discarded lies: friday, may 26, 2017 5:55 pm zst
grinding the peppercorns of truth
daily archive: 11/27/2004
guest author: Point of Order in Discarded Lies:
I guess this is my cue
[see Differently Relevant for a background on this post - ed.]

I've always felt that an ability to allow dissent is an essential pre-requisite for any worthwhile forum. I've always been interested in the motivations of those who hold different viewpoints to myself. Generally I've found that the tired cliches about what pushes people into different ideological positions hold true, but the exceptions make the dialogue worthwhile. We all need to test the validity of our outllook constantly.

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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
Turkey and Europe
Too big. Too poor. Too Muslim.

For most Europeans, the recent recommendation of the European Union's executive body to open membership talks with Turkey goes a step too far.

Although EU political leaders are expected to endorse the executive's recommendation at their Dec. 17 summit, public opinion in most of the EU's 25 member states is deeply opposed to Turkey joining the club.

Surveys indicate that a referendum on Turkish membership would fail in every major EU country.

In Germany, which has Europe's largest Turkish immigrant community, only 34 percent of the population is in favor of admitting Turkey. Opinion polls in France indicate that 75 to 80 percent of the French are against Turkey's membership.

Europeans in no mood to welcome Turkey
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evariste in Discarded Lies:
The Neocons And North Korea
The Marmot analyses a Weekly Standard piece that purports to read the neocon tea leaves, and see an imposed regime change in Korea's near future...
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ev and zorkie in Discarded Lies:
Differently Relevant
zorkie: I don't like the word troll. I don't know who came up with it and I don't care. Some terms have become boring and cliché. I like evariste's definition the best: "not troll - just differently relevant."

So what's a troll "differently relevant?" I don't know, I don't care. Here's a definition, check it out. What I see is people getting branded as "differently relevant" because they hold opposing - and sometimes incredibly silly - viewpoints.

Do "differently relevants" get on my nerves? Yes, sometimes. Can I always ignore them? No, not always. Do I have rules about it? Rules suck. Do I sometimes feel the need to jump in and say "Hey! Behave!" Yes. And I hate doing it. I don't know, maybe it's because at heart I'm a lover, not a fighter.

If a guy comes to my house and tells me "I hate Jews" - to me, that's the worst I can hear and I have heard it a lot, that's why I'm using it as an example - I feel that I have these options: I can ignore him, I can fight with him, I can try to educate him, I can try to talk so we can communicate (yes, I am naive sometimes, so sue me) but I would be extremely reluctant to throw him out.

See, let's say he leaves my house. He'll go to another house and he'll say the same thing. And there, people might agree with him. And tell him how brilliant and right he is in his thinking. So, I want him to stick around my house. He might learn to wipe his shoes at the door, eventually, or even say thank you when offered a glass of water, or even *glory of glories* laugh at a joke.

ev: Thanks for using my gently-mocking politically correct newspeak definition of trolls, "differently relevant", as the title of this post and as a large portion of your own writing, zorkie-it's flattering to be quoted by you. Where's my rifle? I want to shoot it in the air!

Levity aside: I think there's a hint of truth in my feeble joke, and we both saw it, and that's why we concur on our liberal troll policy here. If you're unfamiliar, our policy at Discarded Lies is this: maximum freedom of speech, and minimum interference with our commenters. We don't delete, and we don't ban, excluding spammers. We aren't afraid of what people have to say. And you know what? Sometimes our "trolls" get the best of us. I've felt bested several times. I welcome that. If I can't defend a position against someone's counterargument then that doesn't mean they're a troll. It means I need to go back to class and get schooled, or it means I need to reconsider. I think the "troll" is doing me a service.

I used to take great delight in "trolls". Not in their existence, but in the smashing of them. I thought of it as sport, having trained in the rough and tumble atmosphere of the Lizardoid Spawning Grounds. It was good training in rhetorical sharpshooting and being quick on my feet, in making quick jabs and feints, defeating people with pointed barbs and mockery, social shaming, holding them up to the ridicule of a community that had already accepted me. No more, though. I've realized that I really care about the ideas that I really care about, and I want to spread them. I've realized I don't care about rhetorical triumphs and the adrenaline of nailing a troll to the wall and getting an entire comments community to applaud me for it.

I've realized that labelling people trolls, and mocking them without engaging their ideas seriously, led to a fleeting psychological pleasure, but without the lasting pleasure of having brought another human being around to my way of thinking, to the ideas that I care about and want to promote. Instead the troll lived on to think "those jerks, I'm better than them, just a bunch of wing nuts and bullies" and we hung around and told ourselves "we sure showed him, stupid troll" and nothing really changed for anyone.

Change is risky and difficult for any human being that is attached to that faculty that makes it human: its mind. Change certainly isn't going to be encouraged by hostile labelling and jeering, or exclusionism. And I've found that people only change their minds because they convince themselves of something, and are helped along by an intellectual sparring partner that isn't actively antagonistic and hostile but rather encouraging and generous-minded while opening their minds. I try to live up to the ideal of behaving that way; if you read my comments here you'll know that I certainly don't live up to that ideal. But I'm aware of it and I'm trying to measure up to it, to being larger than my ego in order to be an effective advocate for the ideas that I wish to propagate. The temporary satisfaction of treating a differently-relevant person poorly is no longer enough. I don't want to banish them. I don't want to abuse them. I want to be big enough and safe enough in my ideas to accomodate them in my tent, and maybe start convincing them to walk over and warm up by my fire instead of skulking in the corner looking hostile.

What's this have to do with the Winds post? Well, Joe isn't advocating being a jerk to "trolls", but some of the ideas that seem to be getting taken seriously include a public IP address/troll name database, a cross-blog reputation system a la eBay buyer/seller ratings, and so on. I think these are all forms of hostility, prejudice and foreclosure of one's options, and I welcome none of them. Honestly, people can become enamored of complicated ideas like this, ideas that let one feel clever, at the expense of common sense. There is no technical solution for social problems. I'm going to say this again later. I read the comments at Winds of Change.NET and I see nothing that requires action on such a drastic scale. If anyone's differently-relevant commenters justify a cross-blog infrastructural reputation system for exclusionary purposes, it's Charles' trolls at LGF, he routinely gets some of the nastiest, most disgusting hellsmouths. Yet I don't see the need (or the practicality) for such a system even for a blog on that scale, with that kind of magnetic attraction for the adversarially inclined. Public naming, public shaming, circulation of lists, that's so, it's unamerican, to me. It's like, part of what America is is that you can always start your life over somewhere new. Well, if all the blogs know you and have banned you because of your bad behavior on a few early in your commenting life, there's no starting over, your mistakes will follow your online persona forever.

Finally, differently-relevant isn't a politically correct term for me any more, and I've realized it while writing this post. It's a reflection of the reality of my perception. I see people who post inane and pointless and seemingly wrong things as opportunities, not as burdens. And I don't want to shut them up. At worst, if they're being personally offensive, I'll ignore them. But in most cases, I'll reward them for at least speaking their minds, however misguided I believe them to be, by talking back to them, as respectfully as I can remember to be in the heat of the moment.

There is no technical solution to social problems. There, I said it again. There's not. There's no technology that you can put in place that prevents social predation of the kind that Joe is concerned about. At best, it mitigates the expressive capacities of the least virulent, least technically inclined, least malignantly-minded "trolls". The worst ones, the ones that are really a plague on the community, will always find countermeasures, because they're motivated. So really what you end up doing is demotivating those folks that are least radicalized, and most likely to listen to reason, because they're the ones most likely to be unable to escape the straightjacket of a blogospheric reputation system, as is being discussed in the comments there. It's a surefire way to breed super-trolls, if you ask me: select against moderation. Just like overprescribing antibiotics selects for hardy, unkillable superbacteria. There is no technical solution for social problems. Each "troll" should be dealt with like a human being, not slapped into an uncomprehending, impersonal system that, like the Transportation Security Administration, gives us all the expense and appearance and inconvenience of safety, without the actual fact of it. If a troll transgresses against a community, that community can deal with him or her, each community in its own way. I don't see why we need to McDonaldsize our community standards.

In a way, if communities like Winds of Change.NET join some nascent cross-blog reputational/exclusionary system as is being advocated in Winds' comments by some, they're doing themselves a disservice, and they're doing us a disservice too. Because blogs like ours that aren't willing to be part of this experiment will end up absorbing the alienated, shunned people who were justly or unjustly blacklisted by the system. It's sort of like a reverse vaccine-refuseniks effect: in this case those that *are* being inoculated increase the virulence and deadliness of the disease for those that aren't, and in a way, by establishing such a reputational/exclusionary system, they're decreasing the wellbeing of the blogosphere in general. I think what zorkie said is wonderful, is the perfect metaphor, and is exactly right:
If a guy comes to my house and tells me "I hate Jews" - to me, that's the worst I can hear and I have heard it a lot, that's why I'm using it as an example - I feel that I have these options: I can ignore him, I can fight with him, I can try to educate him, I can try to talk so we can communicate (yes, I am naive sometimes, so sue me) but I would be extremely reluctant to throw him out.

See, let's say he leaves my house. He'll go to another house and he'll say the same thing. And there, people might agree with him. And tell him how brilliant and right he is in his thinking. So, I want him to stick around my house. He might learn to wipe his shoes at the door, eventually, or even say thank you when offered a glass of water, or even *glory of glories* laugh at a joke.
The blogosphere already tends to let people spend all their time among those that agree with them and reinforce their tendencies and encourage them not to grow. Why are we thinking about ways to strengthen a pernicious tendency? I'd like to discourage this.

Count me out. And I hope this all ends up a tempest in a teapot, and leads to nothing really happening.

The conversation that sparked this conversation: Winds of Change.NET: The Winds Troll Doctrine Debate
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zorkmidden in Discarded Lies:
We have nothing against Jews
by Steven Plaut (with nbl to zulubaby)

We have nothing against Jews as such. We just hate Zionism and Zionists. We think Israel does not have a right to exist. But that does not mean we have anything against Jews as such. Heavens to Mergatroyd. Marx Forbid. We are humanists. Progressives. Peace lovers.

Anti-Semitism is the hatred of Jews. Anti-Zionism is opposition to Zionism and Israeli policies. The two have nothing to do with one another. Venus and Mars. Night and day. Trust us.
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