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October 12, 2009

Comments

I support this wholeheartedly. Good luck.

Thank you!

Perhaps we can come up with a code of conduct that we, as commentors, implicitly agree to as a condition of commenting.

I suggest:

1. Use of personal attacks - that is, attacking the character, ancestry, gender, ethnicity and/or religion - of other commentors is prohibited. Persistence in such attacks will be grounds for banning or disemvowelling, at the discretion of the kitty.

2. Engaging in repetitious argumentation based on inflammatory rhetoric is grounds for a warning. More than two exchanges per thread is grounds for being disemvowelled.

3.

*nods* Go for it. I was depressed a couple of times recently coming in here and reading.

Thanks for addressing this, publius. I shall once again dial back my trademark harsh invective to ObWi-acceptable levels (since I have been one of those who, ironically, has expressed dismay at the recent deterioration of tone).

With regards to actively policing tone, how will the imposition of meat-world responsibilities that seems to afflict the front-pagers over the weekend (yes, how dare you guys have lives outside the tubes!) be mitigated? A lot of straight-up trolling (eg, spoofing, pr0n links, etc) happens on off-times when you guys are otherwise indisposed. Again, having a trusted neutral party such as Slarti around to provide additional moderation would, IMO, prove invaluable.

Thanks, publius! I really value the civil tone of ObWi, sincerely hope that I haven't been a problem (I know I can get harsh at times), and wholeheartedly support any effort to keep things productive.

I agree that Slarti would be a good hall monitor.

I agree that Slarti would be a good hall monitor.

Slarti has been handed the keys to the blog, and is feeling remarkably short on patience.

So: indeed.

I will try my best to drive friendly.

Thank god for this policy. The trolls were really getting out of hand.

As one of the people who has been bemoaning the recent tone, I find this post to be an extremely hopeful development.

If time constraints and other duties overwhelm the abilities of the blogkeepers to police the threads, another option would be to require commenters to register - but I believe that would be unfortunate, and would only recommend it as a last resort.

OK, the 2:25 PM comment is funny, I suppose. Still, if what John Scalzi calls as his blog "the Loving Mallet of Correction" is now being more firmly applied here, I think most commenters might have, ah, a decided opinion about the commenter making the 2:25 PM comment.

Warren Terra,

As I'm the one who posted at 2:25, I assume you're talking about me. What did I do to you? I posted comment condemning trolling. Yet you responded with a personal attack against me. The whole point of the new policy is to prevent personal attacks like that.

(essentially, hilzoy was right)

There's an upset.

Poor Slarti . . .

1. publius and all -- thanks.

2. No way the 2:33 comment is really Jes. And unless there's an anonymizer at work, no way the IP address of the 2:33 comment isn't the same as the IP address of ... someone posting under another handle, in whose mouth butter would never melt.

3. Ben and mckinney -- as one of the people who said "out loud" that the recent deterioration of the tone around here was dismaying, I would also like to say "out loud" that I have never seen either of you drag the discourse down. Differences of opinion even to the knock-down-drag-out level are one thing. Deliberate threadjackings, idiocies, provocations, and pornographies are another, even when they're not (on the surface) nasty.

Eh?

Is the 2:33 PM comment real or spoof? Jes usually has more self awareness than that - witness her October 11th 6:18 AM comment in the Nobel thread.

Prepare for things to get a bit confusing, for a bit. It's either that or annoying, it seems.

I can't stress enough that we really need people's help to keep this up. Please email when you see something, and we'll do the best we can from there.

Thanks Janie. Please consider yourself electronically hugged.

Actually, as I've said before, this is a first class spot to find out why what you think might be true may stand for a bit of second thought.

Janie M,

It's not who you think. It's our friend "Christian" who is infinitely worse. Do not click on any of his links.

. . . for having to put up with all of this guacamole.

Thanks, Janie. Please consider yourself electronically hugged.

You might consider leaving a marker up when you delete a spoofed comment, just to reduce confusion.

publius, all of a sudden comments are winding up in the spam queue. Any ideas?

Oh, my fault. I screwed it up. Fixed, now.

Thanks slart -- and yes, some comments have been deleted from this thread

Thanks slarti. It's a crap job, thanks for taking it on. I for one really appreciate it.

Thanks slarti. I appreciate it as well.

Mostly a lurker here, but have you guys considered requiring a (free, open) registration to post comments? I'm sure it would be an annoyance, but IP bans can be circumvented pretty easily, and registration would at least prevent spammers from borrowing regulars' usernames.

I do think that disemvowelling or leaving an asterisk w/ the commenter's name still attached would do a more vigorous job of deterrence. This is today's public square, and shame can still be a catalyst to change.

Ditto what JanieM said at 2:47pm.

Also, I suggest that an effort be made to distinguish between incivil remarks made to or regarding the participants here (the hosts and members of the commentariat) and incivil remarks made regarding public figures (the POTUS, members of Congress, well known media figures, etc.). To my mind the former (comments re: participants) are more corrosive than the latter, and I think it would inhibit discussion if strongly worded comments regarding public figures were excessively inhibited. On the flip side of that, I think it is reasonable to ask commentors to remember that no matter how much you may loathe some public figure, there is probably somebody here who supports or admires that person and will take your invective personally.

The way I think of it is that seemingly inflammatory comments are sometimes posted here by commentors who appear to think that this place exists as a sort of digital public plebiscite on the good or ill character of folks in the public eye. That may be, but I find that I get more value out of the discussions here that weave back and forth between different positions as a sort of political Renga in prose form. But sustaining that form requires the contribution of comments which are sufficiently open-ended (i.e. not of the form "I am right. U suk. That is all.") that they permit somebody else not necessarily of the same viewpoint to add something to the end of the chain. So try to keep comments open-ended rather than closed, even if they involve strongly held positions.

The other thing which I think should probably be clarified is that certain commentators have earned the right to a waiver of the usual rules by virture of a body of work which is performance art of a high caliber. I'm thinking of John Thullen in particular. I have the impression that he has a license to say things in a fashion which most others here do not, and having followed this blog and enjoyed his colorful commentary for several years I think I understand why that is, but it has to be awfully confusing for newcomers to reconcile his comments with a general ban on inflammatory remarks. Since Sullivan in particular has been linking to ObiWings with some frequency of late, I assume that we are getting a fair number of newcomers at least amongst the lurkitariat. Keep them in mind.

Is it time to implement a moderated comment system? For small, relatively smart commenter communities, user moderation brings an improvement without necessarily increasing the burden on the site administrators.

Of course, this requires careful design and constant tweaking with an eye towards what kind of community you have. Slashdot, reddit, and Stack Overflow have good moderation systems. Youtube, not so much.

Thanks, JanieM! As someone who sometimes has the rhetoric of his e-mails and Letters to the Editor softened by his wife, I know I am not always the best judge of my own tone. Good to hear that--at least in your reading--I haven't been a problem here.

The other thing which I think should probably be clarified is that certain commentators have earned the right to a waiver of the usual rules by virture of a body of work which is performance art of a high caliber. I'm thinking of John Thullen in particular. I have the impression that he has a license to say things in a fashion which most others here do not, and having followed this blog and enjoyed his colorful commentary for several years I think I understand why that is, but it has to be awfully confusing for newcomers to reconcile his comments with a general ban on inflammatory remarks.

I've said before that Thullen seems to have some de facto exemption from the posting rules. But why is that? I guess maybe I don't get his sense of humor, but he seems to just post things along the lines of "shoot all the f*cking c*cksuckig republicans," "drop a nuclear bomb on the RNC," etc. I get that it's (allegedly) satire of violent right-wing people, but that's hard to tell. I don't see how you can ask people to refrain from making inflammatory right wing remarks when that stuff is allowed.

Is it time to implement a moderated comment system? For small, relatively smart commenter communities, user moderation brings an improvement without necessarily increasing the burden on the site administrators.
I'm not sure how I feel about user moderation systems. Intellectually, it's a design that appeals to me. Indeed, intellectually the whole Daily Kos system seems about perfect: persistent, searchable commenter identities; community rating of comments (and, indirectly, commenters); well-threaded comments with threads viewable and linkable individually; etcetera.

But for some reason I've never seen that sort of system used with any great success on any other political blog, and and Daily Kos's commenting community seems to achieve a uniformity of viewpoint and of tone that it seems to me is really not what we're seeking here. Now, I value Daily Kos as a source of Democratic activism and a sort of left-blogistan-establishment institution, but it's hardly someplace I'd go to see a vigorous and substantive debate. Indeed, it's not someplace I'd go regularly at all, outside of campaign season.

It's certainly possible, perhaps likely, that the flaws I perceive with DKos are not the fault of DKos's blogging platform, but of other factors. Still, I'm nervous.

Yes, there is "Thullen Immunity"

Yes, there is "Thullen Immunity"

So, "shoot all the fucking republicans" fits into your ideas of civility?

As someone who's well aware of the frequent acidity of his own comments, there's a reason I haven't commented as much in some time. The general tenor here is different these days, and I find in responding to it I become as much a part of a problem as anything.

Perhaps a rating system, e.g. "This comment is rated 'T'. It may contain invective not suitable for recent newcomers but is understood in context by regular visitors."
Or, "This comment is rated 'I', for its frequent confusion of gratuitous invective for clever insight".

WarrenT--thanks for the link back to Jes' comments. Jes, well said. I was fooled by the now deleted 2:33 post.

Sorry - didn't see Sasha's comment. Wasn't trying to be glib.

I think this gets back to a point raised earlier. There's a big difference b/w harsh critiques of public figures/events/etc. and critiques of individuals on the thread.

I'm not terribly worried about the former, but I think the latter has been detracting, and that's what we need to try to stop.

Thullen (in addition to writing very clever stuff) focuses far more on the former than the latter.

Again, it's less a plea for nice things. Harsh criticism is part of this here game. It's a plea to be civil to fellow threaders.

And one thing on the "Thullen Immunity Clause", so to speak:

I've been part of the commentariat for better than five, six years now. And over time I have noticed Thullen's outlook and humor becoming much blacker than it used to be, particularly in the last year. I have a hard time blaming him.

With that said, while the quality of his humor hasn't changed much, the tone definitely has and I can see how newcomers might be put off at how indifferent longtime regulars seem to it--not having been exposed to Thullen at his most cheerfully absurd.

[So and so], being the kind of cowardly, cocksucking sub-human Taliban filth that Democrats vomit up to infest my government, fired at an unarmed human sillouette . . .

Where does the Democratic Party want to take this?

Do they want to take this to a where there is nothing left but dead Democrat motherfuckers all over the place, because there is only a line or two left to cross?

That's a Thullen quote from a few days ago, except I changed "Republican" to "Democrat." That's the kind of rhetoric you endorse in a thread about how the comments have gotten too hostile.

Mostly a lurker here, but have you guys considered requiring a (free, open) registration to post comments?

We can set up the blog for full moderation, or we could set it up so that you need to be logged into Typepad to comment.

The second of these would present fewer logistical problems, in my opinion, and I'm inclined to support that unless I hear some reason why it's a bad idea.

Pericles, we do have posting rules. Please read them, and comply, or we'll just start deleting your comments willy-nilly.

Pericles, we do have posting rules. Please read them, and comply, or we'll just start deleting your comments willy-nilly.

Are you serious? Is this irony? You're making my whole point. I quoted a John Thullen post but changed Republican to Democrat. As soon as I post it, you threaten to delete my posts. So the change of a seemingly insignificant detail--the party whose members are being threatened--changes a post from one you approve of to one you threaten to delete.

Look - I don't want to speak for John. I'm quite confident he can defend himself.

But he's been here for a very long time -- longer than me. That said, there are of course some comments even by him that would cross the line. And I hope he'll respect that.

But he -- and his body of work so to speak -- have earned him freedom from my policing. Others can let me know if I'm way offbase here.

"I guess maybe I don't get his sense of humor, but he seems to just post things along the lines of "shoot all the f*cking c*cksuckig republicans," "drop a nuclear bomb on the RNC," etc."

I can only speak for myself, but if that was all there was to it, I wouldn't find it funny. It isn't the semantic content of Thullen's rants that make them funny, it is the Lewis Carroll meets Hunter S. Thompson loopiness of the way he writes that makes them funny. If somebody from the Right could write like that (insert joke about IBM speech-to-text commercials from the 1980s) I'd laugh at them too. Sadly, that level of writing talent is more than a little bit scarce on either side of the political spectrum.

Slart -- my hesitation is just that it really increases participation costs, esp. for people who may just casually come by on certain posts but add a lot of insight. It frustrates me, eg., when I want to leave a comment on a blog that requires registration.

It may come to that, but I'd like to at least try more active "policing" first

That's nice, and in theory, it'd be just swell if I could reprimand people at each and every offense.

But I can't. I can just notice infractions when I do, just as the cops are never around when the other guy runs a stop sign.

Oh, and the notion that I'm somehow siding against Republicans, and in favor of Democrats, is laughable in the extreme.

ThatLeftTurn,

I'm wasn't an English major, so maybe I just don't understand the Lewis Carroll meets Hunter Thompson thing. But look at the post I quoted at 4:13, and tell me why that is such great writing.

Oh, and the notion that I'm somehow siding against Republicans, and in favor of Democrats, is laughable in the extreme.

I don't know anything about your personal politics. But could you explain could you explain the difference between your reaction to the Thullen post and your reaction to the same post with the party names switched?

But could you explain could you explain the difference between your reaction to the Thullen post and your reaction to the same post with the party names switched?

Slarti didn't see the prior post? Slarti didn't have the power to back up warnings with enforcement a few days ago? All Thullen posts are about pie to Slarti?

I'd be just fine with asking Thullen to just tone the profanity down a tad, but his prose is so ridiculously over the top that it's hard to imagine anyone taking it seriously.

Still, we could be a bit more consistent.

But could you explain could you explain the difference between your reaction to the Thullen post

I can't react to things that I don't see, Pericles. That's the difference.

I can't react to things that I don't see, Pericles. That's the difference.

OK. Just so you know that I wasn't advocating those things, I was quoting Thullen.

I haven't been around here much lately, but when I have visited in recent months, the main problem seemed to be the name-stealer and maybe one or two other people. There's always been harsh rhetoric and people sniping at each other.

I was a little surprised to see Sean Brooks's use of the term "narcissism" (referring to Obama in a different thread) raise any sort of stink. I've called Obama worse than that, though speaking from the opposite side of the political fence. Maybe one should be sparing in one's use of harsh rhetoric, but if one can't abuse politicians, then what's the point in talking about them at all? (I'm more than half serious.)

I don't care if you're quoting The Big Lebowski, Pericles. The rules don't say, well, you can put as much profanity in your comments as you please, provided you're quoting someone.

This is the place that allowed about 10,000 brick oven bill comments over the years, right? Although I suppose not hand-wringing over the comments would cause about a 60% drop in comments and 30% drop in posts.

There's also a matter of that I didn't have power to do anything a few days ago, and then there was a surgery in the family, so, you know, we can't be everywhere all the time.

Pericles,
If you are a regular at a bar, the bartender might let you run a tab. Might even let you pay him the next time if you don't have it on you. If you are not a regular, no such hospitality is extended.

You are not yet a regular. Thullen is. Get over it.

Fair enough, I won't do that again. I wasn't blaming you for failing to do anything about previous posts you didn't see. It's just that Publius stated that going forward there would be an explicit Thullen exception to the posting rules. I was just asking why you would make an exception specifically for that kind of violent, obscenity-laced rhetoric.

"Pericles, we do have posting rules. Please read them, and comply, or we'll just start deleting your comments willy-nilly."

I have avoided this discussion and will continue to, except:

Even in the months that I have commented here, the tone against all things conservative has grown more openly crude and the attacks more laced with insults.

Sometimes those insults are vaguely aimed at politicians, more often at Republicans, sometimes just conservatives. The last two of those are mostly taken personally by Republicans and conservatives.

John has grown increasingly dark and his humor less amusing as he stretches the boundaries of his unique place here. A worrisome trend for those of us who have valued his style.

I have been called rather insulting things by several regular commenters with no moderator objection, although I have been defended by many of the other regulars (even those who clearly disagree with many of my opinions).

The underlying theme of civil discussion is based on a respect that everyone's intent is to share ideas and viewpoints in good faith.

Slightly off topic, it would help if everyone didn't assume the worst of everyone else, public or private figures. Our Senators argue more civilly than we do most of the time, how we expect our leaders to act civilly based on how we dicuss these issues is beyond me.

All of my two cents...Done now.

I guess I'd agree that Thullen has been sliding from absurdist vehemence and into profane screeds. I didn't see the comment Pericles quotes, but it certainly makes me feel uncomfortable, and that's even though I'm reasonably familiar with Thullen's commenting persona and its history over time. So maybe he should be asked (required?) to tone it down. But, with that caveat, I fully understand and to a significant degree I agree with LJ's 4:43PM comment.

On the registration issue, requiring TypePad registration would be fairly innocuous (parochially, this is especially true for me now that they finally support Google Chrome; though annoyingly they still don't support either of my cheap webphone's browsers). And it should cut down on the spoofing, even if it wouldn't do much to slow anyone willing to create additional TypePad registrations at need.

Regarding Sean Brooks's use of the "narcissism" meme, I think that sort of thing is a difficult issue. It's about a public figure, not a commenter, and it's not profane, so it's not an obvious violation of the most important commenting rules. On the other hand, it's lazy and unserious, a propagation of partisan talking points that are not well supported by any evidence and is profoundly unlikely to contribute to any ongoing conversation. I think it's regrettable, perhaps reprehensible; but is it Trolling?

"I'm wasn't an English major, so maybe I just don't understand the Lewis Carroll meets Hunter Thompson thing. But look at the post I quoted at 4:13, and tell me why that is such great writing."

Personally (IMHO, YMMV, etc.) I don't find it funny. I used the term "body of work" in my earlier comment for a very specific reason, namely that what Catsy said 4:13 pm goes for me as well (although I say so with great trepidation). I often use modifiers and qualifiers in my writing, ones that I chose with some care, and then find that they are some reason entirely overlooked by readers. That is a defect in my writing style I suppose, allowing modifiers to carry more of the load than they should. My bad, but then words are sort of like democracy - the worst possible form of communication, except for all the others.

For a better example of Thullenesque prose, try these bits here (see comment at 11:48am on March 15th) and here (see comment at 7:11pm on March 16th) from back during the Rev. Wright brouhaha in 2008. IMHO, YMMV, etc.

Even Lenny Bruce was not always funny - sometimes he was just foul. But putting up with the foulness was the price we paid for his moments of sheer genius. Whether that was a bargin or not is obviously a matter of taste.

"I think it's regrettable, perhaps reprehensible; but is it Trolling?"

I was starting a post on the distinction between ad hominem/name-calling and trolling. WT makes the point better, even though I would not characterize calling Obama narcissist (I think that was SB's point) to be reprehensible nor do I see allowing this type of comment as a difficult issue. If the bar is set to define as problematical "partisan talking points . . . unlikely to contribute to any ongoing conversation", a good portion of the commenting around here, across the spectrum, is suspect.

Ideally, posts, comments, etc. would be substantive. That ain't gonna happen. This is politics and most people who are motivated and obsessive enough to wander over here take their politics very seriously and very personally. Also, there a lot of thin skins. That's just part of it.

Why does Thullen get a pass?

Because he has a many-years-long body of posts that are not just clever, and not just skillfully written. They exhibit a playfulness, a sly allusiveness, and a subtle humor that is not just rare in blogging, it's rare in human discourse, period.

It approaches art, and it's been a damned pleasure to read.

For what are no doubt very good reasons, Thullen's gone dark over the last couple of months. I hope he's OK, and that his recent work is just his way of venting.

What I will point out is that we've had regular posters from other political points of view who pushed the envelope much further than Thullen, and who were given quite a wide berth and surprisingly long runs. The Brick Oven man comes to mind.

The reason those folks got bounced and Thullen has not, and if there's any justice in the world will not, is because Thullen *does not personally attack or ridicule other posters*. Those other folks did.

Another thing I'll point out is that what appears to anger Thullen are (a) explicit or implicit threats of violence from the conservative side, and (b) bald disregard for the harmful human effects of policy.

Why the hell shouldn't those things piss him off? Why isn't everyone writing with equal anger?

In any case, long story short, Thullen's made his bones here. If it bugs you, you will probably have to live with it, because he is extraordinarily well thought of by folks who've been here for any length of time.

There isn't a "Thullen exemption" because he's a liberal. For one thing, he's not that much of a liberal. I make him out to be an old-school moderate conservative in the Walker Piercy mold, but the only real authority on the political positions of John Thullen is John Thullen. You'll have to ask him.

There's a "Thullen exemption" because he's Thullen, and nobody else is.

My vote on rules for a new and improved ObWi would be to enforce the existing posting rules more strictly. I'd also like to ask that posting as another known commenter be added as an immediately bannable offense.

If that's not enough to keep things reasonably under control, let's just require registration to comment. That isn't a particularly big hurdle.

Thanks -

With regards to civility, presenting the thoughts of Mr. Blah B. Blah. His uncouth remarks:

Dear Children,

A rule for which there are arbitrary exemptions,
Is not the real rule. You have instead a hidden rule.

A discourse that does not abide by common rules of conduct,
May not be truthfully regarded as a civil discourse.

Why ever should Equality be seen as more than a game to us,
If our nascent act is to justify a hierarchy of Privilege?

(end of remarks for children. )

Dear Adults,

Having decided that you are adults,
Let adult decisions govern your speech and acts.

(end of remarks for adults. )

"Reprehensible" may indeed by a bridge too far. Still, when someone has popped in to say something they know will be incendiary and which is largely lacking on content and which they are unable or unwilling to substantively defend, it's a sort of bad citizenship. It's likely to inspire other commenters to react angrily (those "thin skins" you speak of), and can result in massive threadjacks.

That said, some of this may be my partisan outlook. My opinions on Bush and especially Cheney are essentially unprintable, and so if I saw a comparable meme being spread about them, or about Beck, Palin, etcetera, I'm not sure I'd as easily recognize it as being a contentless and incendiary flippancy interjected into the thread to hijack it. Because I wouldn't be its target. But I'd hope that at least I wouldn't be impressed by it, either, and on my better days I might even express my boredom with it.

"Regarding Sean Brooks's use of the "narcissism" meme, I think that sort of thing is a difficult issue. It's about a public figure, not a commenter, and it's not profane, so it's not an obvious violation of the most important commenting rules. On the other hand, it's lazy and unserious, a propagation of partisan talking points that are not well supported by any evidence and is profoundly unlikely to contribute to any ongoing conversation. I think it's regrettable, perhaps reprehensible; but is it Trolling?"

I'd say no, that sort of thing isn't trolling, not unless there is additional evidence that the commentator is repeating partisan talking points of the day purely for spite, to get a rise out of others.

Instead I think it fits the profile I mentioned earlier of using the blog as an electronic plebiscite. And it seems to me that a lot of heat in subsequent comments arises between partipants for whom that is the main purpose of the blog so far as they are concerned (i.e. saying "here is my vote on this issue"), and other participants who want an extended discussion backed up by supporting citations, etc.

It seems to me that these two groups talk past one another quite frequently. When folks in the latter group denigrate an unsupported or simplistic comment made by somebody in the former group, what the person who was using the blog as a plebiscite hears back is "your vote doesn't count, because you aren't good enough for us".

I think that is unfortunate and tends to narrow the field unnecessarily. Perhaps it would be better if the debaters here could be clearer and more expansive in explaining what they are seeking - which is an opening to a wider discussion in which various opinions are not merely tabulated but are put under a microscope and taken apart to see how well they stand up to scrutiny, and that this is a process which applies to anyone who wants to engage in that manner regardless of which point of the compass they are coming from. But some folks (it seems to me) don't come here for that purpose, instead they just want to register their opinion and feel that they have as much right to do so as anyone else.

So there is a tension between seeing this blog as an electronic democracy vs. seeing it as a forum for debate. Every vote counts equally in the former case, but not in the latter, and what one side sees as critique the other side perceives as disenfranchisement.

LJ -- just a heads up, I responded to your email (and it has something you can hopefully add as a comment or post at TiO).

OK I guess two more comments. All MVHO.

1. Sean Brooks is not a troll, and his calling Obama a narcissist just really shouldn't blow anyone's skirt up.

2. To my eye the nature of ObWi civility has more to do with mutual accountability among the folks who are actually posting here, and less to do with never saying impolite things about public figures or broad demographics that you differ with.

People get hot and they say strong things. If I'm going to take it personally every time someone makes some negative blanket statement about "lefties", I'm going to be annoyed more or less all the time.

Maybe it will help if folks don't take personal offense at comments that aren't actually addressed to their person.

If we want to go beyond "be reasonably civil to each other" and extend it to "never make incivil statements about anyone" that's cool, but if so the posting rules should be amended to make that explicit.

Offered FWIW.

Exactly. Bomb throwers throw bombs because they like the explosion and the aftermath. It's mostly an exercise in attention-getting. Then, there are those who really think that their bombs are rhetorical masterpieces.

LJ: Pericles,
If you are a regular at a bar, the bartender might let you run a tab. Might even let you pay him the next time if you don't have it on you. If you are not a regular, no such hospitality is extended.

You are not yet a regular. Thullen is. Get over it.

Cosigned. Making this about Thullen and demanding some kind of arbitrary left/right parity in moderation is a distraction. Be reasonably civil; don't use the posting rules as a partisan cudgel.

Re: registered comments, I personally would have no problem with using my Typekey ID, but recall that some regulars have said before they won't comment at sites that require registration. Still, would certainly make things easier for mgt, especially with regards to spam-culling.

As to the Thullen Immunity: there's a difference between an exception for one person (which this is) and an across the board double standard.

That said, and recognizing that it may be presumptuous of me to say it, and also that we're communicating in a bodiless cybermedium, the increasing darkness of John's comments, often unrelieved by any hint of humor, has had me worried about John Thullen.

So John -- FWIW, that offer of dinner in Boston is still on if you're ever in the neighborhood.

"I'm thinking of John Thullen in particular. I have the impression that he has a license to say things in a fashion which most others here do not, and having followed this blog and enjoyed his colorful commentary for several years I think I understand why that is, but it has to be awfully confusing for newcomers to reconcile his comments with a general ban on inflammatory remarks."

Would it be bad to admit that as soon as I recognize it is a Thullen comment I tend to skip over it? So I haven't really noticed if he crossed the line or changed much lately. (mildly sheepish look).

I think we should all understand that rules-lawyering about it is really against the spirit of what we are trying to do.

Be civil.

Try to be substantive.

Keep jerkishness to a minimum.

It's interesting that the data point of Sean calling Obama a narcissist has been introduced. If you look at the exchange, (it starts here) you will see that it is basically Sean and wonkie, with a few people weighing in with what Russell said above. And as the conversation develops, wonkie says that she may be guilty of crossing the line as well.

That this is taken as a data point supporting that the right is constantly being accused of trolling here is a mistake. That the question of trolling arose when Sean made his comment is simply indicative of that fact that when you have trolls running around the blog, everyone starts to look like a troll.

Up yours, lawyer boy.

More seriously: I know this requires additional effort, and it's much appreciated.

I mean, at some point, if you can't see the respect Thullen garnered for his writing, (I like his dark period, wimps!) you are indeed a newbie, and might just want to hang-out a bit.

I'll admit, when some of the new right-wing trolls rode up, it was exciting, some new folks to play with...but the comments went from biting to awkward and then to obnoxious spite.

I like the casual nature, in which, you can approach the site, but that may be impossible now.

For a better example of Thullenesque prose, try these bits here (see comment at 11:48am on March 15th)

That's truly offensive. How is Snider even in the conversation with Mantle and Mays?

With regard to Pericles claim that he is just "quoting John Thullen" but changing "Republican" to "Democrat", I suspect he's done rather more than that to scramble the Thullenesque prose, because I just googled on phrases (and indeed individual words, "vomit", "silhouette") in Pericles' comment, and couldn't find them on google's indexing of Obsidian Wings.

It's possible this is a comment so recent Google hasn't had a chance to index it. Or that it was a comment posted by one of the anonymizing trolls which has since been deleted. But though I've just read a number of prime John Thullen comments ... I can't find the one Pericles says he's quoting. As I presume it was a cut-and-paste job, Pericles, could you provide a link?

(And with regard to the promise to enforce civility, I'll say again what I said in the Nobel Prize thread: I think the old "24 hour ban" rule was an excellent one, where a comment passes the civility line into flaming - the commenter is then compelled to take 24 hours out to cool down and realise that this is just another case of someone being Wrong On The Internet.)

Oh, and I gather anonymizer was back: this is my first comment on this thread. (The real Jesurgislac. Accept no substitutes.)

With regard to Pericles claim that he is just "quoting John Thullen" but changing "Republican" to "Democrat", I suspect he's done rather more than that to scramble the Thullenesque prose, because I just googled on phrases (and indeed individual words, "vomit", "silhouette") in Pericles' comment, and couldn't find them on google's indexing of Obsidian Wings.
Huh. You've got a point there: I just tried the same with some other pairs of words (or even individual words, as ObWi doesn't have much profanity to confuse a Google search), and nothing obvious came up. I didn't click through to learn the contexts when those individual words were used, so it's possible that when those words were used it was by Thullen, and separately from each other, and Pericles was creating a pastiche, one that he believed to be representative, or at least that he believed had distilled the message he derived from Thullen's various comments. Or maybe both our Google-Fu's are just really quite weak, and we're wrong about this.

I'd say that - while I still maintain my concern that Thullen has been getting more profane and less humorous of late - right now this doesn't seem to be Thullen's work, and the onus is now on Pericles to show just where that "quote" came from.

Did John actually write the "quote"? Normally when one quotes, one actually quotes, as in finds the exact words and presents them in quotation marks. If John did wqrite that "quote" then my own feeling is that it is out of bounds. However, it is not at all typical of John's writing.

About the use of the word "narcisist" in reference to Obama. I guess I'mthe one who "raised a stink" about it, although i didn't think I was. I pointed it out as inflammatory language tghat infered with the possiblity of discssion and asked if that sort of rhetoric consituted trolling., I am content to agree that it does not. However I do think that deliberately provacate language is likely to provoke provacative language back so I think it is OK for commenters or Slarti to ask whoever goes into that kind of over the top word choice to back up the bus a bit.

I'm guilty of that (provocative word choice!) and I hereby vow to back my bus, too!

Thnak you publius and slarti.

It looks like the Thullen material pasted earlier in the thread was taken from these comments, which are probably too recent to be indexed by google:

http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2009/10/a-nonvirtuous-cycle.html#comments

I'm not familiar with the incident to which Thullen was responding, but judging from the context it sounds like the sort of thing that could understandably provoke a pretty strong response.

Regardless of context, though, I don't think the occasional too-profane rant from a valued commenter is a big problem.

You can add my support.

He was referring to a Republican event which featured a Republican politician who shot at cardboard cut outs, one of which was a silhouette of the Democrat running against the Repubican.

Pericles did have the quote correct (thanks MikeF). However, the Thullen quote (while definatley provocative!) mostly violated tradional ObWi standards by including obscenities. Otherwise it's in the same catagory as using terms like narcissit, fraud, and charlatan to describe Oabama and Gore.

"Pericles did have the quote correct (thanks MikeF). However, the Thullen quote (while definatley provocative!) mostly violated tradional ObWi standards by including obscenities. Otherwise it's in the same catagory as using terms like narcissit, fraud, and charlatan to describe Oabama and Gore."


Really. This

being the kind of cowardly, *********** sub-human Taliban filth that Republicans vomit up to infest my government, fired at an unarmed human sillouette . . .

Where does the Republican Party want to take this?

Do they want to take this to a where there is nothing left but dead Republican ************* all over the place, because there is only a line or two left to cross?

is the same as calling Obama a narcissist?

No chance, posting rules or not.

One is a well written yet crude indictment of about 40 million people who don't deserve it, the other is a one word reasonably mild indictment that applies to almost any politician.

Here's a click-able ">http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2009/10/a-nonvirtuous-cycle.html?cid=6a00d834515c2369e20120a62a3fa1970c#comment-6a00d834515c2369e20120a62a3fa1970c"> link to the Thullen comment. Pericles ellipses make it seem a bit more out of bounds than it is when taken in it's entirety. On the whole a misfire, he does better in a later comment, but this one was more anger than humor.

I think he when a little farther outside the bounds than just obscenity Wonkie, in that he tarred all Republicans with the acts of these few. Exemption or not it probably should have earned a warning.

That does nothing to excuse the acts of other people. If you get pulled over for speeding, it usually doesn't help to point out that some other guy was doing it too.

Good luck and good hunting Slarti.

Just as nuns fret not at their convent's narrow room, John Thullen can comfortably abide within clear posting rules and has done so in the past when they were more consistently applied.

It's good to see the return of moderation; I think it's a necessary part of this community. My deepest sympathies to the moderators.

I'm not a frequent commenter here, so I suppose that means that I had better keep it clean!! Luckily, all I want to say is that I clicked through and read the original John Thullen post, and it seemed worse to me than Pericles' abbreviated version. Quite the opposite of what Jay S said.

Since we're talking about comment policy let's be clear (in case anyone isn't) about the intent of using "Democrat Party" as a slur instead of the preferred and correct proper name: Democratic Party:

Wikipedia on Democrat Party:

"Democrat Party" is a political epithet used in the United States instead of the name (or more precisely, the proper noun) Democratic Party. The term has been used by some conservative commentators and some members of the Republican Party in speeches and press releases.

The word "Democrat" is not at all controversial, except when it is used as an adjective (as in "Democrat Party" or "Democrat Senator" or "Democrat idea"). In that case some Democratic Party leaders and non-partisan commentators have objected to the use as adjective.[1] New Yorker commentator Hendrik Hertzberg wrote:

There’s no great mystery about the motives behind this deliberate misnaming. 'Democrat Party' is a slur, or intended to be – a handy way to express contempt. Aesthetic judgments are subjective, of course, but 'Democrat Party' is jarring verging on ugly. It fairly screams 'rat'.[2]

So let's have the bigots put their cards face up on the table and stop pretending. Just as the adjective is "Jewish" to describe of person of that faith, and we would refer to him as, for example, a Jewish Senator, the comment has an entirely different meaning and flavor when one refers to that same legislator as a Jew Senator. It's a Jewish banker, not a Jew banker; it's a Jewish lawyer, not a Jew lawyer.

It's the Democratic Party, not the Democrat Party. Democratic Senator, not Democrat Senator.

Use it correctly or henceforth mark yourself a bigot.

One thing I don't get: what do we mean by "personal" insults?

I've been insulted by experts, in the old usenet days, and I can report I still have all my limbs and most of my teeth. Not to mention my self-respect. Being verbally insulted by people who know me only as a username on their computer screen has yet to make me feel bad or cost me money.

There are exactly five ObWi commenters to whom I could even attempt to offer a personal insult, because I've met them in person. And vice versa. Anything I could possibly say to a commenter who I know only by their words on my screen can hardly be "personal", exactly. And vice versa.

If a commenter calling himself "Incitatus" types words which I find stupid, and I respond with "Horseshit!", am I really making a personal comment?

--TP

Xanax, may I suggest a corollary to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon%27s_razor>Hanlan's Razor may apply? The Razor says "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity." Replace stupidity with ignorance and you get my corollary. Similar to Clark's law "sufficiently advanced cluelessness is indistinguishable from malice".

With people like McCain using the incorrect form without anybody standing up to him, I'd venture there are a lot of people that use it not intending it as a slur. Ignorance not malice.

Surely some use it as a deliberate slur but I don't think it helps to assume everyone does. Once you assume malice, you have ended the possibility of civil discourse. Ignorance is curable, malice less so. I think you were trying to inform, but it came out as an accusation.

To be clear, individuals are Democrats. The Democratic senator is a Democrat. The Democratic party members are Democrats. Adjective vrs. noun.

Fun fact: I once banned John Thullen. I'm not sure I ever did anything on this blog that was nearly as good, in its long-term effects, as unbanning him after we worked it out. The sheer joy his writing gave me, all by itself, pretty much ensures that.

(The banning was during the phase before the wondrous gonzo Thullen. ;) And yes, there was such a phase.)

Civility generating all these comments? Astounding. But the Polanski thread at IOZ was better. Didn't get anywhere...just better. Personal insults aplenty, too.

I hope Russell gets an exemption, too. As for Thullen, penache(sic) is a difficult thing to judge.

Go gonzo commentary.

And what happened to Farber? Cite, please.

Being a continuation of the astounding mentations upon civility of Mr. Blah B. Blah, bent ruthlessly towards the distant lure of 'pertinence to the discussion', his unpasteurized words, Mmlles & Msrs:

However rancorously, I think xanax makes a good point. This is a good example of the sort of language which should be regarded as uncivil. A 'civil discussion' implicitly recognizes an underlying comity. In other words, in a 'civil discussion' the participants exercise consideration and courtesy towards each other, and recognize that, regardless of their differences, they share on a more fundamental level a common identity and purpose. I believe that most people understand this. The purpose of any epithet, beyond signaling one's hostility, is to refute the existence of any such fundamental similarity. Thus they have no place in civil discussion.

Now, as to whether publius is wise to exempt this Thullen person from the rules governing the comments on this blog, the answer is 'no'. If this Thullen has more power than publius, then give him as well a greater responsibility. If this Thullen will not accept responsibility, then do let him not have power.

...was that too precious to be regarded as serious? If so, well, I have to say that I did once upon a time have the opportunity to become familiar with such moderation issues, long ago and far away. Moderating a group discussion on the internet is difficult, by the way. One needs a deft touch, which I managed to develop, and then lost over the course of a year's absence. (This was, of course, before I decided to use my powers for evil rather than good.) It is difficult, and requires an ear for the group as well as an eye for the rules. However, if one wants to maintain a viable discussion, outright exempting people from rules of conduct based on their status is a bad idea. It brings trepidation to many otherwise happy hearts. Status becomes a subtext of conversations, and low-frequency visitors find less of interest to great them, less encouragement to speak, and eventually the renewal of the discussion by these persons will cease, leading to stagnation and everyone talking to their friends out of channel... oops, I mean, diminished feedback outside of whatever dominant clique emerges. I would imagine (although I do not know) that this might eventually deflate the quality of experience for those who write their opinions in the blog, leading to less thought, effort and time, and so on towards a cycle of negative feedback that you can doubtlessly see coming by this point.

Perhaps I am quite wrong with regards to whether this would ever apply to ObWi, or perhaps ObWi could sustain itself forever upon the engagement of whatever clique should rule it, but I am minded that the empowerment of a clique serves more often to undermine civility than to enhance it. Insofar as the intent here is a civil discourse open to the public, the establishment of privilege directly thwarts that intent. It is nice that a lot of you are friends, and fantastic that some of you have been here for years, but you need to clarify whether you are engaging in a public discussion, or merely having a private discussion in public.

I appreciate the reference to Hanlan but I think you're being a tad naive Jay. I'd venture to say a wingnut memo went out not too awfully long ago (I'll continue to search for a citation) that read something like this: Democratic has positive associations as an adjective (e.g. democratic form of government, a democratic system of laws, etc.) that Democrat does not. In fact, emphasize the final R-A-T sound and it sounds downright evil. From now on, they are not "Democratic" anythings... they are DEMOCRAT.

Rankest of speculations, I know, but - until I can find a reliable cite - I'd wager $50 on it.

I can save you the trouble Xanax. It's not new. Here is a history that claims it may go back to http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/08/07/060807ta_talk_hertzberg> Harding.

My point is that prominent Republicans and reporters have bought into this usage so that it is considered abnormal by a lot of people. I once heard a reporter exclaim surprise when a Democrat took exception.

"so that it is not considered abnormal" that is.

At 11:52 I wrote (rancorously, apparently, according to Mr. Blah B. Blah): "It's the Democratic Party, not the Democrat Party. Democratic Senator, not Democrat Senator.

Use it correctly or henceforth mark yourself a bigot.

At 1:15 JayS wrote (more diplomatically): "To be clear, individuals are Democrats. The Democratic senator is a Democrat. The Democratic party members are Democrats. Adjective vrs. noun."

So, the word has gone out.

Let's just see what happens.

(And Jay, I agree with your Hanlan reference to this extent: anyone who considers "Democrat" to be a correct and appropriate adjective is, indeed, stupid.)

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