Freethought Blogs Clarifies Values and Procedures for Hiring and Firing

A year ago I wrote my first post at Freethought Blogs (before I found out that my blog wasn’t going to be formally introduced or linked from the front page for another week and a half). It is staggering to think of how much has gone down in the last 12 months in my life, on my blog, on the Freethought Blogs network, and behind the scenes of Freethought Blogs. On net, it has been an extraordinarily exciting, productive, and satisfying year for me and I like to think for the network as a whole. But as is well known there have been some real dark spots for our community.

In the beginning there was such a wonderfully instant collegiality among all the bloggers who were here by the time of the September 1 launch of new blogs. We gelled together quickly and were all so enthusiastic about the prospects for our new venture. We were able for months to reason out decisions by consensus, to trust one another easily, and to simply assume that our shared values didn’t need codification to be reliable. We were a strong community of independently minded people bound informally by common purpose.

But there are reasons that groups need structures, rules, procedures, institutions, and explicit articulation of what they stand for. As we have learned the hard way, you cannot always naïvely trust that every new person who wants to join is simply going to share the goals and ethos that define you as a group. It helps to establish upfront for prospective candidates for membership what you are fundamentally about, and for you to have a clear idea about that yourself  when looking for new members in the first place. It also helps to look at what kinds of practices worked when things were running smoothly and lay them down as general expectations that newcomers should be expected to understand and adopt as norms. It also helps to look at sources of chaos and dissension and figure out how to remedy them.

In the last year, we have grown too big to operate by voice votes and we have had a few bloggers bring to our group dealings a poisonous penchant for instigation that was wholly absent for the first months of the network. In the beginning things ran so very smoothly that when we had our first experience with an acrimonious person we were all primarily bewildered. Now we have had a few more serious meltdowns and realized what all successful organizations that have gone before have–that you cannot rely on people’s good judgment and self-control alone to establish a thriving community. You need to have some explicit guidelines for the confused, the immature, and the weak of will.

As a result, Ed and PZ have devised some very good new rules that spell out the procedures by which we will make sure that the future bloggers we add will be the kinds of people who will fit our community well. They also spell out the kinds of expectations for dealing with one another that we initially assumed in the early days and which we have realized are necessary if we want to avoid having the group be riven by factiousness.

PZ has given us permission to publish our new (provisional) statement of values, rules, structures, and procedures. This is a good idea so that should anyone be fired in the future, it is clear to all onlookers what the explicit expectations that they violated were. This will also be a helpful clarification to readers about what our shared core values are and help prospective new bloggers who might join the network figure out we stand for and how we are committed to treating each other as colleagues.

I’ll also be explicit in saying that while if I had been consulted I probably would have lobbied for some minor differences in emphasis here or there, I am in the main very satisfied and impressed with what they have come up with and am quite happy to endorse the document.

ON EDIT (2:04 am): Well that didn’t take long. I have already gotten my first comment declaring this the end of the “freethought”at Freethought Blogs. Apparently freethought is incompatible with rules for hiring, firing, and maintaining civility among the bloggers in their business discussions. This is absurd.

Skeptikel sarcastically writes:

Time to change the name, I’m thinking… Something other than “Free,” perhaps. “Thought” and “Blogs” are fine as is.

Maybe the top-level domain should best be moved from .com to .gov

Ah well, it wouldn’t be the first misleading domain name. No worries, it’s no biggie at the end of the day. Might as well just keep the current one regardless of the issues, since it’s an established name/domain. I am empathetic to the massive undertaking of changing to more fitting names/domains for sure…

It was a thought, anyway.

There are no need for such changes, we are as much a place consistent with the ideals of the historic freethinking movement as ever. This post of mine explains why genuine freedom requires certain kinds of order. Having rules of civility that allow a functioning working environment among bloggers in our group interactions behind the scenes is perfectly consistent with our thinking freely on our blogs. And our commitment to having blogs that are secularist and humanistic is perfectly consistent with our calling ourselves Freethought Blogs as, definitionally, that’s what freethinkers have always been defined by. (For example, shortly before joining the network a year ago I already wrote about why it was legitimate to call oneself a freethinker and to mark off faith-based believing as not compatible with freethinking.)

PZ made a good video about the connection between freethought and other humanistic values in explaining the dismissal of Thunderf00t:

So, with no further ado, below the fold are the details of the new, more formal, arrangement Freethought Blogs bloggers will be working under:

Freethoughtblogs Rules

These are provisional rules. We’re going to implement them now, and in March 2013, after they’ve had a fair trial, we’ll consider revisions.

Freethoughtblogs is a community of bloggers who share a goal: the advancement of secularism through argument and discussion. To achieve that goal, we also value diversity (reaching every element of society is a priority), social justice, equality, and science and reason. We are skeptics and critics of dogma and authoritarianism.

Our network of blogs is designed to encourage independent thinking and individual autonomy — freethoughtblogs.com itself is a vehicle for giving vocal secularists a venue for discussion of their values and interests. The administration of this organization will interfere in the activities of individual blogs as little as possible, and will not impose any specific dictates on how individual blogs are managed. However, there must be some minimal regulation of the activities of the network as a whole that require some administrative structure, and providing that is the purpose of this document — to define a hierarchy to regulate the network (but not individual blogs) activity, and to lay out a set of procedures for changes to the network.

The official entities in this organization are:

Manager: Ed Brayton, founder of the network, fills this role. The Manager’s job is to handle the business side of the group, selling ad space, disbursing revenues, and managing network hosting.

Webmaster: The webmaster is in charge of the technical aspects of the site. He or she answers only to the Manager.

Executive Committee: The Executive Committee will have the job of making decisions about new additions to the network, and taking punitive measures against bloggers who violate rules. Decisions made by the Executive Committee will be based on feedback from the Network.

The Network: The group of individual bloggers who are hosted at freethoughtblogs will be referred to as the Network. Each blog will have equal input to all decisions affecting the group.

Other committees: At the discretion of the Executive Committee, other committees may be formed from members of the Network to perform specific tasks. In particular, an Admissions Committee will be formed to evaluate candidates for new blogs.

The Executive Committee

The membership of the committee will consist of:

Ed Brayton

PZ Myers

Two members to be appointed by Ed Brayton, with renewable one year terms

One member to be elected by majority vote of the Network, to have a renewable 6 month term.

The Executive Committee will meet by Skype or phone conferencing at least once a month, to discuss the state of the organization and to evaluate any pending action items. Minutes will be taken and published to the Network mailing list.

All decisions of the Executive Committee will be made by a majority vote in a conference call or email conversation.

The Network

Every blog on freethoughtblogs.com is considered a part of the Network. Each blog (not each blogger, since some blogs have multiple contributors) will have one equal vote in all decisions. Any questions submitted to the Network for voting will be announce on the network mailing list, with a specific deadline for voting; a 2/3 majority of the members that actually reply is required for passage.

The Network Mailing List

The network mailing list is maintained by the webmaster; it includes every member of the Network who wishes to be on it, except those who have had access restricted.

All emails sent or received on the list are considered to be private. Disclosure of the contents of discussions on the mailing list to others outside the Network is grounds for revocation of mailing list privileges; continued or egregious violations of privacy will be grounds for removal from the Network.

Since the purpose of the mailing list is to encourage open communication between members of the network, all discussions must be civil and drama is frowned upon; disagreement and criticism is encouraged, but only in the spirit of constructive improvement of the content of the Network. Other kinds of disagreement must be taken off-list, so that they do not disrupt free and friendly discussion. The mailing list is not to be an arena.

Threats, harassment, and personal abuse will not be tolerated on the mailing list. If personal conflicts are interfering with your ability to discuss matters politely, take it to the Executive Committee by email for mediation.

The Executive Committee can revoke mailing list privileges in response to any violations of privacy. The purpose of the mailing list is to allow discussions, however, so revocation should never be made lightly or permanently; losing internetwork communication is a very serious issue.

PROCEDURES


Admitting new bloggers to the Network

There are certain criteria a blogger must fit to belong to this Network:

  • They must be a freethinker, not a proponent of a specific religion or dogma
  • They must have demonstrated quality and reliability of output, with good reason to think they will be active bloggers
  • They must share a commitment to the values of the Network, which include diversity, equality, and social justice as well as atheism
  • They should be collegial, and willing to participate enthusiastically in the shared goals of the network

As a Network, we’ll also aspire to recruiting diverse bloggers to the cause; differences in background, values, and priorities within the broad framework of our mission are to be sought out and valued.

The Admissions Committee

A committee of at least 3 members will be formed by nomination of the Executive Committee. The role of the Admissions Committee is to mediate nominations for new members, conduct preliminary assessments of candidates, and to carry out interviews of potential new Network members.

At any time, the Executive Committee can dissolve the current Admissions Committee and request the Network to form a new one.

Any Network member can suggest new bloggers (Nominees) to the Admissions Committee. The Admissions Committee will maintain a list of suggestions, and carry out preliminary investigations of the suitability of Nominees.

The Admissions Committee, and only the Admissions Committee, can at any time request that the Executive Committee consider a nominee for admission to the Network. The Executive Committee is then obligated to make a decision within two weeks about whether the Nominee should be taken on.

A request to the Executive Committee to consider someone for admission requires:

  • Documentation of the current writing skills of the candidate
  • References from at least 5 Network members other than those on the Admissions Committee who approve of the Candidate
  • Results of a poll of the Network that show a majority approving of admission
  • A summary of a direct, personal interview of the Admissions Committee with the candidate to assess the suitability and collegiality of the candidate

The evaluation will be submitted to the Executive Committee for approval.


Dismissal of bloggers from the network

Removal of unsuitable bloggers from the Network is never to be undertaken casually. The criteria for asking that someone be removed are:

  • Multiple violations of privacy
  • Persistent disruption of the mailing list with violations of etiquette
  • Harassment — continuation of a behavior when requested to stop
  • Criminal behavior, such as the posting of child pornography
  • Active violations of the mission of the network: using a blog to set up an anti-atheist, racist, or anti-gay center, for instance
  • Prolonged abandonment of the blog, without suitable explanation (for example, a soldier sent off on active duty, or a blogger with a book commitment are reasonable excuses)

The following conditions will not be considered valid reasons for expulsion:

  • Personal animus
  • Disagreement on tactics, style, or focus
  • Change in philosophy or religion, unless it actively conflicts with the mission of Freethoughtblogs

Any blogger can request the expulsion of another, given good grounds. However, these requests should not be made on the mailing list, nor should the mailing list be used to threaten colleagues with expulsion. This is not behavior conducive to uninhibited communication, and can poison the well for further discussion. All suggestions for expulsion should be sent to the Executive Committee by email.

Consideration for expulsion will be made entirely at the Executive Committee’s discretion. Do not nag the Executive Committee; requests will be tallied and discussed privately.

If the Executive Committee decides that there are reasonable grounds for expulsion, this fact will be disclosed to the offending blogger, and they will be given an opportunity to explain and correct their behavior. This will not be subject to public discussion. That a blogger has been censured will not be disclosed to other members of the Network, and if the problems are addressed, will never be revealed to the community.

The blogger may request a conference call with the Executive Committee to discuss the issues.

If the offending blogger is recalcitrant or in any way refuses to address the concerns of the Network, the Executive Committee will vote to determine if the blogger should be removed. If a majority agree, the Webmaster will be asked to immediately remove the blogger from the mailing list, remove the blogger’s posting privileges, and close all comments on their blog.

Because continuity on the network is important, the blogs of expelled bloggers will be retained on freethoughtblogs (without the option for adding new posts or comments) at the bloggers choice. If they decide otherwise, the blog may be deleted. A backup of the archive will be provided for the blogger.

Your Thoughts?

  • Skeptikel

    Time to change the name, I’m thinking… Something other than “Free,” perhaps. “Thought” and “Blogs” are fine as is.

    Maybe the top-level domain should best be moved from .com to .gov

    Ah well, it wouldn’t be the first misleading domain name. No worries, it’s no biggie at the end of the day. Might as well just keep the current one regardless of the issues, since it’s an established name/domain. I am empathetic to the massive undertaking of changing to more fitting names/domains for sure…

    It was a thought, anyway.

    • Badland

      Over at Pharyngula (and doubtless elsewhere) it has been observed that commenters with ‘skeptic’ or ‘rational’ in their ‘nyms are rarely either. Good to see you’re keeping up this fine tradition.

      Also good to see yet another person who does not understand what freethought is. Hint: it is not the right to say whatever the hell you want to.

    • Kylie Sturgess

      But then it’d screw up all the FTB hate that’s going around. Maybe just change it to a different “F”?

      FritillaryThoughtBlogs.
      FandangoThoughtBlogs.

      F… oh dear.

      Never mind, apparently if there’s another site with practically the same name, people get upset if you mention that it’s not the best choice when it comes to branding, so we may as well take the high road and say “That’s the name, every blogger on the network is different and you can always not read it if you like” when it comes to branding on our part.

    • http://giliellthinkingaloud.blogspot.com/ Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg

      If I had a buck for every person who has no idea what the compound noun “Freethought” actually means and makes complaints on the basis of “shit I make up in my head”, I’d have at least enough money to buy a nice digital cam.
      Really, you’re like those people who claim that evolution means that cats give birth to dogs.

  • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

    “New Order”…..”Free Thought Blog Rules”…?!

    I find this a disturbing & concerning development – sorry.

    http://poundhillnorthindependentcrawley.freeforums.org/post2656.html#p2656 (please scroll to end)

    Richard W. Symonds
    Founder Member of the Gatwick City of Ideas “No Constraints” Forum

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      “New Order”…..”Free Thought Blog Rules”…?!

      I used the phrase “new order” because it was simple and had a tongue-in-cheek ironic ring. But I see now that it’s going to just feed misinterpretations, so I changed the title to something more accurately descriptive.

    • dab

      Your point?

      Oh wait, you don’t have one. You just copy and paste articles from elsewhere, without even bothering to remove their junk formatting and other crap, onto some forum where you’re apparently the saviour of the human race for being able to say absolutely whatever you want.

      And this makes you better because there are absolutely no constraints on discourse?

      Not really, because that allows you to copypasta crap about the Jewish conspiracy and the NWO.

      Go away.

  • Kylie Sturgess

    Seriously though, I notice occasionally people ask about the hiring practices and it’s nice to have something written out so people can check it out.

  • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

    Seriously though, if there are too many “rules of control”, you risk ending up as just another blog site – there are millions – where “freethinkers” who agree with each other talk amongst themselves – and when a different “freethinker” comes along and disagrees with the cosy little group, they are accused of being a “troll”.

    Just thinking freely ….

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Seriously though, if there are too many “rules of control”, you risk ending up as just another blog site – there are millions – where “freethinkers” who agree with each other talk amongst themselves – and when a different “freethinker” comes along and disagrees with the cosy little group, they are accused of being a “troll”.

      Just thinking freely ….

      I see you don’t grasp the distinction between rules for group discussions among bloggers and rules for comments sections as apparently you think the rules spelled out in this post apply to comments sections when they don’t.

      But, regardless, I have some rules for my comments sections because they allow the kind of disagreements founded on what I am interested in–ideas–and not founded on what I have no interest in–interpersonal abusiveness. I like it that way. I want people to be free to debate vigorously and take intellectual risks and be honest about what they speculate about without everything descending into hatefulness and resultant acrimony.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      My point Dab?

      You’ve proved it – thanks.

      And I will not “go away”.

      Oh, by the way, criticising the Zionist Israeli government doesn’t make one, by definition, Anti-Semitic – just as criticising the US or UK Government Anti American or Anti British.

      Dab, wake up, wise up and grow up.

    • G.Shelley

      Any particular rules you find objectionable or excessive, or just the general idea of hoving them?

    • dab

      My point Dab?

      You’ve proved it – thanks.

      Oh yeah, good one. See, this proves that I’ve been brainwashed by the FtB machine. Or something.

      And I will not “go away”.

      Oh, by the way, criticising the Zionist Israeli government doesn’t make one, by definition, Anti-Semitic – just as criticising the US or UK Government Anti American or Anti British.

      No, and there are several reasons for which one could criticise the Israeli government – but propounding conspiracy theories about a Jewish NWO makes you a wacko.

      Dab, wake up, wise up and grow up.

      “wake up”. A classic. What are you going to do next, call me a sheeple?

      You’re not a maverick lone crusader for truth and justice. You’re just another person looking for any reason you can find to feel special and privy to rare knowledge, and to feel priviliged and better than others as a result of this erroneous perception. Cheerio.

    • http://poundhillnorthindependentcrawley.freeforums.org Richard W. Symonds

      Dab, I suppose I’d be wasting my time asking you to read Matthew 7 : 5. That’s the Bible, by the way.

      I suppose I’d also be wasting my time asking you for evidence that I “expound conspiracy theories about a Jewish New World Order”.

      Certainly I am very critical of Rothschilds role in our democracy – who is a Zionist – and I suppose in that “wacko” brain of yours, that makes me a paranoid conspiracy theorist and anti-Semite.

      Sad.

  • Armored Scrum Object

    I can’t help but notice that Ed + Ed’s appointees make up a majority of the Executive Committee, which acts by majority vote. I don’t think it’s likely to be a serious problem, but I think it does potentially cast a little bit of doubt on the relevance of the Executive Committee structure vs. an Ed-as-BDFL structure.

    Do not nag the Executive Committee

    Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I can’t help but notice that Ed + Ed’s appointees make up a majority of the Executive Committee, which acts by majority vote. I don’t think it’s likely to be a serious problem, but I think it does potentially cast a little bit of doubt on the relevance of the Executive Committee structure vs. an Ed-as-BDFL structure.

      Ed and PZ have never thrown their weight around. They’ve always been remarkably collegial and deferent to consensus for people who are in positions that give them a lot of latitude to be domineering. So, I’m not worried about that. Plus the first people Ed selected are ones with established independence and a lot of clout, so there is no indication Ed even had an interest in installing lackeys.

    • Foreigner

      I can’t help but notice that Ed + Ed’s appointees make up a majority of the Executive Committee, which acts by majority vote.

      Oh, it is no problem at all. Until it is. One only has to look at the recent struggles of Chesapeake Energy (CHK) to see the problem having the Board of Directors / Executive Committee stacked with friends of the Chairman. It isn’t real governance, it is a rubber stamp.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      “Just the general idea of having them”, G Shelley – rules are totally unnecessary, and inappropriate, on any blog in a free-thinking democratic society which values freedom of speech.

      Time is precious, therefore we all have to prioritise it.

      If someone, anyone, chooses voluntarily to spend their precious time commenting – negatively, positively or whateverly, on a blogsite – that blogsite should feel privileged.

      All of us have to abide by a myriad of rules and laws – and the blogosphere should be a haven away from it, where people can freely express themselves.

      If you create rules for something essentially voluntary, many people will just ‘vote with their feet’, and choose to spend their precious time on something else.

      If you have too many rules, the blog (social website or whatever) will become just a ‘private club’ where everyone agrees with each other.

      All very cosy for the remaining bloggers – but totally useless to be effective.

  • CT

    Why is the hierarchy (not my word – I’m just quoting the text!) 100% male? Not only that but white, middle class and straight?
    I’m sorry that the opportunity was not taken towards stepping away from traditional patriarchal power structures.
    Would it have been so difficult to have included some diversity in the hierarchy such that there was a proper representation of women and others whose voices have traditionally been excluded?
    I have to say that I am very disappointed in this decision.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Why is the hierarchy (not my word – I’m just quoting the text!) 100% male? Not only that but white, middle class and straight?

      I’m sorry that the opportunity was not taken towards stepping away from traditional patriarchal power structures.

      Would it have been so difficult to have included some diversity in the hierarchy such that there was a proper representation of women and others whose voices have traditionally been excluded?
      I have to say that I am very disappointed in this decision.

      Ed and PZ founded the network and so it was on them to take responsibility to form this document and be members of the Executive Committee. Without revealing their identities, suffice it to say that their first two colleagues on the Executive Committee are representative of other groups to which they do not belong.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Seeing as how you were referred here by a link from “The Slyme Pit”, I suspect CT that your remark is an insincere attempt to antagonize the network by mocking its commitment to diversity and trying to feign outrage at whatever apparent hypocrisies you can sniff out.

      If that’s the case, please don’t come back. I am not going to indulge trolls.

    • CT

      NOT me, you stop that nym stealing bs.

  • http://furiouspurpose.me rorschach

    I will say this: “Executive Committee” seems a slightly unfortunate choice of words.(There goes my chance to get in some day)

  • Joey Maloney

    Just remember, rules invite ratfuckers. No matter how well-considered and workable – and I think these are both – someday someone will come along who will make it their mission to follow the letter while pissing all over the spirit of the rules.

    Just don’t think your work is done, is all I’m saying.

    • John Phillips, FCD

      But how is that worse than someone who does whatever they like because there are no rules. Behaviour such as you describe, at least IMO, are already covered by such things as the agreement to be collegial when joining. Become a rule nit-picker just so you can be an awkward sod simply for the sake of being an awkward sod with no other redeeming features and soon the others will decide you are no longer being collegiate or living up to the group ethos and vote accordingly.

  • Pen

    It would seem that what counts as restriction on thinking or speaking on FtB would consist of actively dismissing or campaigning against diversity, equality or social justice. In principle, I’m as comfortable with that as I am with the idea that there should be no actively religious bloggers here.

    The only concern is whether the hierarchy could start to insist on some kind of orthodoxy regarding blogger’s beliefs on how to achieve diversity, equality and social justice. I haven’t seen any sign of bloggers being dismissed for unorthodoxy yet. I think the dismissals were all over behavioural and/or quality issues. I can imagine that the admissions procedure would tend to produce some level of orthodoxy almost automatically and I don’t really see how to avoid that, if anyone wanted to.

    I’m sure it would be better for our intellectual lives if bloggers would take it upon themselves to review (not trash) unpopular or unorthodox ideas from time to time and throw them up for debate, as some already do with theology. I’m not sure if they will, though.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      It would seem that what counts as restriction on thinking or speaking on FtB would consist of actively dismissing or campaigning against diversity, equality or social justice. In principle, I’m as comfortable with that as I am with the idea that there should be no actively religious bloggers here.

      Exactly–but it’s even more lenient than that. You would, as I take the language, have to be explicitly anti-gay or pro-racism or anti-atheist to get considered for firing.

      But I will also note that you can become a religious believer as long as you remain a secularist. Ed is willing to have staunch secularist believers here if they are going to be defenders of the separation of church and state.

      I’m actually less comfortable with that. I would personally prefer we draw the line at beliefs in personal deities and say one could have a non-dogmatic, non-theistic, or deistic religion, compatible with being a freethinker, but not believe in any personal deities, special revelation, or the special authority of historic religious institutions. That would have been one of my handful of differences had I crafted the document.

      Nonetheless, I appreciate their willingness to err on the side of inclusion and their willingness to be more willing to retain than to lose people.

      And I should note that if anyone has such a drastic change of heart that they really do become diametrically opposed to our basic commitments anti-racist, pro-gay, pro-secularist positions, they’re entitled to their free speech but just not our platform. It doesn’t seem too much to ask to say this is a forum for people committed to a certain set of basic values.

      The only concern is whether the hierarchy could start to insist on some kind of orthodoxy regarding blogger’s beliefs on how to achieve diversity, equality and social justice.

      Yes, that’s theoretically a real slippery-slope. I feel comfortable personally with the procedures in place and with the characters of the people involved that no one with good faith disagreements will be in danger of being fired.

      I haven’t seen any sign of bloggers being dismissed for unorthodoxy yet. I think the dismissals were all over behavioural and/or quality issues. I can imagine that the admissions procedure would tend to produce some level of orthodoxy almost automatically and I don’t really see how to avoid that, if anyone wanted to.

      Yes, and that was always the goal, right? People would always have been bewildered if we brought on someone antithetical and outright hostile to secularism and progressive values in the first place.

      I’m sure it would be better for our intellectual lives if bloggers would take it upon themselves to review (not trash) unpopular or unorthodox ideas from time to time and throw them up for debate, as some already do with theology. I’m not sure if they will, though.

      I have long intended to do just that, in my own way. But it takes skill and care to do that well and so those posts are long in coming. But I am not against them in principle.

  • ibbica

    Well, FWIW, I approve ;)

    I’m a big fan of transparency, of basing groups or networks on a clear set of guiding principles, of having a touchstone to turn to when trying to explain what a particular place or group is about. So thanks for publishing these!

  • http://www.bolingbrookbabbler.com cethis

    So basically, if you want to join, you don’t ask FTB, FTB asks you?

    The rules look good, and I hope they workout for the network.

  • http://raisinghellions.wordpress.com/ Lou Doench

    I hope having a constitution of sorts clears up a lot of the misunderstandings surrounding the recent unpleasantness hereabouts. I’m also happy to see guidelines for admission to the network, gives me something to shoot for as I try and get my blogging legs back under me. Hellion #3 finally starts preschool tomorrow… 3 hours a day of peace and quiet!

  • Dylan

    We are skeptics and critics of dogma and authoritarianism.

    Concepts like “the patriarchy,” “male privilege,” or “rape culture,” seem like ideological dogma to me.

    At the very least these are vague and ambiguous concepts that are generally used in a very dogmatic fashion.

    • http://raisinghellions.wordpress.com/ Lou Doench

      That’s a hole in your education Dylan… Not our problem. Also, “scare quotes” don’t turn well established feminist terms into vague concepts just because you are baffled by them.

    • Dylan

      @Lou Doench

      How is that not dogmatism?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      @Lou Doench

      How is that not dogmatism?

      It’s a claim that those words have clear designations and supportable sociological theories related to them that one could be educated in and that you apparently weren’t. That’s different than just saying he just believes in them.

      But he’s not actually given substantive and specific arguments in favor of those concepts to try to educate you himself. But to be fair, you also did not muster much of an argument against them either. So far you’re both just asserting. That doesn’t make you dogmatists but it doesn’t make progress towards agreement either. It’s up to you whether to raise more manageable and specific theses for debate and provide evidence for them that can be debated.

    • Dylan

      It’s up to you whether to raise more manageable and specific theses for debate and provide evidence for them that can be debated.

      My point was not so much that no instances of male privilege can be demonstrated, but rather that the terms are used in a dogmatic fashion. Critical opinions are dismissed on the basis that those making the criticisms are arguing from privileged. These unsupported assertions are routinely towards anyone critical of feminist theory.

      So, while on the one hand it may be entirely correct that instances of male privilege can be empirically verified, the term, as it is commonly used in discussion here, refers to something else entirely.

      The way it is used is dogmatic.

  • http://raisinghellions.wordpress.com/ Lou Doench

    But he’s not actually given substantive and specific arguments in favor of those concepts to try to educate you himself.

    I’m hardly the best person to take on that task ;) . Here’s a good place to start.
    http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/
    or

    @Dylan, I don’t think you are using the word “dogmatic” correctly. Or you are intentionally using it as a provocative slur to cast your opponents in a negative light. You propose:

    Critical opinions are dismissed on the basis that those making the criticisms are arguing from privileged. These unsupported assertions are routinely towards anyone critical of feminist theory.

    Has it occurred to you that your criticisms of feminist theory may be unfounded? That they may be part of a repetitive series of arguments that feminists have already dealt with and thus tend to dismiss out of hand? That might appear dogmatic to an interloper, who is encountering that response for the first time. But I somehow doubt that is how you are reacting. I think you are arguing ad hominem because you don’t like the conclusions that the feminists here at FtB have come to. Instead of countering their claims you are imputing cowardly actions to your opponents. You are in effect tone trolling.

  • ryangerber

    To all those protesting the mere existence of rules: Any website without clear policies and guidelines is effectively an absolute monarchy under whoever owns the server. This new policy should give Ed and PZ less power, not more.

  • http://poundhillnorthindependentcrawley.freeforums.org Richard W. Symonds

    The Gatwick City of Ideas Website has one very clear rule – “No Constraints” – and one very clear guideline – “Respect”.

    People can express their ideas without constraint.

    “Trolls” are more than welcome – they keep people ‘on their toes’, and keep their ideas sharp.

    Implementing a “no constraints” policy has not been an easy ride, I can assure you, but it is far, far better than being full of rules.

  • http://thetimchannel.wordpress.com/ The Tim Channel

    I avoid the thought police over at Free Thought Blogs with an enthusiasm I used to reserve for blogs by Ken Ham or Intelligent Design. You’ll get banned, blocked and blacklisted right before they go to spitting all over you. Not worth it. Enjoy.