Rule #3, in our ongoing discussion about rules.

The Rule:

   3. Harassing other members of the site may result in a ban.
Harassment includes (but is not necessarily limited to) the following:

   1. Ad hominem attacks and name calling.
   2. Blatantly bigoted or derogatory statements or remarks about
someone’s race, gender, or sexual orientation.
   3. Posting any contents of private conversations without the
expressed consent of all people involved.
   4. Disclosing private information about a fellow member without
their expressed consent.
   5. Posting inappropriate or private pictures of fellow members
without their expressed consent.
   6. Making negative threads targeting fellow members.

The Reason:
Nobody likes being harassed, we'd like everyone to have a fair shot at
getting along on Atheist Nexus and nobody should be subjected to an
undue amount of hassle. We'll go over this one slowly as it is a
matter of contention among members.

First, note that harassment is going to be one of those issues in
which the mod is going to have to make a decision based on what they
can see is happening using their judgment. It is another instance
where "good faith" and "Intent" will be leaned upon. The body of the
rule even mentions that items in the list of "things that are
harassment" are not the only ways to harass people.

a. Ad hominem attacks and name calling.
The long and the short of it is this: if people avoid calling others
names, they'll never get in trouble for calling others names.
Attacking people's character in order to discredit their ideas falls
under the same heading. If one takes exception to a person's ideas,
they should attempt to discredit those ideas in a civil manner. If
that person is acting foolish, their actions will speak for
themselves. Opinions about their IQ, the likely chemical composition
of their brain, the legitimacy of their parentage and other such
things are immaterial to discourse and hurtful.

b. Blatantly bigoted or derogatory statements or remarks about
someone’s race, gender, disability, age or sexual orientation.
Keep it to yourself. The freedom to talk down to other races, genders, disabilities, ages
and/or sexual orientations, can be found plenty of other places on the
internet. This isn't one of them.

c. Posting any contents of private conversations without the expressed
consent of all people involved.
Things written in private should stay private. The exception to this
is if someone is making a report of another member harassing them in
public, in which case it is acceptable to forward messages on to the
moderation staff. It is never appropriate to publicly post the
contents of a private message without the senders permission.

d. Disclosing private information about a fellow member without their
expressed consent.
This rule is meant to protect people from being harassed via other
mediums or in their-day-to-day lives. Giving away another user's e-
mail address, phone number, home address, place of work or even real
name can be potentially harmful to that person, especially considering
the nature of this website and the prevailing attitudes toward
atheists and non-believers in most places around the world.

e. Posting inappropriate or private pictures of fellow members without
their expressed consent.
What is going to be inappropriate or private is sort of going to be up
to the person who's pictures is being posted. The onus is on each of
us to obtain permission before posting pictures of other members. 

f. Making negative threads targeting fellow members.
There is a fine line between targeting a person and targeting an idea
which has been associated with a person with such vitriol or passive
aggression that it becomes indistinguishable from a personal attack.
We'd like the free flow of ideas to remain free, and clamping down on
what people can and can't say is always a dangerous game--a game we'd
rather not have to play at all. However, our lack of action on matters
of harassment because of our respect for the freedom of speech is
causing a lot of problems.

On the one hand, as atheists, we have a great appreciation for ideas.
On the other hand, we typically expect those ideas to be based on
sound evidence and thinking. It's not wrong to challenge someone's
idea and it is not against the rules to upset someone. It is against
the rules to harangue them. Sometimes, people are wrong. Often times,
their minds can't be changed through argument. If it is evident that
no one is going to change their mind, continuing to attempt to
convince them or knock down an idea that has presumably already been
knocked down is accomplishing nothing. People are not obliged to
defend their ideas if they don't want to. They are also not obliged to
be right, nor are they obliged to acknowledge when other people are
right. These are all lovely, polite things, but they are not
obligations. Nobody has the right to persistently attempt to force
another person into a conversation they don't want to have.

By the same token, if a member takes exception to another person's
views and brings evidence and rational discourse to the table--that is
not harassment. Hounding people is. The difference will be up to the
moderators to decide. Their decisions need to be respected. 

The Action:
If it is determined that a member is harassing another member,
depending on the severity, they will usually receive a warning to
stop. After that, they may be banned. There will no longer be a chain
of warnings because a particular offender has decided to simply switch
targets. People who chronically hassle other members will be banned.
The culture of mean-spirited confrontation is getting stale and--as it
has manufactured nothing of value--it's going to stop.

It is my hope the the dialogue here will become more dialectic and a
little less argumentative.

Views: 1022

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Replies to This Discussion

You are more than welcome to be skeptical. Dave was welcome to be skeptical too, what he chose to be was confrontational and disruptive. I don't have to respect that at all.

I've heard nothing but suppositions based on air. Correct me if I am wrong, but what I am hearing from the self styled "dicks" is that I am a bullshitter, I am part of the problem, nothing is going to change, I am propping up the so-called "whiner culture," etc, etc, etc. I can paste in quotes if it will speed things along. Am I wrong? I'd like to be.

I started hearing these rumblings the very first day. The total of my actions so far is to initiate a clarification of the rules and express a desire to start fresh. These sentiments were met with suspicion, paranoia and Japanese diplomacy.

You also might be interested to know that I have not ever once locked a thread on this site.

And therein lies the problem. Assumptions.

You have been talking to me as though I fashioned these rules to target you, or something. You keep talking to me about people complaining about you, and about how much you called them names versus how much they called you names and, in truth, the only reason I have even brought up the word "idiot" and associated with your usage is because you made a point of telling everyone that you believed that you could logically determine an idiot from a non-idiot and were therefore entitled to use the word to describe people.

As far as I know, you have never once called anyone an idiot in your entire life. All I know, because I was born three days ago, is that you are petitioning for us to get rid of rule #3 and that you used the word "idiot" in your example.

It really seems like we're operating under the assumption that this is about you and your history and your problems and it just isn't. I wasn't a mod then, so I am not touching it. I don't have the time, nor the inclination to dig into everyone's pasts and kick a bunch of ass based on what people said months ago. Not yours, not theirs; it's not a practical use of my time.

Are you championing the cause of freeing religious people from verbal persecution? What do you propose we do? I'm very keen to hear your suggestions. Your constructive criticism has been invaluable.
It really seems like we're operating under the assumption that this is about you and your history and your problems and it just isn't. I wasn't a mod then, so I am not touching it. I don't have the time, nor the inclination to dig into everyone's pasts and kick a bunch of ass based on what people said months ago. Not yours, not theirs; it's not a practical use of my time.

I do want you to know that this doesn't mean that you can't bring your experiences to the table, I just wish that if you are going to, you'd spell things out a little more completely. As it stands, I can't tell who you are talking to about what. I keep getting lumped in with "the site," which is now perpetuating whiner culture and I'd really just like to tackle this as if I had no idea what you're talking about, because for the most part, I don't.

I've been a user here since the site was 8 days old and have used it pretty extensively and I really have no idea who you have been fighting with over what.
I'll try and answer very cautiously. If I sound abrupt it's only because I just learned that a payment I have been waiting desperately for was sent to Saint Petersburg, Russia, rather than Saint Petersburg, Florida. I do want to lash out and call someone a fucking idiot, but it is not you.

Frankly, I don't have a solution. I think that the point was made more to gain an understanding of the problem so that solutions can be found.

The point is really twofold. First of all, we seem to encourage a culture of disparagement, but only to outsiders. It's almost like you tell a kid that there are some things you can do or say in the house, but don't do them outside the house. That's almost a response. You can say "fuck" in the house, but you can't say it in school. On one hand that is quite reasonable, and the fact is that we all do it. That's how I might justify the rule to myself.

On the other hand, it really raises a more philosophical issue that is well worth considering by anyone who calls themselves an atheist. Is there a camaraderie of atheists in which the mere claim of being an atheist serves as a shield against harassment. In other words, should people be able to get away with something simply because they are atheists? Should a 9/11 Truther be able to spout nonsense here simply because he is an atheist, or should he be called out for it, and even disparaged for it. Honestly, I have more respect for a well-intentioned Christian like someone who devotes their life to Habitat for Humanity (a religious charity) than for a conspiracy kook who spreads lies and misinformation. In that case atheism is not a shield in my book.

On the other hand, we all too often see the effects of an in-group mentality which tells people to circle the wagons because we are defending our own. The Jewish community, which I know fairly well, may be an example of this. Lots of open-minded liberals until it comes to criticism of Israel. Where does A|N stand? Is it also fostering that in-group mentality?

Now, it is perfectly reasonable to say, "Attack the argument, not the person." It is also very utopian. If you were arguing with Ray Comfort, for example, It's fair to say that no reasonable argument will sway him. You can't argue with an apologist.

I also think that his willingness to hold on to and defend outlandish beliefs is not simply a result of religion. It is a result of dogmatism, which transcends religion. Dogmatism can certainly be present in the atheist community as well, just as it can in any group. Truthers are an example of that.

I think this is where part of the problem here originates. Some people here draw a line at the dogmatic belief in a god, whereas others take a broader perspective and draw the line at all dogmatic belief in nonsense. I readily admit to being in the latter category. The real question, which should be clarified then, is what position does this site take?

I may be mistaken based on my aforementioned personal bias, but I suggest that it is the latter option. After all, why don't we want theists here? I suggest it is because they will not be convinced and it is futile to argue endlessly with them, knowing deep down that in the end nothing they hear will change their mind. It is frustrating. We think them to be idiots. But isn't the same true of all dogmatists? And if it is, wouldn't the same sense of frustration that people feel be understandable? Isn't the tendency to lash out at some point and call them an idiot a very human response?

So, philosophical underpinnings aside, what do I propose we do? I think the first step is to clarify whether the site is welcoming of all proponents of dogmatism as long as they are atheists or not. It's tricky. One man's dogma is another person's common sense. Once that is determined though, then there can be an honest discussion of how to define dogmatism and what to do with it when it appears.

And now I must go write a friendly email to a bank, explaining why its employees must all be sterilized so as not to pollute the gene pool.
The locking threads comment was directed toward Richard, sorry for the confusion.
Only two discussions were locked. The first was going nowhere and I wanted to direct everyone to the new rules discussions. I thought it would be good to come up with some solutions. The second was concerning our first rule about the minimum age of Nexus members. There was nothing else to be discussed, and it was going way off topic.
moJoe: Felch: To the best of my knowledge, you've never been banned from this site. The roof has never collapsed on your head. Nor has the sky ever fallen. For all your protestations against the establishment, you are still here and still presumably calling people idiots. If you're not, it's not because of anything I have done to stop you in my first few days in office.

Yeah ok. I am now going to do the Dave trick - can you actually please quantify my use of "idiot" against other members here, or if you are so new to the job, get an underling to do it? It is few and far between and the mythology that surrounds me and the reality are disappointingly different. My main crime, the one that gets up people's nose the most, is making them feel stupid using their own words. They hate that. This is where my main gripe kicks in - the habit of confusing the man with the ball. Out of the endless complaints made against me, the times when I actually am shown evidence that proves I used unwarranted, personal invective in lieu of argument themselves warrant popping a bottle of champaign because its not exactly the everyday occurrence everyone seems to believe it is. More like a birthday. This myth that I am a personal abuse machine is entirely due to people taking personally points that address their arguments in a manner they would prefer to not have pointed out and feeling hurt. Aren't we supposed to be grown ups? That this keeps getting confused and muddied tells me we're not.

And the sky indeed does fall - all because I told a user here to stop mass posting gibberish in a fit of despair (merely echoing the same feelings of many others), it set off this new stupidity of "stalking" which is apparently now rampant here too, which attained prominence in the "Stop the madness" thread. Direct cause and effect. Out of one single yelp from a serial nuisance poster - one that has repeatedly been asked to cease and desist from gibberish bombing. Again, it is a pretty clear demonstration of priorities.
"Nuisance poster." Is there a limit on how often one can post on the site? In a given thread? On a given topic?

Because if there are such limits it might solve some of the issues I've had, but on the less-selfish side, I'm not a fan of what that would do for open discussion and expression.
Jo, rule 9e. We're headed there but still have a few other rules first. There is not a number, "repititious" is in the eye of the beholder and could even apply within this discussion, but I vote we wait till we get there. Valid issue however.
Daniel - Got it. Thanks. I suppose the definition I was thinking of could fall under that heading.

John D - Each member visits, utilizes and experiences the forums in different ways. The #9 issues that are paramount to your experience ... I've not seen much of a problem there. Likewise, my #3 issues are my own and probably less important or even invisible to you.

I'm fine with moJoe taking the rules one at a time, in order, to address everyone's concerns equally.
I deeply enjoy reading the so-called "gibberish nuisance posters" posts. There is a depth of beauty in the way he expresses himself and I fail to understand why you and "many others" dont' see that.
@MoJoe: You write, "There is no clear way to morally disambiguate the act of insulting your own versus the act of insulting others. Precisely my point. In practical terms, we were able to live with it because they don't and can't (according to the rules) become a member of this community."

So the reason we are able to insult others is because they don't and can't become members of the community? That's ridiculous. Your kid can't become a member of the community either, because he's under thirteen. May I insult him? I should hope not.

Alternately, is it because they can't defend themselves or answer back? That hardly says much for the culture either. You may only insult those who can't defend themselves.

I trust you don't accept any of these propositions. Neither do I. You admit that your response is not very satisfying. You'll have to do better.
To bring this back on topic, I just don't see any practical way to get rid of this rule. This isn't 4chan. If we take away rule 3a, it's going to be abused and people are going to be banned with or without the rule. With the rule, at lease you know where you stand.

Besides, we're not done yet, and there are some mitigating circumstances which may alter the application of this rule later on in these discussions.

I also feel it worth mentioning the wording of the actual rule:

3. Harassing other members of the site may result in a ban.

The purpose of the rule--the spirit of the rule--is to allow us to use it to keep people from harassing other members. It is not to oppress free speech. If you're not harassing other members there really shouldn't be a problem. In the end, the final adjudication of any issue is going to fall to the mods, just as it would if the rules weren't so explicitly spelled out.




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