[continued from part 1]

8. THE CULTURE OF COMPLAINT

Recently I posted a couple of articles from some social/political commentators [1] [2], both born and bred in the Middle East, on the growing problems of islamisation and its impact on the west, particularly focussing on the issues of freedom of speech and liberal values in light of the dramas and outrage surrounding Salman Rushdie, the Danish cartoons, and most recently, draw mohammed day. Both authors lay the blame squarely for the current status quo of blasphemy hysteria not with Naom Chomsky's favourite whipping horse, US foreign policy, but with western leaders who have allowed responses to the stupidity to be dictated by sections of the liberal/humanist left. The resultant policies of muslim appeasement at any cost and "tolerance" that borders on kowtowing rather than mitigating the problems have only exacerbated them. Instead of seeking true and open dialogue on a foundation of equanimity, they have legitimised and empowered the voices of maniacs allowing them to drown out the real voices of the actual western islamic communities. It is an example of "survival of the whiniest" - the loudest most shameless voices are the ones that get heard, and not the voices that actually count; and they are spurred on by the liberal/humanist left who mistake all the noise for progress. Thanks to their meddling and social experimentation, it is hard to imagine how the situation could possibly be made any worse. The continual pandering and bending over backwards to accomodate the demands of the islamists that have been given a stage and an audience, through the very best of liberal/humanist intentions, has now made the situation throroughly intractable and has benefited absolutely no one - least of all the moderate muslim majority in the west who are now starting to feel the first stirrings of a true backlash. Raymond Ibrahim summarises it quite nicely -

Muslim outrage—as with all human outrage—is predicated on how well it is tolerated. Continuously appeased, it becomes engorged and insistent on more concessions; ignored, it deflates and, ashamed of itself, withers away.

In other words, if our policies did not allow maniacs to have the air time and did not respond to the childish tantrums, chances are the issues we have would have fizzled for a while and then vanished. But they haven't - what was a tiny wound that could have healed naturally, thanks to the well meaning appeasement and coddling, has been picked at and picked at and has now become a festering sore bordering on septicemia.

So how fucking depressing is it to see this soap opera of global islam get played out as microcosmic mirror image right here in our community? With islam, the catalyst that started it all was Rushdie's Satanic Verses, and in hindsight, it looks less that the book actually caused any real offense and more that at the time there was a power struggle between Pakistan and Iran to see who could claim to be the voice of global islam, and they did so by having a hysterical shrieking contest (Iran won; the book was just unlucky for Rushdie; it was the right thing at the right time to enable the idiocy). Here, the catalyst seems to have been the repugnant noise-fest that preempted the departure of Ms. RU486 and our own contest to see who could be the most caring and understanding and demand the most and strictest site rules. Both scenarios served as prime manure for opportunist whiners to flourish like mushrooms. Instead of islam appeasers running around howling about "islamophobia", we're running around howling about people "being dicks". Instead of dissecting media for offence against the prophet, we're sifting every post and comment for offense against absolutely anything people damn well feel like; and, instead of facing it like a vertebrates, the faux offendees are urged to click the complaint button for anything that can be considered even remotely dick-like. Click, don't think. Click often, click hard. Click, click, click. Complain, complain, complain. All driven by the very best of intentions, which also happen to be what the path to hell is paved with.

This well meaning, inclusive and sensitive "New Atheist Nexus" that is being rammed down our throats, just like the efforts of the islam appeasers, achieves nothing other than empowering the stupid, entrenching "survival of the whiniest" and enabling the loudest and most negative voices here. A pure culture of complaint - the most reprehensible amongst us are sanctified and urged on to vent their tantrums free of any strictures of responsibility or accountability. Superficially it appears there is progress. Complaints can be quantified and there's a steady stream of scapegoats to divert attention to at the expense of real issues. Genuine complaints and abuses are lost amongst the noise, but that is irrelevant - it is the appearance that something is being done that really counts.

Whilst the rest of the civilised planet remains proud of it's foundations on human rights charters and affords such basic, inalienable protections as habeus corpus (variations on the right to present to court, confront your accusers and see the evidence presented against you) to even the vilest of terrorists, it is perverse that in this "enlightened" community such basics are entirely dispensed with. Typically, accusations here are anonymous and follow the format of "someone said you did something bad somewhere for some reason and you had better stop doing it or else". Evidence consists of "I can't find it now", "It was so horrid I deleted it" or a completely psychadelic miscontextualisation and misrepresentation of what was actually said that is never, ever verified. Where people's feelings are concerned, hearsay, rumour and even outright fabrication is perfectly acceptable evidence. Add to this the hyperbolic exaggerations of the extent of alleged abuse that goes on here and the relentless urging to report any and all issues immediately via the complaint button without a second thought and we have effectively divorced ourselves from the real world and entered the surreal universe of hyperreality. Enlightened, rational freethinkers my hairy ass. And if anyone thinks this is an absurd observation, all they need to consider is the following -

* Problems that threaten the very existance of a|n, cause the earth to stop spinning on its' axis, the seas to boil and the heavens to rain acid -

Calling someone an idiot.

* Problems that aren't really problems at all because they help maintain sensitivity and awareness of people's feelings -

Everything else mentioned above.

9. MELODRAMA, CATASTROPHISM AND EMPOWERING THE STUPID

The supreme mother of all nonsense being peddled here is that a|n has somehow become dysfunctional due to all encompassing harrassment, abuse and intimidation. That all civil discussion has ceased and it is all raw wall to wall internecine warfare. This impression is actively being pushed as undisputed fact by this "Stop the madness!" post and many, many before it. It is a campaign to embed it as a self-replicating meme, and unfortunately it's working.

Well here's some harrassment for you - please provide us with some corroborating data and evidence that supports this proposition. As an exercise, anyone that has read this far, go and start browsing the site and make a realistic estimate for yourself. I do all the time. And the trouble is, this alleged level of abuse simply does not exist. This is a toxic self-hating and self-denigrating meme who's purpose and function benefits absolutely no one, other than the professional victims amongst us who can revel in it, exploiting and abusing our good natures. For the sake of misguided efforts to promote tolerance, a monstrous level of intolerance is being promoted and directed at those that are painted with the very wide brush of being "dicks" - it is effectively open season on "dicks" and there are no rules. People can lie, exaggerate, fabricate, defame, slander and abuse in any manner they please, as long as their target is a "dick". Fantastic community building.

The only excuse I can come up with for pushing this melodrama and catastrophism is an inexcusable naiveté - an absolute lack of wordliness or experience with social networking and forums. As it stands, this place could lay claim to being the most innocuous and non-threatening of it's kind anywhere, godless or not. And it's still not good enough. It has to be shit-talked and denigrated, all to placate a minority of professional whiners pushing their own selfish agendas or those who simply lack the ability to stand on their own hind legs and need to squeal for pity with every gasp.

From a historical perspective a certain series of events happened about a year ago when there was an enormous and spiteful shitstorm (over what exactly I still don't know, other than inevitably being blamed for a lot of it, despite having nothing to do with anything) that resulted in several members staging grandiose and noisy exits and quite a number of others being banned. Let's call it "D Day" ("D" for dick). It should be noted that all involved were at the time relatively new members; the older members, wisely, stayed clear of it. All that needs to be said was that it was massively nauseating and unpleasant, and has ultimately resulted in all manner of other lunacy infecting and poisoning the whole site. The main reason to raise D Day is that it is a point in time for reference. The manner, style and content of discussion and interaction before and after D Day has not fundamentally changed in any way. At all. Discussions were always vigorous, often got heated, occassionally even triggered spikes of anger. But before D Day, there never were any issues serious enough to merit anyones complaint. Situations were always amicably resolved and even the most heated disputes usually concluded with a "well played sir/madam" and folks got onto the next subject. Not so after D Day, when we began to have it drilled into us that there was abuse here, that we must all be more tolerant and must under no circumstances tolerate the now apparently rampant intolerance, and most importantly of all - to complain.

And here we are now. A self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one. How to Manufacture a Problem 101.

10. STATUS QUO

Where we are now -

We are all being held hostage by a small, but very vocal, minority of people who have essentially made a career of being professional whiners and victims. This hostage situation has been a self-created problem initiated by a combination of the very best of intentions, a stunning degree of naiveté and a deeply ingrained, and unhealthy, habit of overestimating people's integrity and decency. This hostage situation should really not come as a suprise either. "Survival of the whiniest" has pretty much dominated the last 50 years of human history. Similar hostage situations are eternally being played out by "family focus" groups, right to lifers, morality crusaders, animal rights crusaders, fringe feminists, the Louis Farrakhans of race politics and countless others. It is always a case of a small minority who out of sheer loudness and relentlessness create an illusion that they are of greater import and impact than actual reality merits. The tolerant, average person is their natural prey - appeasement and accommodation is after all the first response you will get from them. As such, it is breathtakingly easy for the ethically bankrupt professional whiners to take root and control of groups of otherwise ordinary people. Atheist Nexus has done pretty much everything you can think of to accelerate this process.

The expectations too are fairly clear. What needs to be done is that all discussion and interaction must be dumbed down to a PG-13 level. Criticism of any kind must be discouraged, especially if that criticism involves humour that goes over the whiner's heads, or involves concepts and ideas that demean them by making them feel stupid because they don't know what you are talking about. Similarly, demands for people to provide evidence for outrageous statements are tantamount to assault - you hurt people's feelings by not believing them.

Whether this is the world that we want a|n to be is besides the point: this is the only world that is possible if we are to successfully meet the demands for a "dick free" community.

What it means is that the folks that make this place entertaining - those that push conceptual boundaries in an effort to make people think in ways they have not thought before; those that provide meticulously researched information that dispel accepted preconceptions; those that refuse to buy into accepted memes and are prepared to challenge their validity - all have to go. They do nothing other than foster conflict which breeds resentments and in turn tears.

To a large extent this process of weeding out has been underway successfully for quite some time. Valued contributers have been silently departing in large numbers and it shows in the deterioration of quality content as compared to 18 months ago. Median IQ is plummeting and it's bell curve distribution is shifting markedly to the left. This degradation has had an inverse relationship to the volume and frequency of members bitching about other members. Funny that. It's what usually happens when adults behaving as adults is frowned upon and children squabbling in a sandpit is promoted.

With current site policies and attitudes this will continue until we reach the point where we are a sheltered workshop of bubble wrapped mediocrities that have a list of topics on which there is universal agreement and the most controversial thing to be discussed is the weather or the latest Disney Pixar flick. The site will finally be safe and no one will be offended.

11. RE-ENTRY INTO REALITY?

Of course it doesn't have to be this way. All it really takes is for people to stand on their hind legs and grow a spine and a hide. Atheism by its very nature is individualist - by rejecting the supernatural as having dominance over your life means you should be accepting of the fact that the responsibility for your own life lies with you and you alone. The culture of complaint spits on this idea by abdicating autonomy and responsibility and demanding that others be there to deal with all your petty hissy fits and tantrums. The correct, and only, valid response to this should be: "Well screw you pal. If you don't like the party you can leave". However it's not, and we have the mollycoddling that is the source of all our grief.

If there is any will left whatsoever to try and resuscitate this site's dignity and merit, there have to be some pretty radical attitude readjustments. I am pessimistic, we may have passed the point of no return in that it may no longer be possible to entice back those that have already left in disgust. But that's not an excuse not to try. Some of the critical issues are -

Complaint: As it stands, for all complaints the de facto position is that you are guilty as charged - the complaint itself is all the evidence that is required. If you are innocent, the onus is on you to prove your innocence and even if you can there is no guarantee you will be listened to. Of course this assumes you even know what it is that you have been charged with to begin with, and that if any evidence actually exists, it has need not been deleted or tampered with. It's all so Kafkaesque that there is no point in defending yourself anyway.

This has to STOP. And it has to stop IMMEDIATELY. The burden of proof lies entirely on the accuser and the evidence must be of acceptable forensic standard. No more deleting content prior to complaining, thereby destroying the evidence. If it has to be deleted, then follow the same procedures as with email abuse - save the source of the original web page as evidence, that way it will retain all original unique Ning message ID stamps. A screencap WILL NOT suffice - given the level of disgusting behaviour I have witnessed here, the idea of people doctoring a screencap with Photoshop would hardly surprise me. No more concealing the nature and the facts of the complaints from the target either - habeus corpus, you have a right to know who hates you, why they hate you and what evidence there is against you. As it stands, often the target of the complaint is the victim of the actual abuse.

If it is found that a complaint is spurious, exaggerated or entirely fraudulent, then it is the responsibility of a|n to raise the issue with the complainer and take the appropriate action. Fabricating a complaint against another member, regardless of the justification, is not a trivial matter and needs to be acted upon appropriately. Lying about other members should be treated with far greater gravity than common abuse and name calling. Until this situation is seriously addressed, there will be zero confidence in the a|n complaint process.

Nonsense: No more diplomatic immunity for gibberish. Ask a person nicely once to substantiate any suspect claims. If they refuse, ask again. If they refuse again, declare open season on the crank. Drag them into the town square, put them in stocks and pelt them with rotten tomatoes until they promise to not open their mouths until they have verified their facts ever again. What is unfair about this? Why should gibberish mongers be protected from accountability when they bring atheists as a whole into disrepute by spouting unsubstantiated rumour and hearsay? In order to make this tolerance of nonsense acceptable, we need to cease and desist from criticism of creationists too. You can't have it both ways.

Application of Rules: What a no brainer. Either apply all the rules consistently with all members consistently, or don't apply them at all. No more convenience store policing, or worse, selective agenda driven policing. Allow the moderators to actually moderate by allowing them to address the mother of all gripes - violations of rule 9. Sit back and watch the huge volume of other issues vanish if they are allowed to actually do so.

Police the police: This is just basic responsibility. Any and all moderation action MUST be logged along with a copy of any content that is removed and the justification for taking action. Selective and partisan content deletion has been an issue in the past. This is the only way to maintain integrity of the moderation process and to ensure there can be a defense against accusations of bias.

"You do not have the right to not be offended": Don't atheists just love repeating this one over and over at theists? It's quite a different matter when they actually have to apply it to themselves though isn't it? Hypocrites and chickenshits going clackety-clack-clack on the complaint button when someone goes and tramples on *their* petunias. Grow a spine people. No one should have to be told this one, least of all the folks that run this place. And how many pointless complaints does this generate? More importantly, why are they even listened to?

The list by no means ends there, but there is nothing startling about any of it and there's certainly nothing on it that should not be self-evident to anyone who's rational and wants to sit down and think about. The question still remains - is there any will to address any of this? Or do the professional whiners win and the rest of us abandon this sinking ship as a lost cause? My pessimism does not see any kind of light on the horizon. Because what is the point of posting anything here when there is no telling what kind of random idiotic complaint lays waiting - and you are defenseless against it. And if there is no point posting, what is the point of even being here in the first place?

12. PISSING INTO A WIND TUNNEL

I often wonder what would happen if Christopher Hitchens himself arrived here under a nom de plume? Assuming he could wade past the inanity without immediately recoiling in disgust and proceeded to participate in debate here, it is pretty certain he would get run out of town, leaving a trail of devastated hypersensitive carcasses in his wake. It would happen, I have absolutely no doubt. This is how far this place has degenerated. When the lowest common denominator is elevated to being the benchmark to which everyone has to aspire, anything that is exceptional has to be purged. We are no longer allowed to be adults, we cannot laugh at absurdity and above all else, we cannot criticise. Precious, precious feelings everywhere.

Myself, I was swept in here by chance via StumbleUpon some time in July 2008, liked what I saw and stayed. What I found was a site full of like-minded, freethinking adults, that spoke like adults and behaved like adults, without fear and without restraint. In the early days, the greatest crime you could commit was to be inane or boring. Discussion was no more outrageous than now and no less fiery, yet complaints simply did not exist. Why? Because stupidity was not rewarded, nor was tantrum throwing, nor fabricating offense by twisting words. In fact all of this idiotic behaviour was stomped on and discouraged by the community as a whole. This was the world before D Day, and it was good. There are still pockets here where adults can still be adults without fear and there's no professional victims around around to ruin the party. For a taste of adults being adults and harming no one, you can browse the comment wall in Sacha's no nonsense group and have a taste of what a world is like without the presence of relentless complaint and bitching and fabricated offense of deranged peecee politics. It is a very enjoyable place to be when there are no whining fuckwits around. And I can imagine how much that wall would be ruined and ground to a halt were the a|n general public to witness it.

What it all comes down to is this - why should I (or anyone) invest my time and energy here, gratis, to entertain all of you if all that I get in return is a tiny minority of mediocrities and professional whiners, who themselves contribute nothing, that churn out spurious, unsubstantiated complaints for petty reasons and have no other reason for doing so other than to make everyone else as miserable as themselves? 6 months ago, due to these pointless noise makers, I said I cared less about this place than a year ago. 3 months ago I cared less again. Now I have reached the point that I no longer care at all.


[*] - Rule 9. Do not spam the groups, forums, chat, or other members. Any and all commercial or fraud spam should be reported immediately, using the "report issues" function. The following types of posts may be subject to removal without warning:

1. Web links with no adequate accompanying description or explanation.
2. Embedded media with no adequate accompanying description or explanation.
3. Posts promoting personal websites and projects in inappropriate places. Your own profile is a good place for promoting your endeavors.
4. Repetitious posts.
5. Flooding the forums or groups with several posts in a relatively short period of time.

[**] - for anyone that seems to think this is not an issue, and an extremely nasty one at that, needs to be referred to Larry Carter Center who took a particular comment of mine about the nastiest and most vicious management style I had ever seen as being that of a large software company's all female marketing team and managed to reinterpret it to mean that I think most women that get raped and murdered deserve it anyway so it's no big deal. Larry has long since been banned from this site (for unrelated reasons), and many, many others. In fact, he can't seem to last more than 2 weeks anywhere except facebook without getting booted to the curb. Larry still keeps reposting this twisted bastardry around the place, often refering to me by name, to this day. The salient point is that when he did it here, no one batted an eyelid.

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Replies to This Discussion

One more thing worth mentioning. You write that, "If we are to police ourselves, we need to be able [to] end conversations on our blogs." I challenge that. What would be the repercussions of that. Well, what could (did?) happen is that someone could present some ridiculous theory that has no intellectual standing, and then censor any comments critical of it. Presto! Everyone agrees with them. So, a 9/11 Truther could present drivel here as fact in a blog and then remove any comment critical of their theory. Suddenly everyone agrees with them (because everything else has been removed), and anyone who challenges them is engaged in personal attacks.

Funnily enough, the Catholic Church did just that with the Index. They made statements and claims, then anyone who wrote anything that could be perceived as subversive had their books and bodies banned and burned. Then the Church could claim that all the scholars agree with them.

I would have hoped that a forum for Atheists would not imitate the Renaissance Church when it came to the exchange of ideas, or even be behind the Church. After all, the Church officially abolished the Index Librorum Prohibitorum in 1966. (Yay, Paul 6!!!)
Sorry Diana, but if you delete the evidence, you don't get to complain. You can do one or the other, not both. If you don't like it when people disagree with you, then disable comments entirely or don't post. If you invite comment, you deal with the comments.

If people are actually harassing you, save he evidence and complain to the mods, but be prepared to hear that you are simply easily offended. Big scary internet, remember? Not high tea with the Queen.
A dissenting opinion:

As a user of the site who is unfamiliar with your list of complaints, I have to say: this doesn't strike too many chords with me. Granted, I no longer spend nearly as much time here as I once did, but I did pen the first draft of the rules that A|N has adopted and lead the collaboration among the moderation team to edit and codify the final draft of the rules. That was before I gave up my brief and mostly unhelpful career as a moderator here. But, now that I am no longer a moderator I can just speak my mind on these matters and I don't have to worry about what anyone else thinks. Not even Richard. I believe I have a unique if not totally informed perspective.

And that brings us 'round to the first thing I'd point out. As a moderator, you don't have the luxury of speaking for yourself, you are supposed to speak for the site. This makes communication fairly tricky. How would a moderator go about responding to this? While technically possible, I submit that it's simply not practical.

This is not written in a way in which it is economical for public commentary. Not only is it long, it is loaded down with the burden of your opinions. For example: must a moderator agree that everyone who complains about "dicks" is a whiner or is afflicted by some sort of memetic, neo-liberal, logical disease in order to agree with you? Is that pertinent? I don't think it is. Were I to agree with a point that you have made, I would first have to disentangle it from those statements. The length of your complaint only compounds the problem, yet the urgent (and often accusatory) nature of your logos seems to demand a response from... somebody.

I know that you have your following as well as your detractors, but from what little I have seen, neither "side" seems capable of disentangling their feelings from their discourse. Writing abrasively is a world away from writing dispassionately. While writing dispassionately is not always what is called for, if the goal of this writing was to elicit a change in policy or practice--it would have been approached differently. As it stands, I'm not sure what (if anything) it is supposed to accomplish.

My second observation is that your name is in no way mentioned in that post Richard made, so it's not clear to me (an outsider to this exchange) why you have taken up the flag of the opposition as though you have been personally slighted. I'm not going to watch that video because it annoys the piss out of me when people link videos (when the video itself isn't the direct topic of the post) and expect me to watch them in order to understand what is going on (yes, I am glaring at you, Richard.) But the name of the video is oddly reminiscent of the-rule-that-wasn't-a-rule. The unspoken-spoken 11th commandment of Atheist Nexus.

"Don't be a jerk" is simply an entreaty to apply the Golden Rule to the way you treat people on the site. It's not a "real" rule because, of course it is subjective and completely unenforceable. We very purposefully left it off the list and worded it as a guideline because it is, at once, one of the greatest philosophical ideas ever conceived and one of the least useful for the purposes of slapping people around with. Other than that, what Richard wrote, seems to me, to be a reiteration of policy that is already in place. Name calling is already against the rules--as it should be. It's used as a form of ad hominem, typically by people without anything of substance to say. It's also seldom buttressed by any evidence and is therefore nothing more than a distraction at best, and a dishonest rhetorical parlor trick at worst.

But, it seems you feel that the post was targeted at you, or you think of yourself as a member of the "pro-dick camp," or there is something else going on here that I don't understand--but that's the thing: I don't understand (possibly because I didn't watch the video.) As a someone newly exposed to your cause, and as someone who agrees with several of your points: I have to say that you aren't winning me with a good portion of your rhetoric. I manage to disagree with people frequently on the internet, and while I have angered people in the past, it's been a very long time since I've been threatened with censure or administrative action. I too am a fan of reason and am not afraid to (metaphorically) kick someone in the junk when I think they are playing false. Because of personal experience, and because of my similar inclination toward debunking the irrational, I know that it is not true (or has not been true for me, so is thus not necessarily true) that simply disabusing someone of their unsubstantiated beliefs will necessarily cause the sky to come crashing down no matter how briskly their foolishness is dismissed.

However, once a person makes the decision to tack on their opinion that their ideological opponent (or, indeed, nearly everyone they argue with) is retarded, idiotic, stupid, a whiner, a pussy (or whatever) they may still be right, but they have certainly lost the moral high ground. They are also flirting with the realm of unsubstantiated claims. I try to avoid that place if at all possible. You say that you feel otherwise, but holding an unsubstantiated belief does not necessarily mean someone is an idiot and frankly, it doesn't matter if they are. A person with a below average IQ can still understand truths and use logic. They can be right. It is conceivable that an idiot that you are arguing with could be right and you, The Artist Formerly Known As Felch Grogan, COULD be wrong. It is possible. Therefore, even if there were some legitimate, universally accepted way to determine whether or not a person is technically an "idiot" or a "whiner," that is immaterial to discussion. It is an ad hominem. I would also venture that most of the time, name calling in general is just meant to wound. It's a way to vent frustrations and take out anger on other people, no matter how it's dressed up. Why should we, the audience, care that some people feel stifled because the site administrators won't allow them to plaster their opponents with logical fallacies? I'm not seeing the answer presented here.

In summation: it serves no legitimate purpose.

Being fair minded was ever on the forefront of the moderation team when I was a part of it. There was never a behind-the-scenes conspiracy to censor some people while unduly protecting the interests of others. Every problem was always analyzed within the context of the rules that had been established. Never perfectly, but with the best of intentions. Attempting to convince other people that you have made an impartial decision with the big picture in mind when you have not ruled in their favor is nigh impossible and the effort of doing so is often more harmful than than helpful.

I am running short on time, so I'll just bow out here. I don't think everyone needs to hug and hold hands all day, but I also know that confrontation can occur without allowing everything to devolve into a pissing match. I don't know if I am imagining things or what, but it seems that there is a false dichotomy being built up here between being free to disabuse people of their false notions (which no one is challenging) and being civil. As if one cannot do both at the same time. Admittedly, I don't have all of the facts, but there it is as far as I can see.

Ciao,
Great reply, moJoe.
Hmm. I'd respond in essay format, but after reading this Tolstoy of a thread, I'm a bit essayed out. So numbered list it is, though naturally, the actual order isn't particularly important.

1. Ridicule is an important and useful rhetorical tool. Ridiculous ideas deserve ridicule. Even if those ridiculous ideas are very, very precious to the creature that birthed them.
2. An ad hominem comment is not necessarily an ad hominem fallacy. But don't shoot first. Unless you're Han Solo and you know you're just going to have to shoot Greedo at some point anyhow. But you really don't know that in almost all circumstances.
3. People should both be more sensitive and have thicker hides. There's a reason everybody hates jellyfish; thin skin and lethal venom don't make for a friendly coffee klatsch.
4. "He started it" is a perfectly valid defense, despite what our grade school teachers told us. Courts of law invariably allow self-defense as an argument. If somebody is a dick to me, I'm liable to laugh it off a time or two, but I will retaliate when pressed. Why wouldn't I? Why shouldn't I? The guy that started it is the abusive one.
5. Innocent until proven guilty. Period. By all means, hit the complaint button and provide a link to the offensive comments. If you're seriously brain-damaged enough to delete the evidence against the accused before trial, you have no business bringing a prosecution, and you deserve to be laughed out of court. Like, duh. I mean, c'mon.
6. Don't comment on moderated posts. If you don't like the fact that somebody can delete your comments, don't comment. If anybody takes a moderated thread for anything other than a vanity piece, they're being silly.
7. I like Felch Grogan. Felch Grogan is a friend of mine. You sir are no Felch Grogan. And Zombie Jeebus, who would want to be, if you really think about it? But he does usually think things out pretty thoroughly. Of course, that doesn't mean Felch is always on his best behavior. So what? Who is? Which leads me to my final point:
8. I'm not sure what the fuss is all about. Almost all threads I've participated in have been civil. Some have gotten out of hand. This is the internet, boys and girls (and other--I wouldn't want to be accused of insufficient inclusivity). It's ugly out here in the Wild West World Wide Web. And A|N is one of the most civil places I visit. Harassment is so very intensely not a problem that deserves so much handwringing. Just exactly like the alleged but phantom "atheist misogyny" we keep hearing so much about.

The only people I recall actually being banned really deserved it. A lot of whiners probably deserve to be banned. How many high-quality A|N participants have been banned because of whiners? Of course, without public court records, it's hard to know for sure, but I can't think of many. Are people leaving because of the whining? I don't know, probably. But no A|N official has ever told me I'm out of line, and I'm sure I've induced the occasional whine. So I'm going to continue to comment as I see fit and stick up for myself and call bullshit when it's warranted. I'm going to assume that we're adults and the place is run by adults.

But push come to shove, I'm with Felch, in that I'd rather see more whiners and trolls get banned. Particularly if they are incapable of critical thinking. I fail to see what value is added to A|N by atheists who believe in ghosts or conspiracy theories or quantum consciousness or any other faith-based drivel. And I certainly come down on the side of innocent until proven guilty. Anything less is just sloppy. But most people who really need to get banned hang themselves with their own posts. They're usually rather proud of them, in fact. The mods just need to read the offending posts and completely disregard complaints lacking evidence. Funny, that sounds kinda like what we do with religious claims. When we aren't pitching the claimants out on their ears.
Very well stated.
Now I have reached the point that I no longer care at all.

That's a long dissertation for someone who doesn't care.

I respect your passion and the purity of your mission. In a way, it's like religious fervor on acid, through the looking glass. Sometimes the rhetoric can be hard to digest, such as here.

I once believed that, by liking something, someone, a group, or a place, I gave it the kiss of death. I would become enthusiastic, fervent, feel I'd found a home, an answer, a refuge. Then, either the very things that made me like it attracted others, and it changed, or sheer population shifts resulted in change. Or change just happened. Or I did something that caused the change. The truth, of course, is that everything will change. If we cherish the unpopular, and it becomes popular, we either welcome that new popularity, we accept it, we fight it, or we move on.

Me speak gibberish. Me quit now.
This discussion is closed for now. I have asked MoJoe to help out, and he will be posting a new thread in the morning where everyone can express their opinions.

In the meantime, everyone take a breather. Please.

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