Author Topic: Civilized Debate  (Read 35267 times)

Offline Lion

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Civilized Debate
« on: November 23, 2006, 01:47:44 pm »
Let me begin this by posing a question. What two subjects should you avoid discussing in polite company? The answer? Politics and Religion.

In general, I hate hate HATE discussing the two of them. Why? Because it overlaps strongly with personal beliefs and cultural values and people get STRONGLY emotionally invested in their discussions. Why wouldn't they? They are essentially expressing who they are and subjecting their own personal beliefs to the judgment of others who may or may not express their same values. It takes NOTHING for one person to send (or get) the wrong message and then it degenerates into a mudslinging festival with articles flying galore. And don't make the mistake of playing devil's advocate, otherwise you magically find that others have married you to the argument... or made personal judgments about you because you don't agree with them or share their perspective.

When we are looking at a topic such as Israel and Palestine where politics and religion are deeply intertwined to where you can't separate it, then there are people who are going to feel strongly. VERY strongly. And you know what? That's okay... but you have to keep your cool and you have to make your points WITHOUT slamming the character or perspective of the other person. In a sense... you HAVE to stay polite about it. If you don't agree, then put simply, just agree to disagree and be done with it. Don't assign ulterior motives. Don't make assumptions about other people. Chances are that you don't know that other person nearly as well as you think. And for heaven's sake, don't allow this to travel into other forums or even other topics. The number one rule of hanging out in the Vox Populi board should be that IT SHOULD STAY THERE.

I won't mince words. I requested the General discussion forum. I did not want to touch this forum with a ten foot pole. I don't want to read through the topics and I don't want to read through the articles and place my mind inside the minds of different people. It's not that I can't do it. It's that I generally don't wish to do it. And then people just generally skirt the line of a flame. It's not just one person but a number of people. I DON'T want this thread to become a mudslinging fest or a case of "He said, she said." I'm not looking at yet another discussion of the Middle east or international politics. I'm looking at what we - and I am talking about EVERYBODY - can do to make this a somewhat more civil place to hang out. A few thoughts first...


1.) We are not all the same... and that is a good thing.

There are those of us with differing or even opposing religious beliefs, cultural values, political leanings, personal experiences, etc. that we bring to the table. If we all believed the same way and made similar interpretations, then what NEED would there be to debate anything? Why would we have to "test" our notions, if everyone else believes the same way? And at the same time that allows us to be exposed to information that either supports (or negates) our opinions to help "fill in" our beliefs.

We shouldn't ALL be Black, Democrat, Protestant, middle-class males, all who grew up the same way. And at the same time, we should be sure that while we uphold our own beliefs, we should not alienate those who believe differently or come from different backgrounds.

2.) You aren't going to change anyone else's opinion or change who they are.

Kami and Mike are Republicans, for instance. They have their own reasons for voting and believing the way they do. It is NOT your (or my) right to make personal assumptions against them because they prefer red over blue. We should accept their reasons as THEIR reasons and leave it as that. It is not anyone's charge to convert another to your personal belief or them to ours.

Did Jesus walk into a village with a gaggle of armed disciples, shooting beams from his eyes, and say "All right you all, bow down and worship me or Daddy's going to ship all your asses to the basement for some tough tanning"? (No offense meant to those who don't believe that way. I'm just using this as an example.) If he had, do you think people would have accepted his argument for the right reason? The delivery of the argument is more important than the argument itself.

3.) Attack the argument, not the person. Don't overgeneralize.

The two are not the same. What if someone is playing devil's advocate? What if someone just completely disagrees with you on that one subject area. Keep it all in context. The debate is won by logic, not the person who hits the hardest and lowest. This is a debate forum, not a "Yo' momma" contest.

What does it mean when someone sympathizes/agrees with Israel in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Simple. It means that person thinks Israel's force is justified in that conflict. It does not mean he/she is anti-Arab, pro-U.S., anti-Muslim, practices voodoo, or anything else. It does not mean he/she approved of the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib. You cannot make an assumption that a person who believes one way about a specific subject will in turn believe this way about another subject altogether. That's like saying that because I'm a Black male, I believe all police are racist pigs out to lynch me. There is a tendency to generalize opinions, but you cannot extend that to people.

4.) He's DEAD, Jim.

If the debate is not going anywhere, then for heaven's sake STOP. You need to look at what the PURPOSE of the argument is. If you aren't bringing new facts to light or responding (civilly) to arguments expressed by others, then what the hell are you doing? You're just trying to see whose is bigger. When it gets to this point, HANG IT UP. Walk away from it and DON'T GO BACK. Simple as that. No person can argue with himself.

And when the argument is pronounced dead, KEEP IT DEAD. Don't pick up a dead argument about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a thread about Pam Grier. If the horse is beaten to death, then all that's going to happen next is that you are going to have smelly blood and dead flesh all over your shoes. LET IT GO.

5.) The moment you insult your audience, you lose ALL credibility.

For real. Why the hell would I want to listen to you when you've called me a moron? You have already established that you have no respect for me or my opinion. So, why should I take anything you say seriously?

Now, I'd like to open up this particular thread for discussion. What are some things that we members as a whole can do while participating to keep a positive atmosphere here?

NO venting about other people. NO insulting. NO hijacking the thread, unless it's by Sam Wilson with pictures of a beautiful scantily-clad women and even THEN, every picture must be accompanied by something relative to the topic at hand. What are some things that WE AS A WHOLE can keep in mind while participating in discussion here?

Offline Sam Wilson

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Re: Civilized Debate
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2006, 02:29:25 pm »
Well put brother lion, well put.

michaelintp

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Re: Civilized Debate
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2006, 05:41:50 pm »


Lion, I'm bowing to you.

This sounds like a GREAT PLAN!  I'm ON BOARD with you 100%.  With or without peace pipes, on a going forward basis everything you are saying makes perfect sense and has the potential to turn even Vox Populi into a civil place! 

It will be nice to share ideas (time permitting) without the clutch in the stomach that a personal attack is inevitable.  I'm sure that feeling is shared by everyone.  I'm not pointing fingers here ... there is planty of blame to go around. 

That's why, without lookin' back, on a going forward basis ... I'm lookin' forward to our entry into the Gan Eden of Vox Populi!   ;)

P.S. Reginald better give you something for this.  Like VIP tickets to any and all BET Celebrity Events.  Because your task sounds like one big pain in the "arse" (as Wise Son would say). 

Offline Lion

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Re: Civilized Debate
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2006, 05:47:17 pm »
I made this into a sticky. (Well... I *think* I did.) I would just like for everyone to sit back and think about what type of things everyone can do. If we can come to a consensus about how to go about debating and work from there, I think that could change the entire "mood" of the Vox Populi and make it more positive for everyone - regardless of political/ideological slant - to hang out.

I want to hear from everyone what their ideas are. Rolli... Michael... Curtis... Sam... Bluezulu... Kami... Reggie... Redjack... everyone. We need a variety of suggestions here from all you opinionated people out there. Note that I'm saying suggestions. Ideally, I'm looking at developing a framework from where we can lay some ground rules particular to the Vox Populi forum. What constitutes "fighting fair"? What can all we HEFFAS do when we participate here to make sure that we balance respect for others with freedom of expression?

Offline Sam Wilson

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Re: Civilized Debate
« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2006, 05:54:45 pm »
I think first and for most, no personal attacks.  No one is "less than" for what they believe in, but to go with that, if you general view is everyone else is "less than" to you than maybe you should tread lightly?  Ghah.  I dunno, Curtis or Wise Son probably have a better way of saying that...

Offline Wise Son

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Re: Civilized Debate
« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2006, 01:51:38 am »
This is a good replacement for Cage's old 'Civility' thrad from HEF1.0. I can't say I've never gotten annoyed at people talking crap online, especially if I'm trying to argue rationally. Thing is, if someone's just talking crap, you kind of lose as soon as you sart talking to them. But yeah, attack the idea, and if they keep trying to make it personal, try to ignore them. An 'ignore' button would be damn useful. Jenn keeps (or kept) saying that there were more up-to-date versions of the software for this board, so maybe one of them would allow that.

Lion, I know you're not in charge of that, but if you have a chance to suggest it to the admins, it couldn't hurt.

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Offline stanleyballard

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Re: Civilized Debate
« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2006, 06:50:08 am »
IAWWS

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Civilized Debate
« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2006, 08:09:32 am »
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
"Be hard on systems, but soft on people."

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Civilized Debate
« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2006, 08:18:39 am »
An 'ignore' button would be damn useful. Jenn keeps (or kept) saying that there were more up-to-date versions of the software for this board, so maybe one of them would allow that.

Lion, I know you're not in charge of that, but if you have a chance to suggest it to the admins, it couldn't hurt.

As Jenn said, there is a version 1.0.9 of Simple Machines Forum (we're running 1.0.5).  Upon perusing the features for SMF 1.1, I did not see an "Ignore" function or its equivalent.  Too bad.
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
"Be hard on systems, but soft on people."

Offline zulu801

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Re: Civilized Debate
« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2006, 08:24:52 am »
Remove the Politics (Vox Populi) from HEF.  Religion talk also.  Comparison and contrast of Wakanda religion and real life religion should not be discuss either.   Let current members w/ certain member level take a vote and our results will be sent to the mod and RH.  Political conversation for the past 2 yrs, many many moments, were not civil and it has been addressed numerous times.  Therefore, the talk of politics should not be able to continue to be addressed on a "comic book board".  It seems politics topics / talk  have caused a dark veil placed on the board.

« Last Edit: November 24, 2006, 08:35:46 am by zulu801 »

Offline Francisco

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Re: Civilized Debate
« Reply #10 on: November 24, 2006, 08:42:12 am »
I respectfully disagree with that suggestion. To do, so would be a big failure from our part and would send the wrong message. We are all adults for god’s sake. We just have to act like it. The solution is not to forbid those subjects but to ban (erasing IP address) whoever starts “flaming” instead of discussing them like an adult.
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Offline KamiKaZee

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Re: Civilized Debate
« Reply #11 on: November 24, 2006, 08:56:40 am »


NO debating cuz what I say goes and more fun forum games. Please.


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Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Civilized Debate
« Reply #12 on: November 24, 2006, 09:05:28 am »
I agree with Francisco.  Also, simply removing Vox Populi will just push political discussion into other forums.  Members who do not wish to participate in political discussions can avoid Vox Populi.
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
"Be hard on systems, but soft on people."

michaelintp

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Re: Civilized Debate
« Reply #13 on: November 24, 2006, 09:12:21 am »
Well Zulu, we did set up a Vox Populi section, so that the politics discussions would not infect the "General Discussion" section.  That should be a suitable solution, if general standards of civility are followed.  The bottom line is don't make it personal.  Here are some more specific ideas:

1.  Name calling should be forbidden.  Period.  Never say, "You are a racist, you are a bigot, you are a X,Y,Z, ... etc."  If someone says something that you think is racist, bigoted, whatever ... attack the idea, not the person.  But be careful to respond to a direct quote.  Along the same lines we've seen people refer to other's sexual practices, which while not quite as offensive, becuase they are such obviously silly insults, but still guys and gals ... errrr.

2.  Recharacterizations of the other person's position should be forbidden.  Because this usually leads to distortion, and distortion that is usually meant as an insult.  It is done to upset the other board member and to provoke a personal fight.  The word 'you' should infrequently be used in a post.  Maybe rarely, if one person is really trying to understand what another person is saying, it is OK.  But often we've seen in a personal attack one poster say to another, "You've said X [am offensive thing]" when in fact the person never said X.  The safest thing is to let people speak for themselves.  We have a "quote" mechanism that allows you to copy the exact words another person has said, if you wish to respond to those words.  

3.  Never fabricate quotes allegedly said by another person.  At times we've seen a member quote another member, and the alleged quote is wholly fabricated.  This is done with the intention of personally attacking the character of the other board member.

4.  Don't "demand" that another board member respond to you.  If someone wants to respond, they will.  If they don't, they won't.  Sometimes a person decides not to respond NOT because you've levied an overwhelming argument, but rather because they find you to be a pain in the butt not worth dealing with.  Related to this, don't gloat that someone did not respond to your post.  

5.  It is not about being the "winner" -- related to the above, sometimes refusal of others to respond to you actually demonstrates that you are a loser that nobody wants to talk to.

6.  Don't insist on having the last word.  This drags on arguments interminably.  Again, the person who has the last word is NOT the "winner" -- just as often people view him/her as the opposite.

7.  Don't be nasty.  This includes not impugning other people’s motives, using snide and/or catty remarks, and the like.

These are general principles.  But ... What do we do where someone is repeatedly expressing hateful speech that goes over the top?  Perhaps that is the role of an active moderator, to step in, perhaps with a PM to the person.  Though this should not be used to "ban" controversial topics.  This requires some sensitivity and insight on the part of the moderator, in understanding there is a broad range of viewpoints on issues.  That said, there are some things that do rise to the level of hate speech, and those do need to be addressed when they do arise.  In some cases the person making the offensive remarks may not even realize what he/she is doing.  In other cases it may reflect misinterpretation.  However, in a very very few instances Lion may be forced to confront the real deal.

Finally, what are the consequences for repeated offensive conduct?  That a person’s screen name is banned, and they are allowed to then re-register under a new screen name?  What kind of sanction is that?  This is not really Lion's role, but that of the board Administrator with Lion's input.  Something more effective needs to be done -- like banning the person's IP Address.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2006, 12:38:05 pm by michaelintp »

Offline Lion

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Re: Civilized Debate
« Reply #14 on: November 24, 2006, 10:19:40 am »
It's one thing when the insult is cut and dry, but it kind of gets into a grey area when we start replying to "implications" - things not directly said but definitely implied. Of course, "implication" is a matter of perspective. One person might read more into a quote than what the original person had meant or intended. That's one thing that's very hard to wade through when we are looking at something verbally versus hearing it. Sarcasm and inflections aren't always understood.

Perhaps when something strikes a nerve or rubs us the wrong way, instead of a comeback, we should first ask for clarification... and give how we are interpreting a direct quote and ask if we are spot on. I might be asking for trouble, there, but a lot of what I've seen is not directly responding to what someone has actually said. That's a VERY easy thing to do in discussing these type of controversial subjects. Basically... how can we rephrase the subjective into the objective?

"Did you mean to say 'A' as in 'rephrase of A' or did you mean 'something else'?"

"No... I meant 'another rephrase of A'..."

"Okay... Now I'm getting you. Well, this is what I think..."

Damn it... Where's bluezulu when we need him? I'd think his background would be perfect, since we're touching lightly on conflict resolution...

ADDENDUM:

P.S. Reginald better give you something for this. Like VIP tickets to any and all BET Celebrity Events. Because your task sounds like one big pain in the "arse" (as Wise Son would say).

Just noticed this. Nope... I'm doing this because I genuinely like hanging out on this board and haven't liked the direction it's been taking lately. I'm thinking we're beginning to turn things around a bit. This is definitely a step in the right direction, provided my internet stays on!

Though, I do have to admit... that would be a nice incentive! I'll just settle for being the local HEF superhero.

Damn it... Now I've hijacked my own thread. *grumbles* Oh... wait... I'll copy and paste it into my previous post. Problem solved.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2006, 10:30:18 am by Lion »