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Debate about sensitive subjects' moderation 
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Corsair
Corsair
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After I slightly modded a post about Islamists, there was an exchange of PMs.
As it seems that it would interest a much wider audience than the two involved, I asked permission to make it public.
Here it is:
Calisson wrote:
Subject: JE SUIS CHARLIE

Shadowspite wrote:
But 'unfair' and 'dishonourable' doesn't necessarily equal 'cowardly'.

My elderly French neighbour and her late husband were in the Resistance during WWII. They never fought 'fair' and they didn't give a crap about 'honour'. But they sure as hell were brave.

Daesh are evil because they deliberately kill innocents. Not because they are 'cowards' who refuse to 'fight fair'. Fighting fairly or honourably does not sanctify evil acts or an evil cause. And fighting fairly and honourably against a superior military power isn't 'good', it's just stupid.

EDIT: You might wonder why this matters. Surely there's no harm in calling Daesh terrorists 'cowards', right? It's a basic human coping behaviour to ascribe negative qualities to our enemies. Well, I think it's always dangerous to fall into the trap of underestimating the enemy. Everyone knows cowards back down if you stand up to them, right? Yeah, but fanatics don't. If you're in a situation involving a terrorist fanatic and you wrongly assume he is a coward, that mistake may well prove fatal for you.

MODERATOR's EDIT:
Please no judgement on a religion as a whole.
Calisson


Hi. I deleted your half-sentence "their ultimate goal (global Islamist theocracy) is evil."
This is an attack against the belief of 1/6th of humanity, who most probably would faithfully believe that a global islamist theocracy can only be good.
Calisson


Shadowspite wrote:
I think there is a real problem if we cannot even agree that a global Islamist theocracy would be a bad thing. I also categorically reject your suggestion that all (or even a majority of) Muslims actually desire such a thing. But I will drop the issue. Druchii.net isn't the place for political or religious discussion, after all.


Calisson wrote:
Hey, Shadowspite, thanks for your reply.
Shadowspite wrote:
I think there is a real problem if we cannot even agree that a global Islamist theocracy would be a bad thing. I also categorically reject your suggestion that all (or even a majority of) Muslims actually desire such a thing.
You did not say "bad thing", you said "evil".
Not everyone shares the same definition of islamist, nor the perception whether it is "good" or "evil".

Now, I recognize that in my PM, I did make the mistake of mixing Islamist with Muslim, which made my suggestion wrong indeed. Not all Muslims are Islamists.

Shadowspite wrote:
But I will drop the issue. Druchii.net isn't the place for political or religious discussion, after all.
That was my point, thank you for understanding it.

Note that do not I mind political or religious discussion, though, but experience shows that it has a very strong tendency to degenerate, either to a battle between "us" and "them", or to a caricatural consensus among "us" in which "they" can only felt rejected.
Your post using offensive words in nature ("evil"), I felt committed to "moderate" it.

Thank you for your undestanding, and feel free to pursue your discussion, having in mind all the above.

Calisson


Shadowspite wrote:
I know I said I'd drop the issue, but your reply left me with more questions than answers I'm afraid. Despite your assurance that I should "feel free to pursue the discussion", I don't feel I can safely do that, because I genuinely don't understand exactly what it was I did 'wrong'. :?

If I'd merely said that "Daesh's ultimate goal (a global Islamist theocracy) would be a bad thing", would that have been OK? It sounds from your reply that it was specifically the word 'evil' that made it mod-worthy. That seems like a very odd place to draw the line, to the point that I'm sure I've misunderstood you.

Alternatively, would "Daesh's ultimate goal (running the entire world the way they run their territory in Syria and Iraq) is evil" have been an acceptable phrasing? That makes it clear that I'm applying the word 'evil' to actions rather than beliefs (and avoids the potentially ambiguous term 'Islamist'). That's closer what I meant originally, and I can just about see how my original wording could be misinterpreted. (I do actually believe that forcing the whole world to follow a particular religion - any religion - would be evil regardless of the specific methods used to enforce that imposition, but that wasn't the point I was trying to make.)

Ironically, the whole point of my argument in that thread was that we should not reflexively label the terrorists as 'cowards'. I used the word 'evil' largely because I thought that, otherwise, someone might wrongly think I was praising the terrorists. I was recalling what happened to Bill Maher after 9/11. :roll:

EDIT: Somebody on another website has suggested to me that the use of the term 'Islamist' to describe exclusively the violent/extremist branch of 'political' Islam (as exemplified by Daesh) is pretty much just a British thing. It seemed very strange to me that you could think I was criticising Islam/Muslims as a whole when I used that word, because in the UK (and on the BBC) it is a very specific (and largely uncontroversial) term. It's the word we use to avoid tarring all Muslims with the same brush - i.e. 'Islamist terrorist' rather than 'Muslim terrorist'. Is this the cause of our misunderstanding, perhaps?


Calisson wrote:
Thanks for pursuing the discussion.
I like to understand moderation in a litteral sense, to help discussion to remain moderate, i.e. neither too hot nor too silent or politically correct.

Let's comment on your proposals:

If I'd merely said that "Daesh's ultimate goal (a global Islamist theocracy) would be a bad thing", would that have been OK? It sounds from your reply that it was specifically the word 'evil' that made it mod-worthy. That seems like a very odd place to draw the line, to the point that I'm sure I've misunderstood you.
This would have been much more acceptable, as:
1. this looks like an assessment of the consequences, from a world's perpective, contrary to the word "evil" which implies that Islamists' intents are inherently evil.
2. One may assume that you don't mind local islamist theocracies.

Alternatively, would "Daesh's ultimate goal (running the entire world the way they run their territory in Syria and Iraq) is evil" have been an acceptable phrasing? That makes it clear that I'm applying the word 'evil' to actions rather than beliefs (and avoids the potentially ambiguous term 'Islamist').
This, too, is more avveptable.


I do actually believe that forcing the whole world to follow a particular religion - any religion - would be evil regardless of the specific methods used to enforce that imposition
No, it is not evil (because they would make it probably with a good intent, from their own perspective). Now, you may say it is wrong. No religion that I am aware of accepts forced conversions - except few extremists.

EDIT: Somebody on another website has suggested to me that the use of the term 'Islamist' to describe exclusively the violent/extremist branch of 'political' Islam (as exemplified by Daesh) is pretty much just a British thing. It seemed very strange to me that you could think I was criticising Islam/Muslims as a whole when I used that word, because in the UK (and on the BBC) it is a very specific (and largely uncontroversial) term. It's the word we use to avoid tarring all Muslims with the same brush - i.e. 'Islamist terrorist' rather than 'Muslim terrorist'. Is this the cause of our misunderstanding, perhaps?
Different in France. I am aware that there is a majority of Islamists (for example, Salafists) who are not terrorists and who resent Daesh's actions as anti-Muslim.


I was wondering, this conversation would be highly interesting for a much wider audience than you and me.
Would you mind if we made it a public conversation?
If you authorize me, I would copy-paste the whole thread of PM into an open new topic.

Best regards,
Calisson


Shadowspite wrote:
Calisson wrote:
I like to understand moderation in a litteral sense, to help discussion to remain moderate, i.e. neither too hot nor too silent or politically correct.

That sounds rather like there are no actual rules and that you just make moderation decisions based on your subjective 'feel' for where a discussion might be heading. I don't object to that as such (I've always believed a site's mods and admins can run things as arbitrarily as they like so long as it works), but it does mean I will avoid discussing anything that might be controversial in the forums from now on, because I can never know in advance what will be deemed acceptable.

I know that probably sounds a bit huffy and passive-aggressive, but it's not meant to be. I just would rather avoid this sort of thing happening again. I'm not particularly bothered about offending Islamists, but I do care very deeply about the Druchii.net community. On some other site, I might argue my corner and let the chips fall where they may, but I was a founding member of D.net and I feel I have a responsibility not to rock the boat too much. I'd rather quietly let an issue drop than get into a public spat with the mods.

Quote:
1. this looks like an assessment of the consequences, from a world's perpective, contrary to the word "evil" which implies that Islamists' intents are inherently evil.

OK. I don't share your view that 'evil' and 'bad' are different enough words to make one acceptable and the other not in this context, but I can at least see where you're coming from.

Quote:
2. One may assume that you don't mind local islamist theocracies.

Well, it's good that I didn't use that phrasing then, because that assumption would be incorrect. I've no interest in preventing consenting adults from living under whatever religious or cultural restrictions they prescribe for themselves. But that's about as far as I'd go towards tolerating theocracies of any sort. I still think they are a bad idea, even when entered into voluntarily.

Quote:
This, too, is more avveptable.

Good. Like I said, that's a better representation of what I was trying to argue.

Quote:
No, it is not evil (because they would make it probably with a good intent, from their own perspective).

Almost everybody thinks they have good intent and that they're on the side of right. And a lot of people are objectively wrong. Look, I get that it's not fashionable to use the words 'good' and 'evil' these days. But I'm not a moral relativist and I will not pretend to be one. I would rather just avoid discussion of real-world topics here than pussyfoot around and refuse to call things by their correct names as I see them.

And, before you ask, yes I am open to the idea that it might be me who is objectively wrong. But I will continue to operate under the tentative assumption that I'm right until evidence convinces me otherwise. Which seems to be what everybody else does, more or less.

Quote:
Now, you may say it is wrong.

'Wrong' is such a woolly word, though. Does it mean 'factually incorrect'? 'Misguided'? 'Morally wrong'? That third one is the sense I'd be using it in, and there the meaning is identical to 'evil' anyway. The second meaning would also apply, I suppose, in that any such attempt would likely be self-defeating.

Quote:
No religion that I am aware of accepts forced conversions - except few extremists.

Well, it's not exactly uncommon throughout history. Or today, actually: see for example this report from the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board on the UNHCR website.

And I think you have something of a circular argument there. Surely anybody who tries to convert people by force is an extremist by definition? The Quran (since we're talking mostly about Islam here) formally forbids forced conversions, but that does not seem to stop them from happening. I don't think it makes sense to talk of a religion accepting or not accepting forced conversions, because that ultimately comes down to individual interpretations of the religion's texts and dogmas. What matters is whether adherents of that religion practise forced conversions or not.

But, in any case, a global theocracy does not necessarily require actual conversions in order to be bad news. If we all merely had to 'submit' to the dominance of Islam over our lives and laws, pay the jizya tax, keep our women covered head to foot, refrain from questioning or criticising Islam under pain of death, and so on, I would still call that 'evil', even if we were technically still allowed to believe whatever we wanted and to worship (or refrain from worshipping) whatever gods we wished.

I should probably add here that I don't think such a thing is even remotely likely. I'm not one of those over-excitable people who think Europe is on the verge of being overrun by the Islamic Hordes.

Quote:
Different in France. I am aware that there is a majority of Islamists (for example, Salafists) who are not terrorists and who resent Daesh's actions as anti-Muslim.

Well, fair enough. If someone does no harm to others, then I won't judge them for their beliefs alone. Nobody consciously chooses what to believe or not believe.

Quote:
I was wondering, this conversation would be highly interesting for a much wider audience than you and me.
Would you mind if we made it a public conversation?
If you authorize me, I would copy-paste the whole thread of PM into an open new topic.

You can if you wish, but I don't think it is a particularly good idea. I still think Druchii.net is not really the right venue for a discussion of geopolitics.


Calisson wrote:
Well, the FAQ (homepage, left column) is there: http://www.druchii.net/viewtopic.php?f=129&t=2504

It says:
Quote:
Controversial topics.
These include sex, politics and religion. Please avoid discussing these sorts of things anywhere on druchii.net - even in the Off-Topic Discussion forum, unless it is specifically authorized by the forum’s rules. We would ideally like to be able to discuss such things and we did allow it at one point, but the fact is that hurt feelings would often ensue: some people feel strongly about their beliefs and opinions, and discussion about these can sometimes cause friction between members. We want to discuss everything maturely, but this sort of thing is just a bit too touchy.
Note that this does not include voicing an unpopular opinion that isn't likely to hurt anyone's feelings by trampling their deeply held beliefs. For instance, you're quite free to state that Corsairs are bad. Just make sure you back it up, otherwise it's trolling.


Now, rules are not enforced by robots. I did not mind to discuss about terrorists.
But making generalities about Islamists did fall under "religion", and I had to make a moderation decision. My decision was merely to remove the generalization, and leave the rest of your interesting discussion - and PM you in order to make sure you did not feel over-modded.

The usefulness I see in making our exchange of view public is to discuss about moderation - not to discuss about Islamists.
I would hate to see people afraid of posting because they fear to be modded.
Your concerns are very valuable, I think that my replies would be useful too.

But I don't want to force you in any way. Your call to make it public or not.

Calisson



Shadowspite wrote:
Calisson wrote:
Well, the FAQ (homepage, left column) is there

Yes, but the thread in question is clearly an exception to the normal forum rules, so referring to them doesn't help. When a mod starts a thread about an event that had clear religious/political motives, it seems reasonable to assume it comes under the "unless it is specifically authorized" exception to the usual ban on discussing religion and politics.

Can I ask something else, just out of curiosity? Not trying to catch you out or anything. But, if somebody had posted in that thread that they absolutely did not stand in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo and, in fact, thought that Muslims had every right to "defend their faith from insults and persecution" and that "freedom of speech" was just a convenient cover for anti-Muslim discrimination/persecution, what would you have done as a moderator? Assuming, of course, that the hypothetical post stopped just short of actually advocating violence. (And, yes, I am thinking here of a certain former D.netter who might well have posted such a thing were he still around.)

Quote:
I did not mind to discuss about terrorists.
But making generalities about Islamists did fall under "religion", and I had to make a moderation decision. My decision was merely to remove the generalization, and leave the rest of your interesting discussion - and PM you in order to make sure you did not feel over-modded.

I think I understand now. As I said, the word 'Islamist' is used rather more specifically/exclusively in my country, always with the implication of violent extremism. I never intended to group non-violent people in with Daesh. But I can see how my post could have been misinterpreted.

Do I have your permission to edit my original post in that thread to put in the alternate phrasing you said would have been acceptable? That would be: "Daesh's ultimate goal (running the entire world the way they run their territory in Syria and Iraq) is evil." Plus an explanation that I did not realise the word 'Islamist' might be understood differently to how I'd intended it?

Quote:
But I don't want to force you in any way. Your call to make it public or not.

OK, in the name of transparency, feel free to post it.

I'd just like to say that I appreciate the time you've taken to answer my concerns, as well as for your patience and understanding. I apologise if I came across as a bit... grumpy. :)



Calisson wrote:
I checked Wiki, which confirmed me that among Islamists were found Wahabi, Salafists, Ennada in Tunisia, Brotherhood in Egypt. .. they should not be blamed for Daesh. I'm not commenting whether their goals are desirable (that would have to mix politics and religion), but I can't let them be called violent as a whole.

A statement that Muslims are feeling under aggression and have all rights to defend themselves at non-escalating level seems reasonable, but would necessitate close monitoring to make sure:
- it would be made in a sensible way enough not to hurt the victims' feelings (at a time when more than half of France felt victim)
- it would not degenerate in discussions with political, religious, or violence advocacy character.
Tricky. A neutral mod would be necessary. Chances are that it would be locked soon. But myself I would be willing to give a try.

Please update your post as suggested and I will copy our exchange in a new thread after discussing with the mod team, if they agree.


Shadowspite wrote:
I've updated my post. I will try to be more careful in my choice of terms in future. Thinking about it, I probably wouldn't call the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood 'evil', but they're certainly Islamists and are defined as such even in the UK. Thanks again for your time.

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Mon Mar 28, 2016 2:58 pm
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