How reprehensible do YOU want to be in the Pit?

As some of you are no doubt aware, we had a bit of drama related to the Pit recently, which has led to me reconsidering my approach to how I moderate the Pit.

Previously, I’d held to a position where pretty much any sort of insult was allowed, short of racial slurs. I used this standard because I felt it was about as objective as possible, but it’s led to a number of situations in the last couple years where I was defending behavior that made me nauseous, and I don’t want to do that anymore. We’re also having this discussion in the mod loop right now, but I thought I’d take a page from Jonathan Chance and solicit some input from you [del]terrifying degenerates[/del] valued board members.

Before I continue, I want to make an important point in red text.

I placed this thread in the Pit, because I want people who post regularly in this forum to see and respond to it. However, I don’t want to see fighting or insults in here. I intend to moderate this discussion as if it were in ATMB. Please keep this in mind. If you absolutely have to call someone a name, start a new Pit thread to do it. Also, please don’t illustrate your arguments by linking to posts that demonstrate what you feel to be unacceptable behavior, as I don’t want to use this thread to re-litigate old issues.

My goal here is to reign the Pit in, not neuter it. I want to still allow posters a lot of latitude in how they express themselves, without turning the Pit into a refuge for toxic assholes. I’m hesitant about any more “bright line” policies. The previous “(almost) Anything Goes” policy was a result of me trying to find a bright line that didn’t rely on my personal opinion about what was “too far,” and that hasn’t worked out great. I don’t want any policies that allow abominable behavior because it falls on the right side of a poorly-worded bright line, but I also don’t want to draw a rule so broadly that it penalizes common idioms or mainstream opinions. I think we need to move to something a little more subjective. There have been a few ideas that come up a lot as behavior that shouldn’t be allowed, so I’ll start with those. Note that, while I’m going to share my opinions about each of these as I introduce them, I’m not set in stone about any of this.

Making personal attacks against posters
This is both the area where I intend the most immediate change, but also the most subjective. I want to make attacking someone over deep personal trauma out-of-bounds, but that’s going to necessarily be a lot of subjective decisions on my part. I’ve certainly seen a lot of people report posts because they were “traumatized” by the most picayune insults, or even simply criticism and disagreement. On the other hand, as an able-bodied white guy, there are entire oceans of trauma out there of which I have only the vaguest understanding.

Insulting other poster’s minor children
This is maybe a part of that whole “oceans I don’t understand” thing, but I honestly don’t see why this is a big deal. If you were insulting the kid to their face, yeah, that’s awful, but presumably they’re never going to see it, so who cares? Well, a lot of people, apparently. This is actually a pretty easy bright line to draw, because while I’m not personally bothered by it, I don’t really see any scenarios where it feels necessary.

I’ve often seen variations of this suggestion that include insulting other posters performance as parents, which I feel is over-broad. While this area is certainly ripe for “too far” posts, I think there are some areas where criticism is legitimate and even necessary. Someone posting about how they’re not vaccinating their kids deserve to be roasted at least a little, for example. I think there’s also some value in the idea that, if you introduce your kids into a debate, you’re inviting commentary on your relationship with them.

Calling other posters "pedophiles"
This is something else that gets brought up a lot, that I’m not personally bothered by. (For the record, yes, actual pedophiles bother me, but I don’t see saying “You’re a pedophile” as necessarily worse than, “You’re a motherfucker.”) And this is an area where I think there is some room for legitimate attacks. We’ve had posters (again, I’m not naming anyone in particular, and please don’t offer your own examples of what I’m talking about here) who have posted things about children that, while not something that you could take to the cops, still comes across as deeply skeevy, and I’d like to retain the ability to call that sort of thing out when it happens.

Anyway, this is where I’m at on this subject right now. I’m open to ideas or suggestions for other changes, or arguments that I’m not taking the right approach on these specific issues.

Not particularly, but that was probably a given.

I’m fine with the way you have been doing things.

I thought** Shodan’s** comment was out of bounds and and a pure dick move. I called him out over it. I didn’t report it.

If I had seen **Zekendestroi’**s post I probably would have reported that. Straight out personal attacks based on racism need to be immediately banned. A poster who does that brings nothing good to the board.

What is different between those posts? I’m not sure why I see them as not the same.

Sorry, not much help.

I don’t want to be reprehensible in the pit, or anywhere else. But how reprehensible do I think you should allow other posters to be…

I think you should be able to call another poster a racist, or a bigot, or accuse them of other forms of insensitivity. I feel that’s a valuable “release valve” while stuff is being litigated more politely elsewhere.

I think you should be allowed to call another poster stupid, or pigheaded, or uninformed, or a liar or otherwise make nasty statements about the quality of the information/opinions they share. Ditto.

Should you be allowed to accuse other posters of illegal behavior? (Pedophilia? Rape? Assault? I dunno, despite your stated rules, I’d like to see examples of where that’s been done to get a sense of how it might play out.

I can’t see any particular reason to insult someone else’s kids. Or their parents or spice or sibs, for that matter, unless they somehow explicitly invite that.

I’m not sure what exactly you mean by “personal trauma”. Again, I’d want examples to have a better idea of how that plays out. Do you mean like calling someone a slut?

Yeah, as someone who posts a lot in the Pit but treats it more like a version of Great Debates where other people can lose their tempers if they want to, I don’t have a problem with the way it’s been moderated so far.

I agree that the general principle of permitting insults and invective, but not outright hate speech or nasty gossip about off-board personal lives, is a good one. But I have no idea what specific policies would do the best job of implementing it.

Not sure if you ought to give a pass to people who use the phrase “reign in” in a context of controlling behavior (“I think that the Prince of Wales should be allowed to reign in Wales” would be fine, of course, unless we’re talking about Wales being unruly and needing to be reined in), but maybe you’re right, and a gentle reprimand is sufficient.

HEAR HEAR.

Same goes for “tow the line” in a context of complying with restrictions on behavior, unless actual haulage of rope is involved.

I think he had in mind more of an example like where a poster had previously copped to something that they might later regret having shared, such as, say, details of a harrowing PTSD episode/meltdown; and asking them in a mock-bantering tone if they’re planning any reunions with the people they met in the lockdown unit of the hospital.

Yeah, people sometimes overshare around here, and I see that as a function of the Board giving the impression that we’re by and large a community of accepting individuals who recognize that we all have our foibles and are therefore more reticent with our opportunities to express judgmental reactions.

It’s all context-dependent, of course. We’re (again, by and large) articulate communicators, endowed with reading comprehension abilities far beyond those of normal men. It’s not that hard to discern when a confessional-type post is appropriate banter-fodder. If someone mis-steps, and someone else chimes in with some form of “Dude, not cool,” it need not be taken as Junior Modding. And then the ball is back in the mis-stepper’s court. A double-down should be reported; a step back should be respected (as should a wave-off from the target).

In fact, if I may be so bold as to offer a proposal, in certain instances the mod could check with the target of the putative attack and get that person’s take on whether it should be treated as out of bounds.

Would/could/should ‘of’ should not just be banned, but drones should be sent to eliminate this scourge.

My shame, it is complete.

I disagree. The Pit should be a refuge for toxic assholes, and nothing else. That is not how it currently works.
Revised from my earlier post (#189):
http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=885750&page=4
As the OP notes, it will be very challenging to craft a workable rule concerning insults. However, there is a very clear distinction between insults and accusing another poster of specific criminal activity (e.g., pedophilia) without offering any evidence whatsoever to support it. I can think of no valid reason, excuse, justification or even rationalization for allowing such posts, as they are despicable, offensive and – given the parent company of the SDMB is in the U.S. – un-American (in principle, if not in current practice).

Note that there is also a line between referencing (e.g., in the form of an insult) criminal activity in connection with a poster and making a specific accusation of a crime without evidence. The latter has no place on this message board and should be subject to moderator sanctions, imo.
As other posters have noted at one time or another, some of the most interesting discussions on this board occur in the Pit. Many of these discussions are as civil as the rest of the board and it is only because they have been labeled “rants” - regardless of topic - that they are sent to the Pit. The problem is that the Pit also allows uncivil - and reprehensible - posts. The Pit is thus serving two functions at odds with one another. Given the ugliness which rears its head every so often in the Pit, its true nature is effectively being disguised/sanitized by the appearance of civil debate within it. This seems to me a design flaw; it is, in effect, a half-assed Pit.

I’m sure I haven’t thought this through well enough, but what if the Pit only had one thread reserved solely for pitting other posters and insult contests between posters. No other discussion would be allowed. Any topic outside those parameters that would normally go in the Pit would have to find a home elsewhere on the board and be subject to the usual rules.

Non-political rants against institutions, businesses and (off-board) personalities could go in IMHO or MPSIMS; politically based rants could go in Elections, which could be retitled “Politics” (as a number of posters have suggested in the past), a name every bit as dull and unimaginative as “Elections.” Alternatively, it could be called something like “The Ruling Class” or even “The Ruling Voice” and deal political issues and leaders.

Such a rearrangement would preserve the “venting” function of the Pit. I think this is important because there needs to be a place where posters can call out other posters for their perceived wrongs without fear of moderator sanctions. It would allow those who revel in such hostile interactions a place to wallow, presumably occupying more of their time while on the SDMB than squatting in non-Pit threads where self-restraint is a necessary prerequisite to civil discussion.

At the same time, it would eliminate civil discussion in the Pit, making the distinction between it and the rest of the board more stark. Perhaps it might also be desirable to require a second click to enter the Pit, with a disclaimer appearing warning those who enter about what to expect.

Given the concentrated spewed bile that would be on display in the Pit, no one who was truly interested in civil discussion would feel inclined to read the single thread or post in it without cause; it would become a true Pit. It would still need a moderator, lest it become a haven for hate speech or potential legal liability. Short of that, it would be pretty much anything goes.

The goal is give all posters as much freedom as possible. Those who wish to spend their time belittling other posters could do so. Those who wish to avoid such unplesantries and engage in civil discussion would have no reason to visit the Pit; that is not how things work now. Confining the Pit to a single, ridiculously long thread also seems likely to reduce – but not eliminate – the appeal and satisfaction of posting there in the overall interests of promoting more civil discussion on the board.

All this, of course, assumes the SDMB wants to encourage more civil discussion in general. While there is absolutely no guarantee any of this would bring back departed posters or attract new ones to stave off the board’s decline, it is a certainty that holding to the status quo is doing neither.

Things must change in order to stay the same.”
------Paraphrased from The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

If he renounced his claim and had a sort of de-coronation ceremony, but the next heir assumed the title too early, the retiring Prince of Wales could then say “don’t reign on my parade.”

Probably best if this particular tangent be allowed to die off; Miller did start this thread seriously asking for input from us. I caught the “reign in” gaffe in the OP, and I couldn’t resist twitting him about it, but I would be ashamed if my little bit of levity were to derail what has the potential to be a substantive contribution to the improvement of the forum.

I think The Pit is just fine–it’s some of the usual assholes who make it stink so badly. I too look at the Pit as GD with being able to tell someone they’re a goddamned fucking idiot but I would never call someone a kiddy fiddler unless–and this is important–they admitted to kiddy fiddling. Then the gloves come off. All these namby pamby rules about “attack the post but never the poster” are fucking stupid and needlessly arcane and not being able to call a liar a liar when they’re lying or a troll a troll when they’re trolling is a big part of why this place sucks so much.

There’s a poster here who obviously does not get my sense of humor and pedantically picks at the most innocuous of my posts trying to do some sort of one-upmanship or whatever the fuck he thinks he’s doing and it would be awesome to be able to say “Dude, sorry you’re too stupid to get this joke so how about you just back the fuck off my dick, okay?” whenever the stupid fuck does it but noooooooooooo, that’s too mean and nasty onoz. If he did it in the Pit though, I could FINALLY just set the fucking idiot straight right off the bat and maybe, just maybe, get the idiot to understand why what he does is dumb and he should stop. He doesn’t post much in the Pit though so I’d have to set up a whole 'nother thread to tell the idiot why he’s an idiot and it’s a lot like rubbing a puppy’s nose in its shit. Doesn’t work, gets shit everywhere, dog never does figure it out.

Anyway, neither here nor there but just felt vent-y. It would be nice though, if Pit modes would take reports of misogyny and racism seriously even in the Pit and get the usual assholes to back the fuck off that shit. That would be awesome. I keep saying y’all need to take a page from Giraffe’s book and set up a Box so that asshole troublemakers can be relegated forcibly to the status of “look but no touch” for whatever period of time is necessary to get them to stop being flatulently unpleasant everywhere they go. Boxing doesn’t have to be lengthy to have a salubrious effect, either, because you box someone for 2-3 hours while a particularly busy thread is developing and they can’t disrupt it until it’s moved on and by that time they just look like a whiny little bitch when they get out of the Box and try to start their shit up again. The organic flow of the thread goes on sans excessive mode intervention, the disruption and derailing doesn’t happen and the usual assholes pretty quickly learn to behave themselves so they can continue spewing. Or they get Boxed forever and they can STILL post–just not wherever they want. Why you guys are so fixated against something so simple and proven effective I do not know. It’s like ignoring the four out of five dentists who recommend toothpaste because you’ve always brushed your teeth with dogshit and nobody’s gonna change tradition, by gum!

Whats wrong with using your personal opinion?

Personally I would prefer mods who don’t get wrapped up in trying to please everybody, not least because it will never happen anyway. There doesn’t need to be fancy rules beyond “Don’t be a jerk”, and there doesn’t need to be a standard beyond “You’ll know it when you see it”.

So let people fuck and bitch and insult each other all they want, 99% of the time it will just be hot air and pretty meaningless. And that 1% of the time where somebody goes too far just use your own judgement, smack them down and make no apologies for it.

I’m a combat veteran with PTSD who has talked about it openly for years in an effort to destigmatize it. I’ve ranted here on the Dope about how dealing with the VA has probably made my PTSD worse. (“Women aren’t in combat,” for example.) Shodan wasn’t even talking to me when he added a cheery, “Hi, margin, you’ve been gone for a while! Make any friends in the psych ward?” (Paraphrase. I ain’t goin’ back to look, thanks.)

One can be crazy, but that doesn’t mean you’re stupid, which is what that type of remark is supposed to imply. I had a former friend say, “She has PTSD, just ignore her when she gets upset.” It’s also sadistic, rubbing salt in a wound that keeps getting salt opened up by the people who promised to heal it.

Insult somebody’s arguments, grammar, choice of outfits, manner of meeting dates, attractions to whatever farm animal or mollusks of their dreams, the possible intricacies of having a family wreath than a family tree, but don’t attack things that the other poster cannot change, or things for which they are oppressed by bigots-----race, skin color, religion, sexuality, and so on. Don’t punch down. Stick to stuff that represents choices and decisions.

I think what we’re looking for here is a better category of insult, and a higher degree of fluency in profanity. Not only will this provide the desired pressure-valve function, it will also amuse and awe the bystanders. I think. I find that these days my profanity reserves have been depleted and cannot be replenished.

Just my humble musings on the topic. (Team profanity! Rah rah motherfuckers!)

Thanks, margin and kaylasdad99.

Pretty much like what you had in the Op Miller, I don’t agree with most of what I read in Dropo’s post but got tired of reading it also.

Many of the best debates have actually been in the pit. I would like to see that continue. Smaller changes are probably better and please don’t try to define to much, leave it as loose as possible to avoid rules lawyering.

What a very challenging question and while I’m not the biggest fan of the existence of the Pit if the Pit is to exist, outside of hate speech, which is it’s own debate, I’m not a huge fan of legislating exactly how far is too far with an insult.

Full disclosure though: I have insulted folks in retrospect I thought went too far. I have also insulted folks in language that is becoming more and more unacceptable even though I grew up hearing it. Retard is becoming more and more unacceptable even though idiot, moron, stupid, etc. mean the same thing. They are all attacks on one’s innate intellect. That’s a pretty vicious attack if you think about it. One can’t change how they were born.

I also feel it’s poor form to use people’s pictures and vulnerable stories as an attack form. To paraphrase Ed, it’s a dick move but not jerkish for the purpose of being warnable. And really, that’s the genesis of my beef. I also think Huey got treated a bit unfairly as well.

I mean, the purpose of insulting folks is what, exactly? Can you answer that question? It sure the hell isn’t an exercise in friend making or compromise reaching. It’s what you do when you are mad enough to fight. So if you are using words as weapons if they work too effectively that’s suddenly a problem? I’m not sure I agree with that.

However, if you really know someone has cancer, I wouldn’t use that as an attack. That’s heartless and cruel. That’s a real person on the other side of the screen and shitty attacks like that are unnecessary. Unnecessary, but, up until this recent change, allowable.

Again, this is personal preference and I don’t see how in a forum of this nature where people are posting in a fashion to insult others that you can calibrate acceptable insults on a case by case basis considering every interaction, taking into account what information may or may not have been shared, including off board information as that was brought up with regards to the Shodan-Margin thing and be fair or consistent.

I also think it’s very odd that we can knowingly call the lady folks cunts which in my neck of the woods is a bit worse than calling anyone of any skin complexion a primate.

But you want kinder and gentler?

I guess a pit full of eat shit, asshole and cactus fucking is one way to go about it. Whatever the case is and whatever the rules are don’t take popular outrage into account.

Anyways Miller, thanks for the opportunity to provide some somewhat coherent feedback. I believe your heart is in the right place and that means a lot.

AIUI, we may call anyone of any gender a “cunt” in its originally British and basically non-gendered sense of “despicable person”, “shitheel”, “asshole”, “twat”, etc. I’m not sure whether we could in fact get away with calling a female poster a “cunt” in its American sense of “worthless trashy sexually promiscuous woman”, a la Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever. If not, I’m not sure how the mods would adjudicate that distinction.