"Attack the post, not the poster" should be removed as a rule

That is the difference between demonstrating contempt as incident to a passionate post, versus demonstrating contempt for the sake of demonstrating contempt.


De-railing threads, preventing people from discussing what they want to discuss, is a problem and should be moderated as such (hijack). When civility breaks down and you see personal insults or accusations of bad faith that is bad too, and should be moderated as such (personal attacks). Otherwise I disagree with you as a matter of preference. My favorite debates involve just two people going at it for a long time.

A topic where each person steps in, posts their opinion, then leaves… maybe one round of counter-cites… that’s IMHO culture. IMHO. :wink:


The way I originally understood it was “no ad hominem attacks.” They’re not only impolite, they’re not useful discussion.

If you can show something wrong about the post, that’s one thing. If you’re just attacking the poster, that’s not showing something wrong about the post.

Possibly it would be good for such people to learn restraint. Many of us have had to learn to control the expression of our passions without losing them. (Try being female and born in the 50’s.)

I find it’s useful practice, myself, to have to take an initial reaction of ‘what bullshit drivel’ and turn it into an actual argument, and not just a snarl. And it’s very good for the inside of my own head; because it makes me think about what, precisely, I think is bullshit or drivel in the post; as well as how to get that objection across to others (often, but not necessarily, including the poster I’m replying to) reading my response.

Communicating contempt for the post is very often the reverse of useful.

If it’s a lie, that charge is supposed to go in the pit.

If it’s counterfactual, which is a significantly larger category that includes “lie” but isn’t limited to lies, then point out what specifically is counterfactual; ideally with a cite.

Such emotional langauge is not useless at all. It allows you to express certain emotions in a way that doesn’t actually attack anyone. You can, for example, express just how bad an argument is. And there’s nothing about such language that forbids you from then going on to explain why it is so bad. But, by adding the other part, you avoid someone thinking this isn’t a big deal to you. People know to address their counterarguments better because they better know the mental state of the person who made the remark.

The thing is, other than the OP, I know the other people arguing for this change have used this sort of language before outside the Pit before. That tells me that you don’t always think such language is useless. And it plays into why I think a lot of these arguments come off as pretentious.

Which is an example of what I’m talking about. Pretentious is an insulting word if used about a person. But I used it to attack an argument, while also explaining my reasoning. I don’t see how it could be as a personal attack, any more than calling something “bullshit” should be. And I believe my word choice gives you an idea of my passion level and emotional state of my post.

That’s not to say mods shouldn’t step in if thing are getting too heated. I temper my posts all the time. But that doesn’t mean we need to outlaw attacking posts or using particular language. Especially since things can get heated without such.

If GD ever became the “you can only argue like a dispassionate robot” forum, I would be out of here. Rhetoric is as valid a part of the trivium as any other.

If the board is about fighting ignorance then it seems obvious to me that interactions should be about the content of the post and not the imagined qualities of the poster. There is too much of that in society in general and I don’t think we are better off emulating it here. It just does not help discussion.

A factual point stands or falls independently of the person who makes it and it is perfectly possible to take down a bad point without also attacking the person who made it.
It is also perfectly possible to make the strength of your opinion known without resorting to personal attacks.

If you want to attack a poster then there is a whole section dedicated to giving you precisely that opportunity. (but then I also think that the pit is not a net benefit to the board in general)

It isn’t much of a request that people confine their personal attacks to the pit if they feel they must.

There seems to be a strawman careening down a slippery slope here. I’m not saying the forums should be bowdlerized of passionate or spicy language. I’m saying the explicit, brightline rule of “attack the post, not the poster” should be removed, and tone should simply be moderated under the existing rules of “no personal insults” and “don’t be a jerk.”

If one feels “no personal insults” and “don’t be a jerk” are too broadly restrictive for the language they’d prefer to use around here, then yes, I agree that they need to change their approach to common discourse.

I think the former is far more in line with the stated aims of the board.

To the contrary. Following the rule eliminates discussions of intent. The above argument does not support your proposition.

How would removing this rule improve the tenor of discourse here?

Well that post is absolute bullshit. Since I respect you as a poster, I know you can do better than post an argument that resembles the incoherent ramblings of a syphilitic 17th century inbred nobleman.*

That’s attacking the post, not the poster. Right? Zero jerkishness? My intent is clearly to be respectful to you while only addressing the content of your argument?

*in case it’s not clear, I am not actually attempting to attack you here.

“Attack the post and not the poster” is a rule designed to promote intelligent discourse and prevent adolescent name calling, which seems to be the hallmark these days of a large part of social media.

Here’s an example:

Poster “A”: “I believe any person or group of persons should be able to donate as much “Black” money as they want to whomever they want because it is an invasion of their privacy for them and their donations to be known.”

Poster “B” (attacking the post): “This allows any person or persons to literally purchase legislators with huge amounts of money for their own special interests without the public being aware of what is happening.”

Poster “B” (attacking the poster): “You’re either a fucking dumbass or a right wing fascist if you believe that is a healthy approach to maintaining a democracy.”

Which of the above promotes intelligent discourse?

In your example, why do we need a rule beyond “no personal insults” and “don’t be a jerk” to moderate Poster B2?

“That the post is bullshit” (made without regard to the truth) addresses the post. The second part addresses the poster and is not relevant to the argument. The rule allows the MOD to make the distinction.

Well the rules do allow us to Mod your example and I know I would pretty strongly and recommend to other mods to moderate it.

Because the current rule is all inclusive. “Personal insults” just addresses a part of the problem.

Sure, and then I would post a rant in ATMB about how I was being very careful to tell Crane that I respect them as a poster, and that I was only addressing the content of the post.

It seems absolutely unnecessary to me when other, better rules already cover it.

I do recognize that I seem to be in a minority here, though. I’ve said my piece.

Isn’t your suggestion the same as, “Don’t attack the poster.”? Are we discussing substance or semantics here? The problem is that some people try to slyly pass off a “left-handed” insult as attacking the post and not the poster.

Example: “You’d have to be a naive moron to actually believe the statement you just made.”

Oh, gee, I didn’t call him a naive moron, I just stated that “someone” would have to be a naive moron if they believe exactly what he said.

To be honest, I don’t think it would matter that much if we changed the written rules. I think we would still moderate roughly the same way.

One of the biggest tricks is that we most often moderate based on the flags. So the post flagged might not be too bad but the poster has also made 5 other posts in the same thread or even related threads sniping other posters. We may not catch that and dismiss the flag unless the reporter adds that info to their report.

Another issue is some posters, usually on the right wing side, will get flagged for minor stuff and posters on the left doing pretty much the same thing in the same thread won’t be reported.

The toughest thing to moderate is occasionally we’ll have a poster sniping at a specific poster across threads and even forums. This is hard to catch and to moderate.

We don’t generally moderate minor infractions of the rules unless in a judgement call we think we’re trying to prevent an escalation. I think this works 90% of the time but 5% of the time it causes a lot of ill will.

I think all too often people over-react to the modnotes. Modnotes are simple little things of minimal importance. But some feel like they’re being singled out or called out.

I can tell you in reviewing poster behaviors the modnotes don’t come up too often and usually only if it is in the same thread or related thread and was recent.

Even with warnings we mostly look at the last few years. If What Exit? got warned in 2011* for attacking a poster and nothing since, that is generally not relevant to something that happened today.

* I actually don’t have a warning recorded, I thought I got warned for something in 2006 to 2010 but no record of it exists. So maybe I misremembered the precursor to the modnotes.

Please keep doing things this way. Mod-Notes* give guidance about board expectations. Not just for the poster being Mod-Noted, but for everyone reading the thread. While there’s always room for improvement, I really feel the board is a much more open space now than it has been in the past.

*Sounds like a 60s UK band.