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A Rant: Preemptive Ad Homs & Honest Discourse

bsh1
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11/12/2015 6:31:35 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
The Problem

Over the course of my time on DDO, I have seen a number of threads in which the OP has implicitly or explicitly called anyone who disagrees with them idiots. I can think of a few anti-gay rights threads where, for instance, anyone who supported gay rights was either a "f--" or someone brainwashed by the mainstream media.

These kinds of preemptive ad hominem attacks DO NOT spark honest discussion. In fact, they do just the opposite. They (a) intimidate potential contributors who dissent from the opinion of the OP, making them feel unsafe to comment, (b) they verbally abuse and insult anyone who disagrees with them (in fact, it should count as a 'mere insult), (c) it instantly creates a hostile and combative atmosphere within the thread that is unproductive to calm and rational debate, but fertile ground for flame wars, (d) it sets a precedent that these kind of remarks are okay, which can lead to more directly badgering/insulting, and (e) it is anti-intellectual to dismiss all dissent as "idiocy," because it denies that there is any validity to their position BEFORE the opposition has had a chance to make any arguments.

The TOS

Allow to me to quote from the extended personal attack policy [http://www.debate.org...]:

"There is another kind of direct attack, as well. The kind of post where someone drops in to just say something like "You're all idiots". While not a direct personal attack against an individual, it's still a direct attack against the members on the thread."

"'Stupidity' is not something that can be objectively justified. Nor can other insults with subjective meaning."

"Ad hominem attacks are personal attacks. They are not tolerated. (Ex.: 'Well, you're a cop, so your opinion is wrong.)."

"'Fighting words' are posts intended solely to provoke or belittle. They're essentially a form of bullying."


Even if these kinds of ad hominem assaults don't violate the letter of this policy (though I think it's very possible that they do), they clearly violate the spirit of this policy. Saying in your OP, for instance, that anyone who supports gay rights is brainwashed (e.g. you're a gay rights supporter, so your opinion is wrong) is not substantively different from exactly the types of statements this policy prohibits. I think, then, that moderation should be more active in reigning remarks of this ilk, wherever they may occur.

Benefits

There are some pragmatic benefits to this idea, namely, more honest, safe, intellectual discourse. If people feel safe in expressing their opinion, they can be more honest about their thoughts; unsafe environments deter honest commentary or stifle commentary altogether. The anti-intellectual garbage those kinds of ad homs represent serve only to insult people (including users of this site) and to suppress free and open exchanges of opinion, and free and open exchanges are the lifeblood of a debating site. Furthermore, it may help to prevent the development of flamewars to reign in these kinds of fighting words.

In addition to these practical benefits, there is the simple issue of enforcing the TOS. DDO is a site of rules, and moderation does a wonderful job of enforcing them. However, I feel like this issue does push the envelop, if not ripping it apart, and that moderation should take a tougher stand here.

Disclaimer

I am willing to discuss hypotheticals, but not specific examples, since it is not my goal to call members out. Hopefully we can have a substantive discussion on this issue.

TL;DR

Preemptive ad homs and insults in the OP should be prohibited because they harm the site and violate the TOS.

========

Thoughts? Comments? Reactions?
Live Long and Prosper

I'm a Bish.


"Twilight isn't just about obtuse metaphors between cannibalism and premarital sex, it also teaches us the futility of hope." - Raisor

"[Bsh1] is the Guinan of DDO." - ButterCatX

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UtherPenguin
Posts: 3,683
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11/13/2015 2:20:09 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/12/2015 6:31:35 PM, bsh1 wrote:
The Problem

Over the course of my time on DDO, I have seen a number of threads in which the OP has implicitly or explicitly called anyone who disagrees with them idiots. I can think of a few anti-gay rights threads where, for instance, anyone who supported gay rights was either a "f--" or someone brainwashed by the mainstream media.

These kinds of preemptive ad hominem attacks DO NOT spark honest discussion. In fact, they do just the opposite. They (a) intimidate potential contributors who dissent from the opinion of the OP, making them feel unsafe to comment, (b) they verbally abuse and insult anyone who disagrees with them (in fact, it should count as a 'mere insult), (c) it instantly creates a hostile and combative atmosphere within the thread that is unproductive to calm and rational debate, but fertile ground for flame wars, (d) it sets a precedent that these kind of remarks are okay, which can lead to more directly badgering/insulting, and (e) it is anti-intellectual to dismiss all dissent as "idiocy," because it denies that there is any validity to their position BEFORE the opposition has had a chance to make any arguments.

The TOS

Allow to me to quote from the extended personal attack policy [http://www.debate.org...]:

"There is another kind of direct attack, as well. The kind of post where someone drops in to just say something like "You're all idiots". While not a direct personal attack against an individual, it's still a direct attack against the members on the thread."

"'Stupidity' is not something that can be objectively justified. Nor can other insults with subjective meaning."

"Ad hominem attacks are personal attacks. They are not tolerated. (Ex.: 'Well, you're a cop, so your opinion is wrong.)."

"'Fighting words' are posts intended solely to provoke or belittle. They're essentially a form of bullying."


Even if these kinds of ad hominem assaults don't violate the letter of this policy (though I think it's very possible that they do), they clearly violate the spirit of this policy. Saying in your OP, for instance, that anyone who supports gay rights is brainwashed (e.g. you're a gay rights supporter, so your opinion is wrong) is not substantively different from exactly the types of statements this policy prohibits. I think, then, that moderation should be more active in reigning remarks of this ilk, wherever they may occur.

Benefits

There are some pragmatic benefits to this idea, namely, more honest, safe, intellectual discourse. If people feel safe in expressing their opinion, they can be more honest about their thoughts; unsafe environments deter honest commentary or stifle commentary altogether. The anti-intellectual garbage those kinds of ad homs represent serve only to insult people (including users of this site) and to suppress free and open exchanges of opinion, and free and open exchanges are the lifeblood of a debating site. Furthermore, it may help to prevent the development of flamewars to reign in these kinds of fighting words.

In addition to these practical benefits, there is the simple issue of enforcing the TOS. DDO is a site of rules, and moderation does a wonderful job of enforcing them. However, I feel like this issue does push the envelop, if not ripping it apart, and that moderation should take a tougher stand here.

Disclaimer

I am willing to discuss hypotheticals, but not specific examples, since it is not my goal to call members out. Hopefully we can have a substantive discussion on this issue.

TL;DR

Preemptive ad homs and insults in the OP should be prohibited because they harm the site and violate the TOS.

========

Thoughts? Comments? Reactions?

Ad Hominenems should be labeled a form of heresy. And punishment for doing so should be burning at the steak (yes.I meant steak)
"Praise Allah."
~YYW
bsh1
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11/13/2015 7:29:13 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Bump
Live Long and Prosper

I'm a Bish.


"Twilight isn't just about obtuse metaphors between cannibalism and premarital sex, it also teaches us the futility of hope." - Raisor

"[Bsh1] is the Guinan of DDO." - ButterCatX

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bsh1
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11/24/2015 11:12:33 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
Bump. I'd still like some thoughts on this.
Live Long and Prosper

I'm a Bish.


"Twilight isn't just about obtuse metaphors between cannibalism and premarital sex, it also teaches us the futility of hope." - Raisor

"[Bsh1] is the Guinan of DDO." - ButterCatX

Follow the DDOlympics
: http://www.debate.org...

Open Debate Topics Project: http://www.debate.org...
ColeTrain
Posts: 4,320
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11/27/2015 10:08:14 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/24/2015 11:12:33 AM, bsh1 wrote:
Bump. I'd still like some thoughts on this.

i'll respond soon...
"The right to 360 noscope noobs shall not be infringed!!!" -- tajshar2k
"So, to start off, I've never committed suicide." -- Vaarka
"I eat glue." -- brontoraptor
"I mean, at this rate, I'd argue for a ham sandwich presidency." -- ResponsiblyIrresponsible
"Overthrow Assad, heil jihad." -- 16kadams when trolling in hangout
"Hillary Clinton is not my favorite person ... and her campaign is as inspiring as a bowl of cottage cheese." -- YYW
bsh1
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11/27/2015 10:10:41 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/27/2015 10:08:14 PM, ColeTrain wrote:
At 11/24/2015 11:12:33 AM, bsh1 wrote:
Bump. I'd still like some thoughts on this.

i'll respond soon...

Cool beans.
Live Long and Prosper

I'm a Bish.


"Twilight isn't just about obtuse metaphors between cannibalism and premarital sex, it also teaches us the futility of hope." - Raisor

"[Bsh1] is the Guinan of DDO." - ButterCatX

Follow the DDOlympics
: http://www.debate.org...

Open Debate Topics Project: http://www.debate.org...
ColeTrain
Posts: 4,320
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11/27/2015 10:30:01 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/12/2015 6:31:35 PM, bsh1 wrote:
The Problem

Over the course of my time on DDO, I have seen a number of threads in which the OP has implicitly or explicitly called anyone who disagrees with them idiots.

Undoubtedly.

These kinds of preemptive ad hominem attacks DO NOT spark honest discussion. In fact, they do just the opposite.

True.

They (a) intimidate potential contributors who dissent from the opinion of the OP, making them feel unsafe to comment,

I don't think this is applicable to many people. It may be true for a few, but not the entirety.

(b) they verbally abuse and insult anyone who disagrees with them (in fact, it should count as a 'mere insult),

Undeniably true.

(c) it instantly creates a hostile and combative atmosphere within the thread that is unproductive to calm and rational debate,

I think some cases can produce discussion that's at least fairly reasonable, it depends on the sincerity of the preemptive attack.

but fertile ground for flame wars,

Definitely true.

(d) it sets a precedent that these kind of remarks are okay, which can lead to more directly badgering/insulting,

There are still those of us who do not condone the behavior, but I can see your reasoning here.

and (e) it is anti-intellectual to dismiss all dissent as "idiocy," because it denies that there is any validity to their position BEFORE the opposition has had a chance to make any arguments.

Yeah, I think this is right.

The TOS

Skip... ;P

I think, then, that moderation should be more active in reigning remarks of this ilk, wherever they may occur.

Probably so. They can't implement total lockdown on these things, but in general, it could improve discussion.

Benefits

There are some pragmatic benefits to this idea, namely, more honest, safe, intellectual discourse. If people feel safe in expressing their opinion, they can be more honest about their thoughts; unsafe environments deter honest commentary or stifle commentary altogether. The anti-intellectual garbage those kinds of ad homs represent serve only to insult people (including users of this site) and to suppress free and open exchanges of opinion, and free and open exchanges are the lifeblood of a debating site. Furthermore, it may help to prevent the development of flamewars to reign in these kinds of fighting words.

I think there would be some recognizable benefits... but I don't think (as far as I can see/know) there is people who don't feel they can respond because of the ad homs. While there is definitely truth that it stifles intellectual discussion, I don't feel it necessarily prohibits people from responding. Their responses may be worthless in terms of intellectual content, but it's still there. The thread simply becomes a cesspool of ad homs and attacks rather than of substantive discussion.

In addition to these practical benefits, there is the simple issue of enforcing the TOS. DDO is a site of rules, and moderation does a wonderful job of enforcing them. However, I feel like this issue does push the envelop, if not ripping it apart, and that moderation should take a tougher stand here.

Dictatorship
"The right to 360 noscope noobs shall not be infringed!!!" -- tajshar2k
"So, to start off, I've never committed suicide." -- Vaarka
"I eat glue." -- brontoraptor
"I mean, at this rate, I'd argue for a ham sandwich presidency." -- ResponsiblyIrresponsible
"Overthrow Assad, heil jihad." -- 16kadams when trolling in hangout
"Hillary Clinton is not my favorite person ... and her campaign is as inspiring as a bowl of cottage cheese." -- YYW
bsh1
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11/27/2015 10:37:32 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/27/2015 10:30:01 PM, ColeTrain wrote:
At 11/12/2015 6:31:35 PM, bsh1 wrote:
I think, then, that moderation should be more active in reigning remarks of this ilk, wherever they may occur.

Probably so. They can't implement total lockdown on these things, but in general, it could improve discussion.

Agreed.

There are some pragmatic benefits to this idea, namely, more honest, safe, intellectual discourse. If people feel safe in expressing their opinion, they can be more honest about their thoughts; unsafe environments deter honest commentary or stifle commentary altogether. The anti-intellectual garbage those kinds of ad homs represent serve only to insult people (including users of this site) and to suppress free and open exchanges of opinion, and free and open exchanges are the lifeblood of a debating site. Furthermore, it may help to prevent the development of flamewars to reign in these kinds of fighting words.

I think there would be some recognizable benefits... but I don't think (as far as I can see/know) there is people who don't feel they can respond because of the ad homs.

I would suggest that people may not feel scared to comment "on balance," in the forums, but there are certain threads or certain users they may avoid because of preemptive ad homs. This is unacceptable to me; no one should feel they have to avoid a thread because of such a blatantly inappropriate tactic. I would further suggest that some people have expressed feelings of intimidation to me in private, and that some are/would be unwilling to say that they felt intimidated, for fear of retaliation or other possible social repercussions.

While there is definitely truth that it stifles intellectual discussion, I don't feel it necessarily prohibits people from responding. Their responses may be worthless in terms of intellectual content, but it's still there. The thread simply becomes a cesspool of ad homs and attacks rather than of substantive discussion.

Sure, people can "respond," but they may not feel free to respond as they wish, which your reply here gets at. If all I feel safe contributing is a post devoid of any substance, even though there is a lot of substance I want to say, have I not been intimidated and coerced? Has not my ability to exercise free speech been restricted? Alternatively, should we not do what we can to limit flamewars, as they breach the TOS?

In addition to these practical benefits, there is the simple issue of enforcing the TOS. DDO is a site of rules, and moderation does a wonderful job of enforcing them. However, I feel like this issue does push the envelop, if not ripping it apart, and that moderation should take a tougher stand here.

Dictatorship

Lol.
Live Long and Prosper

I'm a Bish.


"Twilight isn't just about obtuse metaphors between cannibalism and premarital sex, it also teaches us the futility of hope." - Raisor

"[Bsh1] is the Guinan of DDO." - ButterCatX

Follow the DDOlympics
: http://www.debate.org...

Open Debate Topics Project: http://www.debate.org...
bsh1
Posts: 27,504
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11/27/2015 10:37:47 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Thanks for the substantive comment, btw, Cole!
Live Long and Prosper

I'm a Bish.


"Twilight isn't just about obtuse metaphors between cannibalism and premarital sex, it also teaches us the futility of hope." - Raisor

"[Bsh1] is the Guinan of DDO." - ButterCatX

Follow the DDOlympics
: http://www.debate.org...

Open Debate Topics Project: http://www.debate.org...
PetersSmith
Posts: 5,848
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11/27/2015 10:49:19 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/12/2015 6:31:35 PM, bsh1 wrote:
The Problem
The TOS

Allow to me to quote from the extended personal attack policy [http://www.debate.org...]:

"There is another kind of direct attack, as well. The kind of post where someone drops in to just say something like "You're all idiots". While not a direct personal attack against an individual, it's still a direct attack against the members on the thread."

"'Stupidity' is not something that can be objectively justified. Nor can other insults with subjective meaning."

"Ad hominem attacks are personal attacks. They are not tolerated. (Ex.: 'Well, you're a cop, so your opinion is wrong.)."

"'Fighting words' are posts intended solely to provoke or belittle. They're essentially a form of bullying."


Even if these kinds of ad hominem assaults don't violate the letter of this policy (though I think it's very possible that they do), they clearly violate the spirit of this policy. Saying in your OP, for instance, that anyone who supports gay rights is brainwashed (e.g. you're a gay rights supporter, so your opinion is wrong) is not substantively different from exactly the types of statements this policy prohibits. I think, then, that moderation should be more active in reigning remarks of this ilk, wherever they may occur.

The problem I have here is that the TOS may exist and say things explicitly that users do violate, but it's not enforced enough. People get away with this stuff and thus they're more likely to do it more often, and when other people see them doing it they're also more likely to do it. So, I agree with you that moderation does need to be more active, but it's unlikely it's going to change much because there will be a lot of "fine print" and "exceptions" if you know what I mean. And sometimes when confronted they don't stop, and punishment isn't delivered appropriately.
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ColeTrain
Posts: 4,320
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11/27/2015 10:52:57 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/27/2015 10:37:32 PM, bsh1 wrote:
At 11/27/2015 10:30:01 PM, ColeTrain wrote:
At 11/12/2015 6:31:35 PM, bsh1 wrote:
I think, then, that moderation should be more active in reigning remarks of this ilk, wherever they may occur.

Probably so. They can't implement total lockdown on these things, but in general, it could improve discussion.

Agreed.

There are some pragmatic benefits to this idea, namely, more honest, safe, intellectual discourse. If people feel safe in expressing their opinion, they can be more honest about their thoughts; unsafe environments deter honest commentary or stifle commentary altogether. The anti-intellectual garbage those kinds of ad homs represent serve only to insult people (including users of this site) and to suppress free and open exchanges of opinion, and free and open exchanges are the lifeblood of a debating site. Furthermore, it may help to prevent the development of flamewars to reign in these kinds of fighting words.

I think there would be some recognizable benefits... but I don't think (as far as I can see/know) there is people who don't feel they can respond because of the ad homs.

I would suggest that people may not feel scared to comment "on balance," in the forums, but there are certain threads or certain users they may avoid because of preemptive ad homs. This is unacceptable to me; no one should feel they have to avoid a thread because of such a blatantly inappropriate tactic. I would further suggest that some people have expressed feelings of intimidation to me in private, and that some are/would be unwilling to say that they felt intimidated, for fear of retaliation or other possible social repercussions.

I think it would also direct attention towards substantive threads. Some people may see a thread with an ad hom title and enter to retaliate. It's really unnecessary. Otherwise, they might get involved in a productive thread with discussion conducive to a reputable topic.

And yes, you're most likely correct.

While there is definitely truth that it stifles intellectual discussion, I don't feel it necessarily prohibits people from responding. Their responses may be worthless in terms of intellectual content, but it's still there. The thread simply becomes a cesspool of ad homs and attacks rather than of substantive discussion.

Sure, people can "respond," but they may not feel free to respond as they wish, which your reply here gets at.

Agreed.

If all I feel safe contributing is a post devoid of any substance, even though there is a lot of substance I want to say, have I not been intimidated and coerced?

You have.

Has not my ability to exercise free speech been restricted?

In a roundabout way, I suppose.

Alternatively, should we not do what we can to limit flamewars, as they breach the TOS?

We should.

In addition to these practical benefits, there is the simple issue of enforcing the TOS. DDO is a site of rules, and moderation does a wonderful job of enforcing them. However, I feel like this issue does push the envelop, if not ripping it apart, and that moderation should take a tougher stand here.

Dictatorship

Lol.

;P
"The right to 360 noscope noobs shall not be infringed!!!" -- tajshar2k
"So, to start off, I've never committed suicide." -- Vaarka
"I eat glue." -- brontoraptor
"I mean, at this rate, I'd argue for a ham sandwich presidency." -- ResponsiblyIrresponsible
"Overthrow Assad, heil jihad." -- 16kadams when trolling in hangout
"Hillary Clinton is not my favorite person ... and her campaign is as inspiring as a bowl of cottage cheese." -- YYW
ColeTrain
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11/27/2015 10:54:42 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/27/2015 10:49:19 PM, PetersSmith wrote:
At 11/12/2015 6:31:35 PM, bsh1 wrote:
The Problem
The TOS
The problem I have here is that the TOS may exist and say things explicitly that users do violate, but it's not enforced enough. People get away with this stuff and thus they're more likely to do it more often, and when other people see them doing it they're also more likely to do it. So, I agree with you that moderation does need to be more active, but it's unlikely it's going to change much because there will be a lot of "fine print" and "exceptions" if you know what I mean. And sometimes when confronted they don't stop, and punishment isn't delivered appropriately.

I think you're right, Peters. Moderation should exercise their authority, but it won't always be possible to eliminate these instances.
"The right to 360 noscope noobs shall not be infringed!!!" -- tajshar2k
"So, to start off, I've never committed suicide." -- Vaarka
"I eat glue." -- brontoraptor
"I mean, at this rate, I'd argue for a ham sandwich presidency." -- ResponsiblyIrresponsible
"Overthrow Assad, heil jihad." -- 16kadams when trolling in hangout
"Hillary Clinton is not my favorite person ... and her campaign is as inspiring as a bowl of cottage cheese." -- YYW
ColeTrain
Posts: 4,320
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11/27/2015 10:56:24 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/27/2015 10:37:47 PM, bsh1 wrote:
Thanks for the substantive comment, btw, Cole!

No problem, Prez.
"The right to 360 noscope noobs shall not be infringed!!!" -- tajshar2k
"So, to start off, I've never committed suicide." -- Vaarka
"I eat glue." -- brontoraptor
"I mean, at this rate, I'd argue for a ham sandwich presidency." -- ResponsiblyIrresponsible
"Overthrow Assad, heil jihad." -- 16kadams when trolling in hangout
"Hillary Clinton is not my favorite person ... and her campaign is as inspiring as a bowl of cottage cheese." -- YYW
bsh1
Posts: 27,504
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11/27/2015 11:15:43 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/27/2015 10:56:24 PM, ColeTrain wrote:
At 11/27/2015 10:37:47 PM, bsh1 wrote:
Thanks for the substantive comment, btw, Cole!

No problem, Prez.

I appreciate it :)
Live Long and Prosper

I'm a Bish.


"Twilight isn't just about obtuse metaphors between cannibalism and premarital sex, it also teaches us the futility of hope." - Raisor

"[Bsh1] is the Guinan of DDO." - ButterCatX

Follow the DDOlympics
: http://www.debate.org...

Open Debate Topics Project: http://www.debate.org...
ColeTrain
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11/27/2015 11:18:15 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 11/27/2015 11:15:43 PM, bsh1 wrote:
At 11/27/2015 10:56:24 PM, ColeTrain wrote:
At 11/27/2015 10:37:47 PM, bsh1 wrote:
Thanks for the substantive comment, btw, Cole!

No problem, Prez.

I appreciate it :)

nac :)
"The right to 360 noscope noobs shall not be infringed!!!" -- tajshar2k
"So, to start off, I've never committed suicide." -- Vaarka
"I eat glue." -- brontoraptor
"I mean, at this rate, I'd argue for a ham sandwich presidency." -- ResponsiblyIrresponsible
"Overthrow Assad, heil jihad." -- 16kadams when trolling in hangout
"Hillary Clinton is not my favorite person ... and her campaign is as inspiring as a bowl of cottage cheese." -- YYW