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The Doctor.

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Member since: Thu Jun 3, 2004, 09:00 PM
Number of posts: 17,266

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The Dumbing Down of DU.


Well, here we are with another barn-burner of a clusterfest. These are good stuff. Irritating, blood-boiling, contentious, and totally idiosyncratic to the place. Complaints drop like anvils, points are made, fits are flown, alerts abound, and some things even get hashed out... but not much is really solved. Believe it or not, understandings are often reached, not that those understandings are always in the form of 'agreement'.

Funny how this new row over the jury system isn't much different.

I'm neither really opposed to or in favor of the system, personally. I see its strengths and weaknesses fairly well. I understand that it gives the community a self-policing mechanism that doesn't consume the time and resources of a few brave folks who become overwhelmed with alerts and then have to constantly contact each-other and discuss remedies which will invariably make them unpopular no matter how 'right' they try to get it. Yep, no moderators to kick around. Also it eliminates the suspicions and accusations of trolls winding up in moderator positions. In fact, it eliminates even the possibility of it (Well, if the position doesn't exist, no one can fill it, right?). I can tell the formula has been tweaked to make it more difficult to get posts hidden on a whim, and it is set up in such a way that a juror can easily do the quick research they need to come to a conclusion. Also, given that DU generally has a higher concentration of bright(er) folks on board, it is more than reasonable to believe that ultimately, the system will work well more often than not.

I do believe that it does. Personally, I've seen that to be the case (I've even alerted on myself a few times just to test the system). But there's just one teenie-weenie hitch: Very little objectivity.

Okay, but how could that possibly be a problem? People can go on 'feelings' or 'friendships' or 'flipping a coin' if they can't discern the infraction, right? Well.... yeahhhhhhhhh, but we 'assume' that people won't generally do this and of course the system is set up so that 4 out of 6 would have to base their decisions on something other than the substance of the post in question and have their decisions align without speaking to each-other.. Sounds pretty good, but there is still a problem with it.

First, I'd like to talk about 'shit'. Literally. "Why... that's an offensive word there!" Well, okay, but... when? Sure it can totally be used in an offensive way: "You're such a piece of shit.", "You look like shit.", "You're riting iz shit.", etc. But it's a complicated word because of the many, many connotations our culture has ascribed to it.

"That concert was the SHIT!", "This Shit is AWESOME." "Good shit, man." ad nauseum.

Someone without an understanding of context who was proficient in English but ignorant of our culture would hear one of the above phrases and probably be somewhat perplexed. They might also be offended.
Here on DU, we have a VERY complex culture. I've been here going on 8 years and I still don't know half the memes that DUers propagate. I've seen people who weren't even very new correct others on their spelling of the words, "Hugh", "Moran", and "Series!"
DU has spent over a decade cultivating a complex community with rich memes, jokes, and interpersonal interactions. There are DUers that have an intricate understanding of these things and know when someone intends insult or humor, or whatever.

But there are many here who do not have such a robust understanding. I know from personal experience that when I was called to adjudicate a post, every so often I'd have to do 10 minutes of research just to understand what took place. I also know that not everyone does that. That's part of the problem.

Today, I accepted jury duty. The post in question was one word.

"Douche"

Offensive? Well, just like 'shit', it's all about context and culture, and the context and culture behind this one post was not so simple.
My introduction to the post was the alerter's opinion that this was a personal attack on the original poster of the thread. In my head, I immediately agreed that it appeared to be a 'personal attack'. But I did my diligence anyway.
The OP was an invitation to all of DU to 'take a step back' and 'chill out'. It basically said to take a break from the fray and appreciate the nice things. "Stop and smell the roses", if you will.

I got it.

"Douche" was not at all an insult to the OP. It was a complex commentary on the unwillingness of DUers to tear themselves away and rise above the fray despite the fact that once they did, they would be glad of it and they knew it.

"Damnit, I hate you! You made me smile!" - That was the idea.

Not so simple.

Well, 5 other jurors went into that post on the alerter's word that it was a 'personal attack'. Of those 5, it is easy to presume that 4 of them did not attempt to parse the complexity of the response. The post was hidden.
This was a small loss to all of DU for 2 reasons: 1) The poster did not get a chance to clarify what he meant and posters who otherwise might have learned something will not. 2) That long time DUer, who understands the memes of DU and the people here, now has less of a chance of serving on a jury.
Like I said, small loss, but a loss nonetheless.

The bigger loss is to the culture of DU. We have a system in place that has a more than fair chance of punishing the use of complex memes and characterizations. I have found that the more subtle, the more complicated, or the more cryptic an expression is, the more susceptible to misconstruction it becomes. We've all seen the wingnuts reduce complex arguments by intelligent people into simple strawmen like "Oh! So you want the terrorists to win!". We know how wrong they are and we simply can't decide to just be stupid and buy into their little world. Here on DU, we shouldn't accept the intellectual laziness of straw men or "TL;DR".

There may be a few dim bulbs on DU, but I really haven't seen any (except for the trolls of course, but they don't count). The problem is that this place is complicated and the ideas that fly around here are complex and invariably there will be people (and, in my experience, have been plenty) that will misconstrue or misunderstand them. Especially if they are introduced to the post in question through the view of the alerter. That alone robs some objectivity from the process.

I LIKE DU as a complex, interesting, and intelligent place, but so far I've been told that we have to 'watch what we say' because people might be offended. That's wrong because it means that we have to eliminate some level of complexity from our interactions. That's wrong because it means that we are unwilling to go through the process of better getting to know our community. That's wrong because it means that we have to settle for a slightly less intelligent place because some handful of people influenced by the unfortunate misunderstanding of just 1 person gets to hide someone's idea or reason, kick them out of a thread, reduce their chance of serving on a jury and overall make the experience less fun for someone who actually intended no harm or insult at all.

Sure, there are plenty of people who intend harm or insult and their posts should be hidden. But not until a reasonable effort is made to understand the context of that post. Ultimately, doing so will help increase the understanding, complexity, and integration of DU.

And I'd much rather that were the case, because I refuse to 'dumb it down' just to avoid an incurious jury.


You may now call me a 'Douche' if you'd like*







*Offer only available in present thread or for the purposes of making a clever joke or point at my expense provided it is genuinely amusing or in conjunction with a signed note from the admins that you are allowed to call me a 'douche'. Offer void where prohibited.

The Problem Isn't Guns... It's CONSERVATIVES with Guns.


Think about this, please. In a nutshell:

Here on DU, you will find the most socially responsible, safety-minded, and conscientious gun owners and advocates anywhere on the internet. I've put this to the test. Had I access to the advanced search function, I'd have one of the links right here, but if anyone wants, I'll explain it and do the digging anyway.

I know that pro-2nd DUers are an easy target because they are the closest at hand, but if anyone should decide to take an honest look at the gun violence in this nation, they will find that all liberals, including the pro-2nd ones (it's more complicated than 'pro-2nd', but for the sake of brevity...) are vested in ending the strife, corruption, and lies that lead to such tragedies.

We know damn well that Trayvon was shot because his killer was afraid of black people. We know damn well that there is an active element in the media and woven into our social networks that exacerbates those fears in people. Trayvon did not die simply because someone had a gun...

He died because a "CONSERVATIVE" had a gun.

When it comes to guns, the grown-up, thoughtful, and reverent attitude towards weapons of such power radiates from liberal types that know what they are dealing with and how important it is to educate people and relieve the pressures that cause desperate people, including misguided conservatives, to resort to deathly violence.

You have to travel a total 180º from that attitude to arrive at the ultimately childish, hyper-macho, and absolutely naïve attitude of abject disregard for the potency and potential for horror guns can cause that we find all the time in today's 'conservative' gun owner.

How difficult is it to actually point to the 'conservative' roots and ideologies that have compelled virtually every single act of violence that did not otherwise have a money or personal motive?

Let's put it this way: a stoned squirrel could figure it out.

I'd like to think that DU knows this already. Not because we're all necessarily 'stoned' or 'squirrely'... or some combination thereof, but because it has been obvious to all of us that the rejection of a civilized approach is entirely the method of 'conservatives'.

THIS is what we have to be afraid of. Not 'Guns', but the mêmes and propaganda that foster hatred and foment violence in people with guns who are too stupid to own them. We can't keep guns out of the hands of anyone who wants them without denying those who truly need them. If we tried to impose draconian gun restrictions I can guarantee you that the rabid conservative gun-nuts would have channels to obtain them, while the lawful liberals would be (slightly) more likely to turn them over. It won't work.

In the meanwhile, what this says is that we have to educate people about the danger of conservatives with guns. We have to get people to understand that the conservative mindset is based on fear and they are somewhat more likely to be carrying guns. We have to instruct people that dealing with a conservative is often like dealing with an animal that is already afraid of an unfamiliar environment and will likely respond with violence when clearly out of their intellectual, social, or conceptual depth.

I'm saying this without one ounce of humor or sarcasm. These people are DANGEROUS, and we should make sure that everyone is AWARE of that.

In the meanwhile, if anyone can think of any plausible law that would keep guns out of the hands of most 'conservatives', I'd love to hear it.

I have a few ideas myself.

Not A Tear.

I'm not writing this for gravedancing purposes, but I refuse to judge anyone who does or anyone who doesn't.

What I have to say is this: Andrew Breitbart is dead, and, in the balance, that's a good thing. No confetti, no ceremonies, no dancing or preaching, it's just more 'right' than 'wrong'.

I feel sympathy for those who relied on him or even actually cared about him outside of politics, but his passing means there is one less liar, one less hater, and one less enemy of reason in the world. He did nothing for people beyond fomenting hatred and poisoning the public discourse. He even went so low as to vilify Ted Kennedy, a man who actually helped millions of people, including the very morons who reviled Kennedy at the behest of people like Breitbart. In fact, I have a message for all of you lurking wingnuts on that very point. Too bad it requires basic literacy to get. Otherwise you might actually learn who is really on your side and decide to join the civilized world.

But you won't. Because you've been taught irrational hatred, and then been programmed to believe that the people trying to get through your thick heads are your enemy.

And that really is the point. Breitbart, like Limbaugh, Hannity, Coulter, Beck, and all of the other proven liars (For you wingnuts: "Proven" means 'can be demonstrated in reality' not 'because I say so'), was part of the mechanism that keeps the people of this nation divided by inciting fear and anger in many many Americans. He was part of the propaganda machine that deliberately turns people who might have been legitimate conservatives into batshit-crazy, hate-filled enemies of reason. Without reason, people vote and act against their own self-interest and the interest of society. When you can't reason with someone, you cannot have productive discourse. Without productive discourse, civilization is put in jeopardy.

Now imagine for a moment what the nation would be like if suddenly all the actual liars, haters, and enemies of reason just shut up and went away.

We could go back to being a nation of ideas, creativity, and solutions. We could actually achieve peace, equality, comfort, and satisfaction for almost everyone. We could start managing the planet properly and ensuring that resources would always be renewed for future generations. We might argue about how to go about it, but ultimately, and through reasoning, solutions emerge from civil discourse.

Breitbart was an enemy of all of those. His departure will not be enough to stop the forces of avarice that poison our nation and divide us, but ultimately, the world is a better place without him.
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