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The distinguishing facet of an anti-authoritarian (syn iconoclast) is that they do not respect rules solely because they are rules, and they do not respect authorities solely because they are proclaimed authorities. On the other hand, they don't ignore the rules: that is, they're not criminals or FreeSpirit?s. The rest of us, the non-criminals, non-anti-authoritarians, have learnt to do as we're told and say "baa!" occasionally. Less snidely, the rest of us have learnt to AcceptAuthority and thus how to deal with it.

Anti-authoritarians force the community authorities to choose between three options:

The best approach is to embrace anti-authoritarians who appear to be empathetic and rational, and ignore the ones that have failed to DefendAgainstParanoia. If you want to detect true anti-authoritarians, a couple of SillyRule?s normally does the trick: normal folks typically accept such harmless quirks as long as they don't really get in the way, whereas anti-authoritarians are more likely to attack such rules for their silliness.

I'm not sure that's true. Wouldn't any sane person raise objections to a silly rule?

Some [examples]

Oh. I see. Really silly rules :)

Yes - silly, not evil.

You mean like UseRealNames?

Just as ColdBlankets are the balancing force to help communities DefendAgainstPassion, so anti-authoritarians are the balancing force to help communities defend against misuse of power. Like cold blankets, anti-authoritarians can cause problems too:

Despite this, AssumeStupidityNotMalice. Though anti-authoritarians can cause problems, they are typically not intending to cause problems, but rather (in their eyes) to solve problems. Contrast usurpers, below.

The above text is PrimarilyPublicDomain

I suppose I should declare my interest here: I ran an h2g2 club called the "small but vocal minority" for self-proclaimed anti-authoritarians. Much fun we had, too, h2g2:A617078 --MartinHarper

FlameWarriors calls this the [Rebel Without a Clue], though there's some overlap with [Rebel Leader].


The usurper [latin: usurpator] is typically a very intelligent person. When he comes to an OnlineCommunity he would make an excellent author and member, but this isn't enough for his ambitions. So he will act similar to a troll, looking for the hidden fissures of a community and start discussions about new ideas that will naturally end in ForestFire.

The usurper is typically very creative and will attract minorities that aren't happy with the current GroupThink. So he in fact - after some time - actually questions the leadership role that in an online community is typically connected to the founder. In discussions he will attack the founder for his power - and accuse him for misusing it. In effect he acts forcefully to become the new leader.

"Usurper" is value-laden, intentionally, but not misleading. There is no need for neutral descriptions of trolls in general. They endanger communities. We have also other value-laden terms like GodKing on the other side.

To search for "politically correct" terms won't do in this case. Any contributor is entitled to be anti-authoritarian at any time, but only against authoritarian actions, not against persons that have taken responsible roles out of a need.

"the troll" doesn't exist, because any troll is different. We can only describe patterns that we see repeatedly and that we start to recognize. The anti-authoritarian troll seems different from the usurper although he is in a near relationship. He differs in his goals. Nobody can look into the head of troll to know his motivation for sure. All trolls have things in common but there is also a gray zone that makes it impossible to classify someone as a troll with certainty. The same is true for anti-authoritarian and usurper. The advantage of such terms is not to be able to stick labels to people, but to recognize pattern and strategies and to have the correct and working answers that help the community. Trolls are not entirely negative, troll defense can make a community stronger and trolls can make excellent members if they can be integrated in the community. They have a lot of energy and they - that's for sure - know how to recognize and handle trolls.

Are you sure you're talking about trolls? Are there really clever anti-authoritatian people who attack authority because they think it's wrong, who do so by posting in a way covertly designed to start a flame war, or by posting in a way designed to make newbies or flamers look clueless?

Absolutely. I know a case of a really nice religious forum website (German) who was usurped by a hidden extreme marxist who frustrated the - very able - founder into an AbsentLeader and took the command of the forum. He seems to enjoy his power and holds his position now for many months. The characteristic of these trolls is that they are (hidden) extremely arrogrant, they think they are so much better than all other users, that they just play for fun, without rules or fairness.

So, would you say that this marxist pulled off a MilitaryCoup?

FlameWarriors calls this the [Rebel Leader].

I don't agree with the recommendation. This presumes that TheCollective has to tolerate jackasses, which would make sense if the jackass could not leave the community. But everyone has the RightToLeave. The only valid reason for being involved is for BarnRaising. Otherwise, you are wasting everyone's time and energy. Why would we tolerate someone wasting our time and energy? Note that "authoritarians" are also here for the wrong reason. If you want power or accolades, you are going to fail, because you cannot have power over people who have the RightToLeave. Accolades are even more useless as they are like raindrops; cheap, everyone gets them, and the source of life. If you just do the right thing, then you will get meaningful praise in the form of friendships rather than TheAudience of AdoringFan""s.

The wrong solution to getting rid of an anti-authoritarian is to bounce the person. Instead, make it clear that FightingIsBoring, and that there is an an appropriate, peaceable means to change the system. Continuously reinforce the CommunityExpectation that the proper way to change things is through constructive (BarnRaising) dialogue with the collective. This is why strong sentiments of FairProcess and OpenProcess are critical and must never be compromised. If you do this, the anti-authoritarian loses power because he or she cannot build the momentum from the gasoline of hidden angst to dent the community.

Essentially, the fundamental error with anti-authoritarian behaviour is believing that there is authoritarian behaviour. If TheCollective falls prey to this line of argument by implicitly agreeing with the premise, you have already lost. While we may be paranoid that we are over-controlling, we need to DefendAgainstParanoia and step back to evaluate whether or not this is true. It probably isn't, especially if you stick with only leading by hands, hearts, and minds rather than HardSecurity, but moreso because everyone has the RightToLeave. People are still here! Obviously you are doing the right thing. Hold the course (but don't drop anchor; you aren't there yet). -- SunirShah

I wonder if we are in at least partial agreement. Maybe I've been unclear.

Anti-authoritarians are only jackasses if you ignore them or (especially) hurt them. Hence, embrace them. Show them an appropriate, peaceable means to change the system. If such a way does not exist, create one. There is authoritarian behaviour online. The RightToLeave is a deterrent, but still GodKing""s exist. You can have power over people: if you have a fast server and no adverts, you can be dictatorial and still have lots of people to dictate to.

On the other hand, we (RoyalWe) are not authoritarian, because we know how that fails. Most anti-authoritarians will see that, so embrace them and let them work with you, not against you. However, some have fallen to paranoia. Thus, they see conspiracies where there is just random chance, assume decisions taken by FairProcess had a pre-determined outcome, suspect that a united community is a community of SockPuppet""s. Thus, sometimes a community leader is forced to say "sorry, ThereIsNoCabal?". If you have the trust of the community, then that will be sufficient, and your sidelined anti-authoritarian will just adds a little local colour. --MartinHarper

Yes, I think we do agree. This last paragraph are the critical principles of a functioning open space. Now to rework these in some cogent way, which is beyond me at the moment. -- SunirShah

Perhaps I missed something. An AntiAuthoritarian would come here and start writing about pop music, French literature or Yugoslav politics and when you kindly ask him to redraw his content because it's clearly off topic, he would start discussing "who is to define what off-topic is", "this is not the wiki way of freedom", and "who is to define these rules". There is no way to embrace him, you can just firmly say "we define what these terms mean to us, not you, you do not have equal rights here". -- HelmutLeitner

"because we said so" is just about the worst reason you can give for a rule, to anyone (well, "because I said so" is marginally worse). See FairProcess: the principle of explanation. Add a slightly combatative stance, and you've got a good chance of acquiring a hostile anti-authoritarian to deal with. Instead, explain the reasons why pop music is off topic here, point our the MeatballMission and MeatballAlternatives. Anti-authoritarians don't respect rules without reason - so give them good reasons. If your visitor still disagrees after you've given her good reasons, then either they're not as good reasons as you thought, or she's not a rational and empathetic anti-authoritarian. She may just be a simple troll, out to start a fight. Alternatively, she may be a less sane anti-authoritarian, so you can essentially ignore her. --MartinHarper

"Because we want to" (not the same as because we said so) is often the only honest answer. It is our space first, not the OutcastNewcomer. If they want to use it, they do so on our terms, which as as open or closed as we choose. The most useless arguments for X or Y come down to tugs of war: "I want to do X," but "We want to do Y." If TheIndividual feels that what TheCollective wants is irrelevant, then the individual will end up fighting a useless battle, as FightingIsBoring and it is unconvincing (rather, it hardens the opposition). Conversely, if TheCollective does not accommodate enough individuals, it will die through the RightToLeave. But it shouldn't come down to numeric superiority, I agree, but respect for the prior situation is required before you can change it. Charity is the first thing in an argument.

Note that after you have gotten through the "Because we want to," and "Because I want to," phase, then you can go onto FairProcess. It isn't a FairProcess without mutual respect. -- SunirShah

On the other hand, none of us joined meatball because we want to delete content about pop music. Rather, we delete content about pop music because we want to talk about communities et al. Thus, "because we want to" should be the last answer, not the first. --MartinHarper

It's hardly fair to yell at someone for not understanding what you want if you don't make it clear. The MeatballMission statement does not say why we want to talk about online communities, just that we do. That isn't a reason, that is just a GuidePost. My reasons are written on http://sunir.org/sunir, but that doesn't mean my reasons are projectable onto others. It's also not reasonable to yell at someone for doing what they want, provided they are nice enough to understand there is a cultural misfit between what they want and what you want. Alternatively, you can expand your focus. Suppose someone wanted to write a pattern language here about blogs? Or city garbage collection? cf. UsAndThem. -- SunirShah

By the way, no one starts an OnlineCommunity to defend themselves continuously against trolls. After a while of doing this, you lose perspective and just start excluding people rapidly because you don't want to deal with it any more. This is how trolls kill a community. They destroy trust and spirit. If you spend more time defending yourself than BarnRaising, there isn't much point in staying. -- SunirShah

And while a newcomer has the right to question the existing sentiment, just because no one has done enough self-analysis to know exactly why TheCollective wants to do something is not justification to stop doing it. No one has a convincing argument for everything they do. That's an impossible requirement. The only person who has to have a convincing argument is the newcomer because he or she is new. The status quo doesn't have to defend itself. It just is. Even if the status quo makes an unconvincing argument, that doesn't make it wrong. That's why the honest thing is to say simply, "Because we want to." It's the change agent that has to make the uphill climb to convince the status quo to want something else. -- SunirShah

Ultimately, "this is the way it's been, we don't know why it was established, but it's standard protocol" is an honest answer that drives AntiAuthoritarians? nuts. However, the more sane ones will recognize that and find reasons why the rule they're challenging doesn't make sense.

...The status quo doesn't have to defend itself...

I don't think that holds in the context of community and humanity. Status quo is connected with ownership and power. We havn't yet touched the surface of what a FairProcess is in that context.

"Because we want to" is not an acceptable reason, we should describe why we don't want content about pop music, and that you can write about that at WikiPedia or TheAdjunct. Also, when a newcomer arrives, he or she is then considered part of TheCollective, at least in my view. Therefore, they (WikiPedia:Singular_they) should have a say, too. Stopping them from having a say is, to me, not right, because they are then our community members, so we should not treat them as outcastes.

Saying "we" when you mean yourself is incorrect, and using it to force your beliefs on others (instead of giving advice), especially newcomers, is wrong. It is called something (I can't remember), but it is the concept of Oligarchical Collectivism in BookShelved:NineteenEightyFour. It is unfair, in my opinion, to do what is quite similar to "biting the newbies". --JonasDaltonRand

It's really dangerous to assume all newcomers are immediately part of TheCollective because newcomers are not nearly as invested in the project as oldtimers.

Having a fully permeable border can lead to absurd decisions. For instance, I am told that in the Liberal Party of Canada, they used to have an open membership. During this time, an envangelical Christian group apparently managed to organize themselves to buy enough memberships to vote delegates to the annual general meeting. There, they managed to pass pro-life abortion policy, despite the fact that the Liberal Party as an institution and a political movement leans pro-choice. The Party had to close membership after that.

I'm not saying a close membership is ideal. The Liberal Party has fought for years over the closed membership process. However, it's important to respect the huge investment of long standing members of the community, and not weight it equally to those with no standing. -- SunirShah

Let me add an aspect of PatternTheory: BOUNDARY appears as one of (currently) fifteen structural properties of living systems (ChristopherAlexander) which means that membership as an implementation of BOUNDARY is something essencial, not something arbitrary. You can't do away with membership, just as you can't remove the membranes of a cell or the limits of law or ethics to what people are allowed to do. At the same time, BOUNDARY is not something abstract or logical, something in terms of YES/NO, but an extended space that has a gradual quality, that can be designed. For example, while there are rather strict principles on meatball, actually we implement them with a lot of tolerance. So, if something is OffTopic, but it is done in good faith, or at a small scale, or is really helpful for the original poster, or may open creative new ways of thinking or doing, ... , we usually accept this. But we have the fallback of strict principle when someone misuses that tolerance and actions start to hurt. That's important because we can then act without self-doubt and without inner conflict. Another aspect of tolerance comes from the individual ways meatball reacts as a collective. Just as DefendEachOther is much more effective than fighting for yourself, relying on various perceptions instead of just one (just as two eyes create three dimensional perception) creates a more flexible zone of social reactions. So it is useful, not to define exactly, what the boundary is. By the way, even law doesn't exactly define its outcome but defines a range of possible reactions and let's the judges and other professional participants negotiate the evaluation and results of a lawsuit. With respect to the problem of the Liberal Party, it has a parallel to state legislation that is always endangered to create laws that agains its constituion. So typically there is some institution checking whether a new law (decision) violates some constitutional (fundamental) principle. -- HelmutLeitner

A very interesting view, HelmutLeitner. You have a good point, though being open is one of our principles. I agree that being too open might harm, but we should try not to have a closed membership, which makes us more of a clique than a community. When people in control develop a closed membership, that is when things all seem to go wrong. We should try to help people who don't seem to get the premise of our community understand what we are about. AssumeGoodFaith with users, but if their intentions seem to be bad, this place may just not be for them. --JonasDaltonRand

Jonas, I assume that your "our" refers to WikiPedia and want to challenge your perception, that it is open. This is not a critique, because I always contributed on the German WikiPedia since 2001, although only accasionally and I feel at home there as a wikizen, because its rules seem common sense and the behaviour of the community is relatively relyable. But seen from the outside, the average user or some 50+ university professor, it looks not open at all, because it doesn't follow the rules of everyday life. You need a certain investment in time, a engagement and learning, to be able to use WikiPedia actively. This way it is not completely open, but only partially open - to me - in a reasonable way. But there is the pattern of BOUNDARY, nevertheless. This is even more true when you consider inner circles, like the administrators and the boards of the national wp associations. At that point wp becomes pretty conventional and un-anarchic. -- Helmut

That's really cool that there is an Alexandrian Pattern called BOUNDARY. I read somewhere that all self-organizing systems control their boundary, and without a controlled boundary, no self-organizing system can form. I would like to see/write a page called SocialBoundary? describing this pattern as a critical notion when founding a new project. Here's an fascinating [story] about boundaries being natural even in 8 year olds, and the strife they can cause.

I was reading today [The Secret Speech], and I was struck by how one of the common principles of both Communism and Democracy was to DevolvePower to the People rather than a clique. However, as we know from histories of both systems, there is a lot more to be said about the process of enfranchising and empowering all CommunityMembers. -- SunirShah

No, the Soviet Union was as much socialism as the US is democracy. And, give me an example when this world has achieved something called "communism". The Soviet Union was called socialism, and communism was the more advanced society they wanted to achieve. They did not achieve socialism, we never had. It was just government propaganda to trick the citizens, like in the US it is "democracy", there it was Socialism and Communism.

The principles of democracy and communism are to devolve the power of a clique, but these terms used in contemporary society are just to convince citizens. --Jonas

I think this is a different topic, maybe that of double standards or double moral. Many systems have surface and content, an idealistic wrapping and the core, which is often misused to serve personal interests. The big problem of communist ideology, and maybe the anarchical too, is that it is assumed that people are just made egoistical by the bad system, let's say capitalism. And that all problems of self-interest will magically go away if you change to an ideal system. -- Helmut

Well, you can discuss what you believe to be OffTopic at DoubleStandard.

Anarchism is not an unrealistic system. Anarchic societies have existed in the past, listed at WikiPedia:Past_and_present_anarchist_communities. It is not impossible, AutonomousCommunity?s that work together without authority can work, as history tells us. All problems of self-interest will not be eliminated, however, we can EliminateAuthority? from the community and DevolvePower and redistribute it.--Jonas

I don't know enough about the history of anarchism to form an opinion, there's not even a workable definition of what anarchism is. Anyway, WikiPedia is no way anarchical in its fundamental structures and it is not open, seen from the outside. It seems more like a benevolent kingdom where people are welcome to give their presents of time and content freely at given rules. This seems not anarchical to me. When I look over the WP:papac examples, I see only a few that lasted more than 30 years to count as stable social systems and even these seem uncomparable and useless as prototypes for today. -- Helmut

What is the purpose of living without authority?

Some really good things about authorities:

...but I think most important:

You may be interested in:

I think the crucial question is, "What aspect of humanity do you want to give voice to?"

I find that, at it's best, anti-authoritarian thought can lead us towards:

It can be very hard to manifest anything, in a society that gives veto power broadly. Compare: WikiPedia:NIMBY, CommunityWiki:StopEnergy.

In particular, I would draw attention to the experiences of Kat Kinkade, as written on the web, and in her book:

Note that Ganas is a very special community-- they wake up each morning, and talk for about 3-5 hours. Every morning. My best friend [PhilPatton] has been there, and seen it first hand. (And that's just the beginning of their story.)

I think we're seeking security and fairness in AntiAuthoritarianism?. But I have come to believe that the proper path is the path of the King, on the golden path between Tyrant and Weakling.

"What aspect of humanity do you want to give voice to?"

I like the creed of the CommunityWiki:FederationOfDamanhur: If the creativity within every individual is realized, the society will be healthy.

-- LionKimbro

(Incidentally, ... ...not to detract from Helmut's latest addition, but: When I say "the path of the King," I don't mean we should persue monarchy. What I meant was: "We should not avoid the concept of leaders and leadership.") -- LionKimbro

CategoryConflict CategoryDifficultPerson CategoryRole CategoryTrolling

Note: This is in the CategoryTrolling because trolls often claim all authority is invalid, but only as a smoke screen to block any social control over their mind games.


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