ACTIONS, and you appear to be making the assumption that nobody is capable of distinguishing between the two. Until you get that straightened out, you will continue to be arguing a point that no one else is trying to refute -- that it's rude to behave toward someone else in that fashion, no matter the cause. But so far, every example you have brought up involves ACTIONS.

The point of disagreement is that there is nothing wrong with thinking things that one has no intention of doing. The number of times I've wished for some way to punch a slow leak in the tire of some asshole in a Monument to Testosterone pickup truck doesn't bear contemplation. That doesn't mean I'd do it even if such a power were granted to me.

#441 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 10:46 AM:

Paula 438: Shorter Paula: Thought is the same as behavior. I've been mistreated by men who wanted a sex toy. Therefore thought is the same as behavior.

Someone fantasizing about me because they feel like it, is in effect treating me like a sex appliance/toy. Who gave them permission to consider that other people are their playtoys to do that to?

No, it's not the same "in effect." That's just bullshit, and obvious bullshit at that. If they fantasize about you and never act on it, even to letting it show so that you see it or ever hear about it, it has NO effect on you. People have explained this over and over, and you haven't addressed their objections, but just repeated over and over that you think it's the same, and brought in your ENTIRELY IRRELEVANT experiences (irrelevant because they all involve how people have TREATED you, which all agree (if it happened as you describe) was inappropriate), as you have for the bulk of this lengthy rant.

But the idea, after all that crap, that it's perfectly reasonable in the minds of other people to IMAGINE that people should be mentally thought of as sex toys...pisses me off. I know what it feels like to be [treated like] a Disposable Darling, and to me, I really don't in retrospect see all much difference between mentally treating something that way, and the treatment I got...it's all disrespectful.

(corrections made; one Paula's, rest correcting punctuation and spelling to bring it in line with Paula's clear intent) Well, one difference is that some nice guys probably never asked you out because of all the other guys hitting on you, and their deep distaste for being mistaken for one of them. There is no way, in such an environment, for a man to approach a woman who has been thus treated in a serious respectful way; you'd mistake him for another scumbag.

But the nice guys were fantasizing too (assuming they existed). Some of them may have been fantasizing about arriving at your door with roses, but they were also fantasizing about you in a more sexual way. The NICE GUYS.

I don't know about women, but we men fantasize about everything we'd like to do. That includes being a rock star, being "the greatest poet...I don't think they MAKE poets as great as I want to be," playing NBA basketball, etc. Sometimes it's grandiose dreams like these; sometimes it's just plain planning. In Revenge of the Nerds, a woman asks one of the nerds why sex with him was so much better than with her boyfriend. He replies "because all jocks think about is sports. All nerds think about is sex." Paula, any guy who didn't fantasize about making love to you would be a LOUSY LAY. And any guy you've enjoyed sex with will either admit he fantasized about you beforehand, or lie.

In my experience, guys who don't fantasize about other people sexually are self-centered, and treat sex as masturbation with a really great sex toy. They don't think about it, they "just do it." Thinking about other people sexually would be thinking about other people, you see, and NPD precludes that.

If you don't like people who fantasize about other people, you don't like men. Period. (Well, some men are pretty much thought-free and act on pure instinct, but I daresay you'd like them even less.)

____ 439: [miserable keyboard and WIMP-GUIs.... finger slides and words get dropped...]

Prufereedin. Srsly. Ur doin it rong.

Seriously, Paula, if you'd read what you wrote before posting it, you'd catch many of these errors. You've said in the past that you just rant and post, because it upsets you to read about something all over again after being upset by writing it. Look at the paragraph I corrected above. I didn't correct, for example,

the idea...that it's perfectly reasonable in the minds of other people to IMAGINE that people should be mentally thought of as sex toys...
to
the idea...that it's perfectly reasonable that people should be thought of as sex toys...
...which would have meant the same thing in many fewer words, been easier to read, and come across as a much more reasonable sentiment; I didn't want to rewrite you as such, but you might have found that too and cleaned it up.

You either are incapable of writing more coherently or don't have enough respect for us to try. And if you're not willing to read what you've written before you post it, why should we be willing to read it after? Add to that the fact that you plainly either a) don't read posts by those who disagree with what you've said or b) dismiss any ideas that disagree with yours out of hand, and you start looking positively antisocial. I'm not saying that your lack of willingness to listen is equivalent to the scumbag men not listening to you telling them to back off, but they are related behaviors.

440 Lee: Hear, hear. If Paula listens to you, it will be the first time in this conversation. I hope she does, but the hope is increasingly forlorn, as people say more or less the same thing over and over and she consistently ignores them.

#442 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 10:54 AM:

Paula, what Lee said.

#443 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 11:08 AM:

440 Lee: Hear, hear. If Paula listens to you, it will be the first time in this conversation. I hope she does, but the hope is increasingly forlorn, as people say more or less the same thing over and over and she consistently ignores them.

I'm seriously starting to wonder what's happened in the last few months to make Paula suddenly turn semi-rabid. Someone actually asked over on some other thread (I think it was one about Clinton's campaign), but was totally ignored.

#444 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 11:16 AM:

Carrie 443: I don't know either. I persist in attempting to use reason (along with a sort of clue-by-four). Not sure why.

#445 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 11:50 AM:

Lee @ 440: Precisely.

#446 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 12:28 PM:

What Xopher said @ 441, except I wouldn't have used the word irrelevant. What Paula has been writing is meaningful and it is relevant, but to a somewhat different topic than the one the rest of us have been discussing.

#447 ::: Madeline F ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:44 PM:

Nonsense, guys, it's not "semi-rabid". Paula's got a perfectly legitimate beef that arose from her life experiences, carefully considered. She has come to different conclusions than most here, but her conclusions are not beyond comprehension: the whole Jesus subthread about bad thoughts helping a person convince themselves to do bad actions points out that the leading philosopher of Western history had the same idea.

So no one's changing anyone's mind today; so she rambles and argues the same thing for paragraphs and paragraphs: is she the only one at ML who has ever done that? It's not an excuse to start calling her "unreasonable".

#448 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:44 PM:

There's been a lot of thinky going on since I last posted here, but I think I'm mostly caught up.

Those of you who are coming down hard on Paula for conflating thought and action are IMHO skipping over the reality of what she describes, e.g. in #438.

First, the situations Paula describes strike me as *extremely* plausible -- she's not talking about a fringe experience, but about something that's part of the daily context of many women's lives.

Second, I've done a lot of talking to people about male/male slash in the past 10 years or so. Generally speaking, when men learn that there are women out there fantasizing about two male characters they (the men) care about getting it on, they are *creeped the fuck out*. Implying that it doesn't bother you when people fantasize about you is IMHO implausible -- most people, including most men, *are* bothered to learn that someone is fantasizing about them doing something they don't want to do. That's the basis of the "gay panic" defense, after all.

Xopher @441:
If you don't like people who fantasize about other people, you don't like men. Period.

Xopher, do you even notice that you're implying that women don't fantasize, or that there's something fundamentally male about sexual fantasy? Are you aware that part of the traditional Victorian model of sexuality was "nice girls don't even think about such things", and that this model is still used by many people?

Third and more important: I think Paula isn't saying that thought is exactly the same thing as action, but that *habits* of thought tend to lead to actions. When men persistently think of women only as things -- when men talk to each other about women only as things -- when the stories they watch and tell treat women only as things -- they will tend to treat women as things. How could it be otherwise?

"Love may be strong, but a habit is stronger".

And this is why it's relevant to this discussion, Allan @446. Many of the largest and most "public" venues on the Internet are part of the Jerkosphere, and the habits of thought and expression formed there tend to become, well, habitual. You can't be pretend to be a jerk on the Internet without, sooner or later, becoming a complete jerk.

The question I have is, is it possible to have a site devoted to "free speech" in the languagehat sense that *doesn't* slide into the Jerkosphere? How? Bearing in mind that my definition of "free speech" is that of Bruce Baugh -- "the goal is to maximize actual diversity of voices and scope of participation" -- and I don't claim to understand what languagehat's definition is, in contrast.

#449 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:52 PM:

Xopher @441:

You should be aware that using the term "nice guy" unironically is often a sign that you are actually a Nice Guy™. The capslock makes it more so.

#450 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 01:53 PM:

Bearing in mind that my definition of "free speech" is that of Bruce Baugh -- "the goal is to maximize actual diversity of voices and scope of participation"

I would suggest that what you say you want, here, and what you actually get are not the same thing.

Do you think ML maximizes actual diversity of voices and scope of participation as compared to other slightly less moderated sites? I would say clearly no. Don't get me wrong; ML is a wonderful place. But maximizing scope of participation is not one of the virtues I would ascribe to it.

#451 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 02:32 PM:

#441 Xopher

But the nice guys were fantasizing too (assuming they existed). Some of them may have been fantasizing about arriving at your door with roses, but they were also fantasizing about you in a more sexual way. The NICE GUYS.

Then they were too busy living in their fantasy world to bother approaching me and getting to know me as a person and inviting/getting me to know and appreciate them as a person worth being involved with.... There were nice guys, one of them I noticed too late, a few other people (older and married and not Players) tried to point him out to me, but by the time it penetrated my head, he was well and truly hooked by someone else who was vivacious and much more socially clueful and alert than I. (Recall I was a straight out of MIT 21 year old nerd lacking in social graces even more then than now.)

I don't know about women, but we men fantasize about everything we'd like to do. That includes being a rock star, being "the greatest poet...I don't think they MAKE poets as great as I want to be," playing NBA basketball, etc.

There are qualitative and quantitative differences between imaging oneself an NBA star, or an astronaut, or....

"In my own little corner
"In my own little room
"I can be whatever I want to be....
"I'm a young Norweigan princess...
"I'm the greatest prima donna in Milan...."
(from some musical or other)

and detailed imaginings of stripping individually identified people naked for salacious intent and imagining them engaging with oneself in detailed sex scenes.

Generally imagining oneself as NBA star, scientist, astronaut, artist, out sailing, etc., the difference is that those tend to not involve specific individuals in personally intimate acts that if not done consentingly, are likely to get one charged with e.g. rape.

============================

I keep saying it's rude, I haven't said that it's a capital crime.

=================================

It's got the resonance of consensual sex versus rape--with consensul sex there is the consent, with rape there is a generally a lack of consent unless it's statutory rape, and rape tends to effectively be a form of assault and forced domination.

That is, there are power and dominance and control aspects involved. "Think of me when I'm not with you" sorts of lines can be code for, "go ahead and have sexually explicit fantasies with me in them." Sex trade workers in visual porn and Internet exhibitionists de facto have granted permission for viewers to engage in salacious fantasies about them, with the real life images available on display.

But getting back to the whole power/dominance set of issues--the whole field of copyright control of images and words and expression, involved control issues. What other people think of someone, involves power and control issues, and respect/lack of respect issues, too.

Imagining something about someone involves power and control issues, and often trying to figure out ways to implement getting what one wants. There are all those "Now how would I go about doing things?" uses of imagination. There is, "Now if I were the one in the boat with the hole it in and the weather getting bad, what would I do?" imagining scenes.

One of the ways that people learn things, is by thought experiments/imagining situtions and working things out with different scenarios--it's one of the ways of playing "what if?" "What if I plant an apple tree, how large will it get, will it get enough sun there, what do I have to do to prevent it from being chewed to death by rabbits/mice/deer, am I going to have to get chemicals and a sprayer to have non-wormy fruit...?"

The apple tree isn't a living breathing person with feelings and opinions and hopes and needs and interests of their own. Still, consider the Book of Jonah in the Bible. Jonah's ticked about disaster not having struck Nineveh, even though the residents, having heard Jonah's preaching, have repented of whatever evil it was that they were doing. Then the scene occurs with a vine springing up and growing and then dying. Jonah feels sorry for the vine and regretful at its demise. It gets explained to Jonah that if he feels sorry for the vine, then what about a large city full of sentient people who feel and think, why should they all have to be wiped out?

The relevance is the people have feelings and thought. Jonah wanted them wiped out, perhaps due to a mix of his feelings and perceptions--he hadn't wanted to go to Nineveh in the first place, and didn't want to preach at them that unless they repented their city was going to be destroyed. He wound up there anyway, after a harrowing voyage on ship trying to run away from going to Nineveh with the ship threatening to come apart in a storm, after persuading his shipmates to cast him overboard and then instead of being eaten by sharks, being swallowed up and brought safely to land. He then, as noted above, preached his message in Nineveh. Lo and behold, the residents repented.... and Jonah was ticked, because doom then did not come to Nineveh.

People can be fickle, Jonah wasn't relieved at the doom not hitting, he was annoyed! He wasn't looking at the populace as living thinking beings with hopes and fears and foolishnesses who though they might make errors, were also worthy of consideration and respect and who were capable of changing and improving themselves--he was seeing them as objects, who were supposed to be destroyed, and then didn't get destroyed.

I, again, consider it rude to feature people who aren't consenting adults in one's salacious imaginings because that ignores their feelings and hopes and values and interests, and puts them into the light of inanimate sex-object furniture. One arranges the furniture and does things to the furniture without caring what the furniture feels about the matter (presumably the furniture doesn's have feelings). The furniture is object, and sex fantasies about people, reduce them to furniture and conveniences status.

It's the objectification I object to, the idea that it's appropriate to treat people as if their feelings and interests are irrelevant and nonexistent.

The anecdotes were about people who mostlly were treating me as an animate furniture object--the colonel and various others completely dispensed with any concern or interest in my feelings and hopes/dreams/goals, and were completely selfish as regards, they wanted my ass when they wanted it and me disappeared otherwise, my opinion and feelings about the situation mattered not at all were completely irrelevant to them. The bottom line involved disrespect and arrogance, and power issues, too.

Yes, I realize that thought !== action. However, in areas involving involving representation of values, respect/lack of respect, bigotry, etc., the stories that one tells oneself, really do influence how one sees, one acts, and how one treats others.

Is it really so much to ask that people try to restrict their sex fantasies to putting faces onto the bodies they imagine being hot and heavy with, to consenting adults or to faces from imagination and not real people who haven't consented?

#440 Lee

The point of disagreement is that there is nothing wrong with thinking things that one has no intention of doing.

That's not it. What I regard as the true rudeness of the situation of putting someone else in one's sex fantasies is failing to respect that other people have feelings and interests that are not necessarily congruent and sympathetic and rsponsive in a positive manner to one's own. It's the objectification of the person, in the sense of turning them into a mental sex appliance, and not someone deserving/worthy of, to go back to a response of mine to Xopher above, interacting with in real life as a live thining and feeling person (as opposed to a mental Disposal Darling or at one extreme axis, a delusional involvement. The extreme axis would be e.g. Bothari's imaginary involvement with Elena Bothari's mother, in which Bothari who was quite mentally ill, invented a detailed extensive fantasy of being involved in a love affair with Elena's mother, as opposed to the ugly reality of her being someone he was raping. Again, I point out that Bothari was effectively insane--but I'm pointing that situation out, as the extreme delusional case.)

The number of times I've wished for some way to punch a slow leak in the tire of some asshole in a Monument to Testosterone pickup truck doesn't bear contemplation.

There's a difference between a short term desire to punch a leak in someone's vehicle's tire, and elaborate sex fantasies involving a person who might be even a complete stranger. The latter involves mentally taking intimate liberties with a person versus the former being wanting to commit a minor property crime.

That doesn't mean I'd do it even if such a power were granted to me.

Presumably there were some stimulus for wanting to commit the property crime, that is, the person did something annoying, be it being a discourteous driver, or saying something offensive. In the case of the sex fantasy, though, what offense would the person have committed eliciting the fantasy? "The person exists" is not to me a sufficient condition, as regards "deserving" to be featured in someone else's fantasy sex life.

============

Something else occurred to me--privacy, or lack thereof. There's to me removal of privacy for a person who's being featured in someone else's sex fantasies without there being permission for it.

=======

Editing technical notes--entering comments in Making Light, the preview section, has the previewed material above the box in which one can do editing. I have a ferocious case of ADHD, such that is really and truly is difficult for me to edit something in the box from something I noticed that's out of sight... there are lots of reasons why I typically have at least 30 windows open on a computer display on a machine I've been using for longer than a few minutes, one of them is that the windows keep me reminded of what I've been working on and where I am in them. It's quite literally a case of out of sight, out of mind. Editing Making Light entries, the entries have the italics showing in the preview but the codes for italics in the Comments box for editing. The comments box for editing is in a serif font which is larger than the non-serif font the comments show in preview in. I find serif text a lot easier to read and see typoes in, than non-serif text.

The comments editing box shows a lot less of the text than the previewed comments, meaning having to scroll around in the Comment editing box to find what I was intending to change what I was able to notice in the sans serif text, meaning that I can easily have forgotten what it was that I wanted to edit, before I can ddid type "ADHD" above!)

And then there are the cases of the slipping fingers....

#452 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 02:34 PM:

You should be aware that using the term "nice guy" unironically is often a sign that you are actually a Nice Guy™. The capslock makes it more so.

Do you actually, um, know Xopher at all?

For one thing, he's gay, so being a Nice Guy is not so much of a concern, at least in regards to women; I haven't a clue if there's a similar phenomenon among gay men.

#453 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 03:02 PM:

Doctor Science @ 448 - The question I have is, is it possible to have a site devoted to "free speech" in the languagehat sense that *doesn't* slide into the Jerkosphere?

Having engaged (both negatively and positively) with language hat, I think I'm only now starting to think through this question. My qualified answer is "yes", it is possible, for certain values of "Jerkosphere". I don't (now) consider Metafilter part of the Jerkosphere, because I've read into some of their comment threads, and they are quite effectively self-policing. They phrase things more strongly than most people here, but that's a style question.

The Jerkosphere, to me, entails conversational vandalism. There's intentional vandalism (the original trolls), and unintentional vandalism (people who just like shooting off their mouths.) I'd argue, even now, that language hat can verge into unintentional vandalism, but so can I. I'm not sure I can consider that the Jerkosphere.

BoingBoing hatred, to me, that's jerkospheric. I've seen jerkospherical behavior at Fark, and reasonable behavior at Fark. I don't venture much elsewhere, because I don't have the time, honestly.

I believe that what language hat is worried about are people saying things like, "You shouldn't phrase things in that way, because it could inadvertently offend." His example (in jest, in email) was being called on using the word "pigskin" because it might offend Jews and Muslims. When hit by something like that from left field, he feels as though he is being oppressed. I don't think that makes him part of the Jerkosphere; it just shows him to be unexposed to some parts of the global community -- as is everyone -- and uncomfortable about it. (Clearly he's also intimidated by the ongoing discussion here about sexist language.)

He's also greatly concerned about venues where unpleasant opinions simply disappear. This occasionally happens at BoingBoing -- far less now that Teresa is doing her thing -- but not nearly as often as many people seem to think. It never, ever happens here, but since Teresa is associated with moderating BoingBoing, some of that hatred seems to have transferred, and I believe a lot of people came in here with incorrect expectations regarding the draconian moderation policies that (don't) pertain here.

Anyway, since language hat's preferences obviously include Metafilter, and I don't think Metafilter is jerkospheric, then that may be existence proof. And since I believe that Making Light, in all actuality, also satisfies language hat's criteria, that's clearly existence proof.

But since all of this is necessarily so shaded by subjective opinion, it's impossible to say anything for sure.

#454 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 03:08 PM:

Wow, Paula, that was a good post!

#455 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 05:11 PM:

Carrie @452:

Do you actually, um, know Xopher at all?

For one thing, he's gay, so being a Nice Guy is not so much of a concern, at least in regards to women; I haven't a clue if there's a similar phenomenon among gay men.

*boggles* No, actually, I had no clue. "But what about the Nice Guys™!" is such a straight-guy cliche that it didn't occur to me that he might be gay.

IIRC when Nice-Guy-ism has been discussed at Pandagon, Amptoons, etc., gay men reported that the phenomenon does not exist in the same way for them, because the answer to "why don't the incredibly buff cute guys go for me?" is so clearly, "why don't you work at being incredibly buff?" Gay men who work at being superficial are not expected to be anything other than superficial; women are expected to work at being superficially beautiful while still appreciating a man's inner depths (see: Judd Apatow, the collected works).

#456 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 05:16 PM:

Language Hat: Of course Making Light isn't overall maximizing for all possibly interested participants. It's very good at cultivating certain kinds of exchanges that the hosts really like. One of the things the world needs a lot more of is people analyzing their wants and their methods the way our hosts here do, but with different priorities, so as to produce equally good optimizations for other concerns.

#457 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 05:28 PM:

Doctor Science #455: women are expected to work at being superficially beautiful while still appreciating a man's inner depths (see: Judd Apatow, the collected works).

God, thanks for that. Nice to see I'm not the only one who's noticed.

#458 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 06:09 PM:

Dr, Science: Sometimes a cigar is a smoke.

Xopher wasn't saying, "Think of the Nice Guys (tm):, he was saying there are some guys in the world, who fantasize about wom4en... real women, women who've not explicitly said they wanted to be fantasized about.

And they aren't creepy bastards who need to stop thinking.


#459 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 07:11 PM:

Paula @ 451: That's an exceptionally strong explanation of your point of view, and I for one greatly appreciate it. Thank you for taking the time and effort to put it together.

#460 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 07:36 PM:

#458 Terry

Your post reminded me of Man of La Mancha.

The Don Quixote character is living in a delusion where he beholds Aldonza, whose body is for rent by the hour, and regards her as his Lady Dulcinea. He treats her deferentially and as a rare treasured and beloved target of his adoration and respect. Don Quixote's female relatives things he's gone insane and complain bitterly about how they're "only thinking of him" when actually their concern is what everyone else is thinking about them "Oh I dearly love my uncle/but for what he's done to me...."

Aldonza's appalled and upset and ambivalent... "Why does he do the things he does... No one can be what he wants me to be...." "So please torture now/With thy Sweet Dulcineas no more/For I'm no one I'm nothing/I'm only Aldonza the whore!" Her life is one of getting beaten up and abused, and then Don Quixote shows up...."...Blows and abuse I can take and give back again/Tenderness I can not bear...."?

Cervantes wrote Don Quixote with the intent of parodying and squelching the taste for, at the time, of lurid fantasy romances (lurid in terms of lack of reality, not lurid in the sense of sex fantasies) that had gotten to a level of absurdity as regards credibility. During the course of his writing the lampooning work (I never did get through it [in English, I have no literacy in Spanish], though I did get to and somewhat beyond the point where Don Quixote has taken a purgative/emetic as purifying, and forced Sancho to do the same, with the predictable results) however, Cervantes went from writing satire into falling into respect for the characters he'd created and valuing Don Quixote for his ideals, as opposed to being the intenional butt of satire for the purpose of lampooning all the excesses of overblown lepic literature.

Ironically, Don Quixote's fantasies and delusions, caused him to treat people better than they had come to expect to be treated and were accustomed to being treated, rather than regarding people as tools to use.

#461 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 07:43 PM:

ethan @ 457: One of my great regrets is that I never told my acting teacher that I wanted to be beautiful. I don't know that she could've helped me, but I don't see how it could've hurt.

#462 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 08:04 PM:

Paula, are you seriously suggesting that nobody should ever entertain a sexual fantasy about a specific, nameable individual who hasn't consented either directly to the fantasizer or generally by making public sexually explicit images of themselves?

How explicit does an image have to be to constitute blanket permission? Does David Bowie's nude scene in "The Hunger" count?

Because I *definitely* have detailed and explicit fantasies about Bowie, and I can't see how I'm being rude to him by so doing. Especially since, if I were ever to meet him, I'd be at pains to conceal the existence of these fantasies, because it would be hopelessly embarrassing, probably even more so for me than for him.

Does it make a difference if my fantasies are largely about a fictional character he's portrayed?

Does it make a difference if my fantasies are ONLY about a fictional character and NOT the actor who portrays him, even if said fictional character looks exactly like the actor so far as he's appeared on screen? (This would be the distinction between my fantasies about Bowie-sometimes-the-rock-star-but-mostly-Jareth-the-Goblin-King, and my fantasies about Professor Snape-who-looks-like-Alan-Rickman-but-is-not-Alan-Rickman. You can all laugh at me now.)

Now, I try not to fantasize IN DETAIL about non-famous people I know in person until there's been mutual expressions of interest established, but that's not so much out of a sense that the fantasies themselves are rude, but that said fantasies would influence MY actions around them and make me behave awkwardly, and that's not helpful if one WANTS to establish whether there's returned interest.

I do believe it's rude and wrong to treat people as objects -- but I believe that that applies to HOW I INTERACT with them. My thoughts do them no injury if kept to myself.

#463 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 08:07 PM:

Doctor 448: Implying that it doesn't bother you when people fantasize about you is IMHO implausible -- most people, including most men, *are* bothered to learn that someone is fantasizing about them doing something they don't want to do.

You haven't been paying attention. We're talking about whether it's RUDE to fantasize about someone if they NEVER find out. "What you don't know won't hurt you" isn't true in the general case, but it is here.

Xopher, do you even notice that you're implying that women don't fantasize, or that there's something fundamentally male about sexual fantasy?

Did you even notice that I said "I don't know about women, but we men fantasize about everything we'd like to do"? I can't speak for women, since I've never lived inside a woman's head, and I was pretty sure what would happen if I said everyone fantasizes (which I think is probably true, but I'm not sufficiently sure about it). I've never once talked to a man who said he has no fantasies about anything. Not once. I've talked to a LOT of men about their fantasies. I've helped fulfill some of them!

I'm not implying that women don't fantasize, in fact I know some women who definitely do. I just didn't want to speak for women since a) I'm not one and b) I haven't talked about sexual fantasies with women nearly as much.

____ 449: Not in this case. Definition: nice guy, n. Guy who Paula would find appealing and acceptable if she got to know him, and would at least consider dating; guy whose behavior on the first date would incline Paula to go out with him on a second date.

Paula 451: Then [the nice guys] were too busy living in their fantasy world to bother approaching me and getting to know me as a person and inviting/getting me to know and appreciate them as a person worth being involved with...

What I'm saying is that they might also have been driven away by the players, because they were afraid of being mistaken for one. People who refrain from shameful behavior (like that you describe the players engaging in) don't want people to THINK they engage in it either.

(from some musical or other)

Cinderella. I even know the tune (which by itself would have clued Doctor Science in that I'm gay, had s/he but known it). It's "chair," btw, not "room." Ella didn't have her own room.

I keep saying it's rude, I haven't said that it's a capital crime.

And I keep saying it can't be rude unless it leads to rude behavior, and even then it's the behavior that's rude, not the thoughts.

Is it really so much to ask that people try to restrict their sex fantasies to putting faces onto the bodies they imagine being hot and heavy with, to consenting adults or to faces from imagination and not real people who haven't consented?

Yes. It's too much to ask. It's ridiculous. As I said before, if you want others to control their thoughts, start with your own: stop thinking that other people might be fantasizing about you. This will get rid of the icky feeling you describe, without trying to engage in thought control on anyone else.

There's a difference between a short term desire to punch a leak in someone's vehicle's tire, and elaborate sex fantasies involving a person who might be even a complete stranger. The latter involves mentally taking intimate liberties with a person versus the former being wanting to commit a minor property crime.

Yes, there's a difference: one fantasy contains a crime, the other does not. Do you think the Paula who appears in men's sexual fantasies makes all the same decisions you would? Of course not: she wants to have sex with them. If they're fantasizing about raping you, that's another matter, but I would virtually guarantee that the vast majority of them were not. If they were, their fantasies are akin to mine about pushing people in front of the subway train when they annoy me; these fantasies are quite disturbing to me, but do absolutely no harm to them, and no reasonable person would call them rude.

There's to me removal of privacy for a person who's being featured in someone else's sex fantasies without there being permission for it.

In what fashion does that remove your privacy? You don't control someone else's mind. You don't have any right to control your image, starting from the moment the light bounces off you and hits their retina. They aren't filming you without your knowledge, or tapping your phone, or looking up your skirt with a mirror. (If they do, they should be prosecuted.) Everything we're talking about happens inside their head. By trying to forbid them from doing whatever they want with their own thoughts, if anything you're invading their privacy!

Editing technical notes-- (full para following)

Aha! I have ADHD too. Here's what I do: I compose in a Notepad window, which I have set to a serifed font (I agree, much easier to read). Then right before posting, I refresh and see if anything has been addressed while I was writing. Then I paste the entire contents of the Notepad window into the comment box and hit Preview. If I find something wrong, for really long complex posts like this one I might fix it in Notepad and repaste, but sometimes I just scroll around in the comment box (it's harder that way). I proofread in Notepad, and again in Preview (in case the different formatting makes something stand out, but mostly to check the tags).

I offer this solely in hopes it may be helpful. If it doesn't seem like it would work for you, ignore it.

Michael 454: I agree. Even though I disagree with almost every single thing she said in it, it was really excellent.

Terry 458: Exactly! Thank you. Doctor Science, Terry's got it right. That's what I'm saying.

#464 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 09:30 PM:

#313 heresiarch - What makes you think that judicial punishment can't also be torture?

Never said it couldn't be... I made a general statement that all (or nearly all) systems of justice work off the idea of therapeutic humiliation. Can you think of one that doesn't? While some cases of punishment go way overboard (hence the need for the 8th Amendment), most people would not say that the vast majority of legal penalties are torturous. The humiliation factor, especially at the lower end of the crime spectrum (having your name published for solicitation or DUI for example) is considered integral to a system that is widely accepted.
------------------------------------
EO - "At least you had the good graces not to continue to suggest that a swirlie ranked as water torture."

Although I'm reluctant to point it out, that actually was what I was saying. Or rather, that it can be. It's hard for me to imagine how being forcibly seized (since I doubt anyone would voluntarily submit), dragged to the nearest toilet, and having one's head shoved in would fail to qualify as severe mental suffering. There isn't an exculpatory "*Things typically associated with grade-school shenanigans are automatically disqualified" footnote after the UN Convention Against Torture; this stuff still counts.

Oops... I misread and thought we were focusing more on humiliation in general... Okay... swirlies... Maybe the problem here is that when I see you calling a swirlie "torture" and even implying that the UN would see it as such, I can't help but think that it's contributing to a sort of trivialization of the whole concept of torture. If we make the word "torture" so broad and inclusive, it tends to lose some of the horror it should inspire. The average person will find it easier to ignore or dismiss accusations of torture if they associate the word with swirlies as opposed to Tiger Cages and burning bamboo splinters.

The over-use, or over-application, of a word or concept, makes it easy to sound needlessly alarmist or, please forgive me, slightly silly. It's my honest belief that anyone who thinks Xopher would ever actually advocate violence or torture is either over-reacting, missing the point entirely, or just being silly (and not in a ha-ha way).

Part of why I was so shocked and appalled when Xopher denied that what he was advocating was torture is that it came from him, who is sensible and eloquent in almost every case but this, and that it happened on Making Light, which is so often a voice of sanity and reason. This was the last place I expected to encounter this sort of thing, and my defenses were down.

Now you're being disingenuous. If you really believed that, would you have said (at #306) "When you use this sort of violent language (and you use it quite regularly) it freaks me out. Hmm?

#465 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 09:32 PM:

"If they never find out" might be a lot more dubious that one might think. People -do- give off pheromones [spelling...]. At a dead dog night party at ConJose, someone saying how he'd gone to was it Yaoicon or some such, and the atmosphere had gotten effectively oppressive, a miasma of overheated aroused women pheremones in the air, with male males stripping and the women get, again, aroused; the convention's attendance was overwhelmingly female, and he was one of the few males there. He said that it was very uncomfortable.

#466 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 09:43 PM:

Doctor Science, #448: Third and more important: I think Paula isn't saying that thought is exactly the same thing as action, but that *habits* of thought tend to lead to actions. When men persistently think of women only as things -- when men talk to each other about women only as things -- when the stories they watch and tell treat women only as things -- they will tend to treat women as things. How could it be otherwise?

This is a more subtle conflation of thought with action. The first point you make is genuinely about thought, but the two that I've bolded are about actions -- they don't happen without an appreciative audience of other men. A large part of the reason we keep getting this is that the only examples you ever become aware of are the people who do let their fantasies leak over from thought into action. The ones who don't do that are invisible, which is exactly my point.

Generally speaking, when men learn that there are women out there fantasizing about two male characters they (the men) care about getting it on, they are *creeped the fuck out*.

That's not about fantasizing, it's about homophobia. Have you asked any of those creeped-out men whether they've ever gotten a charge out of thinking about two women getting it on, or whether they'd be equally creeped out by het-fic? (I'm also reminded of John Barrowman's reported response to Who-slash: "Gay porn, starring me? And it's FREE? What's not to like?" But Barrowman is gay, and therefore guaranteed not to have the same reactions as J. Random Straightguy.)

After reading Paula's post @451, I suspect that what you and she are both arguing for is something that can't be changed by thought control: a society in which it is generally accepted that people should not be thought of as objects. We're a long way from that yet (but not as far away as we were 40 years ago), but the way to get there is not by outlawing thoughts, it's by addressing behavior. Function follows form here; when it's no longer socially acceptable to ACT as if a woman is an object, you won't find men doing so. Unfortunately, the only way that's going to happen is for other men to make it clear, even when there are no women present, that this is uncool behavior, and that's a slow process and one often inhibited by the homosociality* factor.

* Brief definition: the concept that men's most important social relationships are with other men. When given a choice between going along with woman-objectifying behavior and being ostracized by his male buddies as "a wuss who doesn't know how to have fun," many men will select Option A; at best, they won't contribute to the game but won't object to it either.

#467 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 09:49 PM:

Xopher, call it an intellectual property issue, they are using images of MY body without MY permission.

#468 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 10:09 PM:

You're out of luck. You don't have any rights to an image that is in someone else's brain.

Brains are not cameras. Your remembered image, unlike your photographed image, is not your property.

#469 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 10:18 PM:

Paula, are you really saying that you expect/want/prefer someone to ask permission (yours, someone's anyone's) for what goes on only inside his or her own head?

This seems insane to me. Frankly, I don't want to know.

Do you ask permission of other people for what goes on only inside your head?

#470 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 10:30 PM:

Paula: Lizzy makes a good point. Are you asserting that you've never had a sexual fantasy about a living person? If not, are you asserting that you asked permission first?

Or are those rules only for YOUR image in someone ELSE's head, not for someone else's image in YOUR head?

#471 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 10:32 PM:

# 465...

"If they never find out" might be a lot more dubious that one might think. People -do- give off pheromones [spelling...]. At a dead dog night party at ConJose, someone saying how he'd gone to was it Yaoicon or some such, and the atmosphere had gotten effectively oppressive, a miasma of overheated aroused women pheremones in the air, with male males stripping and the women get,

That should have been, "male models stripping and the women getting"

again, aroused; the convention's attendance was overwhelmingly female, and he was one of the few males there. He said that it was very uncomfortable.

There apparently are romance conventions which have male models at them, at whom there is a lot of oogling.... that sets off my ick/squick filters more than a little, actually....

#472 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 10:37 PM:

Xopher, I don't think that's the right question -- I am sure that Paula doesn't ask permission for her thoughts. We don't live in a world where such behavior is possible. The question is, I think: do you really want to live in a world where people ask permission before they think? Because I absolutely don't.

#473 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 10:43 PM:

I don't either. But I don't think Paula's thinking of it in those terms. I'm trying to get her to.

#474 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 10:43 PM:

Call it an intellectual property issue

Put in that context, I would have to say... "fair use". Even the RIAA doesn't try to control or extract payment for all of those copies of music that float around in people's heads, much though they might like to.

You've read Bujold's A Civil Campaign, haven't you? I'm thinking of the bit where Ekaterin, who's still dealing with the emotional consequences of her former abusive marriage, is mulling over the idea of fantasizing about Miles, and her reaction to the idea that he might be fantasizing about her.

A few years ago, when a close friend of mine told me that she'd been indulging in erotic fantasies that involved me, I was rather weirded out; I told her that I wasn't used to being thought of that way, that nobody ever had before. But as she pointed out, I really didn't know that; I had to concede the possibility that -- inconsistent as it was with my self-image -- other women had, and just hadn't told me.

Now, the personal relationship blew up a few months later. I definitely wasn't living up to her fantasies, and I suspect that that may have been part of what made things fall apart. I'll agree that when such fantasies lead to patterns of thought which lead to inappropriate behaviour, or to unrealistic expectations of other people, that's bad. But I don't think that these problems are intrinsic to such fantasies.

#475 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 10:46 PM:

#470 Xopher

I try very hard to NOT have sex fantasies featuring people who have not indicated strong mutual interest, and even then, try to avoid it. Does that answer your question? Again, I regard it as infringement and rude... and came to that at least partially out of fear/apprehension of just what might happen of having someone pick up on fantasizing about someone. (Ask me in person if that seems confusing to you....)

Orgies of faceles masses raging in my mind out of sheer boredom especially at boring presentations at trade shows, was something else entirely... I could tell just how boring the presentations got by how far off the presentation my mind wandered.... but there weren't specific individuals featured, again, I had worked very diligently to not have Real People present in them.

(And now I wonder if the above is going to disequilibriate even slightly some gender stereotpying beliefs about fantasies....)

#476 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 10:52 PM:

Wow. You're entitled to torture yourself trying to control your thoughts if you want to. I have to say, though, that that seems self-abusive to me.

#477 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 11:44 PM:

Xopher @ 476: It's not that odd. I remember the first time I stumbled onto a copy of On Our Backs, starting to pick it up, then thinking, "Not for me." I don't mean it wouldn't've been interesting to me, or arousing to me, but that the intention of the women publishing it was to create for other women, and not for me. This still strikes me as a principled act.

In later years, when I distributed the magazine, I decided it was overly principled not to look at the damn thing. I don't think any kittens died in the process.

I wouldn't draw the lines today where Paula draws them, but in the past, when I was still working through what feminism meant to this man, I did make similar distinctions. Even though I don't agree now with everything I thought then, working through these issues, both in theory and even more so in practice, was useful and important to me, both personally and politically.

#478 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2008, 11:47 PM:

I'm going to have to agree with Xopher, I think. All this worrying about what is going on inside other people's heads with regard to a perfectly normal and natural part of life does not strike me as psychologically healthy.

#479 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 12:02 AM:

If I worried about what was going on inside other people's heads, I'd probably never get outside my front door.

I've seen signs posted around areas where stuff was being filmed on streets, to the effect that just walking through the camera's view won't get you either money or screen credit.
I think that's similar to what Xopher is saying: what other people see, your public appearance, is public and you can't control anything they might do with it in their own minds, and they can't control what you do with theirs in your mind, either.

#480 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 12:25 AM:

#463 Xopher

I'm not implying that women don't fantasize, in fact I know some women who definitely do. I just didn't want to speak for women since a) I'm not one and b) I haven't talked about sexual fantasies with women nearly as much.

People have very wide ranges of behavior and fantasies....

____ 449: Not in this case. Definition: nice guy, n. Guy who Paula would find appealing and acceptable if she got to know him, and would at least consider dating; guy whose behavior on the first date would incline Paula to go out with him on a second date.

Paula 451: Then [the nice guys] were too busy living in their fantasy world to bother approaching me and getting to know me as a person and inviting/getting me to know and appreciate them as a person worth being involved with...

What I'm saying is that they might also have been driven away by the players, because they were afraid of being mistaken for one.

Not exactly.... while it's on a very different topic/situation, the same concepts apply: when I was a project officer at Los Angeles Air Force Station, there were times that I had to virtually muzzle the program management types, grabbing the speaking floor to give it to scientists who had relevant information and wanted to speak up but were unable to get the floor on their own and say what their piece. The program management types were busily arguing away etc. with one another and engaged in arguing as a means of communications, and not noticing/recognizing/yielding to anyone who wasn't being as, um, assertive and argumentative as they were.

That is, it was the situation analogously of the forum in which those doing the most and most intense posting, get all the bandwidth, and everyone else winds up in wallflower/lurker status.

People who refrain from shameful behavior (like that you describe the players engaging in) don't want people to THINK they engage in it either.

I don't think it was that, or at least, mostly wasn't that. It's fear of the unknown, of rejection, of looking wrong in the eyes of their associates, it's emotionally risky, the path of least resistance is do nothing, as in the song about "slipsiding away, the know the nearer your destination the more you're slipsiding away." The lack of nerve/nerves hit, and the person doesn;t carry through on wistful desires.


I keep saying it's rude, I haven't said that it's a capital crime.

And I keep saying it can't be rude unless it leads to rude behavior, and even then it's the behavior that's rude, not the thoughts.

Sure it can be rude--rude is a value judgment. Me throwing a virtual water balloon at you probably would be rude. Me throwing a virtual water balloon at Jeff Hecht or Geoff Landis or probably Jonathan vos Post or David Brin, would not be rude, it's old-fashioned MIT/Caltech hijink rowdy fun-play!

Is it really so much to ask that people try to restrict their sex fantasies to putting faces onto the bodies they imagine being hot and heavy with, to consenting adults or to faces from imagination and not real people who haven't consented?

Yes. It's too much to ask. It's ridiculous.

We are coming from very different places and experiences emotionally as regards such things. My experiences were, again, that so many of those people hitting on me were not seeing me there were seeing some The Big Time timewar ghostgirl fantasy image of me, and were as solicitous and considerate of me as they would be of a Disposable Darling.

There were lots of people who didn't treat me that way, but the vast majority of people who were hitting on me, again, didn;t have an excess of couth involved.

And then there is the territorial stuff--once A is hitting one someone, B might regard the person being hit on in the light of being A's property (unless B is a major zero-is-more-worthwhile-than type.... one of those, whose name hasn't stuck with me although there was one convention were two other women were discussing whether the fellow were a leech or a limpet, was trying to limpet or leech slimy-attach-himself to me at a Lunacon, even though to just about everyone else at the convention, it was quite clear that the person I was walking around with and I were very much intently focussed on one another....)and therefore to stay away from, since going near the person would be disrespectful/infringing on A's property rights. That gets back to the pack behavior I mentioned in a previous post... there are pack decisions that get made, and the pack members comply with the pack decision in the matter--it can make some of the vampire-etc. dominance stuff in urban fantasy and paranormal romance look like the packs have no member control.

before, if you want others to control their thoughts, start with your own: stop thinking that other people might be fantasizing about you.

Huh? I never went out of my way to view things like that. I think that it would have been a shock to me, was a shock to me, to find out that that was going on....

The folks who brought up "all men fantasize and they may be fantasizing about you, it's what men do, fantasize about anyone they feel like fantasizing about" were the ones who brought that concept up, not I, in this discussion, as I recall. Once that came up, though, that was when I started objected to sex fantasizing about a specific person on the basis of the fantasizer not having had any actual encouragement by the fantasy subject for sexual play.

This will get rid of the icky feeling you describe,

Oh? The icky feelings include seeing someone look at me proprietarily whom I have no interest in granting any such privilege to, and the thought that e.g. someone who makes my skin creep, such as the leech/limpet mentioned above, is regarding me as sex object or latch-onto-object--when I gave no encouragement whatsoever that I was aware of, to the leech/limpet/make-skin-crawl type.

Hmm, there are different degrees of "icky" and "repulsive/revolting." "Icky" to me involves e.g. sliminess... repulsive isn;t necessarily -creepy or icky, or....

That is, kinaesthetically the term you're apply, to me feels wrong as regards either what the concept you're trying to get across is, or how I actually feel in various situations.

And for that matter, this discussion does involves aesthetics, kinaesthetics, feelings, opinion, attitude, perceptions, smell and reactions to triggers which not all people are sensitive to or not sensitive to the same ways, etc.

without trying to engage in thought control on anyone else.

Once again, rude is not a capital crime....

There's a difference between a short term desire to punch a leak in someone's vehicle's tire, and elaborate sex fantasies involving a person who might be even a complete stranger. The latter involves mentally taking intimate liberties with a person versus the former being wanting to commit a minor property crime.

Yes, there's a difference: one fantasy contains a crime, the other does not.

What the person I do not want near my skin phantasizes about doing to me that involves sexual activity, would be a crime if the person dit it, because it is nonconsensual. Sometimes the people fantasizing such things, are even aware that the object of their desire has negative interest in them....

Note: there are times that I have fantasized about commiting mayhem on certain individuals, or certain classes of individuals, and yes, I regard that as me having been quite rude!

Do you think the Paula who appears in men's sexual fantasies makes all the same decisions you would? Of course not: she wants to have sex with them.

And you don't think that being reduced to a sex toy mentally is demeaning?

If they're fantasizing about raping you, that's another matter,

They are putting a fake me into their fantasy, they are taking a living woman and creating a mental Disposable Darling docile doppleganger to replace her with....

That hits into all sorts of nasty psychic resonances for me, actually, and the "you must burn your brain and be accommodating and complaisant and pleasing to boys/men" values of the 1950s/1960s that Betty Friedan led a rebellion against.

but I would virtually guarantee that the vast majority of them were not. If they were, their fantasies are akin to mine about pushing people in front of the subway train when they annoy me; these fantasies are quite disturbing to me, but do absolutely no harm to them, and no reasonable person would call them rude.

What is the difference there between "rude" and "disturbing"?

There's to me removal of privacy for a person who's being featured in someone else's sex fantasies without there being permission for it.

In what fashion does that remove your privacy?

"She will not grant me privacy of mind." -- character whose name I can't think of in And Then There'll Be Fireworks, regarding Responsible of Brightwater.

In Twelve Fair Kingdoms, which And Then There'll Be Fireworks was sequel to, the character complaining about not being granted privacy of mind seduced Responsible who had been a virgin prior to the seduction. In the second book he was plagued by Responsible's lurid sex fantasies about him.... she thought they were private fantasies, and was completely unaware that they weren't private, that he was acting as a receiver of them... but he didn't complain to her, he complained to the Magicians of Rank, who took retribution on Responsible, for a crime she had no clue she was committing....

You persist in claiming that the fantasies are private and remain private, that there are no deleterious consequences, etc. I don't believe that that is a truth. Perhaps there are people for whom the private fantasies have no conditioning effect as to how they treat other people, that they never get their fantasies as overlaying and influencing their dealings with other people.... my observations and experiences are there there is almost always at least some degree of leakage out of the mind into perceptions and actions, that there is biasing even if it's not a large biasing, but there there IS biasing, and consequence of biasing.

You don't control someone else's mind.

Ah, the imperative voice, such fun it is not....
and it is so friendly. (Sarcasm. The tone of that sentence comes across to me as condescending and non-gracious, and demanding/offensive.)

Do I not have a reasonable degree of justification behind me for desiring that images and opinions of me be based on reality and not sex fantasies?!

You don't have any right to control your image, starting from the moment the light bounces off you and hits their retina.

This sounds like demanding that women wear Islamic modesty curtaining lest they enflame the lust of any and all males for having skin showing, and blaming the victim more generally for existing....

They aren't filming you without your knowledge, or tapping your phone, or looking up your skirt with a mirror.

They are perverting the representation of me into sex toy... were I a minor child, they would be considered criminals engaging in pederasty! How's that for getting extreme... it is the USE to which photos and descriptions gets used, that elicits charges of pederasty that involve images, even these days synthetic imagery.... society in the USA has deemed that pictures of people engaged in sex who are over 18 for which there are not model releases, are illegal porn I seem to recall, and that picture of children engaged in sex, generally are illegal and no model release applies/can apply....

Since I didn't sign a model release, what's so different?

Nude David Bowie, nude Arnold Shwarznegger, nude whoever posing professional, however, did sign the model releases.....

(If they do,they should be prosecuted.)

Was I out in public exposing myself for photographers to take pictures of? I wasn't aware I was doing that....

Everything we're talking about happens inside their head.

By trying to forbid

Where did I ever say "forbid"? I said it's rude and offensive. I never said that there should be a Thought Police Corps, I said that it should be discouraged, etc., not prosecuted as criminal! Some of the analogies I've been making perhaps are strong, but they're analogies, and the ones regarding e.g. pederasty are over the top, in that particularly case deliberately for the sake of making a point, of just how offensive society views some things about images of sexual activity defined as legally nonconensual!

them from doing whatever they want with their own thoughts, if anything you're invading their privacy!

No, I AM NOT A FUCKING SEX APPLIANCE FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC'S FUCKING CONVENIENCE!!!!!!

Editing technical notes-- (full para following)

Aha! I have ADHD too. Here's what I do: I compose in a Notepad window,

Notepad or WordPad? I've done that occasionally, but e.g. when I just tried it here, I was too far into virtual memory for an accessory window to even responsively open! Also, general finger klutziness means that it's another opportunity to inadvertently miscue on cut/paste/copy (I have nothing polite to say about the proximity of the key combinations for cut/paste/copy, kinaesthetically they ought NOT to be in such close proximity, because a wrong finger to key placement, can irretrievably wipe out what was working on by miskeying among the combinations.


#481 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 12:31 AM:

Paula: call it an intellectual property issue, they are using images of MY body without MY permission.

That's a horrible analogy. IP law has lots of limitations, the first of which is that nothing is under copyright until it reaches a fixed medium. Thoughts in my head about the next great American novel don't let me get a copyright on it. I have to put it into actual text.

Not to mention that when I watch Star Wars, and then later go home and reimagine the scene with Luke Skywalker saving the galaxy, that's perfectly acceptable to IP law. Copyright applies to copies and derivatives and distribution, not mental imaging. If it did, after watching Star Wars, they'd have to blank my memory so I'd have to pay to remember it again.

There's a bunch of different reasons this analogy doesn't work.


#482 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 12:48 AM:

Lee @466:

Have you asked any of those creeped-out men whether they've ever gotten a charge out of thinking about two women getting it on, or whether they'd be equally creeped out by het-fic?

In fact, I have found that the "sauce for the goose" argument (that slash is the equivalent of lesbian porn for straight men) is the one that is most readily accepted by anyone suffering from "slash shock". I don't think it's the only (or even main) reason by a long shot, but it's definitely the explanation that goes down easiest.

Homophobia is certainly behind a lot of the objection, but not all: I have observed that men (especially young men) will become quite "skeeved out" and even angry if the women fantasizing or interested in them are not attractive, e.g. too old, too fat. And I know gay men who find slash offensive, too, because they feel used and objectified, treating as toys for someone's pleasure -- though they don't usually go into full slash shock. The report Paula mentioned from a guy at Yaoicon -- who I assume was gay -- is not unusual.

what you and she are both arguing for is something that can't be changed by thought control: a society in which it is generally accepted that people should not be thought of as objects.

That is absolutely true.

Unfortunately, the only way that's going to happen is for other men to make it clear, even when there are no women present, that this is uncool behavior, and that's a slow process and one often inhibited by the homosociality* factor.

This is precisely what I was saying in #161, and why I don't completely agree with Paula. I don't think that fantasies that truly stop at the inside of the skull are a problem, but I can understand why Paula doesn't believe that they mostly *do*. There are a *lot* of guys who will overshare their fantasies about you, a woman, at the drop of a hat, and the slope through Annoying to Creepy!Stalker and on to Restraining Order is all too smooth and unimpeded.

#483 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 01:36 AM:

Paula: I try very hard to NOT have sex fantasies featuring people who have not indicated strong mutual interest

That's your choice and I don't have an issue with that. If it works for you, go for it.

I keep saying it's rude, I haven't said that it's a capital crime.

But you are telling other people how they should (or shouldn't) think. Whether you're saying its a petty crime or a capital crime isn't the point. You're advocating what should and shouldn't be in other people's heads.

I said that it should be discouraged, etc., not prosecuted as criminal!

It's the discouraging others that I have a problem with.

It's a bit similar to people telling someone they'll get hairy palms if they masterbate. Not the hairy palms part, but the telling other people how they should live in their own personal and private space, part.

The falsehood of hairy palms is instead reflected in the werewolf tales of how people who think those kinds of thoughts will always leak them through into the real world in some negative consequence way. You have no proof for this dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde tale, that all who drink of the potion of some sexual fantasy must turn into some kind of monster, but you keep reasserting it over and over again with anecdotal evidence. It always leaks through, you say, but you've yet to prove the "always" part.

#484 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 02:26 AM:

Doctor Science @ 448: "Second, I've done a lot of talking to people about male/male slash in the past 10 years or so. Generally speaking, when men learn that there are women out there fantasizing about two male characters they (the men) care about getting it on, they are *creeped the fuck out*. Implying that it doesn't bother you when people fantasize about you is IMHO implausible -- most people, including most men, *are* bothered to learn that someone is fantasizing about them doing something they don't want to do. That's the basis of the "gay panic" defense, after all."

This is weird, because it sounds like you're supportive of people writing slash fic, but not about people engaging in equally explicit fantasies entirely within their own head. If you really object to people fantasizing about sexually explicit situations, it would seem to me that slash fic would be right out, since that is an actual action that happens in the real world, and therefore measurably worse. If learning that someone's had a sexual fantasy about you disturbs you, then reading that exact fantasy on the internet could only be much more so.

The second thing you're saying that strikes me as a bit weird is that you're bringing up the gay panic defense as an example of legitimate squick upon learning about someone else's sexual fantasies? Or am I reading that wrong?

"When men persistently think of women only as things -- when men talk to each other about women only as things -- when the stories they watch and tell treat women only as things -- they will tend to treat women as things. How could it be otherwise?"

Why do you assume that in every male sexual fantasy the woman is a smiling mindless sex doll? Maybe he's fantasizing about having a passionate love affair with a woman who is his intellectual equal. Agreed, if a man is in the habit of tossing every woman he meets into the role of sextoy in his private fantasies, that's bad news, but that's because he has a pre-existing inability to view women as minds--his misogyny causes his misogynistic fantasies, not the other way around. There is nothing inherently misogynistic about having sexual fantasies involving women.

#485 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 03:07 AM:

Edward Oleander @ 464: "Never said it couldn't be... I made a general statement that all (or nearly all) systems of justice work off the idea of therapeutic humiliation."

If the two categories aren't mutually exclusive, then what possible use is there in bringing up humiliation's use in judicial punishment? If judicial punishment can be torture, and humiliation can be used in judicial punishment, how does that disprove that humilation can also be torture?

For what it's worth, the rack was once considered "integral to a system that [was] widely accepted." Your appeals to public acceptance don't add up to all that much.

"Maybe the problem here is that when I see you calling a swirlie "torture" and even implying that the UN would see it as such, I can't help but think that it's contributing to a sort of trivialization of the whole concept of torture. If we make the word "torture" so broad and inclusive, it tends to lose some of the horror it should inspire. The average person will find it easier to ignore or dismiss accusations of torture if they associate the word with swirlies as opposed to Tiger Cages and burning bamboo splinters."

There's another problem, wherein people define torture to be such a momentous and horrible thing that they start to exclude more and more from the label "torture," because it isn't horrible enough. "Defaced his 'holy' book? Shaved him? Kept him from seeing any friends or family? Played rock music too loud? Come on, that's not torture! Where's the bamboo under the fingernails?" Torture is horrible, and also horribly mundane at times. The average person finds it surprisingly easy to ignore atrocities that fail to inspire the proper level of disgust. Now: which of these problems, yours or mine, do you think is more pressing at this moment in history?

"It's my honest belief that anyone who thinks Xopher would ever actually advocate violence or torture is either over-reacting, missing the point entirely, or just being silly (and not in a ha-ha way)."

You did read Xopher's post @ 417, didn't you?

"Now you're being disingenuous. If you really believed that, would you have said (at #306) "When you use this sort of violent language (and you use it quite regularly) it freaks me out. Hmm? "

You're conflating two issues. One, Xopher used violent rhetoric. Two, he denied that he was talking about was torture. The first he did occasionally, and it was mildly disturbing every time. The second, he had only done this one time, and it shocked me quite a bit.

You might want to be a little more chary of accusing people of being disingenuous. It rarely makes people feel kindly disposed towards the accuser.

(Apologies for the third-personing, Xopher.)

#486 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 03:15 AM:

For those few bedraggled, yet hardy, souls who are still trying to follow the original BB situation as it has played out on many fronts, I can only say that I have heard a little TMI, to the extent that I think that all involved, both participants and spectators, have been diminished by it. The only winners are the advertisers who have scooped up many more bloody eyeballs off the blogfloors than they otherwise would have been able to do had there not been a multi-venue altercation to this extent.

Sometimes even curmudgeons such as myself prefer BBQ over blogorrhea.

#487 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 07:19 AM:

A general wish: Would people please drop the damnfool "But you're telling people what to think!" shock and surprise. Yes. That is exactly what a huge chunk of all moral discourse is about: shaping our thoughts and feelings so as to make it easiest to do the right thing. Your morals and ethics are like that too. So's a lot of the law. So's everything in the realm of "should". It gets really old sometimes to have people act as though a particular expression of desire that people think this way or regard that feeling as a bad one not to be encouraged is some novel intrusion on their own gloriously free habit of thought.

If you don't like the proposal, disagree with it for what its specific content is.

#488 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 09:45 AM:

Paula, I still say you're making an unfortunate conflation of what people think inside their own heads and how they behave towards others.

Okay, so we've established that David Bowie is fair game, given his consent to appear naked in the movies.

What about this situation? I'm walking on a busy New York sidewalk, and a striking and attractive (yet fully clothed) young man catches my attention, headed the opposite direction in a crosswalk.

I don't approach him. I don't speak to him. I try not to even noticeably stare at him, although I hope my sunglasses provide some cover, because he IS eye-catching, for my personal values of eye-catching. I just note his appearance and move on.

Suppose that later that night, I give the fantasy construct in my head his appearance, so far as I've observed it.

How is this rude to him? No, he didn't consent to be in my fantasy - but my public interactions with him were all within the bounds of propriety, and he will never know.

What if I gave his appearance to a character in a story I was writing? Is that ALSO inappropriate? Even if the story were published, and he picked up the book, could he be SURE it was his appearance I'd used? I know Delia Sherman once told me that the appearance of a minor character I liked was based on a young man she'd seen in a coffee shop, and that she'd been at some pains not to stare rudely at him while still observing him well enough to use his appearance, because it pleased her.

For that matter, someone MAY have given MY appearance to a fictional character involved in a sexual fantasy! Seriously, there's a Lady Tudor Glitz book with a running gag about how Lady T-G can't find a suitable man at Pennsic. In one panel she's admiring, possibly ogling, a person in short doublet and tights who's standing facing away from her, and is then quite disappointed when the person turns around and is revealed to be female. I was running around Pennsic the summer before that book came out in a man's doublet and tights, and the illustration had a haircut not dissimilar to mine... I wasn't horrified, I was amused. I had no idea at the time that anyone was actively checking out my butt, and the thought afterwards didn't squick me.

If, by some chance, I were to MEET the boy-on-the-street who'd figured in my fantasies -- say, we were both attending the same convention, and I got introduced to him on Sunday, after having spotted him on a Friday -- again, I'd be at pains to conceal the fact that I'd fantasized about him, because letting him KNOW that I had would be rude. But I might also be inclined to pursue his acquaintance, and see if there were mutual interest, because obviously I found him attractive!

I still say that rudeness only comes into play when I interact with others, whether by glance, conversation, or physical contact.

The fact that you've been pursued by all manner of jerks, clueless gorfs, and arrogant assholes doesn't change that. Their rudeness started when they let their private fantasies affect their behavior towards you. If they were polite (and therefore NOT jerks, clueless gorfs, or arrogant assholes), you wouldn't know. And don't say "pheromones." A gentleman could have a physical response to your appearance WITHOUT constructing a mental fantasy, if he were so inclined. Pheromones don't tell you thoughts, even if they tell you responses.

If you find it useful to avoid sexual fantasies about people you know in order to maintain polite behavior around them, that's fine. As I said before, I do that myself. If you prefer people not to behave towards you as if they've been entertaining sexual fantasies, that's also more than reasonable -- that's one of the ways we define polite behavior, after all. But if someone gives you no outward indication that they're entertaining such fantasies, I DON'T think it's reasonable to care whether or not they DO have them. If their behavior -- the only part that actually affects you -- is unobjectionable, I don't think you can call them rude.

#489 ::: Kelly McCullough ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 09:47 AM:

Bruce @ 487, I suspect that a lot of people are shocked and surprised. I'm not speaking for anyone else here, but I find the idea of the advocation of pure thought control (as opposed to control of actions that spring from those thoughts) to be something that I think of as an impulse of the authoritarian mentality. I am not surprised when I hear someone aligned with the authoritarian right make such assertions, though I am still appalled. When I hear it from someone with whom I suspect that I mostly agree politically I am shocked, as it seems to me a profoundly aliberal idea. Creating a standard where it is acceptable to police what happens inside of other people's heads strikes me as a great way to justify the worst sorts of authoritarianism imaginable.

There are all sorts of things that go on in the minds of people around me. Things that would appall me. Things that would make me wonder. Things that might make me cry out in horror or even wonder. But as long as those things stay in those people's heads, it is none of my damn business.

#490 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 09:53 AM:

#483 Greg

Would you consider it innocuous/reasonable/acceptable fantasizing for someone to e.g. fantasize when seeing young children, the person fantasizing kidnapping the children for the purpose of enjoying "long pig" dinner and fantasizing the butchering and food preparation and dining?!

#491 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 10:12 AM:

Paula @ 490, I can't speak for Greg, but I personally would find it disturbing; however, if the person refrained from actually kidnapping and eating the small children, and gave no outward indication that they were considering it, how the hell would I know they were thinking it?

After all, when I see a tank of lobsters, my thoughts turn to lobster dinner, including details of the process -- I lament the lost days of bamboo pegs that held the lobsters' claws shut, because those imparted no flavor during cooking, unlike the modern rubber bands which must be removed or you have rubber-band-flavored lobster claws, woe. I don't mention this when going grocery shopping with my vegetarian friend, because for her, Fish Are Friends, Not Food, and the entire process of lobster dinner squicks her immensely. Nor would I ever serve her lobster.

If I were to become a vegetarian as well, and never harmed another lobster in my life, nor spoke of eating them to anyone else, would it be appropriate to chastise me for still dreaming of the taste of lobster?

#492 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 10:17 AM:

Would you consider it innocuous/reasonable/acceptable fantasizing for someone to e.g. fantasize when seeing young children, the person fantasizing kidnapping the children for the purpose of enjoying "long pig" dinner and fantasizing the butchering and food preparation and dining?!

Yes. Yes, it is acceptable. As long as it's fantasies, and does not in any way lead to action, anyone can have any thoughts at all.

Personally, if I discovered I had such thoughts I'd go to a therapist to deal with the issue that was causing me to have such profoundly antisocial ideas, so that I'd get rid of them before they caused me to act (since, if I understand correctly, such thoughts are rather likely to lead to action). But that's me policing my thoughts, not someone else. And you know, for all I know the woman in the next cube regularly dreams of cooking and eating her 4-year-old granddaughter, but since she never does it...

#493 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 10:24 AM:

#488 Rikabeth

It's one thing to have a generic description of someone in a skit... e.g. "brown eyes, sleek dark hair, snub nose, medium height, appealing smile, [etc.]" and putting someone into a sex fantasy.

Generic descriptions are one thing, the particular individual is another. Some authors who use names of real life acquaintances in books who get death scenes, had asked for volunteers to be redshirted, and the people who got redshirted, had volunteered for it....

#494 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 10:40 AM:

Paula @ 493:

The fictional character who wore the appearance of the young man in the coffeehouse definitely appeared in sex scenes. (It was Anthony Lindley in The Fall of the Kings.) Okay, or not okay? The actual young man remained a stranger to Delia Sherman.

If you've answered me about the fantasy I may have entertained about the attractive stranger in the crosswalk, I'm not sure I understood your answer. I don't know his name. I only know his clothed appearance. If I fantasize about him unclothed, his appearance will likely owe more to other, unclothed images I've seen that correspond in my head to what i observed of his build, but I'll be putting them with his face, and his clothes that I'm imagining removing. His behavior in the fantasy will be constructed of my own wishes, not his actual behavior, since I didn't get to observe that.

At what point do you feel the line is crossed from "unacceptable fantasizing about an individual who did not consent to be in my fantasy" to "fantasizing about an imaginary construct," which you think is okay?

#495 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 11:04 AM:

Bruce at 487, it's true that a part of moral discourse involves telling people how to think. But I submit there is a large difference between my Buddhist community or my church talking about the moral danger of certain habits of thought, and Paula suggesting that Person A has an emotional or moral right to require Person B to divert his/her thought patterns because what Person A imagines Person B is thinking makes Person A uncomfortable. When my roshi says to me that certain habits of thought (called "attachments" or "desires") may be inhibiting my realization of my fundamental Buddha-nature, and that maybe I should find a way to ignore those thoughts, he is doing so within the framework of an agreed relationship. I am a member of his community, I have asked for his guidance and advice, and I can leave at any time. Similarly, when my priest suggests to me that certain types of obsessive thoughts (about sex, or violence to others) or certain habitual patterns of thought which consistently lead to envy, or pride, or anger, are damaging me morally and should be avoided, he is making suggestions within the context of an ethical framework I have formally accepted. I am a baptized Catholic; a member of his church. I can walk out if I don't like what he says.

Paula has no moral authority over me; I have not asked for her advice, nor -- in the examples she has given -- have I shared my thoughts with her. Remember, Paula is specifically talking about someone having sexual fantasies about her WITHOUT HER EVER KNOWING IT. I am sorry if it makes her uncomfortable to imagine that someone might be fantasizing about her, but we don't live in a society where her internal discomfort is sufficient to require me to turn off those thoughts, and I have not entered into a relationship with her which allows her to request, let alone require, it. We don't live in that world.

#496 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 11:14 AM:

Paula, #480: In Twelve Fair Kingdoms, which And Then There'll Be Fireworks was sequel to, the character complaining about not being granted privacy of mind seduced Responsible who had been a virgin prior to the seduction. In the second book he was plagued by Responsible's lurid sex fantasies about him.... she thought they were private fantasies, and was completely unaware that they weren't private, that he was acting as a receiver of them... but he didn't complain to her, he complained to the Magicians of Rank, who took retribution on Responsible, for a crime she had no clue she was committing....

Okay, you just lost me completely. I can't believe you brought up a FICTIONAL UNIVERSE in which magic and telepathy are functional as an argument for Thought Police in the real world. Talk about not being able to separate reality from fantasy! I am SO outta this discussion.

#497 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 11:28 AM:

Regarding "environment" and "what people think"
[MoD = Ministry of Defence, what the UK has that the US Department of Defense corresponds to (the British military was around before the USA was).

Excerpted from

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/jul/06/military.gender

(note, the article has a button for "Send to a friend")

MoD vows to crack down on sexism
Research uncovers widespread 'canteen culture' of harassment and humiliation in the forces
Gaby Hinsliff, political editor The Observer, Sunday July 6, 2008

....One in five servicemen still did not think that telling a junior woman she would get a promotion if she slept with them was harassment; asked why they thought harassment cases happened, 46 per cent of the men said it was because women 'over-reacted'."

....One former senior army instructor said there was a danger of MoD directives being too zealously interpreted down the ranks: 'In my day, soldiers were allowed - were positively expected - to have pin-ups inside their lockers.'

#498 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 11:34 AM:

Paula, I've also got a disagreement with you in this particular exchange you had with Xopher:

You don't have any right to control your image, starting from the moment the light bounces off you and hits their retina.

This sounds like demanding that women wear Islamic modesty curtaining lest they enflame the lust of any and all males for having skin showing, and blaming the victim more generally for existing....

It seems to me that Xopher's arguing exactly the opposite. The way I see it, you can choose to wear whatever you please (in an ideal world, you could walk down the street butt-naked, but our current social customs expect more covering than that) and still expect polite treatment from everyone you encounter, even down to the quality of their gaze.

But once you've ceased interacting with them, they can think what they like about you, and it will do you no harm, nor should it constitute discourtesy.

#499 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 11:56 AM:

Paula, once again, you are talking in your post 497 about actions. I believe we all agree with you that harassment and humiliation are insupportable actions. But if you are trying to make the case that sexual fantasies inevitably lead to such behavior, and that fantasizing itself is morally or socially damaging to women, I assert you have not made that case. I agree with you that within the context of a sexist society, fantasizing can support sexism. But prohibiting fantasizing is impossible and dangerous from another direction; i.e. who gets to decide which fantasies are harmless, and which are not? I agree with someone upthread, who pointed out that we have other tools to attack sexism: laws and education being two of them.

#500 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 12:01 PM:

Paula @497, it's still about behavior.

Yes, in order to change these people's behavior, it would seem necessary to change the entire culture around them.

But there's three things going on here: actions, expressions, and ideas.

If you changed not just the official rules but also the daily enforcements so that both actions and expressions were met with consequences, the people who had IDEAS that didn't match would be prevented or discouraged from acting upon or expressing the ideas, which would change the hell out of the environment, and not foster the development of those ideas in people who didn't have them to begin with, and MAYBE decrease those ideas in people who started out with them. Or maybe not.

But if the actions and expressions didn't happen, the ideas would matter a lot less.

#501 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 12:18 PM:

Paula 480: Throughout this post you quote me talking about thoughts and respond with talk about actions. Show how it hurts you to have someone think about you in a sexual (or even violent!) way, without referring to any actual behavior of theirs, and then I'll listen. Til then, it's just me talking and you talking and no useful discussion.

This is going nowhere because you seem unable to make the distinction between thought and action. Perhaps all your thoughts lead to actions; in that case you would need to control your thoughts, but a) this is true of a vanishingly small number of people, and b) it makes you a bloody dangerous person whom I'll endeavor to avoid in the future.

About controlling your thoughts to stop thinking of other people fantasizing about you: I meant now. Give up on trying to control others' thoughts (or even wishing you could) and just stop ever thinking anyone will. I speak from personal experience when I say that considering it vanishingly unlikely that one is the subject of others' sexual fantasies, while somewhat destructive to self-esteem, is wonderfully freeing with respect to such worries.

What is the difference there between "rude" and "disturbing"?

Read that again. I was talking about my fantasies being disturbing to me. They were not in any way disturbing (or rude) to the person they were about, since s/he never knew of them.

"She will not grant me privacy of mind."

OK, now you're bringing in an argument from a society that contains telepaths. All the rules of politeness would be different in such a society. It is, however, a complete red herring in THIS discussion.

You persist in claiming that the fantasies are private and remain private...my observations and experiences are there there is almost always at least some degree of leakage out of the mind into perceptions and actions, that there is biasing even if it's not a large biasing, but there there IS biasing, and consequence of biasing.

Oh, nonsense, Paula! You're selecting your data. The only data you have is the fantasies you KNOW about, and in every case there is behavior involved, even if it's limited to telling you they had a sexual fantasy about you. Guys don't do that unless they're trying to shock or manipulate you, unless they know you VERY well (and that circumstance is probably moot in your case, because anyone who knew you that well would know better than to tell you any such thing). If a guy really liked you he wouldn't tell you about it until you'd been together for a year, and perhaps not then.

My own case is quite different. If someone told me they had a sexual fantasy about me, I would most likely be pleased, unless I found them totally creepy and they knew I did. So you and I really are coming from very different points of view on this.

You don't control someone else's mind.

Ah, the imperative voice, such fun it is not...and it is so friendly.

First of all, imperative is a mood, not a voice. Second of all, my sentence quoted above is a simple declarative, not an imperative: you do not, cannot, will never be able to control someone else's mind, unless you're willing to become a torturer and use brainwashing techniques. Short of that, you can't control it, no matter what you do.

As for friendly, if you're under the impression that your posts on this topic have been friendly, let's just say we have very different standards for that, as well. And your use of the </sarcasm> tag alerts me to the jaw-droppingly unbelievable idea that you may think you have not been sarcastic up to this point.

This sounds like demanding that women wear Islamic modesty curtaining...

You see, it's the idea that male thoughts lead inevitably to action that is at the root of such codes of dress. In some (not all) Islamic societies, the responsibility for preventing such thought and behavior is put on the women, to the extent that if they are victimized, they are sometimes killed by their male relatives. In our society, the responsibility is on men to behave well and think what they like. Everyone (except you and Andrea Dworkin) recognizes that this is better, results in less violence and incarceration, than trying to control anyone's thoughts.

It is true that if you want to prevent all men from thinking about you in a sexual way, your best option is chador. I do not recommend this, however.

Notepad or WordPad?

Notepad. Plain text, but you can set the font. And I must say, angry as I am about some of the things you've said in this post, it's much more coherent and readable than many of your previous ones. Perhaps it really only took proofreading to fix the problems.

Greg 481, 483: Hear, hear.

heresiarch 484: Why do you assume that in every male sexual fantasy the woman is a smiling mindless sex doll?

Exactly! Yes. Thank you. I have to say, my sexual fantasies about other men generally involve kissing. In fact, at this point in my life kissing is what I think about most. And weddings figure prominently too.

____ 485: No offense taken, and not just because I agree with what you're saying here.

Rikibeth 488: Hear, hear. (Which, by the way, IS an imperative, but a very mild one: a recommendation.) Perhaps she'll listen to you.

Lizzy 495: I agree, except that Paula is asserting courtesy authority (rules of politeness) rather than moral authority. I think everything you've said still holds, however.

Paula 497: Entirely irrelevant to the topic under discussion. Stop it with the red herrings, Paula. (That's an imperative, btw.)

Rikibeth 498: Just so.

____500: de Saussure put it this way: Revolution begins in the signifier. If you modify people's behavior, modifying their way of thinking is a (slow) consequence. You can try going the other way, but it doesn't work. Think how few people openly express racist sentiments now (one fewer, since Jesse Helms finally went to Hell died). I believe fewer people actually think that way than did in my childhood, partly because some people have changed their minds, but mostly because a new generation has been brought up in a society that finds such things unacceptable.

#502 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 12:30 PM:

Good post, Xopher, and pretty near definitive AFAIAC. Thanks for the interesting conversation, folks. I'm going to hang out elsewhere now -- time to work. Maybe I'll go have sexual fantasies about someone. If I do, I promise not to let them know it in any way.

:-)

#503 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 12:40 PM:

Xopher @ 501, about my 500: yes, exactly!

And, as other people have said upthread, one of the useful ways of achieving that kind of shift is more people willing to say, "Dude, that's not cool."

#504 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 01:12 PM:

You see, it's the idea that male thoughts lead inevitably to action that is at the root of such codes of dress.

And from there it's one short step to what started this whole go-round, that being teen boys being taught that merely having sexual thoughts is wrong. That in turn slides neatly and quickly into the lovely rad-fem "All* men would be rapists if not controlled", which is amazingly insulting to the many, many men who would never even consider raping anyone.

Otherwise known as "Why I don't call myself a feminist, Part CXLVIII".

*: Sometimes qualified with "heterosexual", but not usually.

#505 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 01:35 PM:

Paula, from 451 -- Yes, I realize that thought !== action. However, in areas involving representation of values, respect/lack of respect, bigotry, etc., the stories that one tells oneself, really do influence how one sees, one acts, and how one treats others.

I agree with that, and with the point you made directly afterwards, that objectifying people is undesirable. Still, I think the main problems that come from certain lines of thought have to do with the interactions -- actual behavior -- that occurs, and which refines our attitudes, which in turn influence which fantasies we devote time and energy to.

The crucial thing here is that there is an inseparable feedback loop between thoughts and behavior/experience. Your beliefs about which fantasies are OK have been shaped by your experiences, not only what you do but also what you observe. This in turn shapes how you behave toward others. And the people whose bad behavior you gave examples of didn't form their attitudes in a vacuum. There was an entire peer group and society that reinforced the behavior (hello, military -- your whole post 497 reflects social interactions, i.e. behavior). Note that I'm not implying that we are mindless slaves to group behavior; obviously there are plenty of people who have different attitudes than their immediate peer groups. Also, the universe of every individual's cognitions is pretty damned complex, and I'm uncomfortable with oversimplifying. Still, I think it's most productive to not divorce thoughts from the surrounding (inter)actions.

There's also the matter of thoughts and behaviors and assumptions, as Rikibeth noted in 500. My family has approached me with trepidation based on my facial expression. "Are you mad at me?" they'll ask. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Sometimes I was mad, but at someone else. Sometimes I was just concentrating hard on something and hadn't even noticed the family member was there, let alone directed a look at them.

Now, different people with different experiences (of me, and through life in general) would deal with me and my "mad" facial expression differently. All sorts of assumptions are conceivable, from "Poor thing, looks like she's having a bad day" through "Looks like she'll bite someone's head off" up to "Stupid cow, she's in a bad mood AGAIN, I'm so sick and tired of it." ALL of those assessments are valid in a sense, because they reflect individuals' experience. Whether they accurately reflect me can only be shown through communicative behavior. Each of the assumptions above might lead to behavioral intentions -- better be nice to her / better stay out of her way / I'm going to give her a piece of my mind -- but NOT necessarily.

Extending this thought to fantasies, one and the same fantasy might flatter Person A, squick B out, and outrage C, all depending on A's, B's and C's individual experiences. Whether the person having the fantasy reflects on the fantasies, and what conclusions are reached ("Hmm, these fantasies are really pretty degrading toward women, and I don't want to be that way"), and whether or not they are acted upon in any way, depends again on interactions and experiences. But I maintain, as others have also, that the fantasy in and of itself is not inherently harmful, rude, or wrong, either to the thinker or the subject of the fantasy.

Xopher, Rikibeth, Carrie S., others -- you've articulated a lot of things way better (and more succinctly) than I ever could. All: I hope my 2 cents here isn't more heat than light, but the topic is interesting, and has been occupying me since it started.

#506 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 02:56 PM:

Bruce Baugh: There is a difference in kind between saying one ought not express a certain type of thought, and one ought not have that thought.

Is being a racist wrong? I think so. Society, at some level, thinks so. But it's not a crime to think it. So long as one isn't overt about it...

There are even edge cases where we can't stop/allow it: If I have a party, and invite all the coworkers whose race I don't disaprove of it's not a crime. If I refuse to promote my employees who have a race I disaprove of it's a civil tort, and if I arrange to have them red-lined it may cross the line to criminal.

None of that list prevents me (or anyone else) from being a racist. Nor even of getting together with like minded racists. The hope is racism will, from public opprobrium, wither away. But no one is being forced (though one may argue told) to not have such thoughts, merely to not act on them.

As is also the case with Paula's example of the British MoD. They are dealing with overt expressions, not with thoughts.

Paula: I've been trying to avoid this, because; honestly, I don't think there is anything I can say which isn't going to inflame you (and from past experience, I know that persuading you of any error in your position on this sort of topic won't happen. In many ways [and Greg, I apologise for using you as an example] it's similar to when War Porn comes up. You have experience which has you very invested in this, and you are in, as it seems from here, in the grip emotion much like religious fervor).

But I can't ignore that you have, repeatedly, and consistently, changed the terms of debate.

From the moment Rikibeth said, "If they don't know you are undressing them" and you said... Well let's test that, by forcing you to let me knowingly strip you in my mind while I leer at you.

You keep conflating thought with action. When you are asked about people who might have thought of you, all unknown to you, you speak of those who had hit on you. (I don't even know what to make of the, "indirect code phrases," you say might make it acceptable for someone to fantasize about another, because someone's idea of giving out a phone number so as to better get to know someone might be someone else's idea of permission).

Now you are saying, in effect, for a person to not mind someone fantasizing about themselves as an adult they must also contemplate, and approve, similar thoughts of children. First, the one doesn't follow the other and second, it's cheap. It's in the same vein as wife beating questions. You are demanding those who disagree with you sign off on an approval of pederasty.

You can't know what darkness lurks in the hearts of others (that's a burden only the Shadow, and their confessors have to bear). I have thoughts you wouldn't like (and they have nothing to do with sex). But you know what... you don't know about them; so really you don't care.

As has been said before... what you don't know , you don't know (and a fantasy novel in which one person Does Know... is again, a different thing... not what has been discussed, and somewhat different from real life).

What you impute to others, may be hurting them. Catch me blissed out remembering a dinner from the night before, with my glazed eyes resting on an attractive person; you hurt me when you decide I've started dreaming about them with their clothes off. Are you going to come up and read me the riot act? Are you going to just decide I'm a rude bastard, and see others as, "Disposable Dollies." Pretty damned rude to me to make such unfounded assumptions.

And I have to (from your words) assume that should you make such a decision, you will allow it to affect your behavior to me. You've said it's impossible not to.

I'm not going to go into the morrass of what you seem to think are your IP rights to images of yourself, save to say the copyright of an image does not belong to the person in it, but to the maker of it. There are limits to what may be done without permissions... but if I take a photograph of someone, I own the copyright, not the subject.

[to answer the question, btw, I don't care who fantasizes about me, or what else they might dream of; so long as they take no for an answer if they actually hit on me and I'm not interested.]

#507 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 03:43 PM:

Terry: Hear, hear. One minor point: R.M. Koske brought up "if you don't know they are undressing you" long before I jumped in defending my right to fantasize about attractive strangers.

I was mostly reacting to Paula's "I AM NOT A FUCKING SEX APPLIANCE FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC'S FUCKING CONVENIENCE!!!!!!" in #480, because it's a sentiment I have a great deal of sympathy with, actually, but back during the "OSBP" uproar I did a LOT of thinking about the subject, and drew my lines differently.

I've been going to SF cons since I was 14. I was at MIT for a year (1987-88, and can appreciate how much it changed from the MIT of Paula's description in the 1970s), although never in the military. And I like to go out dancing at goth clubs, and I often wear corsets when I do that. Trust me when I say I've been hit on by my share of clueless gorfs, and subjected to roving eyes.

If I go out in a corset, I've accepted that people will look at me, and possibly fantasize, and possibly approach me. If they look, let 'em look, it's doing me no harm. Same goes for fantasizing. If they approach, I'll even forgive them if their eyes stray to the cleavage sometimes, as long as they're making a polite effort to look at my face and hold a conversation. If I don't like them, I can disengage from the conversation; if they hit on me and I don't want them to, I'll say no, with varying degrees of offense, depending on how obnoxious they were; if they get grabby, that's when I shove, or slap, or scream.

I know this doesn't match Paula's experiences of rude behavior from colleagues. If I were going out with colleagues, I'd dress differently -- that term "work-appropriate" exists for a reason -- AND I'd expect a higher standard of behavior from them, because they WERE my colleagues, see "work-appropriate" again, AND if they treated me as Paula reported, I'd be significantly more distressed, because I would know I'd have to keep interacting with these people in the future, so I wouldn't feel as free to say "buzz off, creep," or pluck someone's hand off my waist as if it were a dead fish, or shove the guy at the bar who draped his arm around my shoulders. I'd feel, rightly, that they were manipulating the social expectation of politeness between colleagues to get away with unacceptable behavior, because, unfortunately, MY commensurate reaction would be perceived as rude.

Did I ever tell the story here of the kitchen I worked in that made sandwiches and things for catering trucks? Highly gendered environment, the women were pretty much all on the assembly line, and the men were working the ovens and grills and such. Kind of a rough place, a lot of the employees had criminal records. It was often cheerful, but there was a lot of horseplay, which isn't to my taste.

One day Jay, one of the cooks, grabbed me by the waist from behind. I'm jumpy. I shrieked. If it were left to the two of us it'd have been fine -- he said "hey, I was just playing," I said "okay, no hard feelings, but I'm jumpy, and sometimes I hit people when they do that, don't do it again, huh?" and we were cool -- but management decided to lecture me about how *I* was too uptight and needed to relax. I explained to them that, no, they needed to not have people just grabbing each other, because that was harassment, and that even if Jay and I were fine now, it wasn't fine to START with.

I don't think they liked that much. I was let go a month later. Allegedly unrelated reasons, and there may have been some merit, and I certainly didn't have the resources to pursue it, because I was in the middle of a divorce, but I'd be a fool to think that the Grabby Incident and my response to it didn't have some bearing.

All this to demonstrate that while I don't have Paula's encompassing experience of sexist behavior, I'm not exactly coming from a place of oblivious privilege.

#508 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 04:42 PM:

Rikibeth: thank you: I conflated, but it's been a long thread and I didn't have as much patience in going back and forth (again) for days of difficult reading. I should have made the effort to double check names, when I was pulling quotations.

I know there are lots of people, whom I was not interested in, who have fantasized about me (esp. when I was younger. I was, apparently, a very pretty boy, and lots of men had, "indecent" thoughts about me).

I know this because some have told me so (usually in the context of finding out if I was at all intereted in them).

My experience is that this hasn't, so far as I can tell, affected how they treated me. Perhaps this is because I a male. I don't know.

I do know there are people who have decided things about me, from what they think I believe/desire/do, justified treating me differently.

So, because of what they thought I think, they pigeonholed me (and some of those pigeonholes are very unpleasant... just think of what some might think because I am an interrogator).

I know which of those two lines behavior I prefer.

#509 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 04:48 PM:

I have kept writing that there is is a difference between someone persisting in deliberately putting someone else into their sex fantasies without the person's permission, and trying to avoid that.

It's not the involuntary sudden mental images I'm objecting to, it's a rather a persisting deliberate thought pattern of regarding it as privilege to fantasize anything about anyone one feels like fantasizing about, regardless of the feelings of the people being used mentally by the imaginer.

And I keep saying that while thought does not necessarily lead to action, having an outlook on the universe of e.g. regarding all women out there as fair game for playing with in one's mind for sex fantasies, or regarding all men as fair game, or anybody on two feet one deigns to regard as interested sex fantasy material, is the sort of attitude that to me, promotes inhumanism and regarding other people as depersonalized meat, and encourages--it does not necessarily cause, or lead to, but can significantly contribute to, total disregard and lack of consideration of other people's interests, needs, feelings, etc. -- all of which fall into areas that involve such things as getting no respect and getting no consideration and being devalued/regarded as commodity/chattel.

It's not that distant a step for most people, from mentally imaginings, to rationalizing doing what what is mentally imaging. There is the issue of desensitivation, where the barriers gradually get crept up on and the walls get thinner and thinner, step by inexorable steps.

There are all sorts of analogies in real life, including the classic one being how to create a mole. Initially the spy trying to create a mole, will ask for something seemingly innocuous, the typical example being the internal phone book of where the target works. The spy will then continue asking for things, starting again with innocous seeming items, the intent there is to get the recruit accustomed to acquiring items to give to the spy. Over time the spy will start asking for items that get more and more sensitive. The recruit, however, who's been doing as the spy asked doesn't consciously notice because of the conditioning that's going on that the recruit is even doing to themself, that it's normal and ordinary to give things to this person, because the recruit has been doing this for months now, and the spy trusts the recruit and is stroking the recruit's ego/providing benefits which may be any of monetary, ego-stroking, emotional, whatever... and/or the spy may be starting to blackmail the recruit. Eventually the recruit is in so deep that the recruit's giving the spy the most sensitive information available in the facility the recruit-turned-full-fledged spy works in.

That scenario, again, is the classic situation, and it works, it has worked, it continues to work--it;'s like boiling a lobster or the horrible cases of people dying in hot tubs, raise the water temperature slowly and lobsters, or people, never notice as the water temperature becomes deadly.

People can be incrediblely creative and earnest about lying to themselves... one of my acquaintances described how repulsive and disgusting and self-dishonest he got when falling off the wagon--he's an alcoholic. He described the lengths he went to to hide his drinking when he was doing it and pretending not to be, of drinking mouthwash in sheds and hiding the bottles. The flavoring of the mouthwash prevent the alcohol from being smellable on his breath. He also described how vile it is to drink mouthwash.... but he had fallen off the wagon, and was hiding his drinking not only from his family, but also rationalizing that he wasn't really drinking, since it was mouthwash and not wine/beer/spirits meant for drinking.

Then there's the brownskinned friend who growing up, would be at the house of friends from school, and the schoolmates' parents would sit and say how horrible "Negroes" were. My friend said she would sit wondering about the friends' parents, who apparently weren't registering that the child sitting in front of them, was very clearly visually identifiable as being in the group that the parents were saying were such horrible horrible people.

They put their bigoted thoughts into words that they spoke out loud, and had mentally slotted the child in front of them as socially "white" despite her skin color.

My point: the adults involved were so lost to cognizant cogitation of what they were saying and what was plainly sitting in front of them, as to have a major, offensive and obnoxious disconnect. Their mental mapping had my friend as "white" and so they were expressing their bigoted thoughts/values to someone they regarded as "white" and unthinkingly assumed wouldn't find those views and values offensive and repugnant... their thoughts and their words they spoke were the same, and they were completely noncognizant that the child in front of them, was not white and did not share those values!

I saw similar sorts of things when people I worked with who were in different organizations than I was in, would complain about the specific unit or section or outfit I was in. "Those people in ASO..." "But I'm in ASO!" I objected. "You're not one of them!" was the reply.

{that gets into the territory of group identification and such, and who're perceived as Exceptions to "Those people..."...)

#510 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 05:43 PM:

#508 Terry

Someone told me, thirty five or so years after the fact, that he was behind me in a registration line at a Boskone, and thought I looked incredibly hot, but made no attempt to talk to me way back then. I don't remember if he mentioned it a decade and a half ago, when he was wife-hunting, or not. But he didn't mention it at the time it happened or for many many years thereafter, he had apparently been struck close to dumb by me and only long after mentioned it. (I just remembered this.)

#511 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 06:13 PM:

Paula, when you say:

It's not the involuntary sudden mental images I'm objecting to, it's a rather a persisting deliberate thought pattern of regarding it as privilege to fantasize anything about anyone one feels like fantasizing about, regardless of the feelings of the people being used mentally by the imaginer.

you're not addressing my argument that using the images of specific people for sexual fantasy is innocuous, if one has no expectation of EVER interacting with the people in question, and that their permission, in a situation of no interaction, is moot.

And while I see some merit in this argument:

And I keep saying that while thought does not necessarily lead to action, having an outlook on the universe of e.g. regarding all women out there as fair game for playing with in one's mind for sex fantasies, or regarding all men as fair game, or anybody on two feet one deigns to regard as interested sex fantasy material, is the sort of attitude that to me, promotes inhumanism and regarding other people as depersonalized meat, and encourages--it does not necessarily cause, or lead to, but can significantly contribute to, total disregard and lack of consideration of other people's interests, needs, feelings, etc. -- all of which fall into areas that involve such things as getting no respect and getting no consideration and being devalued/regarded as commodity/chattel.

I've got a disagreement that may seem minor, and may be infelicitous phrasing on your part, but given that it matches with what you've said in earlier posts, I'm going to take it as deliberate:

anybody on two feet one deigns to regard as interested sex fantasy material

If i go home and fantasize (in X-rated detail, even) about that hot guy I saw in the crosswalk, I can't speak for anyone else in a similar circumstance, but I know I'm not telling myself he's interested; I'm acknowledging that I find him interesting.

The offensive interactions you've described all seem to stem from men who believed that because they found some aspect of you interesting, that it should therefore follow that you'd be interested in their attention.

I don't think anyone here would disagree with you that that's rude. I certainly don't.

I even agree with you that it's hard to maintain perfect politeness with someone who's featured in your fantasies. You have managed to remind me of some DEEPLY embarrassing behavior I indulged in w/r/t a crush object of mine when I was thirteen. Embarrassing to both of us. Incredibly comical to our classmates. Part of becoming socialized was learning where I had to draw my own internal lines on fantasy in order to maintain a standard of behavior that caused embarrassment to nobody.

All I'm saying is, perhaps not everyone needs to exert such strict control on their fantasies as you choose to impose on yourself to maintain good social behavior, and I'm MUCH more concerned with their social behavior.

I'll even give you an example. It may not be a perfect one, but I think it's got some merit.

I've known the guy I'm currently dating, in the sense of social acquaintance, for about two years, although we've only been dating for about six months.

The first time he ever saw me, I was stark naked. So was he -- we were at a party and the hosts have a hot tub. We were both with our respective partners of the time, and pleasant conversation was had all around. Further pleasant conversation ensued on later occasions, although nothing to make me think of him as other than an acquaintance, shading toward friend -- even the one very mildly flirtatious comment he left on my Livejournal in that time frame was well-phrased enough to be seen as a self-deprecating gallantry, rather than a definite declaration of interest. I had also noted to myself that he was physically attractive, but hadn't made mention of this to him, or put him into detailed fantasies.

Some time after first meeting him, my boyfriend and I broke up. I let it be known to my social circle that I was, in a general sense, available, and willing to entertain expressions of interest. That was the first time he directly expressed interest to me.

I forget at what point in the flirtation/courtship/whatever that followed his expression of interest and my encouragement of it that he mentioned that he'd been interested in me since he first saw me in the hot tub. I do know that when he said it, it wasn't upsetting, it was flattering -- even though it might have been upsetting if he'd said it before I'd encouraged his interest. I do think he said it before we had our first actual date.

I don't, in fact. know if there were detailed fantasies involved on his part from that moment on. (As Xopher said, maybe he'll feel comfortable telling me or I'll feel comfortable asking him after we've been involved for a year.) But even if he had them, he behaved with utmost gentlemanly courtesy by the customs of the social crowd we're part of, and the idea that he MIGHT have had those fantasies?

Doesn't bother me one bit.

#512 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 06:35 PM:

Bruce@487: please drop the damnfool "But you're telling people what to think!" shock and surprise. Yes. That is exactly what a huge chunk of all moral discourse is about.

I have always taken the separation of church and state as an indicator of how much the state is willing to impose thought controlling measures, versus how much the state is willing to allow people to think whatever they want. I'm also a huge fan of Martin Luther and his notion that everyone has their own personal relationship with God, not something handed down from the state or the church elders.

So, I acknowledge two types of morality. The first is the morality imposed by the state, and in that realm, I'm all for a hard separation between church and state. The second is personal morality, and in that realm, I'm all for Luther's notion of it being first and foremost a personal relationship between the person and their own morality and their own thoughts and their own sense of how they want to live their lives. Which is why I told Paula I didn't have a problem with her attempting to control her own thoughts.

But what we're talking about here is someone advocating their personal morality on others, at which point, "You're telling people what to think" is a perfectly reasonable response. This isn't state-based morality in the form of laws that control actions. This isn't personal morality in the form of someone's personal relationship with their own thoughts. This is exactly the sort of thing that deserves some shock and surprise.

#513 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 06:48 PM:

Paula,

As soon as anyone creates a "should" for other people, there's a question of how to enforce it if they don't. If I think gay men "shouldn't" be fantasizing about me sexually, what do I do if a gay man hits on me? If they "shouldn't" think about me that way, and it becomes obvious they do, then how am I to respond? Do I respond in relation to their actions (which consisted of them saying something and me saying "what? Oh. No thanks.") or do I respond in relation to them having thoughts they "shouldn't" have and possibly beat the thoughts out of their minds?

You cannot label real world people's thoughts as wrong without the consequences that come from other real world people thinking they are right to enforce it. Which is why I support two types of morality: (1) the state-based kind grounded in a hard separation of church and state and focused on objective actions, and (2) the personal kind whereby people can live their life however they want, think whatever they want, worship whatever they want, be spiritual however they want.

I think that people who have a strong relationship to their own personal spirituality get this. Lizzy mentioned her buddhist practice. I know Xopher is an extremely spiritual person. Terry is one of the more centered people on Making Light as far as I can tell. And I'd probably rate my spirituality as a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. But if a person has a weak relationship to their spirituality, if they have a weak personal relationship with their God, I think they can't see personal morality, and the only morality they can see is person-to-person morality, state-based morality, and people "shoulding" other people. And when all someone can see is the hammer they're holding, everything starts looking like nails, and so on.

I don't know what else to say other than I think there are huge potentials for real damage "shoulding" someone else's thoughts, and I think maybe you're not seeing the importance and strength of personal morality and personal spirituality. If you saw it, I think you'd see that people can have the internal strength to have a thought and never act on them. If you don't see it, you would naturally see people as always acting on their thoughts in some way.


#514 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 06:48 PM:

Me @ 464: "Never said it couldn't be... I made a general statement that all (or nearly all) systems of justice work off the idea of therapeutic humiliation."

If the two categories aren't mutually exclusive, then what possible use is there in bringing up humiliation's use in judicial punishment? If judicial punishment can be torture, and humiliation can be used in judicial punishment, how does that disprove that humilation can also be torture?

Again, I never said that judicial punishment couldn't be torture... That's why we have safeguards and watchdogs to keep the punishments reasonable. I said the vast majority of judicial punishments are not torture, but DO involve humiliation, thus providing evidence that not all humiliation should be considered torture.

For what it's worth, the rack was once considered "integral to a system that [was] widely accepted." Your appeals to public acceptance don't add up to all that much.

It adds up better than your refutation... The use of the rack by a secretive, unaccountable governing force is MUCH more like Bush's use of waterboarding than our modern judicial system. I seriously doubt the general population EVER approved of the rack. Today's population is much better educated, and more sociologically aware, thus giving their approval more credibility in any case. Your refutation misses the mark.

#515 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 08:26 PM:

Xopher #476: Are you sure you mean 'self-abusive', given the traditional meaning of the term?

#516 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2008, 09:02 PM:

Fragano 515: I was using it more literally, but with full consciousness of its traditional meaning.

#517 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 12:45 AM:

Paula @ 451:

Is it really so much to ask that people try to restrict their sex fantasies to putting faces onto the bodies they imagine being hot and heavy with, to consenting adults or to faces from imagination and not real people who haven't consented?

That's an interesting suggestion. And it would alleviate some of our philosophical difficulties in this thread of trying to peer into Schroedinger's box to discover what his cat is fantasizing about.

But I suspect that many people aren't that imaginative. It's easier to fantasize about people you've seen than it is to make up faces.

How could this imaginative ability be cultivated? One possibility that occurs to me is to encourage written porn over visual media.

#518 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 12:13 PM:

#513 Greg

I don't think the perceptions you have of what I write, match the words that I keep using.

"Rude" is a social value judgment, so is "disrespect."

There are social changes over time--when I was a child, it wasn't "Eenie meenie miney mo, catch a tiger by the toe".... what the word "tiger" replaced, is a term that definitely wasn't a term of respect back then, but most USA parents weren't seriously offended if offended at all by their children using it, and most of the adults in the USA didn't regard it as socially incorrect and offensive to use. Today, the term carries an extreme connotation of a word conveying disrespect that socially in most of the USA is so offensive that among most people, not only is there a de facto ban on using it, but when people talk about times gone by and use the words that would be used in the past, get ambivalent about if they should use that word, at all....

And yes, there is a point to that--it's the concepts that that term tie into (not only denotation of it being a deprecatory sniggering mutation of "negro" which term itelf became socially unacceptable to use, but all the connotations regarding devaluing and disrespecting and demeaning people with dark skin/of African descent) that are the reason for the de facto ban, and the level of social revilement applied to the term.

Half a century ago, the USA had segregation laws in quite a number of states, legal sequestering, and second class citizenship applied to people with dark skin, including "back of the bus" and separate bathrooms and social clubs, public schools, hiring opportunities and employment, etc. etc. etc. which were segregated by skin color, and opportunities limits.

The USA is a lot different today as regards the legal situation. Discrimination by skin color hasn't been eliminated, but there is a lot less of it, and a whole lot less public rancor and public abusiveness involved, and socially, those who advocate segregation and access based on skin color are the object of general public villification and condemnation.

Forty years ago, women were banned from being astronauts, being in professional jobs where the employers and partners claimed that long work weeks were requirements, banned from being firefighters and police and airline cockpits as pilots and navigators, banned from social clubs, banned from Lock-Ober (a restaurant in Boston), banned from being students at Caltech, Princeton, Darmouth, military academies at the federal, state, and private levels, locked out of board rooms, locked out of grad school in the sciences and engineering, generally locked out of tenured faculty positions at universities except soemtimes for fine arts and literature, and kept in mostly low pay low prestige jobs. Today, both Harvard and MIT have female Presidents. But there has also been rollback--there were two female Supreme Court Justices eight years ago, today there is one and the replacement for the retired social more or less center politics female Justice, is a misogynistic bigoted rightwing narrow-minded fanatical fascist male....

Getting back to Greg's commentaries, however,
I keep saying "rude" and "disrespectful," which are social valuations. Fifty years ago what the word "tiger" replaced, again, was not held in the public opprobrium it is viewed with today.

The word didn't change, what changed were attitudes... the word and its connotations were not held in such extreme distaste back then as it is today.... that is, today it is considered out of bounds rude and disrespectful.... back then it and its denotations and connotations were considered acceptable for mouthing by not only adults, but children playing games.

So anyway, "rudeness" and "disrespect" involved jugment calls and values, and can and DO change.

#519 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 12:24 PM:

heresiarch -- Actually, I hadn't read 417... I didn't change my basic feelings, but I thought that Xopher's classification of the swirlie as a very mild form of torture was a good compromise. I trust Xopher, so if he is satisfied, then so am I. My apologies if I came out sounding overly aggressive in his defense.

I'll admit you were half right in saying I was conflating two issues. For a while there, you were focused on the rhetoric, and not the torture-denial, and that is what I was reacting to. I noticed too late that you softened your stance considerably on the violent rhetoric between #306 and #485. If the latter phrasing was closer to your true feelings, then my accusation was too strong. Had you used the milder phrasing from #485 initially, I would not have thought you , nor accused you of being, disingenuous.

So I accept half the blame, and apologize for half the upset I caused you...

... and offer you half the chocolate pudding Mel just made me for breakfast...

And I hope Xopher will forgive me for jumping into this in the first place. The particular line of nursing I'm in involves taking advocacy to an almost OCD-like level... Wanna share my half of the pudding?

#520 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:29 PM:

greg #513: But if a person has a weak relationship to their spirituality, if they have a weak personal relationship with their God, I think they can't see personal morality, and the only morality they can see is person-to-person morality, state-based morality, and people "shoulding" other people.

This seems to come perilously close... and I mean perilously close... to the old "atheists can't be personally moral" canard. Is that what you're getting at? What gives you the idea that an atheist can't see personal morality?

#521 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:31 PM:

Paula 518: That's all behavior. You still don't get it.

Edward 519: Thanks, but I'd already forgiven you. Also, I don't much care for chocolate pudding, but that's beside the point! :-)

#522 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:54 PM:

#521 Xopher

You don't get it either, then, and there is a chasm between perception/value/opinion. Saying "you don't get it" only exacerbates that.

#523 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 01:57 PM:

David 520: I think Greg is saying (Greg, correct if wrong) that for people without spirituality, logic-and-consequences-based ethics takes the place of spiritually-derived morality. I don't mean consequences like "will I be punished" but like "will this cause harm."

In that sense, atheists could be entirely ethical and indeed excellent people (as indeed all the adult atheists I know are), but not have "personal morality" as Greg is using the term. I do think it's an odd usage, and I hope Greg explains further.

However, I also think it's a mistake to equate 'atheist' with 'unspiritual'. I personally would say that atheists do not express their spirituality through religion, but then I probably have eccentric definitions of both those things. For one thing I define 'spirituality' much more broadly than most people would—for example I think the experience of awe is intrinsically spiritual, whether it's because an angel came down and said "Fear not," or because you just saw the Milky Way for the first time.

I think a person entirely without spirituality, by the above definition, becomes a "dry" person. "Dry" people are very unpleasant to be around; they can't really enjoy much of anything in a deep way, and they tend to try to destroy others' enjoyment as well. But there are as many "dry" people who go to church every Sunday as there are...well, no, in fact, the kind of thoughtful introspection that tends to result in convinced atheism rarely occurs in a "dry" person, come to think of it. I would say very few atheists would qualify.

#524 ::: Michael Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 03:25 PM:

Xopher - because you just saw the Milky Way for the first time - or the thousandth!

Also, "Dry" people are very unpleasant to be around - that's because they're crackly and tend to flake. Very hard to get out of upholstery.

#525 ::: Doug Hudson ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 03:40 PM:

It seems to me that the freedom to think whatever I please is one of the few freedoms that can't easily be taken away (sophisticated brainwashing aside), and I am not going to give up that freedom just because someone is uncomfortable about what I might be thinking.

Courtesy demands that I not leer at an attractive woman, but it does not demand that I not find her attractive.

If I have misunderstood Paula's point, I apologize in advance.

#526 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:05 PM:

Hm. I think I see the latest disconnect in Paula and Xopher's points.

Yes, the standards of courtesy change. It would now be inexcusably rude to chant the earlier version of "catch a tiger by the toe."

The thing is, I believe what Xopher's saying (and I agree with him) is that "rudeness" applies only to actions and not thoughts. You could chant "catch a tiger by the toe" and THINK the earlier version, and as long as it never left your lips, you wouldn't be rude.

Racist, yes. Rude, no.

So, if you fantasize about someone, you probably are, to some extent, objectifying them. You may or may not be doing this in a sexist manner.

But as long as your interactions with the person, or speech ABOUT the person in their absence, are polite, you're not being rude.

#527 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:27 PM:

Oh, and to go way, WAY back to the "boys will be boys" vs. "they can learn not to be jerks about it" discussion:

It is almost certainly too much to ask to expect a horny adolescent not to look at an attractive passerby and have lustful thoughts. Teaching him that it's okay to say "wow" or "look at her, she's gorgeous" to his friends, and keep his mouth shut in more mixed company (elders, small children, women, lots of things count as mixed, not just sex), and that "Look at those hooters" is rude EVEN when it's just his friends, promotes respect.

For all we know he's still staring only at her bosom. But if he gets the message that it's not polite to MENTION someone, even a passing stranger, referencing only that characteristic, then that will promote respectful behavior.

And if his behavior is respectful, I for one don't particularly care if he's still THINKING about her tits.

#528 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:36 PM:

Rikibeth -- not to mention that that's a lot more direct and potentially effective way to deal with problems anyway, in this case "objectification of women."

#529 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:44 PM:

So the BB/Violet Blue mess has now officially made the jump to (small-time, cable) television coverage. G4's Attack of the Show talked about it last night. Is this the biggest blogging blow-up ever?

#530 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 04:46 PM:

Debbie -- and the funny thing is, that's not even a NEW standard of courtesy, it's more of reviving an OLD one.

Of course the old standard of courtesy depended on the notion that there were women who were Ladies and women who were Not, and you didn't have to be courteous to or about those who weren't ladies, and that doing many of the things we take for granted today got you chucked out of the category "lady," and that women were barred from doing lots of things because it wasn't suitable for "ladies."

So the trick is to reinforce the GOOD parts of old-fashioned courtesy between the sexes (not making objectifying remarks, etc.) without losing the hard-fought egalitarianism.

It IS a paradigm shift. Paula's got that right.

I don't even think she's crazy when she says it's a bad idea to fantasize in detail about people you have to interact with socially. I kind of agree. I do think it affects behavior.

I'm just willing to say that if someone else can behave properly while fantasizing in more detail than *I* find useful -- then that's entirely their business.

#531 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 05:22 PM:

Rikibeth, while I'm sure you didn't mean this, it's probably a good idea to stress that the good parts DON'T include having doors opened for you, "ladies first," and all that stuff...all of which is designed to reinforce the idea that women are fragile flowers who can't possibly survive without men to assist them.

Otherwise some bozo will come in and accuse you of wanting all the "goodies" of both pre- and post-feminist treatment, which of course is unreasonable, not on offer, and (I believe) not what you meant.

I actually think that any rule of courtesy which cannot be stated without mentioning the gender of either participant should be suspect. (Not "dismissed out of hand," because there may be some that are reasonable but do require mentioning gender, and others where gender is important: touching a man's chest may be rude, but not nearly as rude as touching a woman's!)

#532 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 05:35 PM:

So, if you fantasize about someone, you probably are, to some extent, objectifying them.

Can someone define "objectify" for me, please? I see it used all the time but no two people seem to use it to mean the exact same thing. Similar things, sure.

"To regard a human as an object" does not seem to fit since I see "objectify" used in ways that don't seem to work with that definition.

#533 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 05:46 PM:

Xopher, absolutely. Miss Manners, who's quite the egalitarian under the old-fashioned writing style, is very much in accord with what you've put forward. Whoever gets to the door first holds it, young and able-bodied people yield their seats to the elderly, disabled, or pregnant, the person issuing the invitation is designated the host and thus picks up the check, and may accept or decline offers to split the tab -- and she has delightfully old-fashioned and decorous-sounding ways for a lady to issue an invitation to a gentleman!

If an individual gentleman wishes to offer the old-fashioned door-opening, package-carrying, coat-holding courtesies to a particular lady in his company, it's best to construe those as gallantries, and accept gracefully, but they are no longer required or appropriate from all males to all females.

No, the old-fashioned things I meant related largely to decorum, and the idea that certain topics of communication and modes of communication were best avoided in polite company, and that polite company included the workplace, and that it's Not Done to go around emulating the morning radio shock-jocks in grown-up conversation.

You won't catch ME saying "Ladies First!" I was raised on Free To Be... You And Me. I know that gets you eaten by the tigers!

#534 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 05:52 PM:

LOL - I was thinking of that very story!

#535 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 06:05 PM:

David Bilek @ 532, "objectify" is one of those slippery ones, especially since it's often treated in feminist discourse as a dirty word.

I think, in the context of this discussion, it's best understood by what Paula was saying about "Disposable Darlings." Treating the other person (or image, projection, phantasm of the other person) as merely an aid to your own gratification, without concern for their individual wants, desires, or personhood.

Not all fantasies are objectifying. And not all objectification is about sexual fantasy, although it's in there... a fashion model is being objectified, as we're meant to focus on his or her appearance only, but technically any feelings of arousal aren't supposed to be directed at the model, they're supposed to create positive associations with the clothing. (I am not sure how well this works. I am a big fan of the Hugo Boss and Versace ads that feature Jonathan Rhys Meyers. The chance of me ever buying any of the clothing or fragrance is slim to none. I suppose I'm the trickle-down beneficiary of the people who CAN buy that stuff.)

Does this make any sense? I'm not sure I'm making sense.

#536 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 06:17 PM:

Paula @#451:

The musical is Cinderella:

In my own little corner in my own little chair
I can be whatever I want to be.
On the wings of my fancy I can fly anywhere
and the world will open its arms to me.
I'm a young Norwegian princess or a milkmaid
I'm the greatest prima donna in Milan
I'm an heiress who has always had her silk made
By her own flock of silkworms in Japan
I'm a girl men go mad for love's a game I can play with
cool and confident kind of air.
Just as long as I stay in my own little corner
All alone in my own little chair.

#537 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 06:22 PM:

Xopher: "And she was. And mighty tasty, too!"

I latched onto that book and record when I was about four years old, and it shaped my worldview. I bought it in turn for my daughter. It definitely shaped hers too -- I have some genderqueer friends, and a couple of them expressed surprise at how unfazed my daughter was by them. That was when I learned that they hadn't grown up hearing "Don't Dress Your Cat In An Apron." I guess the book fell out of fashion in the '80s or something, or their families just weren't the Free To Be... You And Me sorts.

I can only hope that as more women of my generation have children, it'll come back into fashion, and turn into something Every Toddler Knows.

Because that's the way to really get a paradigm shift.

#538 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 07:18 PM:

Xopher @ 531: I actually think that any rule of courtesy which cannot be stated without mentioning the gender of either participant should be suspect.

Generalize that to cover rules of law as well, and it's not a bad principle.

#539 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 07:34 PM:

Actually the original rule applies to ethical principles and says "proper nouns" rather than "the gender of either participant." It conveniently rules out such "ethical rules" as "Serbs are good and Croats are bad" (and, of course, "Croats are good and Serbs are bad") and so on. It's not a sufficient restriction to guarantee a good ethical system, but it's a necessary one.

#540 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 07:48 PM:

Rikibeth, you are making very good sense, IMO.

By the way: this -- treating the other person as merely an aid to your own gratification, without concern for their individual wants, desires, or personhood -- is not only a secular wrong but in most moral and/or religious systems it is explicitly a grave sin. It would be considered so in both of the ones I know best, Catholic Christianity and Buddhism. (Though not all Buddhists would use the word "sin," since it carries implications that not all Buddhists accept.)

#541 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 10:04 PM:

Paula's copyright analogy was clever, and it got me to thinking.

In copyright violation, someone copies and distributes someone else's work in a way that benefits the copier but not the author. Some court cases have hinged on just how much of the original work was in fact copied.

Now let's look at the fantasizing we have been discussing. The person in the fantasy is often quite different from the real-world person. For one thing, the fantasy person is interested in the fantasizer. They may have different habits and behavior. How similar do they have to be before you can say it is a copyright violation? In fact I maintain that often the insides of the fantasy person are completely different from the real-world one; the only things that are copied might be the likeness and the name.

In other words, the closer analogy might not be copyright infringement but rather dilution of trademark.

#542 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 10:09 PM:

Edward Oleander @ 519: I'm a fan of chocolate pudding. =)

Also, I think that what Rikibeth has been saying is quite sensible.

#543 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 10:11 PM:

ObSF: If Terry Brooks had called his first book The Sword of Middle-Earth instead of The Sword of Shannara, the Tolkien estate would have had a claim against him, but it wouldn't have been for copyright violation.

#544 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 11:07 PM:

Xopher #523: Wait, is awe spirituality? Does that mean that when people talk about spiritual experiences, they're talking about something that I can understand? Because that would be an improvement over my current understanding, which is more along the lines of "Wait, what?"

Rikibeth, I love both Miss Manners and Free to Be... You and Me! I was born in 1982 and my parents definitely exposed me to FtBYaM (silly acronym!). I can imagine them in the early seventies thinking "OK, in five or ten years when we're ready to have kids, we have to remember this".

It's pretty amazing, watching/reading/listening to it now, how shocking a lot of people would find it today. Amazing and depressing.

#545 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: July 08, 2008, 11:48 PM:

I'm sorry I haven't been keeping up with this thread, the Call of the Paycheck was heard in the land.

heresiarch @484:
This is weird, because it sounds like you're supportive of people writing slash fic, but not about people engaging in equally explicit fantasies entirely within their own head.

I do not agree with Paula about the necessity to steer one's mind away from fantasizing about real people, but I see where she's coming from. I'm just saying that her position is not as unreasonable or ill-founded as others in this discussion seem to take it, because habits of mind *do* lead to habits of expression.

I personally know a lot of people who take their fantasies about real people to the point of writing and sharing entirely fictional stories about them, and I find I generally can't read this RPF ("Real Person Fic") and when I do, I feel kind of dirty afterwards. The one time I tried to beta-read (=edit) such a story I had to throw in the towel, because the screaming noise in my own brain was so loud I couldn't pay attention to the commas.

So while I am not *opposed* to RPF the way Paula is, I can understand where her feelings come from, and they don't strike me as unusual or out-of-band.

the gay panic defense as an example of legitimate squick upon learning about someone else's sexual fantasies?

Not as legitimate, but as a common thing -- that Paula's squick is *not* just about her. She is not weird for being squicked, though squick is no basis for a moral judgement.

Why do you assume that in every male sexual fantasy the woman is a smiling mindless sex doll?

I'm not talking about *every* fantasy, I'm talking about *most*, and I'm particularly talking about the ones men share with each other.

One of the very striking things about straight text-based porn as a genre is that the vast majority of it *is* about sex dolls -- even though text gives unlimited freedom for fantasy, for imagining a human being with *every* desirable quality, mind as well as body. It's as though most guys have a blow-up doll and fantasize ... that it's a blow-up doll. That makes no sense (as a default) unless you'd really rather think of your sex partner as a thing than a person. And *puts on biologist hat* to prefer non-human partners is not the biological default, this is something men *learn*.

There is nothing inherently misogynistic about having sexual fantasies involving women.

I'm not talking about what's inherent, I'm talking about what *happens*, in my (US) society and online in particular.

colin roald @322 and others have argued that boys & men need to be able to express and come to terms with their sexual feelings. The problem is that *as things are now*, boys will be taught -- by each other, older men, and the society as a whole -- to treat women as hooters instead of persons-with-breasts, to use women as counters or commodities in a primarily homosocial game.

#546 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 12:19 AM:

Doctor Science, that's really interesting, your take on RPF. That's SUCH a can of worms for me, because I write slash, but for the most part I can't enjoy writing or reading RPF. There are exceptions; I collaborate on one RPF story with a friend, but one of our big points is that it's for our entertainment only, not to be put up on the web where the people who inspired it might see it, because we know that they're NOT the same as the ones we have in our heads, and we would hate for them to feel embarrassed or uncomfortable if they ever saw it. And I know exactly one other person who can write RPF about one of my favorite bands and not make me wince when I read it, and I don't know what it is about HER stories that make me delighted where others just make me go "ew, I did not want to see that, can't you just enjoy the music?"

And also, I agree with your observation about much text-based straight porn reading as if it were about one person and one blow-up doll (possibly with concealed audiotape player). And I don't get that.

This may tie into why another friend asserts that "freaks, geeks, nerds and hippies" make the best lovers -- because they were unpopular, they didn't get the socialization that encouraged them to think of women as objects for their gratification instead of other sentient beings with whom they might interact for mutual gratification. True, some nerd types never get past the objectifying stage -- drooling fanboy stereotype here -- but the point was that the ones who HAVE learned to interact with women at all very possibly have less of the homosocial habits to shake off.

#547 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 12:40 AM:

I actually never read Free To Be... You And Me. I had this vague notion it was a book about the birds and the bees and other distinctly adolescent concerns, for which role my parents substituted Growing Up Feeling Good. (Mom just handed it to me one day. I read it. I decided not to ask any questions; besides, it was a good book, and I didn't really have any questions after reading it.)

From what y'all are saying, the role of Free To Be... sounds more like it got covered by our family's use of the Wee Sing series.

In any case, "Ladies first!" makes me think of Pamela Purse and the cannibals.

#548 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:23 AM:

Paula: don't think the perceptions you have of what I write, match the words that I keep using.

(sigh)

#210: That is, their "private" behavior not only is not private, it inspires them to go and act the same way in public, and treat women like jack-off appliances for their enjoyment.

my perception here is that you are saying that thoughts must always leak through into action.

#330: mentally stripping people is -rude-, actually, and I have to wonder if it never occurred to those who do so, what the feelings of the people they're doing it to might be, and that the people they're doing it to, might not be AWARE of it and annoyed about it?! And that if it were done back to the people doing it by someone they did NOT find appealing, they would be ticked off? .... or, they might get caught at it and the person catching them at it, take it as a signal to hit on them?

My perception here is that you are saying it is rude for Bob to fantasize about Alice because of how Alice might feel about it, which requires once again, that Bob's thougths must leak through into reality. "How would Alice feel if she knew?", you ask. How would she know unless thoughts always leak through? "And what if Eve started having similar thoughts about Bob, and Bob didn't find Eve appealing, wouldn't that piss off Bob?" you ask. But again, this assumes thoughts always leak through. "What if Bob catches Alice fantasizing about Bob, and Bob takes it as a signal for him to hit on Alice?" you ask. And again, this requires that thoughts leak through.

#342: here's a challenge to R. M. Koske--stand in front of me while I look at you and mentally remove your clothing, etc., and smile at you knowingly, and let's see how you feel about the situation

My perception here is that you assume everyone is equally squicked as you are by the possibility of being mentally stripped by someone else.

My perception is that you keep trying to push this assumption by upping the target of the thoughts until you got to the point of having people thinking thoughts of killing and eating children, and wouldn't I at least be squicked by that.

#369: Being the object of someone's unrequited sex fantasies--ICK! There are lots of boundary issues--stalkers for example, whose fantasies play a part in their impetus to stalk.

My perception here is again that you again assert that thoughts leak into actions. you cite the actions of stalkers and sociopaths and then make a hasty generalization that says this behaviour of thoughts-to-action exists in everyone.

#419: What about the situations of interviews with rapists where the rapists' rationalizations include

My perception here again is that you assert that thoughts always leak into actions, and again fail to distinguish between sane, law abiding people and sociopaths and psychopaths.

#424: my objections to e.g. mentally removing other people's clothing sorts of things.... because there are thought-chain concepts and self-validations involved that create feedback and resonances that are reinforcing

My perception here is that you're claiming that there is scientific basis for the claim that all thoughts leak into actions.

#438: In Seeker's Mask, the protagonist Jame(Jamethiel) comes across a lifesize doll of herself in Lord Caineron's quarters, made so that Lord Caineron could eviserate the doll pulling out the doll's liver

My perception here is that you again fail to distinguish between sane and insane people, cite the behaviour of an insane person, and make a hasty generalization that you apply to all people.

#451: It's got the resonance of consensual sex versus rape

My perception here is that you again fail to distinguish between sane and insane people, between law abiding and criminals.

#465: "If they never find out" might be a lot more dubious that one might think. People -do- give off pheromones

My perception here is that in direct response to people suggesting that they can have a thought and not act on it and not have it leak through into actions, you again attempt to prove there is scientific reasons that it must leak through, this time through "phermones".

#467: Call it an intellectual property issue

My perception here is that you're implying it is far more than rude, but rather it is on par with IP piracy.

#475: I try very hard to NOT have sex fantasies ... I regard it as infringement and rude... and came to that at least partially out of fear/apprehension of just what might happen of having someone pick up on fantasizing about someone.

My perception here is that you again assert that thougths will leak through into some form of measurable, detectable actions, though it is somewhat handwavey as to how, other than that the subject of the fantasy will somehow "pick up" on it.

#480: My perception here is that when Xopher says a simple fact "You don't control someone else's mind.", you dodge the simple truth with sarcasm "Ah, the imperative voice, such fun it is not...."

#480: I said that it should be discouraged, etc., not prosecuted as criminal

my perception here is that you downplay how "discouraging" others to think certain thougths might have negative unintended consequences.

#490: fantasizing kidnapping the children for the purpose of enjoying "long pig" dinner

My perception here is that you keep trying to find some way to get my to sympathize with the idea of controling someone else's thougths by continuing to raise the squick level of those thoughts.

What you're doing is asking me if I'd have sex with a stranger for $500, and when I say no, you then ask if I'd have sex with a stranger for a million dollars. You're trying to find my price here, to come over to your way of thinking, and in this particular issue, I can't be bought.

I see two types of morality, person-to-person which is state-based morality, and personal morality which is purely internal. As an extension of personal morality, I think people have the right to impose restrictions on who they invite into their home, what content they allow posted on their blog, and so forth. outside of those two moralities, I think people generally can be left to do waht they please as long as it doesn't run into violating person-to-person morality (laws) and as long as it doesn't invade someone else's space, home, etc.

What you're advocating is person-to-person morality. And you're advocating that it "should be discouraged" against someone else's own personal morality. This isn't in the realm of you control whom you allow into your home. This is you going into someone else's head and "discouraging" other people to think certain thoughts.

How you do that has been left sufficiently vague, it's apparently not a capital crime, but it is similar to IP law violations. And yet you invoke rapists and child-murdering-cannibals as extreme examples of why thought control should be OK. So, you've been anything but clear on to what degree you think you should be able to control people's thoughts and to what degree you can impose that sort of control.

#509: I have kept writing that there is is a difference between someone persisting in deliberately putting someone else into their sex fantasies without the person's permission, and trying to avoid that.

My perception here is that you're completely missing people's objections. People aren't objecting to Bob "trying to avoid" thinking thoughts about Alice. If Bob wants to do that, that's his business. No one is arguing that there is a problem with that. You're defending the wrong point.

People are objecting to the "Bob shouldn't fantasize about Alice if Alice doesn't want him to do that" argument, which implies that you get to impose that sort of control, and which comes packed with tales of thoughts turning into rape, and comparisons to child-murdering cannibals, which would normally be used to justify all manner of forceful actions against the person.

#518: I keep saying "rude" and "disrespectful," which are social valuations.

I think it is very important that you really, really need to understand that that isn't the only thing you say. You cannot invoke instances of thougts turning into rape, while failing to distinguish that not ALL thought turns into rape, and not have people object to the hasty generalization or undistinguished middle that comes packed with that example.

You can't invoke examples of child-murdering cannibals and then say you're only talking about it being "rude" and "disrespectful".

There is person-to-person morality, and there is personal morality. Person-to-person morality is embodied in the state, it is what people can force other people to do because it's been decided to be sufficiently wrong that force is an acceptable response. Personal morality is how you live your life, what path of spirituality you choose to follow, what God you worship, who you allow into your home, your life, your space.

What you're talking about is person-to-person morality. You're saying other people shouldn't think these thoughts and comparing those thougths to the actions of a rapist or cannibal, asserting over and over again that someone's internal thought must always leak through into some form of person-to-person interaction.

I'm pretty sure that is an accurate representation of what you're saying. Whether that is an accurate representation of what you're thinking, I'm not sure. I'm reacting to the words you've typed on this thread. I disagree with their implications on a fundamental level.

Thoughts are personal and not subject to someone else's morality. And what you're advocating, at least based on your words, and your use of examples such as thougths turning to rape and thoughts turning to child eating cannibals, is person-to-person morality around someone's personal thoughts.

And to that I disagree.

In an effort to justify that thoughts should be controlled, you keep appealing to more and more extreme examples of thoughts leading to more and more extreme actions. But the more extreme your examples, the more certain it feels that you are advocating something far beyond "rude" and "impolite" and talking about how others should think and imposing some sort of as yet unnamed brain bleach to clean those thoughts.

And whenever people point out that thoughts don't have to leak into action, you keep citing anecdotal evidence of actions that happened to you that were apparently preceded by bad thoughts, which is non-causa-pro-cause. Or you cite crazy people who have a hard time separating thoughts from actions and then generalizing to all people includeing sane people, which is a hasty generalization. Or, when told the basic fact that you cannot control someone else's thoughts, you reply with sarcasm and change the subject.

You've never proven that everyone, including your average normal everyday sane run of the mill person, that all those poeple who have a thought must act on those thoughts or that the thought must leak through in such a way that someone else will detect it.

And after you invoke extreme examples such as rapists and cannibals, you then come from a completely different angle saying that you're talking about something that is merely "rude" or "impolite", and, speaking for myself, the two topics are so far apart from one another that I'm having a hard time ignoring the rapist and cannibals long enough to accept that this is simply a discussion about manners.

So, I think my perceptions are based on the words you've written. All the words, not just these words or those words, but everything you've said taken as a whole. But I don't think that my perceptions of what you're saying are lining up with what you think you're saying.

#549 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:25 AM:

David@520, see Xopher@523.

My own short reply is simply that spirituality is not the same as religion. I know some very spiritual atheists and some very "dry" religious believers (to use Xopher's apt term).



#550 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:52 AM:

Skwid #529: Is this [BB/VB] the biggest blogging blow-up ever?

I dunno, the Wal-Mart astroturfing scandal of 2006 was fairly large. It wasn't so much about the blogosphere eating its own young as the current tiff, though. Others more widely read than I might have a more informed perspective, however.

#551 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 03:24 AM:

born in 1981, raised by quasi-hippie feminist parents, had free to be you and me. but even in my jewish, nominally orthodox school, we learned william wants a doll in kindergarten. it does make me sad when i reflect that william still can't have a doll, maybe even less now than in the eighties.

i rescued the big red fraying paperback from my parents when they left the country, & i hope to share it with my godwilling-someday kids.

#552 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 07:54 AM:

Doctor Science @ 545:

I do not agree with Paula about the necessity to steer one's mind away from fantasizing about real people, but I see where she's coming from. I'm just saying that her position is not as unreasonable or ill-founded as others in this discussion seem to take it, because habits of mind *do* lead to habits of expression.

I'm with Doctor Science. There's a lot more good stuff there, especially the last paragraph.

In the places where Paula is making less than reasonable arguments to support her not-unreasonable original point, I'm seeing a lot of unreasonable opposition to her. If she's stretching trying to make that point--and some of her supporting arguments are stretches--perhaps that's got a lot to do with how little credence people are granting her in the first place.

#553 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 08:57 AM:

Doctor Science @ 545: "I'm just saying that her position is not as unreasonable or ill-founded as others in this discussion seem to take it, because habits of mind *do* lead to habits of expression."

I would rather say that they can.

"So while I am not *opposed* to RPF the way Paula is, I can understand where her feelings come from, and they don't strike me as unusual or out-of-band."

Which is weird, because I'll come out as tepidly against RPF--putting it out on the net, you've no way of being sure the person in question won't read it and feel very, very violated. That, I will say, is unquestionably rude. But note how that isn't a problem with purely mental fantasies. This is the point--mental fantasies are literally harmless, in a way that can't be claimed by even RPF.

"She is not weird for being squicked, though squick is no basis for a moral judgement."

Again, this is the point. No one is telling Paula not to be squicked by the idea of people having sexual fantasies about her, only that it isn't rude, because rude only has to do with behavior, and that she has no grounds to tell people to stop having them. Paula's visceral squick is okay and acceptable, for the very same reason that people's sexual fantasies about her are okay and acceptable, and her desire to tell other people to stop is wrong for the very same reason that people telling her about their sexual fantasies is wrong. See?

"I'm not talking about *every* fantasy, I'm talking about *most*, and I'm particularly talking about the ones men share with each other."

Okay, the talking part? We all agree that that's wrong. Not one person here is arguing that guys should be free to discuss which female acquaintances they'd like to bang.

"colin roald @322 and others have argued that boys & men need to be able to express and come to terms with their sexual feelings. The problem is that *as things are now*, boys will be taught -- by each other, older men, and the society as a whole -- to treat women as hooters instead of persons-with-breasts, to use women as counters or commodities in a primarily homosocial game."

Agreed. But all of that homosocially-inspired objectification and misogyny happens because people are talking about it, which we've all agreed is within the realm of reasonable criticism. It's only people's own minds that we're defending as sancrosact.

I think colin roald's comment @ 320 very evocative of why teaching people to deny their feelings is so bad. The fact is people, men and women both, are going to have objectifying, violent, self-indulgent or otherwise antisocial thoughts from time to time. There isn't much evidence that trying to not think these thoughts works very well--usually repression only imbues them with more psychological power. In my experience, the best way to control these thoughts is to mentally acknowledge their existence, and no more. No saying them, no acting on them, just letting them be. And that is what people are arguing for here. Only individuals should act as their own thought censors.

I feel like this is the series of events you fear. Guy meets a woman he finds attractive. He fantasizes about her sexually. In his fantasy, she is his willing, nay, eager, sex partner. He repeats this fantasy many, many times. Eventually, he becomes unable to see her as anything more than a sex object.

I don't think that that last bit necessarily follows. It's not a binary choice: EITHER a woman is a sex object OR she has a mind. It's entirely possible for people to both see someone in a sexual way and to appreciate them as a person. I do it quite often! So the worry that sexual fantasies will promote objectification isn't necessarily true, only conditionally so: if a man is already misogynistic, then sexual fantasies about someone might make him more misogynistic towards that person, but if he isn't, there needn't be any decrease in his ability to view her as a person. The solution is to get people to stop being misogynistic, not to stop having sexual fantasies.

Is that anything like your worries, or am I flailing in the dark?

#554 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 09:19 AM:

Skwid @529 -- in terms of media coverage, maybe. It helps that VB and several BBers are well-known in other media than blogging.

In terms of actual damage to the blogosphere, I still think the Amanda Marcotte/Brownfemipower/Seal Press debacle was the biggest. Large numbers of people still don't trust one another, won't link to one another, or even mention one another. It was good preparation for dealing with the (actually related) Obama/Clinton blogwars, though. I guess. In that I was angry at most people on all sides, in both cases. And both made me want to quit the internet forever.

#555 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 12:04 PM:

Michael 524: or the thousandth!

Just realized I want to comment to this: I wouldn't know. I have not seen the Milky Way a thousand times, or a hundred. I think ten would be a high estimate. Even when I've been out in the country, it's usually been in a place and season where clear nights were rare. I do know that I am capable of experiencing awe and joy after many times for certain other experiences, but the Milky Way remains a rare wonder for me.

In other words: I daresay you're right, and I hope I live to find out!

ethan 544: I think that awe is one of the spiritual feelings, yes. I think if it has no spiritual component you're not awestruck, just really impressed. And a similar relationship exists between happiness (not necessarily spiritual) and joy (spiritual). I reiterate, however, that it may just be that my definitions of these terms are eccentric; but I don't think people who have no religion are necessarily non-spiritual. (Usual caveats: being an atheist technically doesn't mean that you have no religion, just that your religion, if any, has no deity/ies; but this is not to discount or deny the assertion of some atheists that they have no religion.)

Doctor 545: I share your deep squick about RPF. And I would definitely find RPF rude, if not unethical and possibly tortious.

On the other hand, I've read some. It was so bad that it even failed to squick me. The idea squicks me more than the fact, oddly enough. Maybe that wouldn't be true if the RPF was better written than what I saw.

#556 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 12:31 PM:

I think the easiest way to think of 'objectification' is "to regard as being without independent agency". (Stays where put; has no opinions; does as instructed.)

I think fantasizing about real people, with whom one actually interacts, who you do not know of a certainty would welcome the regard (or, perhaps, to be spectacularly and entirely indifferent to it) is a substantial failure of courtesy.

There's a distinction between "fantasizing"—the which of its nature requires creative effort—and "carbonated hormones", which one cannot very well avoid, and should not be expected to avoid, in this belief.

I think the reason it's a substantial failure of courtesy is because people do not have neat or impervious compartments in their head; the habit of thought will escape its strait confines.

One might also add that most of the objectionable behaviors being discussed stem from losing track of the idea that there is a difference between the mental construct and the person, a distinction difficult to retain even in much less charged circumstances.

Indeed, the idea that there is not, and cannot be, any difference between the construct and the person is the root of a lot of evil. I do not think Paula is wrong to point that out.

#557 ::: sherrold ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 12:45 PM:

Carrie S. @ 504
"People calling themselves feminists" (a legitimate approximation of your usage, I hope) have, in the last 50~ years, said an abundance of very silly things. As have Democrats, and Liberals, and Leftists, (and SCAdians[g]), and many other groups. Do you often go out of your way to make sure people know you don't call yourself one of them?

More generally (i.e., not just to Carrie S), why is "I'm not a feminist/I don't call myself a feminist, but..." so much more common than, "I'm not a Democrat, but..." or "I don't call myself a liberal, but..."? Guesses?

#558 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:11 PM:

I have been avidly reading this thread, because it deals with an issue I had to confront in my own life. I want to approach this not as meta but as anecdote because though I understand viscerally how Paula feels, I have chosen to act as (how I think) Xopher does.

As I mentioned before (way,way upthread)I was what used to be called an "early bloomer": big breasts, wide hips, early menarche, the whole deal, by the age of 12. My preteen and teenage years would have been a nightmare except for a (male) cousin to taught me quite early how to find all the weak spots in male anatomy and apply "negative encouragement". At least once I was attacked by a group, and had to... ok, I broke someone's arm to get them to back off. Deliberately. I was 13.

For many years I could not form a friendship with a man, much less a sexual relationship. "What is he thinking?" became my touchstone -- and believe me, every answer came back very negative. It wasn't until someone very dear to me pointed out that I had to learn to make a distinction between thought and action or I would drive myself crazy that I was able to think myself out of the loop.

I had to come to grips with the fact there was nothing I could do to influence/control what people in general thought, and that my way of dealing with trauma meant I was depriving myself from knowing some very interesting people. It took a great deal of chewing it over and over (think Xopher and Paula arguing inside my head for years), plus a great deal of (sometimes depressing) reading, but I finally understood that if someone didn't DO anything, it was counterproductive, and bloody exhausting, to be always on the lookout for any sign of inappropriate thinking. Judge them on their actions, and move on.

I realize that the discussion centers on whether it is rude to have sexual thoughts about someone without their knowledge, and many people have expressed the opinion that inevitably the thought would affect the action. I'd like to point out that it works both ways; if you are always assuming the worst of the other person, your behavior is likely to be affect just as strongly and negatively... and the person at the receiving end just paid for a sin he might not have committed.

#559 ::: Cassie ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:20 PM:

sherrold @557:

"Popular" opinion (read, in my case, the patriarchy) has made feminist into a dirty word. It helps keep people from identifying as feminists and shaking up the status quo to remove anyone's privilege. :) By associating the word with extremists and those who do and say silly things more than with the very basic movement toward women being treated fully as humans, it becomes far less threatening. The sad thing for my purposes is that this campaign has been successful.

Disclaimer: I consider myself a feminist, and reclaiming the word is part of why I cling to it so tenaciously.

#560 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:24 PM:

Emma 558: Thanks for that, especially that last. But this caught my eye:

(think Xopher and Paula arguing inside my head for years)

My gods, it's astonishing that you have any scrap of sanity left!

#561 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 01:36 PM:

Cassie #559: I consider myself a feminist, and reclaiming the word is part of why I cling to it so tenaciously.

This is my strategy as well. It seems that a lot of people equate feminism with batshit insanity, so when people know me and how I feel about things and how relatively non-crazy I am, and then hear me describe myself as a feminist, it tends to make them reevaluate things.

#562 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 02:14 PM:

"People calling themselves feminists" (a legitimate approximation of your usage, I hope) have, in the last 50~ years, said an abundance of very silly things. As have Democrats, and Liberals, and Leftists, (and SCAdians[g]), and many other groups. Do you often go out of your way to make sure people know you don't call yourself one of them?

As a general thing, no. Because when I proclaim myself a Democrat, Liberal or Leftist, my listener does not generally assume that I think the society from The Gate to Women's Country is a good idea.

Actually, I'd rather like to be able to call myself a feminist, but I have it on good authority that I'm not allowed to--after all, I "won't" be lesbian. It just comes to mind every once in a while, as something of a pet peeve.

#563 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 02:21 PM:

Carrie, that's not good authority. That's bad authority. If I decided to go completely insane, I could revive my moribund blog and write an entry about how only men can be feminists, and come up with a new definition of feminist to back myself up, but I would be spouting nonsense. Just like that blog is.

I mean, really: feminists are supposed to blanketly oppose pornography, prostitution, S&M, and dieting? In all cases? Really? What a load of spew.

#564 ::: Cassie ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 02:35 PM:

Carrie @562:

That's terrible authority. One blog on the Internet can no more define feminism than one addict on conservative talk radio. I engage in a number of feminist blogs and you know what? Feminists disagree. We're people. We have opinions that are going to vary hugely on pretty much every issue except the one where we think women are people, and even the expression of that one's going to have a lot of variance. There are tendencies among those who identify as feminist, sure, but there are tendencies in almost every demographic group (and y'know, you can't shape those tendencies from the outside). Moreover, in the comments to that very post even that blogger admits she may not possibly be making all the arguments that are there to be made.

In short: expecting one definition of "feminist" with several huge laundry lists of qualifiers to fit every feminist is about as unreasonable as expecting the current president's definition of "good American" to apply to all those who call themselves Americans.

#565 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 02:37 PM:

I mean, really: feminists are supposed to blanketly oppose pornography, prostitution, S&M, and dieting? In all cases? Really? What a load of spew.

Yes, that's my point exactly. If the author of that post is a feminist, I am not. I mean, I shave my legs (about once a month)! I don't have an organic garden (lacking dirt to plant it in)! I give men more energy than is absolutely necessary (by replying to blog comments)! I'm planning to have children (because otherwise, where's the next generation of feminists going to come from?)!

I think my favorite part of the post is where she says, "not raping women, even if they want it, ask for it, consent to it, beg for it: Rape is rape." Yeah, rape is rape--but if she really asked for, wanted and consented to it, that's not rape.

#566 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 02:50 PM:

Cassie: I am well aware that feminists disagree. I'm a regular reader of a number of feminist blogs.

But that list, stupid as it is, is not exactly an isolated phenomenon. It's pretty common to see bullet points of Stuff Feminists Don't Do; I picked that particular post because it was more convenient to point at the one compendium of stupid than to go around ferreting out links to fifteen different places in which I've been told I can't be a real feminist if I do/don't... Radical feminists are almost as fond of telling me how to live as fundie-whackos are; the fact that the points are generally crazy in the opposite direction doesn't make me like it any better.

#567 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 02:51 PM:

Carrie, I will go so far as to say that the person who wrote that post cannot fit my definition of feminism. And yeah, the rape thing is mind-bogglingly meaningless.

#568 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 02:58 PM:

Xopher @560: I'm firmly convinced that omnivorous reading is one of two things that have kept me from going overboard at times (the other being a few close friends). I owe a sanity debt to a number of science-fiction authors way above my small contribution to their financial well-being through purchasing their books...

#569 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 03:46 PM:

Rikibeth @ 462: ...my fantasies about Bowie-sometimes-the-rock-star-but-mostly-Jareth-the-Goblin-King, and my fantasies about Professor Snape-who-looks-like-Alan-Rickman-but-is-not-Alan-Rickman. You can all laugh at me now.

Seems reasonable to me!

#570 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 03:56 PM:

Wow, Carrie, I thought stuff like that list went out by 1982. RadicaLesbian (and politicaLesbian, too, of the "feminism is the theory; Lesbianism is the practice" variety) separatism, wow. There must be eight in the whole world.

If that's really what feminism amounts to, then the number of "real" feminists is vanishingly small. I would state categorically that the writer of that list is NOT a feminist.

I wonder what her definition of 'rape' is. It must be very curious, to include things that are requested and consented to. Since she denounces sadomasochism separately, she can't mean that. And since she's ruled out the possibility of men being feminist ("being Lesbian," and even she can't possibly believe that Lesbianism is an act of will for men), she can't be referring to the Andrea Dworkin definition of rape (something like "any sex between a man and a woman in which the man becomes at all aroused").

I guess any crazy asshole can have a blog. I hope she'll get over herself at some point. In my experience, most of them do.

#571 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 04:44 PM:

Xopher, if you want to test your reaction to RPF that isn't horrendously written, I could point you at the Only Two Stories That Don't Squick Me, on a friend's livejournal. I myself can't figure out why these two are okay for me and just about everything else in the genre makes me go "ew."

Of course, I understand completely if you don't want to look, for reasons of interest or ethics.

#572 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 06:31 PM:

Emma@558: It wasn't until someone very dear to me pointed out that

That was a very good and insightful friend.

And congratulations on taking that insight and transforming your life. Not everyone can take that kind of coaching.


#573 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 07:29 PM:

Xopher @570, in my experience, it's an ongoing conversation and that particular view is very much in the minority. It is true that various feminists I read have made various feminist purity test pronouncements that I disagree with -- often mutually exclusive ones (for example, "being truly feminist means you can't criticize any woman's choice" vs. "stripping for a living is automatically anti-feminist," neither of which I agree with). Yet I still call myself a feminist because there's no better term for someone who pushes back against sexism.

(The usual response at this point is "Why not call yourself a humanist or an equalist?" to which my short answer is, "Because that phrasing denies the fact that there is a systemic inequality.")

Basically, you read enough different feminists and you realize they can't all have the One True Feminism. Then you realize that there isn't one. Feminism is an ongoing conversation (often argument) among a loosely gathered community about what constitutes sexism, and what the right approach to fixing it is.

And you learn to ignore it when other feminists make feminism purity test statements. You don't need their permission or approval to be a feminist, because they're not the arbiters, no matter what they say. No one really is. It's not like Catholicism. You can't be excommunicated, no matter who says you are.

Oh, they'll make it sound like they have the authority (just like the person at that link did), but all they really can say is "I don't consider you a feminist." And who are they? Just one person. There's no feminist Pope who can excommunicate you, there's no feminist Academy that can vote to expel you - - no matter how much they make it sound like they are Pope and Academy.

(Yes, this means some people can call themselves feminists when they are very clearly not, like claiming that men really are naturally superior to women. Mostly this results in them being ignored or criticized by the majority of feminists.)

It's a conversation and no one has a lock on truth, much as most people seem to think they do. Even in that post, the author says "If you get to define feminism the way you want, I get to define it the way I want." That's how it always works. Some people are better at considering that they may be mistaken than others.

#574 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 07:35 PM:

I would like to add to my fifth paragraph in #573 that for every person who says they don't consider you a feminist, you're likely to find five who do. We all like to know that someone else is on our side. Unless you are proclaiming that men really are naturally superior to women, you'll find plenty of feminists who consider you a feminist.

#575 ::: sherrold ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 07:44 PM:

Carrie S @ 562
I'd rather like to be able to call myself a feminist

Then DO! Honestly, this is a perfect example of what I like to call, "Don't let the crazy's win!"

I don't know where you live, but I spent part of the 90's in a v. conservative area, where I had to deal with conservative definitions of liberal feminist. Now I'm back in Seattle, where I frequently have to deal with far-left whackjob nitwit's definitions of what it means to be a liberal feminist. It's still the best definition of my political/cultural identity.

All families, all political philosophies, all regions have their crazy uncles and wingbat next-door-neighbors. Don't let them define you, and don't let them take your definitions away.

I'd better leave before I launch into Gloria Gaynor or something
[Cue drums...(Life's not worth a damn till you can shout out
I am what I am)
]

#576 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 08:24 PM:

heresiarch @553:
Is that anything like your worries, or am I flailing in the dark?

That's pretty much it, except that I see the progression as a greased slide -- I think the transition between habits of mind and habits of expression is not just a matter of "could happen", but of "most likely *will* happen" -- especially when those habits are supported by society as a whole.

It's a dilemma, because telling people what to think or not think never, ever ends well -- but habits *are* habit-forming, and the line between what people think and what we say is very porous -- as is the line between what we hear repeated over and over and what we think. People *can* march to the beat of a different drummer -- but we mostly don't.

#577 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 10:45 PM:

Caroline @ 573:

Basically, you read enough different feminists and you realize they can't all have the One True Feminism. Then you realize that there isn't one. Feminism is an ongoing conversation (often argument) among a loosely gathered community about what constitutes sexism, and what the right approach to fixing it is.

I'd say instead there are many feminisms, and that the variants that people are calling out as too extreme for their tastes are mostly perfectly good variants, for those who hold them to be true.

Maybe that's an awfully fine distinction to make, but I've worked around--sometimes in the sense of location, sometimes in the sense of routing--quite a few radical feminists, and found them as likable on average as everyone else. (The variance is greater, maybe, than in the general population.) Ditto for the radical faeries I've known. I'd rather draw my circle with them inside than out.

#578 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 09, 2008, 10:47 PM:

Carrie S. @ 565: "I think my favorite part of the post is where she says, "not raping women, even if they want it, ask for it, consent to it, beg for it: Rape is rape." Yeah, rape is rape--but if she really asked for, wanted and consented to it, that's not rape."

Yeah, I had to stop when I got there. The goggles, they did nothing. I've got to say, anyone who thinks that feminism can be reduced to a set of behaviors has gone seriously wrong. To me, the most crucial part of feminism is empowering women to make their own choices. It's not as important what she chooses as that she chose for herself. Telling women what they've got to do with their own bodies and who they've got to fuck is just more of the same old bullshit, just from the other side.

Anyhow, I think the best antidote to that kind of purist feminism can be found here. I warn you, the author's typing skills are less than ideal, but her basic point is very important: that feminism is for every feminist a compromise, and that only the feminist herself (himself) can decide where the line is.

Doctor Science @ 576: "That's pretty much it, except that I see the progression as a greased slide -- I think the transition between habits of mind and habits of expression is not just a matter of "could happen", but of "most likely *will* happen" -- especially when those habits are supported by society as a whole."

Two things: first, that "support by society as a whole" part is something that people do by acting and speaking, and therefore wide open to criticism according to everyone here. Second, you're assuming again that the habits of mind being formed* by people's sexual fantasies are necessarily misogynistic. What if the man in question is having fantasies involving a true meeting of the mind and body, falling deeply in love and marrying her? Will those encourage misogynistic behavior?

It still seems to me that the problem here is misogyny and a culture that promotes misogyny, not fantasy. Attacking fantasy might succeed in stifling a little misogyny, but the collateral damage would be vast.

*I still don't agree with you that people are as unable to distinguish between fantasy and reality as you say, but I think we've talked that one into the ground.

#579 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 12:04 AM:

heresiarch @578:
you're assuming again that the habits of mind being formed* by people's sexual fantasies are necessarily misogynistic.

If that's how it's coming across, I'm not being clear.

On the contrary, it seems to me that a number of the people (men?) who are worried about the idea of "fantasy thought police" are worried specifically because misogyny and men's sexual fantasies are so wound together in their minds that trying to stamp out misogyny looks to them like trying to stamp out male sexuality.

But that's not me. I have been arguing *against* the idea that for men to explore their sexual feelings necessarily means letting them talk about women like blow-up dolls. If I come across as dismissing the idea of kind or loving male fantasy, it's because I don't see much of it in the world -- a world in which misogynistic male fantasies are thick on the ground.

#580 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:41 AM:

heresiarch@578: Attacking fantasy might succeed in stifling a little misogyny, but the collateral damage would be vast.

Very well put.

#581 ::: A&V ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 09:39 AM:

Statutory rape can be consensual sex; perhaps what the author of that post meant was that even if you are 18 and your 14 year old girlfriend is begging for sex, it's not okay.

Not that I agree with the whole of the post, but that explanation seemed obvious to me.

#582 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 10:08 AM:

Doctor Science @ 579: "I have been arguing *against* the idea that for men to explore their sexual feelings necessarily means letting them talk about women like blow-up dolls."

If that's the argument you've been having, then I think we've been in a violent agreement. Please take a look at my post @ 310. I think I make it pretty clear there that I don't feel that making misogynistic comments is an inherent part of adolescent maculinity, and yet I still object to Paula's views--as do several others who also took issue with albatross, colin roald and David Bilek's "boys will be boys" arguments.

I absolutely agree that misogynistic talk and thought is learned, not innate. I absolutely believe that talking and thinking in misogynistic ways will almost always lead to misogynistic behavior. I have but one caveat: not all sexual objectification is misogynistic. It can't be--women and gay men objectify men plenty too. (Ask Xopher or Rikibeth if you don't believe me.) And therefore, "fantasizing about people sexually" doesn't map onto "being misogynistic" very well at all, and so calling fantasies rude and inappropriate won't suceed at stopping much misogyny.

(I guess it's only fair to let you know about the meta-argument that I'm arguing here, since you shared yours. When I think about telling people not to have sexual fantasies, I think about hair shirts and self-flagellation, and centuries of people being told not to feel what they are feeling. I think of "lie back and think of England" and "being gay is a choice." Now, I know that these things aren't quite the same as what Paula is arguing for, but you might see why some of us have a pretty strong visceral abhorrence of telling people how to feel.)

#583 ::: David Bilek ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 12:01 PM:

That's a rather unfair characterization of my argument. In fact, I'd go so far as to say you're arguing in bad faith.

#584 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 12:14 PM:

David, was that directed at my attempt to respond to your question about defining "objectify," or was that further up with the atheism/morality/ethics discussion, or what?

#585 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:02 PM:

#582 heresiarch

Sigh.

I thought I had explicitly made it clear that I was deprecating certain specific types of fantasizing scenarios, not blanket condemning fantasizing.

And yet again, calling something "rude" is not the same as applying sanctions! Wishing that someone would cease and desist from something, is hardly the same thing as beating their cranium in for it (the functioning or dysfunctioning of whatever may be in that cranium....)

#586 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:04 PM:

David Bilek @ 583: "That's a rather unfair characterization of my argument."

Well, if you want to say I've oversimplified, I can't argue--it's hard to summarize three people's arguments over multiple comments each in a single sentence. However:

David Bilek @ 203: "Do you really expect that any amount of social conditioning would result in a couple adolescent males sitting around and saying things like "she has a nice shape"? Because you're doomed to disappointment if you do believe that. It's never going to happen. Ever ever ever."

That's what you said--that the way teenage boys express their lustful feelings is impossible to change. If you've changed your mind, that's fine, admirable even, but it doesn't change what you said, and what we objected to.

#587 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:11 PM:

Months ago there was a thread on Making Light regarding BDSM afficionadoes not having the right to a non-consenting audience. That is, doing a scene with an audience of consenting adults is one thing, carrying on in public/hotel spaces that aren't private rooms with a private audience, in front of people who are averse to being an audience, is another, and rude.

What I'm objecting to is in effect an inverse of the scene-makers who want the audience, are forcing their internal fantasies on the external world of people who don't want to be witnesses. Turn the situation around now, and take the external nonconsenting person, and put them into the private fantasy which they are not appreciative of....

Both cases involve disrespect of boundaries of others.

#588 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:14 PM:

heresiarch 586: Would you find it misogynist if a teenage boy said to his friends "I greatly admire the shape of her breasts, and the urge to press my face between them is very strong"?

#589 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:27 PM:

Xopher 588: I believe the Proper Feminist Rephrasing of that would include "If she were a willing and enthusiastic participant, I would greatly enjoy pressing my face between those breasts."

Er, does anyone know a good way for removing one's tongue from one's cheek? Mine seems to have gotten stuck.

#590 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:28 PM:

Xopher @ 588: No, not particularly. Did you think I was saying that I would?

#591 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:46 PM:

heresiarch@582: I absolutely agree that misogynistic talk and thought is learned, not innate.

If misogyny can be simplified to focusing on self and a lack of empathy for others, and then specifically applied to males,

then I think one could argue it's innate, at least as much as kids start out self centered and eventually develop empathy for others.

I don't think misogyny is culturally implanted in people so much as it's innate, and cultural stuff either gets kids to learn empathy and grow out of it, or culture encourages it to stay.

it's a bit hair-splitty if that isn't the point, but if the process of human development is the point, then it's a somewhat important hair to split.

#592 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:50 PM:

Paula @587 --- There's a lot in this thread I can more or less agree with you about. I think thoughts can shape actions, and that habitual thoughts are more likely to. And if the content of thought involves bad treatment of others, then there may be good reasons for reflection on what one spends one's energies on thinking. Also, our social environment has an enormous influence on our attitudes.

However, this is where I'd disagree --

What I'm objecting to is in effect an inverse of the scene-makers who want the audience, are forcing their internal fantasies on the external world of people who don't want to be witnesses. Turn the situation around now, and take the external nonconsenting person, and put them into the private fantasy which they are not appreciative of....Both cases involve disrespect of boundaries of others.

The external non-consenting person*, as a flesh and blood entity, is not the same as the fantasy. "Putting someone into a fantasy" is a figure of speech! Rudeness is a behavior, and the rudeness exhibited by the BDSM couple-with-a-leash in public isn't the same rudeness as what goes on in a fantasy, even if the person with the fantasy self-reflects and thinks, "Hey, that would be rude...if I actually did it." But no boundaries have been violated.

And ultimately, I'd repeat that it's both more effective and fair to try and influence others' behavior than their thoughts.

*who, formally, is only non-consenting because s/he hasn't been asked.

#593 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 01:51 PM:

Rikibeth: And the rephrasing that would pass muster by the bozo "feminist" whose list was linked earlier would be "I'm so bad! I'm so evil! Kill me please! Y chromosomes have proved my overthrow! O woe!"

heresiarch 590: not really. But it's beginning to seem as if the language used is the critical element here. What if he said "Wow, I really like her boobs! I sure would like to put my face between 'em!"

Or is it more the metonymy that's misogynist here? In that case "I greatly admire the shape of those breasts, and [rest same]" would be more offensive. That is, admiring the breasts without any reference to the woman whose breasts they are?

#594 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 02:03 PM:

Paula @ 587, the unconsenting audience is SEEING something. The person who dislikes the idea of being fantasized about is seeing NOTHING.

I sort of see the logic chain here -- there's a feminist argument that women should be seen as existing in a default state of NOT consenting to sexual contact, and, that in the absence of affirmative consent, any sexual contact SHOULD count as unwelcome -- that "she didn't say no" is not sufficient defense against a charge of rape. I like this argument. I support it.

I support it when it comes to PHYSICAL ACTIONS, though. To a lesser extent, I support it about speech -- directing sexually-suggestive speech at someone who hasn't actively indicated interest in it is definitely rude, and can count as harassment.

But sexually suggestive or explicit speech to others ABOUT someone who never becomes aware of it? Possibly rude. Possibly icky. Possibly fostering bad attitudes that can leak over into how the speakers treat other people. Not, however, nearly as bad as going up and saying the same thing to the person's face.

And when it turns to unspoken fantasy? Fantasy that, we've stipulated in the previous hypotheticals, is carefully kept from the fantasy object?

There, I think, it's highly unreasonable to use the standard of "affirmative consent." In the absence of a definitive withdrawal of consent -- someone directly saying, "no, do not fantasize about me" -- I think it's a major stretch to consider it rude.

#595 ::: heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 02:31 PM:

Greg London @ 591: "If misogyny can be simplified to focusing on self and a lack of empathy for others, and then specifically applied to males,"

Women can be misogynist too. Haven't you ever heard of Phyllis Schlafly?

"then I think one could argue it's innate, at least as much as kids start out self centered and eventually develop empathy for others."

I disagree, but I don't think it matters much--either way, culture is affecting development. As long as we agree on that, opinions on whether empathy is natural or cultivated are free to differ.

Xopher @ 593: "it's beginning to seem as if the language used is the critical element here. What if he said "Wow, I really like her boobs! I sure would like to put my face between 'em!""

I think you're right that language is the critical element. Rather--the intent behind the words is the important thing, which can only be divined from the words themselves, with all the inaccuracy that implies. Now that I think about it, I don't think you can simply toss out phrases and judge them as Righteously Feminist or Hideously Misogynist. Context matters too much. I mean, there are some words that have very obvious misogynistic connotations, and so should probably be avoided, but there's a lot of grey in there. It's like with racist language: n****r is obviously beyond the pale (well, except...), but one can express racist sentiments perfectly well just using "African-Americans."

#596 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 03:48 PM:

"I greatly admire the shape of her breasts, and the urge to press my face between them is very strong" in #588 gave me a giggle, because I had this vision of nice Amish boys sitting around having a conversation like this. "I imagine her hair is very pretty also, were she to remove her bonnet!"

More seriously, the recent trend in this thread is of great interest and utility to me. Specifically, the "homosocial" jargon-word is new to me, and useful; I've spent a fair few posts on my sex blog grappling with the mystery of why male commenters seem obsessed with making negative remarks about the women in the nudes I publish, and I had independently concluded that it was a form of posturing before other men. Homosociality as described in this thread expands usefully on the theory/explanation I had groped for on my own.

As for our expectations of adolescent boys (or anyone else) in how they react to breasts, I myself think it's pointless, futile, and not necessarily even desirable to stamp out all expressions of admiration for the female form -- hardly a surprising position on my part, given that I make an income from republishing nude pictures. However, my blog requires heavy, even brutal, comment moderation, to prevent it from becoming a festering cesspit of misogyny. And one of the things I have to moderate ceaselessly away is the short, three-to-five-word expression of lust, usually including some de-humanizing pronoun.

I'm talking specifically about comments like "I'd do her", "I'd hit it", "I'd like to **** some of that", "I'd tap that ass" and numerous cruder variations. These short blunt comments fail as useful or interesting commentary, and they strike me (a man) as sufficiently objectifying or dehumanizing as to create a potentially unpleasant environment for the women in my audience, so I tend to moderate them away. However, longer and better written expressions of admiration and lust tend to survive, if only because they aren't quite as tedious. Thus, I find myself firmly in the "it's not the idea that's censurable so much as how that idea is expressed" camp.

#597 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 05:24 PM:

Eee, you're Bacchus from ErosBlog? I'd like to thank you for your moderation policy! I'm a fan of the blog, and it's nice NOT to have to wade through lots of "I'd hit that" noise to get to the more substantive signal.

#598 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 06:04 PM:

Rikibeth, I am that Bacchus, and you are welcome. I feel I owe Teresa a considerable debt for her expositions of the ways in which moderation enables a community of folks who otherwise would simply not show up. It wasn't until I happened on one of Teresa's explanations that I understood that unapologetic strategic moderation can be a perfectly legitimate (and sometimes absolutely essential) community-building tool.

My long history in the anything-goes freewheeling parts of the net left me fairly comfortable with the "completely unfiltered" approach to moderation, until I actually tried it in the context of nekkid pictures. Then all the folks with broken sexual attitudes (or at least broken sexual communication skills) showed up and trashed the place, making it somewhere that nobody with (what I see as) healthy attitudes about sex would want to be. Only by strenuous moderation have I been able to make the place inviting to a community of commenters and readers whose company I actually enjoy.

#599 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 08:59 PM:

John A Arkansawyer @577, that's kind of what I was trying to express, except that you did it better.

#600 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: July 10, 2008, 10:47 PM:

Caroline @ 599: Thank you. I've had a lot of practice trying to get that point across. (I'm pretty sure the "many feminisms" phrase I used is stolen, but I'm not sure from who.)

It helps, I guess, that a lot of my early political life was spent bumping up against those circles, and that I experienced a fair amount of frustration from working with exactly the people I'm defending now. Even when I didn't (and don't) agree with them, I came to understand that they, too, had their experiences and their struggles, and that even when I disagreed I could empathize.

That's how I feel about Paula's argument, to which I was initially entirely unsympathetic. Watching her defend it, I realized there were real experiences and real pains behind it, and a good faith attempt on her part to explain what she felt, where those feelings came from, and why she thought what she did. I still disagree with her, but I don't think she's being unreasonable.

I've spent a lot of time lately suggesting people show mercy and cut slack.

It's wearing not to yell it, sometimes.

#601 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2008, 10:18 AM:

#600, John A Arkansawyer That's how I feel about Paula's argument, to which I was initially entirely unsympathetic. Watching her defend it, I realized there were real experiences and real pains behind it, and a good faith attempt on her part to explain what she felt, where those feelings came from, and why she thought what she did. I still disagree with her, but I don't think she's being unreasonable.

I agree with this absolutely. This is why I stopped my arguments I did and agreed to disagree.

#602 ::: Josh Millard ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2008, 06:42 PM:

I'm talking specifically about comments like "I'd do her", "I'd hit it", "I'd like to **** some of that", "I'd tap that ass" and numerous cruder variations.

That specific family of comments were part of a sprawling discussion of casual sexism on Metafilter back around the end of 2007 and the start of 2008. What we'd see on the site was sparse and generally on the mild side of the spectrum—never anything in the "cruder variations" spectrum in my memory, and not in great volume in general (but mefi is a generalist site). But, for all that, it was there.

Is there still, to a degree, really, but I think there's been a change in the last seven or eight months in the degree to which a lot of the regulars on the site consider their words in that context; and as moderators we've been a bit more active about pruning the lazier and stupider examples of such things as well, and made it possible to more explicitly flag sexist content as such.

I'd peg this thread about Allison Stokke, from a little over a year ago, as probably the recent low-point in that sense, and it was a frequent point of reference in the end-of-year sexism discussions in part because it so epitomized some of the pitfalls of lazy ironic embrace of these sexist tropes: that most mefi members who'd chuck out an "I'd hit it" in part as an ironic send-up of more reflexive and less self-reflective utterances of same elsewhere doesn't really make it much less squicky and exclusionary-feeling to women who expect to come to the site and not see that sort of thing piling up.

My cohort Jessamyn West put out a challenge at one point, not long after the sexism discussions:

I will change my name to Cooter when there are 30 days of "I'd hit it" free MeFi, in both non-irony and irony flavors.

It hasn't happened yet, but gladly (a) it's been close-ish a couple times and (b) the "resets" do seem to be ironic, intentional references to the edict itself rather than anything as lame as fratboy catcalls.

#603 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2008, 11:32 PM:

Bacchus @596:
I've spent a fair few posts on my sex blog grappling with the mystery of why male commenters seem obsessed with making negative remarks about the women in the nudes I publish, and I had independently concluded that it was a form of posturing before other men.

I am intensely interested in the results of your grapplings. *wink nudge* Why are *negative* comments about women socially valuable for them?

I know that when women do this (=make negative comments about pictures of other women -- ohnotheydidnt is a whatever-is-the-opposite-of-gold mine for such remarks), it's a way of saying, "I'm better than *her*, I outrank [celebrity] along this axis" -- beauty, thinness, ability to keep out of jail, whatever.

But presumably these misogynistic homosocial guys are not comparing *themselves* directly to the pictured women -- or are they?

And how does putting down a mutual sex object get you "points" with other men?

Communities of female slash fans can also be pretty homosocial, but it's done in a different way. In the first place, the line between the homosocial and the homosexual is deliberately blurred: women tell each other, "I am showing you this picture of a hot guy because it will turn you on" -- and what do we call it when A does something to turn B on, class? The female homosociality I've seen is much more cheerful and positive toward the BSOs (the Beautiful Sex or Slash Objects) who are the tokens of the RL homosocial transaction.

#604 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: July 11, 2008, 11:45 PM:

Dr. Science, I'm uncertain how our host and hostess would feel about my dropping direct links to a somewhat commercial sex blog, even when it's the easiest way to answer your question, so I'll just say I've got a pair of posts with "Crapping All Over Beauty" in the titles that distills the best of the grappling -- typing that phrase plus "erosblog" into Google will get you there mighty quick.

Two paragraphs from the initial post in the series:

"What I’ve learned running a sex blog is that there are a whole host of guys whose only mode of discourse about bodily appearance is to make a negative comment. I think perhaps it originates in adolescent one-upsmanship; one guy says “Sally’s hot, I’d like to do her” and the other guys all say “No, man, she’s a pig, she’s got a huge ass” as a way of belittling the first guy. However it started, the result is a fairly large class of guys whose reflex response whenever they see an erotic picture is to say something mean and ugly about the body depicted.

It’s clearly an act of emotional aggression, some sort of attempt to establish superiority by expressing contempt for that which other people consider beautiful. An extreme form of this (which I’ve seen in various places on the internet) is the “It’s a tranny” game. The way the “game” is played is to post a picture of an unknown but pretty woman, and then wait until other men admit that the woman shown is lustworthy. Then the trap springs, as the original poster (or others) assert “It’s a tranny!” It doesn’t have to be true; the point is merely to score points by belittling another man’s opinions about sexual attractiveness."

Wild theorizing of course -- no more than that.

#605 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2008, 11:30 AM:

Bacchus: Thanks for your insights. the point is merely to score points by belittling another man’s opinions about sexual attractiveness

-- who are they scoring points *with*? Is this an actual social game, where they're trying to impress each other/the onlookers, or does it seem to you that the point-scoring is taking place entirely in each guys' mind, and it's all about how he perceives his *own* rank?

#606 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2008, 06:37 PM:

More like scoring points on than scoring points with, I think -- if I'm right, it's a status game, where the goal is to reduce the other guy's status. If you can trick him into admitting honest sexual attraction, and then successfully (convincingly?) denigrate the object thereof, you wind up reducing his status relative to your own, I guess. Remember I don't play this game and don't understand it very well. I think the intended audience is male and that this is a sort of male versus male dominance conflict, but it's obviously not universal or I'd understand it better.

#607 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 12, 2008, 07:58 PM:

I was going to write that friends made on the Internet are transient but enemies made on the Internet are forever, but then this counter-example occurred to me.

(I have been off in the mountains rising with the dawn and planting pretty flowers and generally being very wholesome, so I missed this controversy until this morning.)

#608 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2008, 06:25 PM:

Don't know if this thread is past its Sell By date, but in case it isn't:

The dynamic Bacchus describes:

adolescent one-upsmanship; one guy says “Sally’s hot, I’d like to do her” and the other guys all say “No, man, she’s a pig, she’s got a huge ass” as a way of belittling the first guy.
is one a lot of people (at Bacchus' blog and when I've asked around) recognize as typical behavior among groups of male friends in high school and just after.

What's odd is that it's not something I or my husband recall from our youths, approximately the early-to-mid 70s. Yet informants who were in high school in the late 80s and later say that for male friends (or "friends") to undercut each other's potential relationships is very common. As one teacher says:

frequently when one boy in a class of mine becomes interested in a girl, the other boys who are his friends will trash her to hell and back, ridiculing him for finding her attractive, until he withdraws his initial approval, often much to her dismay.
It winds up narrowing the approved male interest in girls down to 2-3 girls out of a large community, rendering them popular and unattainable and leaving dozens of boys and girls alike lonely and dateless

Was this going on back in the 70s but my husband and I were both (separately) oblivious? That is completely possible, BTW. Or is this a more recent development, and if so, why and when did it start? Even for high school, this dynamic strikes me as almost scientifically designed to maximize everyone's unhappiness.

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="http://www.url.com">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.















(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.