Excruciating

"Hey, boss, I think I should be allowed to go home at 4 p.m. instead of 5. It's a matter of principle."

"I pay you to work until 5, you want to stop getting paid at 4?"

"No, I still want to get paid for working until 5 p.m. every day. But I want to stop working at 4."

I don't imagine that conversation with a hypothetical boss ending well, yet Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kans., believes that she should be allowed to knock off work at 4 p.m. and get paid as though she worked until 5, every day, for two years. And she thinks that her bosses — the people of Kansas — will congratulate her on this idea.

More specifically, Jenkins recently announced that she will "re-introduce the End the Lame Duck Act," to ensure that no Congress works throughout the entirety of the full two-year term it was elected, and paid, to serve.

See, right now, we hold elections at the beginning of November, but the winners of those elections don't get sworn in to office until late in January. That gives us three months of a so-called "lame duck" Congress — one that includes several legislators in their final three months of service who will not be returning later. Horrors.

Jenkins' solution to this is to mandate that members of Congress are not allowed to serve the final three months of a term. Three months out of a 24-month term is one-eighth of the total service for which members of the House of Representatives are getting paid. So, yes, Jenkins' proposal is precisely like the above conversation. She wants to get a full day's pay for less than a full day's work — a full term's pay for less than a full term's work.

It's a slick attempt to mooch extra pay for less work, but no matter how she spins it, Jenkins' proposal is an argument for irresponsibility and pay without work. For someone that dedicated to not doing her job, I have a better suggestion: Don't run for re-election.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., didn't enjoy working a full term in the 111th Congress either, but I don't think in his case it was due to laziness. On Face the Nation a couple Sundays ago, Graham said, "The last two weeks have been an absolutely excruciating exercise," and he singled out the DREAM Act and "don't ask, don't tell" as particularly "excruciating" votes.

I'm sure those were painful votes for Graham. I doubt that these were the sort of tactical, cynical positioning and maneuvering votes he had in mind when he first decided to run for public office back in 1992. He was 37 years old then and it's hard for me to imagine anybody at that age saying to himself, "If I work hard, within a few decades, I'll be able to shore up support from my xenophobic base by screwing over the innocent children of immigrants!" Back in 1992, Graham certainly wasn't imagining that he would some day devote years of his life to the knee-jerk opposition of every stance or idea commended by Barack Obama, who was then a little-known lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Chicago.

But this is Graham's life now. His party's leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has explicitly stated that this is the only thing he hopes to accomplish — obstructing and opposing every piece of Obama's agenda, even when, as with the DREAM Act, that agenda is bipartisan or nonpartisan. McConnell's marching orders had nearly all of his Republican senators falling in line against the DREAM Act, against medical compensation for 9/11 first responders and against themselves since, for Graham and many other Republicans, these were proposals they had previously endorsed and argued in support of.

I can imagine that following McConnell's lead has indeed been "excruciating" for Lindsey Graham — not just for the past two weeks, but for the past two years.

The full quote from Graham bears this out, revealing how out of touch he has allowed himself to become from whatever impulses first led him to want to be a senator in the first place:

The last two weeks have been an absolutely excruciating exercise — 'don't ask, don't tell' — a controversial topic. Some say the civil rights issue of our generation, others say battlefield effectiveness was passed in the lame-duck session without one amendment being offered. The DREAM Act we've had two votes on the DREAM Act. Controversial immigration, there was no efforts to find a common ground there, passed without the ability to amend to try to make Republicans look bad with Hispanics.

There's a reason that Republican votes against the DREAM Act made those Republicans look bad with Hispanics — because those votes were designed, intended and calculated to harm Hispanics simply because they are Hispanics. Less bluntly, those votes were designed to ensure the continued enthusiastic support of the re-emergent John Birch Society, now rebranding itself as the "tea party." The Birchers are unable or unwilling to imagine that legislation like the DREAM Act might actually help one group — the children of illegal immigrants — without somehow, magically I suppose, therefore hurting Straight White Christians.

Sen. Graham knows better. He knows that the zero-sum, crabs-in-a-bucket Hobbesian jungle of the Birchers is not how the world really works. But he also knows that he needs their support lest he find himself, like Sen. Bennett in Utah, kicked to the curb as insufficiently Bircheriffic. So the Birchers "forced" Graham to cast an excruciating vote that made him look bad with Hispanics.

Just look at how Graham frames the matter there to see how far he has come, how far he has drifted, from whatever it was that made him run for office in the first place back in 1992. His discussion of the DREAM Act doesn't consider the actual effect of his vote — only whether it makes him look good or look bad.

When politics is reduced to only that it becomes an excruciating game indeed. Graham seems to have forgotten that he once dreamed of voting for or against policies based on whether or not they were effective or efficient or, yes, good for the country. He finds himself now voting based entirely on how his votes will make him look to this or that bloc of potential voters. Based on that calculation, he voted against the DREAM Act, even though he seems to realize it is a good bill that's good not just for Hispanics, but for the country as a whole.

Here, after all, is how the DREAM Act was originally introduced by it's Republican author, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah:

I rise today to introduce legislation aimed at benefitting a very special group of persons — illegal alien children who are long-term residents of the United States. This legislation, known as the "DREAM Act," would allow children who have been brought to the United States through no volition of their own the opportunity to fulfill their dreams, to secure a college degree and legal status. The purpose of the DREAM Act is to ensure that we leave no child behind, regardless of his or her legal status in the United States or their parents' illegal status.

Hatch voted against allowing a vote on his own legislation this month. After nine years of hard work, it finally had the votes to pass, but McConnell's anti-all-things-Obama-is-for strategy and the ultimatums of the Birchers led Orrin Hatch to help prevent an up-or-down vote on his own bill. He voted against himself.

I'm guessing he, too, found that vote excruciating.

The work of a senator doesn't have to be so painful. If you find yourself complaining because you're being forced to defend indefensible positions by voting on them, it might be that the problem doesn't lie with those forcing you to cast a vote and take a stand. It seems more likely that the problem lies with where you have chosen to stand and why you have chosen to stand there.

If Lindsey Graham and Orrin Hatch don't enjoy voting to screw over the children of immigrants, if they don't relish casting votes that crush the aspirations of innocent and patriotic young people for no good reason other than that they have brown skin, then they do have an alternative to complaining loudly about having to cast such votes.

They could also, you know, not vote that way.

That's also a possibility. Cast votes that don't hurt people — votes that are not motivated solely by the seething resentment and indignation of the hateful nut-jobs of the John Birch Society.

Those votes tend to be a lot less excruciating. For you and for everyone else.

  • Lonespark

    Talking about the neutral potency of the kinda-creepy quasi-trickster made me think a bit of Ponyo’s dad.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    @Kit-
    It’s just a thought, and I’d like to hear others. But in general, rather than casting blame, how do people think we could take positive steps?
    Well, here’s how I’m feeling now. When I first came here I acted like a jerk. Then you, Izzy and a number of other people told me I was acting in a manner that made you all uncomfortable and while some people were sympathetic to my situation and how I felt, yourself included, no one ever made excuses for my behavior or pretended that my behavior was acceptable.
    I feel that there are now certain behaviors that are common here that make me uncomfortable and I don’t think are acceptable for a place where we try to have civil discussion. I feel like as a member of the community, I have a right to speak up when I’m feeling that way. When I do speak up, I feel like I’m being told I should just suck it up because I have privilege and the person who is perpetuating the behavior that I find troubling does not, so I just have to deal.
    Its like if you have privilege you are never, ever allowed to think someone who has less privilege than you is behaving in a manner that is troubling or anti-social, especially if they are talking about some issue that has to do with their lack of privilege.
    I would like in the very least to be able to express that someone’s behavior makes me uncomfortable without being treated like I am heartless and totally devoid of empathy.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    Jason, I see your point, but that really does come across as blaming, or at least complaining. Could you try to work it so that you’re appealing to a generally applicable and positive aspiration? I’m try to suggest new year’s resolutions, in effect, and I think it might be helpful if they were phrased as ‘I like this and want more of it’, not ‘I don’t like this and want less of it.’

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    Ok, I’m gonna take a break from slacktivist for a while (a while means like 3 or 4 hours…I’m not going away) and then I’ll come back and see what I can do.

  • Lonespark

    Since I’m coming from a position of privilege, that exact same behavior from me would not be tolerated by anyone.
    Except it is. It was when you showed up and had an epic flamewar. And I remember a specific moderately recent thread where you got really, really pissed and posted a lot of irrational, agressive, sweary stuff but eventually took some time off and reconsidered. You weren’t drummed out of the community. (Not that we could do that, really, the whole thing is that people censor and remove themselves in response to the community weighing in.) You were disagreed with a lot and agreed with a little.
    So I don’t think looking expressed anger as being tolerated or not really applies. If you’re saying people don’t support you doing it and some people do support others doing it, that’s probably more accurate. It’s a little apples to oranges when it’s on different subjects, but in general it’s probably people giving more leeway when they feel the outburst is justified. That might seem really wrong if you think standards of community behavior should be more rigid, but I think any effort in that direction would turn to legalistic acrimony really fast.

  • Dash

    Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little, first, I’m very sorry that you find the comments unsafe now. However, I feel that what I said was mischaracterized, and I want to be very clear about it.

    And Dash telling renniejoy that the best way to express that you’re feeling rageful, and have that respected as coming from a place of pain worth anyone’s consideration, is to publicly describe that pain on intimate, physical-symptom terms? (I’m referring to “Well, when you said ‘I am right now shaking and on the point of tears from rage,’ that was much more effective.”)

    That is not in fact what I said. Renniejoy stated that she was angry and then asked (perhaps rhetorically) for a guideline on expressing anger. I simply stated that her statement that she was angry was more effective for me than flinging the kinds of invective we’d been talking about.
    Since I quoted her entire line, which included both the statement that she was angry and the supporting description, I understand that it might not have been clear where to focus, as far as what was “more effective.” It was not in fact the physical description that I found effective; it was her simple statement that she was angry.
    You’re quite right: no one has an obligation to describe in specific physical detail just how angry they are. My point was that, for me–and I was careful to follow Pius Thicknesse’s excellent advice and use only I-statements–the simple statement that someone is angry is more effective than a display of invective. I’d go further and say that the display of invective always strikes me as much more a revelation of symptoms of anger. And, I’d add to what I said that, had she begun her statement with the capitalized “fuck you, assholes,” I referred to, I probably wouldn’t have cared so much, as she would have been showing that she wasn’t concerned about other people’s feelings. (This is in a case where the phrase would have been aimed at Jason and Ruby, both commenters with a long history of good will and intelligent comments. If it were aimed at a troll, all bets are off.)
    I agree that asking people to describe their symptoms (so that–what, so one can judge whether they are adequately angry to be taken seriously) is, in your words “icky.” It wasn’t what I was doing, and I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear.
    By the way, just as a bit of practicing what I preach, when I started this post I was absolutely infuriated that you–willfully, it looked to me at the time–mischaracterized what I said. Now that I’ve had the chance to look over it and reply, I see that I wasn’t clear, and I’m grateful for the chance to clarify. I’m actually embarrassed at having felt defensive. (And yeah, TMI.)
    Nicole, I have always appreciated and admired your comments, and I’m sorry to be seen as helping to create an unsafe space for you. I do want to emphasize that what is being objected to, as has been said before, isn’t invective in general, anger, expression of anger, or calling people out on problematic remarks, let along hateful or bigoted ones. It’s a very thin slice of behavior that is extreme and has involved sexually violent imagery and that makes others here feel unsafe without adding to the safety of those of us who (also) object to hateful or bigoted remarks.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/lorik922 Lori

    Having come back and read the rest of the thread since then, I’m feeling extremely uncomfortable. What I experience here (I speak only of my experience; I do not presume anyone’s intent) as a general atmosphere of back-patting over telling mean old MadG off, feels icky to me. Jason’s repeated prescriptive statements, up to and including “It’s time to change the subject now,” feel icky, too, as though MadG’s retiring from the community has affirmed his right to tell people exactly how this conversation’s gonna go from here on out.

    Speaking again only for myself, there have been times in the past when I’ve been really uncomfortable about what felt to me like a general atmosphere of back-patting over how great MG is for flaming people. As I’ve said, the list of topics I felt able to discuss comfortably here has gotten shorter and shorter in recent months. I would not describe it by saying that I felt less safe here (that just wouldn’t be my phrasing). However, based on what others have said I’d say that my feelings were what others describe by saying “unsafe”.
    There was a a thread a few months ago where the “safeness” issue came up. MG flat out said, and was support by others in saying, it’s supposed to be safe for us (for values of “us” and “safe” defined by MG) and if it makes you feel bad then the problem is you. Given that women’s issues were either the catalyst of that conversation or had been discussed shortly before, that little “you go girl” party certainly wasn’t a slacktivist highlight for me.
    There’s an old saying in IR, where you stand (on an issue) depends on where you sit (who you are and which department you work for). The same is basically true here. How one views a particular tactic depends on whether one sees oneself as protected or attacked by it. The one thing I keep trying to emphasize is that the split between feeling protected and attacked by nuking is not as neat & tidy as “trolls and privileged bigots” on one side and “oppressed and nice people” on the other.

    AND I’m extremely uncomfortable with characterizing MadG as “3 posts to raging asshole” without any acknowledgement of the real possibility that several weeks, months, years of the *same* people reacting to basic “check your privilege” nudges with “But I’m not a bigot!” and “But I’m on your side!” and “Explain me privilege 101 again?” repeatedly, predictably, tend to accumulate, steadily burning through a person’s patience and goodwill, which a person who puts up with enough of that bullshit everywhere else doesn’t have in unlimited supply, until that person has *no* *more* for *you* *in* *specific*, until they absolutely will go off on you when you demand a privilege 101 lesson while you proclaim “But I’m not a bigot!” while that lesson is going on yet-a-fucking-again!

    A couple things on this. I want to reiterate again that the general atmosphere is not simply causing discomfort to the “101 people”. It’s also causing issues for people who rarely if ever ask a 101 question or defend their own privilege and are in fact part of some groups that MG is “defending”.
    I certainly know that repeating the same information over & over gets annoying as hell. There are a couple of topics that come up here semi-regularly about which I feel that way. Sometimes I walk away from the conversations. Sometimes I wade in with the 101. When I chose to do the latter it’s exactly that—my choice. For good or ill I have to own that. This is not my space, so I don’t determine content. There also isn’t anyone forcing me to answer or comment on anything. I truly admire the fact the MG feels a strong sense of responsibility on a number of issues. It’s part of her activism and it takes real strength. However, that doesn’t change the fact that responding here is a choice.
    Someone (I believe Pius) mentioned her frustration with 101 questions being asked too many times. That’s one the issues over which I feel very conflicted. On the one hand I wish we could get some of them less often because it does tend to keep the conversation from going deeper. There are so many incredibly smart people here that I want to really dig in with them and talk about things beyond surface stuff. On the other hand, who gets to decide how many of any type of question is too many? This isn’t a space owned by any one person or group. It’s a very open, very general discussion. People come and go and you never know who’s lurking. Certain hot button topics are bound to repeat.

    This incident feels as though it’s moved the community Overton Window non-trivially insofar as privilege and pain go.

    My hope is that what we’ve done is move the Overton Window non-trivially insofar as fear of speaking goes, without turning it into a troll free for all. Only time will tell how that works out. The one thing I can promise is that if we get a spike in nastiness and thoughtlessness I’ll get right there working to make it stop.

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB

    Jason, I see your point, but that really does come across as blaming, or at least complaining. Could you try to work it so that you’re appealing to a generally applicable and positive aspiration? I’m try to suggest new year’s resolutions, in effect, and I think it might be helpful if they were phrased as ‘I like this and want more of it’, not ‘I don’t like this and want less of it.’
    I see where you are coming from, and I’ll take a crack at it.
    What I would like to see is more of behavior focused, ultimately positive criticism- “You are doing this behavior, and that behavior hurts me.”. Also, this is not a site or a forum dedicated to expressing one type of opinion. People will have opinions that differ from yours. They might even differ from yours 180 degrees. However, that is their right to hold that opinion and peacefully express that. If Fred chooses to silence them, he can: other than that, there are no rules governing what opinions are expressed her. That does not mean people shouldn’t disagree with whomever they chose. And I think its fair that, just as I expect to be treated with basic human decency, when someone says to me “please stop, that opinion is hurtful to me” I will stop expressing that opinion. That is also basic human decency.
    Part of the problem I have is that (as others have noted) the conversation has been skewing more and more towards orthdoxy. It often seems to me that one cannot express unpopular opinions without being attacked.
    For instance, I disagree with many people on voting Democrat. I don’t think their belief that I shouldn’t blindly vote D oppresses me, and I don’t think my belief that they SHOULD all blindly vote D oppresses them. This is a difference of opinion, not an issue of privilege or bullying. I do not think that I deserve to be accused of being a bully, or of trying to oppress people, by disagreeing with a voting preference.

  • Dash

    I agree with Lori’s points. I believe we all agree that hateful and bigoted remarks are unacceptable. And I’m sympathetic to people who are tired of the “101 questions.” I’ve read those threads, and someone arguing and arguing and arguing can get very wearing. However, probably because I’m a teacher, I probably feel a bit more strongly about being patient with people who are trying to understand or who show the potential to be persuadable. They don’t have to be persuaded by the first time something is explained to them. And some people test ideas by arguing against what they’re given. It’s a way of learning.
    My reaction in such cases is to say, “if it really bothers you–whether it’s about Doctor Who, varieties of Christian experience, or someone needing a 101 explanation, provided that person is civilly expressing their confusion–perhaps you can skim over it while those who are willing to provide explanations do so.” We seem to have no trouble skimming when it’s one of the first two issues.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/lorik922 Lori

    And I should have refreshed and seen Kit’s post before I posted mine.
    I terms of what I want to see more of, for myself I strive for the same basic thing Kit is aiming for:

    My aim in debates is to be intellectually aggressive but socially defensible. That is, if I think someone’s saying something wrong I go hard after their arguments, but try to avoid saying things they could use as an excuse not to listen.

    As is well established, I swear like a sailor, especially when I’m angry. I try to be judicious about swearing at people though and I intend to be even more careful about it going forward. There’s a huge difference between “this makes me so f’ing mad” and “eat shit you f’er”. I think the latter tends to generate more heat than light, not just for the person being sworn at, but for everyone witnessing it.
    IMO that general principle is often the difference between passion and abusiveness and my goal is to stay on the passion side of the line here.

  • Amaryllis

    I’ve been mostly staying out of this, being too confused and conflicted to offer anything at the times when I’ve lurked past.
    I’m very bad at doing who-said-what-to-whom-and-why-it-was-terrible, that kind of thing makes my stomach hurt. And if I want that kind of drama, I can find it closer to home than Slacktivist.
    But if we’re looking for a community standard, I don’t mind debates or disagreements, or even flames and swearing, or condescension and bombast. That is, I may mind them, but I can put up with them for awhile. What I truly hate is when the disagreement drags on for days or pages, reiterating the same arguments between the same people in the same tone, without getting anywhere.
    Is there a point when we can say enough is enough, we won’t agree, let’s drop it?
    Probably not, I don’t know how you’d enforce that without telling people when they should feel that enough is enough, so shut up now.
    But I throw it out for what it’s worth, anyway. It’s the “fight to the death” atmosphere that bothers me more than any specific posting style.
    Shutting up again now.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    I do not think that I deserve to be accused of being a bully, or of trying to oppress people, by disagreeing with a voting preference.
    I’m going to repeat what I said to Jason: your phrasing is that of a complaint, not a positive suggestion.

  • Lonespark

    Issues of privilege and bullying tend to creep in as arguments progress, mostly being brought up in the way arguments get expressed. I also have the impression that it’s worse when there are two or a small number of main posters arguing back and forth. A general discussion with lots of viewpoints seems to let us sort through arguments without having them become identified with specific people and their communication styles quite as much, though obviously that varies and it’s all a continuum.
    I feel like in general the idea of keeping welcoming space has been applied widely. We’ve shut down male-bashing, teenager-bashing, Southerner-bashing. We’ve had atheists tell off atheists and Christians for insulting Christians and Wiccans and Muslims. Etc. (I wanted to put more examples in this paragraph, but my brain is tired and my kids are rowdy.)
    The kind of self-sharing that Dash did above and labelled as TMI is where a lot of understanding can come from. But people aren’t going to do that, aren’t going to feel remotely safe enough to explain triggers or identify as a member of a group they’re trying to defend, when tempers are flaring and people are posting first and reading carefully second.
    My biggest wish for all of us in the coming year is definitely less stress.

  • Lonespark

    My reaction in such cases is to say, “if it really bothers you–whether it’s about Doctor Who, varieties of Christian experience, or someone needing a 101 explanation, provided that person is civilly expressing their confusion–perhaps you can skim over it while those who are willing to provide explanations do so.” We seem to have no trouble skimming when it’s one of the first two issues.
    I was going to say something similar. It’s tricky, because if no one responds the confusion doesn’t get changed, and if no one responds forcefully to the things ought to be changed before decent dialogue can happen the atmosphere won’t be conducive to anyone taking the trouble. But then again, whatever, it’s not like we lack for subjects.

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB

    I’m going to absent myself from Slacktivist for a while as well- right now I’m mad enough to spit nails. Not at anyone on here, bit IRL issues, so I’m stepping out for a bit lest I say something I regret- apologies if I don’t respond to anyone for a while.

  • Lonespark

    Is there a point when we can say enough is enough, we won’t agree, let’s drop it?
    I believe the traditional method involved Fred posting re: pie? We clearly need something resembling a reset button, and I’m not sure why just having new posts isn’t providing that. Stress in general and an altered posting schedule by our host?
    I think it would be nine kinds of awesome to have a thread that was just about, basically, what we like about this community, suggestions for keeping it groovy, and things we can try to do. Not right now, though. With a bit of advance warning so people who don’t post often or have been avoiding recent threads could contribute. If I were the boss of Fred I might suggest that he announce it in LB post. Heck, just call it an open thread. We don’t seem to have those anymore, which is part of why random discussion gets mixed in with discussion of the actual topic.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    @Kit-
    What I like about this community is that I feel like I can be in error here and people will tell me when I’m being wrong, but tell me politely and give me a chance to make amends. I feel like this is a place where my feelings are taken into account even when I am grossly wrong. Even when I first started posting here and almost everyone was offended by my posts, people were saying “Jason is probably feeling x now.” I would suggest that except in the case of trolls and people who are blatantly and purposefully being bigoted, we should take a step back and think about how we would feel if the language and words we are using were to be directed towards ourselves and not use our anger as a justification for lack of empathy towards the other person in the argument.

  • chris the cynic

    Pius, I’d really be interested in hearing your response to Dash saying, essentially, what she* said before. You knew that she’d read through the old conversations looking at kit’s success to failure ratio as compared to Mad Gastronomer’s before you brought up the possibility of confirmation bias. What else would you have her do to avoid confirmation bias?
    -
    @Nicole
    Now I guess it’s my turn to be shaking in rage. At first to the point of being unable to even sit still and type or read. Then where I had to make an effort to not clench my fists so tightly for fear that my fingernails would dig holes in my palm. Now that I am typing I worry that I could damage my keyboard, but I can’t find it in me to punch the keys with less force.
    Mad Gastronomer never made me feel unsafe, you certainly have.
    I know you weren’t putting forth an argument, just stating how you feel. I’ll try to do the same.
    No one ever said that Mad Gastronomer shouldn’t be angry. But anger isn’t a justification. I’m sure that many of the people who have hurt me throughout my life were angry at something. I honestly don’t give a shit. They were angry, so what? I was angry. I’m angry now. I’ll be angry in the future. Everyone gets angry. Seething rage happens. Much of the time it happens it’s completely justified. That doesn’t give people a blank check to do whatever they want.
    The question of what is an appropriate way to deal with anger is fucking important and it should not be dismissed by trying to derail the conversation into whether or not someone has a right to be angry. There are people here who say that Mad Gastronomer shouldn’t have done something (a certain way as often as she did.) It was about actions. Every time someone switches it to whether or not she has a right to be angry it stops being about actions, it becomes about intent and what kind of a person she is.
    Well intent isn’t fucking magic. What kind of a person she is neither justifies nor invalidates her actions. The disagreement here wasn’t over what she had a right to think and feel, it was about what she was doing. I still don’t know whether what she was doing was right or wrong, but I do know that that question will never be answered by someone talking about her right to be angry.
    Maybe this is because I’m an idiot who failed 101 classes, but this feels to me like something else to me. It feels like someone doing something bigoted and saying, “Well he’s not a bigot.” So what? We don’t care about his personal history or what he feels in his heart of hearts, we don’t care about how sincere his words are or whether or not he has a right to feel the way he feels. We care about what he does. Here that translates entirely to what he says and how he says it.
    I’m not seeing the difference between switching from the actions someone made while angry to whether or not they have a right to be angry to switching from the actions one made when expressing their opinion, and their right to have an opinion. Both are derailments that avoid the main issue: what the person did.
    If people are going to say that what Mad Gastronomer was doing was wrong and unacceptable, as they have, I honestly don’t know where I stand on that. But when someone says that the real issue is whether or not she has a right to be angry I know exactly where I stand on that. I call bullshit.
    What kind of a place this is is largely in our hands. Fred has said that he doesn’t like to ban anyone and it was only when there were direct threats against commenters that he did it the last time. That means that how things go here is in our hands and if we take a position of judging whether or not behavior is appropriate based not on how people act but on whether or not people have a right to feel the way they do then this will not be a safe place. Everyone has a right to feel however they feel. Mad Gastronomer had a right to be angry at people and people had a right to be angry at her. If our only limit is whether or not someone has a right to their feelings then there are no limits. Flame wars all the time, and anyone who says it’s not acceptable to say X is simply wrong, because saying X doesn’t matter anymore, what matters is whether or not you have a right to feel the thing that caused you to say X, and of course you have a right to feel it.
    Having things be about who has the right to feel what will not work. It can not work. It has to be about what it is acceptable to do. It has to be about actions. If things stop being about actions then all of a sudden, “But I’m not a bigot,” becomes an appropriate response and a valid defense.
    Either Mad Gastronomer’s actions were wrong or they were not. Her feelings don’t enter into it.
    Either what I do is wrong or it is not. My feelings don’t enter into it.
    Either what you do is wrong or it is not. Your feelings don’t enter into it.
    Feelings do not justify actions. They may allow us to understand. They may allow us to forgive. But a wrong action is wrong regardless of the feelings that led to it.
    If it were otherwise then, “But I mean well,” would be a valid defense for bigoted action. It isn’t. If someone means well that only matters to others if they use that meaning well to stop doing the wrong thing.
    Hapax’s story about the student who was repeatedly punched in the back is a great example about the difference between the right to feel and the right to do. Anyone who says the kid didn’t have a right to feel frothing rage is wrong. He did. His feelings were completely justified. His actions were not. His right to be angry did not translate into a right to act on that anger the way he did. Worse still, bystanders were hurt.
    People are saying that was the case here, justified emotion, unacceptable action. I don’t know if they are right. What I do know is that when you turn that inside out and start talking about people being the arbiter of how much anger is too much it makes me feel unsafe. This is only the second time I can think of that I’ve felt unsafe here. But it does more than make me feel unsafe, it enrages me when I think about the people who words such as yours might silence.
    If saying that someone shouldn’t do certain things equates to being the arbitrator of how much anger is enough, and no one ever has the right to do that, then no one ever has the right to say, “Stop hurting me.” That thought scares me. The idea that the only safe solution there will ever be is to curl up into a ball and wait for the hurting to stop because doing otherwise is overstepping your bounds scares me. Not so much for the fear that it will happen to me, but for the fear it will happen to someone else. Someone I might not even know, someone I can do nothing to help. I’ve been in that place, I don’t want anyone else there.
    Apparently this can’t be a safe place for everyone. I wish it could. I wish there were something we could do that would make it so. But it seems to me that the very least we can do is try our hardest to make it a place where people can say, “You’re making me feel less safe.” They’ll probably never be able to say it safely, the very act of saying it potentially makes them a target of the very person who makes them feel unsafe, but at least let them do it without being told they have no right to do it. What you’ve said seems to me like the antithesis of that.
    I think I’ve run out of steam, finally. I know I spent my whole morning here. The above might seem somewhat jumpy, several times I had to stop, get up, and just scream. Most of the dents my fingernails left in my palms have faded, I succeeded in making sure they never broke the skin. My keyboard hasn’t broken.
    I have no solutions to offer. If some people’s safety can only come at the expense of others, if some people can only feel safe in a situation that leaves others in fear, I don’t know what to do. What I do think is that if this place is going to be as safe as it can be, both for those who feel unsafe and those who feel safe, it needs to be a place where people can say that they are being made to feel unsafe and no one, ever, disputes their right to say that.
    If some people are always going to feel unsafe we can at least try to make it so that they feel as little unsafe as possible, and the only way I see to do that is if everyone can challenge actions that make them feel unsafe without the conversation turning to what the person doing those actions was feeling. If people can challenge actions without that being equated to challenging the right to have feelings.
    Everyone on all sides of this and every other issue has feelings, and they all have a right to those feelings. That doesn’t make what they do based on those feelings right.
    I’m one of those people who doesn’t use I statements as much as I should, certainly not when my typing is fueled by shaking rage. All of the above is my opinion, and any phrasing to the contrary should be understood to be bad phrasing, not claims that my opinion is fact.
    -
    But probably the thing that most terrified me, that gave me nightmares for weeks, was a Ghostwriter serial where the cast were writing a fictional story about a chewing-gum monster that would encase people in gum and then kidnap them. I watched that show religiously (though, looking back, I’m certain I wasn’t actually following three quarters of the plot) but not that part. The monster itself horrified me, and when I stumbled across a picture of it online I almost jumped out of my seat.
    Oh god, that was awful. I don’t have anything to add beyond that. It was awful. Getting it out of my head proved impossible for ages.
    -
    When Jason said “That terrible Doctor Who episode” my thoughts went to Midnight. Don’t get me wrong, the one he was talking about was awful, but I hated Midnight. Doctor Who is big on traveling, the episode was of him stuck in a single room. Doctor Who is big on dialog, the episode is one in which talking means death. Doctor Who is big on the interaction between him and the companion(s), the episode has is only companion far far away. Doctor Who is big on awesome, you hardly see an episode go by where there isn’t something to marvel at (sometimes the Doctor finds him marveling at humanity itself) Midnight didn’t have that it was entirely bleak.
    By the end, the only characters, other than the Doctor, that I really wanted saved were killed off or possessed before they realized there was a problem, and I seriously wonder if the reason for that is that they, unlike the others didn’t have time to show their true faces. It is notable that the eventual hero of the episode also happens to be the first character to suggest cold blooded murder.
    If there was something that I came away from it with it was that the universe of Doctor Who might seem like a place full of incredible people who will come together and rise to the occasion, but under the surface it is unlovely and unlovable. If you give the characters time to stop and think they’ll turn on each other in away that crabs in a bucket could never comprehend. It made me feel like whatever the Doctor does is meaningless, because deep down the universe, as represented by the people in it, is evil. Strip away the surface, and you’ll find evil that Daleks might approve. Thankfully that feeling passed.
    The fact that all they had to do was wait and everything would be fine, but they couldn’t even do that much, didn’t help either.
    The best description of Doctor Who I’ve ever heard is:
    Jenny: So what do you do?
    The Doctor: I travel. Through time and space.
    Donna Noble: He saves worlds, rescues civilizations, defeats terrible creatures and runs a lot. Seriously, there’s an outrageous amount of running involved.
    If you add to that fun dialog and interaction with his companions, and that pretty much sums up what Doctor Who is to me. None of that happens in Midnight. One terrible creature is stopped, but not by the Doctor or one of his companions, by a would be murderer. Other than that, nothing.
    -
    *Is this right? I have an irrational aversion to genderless pronouns, but I have difficulty keeping things straight. I know people here have said that gender blindness is bullshit, but I swear half the time I use a pronoun online I feel like I’m saying, “The green one,” and a response of, “That’s red you idiot,” might come back my way.

  • Lonespark

    Apparently this can’t be a safe place for everyone. I wish it could. I wish there were something we could do that would make it so. But it seems to me that the very least we can do is try our hardest to make it a place where people can say, “You’re making me feel less safe.”
    That’s an excellent goal and hopefully an achievable one. Cuz yeah, I think that’s the kind of place this can be and often has been and hopefully strives to be.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    Also I’d like to say that this isn’t typically a place where I feel like dissenters are silenced. Dissenters usually are either given a chance to explain their viewpoint in a manner that is less disagreeable to the community and then we agree to disagree or their minds are eventually changed. There has been a trend recently towards silencing those whose opinions we do not like and I am not a fan of that particular sentiment.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com/ Ross

    I disagree that there has been any kind of trend toward silencing those whose opinions we do not like. The trend I’ve felt is more that if your opinion is one that we do not like (or even one which is like 10% out of what we do like, along the lines of “Yes usually, but maybe in a small percentage of cases, no”), then you get zero slack and zero benefit of the doubt, and gets treated as if they were a raging bigot who must be set aflame.

  • Darth Ember

    Unsafe is probably the best word I could use for the fears I mentioned earlier in this thread.
    I’m known in other places as rather abrasive. But… it’s easy to fight it out there. It’s different here in a lot of ways and I’m just so damn afraid of giving my respect to anyone no matter how I agree with them, if it means they might turn on me later. Because having someone you like or respect turn around and verbally tear shreds off you – and not even in private – it… well, it hurts.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    It seems to me there’s a degree of polarization going on. I’m seeing a fair number of male posters complaining about being turned on too quickly; for my part, I’ve felt there’s been an unacceptable amount of sexism at times and also frustrated at getting an intransigent obliviousness to my point if I tried complaining about it, and more than one woman has complained about being triggered as regards abuse or rape. Those are two complaints that pull in opposite directions: it seems like some people are saying they don’t like the shouting and others are saying they don’t like not being listened to.
    Anyone got a magic solution?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    @Ross
    While that is closer to the case, MadG did specifically say that she does not care if she changes minds. Her nuking is to dissuade people from posting things that could be considered bigoted and she has succeeded considering that a number of people have been too intimidated to post.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    @Kit
    It isn’t just male posters who dislike the cursing and shouting.

  • hapax

    I would like to applaud everyone who has made an effort to turn this conversation towards the positive — “how can we make people feel safe?” — and away from the negative, from complaints and personalities. The past several pages of this thread have been well-called “EXCRUCIATING”, and I have grieved with every expression of anger and pain.
    I haven’t commented on this much, because I really don’t know. I’ve been hurt here, I’ve been furious here, but never felt unsafe — not until others started leaving, and I began to wonder what I was missing.
    But for my own mite, I’d like to personally apologize to anyone whose hurt and fear I have contributed to. I can only think of one person who has specifically called me out on what I’ve said (and I’m still at a standstill on that one), but I know that there are many many times that I SHOULD have said something, but kept quiet, out of tiredness or laziness or inertia or the hope that someone else would say it better (and take the flak for it, too)
    Forgive them all,O Lord;
    Our sins of omission and our sins of commission;
    The sins of our youth and the sins of our riper years;
    The sins of our souls and the sins of our bodies;
    Our secret and our more open sins;
    Our sins of ignorance and surprise,
    And our more deliberate and presumptious sin;
    The sins we have done to please ourselves,
    And the sins we have done to please others;
    The sins we know and remember,
    And the sins we have forgotten;
    The sins we have striven to hide from others
    And the sins by which we have made others offend

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    I know, Jason. I know. But a lot of the people who get cussed out are male, a lot of the cussers are female, and from my perspective at least it seems like there is at least a degree of gender divide. Not the whole story, but part of it, and inevitably so if the conversation turns towards privilege. It’s not the only issue, but I think it’s an element of it and we might as well acknowledge it.

    I’d also like to apologise to anyone I’ve made feel unsafe or triggered.

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB

    I’m seeing a fair number of male posters complaining about being turned on too quickly;
    *insert dirty pun here*
    Sorry, couldn’t resist.
    Anyway: this is part of what we’re complaining about. What this looks like to me is:
    “Huh, you have a complaint. But you are a man complaining about a woman, therefore your complaint is suspect because its probably sexist.”
    I don’t have a complaint about a woman. I have a complaint about being screamed at. I have a complaint about being verbally abused. I have a complaint about this feeling of FEAR that a LOT of people, both men and women, have indicated they have. And it wouldn’t matter if it was a man, a woman, a rat, or a small flan that was inspiring these feelings, because doing that to people is wrong.
    I understand that many people like MadG’s style because it makes them feel safer. First, however, is that your safety cannot come by inspiring fear in others. And second: is there a way that you could feel safe without someone screaming constantly? Because if you can’t- if MadG’s constant nuking is the only thing allowing you to feel safe, then I don’t see a way out. Either we will have to not feel safe, or you will. If, however, there are other ways that we could all feel safe (and I think there are) Then we can work something out.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    Kit, I’d like the benefit of the doubt that if I don’t like someone’s behavior that it is not because of their gender. I’m starting to feel like if a minority is acting in an antisocial manner I’m not allowed to object because I’m just an ignorant white dude.
    What if we started saying that J is perfectly justified in making hateful comments about religious people because as an atheist he’s been oppressed and we don’t have a right to criticize him because we haven’t experienced what he has? I don’t think that would fly.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com/ Ross

    Whether or not I feel safe here is kind of a secondary concern to me compared to whether or not I believe I have a right to feel safe here. And I kinda didn’t. I kinda felt that I was not safe, and that I was also a bad person for even wanting to feel safe.

  • http://ldwheeler.livejournal.com L. David Wheeler

    @Kit:
    I don’t have anything in the line of magic solutions — probably not any real solution that would make everyone happy. Or anyone happy. Or even *me* happy.
    I ricochet on this. At times I think this is hard, borderline impossible — like the poster some pages above who was frustrated that no matter what one says, on any subject, in any wording or tone, is going to hurt someone, in some way. I don’t know how to balance people’s needs, boundaries and rights. In this particular case, there are people who felt safer because an outspoken poster had their back, so to speak … while others felt less safe because they were the target (either direct or peripherally) of the poster’s rage that at times seemed aimed at people who, as far as I can see (and that’s a big caveat, because it’s just my perception) neither meant harm nor did harm. (In this case, disagreed on political tactics.) When someone says something bigoted or dismissive, intentionally or unintentionally, they *should* be called on it; if they demonstrate recalcitrance or dismissiveness or passive-aggression, they should be called on it more forcefully. (And who that is varies from time to time, post to post.) But on the other hand, people shouldn’t feel like they’re navigating a minefield for offering a dissenting view of something and arguing for that view — they shouldn’t feel like the barbs aimed at the genuinely offensive are going to be aimed at them, too. (And I get that I’m not the arbiter of what’s genuinely offensive, and nobody can be, and that’s part of the problem and what makes it hard.)
    But then, at other times I think, No, this is *easy*: Just everyone cut one another a little slack. Everyone be a little less quick to attribute foul motives on others’ part — and (because yes, intent isn’t magic) be willing to listen to arguments that one’s position is NOT in fact harmful without automatically labeling them as defensive and self-involved. Maybe we could all just listen to one another more, respect one another more — maybe play the “Have you considered the implications of what you’re saying” card instead of the “The implications of what you’re saying do me genuine harm, asshole” card — and … dang, I dunno. Maybe it’s not easy. But I sometimes think that it should be easy to make forceful arguments for one’s point of view without being offensive; to make forceful arguments for an opposing point of view without being offensive; to point out when someone is in fact (intentionally or not) being offensive; to modify one’s argument if called on it on those grounds or at least to ask for further explanation if one can’t reasonably see why their argument is offensive … and, yes, have at it when the smug trolls come a-calling.
    Though even at those moments when I think it’s easy … I realize it’s only easy in theory. Reality is a messier, thornier matter; and what sounds like it can be simply reduced to five or so sentences of semi-prescriptive behavior breaks down in real life. Because we have triggers. Because we have things we can’t be dispassionate about when arguing. Because having the ability to be dispassionate about something is, or can be, a *privilege* — as very few are dispassionate about stuff that doesn’t affect them directly. (*Sometimes* I can pull it off, but that’s only because sometimes I doubt whether I even have emotions … or at least I’m wired so that for me the emotional reaction comes *after* (sometimes *hours* after) intellectual processing. Most people feel, then think; I think, then feel, and sometimes I forget to feel, or have to make a conscious effort to feel. And sometimes I wonder whether that’s very unhealthy, and sometimes I wonder whether it’s very healthy, and that’s as far as I’m going with this because it’s Not About Me.)
    And that was a big wall of text to give a simple “No” to Kit’s “magic-solutions” question. :-)
    I guess I have nothing really worthwhile to say except the general suggestion to cut one another a bit more slack, even amid passionate activism … and to take as a reminder the very title Fred has given his blog: Slacktivist. Probably not anywhere close to what he meant when choosing the name, but, hey — it works for me.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/lorik922 Lori

    Those are two complaints that pull in opposite directions: it seems like some people are saying they don’t like the shouting and others are saying they don’t like not being listened to.
    Anyone got a magic solution?

    I have no magic of any kind. Going forward I am going to try to do my part by keeping in mind the distinction between the general and the specific.
    Pointing out that the thing someone said is a problem becasue it’s sexist/racist/etc is not the same thing as saying (in the immortal words of Steve Martin), “die you gravy sucking pigs”. It’s harder than I sometimes like to acknowledge to find the line between “basically well-meaning person with a lack of clue or a blind spot” and “bigot”. That’s true in assessing both other people’s words and actions and my own. My observation is that we generally do better here when we concentrate on what people say than when we branch out into assessing what they are.
    Also, seriously folks—when someone says “that thing you just said is upsetting to me because it’s sexist/racist/whatever-ist” there is no time when any form of “I’m not a bigot” is the correct response to that. Don’t do it. Think about what the person said. If you can’t see what the problem is, ask politely. If you can’t resist the urge to be defensive, step away until you can. IMO this is the absolutely necessary flip side to what we’ve been saying about not going off on people. If we want to see less nuking then we’ve also got to work on seeing less “not me”.
    Here’s the part I think is really tricky—what do we do if we just disagree with the assessment? For myself, if I’m a member of the group in question I want to be able to state my experience and feelings (using “I statements”) and have that respected. If I’m not a member of the group in question then I accept it and let it go unless I think there’s a really strong reason not to. For me that generally means a broader principle that I think the person is not taking into account. The same goes if I am a member of the group, but I know the topic is much more of a trigger for others than it is for me.

    Trigger warning about sexual assualt

    This is why I tend to stay away from discussions about sexual assault. I have strong feelings about it, but they’re messy* and I know they can hurt people who are much closer to the issue than I am. In a general forum I tend to err on the side of not contributing.

    *This should go without saying, but just in case—sexual assault and rape culture are Not OK. Not at all. Not in any way. Women should not have to fear sexual assault, certainly not to the extent that they do. The messy part is that I feel like some discussions of the issue have crossed the line from supporting victims to creating a rape exception to the innocent until proven guilty rule. That gives me pause. I worked at a rape crisis center in college and I saw too much to be comfortable making many blanket statements about victims or those who are accused. IME the internet is not the place for my particular mix of rage and sorrow and confusion and complexity on the issue.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    I’d like the benefit of the doubt that if I don’t like someone’s behavior that it is not because of their gender.
    I think you may be hearing something I didn’t say; you seem to be saying that I implied it was sexism that made you object to MadG’s posts, and that’s certainly not what I meant. If I meant anything, I meant that if the subject turns to gender relations, or any other issue where there’s a privilege imbalance, it’s likely to be the more privileged people who feel shouted at and the less privileged people who feel unheard, because that’s how it goes in an unequal society. This isn’t to impute prejudice to anyone: just to suggest that we’re not all coming at it from the same experiences and that remembering that ought to further understanding.
    CaryB: to be honest, you’ve said some things that make me, as a woman, feel very uncomfortable. Taking this moment when we’re trying to deal with some very fraught issues to make a dirty joke based on something I said – and especially when what I said was a serious and considered attempt to be constructive in the interests of the community – makes me feel disrespected and trivialised. I’m going to be honest: you’ve said you realise you come across as more bigoted than you’d wish, and I’d like to ask you to consider the issue of when is the moment to make a dirty joke as part of your reappraisal. In this context, I felt it inappropriate and discomfiting. Especially since it was coupled to an argument with what I was saying, or what you thought I was saying.
    That bothers me, and I’d like you not to do it again, please. It was very nasty to be on the receiving end. I assume you did not intend to make me feel verbally groped, but that was the result, and I hope you’ll take that seriously.
    But more generally, this is the kind of thing that’s probably good to thrash out, because I think it’s a point of misunderstanding that leads to fights. I pointed out what seemed to me to be a statistical fact (though if anyone can be bothered to count up and prove me wrong, go ahead), with a view to suggesting that different perspectives can lead to misunderstanding. This was interpreted as me accusing people of sexism, and now I feel like I’ve been rounded on unfairly.
    This is, I think, a reflection of how high feelings have been running. But isn’t this an example of one of those times where it’s probably good to ask ‘Did you mean what I think you mean?’ before wheeling out the arguments?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/ministerformagic Pius Thicknesse

    Someone (I believe Pius) mentioned her frustration with 101 questions being asked too many times.

    Wasn’t me. Actually I would guess it was likely MadGastronomer or Izzy, as they’ve (IIRC) shown the least tendency to want to do “101″ with people who keep pulling the derail-y, “but you need to explain!” bit.
    @chris the cynic: Fair point. Here’s what Dash said:

    And finally–and, given that MG stated what her purposes were, I think this is pretty important–reading back over some of the discussions, I’m not seeing evidence that the nuking tactics actually accomplished what they were meant to accomplish. I don’t see where they got people to shut up any faster, I don’t see where the hurtful words stopped appearing any faster–often, they continued as people reacted by defending their choices–and I don’t see where the level of safety overall was improved. I keep thinking about Kit’s very simple, straightforward way of explaining why something was inappropriate and asking people to stop doing it, and noting that that almost invariably worked. Go back and take a look at some of the discussions where Kit makes a request and notice how quickly the topic is settled; then compare those with the ones we’ve been talking about. There’s a big difference.

    While I concur that yelling tends to beget yelling and that it is likely true that MadGastronomer’s tactics escalated rather than de-escalated things…
    The thing that bothers me is that lurking behind this feels – to me – like a justification for a tone argument, i.e. that it’s proof that if disadvantaged people are just nice and rational enough, etc. That’s why I was trying to see if there was a possibility that the sample size was too small.
    Look, I’m a big believer in Reason*, but I’m not going to go around saying that obviates the fact that humans are both rational and emotional creatures, and it is not an invalidation of a discussion about something inherently unquantifiable (such as a person feeling triggered over certain words or phrases) to express oneself in purposely combative ways.
    It’s easy to dismiss someone yelling because one is taught that expressing strong emotion means they’ve “lost control” and one does not need to listen to them.

    * Al Gore used the capital R to express the entire edifice of the logical and philosophical structures surrounding this concept of debate based on competing merits of arguments in which there’s some kind of objective evaluation of the criteria – see his book The Assault on Reason.

  • http://ldwheeler.livejournal.com L. David Wheeler

    But isn’t this an example of one of those times where it’s probably good to ask ‘Did you mean what I think you mean?’ before wheeling out the arguments? (Kit)
    Personally, I believe that ALL times are one of those times.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    @Kit
    ….but you’re still basically assuming that the problem is how I react to the behavior and not the behavior itself. You’re basically assuming that the problem is with the people who dislike the behavior and not the behavior itself. I have yet to hear you once even consider that perhaps that type of behavior is in andof itself inappropriate. It seems completely outside of the realm of possibility for you even to consider that perhaps MadG was out of line and to be honest I resent that and expected better of you.

  • http://ldwheeler.livejournal.com L. David Wheeler

    … And yet, having written that, I realize that there are times when people simply aren’t capable of doing that because they have been hurt, angered, offended and triggered on a fundamental level. And while my own response should that happen to me would be to leave the computer for a couple hours and then reevaluate my response … that isn’t, nor should it be, everyone’s response; and sometimes there’s a *need* to say things right away, and sometimes one’s not in the headspace to do it without shouting, and thus we need to cut the person shouting some slack too, and … arrrggghhhhhh.
    I sense I’m offering nothing substantive to this conversation, just a bunch of caveats upon caveats upon caveats.

  • hapax

    . You’re basically assuming that the problem is with the people who dislike the behavior and not the behavior itself. I have yet to hear you once even consider that perhaps that type of behavior is in andof itself inappropriate.
    Jason, Kit is more than capable of speaking for herself, but I would suggest that this is a rather defensive interpretation of her words (quoting form her response to you):
    if the subject turns to gender relations, or any other issue where there’s a privilege imbalance, it’s likely to be the more privileged people who feel shouted at and the less privileged people who feel unheard, because that’s how it goes in an unequal society.
    I cannot see any way to interpret that other than “feeling shouted at” and “feeling unheard” are BOTH bad feelings, and therefore the implication that “shouting” and “not hearing” are BOTH bad behaviors (even if they stem from understandable motivations.)
    To observe that one feeling and/or behavior seems more likely to be associated with privilege, and another with it’s lack, isn’t a personal judgment of you or anyone else in particular.
    It’s a sociological observation.

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB

    I’d like to play off of L. David Wheeler’s post, specifically, this:
    But then, at other times I think, No, this is *easy*: Just everyone cut one another a little slack. Everyone be a little less quick to attribute foul motives on others’ part — and (because yes, intent isn’t magic) be willing to listen to arguments that one’s position is NOT in fact harmful without automatically labeling them as defensive and self-involved.
    This is an area of difficulty because, I would argue, it is perfectly possible to hold in good faith a position totally opposite to others core beliefs. And to do this without being a bad person, a person we want gone, or anything else. No one person has a lock on the truth. But at the same time, different views on the truth will happen. Even to the point of someone believing something others perceive as sexist or racist. What do we do then? Who wins?
    I don’t have an answer here. I don’t even have any ideas. I don’t think anyone has a lock on the truth, I think everyone should be allowed to peacefully speak their honest opinion without being attacked, and I also think that people have the right to passionately argue against things they see as harmful. But what to do when one person says they just have an innocently different opinion, and another person claims they are causing harm?

  • http://profile.typepad.com/lorik922 Lori

    The thing that bothers me is that lurking behind this feels – to me – like a justification for a tone argument, i.e. that it’s proof that if disadvantaged people are just nice and rational enough, etc.

    I’ve thought about this long and hard. Many of the discussions that bothered me most happened quite a while ago. The early discussion in this thread and the discussion in TF:Merry Christmas weren’t what prompted me to post at all.
    Having had time to think it over I feel confident in saying that my objections aren’t tone arguments. I’m the last person on earth who would jump on someone for not being nice enough. I’m not nice. I’m not a fan of nice. (In my head nice is associated with weaksauce and is not something to strive for.)
    My issue is that there’s a lot of ground between “nice” and “explosion” and IMO that ground is where the good discussion happens.

  • http://ldwheeler.livejournal.com L. David Wheeler

    I would also bring up that how we respond to our triggers can in fact become triggers for other people — and the cycle continues.
    I’ve tried to stay focused on this particular thread — the political-tactics discussion that spun out of control — but I’ll refer to a discussion a few weeks back about rest-room and changing-room facilities for transgendered people, for which MadG is a strong advocate. One post-er was horrified at the concept (and, more troubling, seemed incapable of seeing a transgendered person as the gender as which they identify) — and, in argument with MadG, made several unkind insinuations (and even insulted her restaurant). When Jason (ironically, considering how things have shaked out in this thread) defended MadG’s argumentation, the post-er charactized the MadG-Jason relationship as one of abuser-to-abused. Out of line, right?
    Right … except that it turned out that the post-er was — and, it seemed from statements made in her comments, is *still* — a victim of emotional and verbal abuse. And that every time MadG went nuclear, it brought her right back to that place of complete vulunerability, of victimhood.
    Was that MadG’s fault? No. Was it the post-er’s? No. (Other things, like her failure of empathy for transpeople, *were* her fault, but her reaction to triggers was not.)
    So, we can have and often do have situations where 1. NO ONE is at fault; and 2. People NEVERTHELESS feel attacked, feel harmed; and 3. It’s very hard, when we feel harmed, not to identify someone/something as the source of that harm, as the person at fault.
    Is that anywhere close to what’s happening here now? Any thoughts?
    *Have to run out on an errand, so I’ll not be posting for about a half-hour, no doubt to general relief.*

  • http://profile.typepad.com/ministerformagic Pius Thicknesse

    Now that you bring that up, one thing I do recall is that Socks of Sullenness actively chose to ignore my rather nuclear-y post when I felt SoS had crossed the line in directly insulting MadGastronomer and her restaurant in addition to the usual transphobic drivel. So I regret that I, without thinking, did accidentally trigger SoS.
    If the point being made is that yelling IN ALL CAPS is more likely in general to cause triggered responses than not-triggered responses, I grant it. But is someone obligated to never, ever, go ALL CAPS-y? I don’t think so. Especially when a person disobeys the First Law of Holes and keeps digging.

  • chris the cynic

    You know, I knew my post was long but seeing it scroll by on the page really gave me a sense that scrolling by it in the comment window didn’t. I’m sorry to have inflicted that wall of text on you all.
    -
    How could we create a positive formulation as to what we want from this community? I think we all want it to be a safe space where honest debate can take place; how do we work with that?
    I’ve already said what I think, but given that it was while I was so angry I seriously thought I might break my keyboard with the force of typing, maybe I should restate it.
    I think that the first step and the most important step is that everyone has to have the right to say when something is hurting them. Everyone has the right to say what makes them feel unsafe.
    I think that that statement has to be beyond argument. We have to agree that the person has a right to say that regardless of the intent, feelings, standing, or personal history of the person or people doing the thing that makes the person feel unsafe.
    We’ve talked a lot about when it is about you and when “it’s not about you.” When you feel unsafe it is about you and no one else should be allowed to tell you that you don’t have a right to that feeling or to express that feeling.
    Now this doesn’t mean that every time someone feels unsafe the response will be to change how we all act. But it does mean that we accept that the person has a right to say it without arguing that point. If there is argument to be had it should be over what, if anything, to do about it. Not the person’s right to say it.
    The second thing which follows this as the night follows the day is that disagreements of this sort need to be about actions. People’s feelings are definitely well worth understanding, but when it comes to heated disagreements I think things would a lot better if we concentrated on actions. What matters most to the community is what people do. Someone can be full of joy and good thoughts and want nothing but the best and still do something that makes people feel unsafe, someone could be a hateful evil bigot at heart and still do something that makes someone safer.
    This is not Freaky Friday. We will never know what it is like to be another person, all that we know is what they do, and I think that we should restrict ourselves to arguing over that. If someone does a long chain of bigoted things it’s probably justified to call them a bigot, but even then I’m not sure of the use of it because them being a bigot is not the problem. The problem is the long chain of bigoted things. In other words: the actions.
    I’m trying to keep this in the terms of “Do X” rather than “Don’t do Y” but I really feel like the explanation would be better if I said why I thought the alternative shouldn’t happen.
    It seems to me that the moment that it becomes about what people are instead of what they do, or about what is acceptable to think of feel instead of what is acceptable to do, or even what they’ve had to put up with in the past instead of what they themselves are doing now everything falls apart. It seems to me that at that point things simply can’t be solved. Attacks become personal, things we would normally recognize as acceptable suddenly seem over the line and things we normally recognize as over the line suddenly seem acceptable. Everything is turned upside down and while good might come it will probably come only after a lot of unnecessary pain.
    Am I less articulate today, or have I always been this bad at saying things? You’re all smart people, I sincerely hope that you’ll be able to figure out what I was trying to say.
    -
    I’m seeing a fair number of male posters complaining about being turned on too quickly
    Maybe it’s just my continuing inability to keep genders straight, but it seemed to me that a fair number of the people complaining about the speed with which people were turned on were female.
    I’m resistant to putting people in categories they haven’t chosen for themselves, but that kind of needs to happen to judge whether or not there is a gender dichotomy at work here unless everyone decides to step forward and state their position and gender.
    If I try to do that, especially if I just look at the ones who are saying it most, it seems to me that the ones saying turning happened too quickly contain a fair proportion of female posters.
    Lori, Ruby and Dash are all female, right? (If the answer is no then I am sorry. Please forgive me.) It seems to me that they’re somewhere from three out of five to three out of seven of the members of the main group* of people saying that Mad Gastronomer was over the line.
    -
    I recognize that this thread is moving a lot faster than I am and that that can cause problems. The most recent post I quoted, Kit Whitfield | Jan 03, 2011 at 01:36 PM, is the most recent thing this is a response to. If it seems like I am addressing anything after that it is entirely accidental. Even if it makes me seem brilliant, even if it makes me seem like a monster.
    -
    *I’d class the other members as Cary, Jason, and maybe Patrick. On reflection, I guess that there’s an argument in favor of adding Ross too. Hence the range in the size of the group from five to seven.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/lorik922 Lori

    I have to run for a while too. If anyone feels the need to take issue with anything I’ve said I’m not bailing on the discussion and I’ll respond when I get back. (Although I’ll say in advance that I’m highly unlikely to get into a discussion of specifics about the triggery-y thing I mentioned earlier. Because it’s trigger-y and I don’t think I can talk about it without doing more harm than good.)

  • http://newscum.wordpress.com CaryB

    That bothers me, and I’d like you not to do it again, please. It was very nasty to be on the receiving end. I assume you did not intend to make me feel verbally groped, but that was the result, and I hope you’ll take that seriously.
    I apologize. I was honestly trying for a moment of levity in a very serious discussion based on an amusing confluence of words. I chose a somewhat meta-joke precisely to avoid that, but I now see that was poorly done. Again, my apologies, and please believe that I was not trying to belittle your arguments at all. I won’t do it again.

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    Jason: I feel like you’re not really reading my comments.
    To begin with, you complain that I haven’t said MadG was out of line. I explicitly said that, I quote, “…would it be constructive to have people make more general statements that move away from this particular debate?… I want to stay out of this particular one.” What you see as taking MadG’s side is a refusal to take either side. Please allow me that. I thought there were good points made on both sides, I felt unqualified to choose between them, and I wanted to stay out and try to move towards a better future.
    I feel like you’re reading comments that appeal for a positive approach and understanding on both sides as blaming you, as if I have to be with you or against you. I know I said you were ‘complaining’, but that’s not because I either agreed or disagreed with you about MadG, it was because I thought it would be more constructive to move on. If you don’t want to move on, fine, but please don’t tell me what I’m assuming, especially when you’re not correct.
    I’d also appreciate it if you’d knock it off with comments like ‘I … expected better of you’ when I’ve just said I found somebody else’s comment disrespectful and trivialising. I put it politely, but I’m very upset about it, and I could do without comments like that just now.
    On which subject: CaryB has apologised after I typed that. Thank you, CaryB, I accept your apology, though I want to let my comment to Jason stand.
    I don’t want to belabour the point, but there’s something I didn’t say: one reason why I felt particularly bothered was because of all the comments you made in the whole rape/Assange argument. I know you’ve retracted what you said, but like I said at the time, you said some things that made me feel less safe in the world, and it’s going to be a while before that wears off, and will depend on your behaviour in the meantime. So pro tem, I would personally appreciate it if you did not direct dirty jokes at me in general, because I’m not sufficiently comfortable with you to feel comfortable with them. I hope that state of affairs will not continue, and I can speak for no one but myself, but I would take it as a mark of good will if you’d consider a moratorium on dirty jokes in my direction for now.

  • http://profile.typepad.com/jpc101280 Jason

    No matter what I say it’s invalidated by my “privilege” Lucky me

  • http://www.kitwhitfield.com Kit Whitfield

    Incidentally, on the subject of offensive stuff (rape trigger warning):
    http://www.change.org/petitions/view/tell_etsy_to_remove_rape_congratulations_cards_from_website
    Etsy is allowing the sale of some cards that jokingly congratulate rape victims, among with various other troll-tastic products. There is a petition against it. If anyone wants to sign, the page is there.
    And while we’re at it, here’s a petition to stop Western Union bilking impoverished people sending money home with outrageous transfer fees:
    https://secure.avaaz.org/en/make_giving_powerful/?cl=891580188&v=8070

  • Jimmytimmyotoole

    Therblig


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