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Author Topic: Civilized Discourse
OrneryMod
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I would like to take a little time to talk about the tone of the discussion and what each of us can do to improve it.

As many of you know, I have been serving as OrneryMod for approximately two years, and prior to me there were a handful of other members who served in this role. In discussions with the previous Mods and in my own experience, I have come to see that the vast majority of problem posts fall into two basic categories:
  1. Personal Attacks - We are here to talk about ideas. We should never attack other members personally because we don't like their ideas or if we think they are being thickheaded.
    .
  2. Closed Mindedness - We are here to learn from one other. It is good to articulate your own ideas, but it is even more important to make sure you fully understand the ideas of other posters. If you are participating here, then you should be sincerely open to the possibility that you are wrong. If you refuse to consider the ideas of others with charity and with an open mind then you should reconsider posting at all. This is not a place for preaching; it's a place for sharing.

Our biggest issue is that we often treat each other disrespectfully when we disagree. I would like for that to change.

The About Ornery section of this website will, of course, continue to serve as the primary FAQ of this forum. Every poster should review this text from time to time to reacquaint themselves with what the Cards expect from us.

In addition, there are two articles that I would like for every member to read:

  • What If We Could Weaponize Empathy
    quote:
    The priority for participating on this forum is not the quality of the content. I ultimately don't care how smart or funny or observant you are. Those are plusses, but they're never prerequisites. The priority is on how you treat each other. I expect spats, arguments, occasional insults, and even inevitable grudges. We've all done that. But in the end, I expect you to act like a group of friends who care about each other, no matter how dumb some of us might be, no matter what political opinions some of us hold, no matter what <ideas> some of us like or dislike. This community is small enough, intimate enough, that I feel it's a reasonable expectation.

    .
    .
  • The Discourse FAQ

    quote:
    This is a Civilized Place for Public Discussion
    Please treat this discussion forum with the same respect you would a public park. We, too, are a shared community resource — a place to share skills, knowledge and interests through ongoing conversation.
    ...

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

    Your Participation Counts
    The conversations we have here set the tone for everyone. Help us influence the future of this community by choosing to engage in discussions that make this forum an interesting place to be — and avoiding those that do not.
    ...

    If You See a Problem, Flag It
    Moderators have special authority; they are responsible for this forum. But so are you. With your help, moderators can be community facilitators, not just janitors or police.
    ...

    Always Be Civil
    Nothing sabotages a healthy conversation like rudeness.
    ...


This thread will remain open for discussion of the forum itself. Please remember to avoid any personal attacks here as well.

[ November 16, 2014, 11:40 PM: Message edited by: OrneryMod ]

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vegimo
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Moving this exchange to the proper location:


quote:
Originally posted by vegimo:
I would like to comment here about the topic started by OrneryMod. I frequent this forum to read about things that I find interesting as discussed by people I generally find knowledgeable. The discussion often turns into bickering, but I can usually filter that out and still find some things enlightening.

The latest post by Tom is what I dislike the most. Tom, I found myself agreeing with what you were saying in your first paragraph, but you then decided to turn the post into one that does in fact mock and belittle people. There is no reason to use "adorable" to describe anyone here, and if you think something is laughable, your reasons should be given rather than having the statement presented as fact. This is one type of interaction that serves as bait for people to react with the outrage that you probably expect.

quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
There is no reason to use "adorable" to describe anyone here...
The adverb "adorably" here describes the "specialness" of Christianity that somehow makes it more important to attack, not anyone here. (Believe me, if I find someone here adorable, I'd let them know. *grin*) There's a certain "Oh, we're such a darned persecuted cultural majority and voting bloc" attitude among Christians that is indeed adorable when it's isn't insufferably irritating.

That kind of blind, self-centered smugness -- especially when presented as an attempt to understand a phenomenon -- is laughable. American atheists do not spend time railing against Christian myths because they think Christian myths are truer and thus more important to discredit; they spend their time railing against Christian myth because, here in America, Christian myth is the only extant religious myth (unless you're going to count nationalism.)

Tom, I understand that you have not called anyone here "adorable" in this particular case. I intended my comment to be taken as a general criticism of your use of that term and terms like it. My perception is that you utilize terms like that as pejoratives with the expectation that they will be taken as such. I am telling you that this is my perception because I feel that it does harm the discussion. As I said above, I dislike this even more than the partisan bickering. I know that people can be thickheaded, and I also dislike demonization of people or groups of people, but I think that discussion of ideas can be accomplished without attacks, no matter how they may be justified.
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AI Wessex
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So, this topic and your comment are about meta-discussion. I think the strength of Tom's characterizations (plural, not singular) cut both ways. His excellent observation,
quote:
Christianity is, in America, a tool of the powerful and often wielded as a weapon by the ignorant.
is a nice turn of phrase that could have been said less crisply, but would have lost its cuteness if it had been. I don't know how he could have better said, in effect,
quote:
Onward, political soldiers to carry out your missions created for you by 5-star plutocrats.
I wouldn't have then poked people with "adorably" as he did, myself, because it's the wrong word, not because it doesn't prick ("bless their hearts" might have been more to that point).

Strong words are needed to defend or defend against powerful ideas; they are both weapons and shields. We (Mod, especially) should be less offended when they are used in the kind of verbal combat arena Ornery is supposed to encourage. If "Ornery" doesn't represent how we're supposed to behave, we should change the forum name to "Ordinary", as the tongue-in-cheek cuteness of the current name belies the universal understanding of what the word means:
quote:
or·ner·y ˈôrn(ə)rē/
adjective - North American - informal

bad-tempered and combative; having an irritable disposition.
"some hogs are just mean and ornery"

synonyms: grouchy, grumpy, cranky, crotchety, cantankerous, bad-tempered, ill-tempered, dyspeptic, irascible, waspish; ...

truculent, cussed, stubborn
"they finally realized that his illness was what had made him so ornery"

Some people here make me ornery.

Nod to Mod for the link to discourse.org. We should be using that software.

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PSRT
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quote:
Speaking of the Gimmecrats (47% who won't give up their free stuff for the good of the country)
This seems to me to be an example of how not to conduct civilized discourse.
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AI Wessex
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quote:
Closed Mindedness - We are here to learn from one other. It is good to articulate your own ideas, but it is even more important to make sure you fully understand the ideas of other posters. If you are participating here, then you should be sincerely open to the possibility that you are wrong. If you refuse to consider the ideas of others with charity and with an open mind then you should reconsider posting at all. This is not a place for preaching; it's a place for sharing.
How do you propose to enforce this? If a member is repeatedly called out for distorting or provably altering information they post to convey false meanings, is there any penalty?
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AI Wessex
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I would like the Mod to explain to the forum why he flagged the following post of mine:
quote:
"Hang on, I need to get more popcorn...ok, I'm back. Next?"
S/he also picked on several other posts I've made recently where I used sarcasm to "belittle" other posters. S/he says those kinds of comments add nothing to the discussion. Since when do we require posters to only make comments that "add" to the discussion?

We seem to be expanding the list of things we can't say to include harsh criticism, sarcasm and empty remarks. I'm embarrassed to say that the popcorn remark above wasn't even remotely original. Dozens of posters in the past have used eating popcorn as a metaphor for watching others battle it out over nothing. In this particular case, both Tom D and I predicted that Noel would devolve the question he was asked into the familiar game of evasive parsing rather than give ground in a constructive manner as one would expect in an honest debate. That is exactly what ensued, so the popcorn reference was entirely on point and in that context constructive, intended to prod the discussion back to something meaningful.

Does it really make Ornery a more interesting and useful discussion forum if nannyish potty-mouth rules are used to moderate, but members can lie or distort in order to promote their views? What next, will we have to thank each other for sharing?

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PSRT
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Huh. I wonder why noel hasn't been warned, then. Just about everyone who has ever conversed with him has told him that his style of conversing is not productive. If not being productive is the standard, noel should absolutely be notified by the mod.
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OrneryMod
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quote:
Hi Ai:

A handful of your recent remarks belittle other posters and otherwise add nothing to the discussion:

"Hang on, I need to get more popcorn...ok, I'm back. Next?"
http://www.ornery.org/cgi-bin/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi/topic/6/16567/25.html#001002


You can't resist, can you? It's not exactly like poking the bear, you know
http://www.ornery.org/cgi-bin/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi/topic/6/16567/25.html#000991


We should have a special award for posts like this one.
http://www.ornery.org/cgi-bin/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi/topic/6/16661.html#000008


"If Seneca is fact-driven, your facts must be in error."
http://www.ornery.org/cgi-bin/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi/topic/6/15999/27.html#001055


And one post is problematic (asserting someone else's motives rarely helps anything):

"You're just looking for an opportunity to make some off-the-wall comment about a black President and a black Attorney General trying to stir up racial unrest because a white cop killed an unarmed black teenager who was walking down the middle of the road instead of on the sidewalk."
http://www.ornery.org/cgi-bin/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi/topic/6/16567/23.html#000902


I am issuing a blanket warning for the above posts. They are a different sort of thing than we have talked about previously, so I am not issuing a ban at this time. Please be more diligent to keep your posts constructive. Remarks that snipe at other posters only diminish the conversation for everyone.

Thank you,

OrneryMod


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AI Wessex
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quote:
And one post is problematic (asserting someone else's motives rarely helps anything):
But of course, I was correct. This was in his post immediately preceding mine, which I hadn't read when I posted mine:
quote:
- Can this corruption be said to reflect a "long track record of racial bias" in the practices of the Obama DOJ going back to March of 2011?
So, yes, he was provoking someone to defend Obama so he could then dump all over them with pearls of wisdom like that. But read the other reasons he gave to get a wider view of his in-built bias against Obama, his minions and anyone he considers a follower or supporter. Anyone who would defend Noel for posts like these, which he has made many times in the past, are in my opinion advocating for exactly the kind of contribution that poisons real discussion. There's a difference between crazy talk and honest debate between widely divergent opinions. But if you disagree, then you have to accept posts like this one, which will probably be deleted by the Mod, which begins:
quote:
Rothschild family of evil vile scums all time parazitizing, zombing, etching and murdering people all of the world from special computers by electromagnetic radiation from satellites...
Well, he's entitled to his opinion, isn't he?
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D.W.
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Umm... why do I feel deprived of potential entertainment now that the source of that engaging teaser has been removed?
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AI Wessex
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Yeah, well zomb you buster, *and* the snorf you rode in on.
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scifibum
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We all, including people I'm pretty sure were/are the Mod, get away with snide remarks. I think the reason the Mod decided to bother you was the concentration of such remarks relative to other kinds of posts.

I don't really expect the Mod to take on intellectual honesty as a forum standard. Too much work.

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PSRT
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Which leaves, realistically, only two options for dealing with intellectual dishonesty. Engaging it, which is by definition useless, or publicly shaming it, which has effect.

Ignoring it is highly problematic, because in order for that to be effective, the entire community has to understand that a poster is not engaging honestly.

SHutting down public shaming of intellectual dishonesty turns out to be, de facto, encouraging it.

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Seneca
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quote:
Originally posted by PSRT:
Which leaves, realistically, only two options for dealing with intellectual dishonesty. Engaging it, which is by definition useless, or publicly shaming it, which has effect.

Ignoring it is highly problematic, because in order for that to be effective, the entire community has to understand that a poster is not engaging honestly.

SHutting down public shaming of intellectual dishonesty turns out to be, de facto, encouraging it.

So who is the Universal Righteous Judge of what is "intellectually honest" and what is "not" in order to set up the "shaming" regime and start lining people up for the town square stocks?
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AI Wessex
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I would say that if someone factually rebuts a statement someone else makes but the person continues to press their point that they are being intellectually dishonest. Can you find any glaring instances where that has occurred?
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Seneca
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Two people post sources supporting opposing statements and neither change their mind as a result and keep believing each of their own positions and propagating them.

Who is the universal judge of which one is now "dishonest?"

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D.W.
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So wait, motive speculation is now a good thing? I'm so confused...

While we're at it, how about reprimanding intentional distortion of what someone else said? You know, since we can apparently just ask the great and powerful Oz to confirm our suspicions.

So what if the legitimately confused, who want clarification, get a crack on the knuckles now and then? Civility should never suffer for the sake of enlightenment. Right?

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AI Wessex
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quote:
Two people post sources supporting opposing statements and neither change their mind as a result and keep believing each of their own positions and propagating them.
Hmmm, how about two people post purportedly "factual" sources but one of them is demonstrably factually false. If you think the one posting false information shouldn't have to acknowledge that and can continue to promote opinions based on the false information, then you are saying that facts are the same as opinions.
quote:
While we're at it, how about reprimanding intentional distortion of what someone else said?
That is under the control of the posters themselves. If you said the sky is green and I said that you are alleging that the sky is green, I haven't distorted what you said, but reinterpreted it. But if you said the sky is green and I said no, the sky is blue then one of us is wrong and should acknowledge it. I think there are a small handful of posters here who fundamentally can't tell the difference between a fact and an opinion. They may claim to be guided by facts, but that in itself is a distortion of the truth.
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D.W.
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If I say "the sky is green" and you say, "DW just said that the sky color has been altered due to polution which is total B.S." That is an intentional distortion. Even if I have a history of going on about polution and climate change.
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Seneca
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Who decides what is "demonstrably false?"

This approach to stifle discussion as if it were some death match where one person gets shut down and the other declared a winner is fraught with major issues.

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PSRT
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quote:
So who is the Universal Righteous Judge of what is "intellectually honest" and what is "not" in order to set up the "shaming" regime and start lining people up for the town square stocks?
Who says you need a URJ? People are capable of deciding independently when someone is engaging in debate in bad faith. Some posters on the board have been repeatedly told by several other posters that they believe their questions are being dodged, or arguments ignored.

You know what is more stifling to debate than shunning people who dodge questions by badly engaging in socratic dialogue? Dodging questions by badly engaging in socratic dialogue.

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velcro
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quote:
Our biggest issue is that we often treat each other disrespectfully when we disagree.
I most respectfully disagree. [Smile]

I believe our biggest issue is when people argue in bad faith. The purpose of communication on Ornery is to share and test out ideas and opinions in a structured, respectful way.

There are posters here who have as their purpose, not clear communication, but just the opposite. They take quotes out of context, or make them up. When the context is pointed out, they refuse to acknowledge it. They make vague statements that they refuse to clarify, or they refuse to answer reasonable questions that will clarify their views. They repeat statements that have been proven false. They refuse to provide sources so the facts can be verified.

Given a choice between a snide sarcastic poster who has all their facts lined up, and a polite liar and evader, I'd take the former every time. I'd request they be more civil, but I can filter out the facts from the attitude. You can't filter out the facts from lies and evasions.

But Seneca raises a good point - who gets to decide who is lying and evading? I don't want Mod to be the arbiter of right and wrong. But on an almost daily basis, there are posts that any reasonable person would interpret as intended to obfuscate, mislead, or evade. If Mod does not jump in and point that out, then we have no structure. The poster that insists that Germany bombed Pearl Harbor will just keep repeating that lie, and the thread on Japanese history is now dead.

So Mod, when it is really painfully obvious that someone is arguing in bad faith, please call them out. Maybe print out the exchanges and show them to colleagues, or even 10 year olds. If they all agree that one poster is intentionally preventing clear communication, please do something about it.

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Our biggest issue is that we often treat each other disrespectfully when we disagree.
There are a few truly insecure characters that seem to feel the need to be loudly disrespectful when they find that they (horror of horrors) agree with someone that they fear and hate. [LOL] Fortunately most of these are no longer with us.
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Rafi
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I find it very interesting that his thread exists and is made sticky so it's alway at the top while we simultaneously endure a poster(called out by name in this thread) engage in a serial attack on another forum member with truly juvenile name calling. The most interesting part is he does it with impunity and no concern for moderation and appears to have been correct in that position. Tells us quite a bit.
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AI Wessex
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I can't imagine who you might be complaining about in that passive-aggressive voice, but it is clear that some people have a history of posting false or tortured facts that are easily refuted, but never acknowledge even the simple possibility that they might be wrong. Some amount of sarcasm (from other unnamed posters) would seem an appropriate tone to use with such posters.

If you feel that you have been wronged, it would be more appropriate for you to bring your complaint to the Mod than to use this thread to suggest it in the manner you've done it.

BTW, I sincerely hope you aren't referring to me. I've had some concerns about posts by Fenring and Pete, for example, but I've always tried to retain an open mind to their arguments and a willingness to engage them on an ongoing basis.

But you can't be referring to me, since as I recall you filter my posts out of your feed, so it can't be me.

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