You guys, as I made clear, I’m pretty horrified by some of the comments on my last thread. But I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a horror that was developing for some time of the way this kind of conversation goes down on the internet generally.
I want to be clear that I’m writing for myself here, and not on behalf of any of the other Harpies, who obviously have their own views. But I have a few suggestions for how difficult conversations can go a bit better in those instances when we find ourselves in strong disagreements. Since I don’t have the authority to propose them for this site generally, I’m just proposing them for myself in future, and they will give you an idea of how I intend to moderate my threads. I’ll be linking back to this as well as needed to try and gauge my consistency.
There is, currently, no blog I know of that has a 100% success rate in encouraging productive conversations, but let’s aspire to that in future. Think of this as an experiment of mine – if you’re not prepared to indulge it, that’s totally okay and up to you. There are other threads and other websites that won’t ask that you play by these rules.
Before I begin: DO NOT, and I really mean DO NOT, use this thread as a means to rehash what’s going on elsewhere. If you want to talk about the things I’m enunciating below, please do so abstractly, so it doesn’t turn into a clusterfuck. I’m not talking about any particular conversation, and I’m open to adjusting my understandings, but I don’t want to fight. It’s exhausting, it’s personal, and I’m upset for hours afterwards. So let’s not do that.
1. Attack the ideas, NOT the person. This is a hard line to tread, I admit, and one I’m not always successful at. But I think that if one finds oneself tempted to say something about someone’s personal characteristics in a derisive way, it’s best to avoid it. Now this can be tricky. It’s possible the context is necessary to the conversation at hand (i.e. pointing out that a commentary on race was written by a white person). But there’s a difference between using the personal characteristics to deepen and flesh out the conversation, and using them to dismiss the perspective. Let’s try to remain hyper-aware of that difference.
2. Quote, don’t paraphrase. This is one of TNC’s rules that I really like, because often I find myself thinking, “But I didn’t say that,” and it’s a common thread in a lot of discussions I read. It’s a lot easier for me to challenge your interpretation – or, indeed, admit where I’ve been sloppy in wording and/or reasoning my argument – when I know exactly where you’re getting your ideas from.
3. Snark is fun in a snark thread. In a serious thread, it can make you into an asshole awful quick. I admit that I myself have been moving away from snark, but I am not yet a Denbyesque opponent of it. I enjoy vicious wit as much as the next person. But there are conversations where it is appropriate, and conversations where it is not.
4. Assume good faith in all participants. In general, I or one of the other Harpies tend to catch out actual trolls pretty darn quick. So you can assume that if the comments are going through, they are from people who genuinely want to talk about the issues. And as for linked posts and quotes and Feminist Food For Thoughts – again, I think it’s best that we all assume good faith, even if we violently disagree with what’s being said. Have faith that if I am presenting you with something in a thread, I am doing so because I think it has some merit, and I am not interested in just your thumbs up or thumbs down vote on it. Twisty often calls those things “referendums,” which I find to be a useful term – if you disagree that’s great, but state that calmly, then list your reasons.
5. Above all, ALWAYS assume the possibility that you are wrong. I am one of those people who often comes across as thinking she is always right. After a lot of thought, I have found that this is not an aspect of myself I’m particularly fond of. And since I’ve been trying to force myself to be less than 100% certain about everything, I’ve found it a lot easier to talk to people, on the internet and elsewhere. Does this make anything I write less forceful, more equivocal? Yes. Does it also make me a better interlocutor? Also yes.
6. Be forgiving to the extent you can be. I can totally get on board with marginalized groups expressing frustration at 100% volume. I think it behooves the rest of us to swallow initial anger – again, something I’m not always great at – when confronted with perspectives that seem to us to be too strongly stated. I think some people – tea baggers for instance – are assholes. I think the vast majority of people are at their very worst only confused. Confusion should be something we find easy to forgive, and easy not to be nasty about.