Some (Obviously Belated) Administrative Rules

Some (Obviously Belated) Administrative Rules October 18, 2017

Hello again, beautiful creatures… and everyone else, for that matter. This is the part where I outline what I consider some basic rules of conduct on this blog. I’ve been putting off writing this post for some time now, in part because I don’t want to look like a pompous, humorless jerk, and in part because, well, how do you make “laying down the law” an interesting subject? With the recent appearance of a couple of trolls in my Disqus comments, however, it’s become apparent to me that a certain amount of administrative guidance is required.

As I said in a response to one of those trolls, commenters here do not have free speech rights; they have “don’t annoy Misha with your speech” rights. If I could, I would just post a link to Wheaton’s Law and call it a day. Sadly, a useful application of this law requires both a modicum of respect and a degree of introspection, both of which appear to be lacking in the aforementioned recent commentators. Since that’s not an option, I’ll go a little further into detail. If nothing else, it’ll keep folks from feeling that the rules weren’t posted somewhere, right? (Those of you who understand what “civil discourse” means are excused, with my apologies; while you might find one or two points interesting, you already know where I’m going with this. Tomorrow’s post will be more entertaining, I hope. The rest of you, though, might want to carry on. It could save you a banning.)

With that in mind, I offer the following guidelines.

Note: Unlike most other posts on Outside the Charmed Circle, this will likely be an evolving document, growing and changing to meet the needs of the blog as time goes on. I’ll tag modifications and additions with datestamps to indicate how things are changing over time.

Discourse is good. What I mean by “discourse” is honest, respectful discussion and debate which engages with issues in good faith, for the purpose of fostering understanding.

Trolling is bad. What I mean by “trolling” is the antithesis of discourse: dishonest, disrespectful communication which engages in bad faith for the purpose of manipulation or abuse.

Distinguishing between them is my call. In the context of this blog, at least, I’m the final arbiter of where the line between “discourse” and “trolling” is. I tend to have a fairly laissez-faire attitude when it comes to strong opinions, but I draw the line at “opinions” which veer into hate speech. I also take a dim view of poor logic, unsourced claims purporting to be factual, and junk science. (Interesting fact: Gender essentialism qualifies as all of the above!)

Some ideas are just plain bad. If you are a proponent of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, or nationalism, you’re not going to find this blog a welcoming space for your views, and posting them here earns you what David Gerrold calls “a free ride on the trebuchet.” You will be banned, and I won’t lose a minute of sleep over it. This is a bit of a “one strike and you’re out” policy, I admit. I’m comfortable with that.

I am not your platform. This blog isn’t a free-speech zone where you have total license to broadcast your opinions. This is my clearly-delineated space, where I hope to foster conversations about subjects which interest and appeal to me… and, I hope, to you. If you’re not interested in having these conversations, or if you want to make the conversation about your own personal hobbyhorse, I encourage you to go have another conversation somewhere else. If you insist on using my blog as a platform, you and the trebuchet will become fast, if brief, friends.

I imagine that a few of you, having read the preceding text, are now thinking to yourselves, “Well, gosh! That’s a lot of thou shalt nots right there! What are we allowed to talk about, then? Do I even get to have my own opinions?” The answers are, simply put, “anything I’ve written about here” and “yes.” You are perfectly free to think whatever you like, and to write anything which doesn’t, in my analysis, constitute hateful speech. And, yes, I’m the final arbiter of that question here, because I’m the one responsible for this space.

To frame this in terms that traditional cultures would understand, think of this as my home. I am the host, and you are the guest. I have created a space where I hope you will feel comfortable, but in the end, this is my home. If you don’t find the furnishings or the food to your liking, you have every right to excuse yourself, leave, and go find some place that is to your liking. What you don’t have the right to do is set fire to my couch, start a food fight, or demand that I change the drapes to match your outfit. Similarly, you have every right to engage in lively conversation with me and the other guests. What you don’t have the right to do is punch somebody in the nose because you don’t like their argument.

It may be an ugly couch, but it's MY couch, and it's comfy. Please don't set it on fire. (NOTE: Not my actual couch. Image via Pixabay.)
It may be an ugly couch, but it’s MY couch, and it’s comfy. Please don’t set it on fire. (NOTE: Not my actual couch. Image via Pixabay.)
To that end, I’d like to make the following suggestion: play nice.

I’m not saying you have to nerf your badass spooky darkling witchself. I’m not suggesting that you can’t hold strong opinions, or express them passionately. I’m not even saying you can’t be angry. I’m saying that, while you’re in my virtual living room, act as though you were in my actual living room, with my partner and my daughter and a few of our friends, all hanging out and having a conversation. Don’t do anything which, when seen from an outside perspective, would make you the asshole.

And if you’re having trouble figuring out precisely where that line is, I offer the following advice: before you post a comment here, ask why you’re posting it. Are you engaging in honest, open, respectful discourse? Are you trying to get clarification on something? Are you trying to offer an alternate perspective? Are you offering a factual correction with citations to verifiable sources? If you cannot answer “yes” to at least one of those questions, maybe you don’t need to post it. Or, if you really do need to post it, perhaps you should look into getting your own blog, one where autocratic meanies like me don’t have the authority to tell you you’re wrong and ban you for life.

Just a thought.

And with that bit of administrative business tidied away, stay safe, dear ones. ♥

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