Rule #3, in our ongoing discussion about rules.

The Rule:


   3. Harassing other members of the site may result in a ban.
Harassment includes (but is not necessarily limited to) the following:

   1. Ad hominem attacks and name calling.
   2. Blatantly bigoted or derogatory statements or remarks about
someone’s race, gender, or sexual orientation.
   3. Posting any contents of private conversations without the
expressed consent of all people involved.
   4. Disclosing private information about a fellow member without
their expressed consent.
   5. Posting inappropriate or private pictures of fellow members
without their expressed consent.
   6. Making negative threads targeting fellow members.



The Reason:
Nobody likes being harassed, we'd like everyone to have a fair shot at
getting along on Atheist Nexus and nobody should be subjected to an
undue amount of hassle. We'll go over this one slowly as it is a
matter of contention among members.

First, note that harassment is going to be one of those issues in
which the mod is going to have to make a decision based on what they
can see is happening using their judgment. It is another instance
where "good faith" and "Intent" will be leaned upon. The body of the
rule even mentions that items in the list of "things that are
harassment" are not the only ways to harass people.


a. Ad hominem attacks and name calling.
The long and the short of it is this: if people avoid calling others
names, they'll never get in trouble for calling others names.
Attacking people's character in order to discredit their ideas falls
under the same heading. If one takes exception to a person's ideas,
they should attempt to discredit those ideas in a civil manner. If
that person is acting foolish, their actions will speak for
themselves. Opinions about their IQ, the likely chemical composition
of their brain, the legitimacy of their parentage and other such
things are immaterial to discourse and hurtful.


b. Blatantly bigoted or derogatory statements or remarks about
someone’s race, gender, disability, age or sexual orientation.
Keep it to yourself. The freedom to talk down to other races, genders, disabilities, ages
and/or sexual orientations, can be found plenty of other places on the
internet. This isn't one of them.


c. Posting any contents of private conversations without the expressed
consent of all people involved.
Things written in private should stay private. The exception to this
is if someone is making a report of another member harassing them in
public, in which case it is acceptable to forward messages on to the
moderation staff. It is never appropriate to publicly post the
contents of a private message without the senders permission.


d. Disclosing private information about a fellow member without their
expressed consent.
This rule is meant to protect people from being harassed via other
mediums or in their-day-to-day lives. Giving away another user's e-
mail address, phone number, home address, place of work or even real
name can be potentially harmful to that person, especially considering
the nature of this website and the prevailing attitudes toward
atheists and non-believers in most places around the world.


e. Posting inappropriate or private pictures of fellow members without
their expressed consent.
What is going to be inappropriate or private is sort of going to be up
to the person who's pictures is being posted. The onus is on each of
us to obtain permission before posting pictures of other members. 



f. Making negative threads targeting fellow members.
There is a fine line between targeting a person and targeting an idea
which has been associated with a person with such vitriol or passive
aggression that it becomes indistinguishable from a personal attack.
We'd like the free flow of ideas to remain free, and clamping down on
what people can and can't say is always a dangerous game--a game we'd
rather not have to play at all. However, our lack of action on matters
of harassment because of our respect for the freedom of speech is
causing a lot of problems.

On the one hand, as atheists, we have a great appreciation for ideas.
On the other hand, we typically expect those ideas to be based on
sound evidence and thinking. It's not wrong to challenge someone's
idea and it is not against the rules to upset someone. It is against
the rules to harangue them. Sometimes, people are wrong. Often times,
their minds can't be changed through argument. If it is evident that
no one is going to change their mind, continuing to attempt to
convince them or knock down an idea that has presumably already been
knocked down is accomplishing nothing. People are not obliged to
defend their ideas if they don't want to. They are also not obliged to
be right, nor are they obliged to acknowledge when other people are
right. These are all lovely, polite things, but they are not
obligations. Nobody has the right to persistently attempt to force
another person into a conversation they don't want to have.

By the same token, if a member takes exception to another person's
views and brings evidence and rational discourse to the table--that is
not harassment. Hounding people is. The difference will be up to the
moderators to decide. Their decisions need to be respected. 


The Action:
If it is determined that a member is harassing another member,
depending on the severity, they will usually receive a warning to
stop. After that, they may be banned. There will no longer be a chain
of warnings because a particular offender has decided to simply switch
targets. People who chronically hassle other members will be banned.
The culture of mean-spirited confrontation is getting stale and--as it
has manufactured nothing of value--it's going to stop.

It is my hope the the dialogue here will become more dialectic and a
little less argumentative.




Views: 206

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Replies to This Discussion

Again, sounds good to me. Where it gets tricky is that this is perhaps the most subjective rule. Not everyone defines 'personal attack' the same way. One person might feel the thread is still fresh while another feels it's beating a dead horse. One person's "But I'm just responding to so-and-so" is another person's haranguing and stalking.

You outline it well though moJoe. I for one am not immune to sticking my foot in my mouth and getting angry at someone only to regret my overreaction later. I too am all for the free exchange of ideas, and that means people are going to come in with ideas, opinions, sources and conclusions that others won't like. So it indeed becomes a touchy subject when that exchange of ideas gets ... shall we say ... passionate?

Either way, I expect this is the rule several have been waiting to pounce all over. Let the games begin in 3...2...1...
This rule really should be a no-brainer to anybody with basic intelligence and reasoning skills. But yet again it has proven that the "atheists are smarter" flatus is just that - flatus; that it needs clarification at all shows we are really just as stupid as the rest of the planet.

There are two major issues though that, unfortunately, need careful explanation -

1) Way too many people have no idea what ad hominem actually is, and it completely disintegrates into a cacaphony of pointless and spurious shrieking and complaining because too many people are unable to differentiate the man from the ball (again for the slow, the argument from the personal). Just quote what I wrote elsewhere -

There are only really two possibilities for this - general intellectual incoherence, or deeply ingrained habit, formed after many years of martyr fantasy play, which frames any and all criticism [of the argument at hand] in the context of personal assault and harrassment, reading into it all manner of poisonous meaning which simply isn't there. There is little anyone can do when engaging such people in discussion other than trust that forum administrators are sharp enough to spot bullshit for what it is (something about snowflakes and hell springs to mind). When they are not, or refuse to pay enough attention to make a fair judgement call, you are basically screwed and the professional whiner will win every time

2) It's not name calling if it's an established fact. There comes a time when, after numerous requests for substance and corroboration of an argument are refused and, instead of making any attempt to address and defend the content of criticism, you are bombarded with a barrage of logical fallacy and/or deliberate derailing, you are entitled to say "you are an idiot": it is no longer name calling or insult, but is an empirical, factual observation that can be independently verified by anyone that follows the thread.

It would be fascinating to quantify how much of the complaint box is filled with this type of confused dumbness. And it shows Plait's "dick" talk up for what it is - naive, feel-good nonsense.
I don't know much about professional whinerism, but I intend to take a shot at keeping things fair.

As an aside, I would really like to strongly suggest that those of you folks who already know each-other and already don't like each-other and already disagree with each-other simply refrain from interacting with one-another. What was that quote by Albert Einstein? "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

This isn't a battle ground, we're not fighting a sectarian war for atheist dominance or anything.

As to independently verifiable idiocy: what function does calling people an idiot serve? Though we're all entitled to think whatever we wish of one-another, I doubt very much that the quality of discourse or the general "livability" of the site will increase if we make it OK to call people names.
I agree, if the person is exhibiting idiotic behavior, it is self evident. The person calling the other an idiot has, by that action, admitted they have nothing intelligent to add and are only capable of stating the obvious, which is ironic in a sense.

I have been participating on another thread where there has been a dogpile on a particular member. I think the member has been somewhat antagonistic with his/her viewpoints, but I think the dogpile denigrates everyone involved - regardless of who is "right".

You cant sling mud without getting some on yourself. Attack ideas...not people...etc.
Another forum I use actually has the ability to block the viewing of posts by chosen members. So they could be yelling and screaming at you and you wouldn't even know. This would be useful in chat.
I am not interested in participating in a blog where any digbat can make a statement (or in this case a baseless rant) and be immune from a rebuttal. ... When I am slandered and misrepresented I can, of course, write back a well reasoned defense.

And therein lies the dilemma. As Atheists, there is one universal value most of us hold dear:

Information based on popular opinion ("Most people believe in god, so he must exist"), and/or information given behind closed doors ("We have the truth and no one else does - don't you dare go looking elsewhere and compare research/ideas/interpretations") is the root of all evil.

Ergo, when we see someone post something that we believe to be misinformation and/or posting in that closed-door, we-have-the-truth-and-how-dare-you-look-anywhere-else style, we feel particularly honor-bound to question either the information and/or the suspicious nature of the sales pitch.

Sometimes, we can have a civil debate. "The answer is X/No, the answer is Y," ends in agreement, or "I understand and respect how you came to your conclusion, though I still personally find the alternate view more convincing."

In some cases it devolves into slander or misrepresentation of a poster and his/her words.

If I let the misrepresentation go without rebuttal, many who follow will take the misrepresentation as truth and my silence as conceding to that truth, making it all the more difficult to discuss the next topic with that label now attached to me. If I respond to the misrepresentation, I'm now in the mudpit with that person. Lose-lose.

The best I can do is make a greater effort to make my rebuttal more civil, make sure I read the other person's post carefully so as not to misrepresent them, and try not to get lured too deep into the mudpit. But I'm not sure simply leaving when our personal slander-er arrives is always the answer. There are topics I very much enjoy bouncing off of folks here which I have a hard time doing in the Theistic world thanks to the aforementioned two arguments (appeal to popularity, appeal to authority). While I don't enjoy getting mud on myself, I also don't enjoy allowing myself to be bullied out of threads and groups that I want to participate in.

Like I said, #3 is the most subjective of all the rules!
Good point John. I'll also add a P.S. that when I see someone else being unfairly beat up on, I at some point feel honor-bound to say something and back that person up.

One person saying, "Hey, you misrepresented me and I don't appreciate it," is just one person wrestling in the mud with the pigs.

Several more people saying, "Yeah, dude, you misrepresented him/her" might, just might, drive the pigs away.

Big "might."
I have no problem with reasoned rebuttals or even holding a statement or idea presented to ridicule and scorn. In the particular dogpile of which I speak, I sensed a lot of personal attacks and name calling from all sides, and that is what I am referring to when I say the actions denigrate all involved.

Again, if a person is putting forth stupid ideas, call the ideas stupid (hopefully in more eloquent terms but that is up to you) but calling the person stupid is where this rule may apply.
Ryan, as one of the other principal dogpilers in the thread you reference, I submit that calling a person an asshole is warranted when they are, in fact, being an asshole. It's not an ad hominem attack, meant to distract from an argument. It is an indictment of unacceptable behavior. The asshole at the bottom of the dogpile needed to be called out as such, both to inform him that he was out of line, and to let others know that his behavior is not going unchallenged.

There is indeed value in calling a spade a spade. Allowing a jerk to continue being a jerk is not politeness. It is doormatness. The whole damn point of A|N is that we are tired of being doormats for theists. I fail to see why we should be doormats for assholes of any stripe. Not confronting an asshole just lets everybody know that the asshole rules the roost. This has to be at least as alienating to everyone on the thread as calling him an asshole.

And finally, since the asshole has invaded our clubhouse with the effect (leaving intent aside) of making things unpleasant for us, it is useful to attempt to make things sufficiently unpleasant for the asshole to encourage them to play nice or to leave. It has not been my experience that continuing to be polite to assholes accomplishes anything worthwhile. On the other hand, returning their abuse in kind can make them go away.

It would be terrific if we had a Gort running around to zap assholes. And that's what the Report an Issue button seems to be for, but I've had limited success with that. Now it may be that I have a thinner skin than I think I do, but I suspect the mods simply don't have enough time to really read the threads closely enough. It is, after all, often the case that the asshole manages to be an asshole without ever swearing or even appearing to be directly insulting. Eddie Haskell isn't the only one that figured out that angle. But it makes no sense to clamp down on only the obvious insulters and leave the more devious to work their havoc.

I doubt that A|N will ever be able to field a sufficient number of mods to adequately and fairly police this aspect of member interaction. Nor should it have to. As has been stated elsewhere, grownups generally take care of this kind of thing on their own. What we're talking about here is etiquette. There are very good reasons why the criminal justice system refuses to attempt to enforce etiquette amongst the citizenry. Do the A|N mods really want to tilt at that windmill? By all means, investigate complaints and ban people who deserve it, but if you send Beaver to his room and you don't slap Eddie Haskell, you're just making the site worse and life harder on yourself.
I'm really good at ignoring people and I can ignore them till that imaginary hot spot freezes over. There are a few people here on my ignore list,not many.

A Linux forum I'm a moderator on has an ignore button. That might not be a bad idea for here for some folks.
moJoe: As to independently verifiable idiocy: what function does calling people an idiot serve? Though we're all entitled to think whatever we wish of one-another, I doubt very much that the quality of discourse or the general "livability" of the site will increase if we make it OK to call people names.

This is more United Nations style accommodationist waffle a la we shouldn't be rude to islam. Where it fails, yet again, is that this is an issue that is entirely based on one's demographic fingerprint. This behaviour is perfectly acceptable, and entirely overlooked, if you are grinding the correct ideological axe. If you are not, again the roof falls on your head.

What function does it serve?

a) it's satisfying
b) it's unambiguous
c) it means that we can pretend we are not in kindergarten and can express ourselves without artificial inhibition when the situation warrants

Again, this is another instance of this site wanting to be a sheltered workshop where defective and deranged intellects can babble with impunity and the comforting knowledge that they are a protected species that will be shielded from all psychic harm. Adults are no longer allowed to be adults. Thank you for clarifying cultural expectations.
I'm confused: How does endeavoring to address someone's points on their own merit, using my indoor-voice, rather than just calling them an idiot, define me as a non-adult?

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