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A page to pull together what remains of The Case of Mid '05. If there are any lessons we can learn, conclusions we can draw, or if someone wants to write an anonymized background, here's the place to put it. We should ForgiveAndForget, but we mustn't lose the lessons of the past.


From MeatballDigest, July 28, 2005

The banning of [a contributor] of this site creates a complicated situation. I have thought about it and I've been contacted by Scott about it. Personally I would have liked to enjoy the conflict a little longer and work through the criticism of NewRealism and myself, but this is an egoistic view. Although Sunir's ban was a quick and lone decision, I think it was based on a correct judgment. The writing in question was not constructive as a whole and especially off-putting in its ethnic content. MeatballWiki is a place that has a strong tradition of cultural and ethnical diversity - relative to other sites. Anyone can come here and become part of us, independent of gender, age, race, language or whatever. In doing so, anyone can chose to be as critical towards us, as he wants to. But we will defend what mb is standing for - a container for peaceful dialogue, a place to feel at home, a fragment of an open society - and I agree with Sunir in doing so. -- Having said that, I want to renew my view that [said contributor] might become a part of this ethnic and cultural diversity and hope that the ban will be only temporary. -- HelmutLeitner

I think we all hope that, but as the cliché goes - it's up to them. -- ChrisPurcell

I really want bans to be done more collectively in the future, since I don't want to be able to do it unilaterally.

On the other hand, I need to take a hard line against people seeing my identity as a vulnerability to disable me. In the management literature, that what is the known best strategy.

My identity is my strength, not my weakness.

It's completely possible to talk about difficult subject of critical theory and its assumptions in a non-hostile, constructive manner even if you disagree. Criticism does not mean 'win at all costs', since then everyone loses.

Racial typing, like 'white, black, Hispanic, Asian' is not done any longer in Canada. Reading American research papers is very jarring, I find. No one here would say forthrightly they are 'Hispanic'. They would talk about where they came from in Guatemala, what they do, their religion, and where they live in currently. You only believe you are a type when you are given that type from the outside and then judged and placed and limited by that type. Given their own freedom of choice, people's own conceptions of selves are always more rich and interesting.

Another actually central problem is that the whole "'East Indian' is white" argument was part of the neo-Aryan attempt during WWII to subjugate the rising self-determinism of the Indian nation back into the Aryan Great Society. Returning to that is disgusting. While I doubt anyone knows this is what that discourse is about, the problem with these kinds of racial discourses is that they are always about something omninous and evil for the very simple fact that these discourses have all resulted by attempts to rationalize imperialism in the first place.

And I'm not even East Indian. I don't belong to that society.

Trying to place 'ethnicities' into a PeckingOrder is wrong and hurtful. Appreciating people for who they want to be and what they try to offer is right, and the most fun.-- SunirShah

I'm all for doing stuff now and correcting mistakes later in a wiki environment where almost all changes can be undone. If I had not talked to you in #wiki right then and there, I would have posted here supporting your position, trying to dispell SilentMajority issues. -- AlexSchroeder

I am still baffled by the whole thing. While I thought that the page PostModern missed the mark entirely as far as what postmodernism is chiefly about, I was willing to admit that my understanding of the subject was pretty limited and take some time to see where it went. I certainly did not perceive any attacks in on the page. Yet at least one other contributor did perceive not just attacks, but direct attacks upon deeply felt and cherished parts of their identity, and felt they needed to defend themselves "in kind", with aggressive targetting of another's identity on the same level. Thus leading to my bafflement. The whole thing seemed to be over by the time I got done processing even one part of one page into something constructive. I would have Wiki:LetHotPagesCool. Of course I deal with vicious personal attacks on a regular basis as a part of my work, so they don't normally agitate me. -- JasonCorley

See, this is a huge part of the problem. I wrote the page PostModernism to summarize readings for a class I am taking on knowledge media and learning. I thought that it was blatantly obvious I was writing a paper earlier this week by the fact I posted my paper on PhilosophyOfEducation. It could be right, it could be wrong. I don't care to hold myself to it. I didn't sign it. Rather, I was assigned to it in the same was I was assigned to what had been the anonymous page AttachedEgo.

How did my homework assignment turn me into the bogeyman for the entire anti-X movement in the United States? I thought that was Paul Begala's job. Where's my paycheque?

Nonetheless, I still hold to the principle that it's totally destructive to allow personal attacks. CommunityOverContent. SafePlace?. etc. -- SunirShah


From ScottMoonen's HomePage

With regard to recent events, I think [the contributor] could have been more diplomatic in making his point about the bankruptcy of parts of postmodernism. But I think the community's response to [them] has been very disproportionate.

I know that [[they] are kind and humble, and I believe that holds true throughout this discussion. What seems to be arrogance is really just being calmly confident in what [they] believe, and happily unaffected by postmodern shibboleths. The community's response, then, seems to me yet another example of the dangerous postmodern attitude of "tolerance only as long as you think exactly like us."

Given the amazing gulf between [their] world view and most everyone else's here, I'm not sure it could have ended much differently. But that saddens me, because while I have great affection and respect for everyone here, this contributes to an increasing awareness of my own distance from the prevailing Meatball culture and ideology. I will probably begin to leave over the next month or two. -- ScottMoonen

Scott, I'm sad to see you leave. This is a pretty heavy indictment -- that I ran [them] out for a dispute over the ideas rather than for personal attacks against my race. I'll have to think about it. -- SunirShah

Personally, I supported the decision whole-heartedly not because I think Sunir was right - I have no perspective from which to judge - but because, after clearly having offended so heavily, whether intentionally or not, whether through misunderstanding or not, [they] made no attempt at apology or retraction. Our words are transient, foolish, unimportant; other people should be valued much higher. I felt the community response reaffirmed the culture of MeatBall, something sorely lacking in past conflict here. I feel [they] would be welcomed again if that mistake could be addressed. Unfortunately, this perspective is hard to find in the PageHistory.

I hope you don't leave, Scott. -- ChrisPurcell

I agree with Chris. I've had private conversation with Scott, [the contributor] and Sunir about this. Substancial, a total of maybe 12 hours of reading and writing, good stuff. I think the problem was avoidable and can be mended. This needs time, weeks or months, maybe just another try. It needs patience and the willingness to suspend judgement in a situation where everyone has only incomplete access to communications. Currently Scott's reaction is least understandable to me. Scott, could you tell us a bit more about why you reacted the way you did? -- HelmutLeitner

Hi, just catching up after a week's vacation. Realize first that I'm playing the balance here a bit. Regardless of [their] intentions, I do think [their] words and ongoing response weren't wisely chosen, and I wish I'd said more at the time than I did. But having some idea of [their] world view and motivations, I do think the community response was disproportionate. I'm spending most of my words on the latter for balance because no one else is.

In brief, I'll qualify my response (a desire to leave) in two ways. First, it is definitely not an act of defiant protest; I talked with Sunir about my desire to "turn in the keys" but stay on in a posture of humble submission to authority, despite my disagreement with how it was exercised, but he pointed out that the notion of authority here doesn't allow that. Second, I've considered leaving since well before this: first due to ongoing lack of time, and second due to growing awareness of dissonance between me and the prevailing winds here (as pertains to world view, not wikis). Neither of those factors (time, dissonance) is entirely sufficient, but together they leave me in some respects a curmudgeon or gadfly, which is an EccentricRole that doesn't seem comfortable or appropriate in the long term for a CommunityMember.

I've been "fading away" for a long time; this is just a recognition that I'll probably restart my slow SignatureWipe? shortly, which I'd been considering anyway. As always, I still have great affection for y'all. And though I really don't want to make a big deal of all this, I am willing to explain further, publicly or privately. -- ScottMoonen

What did we learn?

Maybe:

-- HelmutLeitner

Wiki:LetHotPagesCool. DefendAgainstPassion. -- JasonCorley

Views of what happened

I was lurking while this was going on, but didn't delurk since I'm not exactly neutral about [that guy] -- I thought it would be smarter for me to wait for things to cool off for a while. I did, at the time, go to the trouble of reading all of the past text in past pages versions that had been revised/deleted by the time I checked to see if I'd missed anything. I have to wonder whether Scott did the same, to react as he did.

My take on it was, initially I didn't see what had happened to generate anger. Maybe I missed seeing the page version in question, or maybe I interpreted it differently. However, once the brouhaha started, and complaints were made, [that guy] was not even a little bit apologetic, he just kept defending his right to talk about race, which is pathetically rude once complaints have been made, whether it was intended offensively originally or not. At that point, it's clearly no longer appropriate to continue on about the (indeed famous, it's true) theories about what happened in 1500 B.C.E. between the indus valley and the caucus mountains blah blah blah, never mind whether it was on or off topic before someone said they were offended by the personal references.

Regardless of how it started, I believe that continuation in the face of complaints to be indefensibly rude, antisocial, and generally inappropriate, so I still do not understand Scott's reaction -- particularly because Scott said [that guy] was always nothing but "kind and humble". What??? That's like something a sock puppet would say. I sure don't know anyone else who would say that about [that guy]. I think a more accurate statement is that [that guy] has a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde thing going on. He's sometimes very easy to get along with, and other times he's extremely antisocial. So I really just can't take Scott's comments seriously at all.

Scott's final comments, on the other hand, say that he was thinking about leaving for a long time anyway, and it makes perfect sense to me that that's all that was going on, and there's no insight to be gotten from considering Scott's reaction to the banning of [that guy].

I think it is very antisocial, btw, to make a big deal about leaving. If a place doesn't suit you, walk away. If you change your mind 6 months later, come back. Making a fuss about leaving, on the other hand, is merely trying to make oneself the center of attention for a while, possibly to make one's complaints higher profile (in a way that reflects destructive egotism) than other people's opinions, or possibly just for internal emotional reasons.

A final note: although I think [that guy] was pretty antisocial, and that banning him was inevitable eventually, I was on the other hand surprised by how fast Sunir escalated things. I didn't comment at the time, but I was had the same reaction to when Sunir banned [that other guy] months ago. You know, the [Canadian other guy] that [that guy] was always attacking fiercely on c2 (man, these anonymous references are rough). The point being, in both cases I sympathize and I'm sure it was all inevitable, but the rapidity of escalation made it seem like Sunir was badly stressed, which can't be fun. I recommended meditation to relieve stress, back in 2004, when that body-damage thing happened; thought about it, Sunir? -- DougMerritt

P.S. Oops, sorry, clarification about a point I neglected: as I said, I think [that guy's] overall behavior was indefensible, so I am not defending him, but I interpreted what he said a bit differently. It seemed to me that [he] did not intend to be racist, from his point of view; I think he intended to make some abstract point that never really came across to any of us. I may be wrong, but that's how it seemed.

I'm not arguing whether he was' racist; someone saying they are personally offended is sufficient, IMHO, to make it appropriate to take the complaint very, very seriously, and obviously [he] was utterly insensitive to such -- but intent is an ammeliorating factor in most systems of both law and ethics. I think he was being clueless by being overly intellectual and highly socially clumsy; once accused of making racist comments (which I think he didn't intend to be interpreted as such, from his point of view) he proceeded to strongly defend his intellectual position, whereas he should have simply apologized and dropped it and moved on, given that it's an infamously hot emotional topic.

That interpretation would fit with [that guy's] overall historical pattern: not meaning ill from his point of view, but nonetheless offending people, and being completely unsympathetic to complaints of offenses (as is consistent with that guy, e.g. c2 CriticizeBluntly?), being so overly focussed on defending against what he viewed as logically inaccurate complaints.

I don't see that above mildly alternate interpretation as viewing him in a much better light; not being able to perceive that one is highly offensive, even if inadvertant, is not much of a defense -- but it paints him in a better light than if he were intentionally racist.

And that alternate interpretation is why, although I don't defend [him], that I thought maybe SS was feeling stressed at the point that he escalated quickly, whereas in the alternate interpretation, that [that guy] was intentionally being racist, SS wasn't escalating overly quickly -- intentional and overt racism should indeed just be shut off instantly, as was said before.

Here, however, there may be some ambiguity as to intent, if not as to the offense itself. -- DougMerritt

P.P.S. for those of you who don't follow c2 closely, [that guy] and I are by now quite bitter enemies, although I try to be polite with him if he's not directly attacking me, so to the extent that the above could be interpreted as an apologia for [that guy], please recognize that my comments are based on my view of intellectual fairness, despite really hating [that guy] over the way that he has interacted with me on so very many occasions, and I'm making these points despite that history, not because he is someone I sympathize with. My personal sympathies lie with those that [that guy] attacks. -- DougMerritt

I think it is very antisocial, btw, to make a big deal about leaving. I'd just like to say here that I think it would have been antisocial for Scott to not have made something of his leaving, given his former role in this community, and if the mid-'05 problem was the catalyst, then it was important to know that, too. I know there have been many instances of people dramatizing their leaving to score sympathy points, but this was not one such. -- ChrisPurcell

I think that antisocial is plain wrong. To make leaving (temporary or not) a personal topic seems a bit silly to me. Any participation is a constant movement, sometimes you move closer, then you jump in one direction or the other, or you slowly drift. Anyone can notice anyway, making it a topic is not very interesting, it just does not add value.

With respect to [anon] (I don't think we must make him a Lord Voldemort) I'm quite sure that he is no racist and doesn't want to harm anyone. He just chooses to confront and oppose people in a extremely competitive way. From the outside he always looks like "fighting for social status", but I think not even this quite fits the bill. At that point I think he just wanted to hold up his arguments against Sunir and not step back. It was just bad luck that the defended argument was about "race". -- HelmutLeitner

In defense fo Scott, Scott is/was an administrator. He asked me whether or not he should post it publicly. OpenProcess suggested he should make a little mention of it. You can blame me for that.

Even putting aside the issue of race (though I won't), the nature of the reply by [anon] to the article was out of line and scope. Only Alex seem to notice this. It wasn't bad luck that [anon] looks for points of attack, which is not very helpful. So, sticking to the MeatballMission, as stong as spaghetti as that is, I just don't see the value in encouraging either of the three people banned from c2 this year to bring their fighting-for-entertainment to MeatballWiki. The Internet is full of saloons where they can have virtual shoot outs. This just won't be one. Meatball is a nexus of exchange for people to help each other on their projects. -- SunirShah

I think it was pretty clear from [anon]'s posts that the original article was perceived by him to be an attack on his race and religion. I did not read it that way (although as I noted elsewhere, I think the original article is either misnamed or misses the mark.) It was how [anon] responded to a perceived attack, now how the community (or one person) responded to his attacks, that got us where we are now. What I take away from this is to Wiki:LetHotPagesCool, and if I can't do that because I feel a crucial part of my identity's been attacked, to confront the author straight out with a challenge: are you really saying what I perceive you to be saying? Advantages: the author may clarify that he is not attacking what you thought he was attacking. Disadvantage: you give the author another chance to attack, and if he's a troll, you just fed him.

But mainly to Wiki:LetHotPagesCool. The whole thing was over in less than two days. A fight over PostModern (ism?) and it's over in two days? Give it a month or two. The attacks will still be attacks then, but nobody will care. I disagree with DefendAgainstPassion on a lot of counts, but regarding attacks and how to respond to them? It's golden. -- JasonCorley

It wasn't a fight over post-modernism. [anon] hit straight at me, at directly at my race. (Where he did mention post-modernism, he accused me of being a radical left-winger trying to destabilize the State.) That kind of statement is what bothers me the most. There is a lot of apologetics for sexism, racism, homophobia on the Internet. How do cases like StarlaPureheart erupt over and over again?

Every time someone goes after someone's basic identity, they are playing a power game. They are asserting that you are powerless and not worthy of respect. If you don't contest this, you will permanently lose standing and ground. The only successful approach is to step up and knock the other person out. Women don't appear on the Net because they still don't even have the power to step up, as these assholes are protected by an accepting society who basically agrees with them.

I don't. I will always defend people's right to be themselves and to participate as strong and respected members. I only knock out people who attack other people. As is right and proper.

There were many things wrong with his approach. All of them have to do with the fact he never actually discussed the article, but rather me. He even stripped the anonymity of the page by assigning it to me, something he does frequently when he wants to destabilize a conversation into a flame war. That immediately decentres the discussion from the ideas on the page to discussing me.

We are not going to have a month-long discussion about how "white" I am.

For the same reason, we are never going to have a discussion about whether women (or girls) can code.

And also, this wasn't an isolated incident, but a protracted multi-fronted conflict of many years. It's not like we don't know [anon]. -- SunirShah

Certainly it was a fight over PostModern. That was the page [anon] believed to be a attack on his race and religion. That page was what he was responding to when he attacked yours. Actually there's not much I can add to the excellent Meatball pages on the subject of conflict resolution, anti-patterns, and difficult people - I think the vast majority of the content on this site does not indicate that "knocking them out" is the only option, although before I first visited MeatBall I would have staunchly agreed with you.

I can only see this as an isolated incident. I do not know [anon]'s history, and he is not here to give me his view of it. I would not be inclined to give any account of it much credence until enough time has passed for tempers to cool. -- JasonCorley

Sure, there are alternatives to knocking people out before they knock you out. Bridging race, gender, orientation, religious divides involves the creation of a neutral ground where a neutral facilitator focuses on first finding CommonContext between the groups, then relating narratives about personal perceived and felt experiences to humanize the demonizations. The idea is to extend the sense of CollectiveIdentity? around the whole group, beyond each participants' own part of it, so as to normalize social relationships between all participants. However, that would require a neutral space and commonly accepted facilitator, and that would need to happen before the confrontation. From my perspective as the victim, I cannot be a neutral facilitator.

However, that being said, I don't want to get into painful and grueling narratives about my racial identity as a way of resolving a conflict in Meatball or in my professional life. I prefer to enjoy legislation and professional standards of conduct that allow me to avoid hearing it. That's what allows me to have a professional life. -- SunirShah

Motivations and the abstractions the Case leads us to

Sunir, I do not defend him - I always clearly said that your decision was correct, I try to understand what drives him. This is a big difference. my new mantra "we unfold and help to unfold" expresses your point in the language of ChristopherAlexander. "Bad luck" means that if he had insisted on some other point he might not have been banned so quickly. But as I said and as you see, it's not a "ban and that's it". There are still ripples on the Meatball pond. -- HelmutLeitner

Alright, to speak of motivations, let's abstract a little away from this case.

I've learnt that people here to fight-for-entertainment quickly find themselves in 'bad luck', because that is their goal!: to find some lever they think will let them rise socially on AntiAuthoritarian grounds. It's not difficult to entice them there. I'm a LightningRod because of my authoritative social position makes me the obvious authority to be anti-. The difficulty they find here on Meatball is that we do not culturally possess an ethic of absolute FreedomOfSpeech? like many other college-kid salons on the Internet, like KuroShin, that they to be experiments in democracy.

Part of experimenting with democracy is testing out how far the bounds of 'freedom' go before they snap. When the trolls posted a photoshopped picture of RustyFoster's wife, for instance, that was too far. This then opens up the line of attack that 'freedom' was being curtailed for one person's "emotional" reaction. Nevermind that one person started the place with the best intentions--entrapping him or her in hypocrisy is a solid win. Nevermind that person was being attacked from all sides. Nevermind that person's own rights were violated. He or she has to bear it all to prove that 'freedom' of all is resilient.

Our first CommunityExile here, with NameWithheld?, was an example of that, and many more since then. But of course I believe in actual democracy, not some adolescent democracy where the only freedom is that of speech, and that freedom is total and absolute. Adults don't behave like that. As long as people believe that CyberSpace is the chance to test with the boundaries of their SocialContract, and that Meatball is part of that myth and fantasy, we will have those problems. But it's called Meatball for a reason (cf. MeatSpace).

By the way, I liked your term: playing the "desperate loser". The American term is desperado; means one without hope. I don't think they are truly in despair, but they are indeed playing as if they were desperate. -- SunirShah

Page technicalities

Meta: "Aught" is a little obscure, may I suggest "Zero"? -- EarleMartin

Sorry, my mistake. I was misremembering Wiki:BigWikiFireOfDoubleOught. -- ChrisPurcell

Discussion

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