Thursday, December 30, 2010

Disrespect

Zak over at Playing D&D with Porn Stars has written two fine posts about the elements of narrative in D&D, which everyone must be aware of already since he's a popular fellow.

I wanted to make some points on the second post, the one with the extensive musician metaphor, about how both musicians and actors are really dispensible and that the true masters of the creative industries of film and music are not the talent at all, but are in fact the producers, those people with money ... but after reading through the comments, I gave up any notion of commenting myself.  By the time I would have added my bit, the conversation had spiraled into the usual, meaningless internet pattern ... spouting agendas, not dialogue.

I have nothing against anyone on the internet having an agenda.  I think if you have a blog you have to have one.  Agendas are wonderful things, they inspire argument and debate, they provide food for thought and inspiration, they offer the possibility of change.  Agendas, when intended to be harmful to people or thought, can be bad things, but then again any agenda can be brought down by an intelligent presentation of the facts ... eventually.

And that is what I crave for this blog.  People who can argue for or against my position from a position of intelligence and knowledge.  If I post an argument, I expect the comments added below that argument to be relevant to that argument.

Let me be clear.  When I say "I expect," I mean that I have no intention of tolerating any alternative.  And although I don't believe that I'll be understood by most of the community when I say this, I encourage others to take the same stand.

It may seem that I'm not talking about D&D specifically with this post, but I assure you that I am.  With respect to the gentle reader, D&D and the culture surrounding it possess a juvenile reputation which I must say frankly is deserved.  When a rational metaphor about macaroni and cheese is answered with the response, "Man, fuck macaroni," we have to know that infants are clearly in charge of the daycare.

I don't expect bloggers to raise the intellectual capacity of their readers: there are obviously some prize morons out there, and vast numbers of them seem to like D&D, or reading about it, so the task of re-educating the masses is beyond our means.  But I would like to encourage bloggers like Zak, who take the time to write an intelligent post for the purpose of persuading readers, to delete childish comments from their blogs.  Why?  For the good of the community.

The default for most bloggers is to argue that every comment has merit, that every commenter has something to say, and that every kind of censorship is a loss for the community.  This, because it is believed that more is better, that the more people speaking and voicing their opinions the better the dialogue, and that it is better to coddle and pamper the infantile than to abandon them in a dumpster.  Only with patience and nurturing can we hope to change people's minds about things they don't really understand ... and it is our responsibility as the knowing, able players of the game to present the game kindly, thoughtfully, and without prejudices.

It sounds very noble.  As such, the very idea of deleting anyone's comment from a blog seems like a very ignoble proposition, the sort of thing only an asshole would do; certainly, a bigger asshole than someone making purposeless comments about macaroni.  We aspire to democracy, after all, and anything that hints the least little bit against democracy is immediately vilified to the extreme.

Except ... it isn't.

I would presume that we all have jobs, or that we'd wish to have them.  Many of us work in the sort of professions that bring us satisfaction from the work we do, because we are creating something important, or providing a service that others depend upon ... and doing a good job is important to our self image.

In the setting of our jobs, we take it for granted that there will be a curtailing of inappropriate speech.  One does not barf out random comments at the boss or prior to the performance simply because the comment has come to mind.  We are aware that such behavior has consequences.  Our co-workers and employers will believe that our clever little infantasies are irresponsible and undesirable.  They will, in fact, be insulted by our lack of respect.  And in the face of continued lack of respect, they will cease inviting us back to our jobs.

This fiscal restraint on your freedom to act like an asshole in the workplace is never seen as the destruction of democracy, because it is recognized that for workers to work comfortably together it is necessary that respect trumps personal will.  The freedom of your fist ends where my nose begins.

I am sometimes taken to task on this blog for railing violently at some individual's answer to something I've said.  My reasons for doing so are entirely premeditated: I wish to dissuade, through practice, the posting of stupid, insipid or otherwise useless comments on this blog.  I wish to drive away people who lack the strength of their convictions, who might otherwise be encouraged to continue posting naive comments here were I to be polite or considerate.  My practice in this regard is, without question, very rude and disrespectful.  I very much hope that it will be received as such.

This practice has served me well for many years, and fits into the example I give above about the workplace thusly: if you do not have the sand to comment intelligently on this blog, because you lack the comprehension or knowledge inherently, you will not be invited to join.  You have failed the interview, if that makes it clearer.  But unlike a potential employer who will lead you gently and kindly out of the office, knowing perfectly well that your presence will never be wanted, ever, I don't have to worry - as interviewers worry - that you'll break down crying when you find out you've failed to impress me.  I have the luxury of informing you, immediately, that you are not worth having around.  Perhaps, if the truth is made clear to you, you might strive to become something better than the cretinous bit of mold that you are.

Now, I don't expect other blog owners, such as Zak, to follow my lead.  But it is obviously possible to have this position and still enjoy a sort of popularity.  Those who come to this blog come knowing that the discourse here will encourage ideas, and not bury them in a miasma of irrelevant nonsense.  The gentle readers here may hate me, they may hate what I say, but they can at least hear it without needing to put up with a lot of banal noise.

If you cannot stand up to the crap posted on your blog, I encourage you as the blog owner to recognize that comments posted which dismiss you, or your ideas, out of hand are disrespectful.  Delete them.  Comments which miss the point entirely, or which demonstrate that the commenter has not bothered to find his or her answers in your post, are disrespectful.  Questions that come out of the blue, which seem blatantly stupid, and which could have been sent to your clearly posted email, are disrespectful.  Hijacking your blog to make a personal point about their world or their way of doing things, points that should be made on their blogs and not yours, is disrespectful.

Stop letting the children disrespect you.  Insist that the discourse in the comments be equal to the effort you've made to post something of value.  You deserve it.  Your blog deserves it.  The good of the game and the community at large deserves it.

Let's stop inviting the infants to the adult table.  Let's give the infants a reason to improve themselves, to recognize that if they can't be of value, they won't be invited to sit.  Let's create a community worth having.

18 comments:

Jim Pacek said...

Hear hear! Well done!

Grendelwulf said...

Thanks for pointing to the posts. I must be the only one who hasn't read them (I lead a sheltered bloglife). Very interesting stuff.

With regard to your post, I find myself in agreement. I hate censorship, but if it's just chest-beating what point does it serve?

There can be a fine line with argumentative discussion.

Should you edit someone just because they don't "get it" like the majority? Tough choice, if they are trying to truly express an opinion they have. They're entitled.

If its just "No 'cause your stupid!", then its clearer why it should be cut.

It's just great when the greys get greyer.

Ciao!

Alexis said...

That's why I prefer the abuse-the-speaker tactic: if they actually have something to say, they can come back boldly with it and change my mind. If they come back with just more babble, I'll feel better about deleting. I think I let Noisms come back five or six times on something I wrote a year ago before I finally just kicked his last comment off the thread. King's Kent I've given up on completely. On the other hand, Greg from Synapse and I have made up completely despite my starting abuse of his comments, and R seems to have forgiven me though I was nasty to him, also.

People with guts will win me over. I'm very consistent that way.

Zak S said...

This is not entirely clear to me:


quote you:

"I wanted to make some points on the second post, the one with the extensive musician metaphor, about how both musicians and actors are really dispensible and that the true masters of the creative industries of film and music are not the talent at all, but are in fact the producers, those people with money ..."

I don't THINK you're saying that's what I said, because it isn't.

I THINK you're saying that that's the comment you would've liked to make, am I right?

If it is, then I (and any artist) can see how the money people might be considered "the masters" but it gets very murky quickly because while the money people control what gets made in a commercial sense, many great works of art (and almost all bands) don't get made in a commercial sense, so...it just gets more involved.

As for deleting comments--I delete commenters who are personally abusive to each other or who are just trolls.

While it'd be nice if everybody's comments were either thoughtful or funny enough that i didn't care if they were thoughtful, it's my personal subjective experience that the conversation with the commenter or whoever else about why I deleted a comment as "irrelevant" is more exhausting than the irrelevant comment itself.

My preferred tactic is to encourage the thoughtful comments by writing responses.

Alexis said...

Far be it for me to change your mind about anything, Zak.

Carl said...

Man, fuck macaroni!

I'm taking that one with me to my grave.

What you are saying, and I think you're correct in doing so, is that not every opinion is worth hearing. Bravo, Alexis. Even in Athens, the cradle of Democracy, not everyone was allowed to speak and idiots were shouted down. Newspapers don't publish every letter to the editor they recieve, and rightly so. Some of that stuff is just gibberish. Probably most of it is.

I think what creates the spew phenomenon on the Internet is the anonymity of it. The GIFT or Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory that states Normal Person + Complete Anonymity = Total Fuckwad is very true, with acknowledgement to Mike Kahrulnick and Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade. We (meaning Western Civilization) have known about this for a very long time. Plato discusses it in Republic when telling the tale of the Ring of Gyges.

When everyone's Internet identity is tied to their actual identity, this particular phenomenon will go away, until another anonymous communication medium appears.

Personally, I'm all for giving someone the opportunity to make themselves look foolish for the crowd. I like a spectacle as much as anyone. This is why, when I was posting a blog, I tended to keep comments even if they weren't totally relevant or even coherent to the topic I was intending to discuss that day. I view blogs as somewhat masturbatory, so if my kink involves watching people spew the equivalent of "fuck macaroni" on my blog then I will allow that sort of thing.

Unfortunately, this does cheapen the discussion. You, my friend, are aspiring to a greater good. You wish to raise the level of the discussion and to improve its quality.

Fuck macaroni I say!

Brunomac said...

See, that's one of the things sorely missing from the blogs. Senses of humor. My comment (meant with no ill intent) was actually pretty tame compared to what a couple of Zak's players have gotten into in the world of adult entertainment (extreme even beyond a typical gang bang loop). The second most popular gaming blog has such a huge following because a bunch of porno chicks play in his games, and you can't make any humor/ironic/irreverant comments about it? Sheesh, gimmi a break! Who the hell could ever take this shit seriously? Damn.

Brunomac said...

Also, not for nothing, but I find it insanely ironic that Zak would censor comments on his blog. With that blog name and the industry he is involved in, you would think Zak would be very much against any kind of censorship. Interesting. Unless it is a blantantly insulting attack, I don't generally deny any comments on my humble blog. And I've gotten some doozys.

James said...

@Brunomac - Kicking someone out of your house isn't censorship. Unless you have and utilize the magical right to enforce your will through violence, it isn't censorship.

And Zak's particular "hook" no doubt gets him a lot of nibbles, but it's not what's keeping us reading his blog at all, at all.

Alexis said...

Ah, but Bruno, you didn't make the comment on Zak's blog, you made it on mine. And I do delete comments on my blog, precisely because I gain nothing from the 'doozys' that people choose to say. I do this out of self-respect, you understand. I don't care much about insults, or abusive language - I use plenty of it - but anything worthless, useless or purposeless, I have no time for.

As regards humour. You may have noticed I turn a humourous phrase now and then. Others have done so in the comments. But what you describe as "humour", vis a vis the spew comment, hardly qualifies as particularly funny. It hasn't been since grade six. It's INFANTILE.

Did you not notice the number of times in this post that I derided things that are infantile?

As for who takes this seriously ... I do. I take it seriously. And you are on my blog. So if you respect me, you'll take it seriously. And if you don't respect me, you can fuck right off. I don't see how that's hard to understand.

Now, do you respect me and my blog, or don't you?

TrentB said...

Evening!

Obviously there are different personalities in this particular blogosphere.

I will clarify my statement somewhat:

A: I thought Zaks macaroni analogy was brilliant. Entirely accurate, for a start, and I literally laughed out loud reading it.

B: My comment was an attempt to emphasise what he said - I completely agree that the arguments in the comments were pointless and I decided that summarising those arguments within the context of his analogy would help to highlight that.

C: It was written with humorous intent. I understand not everyone will find it funny, but I hoped that maybe some people would.

D: I hope this goes without saying, but no disrespect was intended. If I didn't respect Zak I probably wouldnt read and certainly wouldnt comment on his blog. Same applies to you Alexis. I have noticed the different vibe on your blog to Zaks and thats why I have curtailed my madness in any comments posted here. Perhaps I made incorrect assumptions about Zaks blog?

The energy of the comments section was becoming a little aggressive, so I had hoped that posting something ridiculous would help to mitigate that a little. Yes, it's a little childish, but I really think the world takes itself far too seriously nowadays.

I think even from the few comments here we can see that what some people find funny other people do not, and I dont think theres anything wrong with that. Regarding comments about anonymity, Trent B is my real name and I assure you I am exactly the same in real life. I tend to laugh at pointless arguments rather than getting involved. Please note, I do not consider all arguments pointless which is why I'm getting involved in this one =].

Finally, re Zak:

"My preferred tactic is to encourage the thoughtful comments by writing responses."

Noted! Apologies if I ruined everything for everyone! =]

@Everyone
Please don't kill me for my light heartedness!

Brunomac said...

To say otherwise risks deletion. It sounds like you want to delete not just insulting and hostile stuff, but pretty much anything that does not agree with. And yes, we must be more mature in our porn jokes on game blogs. God knows gamers are the biggest worshippers at that temple.Holiest of the holies man.

Look bro, I'll be real and serious. Your post rambled and ranted excessively about what I actually feel is a non-issue. Delete or don't, why do I care? I could not take the post, which seems to be ranting from a presupposed cerebral and highbrow place, very seriously. So I went with the easy bukakke joke about the porn guy. My apologies to both you and the Zakster. Please do carry on.

Alexis said...

"Risk deletion"

You make it sound like I might cut your dick off.

Of course you risk deletion. You risk being fired, you risk your friendships, you risk your marriage ... if you insist on talking disrespectfully and like a jackass. That is Carl's point about the internet - the dumbass idea that commentors don't 'risk' anything. Having that risk is called civilization.

Look around at the blog. You'll find lots of posts still there, disagreeing with me. Lots and lots and lots of posts.

Brunomac said...

No, I care if my dick gets cut off. All somebody loses if they read your blog, write some comments, and then get deleted is time. The time they took that could be spent doing something else. It's worth something. Maybe my joke wasn't, but it sounds like you go beyond that. If not, my apologies. But then I won't get why it's an issue or why it merited a giant ranting post (that claims to be both civil and of some kind of superior intellect, which it was neither)otherwise. Slow news day?

Hey, my 2 cents and your 5. Whatever the issue, I respect The Tao. Have a great new year all! Don't drink or smoke chronic and drive! See ya next year.

Barking Alien said...

An excellent post Alexis and one where a lot of valid points are made. I am, I freely admit, sometimes guilty of steering a discussion in the direction that may seem counterproductive but I can assure you its not my intent.

My goal in such cases is to point out and discuss a different point of view. I do this in various ways but what it boils down to is saying something that isn't always the popular view.

Now if it makes even one person reading go "hmmm...", than I'm a happy camper. The problem is the vocal majority would rather make responses that don't really add anything.

Believe it or not, I do this for fun. Crazy right? I game for fun, I blog for fun, I comment on other blogs for fun. I want to believe that so do the vocal majority.

So I don't mind the naysayers. I won't delete someone who 'disrespects' me. That sounds to like the cause of way to many fights from my school yard days in Brooklyn. Instead I talk to them. If that doesn't work, I stop talking to them. It may just be me trying to convince myself I'm on the intellectual high ground but I'm so new age hippy I can usually just smile and laugh about it. When I can't, I move on to something else.

For example, I'm trying to start this year off fresh so I posted a very simple comment on Zak's site about how cool Mandy's game sounded. I didn't stop going there. I'm not changing my opinion. I am a bit less likely to discuss game views of interest to me there now but hey, whatever. He's a great writer and its a great blog.

And so is this. Whether we agree or not. I wish more bloggers and gamers in general realized that whatever your style is, it isn't the only one and it isn't 'right'. Its just your style. And mine. And his. And hers. And that one guy from...

Alexis said...

Do you think, Barking, that if you couch something in praise and politeness it won’t be recognized as disrespectful? “One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.”

Usually your goal on blogs – from my observation – seems to pontificate on the morality of you and your players, while slyly condemning others who are not so praiseworthy. Your last post on this blog was paragraph after paragraph with moral rectitude so high up your ass you could taste the splinters from the mop handle. Oh, you’re not rude. You very politely look down your nose with every turned phrase.

”I won’t delete someone who ‘disrespects’ me. That sounds to [sic] like the cause of way to [sic] many fights from my school yard days...”

Mmm, such a witty story of your childhood. Such a meaningful metaphor. I wonder why you felt the need to share your little schoolyard memory. Could it be that you imply, oh so adroitly, with oh so many smiles, that I am a child, or to surreptitiously associate my stance with that of a school bully. No, not you. You are far too intellectually high-minded for that, too kind, too sympathetic, with only smiles and happy tidings for all you see. Yes, yes, so many smiles, so much clever backhanded bullshit. My my, how genuine you are, how trustworthy, how sympathetic.

Oh, and let us not forget to give praise to Zack too, that great writer with his great blog, for he might be listening. We do need to make sure he knows how sincerely and adamantly we love his wonderful gift of a blog. And every other blog on the web too, for we mustn’t miss anyone, someone might be offended.

And a lovely last paragraph, praising all the blogs for their style, reminding me that I am just one more blog in the sea, that every blog is special, every blogger has his special words to say, for what could be better than to dismiss everything on this blog that you’re commenting on right now than to point out that any other blog will have just as valuable a word to say.

You know what, Barking? Fuck your praise. Out of your mouth, it is only so much villainy.

AbusePuppy said...

No offense, Alexis, but you're really coming off as looking for a reason to get offended. The "fuck macaroni" comment was pretty clearly meant to be flippant and light-hearted; maybe you didn't find it funny- that is allowed. But internet media are not particularly set in stone- what you find to be inappropriate and disrespectful behavior may be, to others, perfectly reasonable and friendly joking around. It wasn't meant to be hilariously funny for the same reasons that most of the things you and your friends laugh about aren't actually very funny to other people.

There is plenty of cause to worry about degenerations of communication modes online, and I would be more than willing to argue that some of the comments in that thread had elements of or were good examples of those problems, but I think arguing against the comment you chose to single out as "disrespectful" seems like a very odd choice, like arresting a jaywalker in the middle of a riot.

It is, of course, your choice what you allow and don't allow to be said on your blog, just as with any private or semi-private area. However, doing so is unquestionably censorship- it is the imposition of authority to control the speech of those within the realm of their authority. Is it unusual? No, not at all; realistically, it's a requirement of an environ like like the internet. Is it wrong? in most cases no, and even in the worst of situations it's more a poor choice than morally repugnant. But it _is_ censorship.

Your text in the comments section of the post especially reads like someone who is going out of their way to take offense. Whatever other merits the posts may have or lack, they are at least civil, which your own comments barely manage to skirt the edges of. I am not personally familiar with either of you, but to assess things from the text here alone, you are not the one who is the victim of a breach of respect- rather, you are being rather unpleasant in both tone and content.

I do agree with Barking's point on style: not every writer will take the same tone. Some are more academic, some are colloquial. Some are familiar, some are authoritative. Some will mix two or more of the above. None of them are strictly right or wrong; the merits of each to a particular purpose can be debated, but even there considerations like audience outweigh many of the more traditional concerns. "Fuck macaroni" was, to me at least, pretty clearly a jovial (and somewhat ribald) bit of humor, and if you don't appreciate that sort of tone on your blog, that is entirely fair, especially with respect to the swearing aspect. but to condemn the entire casual mode of text communication as somehow inferior, denigrating, or worthless seems needlessly and pointlessly harsh.

Alexis said...

Abuse,

I made it quite plain in the post my reasons for being an asshole - to discourage irrelevant posting on my blog. I include blatant pandering in that category, and so I set out to kick the stuffing out of Barking. If he takes offense, and doesn't post again here, mission accomplished. If he attempts to comment here with something more sincere, and does so, again, mission accomplished.

I'm not concerned with how I am 'coming off;' I am not here to be liked. I have something meaningful to say. Those who comment, for or against me, will have something meaningful to say in return or they will be abused. If they cannot think of anything meaningful to say, they can go elsewhere.

I find it odd that so many feel the need to defend the right to dispense cheap, poor humour at every opportunity, as if it's quality means nothing. If the supposed comedian feels compelled to step out on stage and try his jokes out on this audience, this audience feels it has the privilege to throw rotten tomatoes and cabbage heads when the humour sucks. I don't feel sorry for the comedian; I'm more concerned with my aim.

Much of your comment, Abuse, seems to beat the wrong horse. Of course its censorship. I know that. And I made no call for people to be civil. Civility, like the quote from Shakespeare, is merely a veil pulled over lies. What I asked for was relevance.

The egalitarian point that Barking made, that you also feel the need to make, that every writer has a style, is entirely irrelevant to me. Most 'writers' produce, at best, unreadable sewage. I do not appreciate being lumped in with them.

Unlike you and Barking, I believe passionately that there is a 'right' and a 'wrong.' I believe most blogs are very bad and not worth reading, ever. I believe most writers of blogs make little or no effort. I don't care to have this blog, that I work hard on, compared to them as merely 'different in style.' This blog is different because the writer is a sincere, raving lunatic with megalomanic delusions of superiority ... who nevertheless churns out solid design work week by week. True, that work has been moved from this blog to the Same Universe Wiki, but the worker is the same fellow.

I will decide what is needful. I will decide how harsh an answer should be. You, Abuse, are free to make those decisions as they apply to your blog. I am the Managing Editor here. I've written the posts. I've accumulated the following. I've established my reputation.

What have you done towards the maintenance of this blog to have any right to speak on this management of this blog? Have you even bothered to read it through, to find the hundreds and hundreds of posts disagreeing with me, uncensored, plainly visible for anyone who will take the time to read them. I have taken the time. I know what's been said.

Perhaps you haven't considered that there is more to this onion than the brown skin that makes you unhappy.