Look at a couple of recent antagonistic posters who would already have been sanctioned on JREF or on ratskep (for personal insults) or on Dawkins if it was still operational and I was moderating.
I'm making a conscious decision to let things go here and there. It may be ill-advised, but call it an ongoing social experiment. Totally subjective. I've been fond of saying JREF is Lord of the Flies, which I feel is true, but that doesn't mean it isn't true here as well. It IS true. Difference is, the pot over there is mob rule (which extends to the moderation) and this
is benevolent dictatorship. Your mileage may vary.
My practice of standing firmly on objective middle ground annoys some. At least one occasion it was tsig. I admonished beachnut a couple of times when he used one of my posts as a launch pad for one of his standard diatribes with zero reference to my post which he quoted. I have commended femr2 and Major_Tom's work where I agree with them - and not commented on areas of disagreement other than in attempted and failed discussions with MT.
Oh, tsig, tsig... No sooner do I take a dig at tsig and he quotes me over on JREF in a non-negative light. I was picking on tsig, out of sport, because tsig picks on people out of sport. See, that's something that might not fly at RatSkep (but surely flies day in and day out at JREF), but it's only axiomatic that such protocol gives improved results. Think of it as the difference between semi-democratic rule of law and survival of the fittest. Places like RatSkep selectively favor exposure to poor arguments by allowing virtually all poor arguments to stand when spammed repetitively, so long as they are presented in a civil fashion, while simultaneously penalizing people who've reached their monthly limit in dealing with stupid bullshit and call a spade a spade.
A consistent purveyor of idiocy is an idiot
By artificially assuming the separation of arguer and argument is actually clean and total in real life
, the lofty ideals represented by attack the argument, not the arguer
are a recipe for an endless hamster wheel
. Take any forum open to the public, low brow to high brow, and it will be dominated by the clickety-click of rodent nails on little wheels of their own design. The other fallacy is that application of the principle will be administered in an omniscient and fully just manner, a side issue.
If you aspire to something different from that, then different principles are needed. Too many people whose opinion I value have told me that we've got something different - and positive - going on here. There have been a few whose opinions I don't respect (for other reasons) who've said the opposite. Tells me I'm doing something right, if only by NOT following the recipe for certain disaster.
There was disagreement earlier about what constituted valid criticism versus annoying spam. This involved parties of merit all the way around, as far as I'm concerned. The proposed resolution, a thread split, was pretty balanced considering that one party is a moderator. The 'principled' way is to recuse oneself, a luxury that's not always available here but, in effect, that's how it turned out.
Intelligent people can disagree, even vehemently, they do all the time. That's one of the reasons I linked to the faster-than-air craft, it's a brain teaser of the highest order. Fortunately, while difficult for most to resolve in concrete engineering terms (for me, too), the foundational principles are solid and an objective argument can be made, that's why you saw so many intelligent people switch sides after enough pushing.
In social matters, there is never going to be a clear cut objective answer of right or wrong unless applying dull blades with machine-like dispassion and precision. Lop off the good heads with the bad just because they both
stuck their heads into the wood-chipper? How is that upwardly evolved?
Likewise there is wisdom in letting a little ugly play out to see where it goes, for it can always be shuttled off to never-never land. Sometimes there is wisdom in leaving it there for all to see. Sometimes ugly is perfectly justified, either by virtue of holding up a mirror (often confused with sinking to the opponent's depth) or just because normal social conventions call for it.
RatSkep and those following similar approaches do a pretty good job mainly because practicality in dealing with large numbers yet maintaing higher discourse pretty much requires those methods, and I do not fault them for using that approach, I agree. However, the context is different, not the least because of size. As an analogy, RatSkep is like a huge manufacturing facility where order is kept by adherence to a large set of published standards catering to the median general population. This is like a small machine shop where a few of the resident lathe operators are a bit cranky and somewhat prejudicial. And they're perfectly aware of it.
If you wanted some advice on how to cultivate a forum where drunken walks are the only thing bringing new members, which was originally chartered with only serious membership, I actually think I'd be a good person to consult. My advice? Don't.