RE: is it possible to be too offensive...Sultan, sadness, &c.

I’m tired, it’s been a long day…I promised myself not to post these thoughts until they were tight and perfectly formed, but, I’m tired and sad.
I’ve been an avid reader of the Straight Dope for about fifteen years. Discovering Cecil Adams was a prize for me, a kick in the head that showed me the wise path of being smart, funny, and iconoclastic. I remember collected articles I read and re-read, in which Cecil discussed how to keep bugs off pot plants, offended readers by discussing the caloric content of semen, and generally created the “wise-guy” wise guy format that has been copied repeatedly ever since.
I have only recently stumbled into the SDMB after spending much time cruising the straight dope archives. I don’t generally spend much time in online message boards - I don’t know the etiquette or the jargon, and frankly I don’t care. These moderators seem to - in general - have simply their online egos on their minds. Members seem easily offended by things I couldn’t imagine as such. Specifically, I have just read:


I read the Sultan’s comments and could not bring myself to be offended. Nor could I understand why he was banned. I don’t necessarily agree with him, but nothing I read affected me as it seemed to everyone else. It just seems indictative of the mentality on this site. Threads get closed because someone didn’t look up a fact on Google or because they want to know about drugs or god forbid they say something that will offend some thin-skinned sweet-heart. Maybe I spend too much time engaging in real coversations with real human beings in public places like diners, bars, clubs, libraries, etc etc, where there are no rules or moderators to come pat my inebriated new friend on the shoulder and tell him that I might have been offended by his views. Maybe I just don’t “get” internet culture. Like I said, I don’t want to. If being on your computer entitles you to live by different rules than the ones in the real world - to cry Un-PC at anything slightly aggressive or uncomfortable, then count me out.
First, I was disappointed by the Straight Dope cable show. I was truly excited about it, but it was flaccid, “Dr. Nye” style TV. Then I was disappointed by the Staff Reports here online, which just did’t hold their own against the great Cecil. Then Cecil himself even started to loose his edge, drifting off to a more MOR, David Feldman’s Imponderables territory (although I will always gladly read Cecil). Now this message board. I’m sad.
I have been a short order cook. I have repaired cars. I have been managing editor/columnist/12-hrs-a-day reporter at a well-read newspaper. I have sold homes. I have been a bouncer at a number of bars and music clubs. I have played with touring bands. I have met a greater variety of people than I ever could have imagined fifteen years ago. Yet I never would have thought fifteen years ago that one of my favorite writers would eventually gain a following of apostles who would fail to meet standards set by the lowliest people I have ever met in my life. It seems less like you all want to fight ignorance but rather want to find some sense of community which will uphold your egotism and ideas. The Straight Dope is no longer the cutting edge work it once was. Instead of courting controversy (or at least not worrying if it did), it tries to avoid all discomfort, at the expense of good writing and distinctive style. It’s pathetic. It’s sad. And like I said, I’m sad, too.

I’m not going to proofread this, pull out my AP style book, dictionary or thesaurus. I’m too tired for that. Take this for what you make of it and I’ll wake up tomorrow wishing I had thought this out better and you can close this thread because it’s in the wrong forum or because I offended some poor, withering soul and then I’ll go on with my life.

This type of post should really go into the pit. Or maybe you should go check out Fenris’s thread :wink:

My response:

F*CK, I wrote this huge post and then BAM my computer ate it. Let me try again.

A few simple questions:
1-Why do you think anybody cares if you don’t like Cecil’s columns anymore?
2-Why do you think anybody cares if you don’t like this community?
3-Why not just leave quietly since probably nobody knows you even exist anyway? Or do you need the attention of the “lowliest” people who aren’t even “real”? (We must not be, as this is an online communtiy as opposed to people you meet at a bar. As a matter of fact, you aren’t reading this post, you only think you are because I really don’t exist outside of your imagination anyway.)
4-You must not have spent too much time here on the SDMB, or else you would have known that “all complaints regarding the SDMB” belong in the Pit.

Basically, Arturo, you have stated that The Straight Dope is no longer for you.

I would imagine that if a conversation as nasty as the one which led to Sultan’s banning had taken place face-to-face in a bar, instead of on-line on a message board, it would very likely have led to what’s known as a “barroom brawl”. Which would have led to people being forcibly ejected from said bar. And I would think that reasonably savvy operators of a bar might toss someone before people start breaking chairs over each other’s heads, if that person was becoming seriously abusive of the other patrons.

You say you worked as a bouncer, no? It’s the same principle, really. Moderators are like bouncers for a message board.

Speaking as a veteran poster who’s stood with many other veterans in battles ranging from Phaedrus to the Left Behind invasion, I was disarmed by Arturo’s style. In the most civilized tone imaginable, he expressed his sadness over what he thought was happening at Straight Dope. Taking him at his word, he has been a fan for a long, long time. And he is right about the gist of what he’s saying. And his post belongs here, in my worthless opinion, because it isn’t about moderation alone. It’s about SDMB generally.

True to form, it wasn’t long at all before someone came crashing in, cyberhands on cyberhips, cyberscowl on cyberface, and blustering basically, “You don’t like it, leave.” And other responses were just links. All this did was prove him right.

I’ve made efforts before to fit in with the cliques here. There are a very few poster here who respect me (or at least, who say they do) and fewer still moderators. Most of you are familiar with my recent debacle involving the anti-Fred-Phelps campaign. I accept culpability for my aggressiveness, and I spent a good deal of time away, reflecting. I even requested that my posting privileges be removed to ensure that I would take a break. As I thought things over, I could see areas where I should have handled things much differently.

But there is still something nagging at me, even after all that introspection: except for the aforementioned few, you people were merciless to me. You told me that I should be more gentle, yet you yourselves were hard and cruel. Instead of taking me aside and offering me advice, you dragged me through the Pit at least twice that I recall. Instead of recommending that Straight Dope support the cause (an ignorance fighting cause if ever there was one), your concern was that the monster might come a callin’ and go “boo!”. Instead of wondering whether I might be going through some emotional trauma myself, you assumed the worse, and even (this part tears my heart out) threatened to fulfill what you had comitted to and then get out.

You said it was because of me, so I removed myself. I have no idea what the current status is, despite private e-mail apeals to be informed and allowed to contribute. Yes, I know I did many things wrong in that episode, and I know that more than one of you will enumerate them.

But the reason I brought that episode up is to corroborate what Arturo said. A lot of people at Straight Dope have a pack-of-jackals mentality. We (myself included) do pile on. The proof is on these very boards. We don’t reason, rather, we rationalize behaving the way we do. We accept newbies so long as they kiss our collective asses. We reject them if they are controversial. We ignore them if they stay in their place and don’t bother us. We exercise unabashed bigotry against the expression of viewpoints and the broaching of topics that we have decided are “unacceptable”. No, I’m not gonna give any cites. If you’ve done any of this, you know it. If you haven’t, it doesn’t apply to you.

So, why do I still hang around? Why did I come back? Because of the few. There still are great debates to be argued, still matters of philosophy and politics that deserve airing. Gaudere is still here, and TubaDiva, and Coldfire, and UncleBeer. I just ignore that Euty and Manny and Czar seem to loathe me. Jab is still here, and Poly, and Fenris, and Eris, and WaterJ, and Spiritus, and many others whom I greatly admire, and whom I believe are such great debators, that I am willing to endure humiliation and distraction in order to have the honor of debating with them. (But I can’t help wonder what’s happened to Tris…)

Anyway, that’s about all I have to say on the matter. I don’t think it would hurt us at all to have a civilized discussion here about how we could improve ourselves — get ourselves back to what Arturo used to admire, people who are witty for wit’s sake, not for cruelty’s; people who are not afraid to help fight ignorance, not people who fear what a racial bigot might say and thus must shut him down. It wouldn’t hurt us a bit to open our hearts as well as our minds. The satisfaction we draw from being joined by our friends in a pack attack is nothing compared to the satisfaction we would draw from seeing a long-time lurker suddenly post, “Hey guys, I just wanted to say that you’ve changed my life because of your great posts!”

And great posts go like this: “Here’s the problem with what you’re saying… there’s this and that and the other.” They don’t go like this: “Well, screw you, asshole. Hey, everybody! Help me cream this guy!”

Okay, go ahead. I’m braced.

Very thought provoking thread. And probably true to some extent. I wish that I did have the time to spend in GD with you Lib. I admire your ideas and spunk even when I don’t always agree with them. I would say that you are more respected here than you realize. I can remember when I first came to the boards and went in Great Debates. You took one of my first posts and told me it was nonsense. I backed right out of there quickly. Generally I’m considered an intelligent person, with a wide range of interests. But I have found that over the years I have less time to research, study, whatever you classify it as, to stand my ground on many topics. I have managed to keep up with current events over the years, but raising a child as a single parent, often working two jobs, I have not be able to do all the things I would have liked to increase my mentality. I don’t have the time to spend researching cites to back up my thoughts and ideas. I wish I did.
Anyway, glad that you are here, and hope that you stay. We do need you here.

Ackkkk! :eek: Come back! That was doubtless intended to provoke argument. I certainly should have looked at your post count and been more welcoming. I should reserve my “Nonsense!” comments for oldtimers. :wink:

Thank you for the kindess of letting me know your feelings. I’ll stay until I’m banned. Early on, David B advised me to get a thick skin. It’s taking a long time (I am a pure Melancholy, after all) but it’s coming around.

I just wanted to add that this post makes me more sad than any I have read before on these boards. I haven’t been here long (lurking longer), but I have to agree with a lot of what Arturo is saying. I read the thread that Sultan got banned for, and had trouble seeing what the problem was. As far as I could tell he voiced an unpopular opinion, got jumped on, and when he fought back he was banned. My reading of the OP on that thread was that he was just confused as to the reasons why America is being presented as a united Christian front, and how a person could get comfort from a symbol for a possibly vengeful God. The only thing I think he was guilty of was fighting as dirty as everybody else.
I came here for clear debate on issues, and, like Arturo, have seen a lot more nasty name calling than I thought necessary. I’m not saying I’ve never seen anything worthwhile on these boards, I mean hell, I joined for a reason, but there is a lot of strange stuff going on.
It has proved very hard to be a newbie, and the intimidation factor of seeing others raked across the coals for their comments is enough to keep a lot of people out of the GD threads.
Of course, all of this is just my 0.02. Feel free to rip into me.

I certainly agree that there can be a sense of ‘pile-on-the-heretic’ that comes into play here from time to time. I certainly see people who get labelled as ‘target for today’. Sometimes they seem to seek it out and sometimes it’s thrust upon them.

It’s something in our behavior (human, really) that we should each examine.

Yes, it’s the potential to magically transform ourselves from homo sapiens into homo jerkiens.

Seriously, Arturo, you don’t have to worry about being banned for something you said as long as you follow the First Rule of the Straight Dope Message Board: Don’t Be A Jerk.

The perception that folks are banned, poof! just like that, at the mere whim of a moderator, is not correct. If you go back through a newly banned person’s posts, you will generally find plenty of jerkiness to account for his sudden erasure off the SDMB blackboard.

Generally speaking, if you do post something that reeks of homo jerkiens, you will be immediately called on it, not merely by a moderator, but also by the Doper population at large, giving you ample opportunity to modify, clarify, amplify your comment–in a word, to apologize, if necessary.

If, however, the requested modification/clarification/amplification is not forthcoming, if instead you continue to pile Aphelion upon Clarissa [“yes, I know that’s not how it goes but I can’t think of it,” she said testily] if you continue on your wayward path of jerkiness and simply add more and more jerky remarks, your plug will be pulled, unlamented by most.

And, most importantly, if you do ever have a really bad day and shoot off your mouth and get banned, the proper response is not to send a flurry of obscene, abusive e-mails to all the mods and admins. What you do is send a e-mailed apology to both the mod in question and to the administration, containing a sincere promise to do better and not be a Jerk anymore. This generally will be sufficient to reinstate one’s posting privileges.

And I second the motion that this really ought to be in the Pit.

I’m posting this AGAIN, because apparently some people aren’t reading it:

" Sultan Kinkari/wishbone wanted to play Pit Limbo (How Low Can You Go?), which is really trolling. He didn’t want to voice his opinion so much as see how far he could go without being banned. I didn’t want to play this game. So I evicted the player. Incidentally, the email I received from him didn’t make me inclined to restore his privileges."

I did not ban Sultan Kinkari because of his opinions. I banned him because he wanted to see how far he could wind people up, which is trolling/jerkiness.

Later in the day, I’ll probably move this to the Pit, where it should have been all along.

For the Straight Dope

“For technical questions and concerns about the SDMB. This is also the place for practice posts.”

In my worthless opinion, Arturo’s post fits the stated criteria. No one is ranting in here, and no one is singling out moderation as the sole problem. There is nothing Pittish about this topic. I think Arturo explained in some detail that he read the whole Sultan thread (which includes links). It seems to me that he likely surmised who, in his opinion, was piling Aphelion upon Clarissa, and who was not.

If we dismiss Arturo’s post without examining it for what he is trying to tell us, we will ourselves be guilty of an abominable ignorance. It is certainly true that jerks don’t belong here, but in a far profounder way, neither do people with closed minds.

The entire gist of the OP is, “I don’t like the SDMB, and here’s why.” Isn’t that, er, criticism? :wink:

oops, wrong click…

“Technical questions” means “how do I do such-and-such?”, not “What’s wrong with the Straight Dope lately?”

He’s discussing the administration of the SDMB.

“Why was someone banned?” “Why was this thread closed?” Those belong in the Pit.

And remarks about “the mentality on this site” deserve to be thrown into the Pit, where they may be carefully dissected by discerning Pitizens.

Well, poo… bring more coffee… :mad:


I have always parsed the phrase “technical questions and concerns” as “technical questions and technical concerns”, not as “technical questions and any other miscellaneous concerns about the SDMB you may have”.

Duck, I know you far outrank me in status, but please listen. Arturo is not saying merely, “I don’t like this board, and here’s why.”

He is trying to tell us that something is fundamentally wrong with this board, just as if someone were reporting a technical glitch, or a bug, or any other problem with SDMB. He is saying that the SD has fallen from greatness to mediocrity. And if we are unwilling even to listen, even to examine ourselves, but just want to sling links at him, tell him to get lost, pretend he doesn’t understand, and go on about our business because we can’t be bothered to be criticized, then dammit, he’s absolutely right.

Does anyone else find the irony in the initial response to this thread, and the current talk of moving this to the pit?

I sure do.

Yeah, it’s a well written and coherent, but ArturoBandini’s post is at heart just another in a long line of finger-waggers. This is wrong, that’s wrong, I’m sad, I’m disappointed, blah blah ad infinitum.

If you find yourself in the midst of a group that you don’t like, what do you do? Me, I leave.

But some people seem to think it’s their mission to “set things right.” They don’t bother to try to fit in, they don’t bother to get to know the people here, they don’t have time develop a tolerance for some of the quirkiness that occurs here.

“This is awful. Another pile-on.” Pile-ons will always happen when a group of like-minded people encounter an unpopular opinion. Even I can grasp that. Go to a bar and announce that alcohol is a tool of the devil and see what happens.

There are a million boards out there, and still people come in here and tell us we’re behaving badly.

If that’s not arrogance, there’s no snow in Canada.

I live in Canada. There’s snow.