An open space for global conversation
On a discussion site that is dedicated to the open exchange of ideas that is at the root of the #OWS paradigm, should members' blogs require moderator approval?
And, just as importantly, should members be allowed to moderate (i.e. control, limit, censor) the comments that others make to their blogs?
I bring this up because of two recent incidents.
1) A site "steward" asked me to limit my blog postings, perhaps in part because of the time required to moderate every new post. And I've had to wait from hours to days to have my blogs approved.
2) Another member commented on one of my blogs and then repeatedly refused to engage me in honest debate. When I went to his blog (and then to his home page) to engage his ideas, I discovered that he was "moderating" (i.e. controlling, limiting, censoring) comments from other members. And he was doing this in spite of stating that the core imperative of #OWS is to "listen to every voice".
Sort of gives new meaning to the old saw, "All things in moderation," doesn't it?
#OWS is in its infancy and rightfully fears cooptation by well-organized pre-existing forces. I know of several instances in which this fear has had the opposite effect than intended, silencing people who agree with the movement's objectives and giving voice to some who don't.
Yes, I was thinking about the double entendre meaning of "moderation" as I began this thread - in fact, multiple meanings.
To moderate can mean to facilitate a group activity and maintain order or decorum (which, I believe, is what the Cafe stewards attempt to do).
To moderate web forums often ends up meaning control and censorship according to some arbitrary standards that - typically - the members were required to acquiesce to rather than co-create.
To moderate one's own pages, blogs and forums almost always means to exercise unilateral and unaccountable control over what gets posted (and this is entirely opposite to the core values of #OWS).
And "moderation" in terms of behavior can mean reasonableness, or it can mean sticking to the safe and comfortable middle of the road and avoiding the edges where all real creativity and growth happens.
To moderate web forums often ends up meaning control (ackkk!!) and censorship (ewww!) according to some arbitrary standards (heavens, no!!) that - typically - the members were required to acquiesce to rather than co-create. Yes, we are constantly thinking of new ways we can force you to talk about something you don't want to talk about--instead of starting your own unmoderated thread....like this one.
To moderate one's own pages, blogs and forums almost always means to exercise unilateral and unaccountable control (egads, the nerve!) over what gets posted (and this is entirely opposite to the core values of #OWS). So I guess that means there are about a billion blogs and forums that are "entirely opposite to the core values of #OWS." I suggest you take this up with the management.
And "moderation" in terms of behavior can mean reasonableness, or it can mean sticking to the safe and comfortable middle of the road and avoiding the edges where all real creativity and growth happens.---or just sticking to the dull, superficial predetermined subject, which, if you don't like, give you cause to go off and start your unmoderated own. Like this one.
In response to the fear of co-optation:
The core of non-violence is openness and transparency. Restricting openness and inclusiveness out of fear is no different than restricting our constitutional freedoms for the sake of national security. Non-violence is about a willingness to be vulnerable, rather than the typical insistence on self-protective defensiveness.
We're supposed to be about an entirely different paradigm, but we drag so much baggage with us.
Non violence allows openness and transparency because it relieves one's need for defense.
The core of non-violence is harmlessness. Your vitriol is not that.
You have consistently chosen to disregard specific requests, by people with whom you have communicated, for consideration and respect.
By your admission, you operate on the basis that you have a right to speak as you choose. Of course, you are correct. You have that right. In the same way, each person has the right to assert a preference and a boundary if they are disinclined to receive or continue communications with you. That is their right. In further keeping with non-violence, those boundaries need to be respected and honored.
Here is the reason your membership is being suspended. You first delivered the following comment to a member of this forum (a personally directed characterization, which, is violent behavior):
You wrote: "[Name xxxxxx] - you're a hypocrite and an intellectual coward. And neither is that an ad hominem argument, since it is a logical conclusion based on your actions here rather than an attempt to undermine your arguments."
You then continued to leave unwelcome comments, overriding that members will that you cease and desist, which, again, is their right. Rights are a two way street.
This has occurred more than a few times. In light of the style of communication you seem to prefer, this forum is not a match for you. It is a shame that the intelligence and brilliance you consistently offer must suffer for your choice to obfuscate compassion.
I'm sorry to hear that Robert's membership is being suspended. I myself was taken to task within the last 24 hours for an angry response to people who had helped co-opt Occupy San Diego, and then vehemently denounced me when I protested their action.
My first post above about cooptation turned out to be correct. Here's how it happened, from my personal point of view.
At a General Assembly the day before our Occupy was to begin, we were visited by a Rabbi and two members of his congregation who asked us to postpone our Occupy until the next day because they were using our intended Occupy site, the San Diego civic center, for religious services. A proposal was then made to postpone our occupation for a day "out of respect" for the religious event.
A person who calls himself an anarcho-capitalist (I think that means Libertarian and many anarchists do not consider him to be an anarchist) blocked that proposal. There was a discussion and then the same proposal was repeated. This time a couple of other people added their blocks. The third time the proposal was presented, when the moderator said, "The proposal is that we change our location out of respect for...." I interrupted, without any hand signal and totally out of order, and said, "Just that we change our location." The moderator heard me and said, "The proposal is that we change our location for tomorrow." This passed consensus with no blocks, although a few people abstained. I felt that there was no problem with delaying our Occupy for a day, but that we shouldn't do it out of respect for an inegalitarian patriarchal religion, so if that had been included, I would have added my own block to the others. Although I'm an atheist, I was born and raised Jewish, so I'm fully aware that Judaism is an inegalitarian patriarchal religion and I didn't feel that Occupy should show respect for patriarchy or inequality.
At subsequent GAs this incident was blown all out of proportion to instill fear in OccupySD, in order to adopt a 90% majority rule to override any future blocks. New York City had adopted a 90% majority rule, but apparently they hadn't had to use it. Their process encourages the person who proposes something and the one who blocks it to confer and create an alternative proposal that satisfies both of them. Since people were terrified of anarchists blocking something, which had never happened, they wanted the 90% rule.
Our Occupy was also under attack by some Democrats and others who preferred representative government, i.e., the status quo, to direct democracy. One of these people, John Kenney, immediately set about creating a hierarchy by creating a Council to which all committees had to submit their proposals, and a GA Process Committte, to which the Council had to bring all proposals and which would vote on which proposals to put on the GA agenda. Since John wanted to control the process, to ensure that the anarchists didn't take over and block everything, he gave preference in his GA Process committee to proposals regarding process, which bogged down the GA process so badly, since they couldn't be consensed on and nothing else could get on the agenda, that everyone was thoroughly disgusted with the process and ready to abandon any attempt at direct democracy just to get things done.
I pointed out that if the goal was to get things done, the best system for that would be fascism, but nobody listened. The 90% rule, with a 3-day modification, that is, that it could not be invoked until 3 days had passed in which people refused to remove their blocks to a proposal, was consensed on using the 90% rule that hadn't yet been consensed on. The agenda was opened up by simply igoring John's Council and GA Process committee. Nobody attended either one, so they ceased to exist.
But the damage had been done. Wheneveer there was a block, instead of attempting to create an alternative proposal, it would be tabled for the next day, and then tabled again the next day, so that the 90% rule could override the block. And people began to stress, as many GAs do, that a block should only be used once in a lifetime, and then only if the proposal is so unacceptable to somebody that if it passes they would walk away and cease to be an Occupier. In other words, no matter what is proposed, you only get to block once, your block can be overridden, and you're out.
My response was to remind people of the old criticism of democracy as being "two wolves and a lamb, voting on what to have for dinner." I said that it can only work if the lamb has a solid, unbreakable block, and not just once, but everytime the proposal comes up, until the wolves are so hungry that they're ready to agree to something other than lamb for dinner.
I'm very enthusaiastic about direct democracy. I don't see "representative democracy" as being democratic at all, particularly not in a system where the representatives don't have to represent their constituents and can instead represent their personal beliefs, their big donors, or anything else they wish.
But those who don't want such drastic change and believe that we already live in a democracy, or at least a republic, did everything they could to sabotage the GA process and they continued to try to co-opt Occupy San Diego into abandoning any attempt at direct democracy and sticking with politics as usual. They didn't want drastic change, because they believe that our system is basically okay and only needs, at most, a few minor tweaks or reforms.
It would take a book for me to explain why I disagree, but I think many of the people here could write that book as well as I could, so I won't go into it now.
Anyway, we were evicted by the cops using a law that says we couldn't place any "structure" which they interpreted to mean tents, tables, chairs, sleeping bags, and even backpacks, on public property. So we had no encampment. Some people stayed at Civic Center in shifts, 24/7, to continue a symbolic Occupy, but their numbers were few. GAs continued every night, but those numbers dwindled also. John Kenney began a hunger strike to try to get the City Council to negotiate with us, and he is now in his third week without any response from the City.
And then a Democratic Party organizer and former Democratic Party Congressional candidate, Ray Lutz, got a bright idea. Since he has always registered voters for the Democratic Party and knew that the law allowed him to do so on public or private property, he set up a table at Occupy to register voters. As an election boycott advocate who had given several teach-ins on why not voting is an important part of noncompliance and resistance to the system, I was horrified, but of course he had an absolute right to do it. I'm told there was a proposal at GA one night when I wasn't there, that he set up his voter registration table and the GA consensed on supporting him. The cops arrested him for setting up the table (structure), but immediately numerous people began claiming that he'd been arrested for registering voters.
That night a group called Canvass for a Cause announced at GA that they would be setting up a table the next day to register voters. They did not make a proposal or ask for consensus, they just announced what they were going to do,. Maybe, because they were supporting politics as usual, they saw no reason to pretend to respect the GA process which dangerously resembles direct democracy.
So they set up their table, and many people came out to support them. Most were not Occupiers but members of Canvass for a Cause, a group that began its existence by registering voters for gay rights, and members of political parties, mostly Democrats, who also favor helping the 1% in the multi-billion dollar campaigns to get out the vote to legitimize their political puppets, who can then claim the consent of perhaps 40% to 55% of the governed.
I went down there with printouts of my arguments against voting, some of which are posted elsewhere on this site, but Canvass for a Cause people surrounded me and tried to move me away from the voter registration table.
The end result is that Occupy San Diego is now registering voters. And since I am opposed to politics as usual and want systemic change, they have lost my support, which they really don't need, since they have Canvass for a Cause and a lot of affluent Democrats supporting them now.
Ray filed a lawsuit, as he had plenty of precedent to prove he was within his rights to set up a table to register voters, but the Judge denied it. In our system, as Mumia Abu Jamal explains in his book, Jailhouse Lawyers, the law is whatever the judge says it is.
Ray's idea was that he would have a perfect case if he did civil disobedience in support of the system (registering voters) rather than in opposition to the system. Our system, however, is a fascist tyranny, and people are only allowed to support it when and how and to the precise extent that they are asked to by the system. Anything beyond that is not considered support but disobedience, which is what Ray had intended. Of course he believed that the court would uphold the law, because he believes in the system. As Delbert Africa told Mumia, "....this System always betray those that believe in it!"
US voters appear to have battered spouse syndrome. The more the system abuses and betrays them, the more stubbornly they cling to it.
So, as I'd predicted above, those whose goals are that of the original Occupy movement are silenced, and those who prefer politics as usual, have won out, at least here in San Diego, but possibly in other cities also.
After years of being censored and banned by self-described "liberal" and "progressive" websites because I advocate that people stop voting for a system that doesn't bother to count their votes, doesn't let public opinion influence policy decisions, is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity including torture and assassinations, and has evidenced no respect for human lives or human rights, my own little website has strict moderation and censorship. There are very few places where I can post without being censored or banned, so I created a small space where I could speak safely. It has fewer than 20 regular followers, but when I Tweet a link to an interesting article, it might get a few hundred hits. Two or three articles have gotten about a thousand hits, but that's very rare and I assume that most of them are either government agencies or political parties keeping track of my subversive ideas.
I'm definitely opposed to personal attacks, mainly because I've been subjected to decades of venom from political party operatives who have used the most vulgar, crude, obscene, and vicious ad hominem attacks imaginable, usually in teams, to attempt to discredit and smear me when they have to way to logically refute my arguments. Many websites that have posted rules barring personal attacks allowed such attacks to continue for page after page, day after day, week after week, and I couldn't do anything but keep mentioning that such attacks were against the rules because the admins would refuse to enforce the rules against their own people, but would be quick to enforce the rules against anyone who responded in kind--something I wouldn't have stooped to anyway, as I happen to have rational arguments and therefore no need to resort to flinging dung.
So I'm a bit conflicted here. I can understand people who have been subjected to the sort of attacks that I have, coming to think that such things are accepted discourse and even emulating them, and I much prefer that personal attacks not be permitted, but only if it is enforced in a fair way that applies equally to everyone. But we do have baggage, and I know that people who have been subjected to smears for years, are apt to carry that along with them. It isn't easy to learn to do things in a new way, and if may even be impossible for some. It certainly is for most of the people at Occupy San Diego, so it remains to be seen what happens here at Occupy Cafe.
I am not happy to lose the choice of reading or not reading messages, which I always have had. I believe more harm is done by removing that choice for a limited benefit than by leaving it in place for the far greater good.
What compelled anyone to read and dwell on any message(s)?
As Stewards, we took this action with great reluctance. A line was crossed not only when personal attacks were made but also when Robert refused to respect Kevin's decision to moderate his own blog and began posting inflammatory comments to Kevin's wall in response.
If Robert is willing to apologize and to agree to respect the rights of others not to have his comments posted in their personal spaces on this site if they so choose, as well as to refrain from questioning peoples' character, motivations or intelligence, we would welcome him back.
It seems to me that there is an opportunity here to move through a level of anger, resignation, cynicism and rebellion that I see not only in Robert but throughout this movement and society at large. Given that our task, as I see it, is to stand for the emergence of something new--something that requires large scale collaboration and creative thinking of the highest order, grounded in love, trust and compassion for our fellow human beings and all creatures on this planet-- this is a chance to do some core work and to "be the change we seek." Will it be seized?
Robert responded via email:
This final act of censorship and exclusion of a voice which challenges the self-righteous complacency of the effete left only proves the appropriateness of my critique. You tolerate, if not encourage, intellectual dishonesty, vapid ignorance and abject hypocrisy - but cannot tolerate honest criticism. The "voice of the 99%" - hardly! May your karma return sevenfold upon you.
I'll make one distinction here for the benefit of the discussion topic:
The comment above states: "This final act of censorship and exclusion of a voice which challenges the self-righteous complacency of the effete left only proves the appropriateness of my critique. You tolerate, if not encourage, intellectual dishonesty, vapid ignorance and abject hypocrisy - but cannot tolerate honest criticism."
There is an important distinction between "honest criticism" and character judgment ( or character assassination). Criticism and dissent are important and vital elements to generative discussions and explorations. There are more perspectives than any one person can imagine to any particular point.
We can question, disagree with, even attack an idea without discrediting the person themselves. However, it is violence when we characterize the person along with the words. In these virtual spaces, it is paramount that we acknowledge the dignity of all people speaking with respect and compassion.
When criticism of the idea and criticism (characterization) of the person collapse together, we experience violence in the criticism and that criticism becomes an attack on the person. This kind of violence escalates us out of civility and ultimately feeds unhealthy conflict and becomes our wars.
May I safely assume I am speaking for consensus majority when I say, "We want an end to destructive conflicts and wars."?
Part of our mission here at Occupy Cafe is to empower all voices to speak, and to cultivate an environment of listening along with healthy, respectful and generative feedback and exchange. We are here to stretch each other, expand each other and inspire each other. We are here to also challenge each other, as I suppose I'm doing right now. Our request (requirement?) is that we do our best to remain kind.
Communication with the intent to foster community and connection occurs most effectively and sustainably in an environment of compassion and respect. I believe that this represents the doorway back to a truer democracy. It honors our wholeness. We care toward creating a society and and a world that works for all.
Please share your dissent while honoring and respecting the people in your community.
Well said, Jitendra..and I'd like to underscore, with you, that diversity and even opposing views are good chemistry for reaching a greater wisdom, a better approximation of truth than we can achieve on or own or conversing only within small groups where people already have our same world view and the same lens on the world
As Valentin Tomberg ( and probably countless other said).There is no unity without diversity.
Where that diversity includes polarity ( or just an inability to communicate well outside accustomed "camps") having common practices or "self facilitated" discussions allows that diversity and those varying ways of expression to begin to build a whole that elevates all particpants.
I like the way you expressed that process of "self facilitated" conversation
"Part of our mission here at Occupy Cafe is to empower all voices to speak, and to cultivate an environment of listening along with healthy, respectful and generative feedback and exchange. We are here to stretch each other, expand each other and inspire each other. We are here to also challenge each other, as I suppose I'm doing right now. Our request (requirement?) is that we do our best to remain kind"
I agree with Lindsay: well said. "Ought we tolerate intolerance?", is a very difficult question, and I think perhaps this problem goes beyond the violence intrinsic to personal attacks, inasmuch as individuals can also experience hurt from attacks on their arguments. This is where the standard of "kindness" that you mention seems to me to be so much to the point. IMO, it is this difficulty with the question of "tollerance/intollerance" that impels us to continuously question our standards and to establish boundaries that permit the freest expression. In this regard, personal attacks are generally thought to chill expression disproportionately. But I like to keep in mind that some of us are more invested in our arguments than others, and that I personally need to work to be more sensitive to that.