The OF Blog: So I see something has struck the fan in the past 48 hours

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

So I see something has struck the fan in the past 48 hours

A lot has happened since I wrote a rebuttal post Sunday morning to an article with which I had several points of contention.  There was some excellent discussion within my thread with several readers raising their own points, some of which I have been considering in light of what I've read elsewhere.  But there was a lot of daftness (at best) and/or repulsive (at worst) in response to the original article.

There were heated discussions on Twitter regarding "silencing" or "bullying."  Such loaded terms, those two, so much so that it is disconcerting to see them bandied about so cavalierly.  I believe in a battle of ideas, a test of ideologies, but stating forcefully one's opinion (especially when said opinion was couched in polite, respectful terms and tone) does not equal either of those.  I disagreed with the assertion that authors should think several times about entering a forum where their works are being discussed (I view authorial intent to be as fallible, if not more so in a few cases, as reader interpretation of textual evidence), but that relates entirely to my previous experiences and mine alone.  As was pointed out to me, in some cases the matter of authorial intrusion into a discussion can collapse what some consider to be "safe spaces" for discussing matters.  That is something foreign to me, but it does not mean that it should be dismissed out of hand.  Certainly this desire to have discussions free of authorial presence can have positive benefits (particularly if the participants are loathe to challenge directly author statements regarding textual interpretation).  I just do not believe this is always the case.

But this is just a difference of opinion.  The original opinion piece is not invalidated because I found it to cover concerns foreign to me or to use terms that are not applicable here.  It certainly does not seek to "silence" writers but perhaps make it clear that butting in can often be quite undesired and unwelcome.  It would have been nice to see others discuss the issues regarding zones for discussion and how textual interpretations can be shaped.  Unfortunately, that is not what happened after this rebuttal was posted and others began to have their own reactions.

It's pretty obvious that I'm a male (my ethnicities, however, are not) and there are a lot of things that I can get by with, both online and in face-to-face discussion (being around 6' tall and having 16-17" biceps do tend to curb physical threats).  I don't have to worry about drawing much worse than a mild curse and certainly not epithets about my body, my sexual experiences, and so forth.  It's too easy to forget that women endure these vile things simply for voicing an opinion that runs counter to others.  Sometimes, just the fear of having a mild disparaging word can shut down people presenting their opinion on an issue.  Forget the perception of writers being told not to intrude in certain cases.  Readers are being made to feel uncomfortable, if not threatened, because others can't just disagree with them but instead attack them with sexual threats or saying that they are "dumb," "stupid," "emotion-filled," or "silly," just to use a few of the commonly-bandied about terms.  If that isn't the real "silencing" or "bullying," then perhaps I do not understand this fiasco at all.

The calls I read for there to be "authors welcomed" (or perhaps, not welcome) badges I found to be rather odd.  What is the point of it beyond the immediate moment?  What does it mean in regards to how authors/critics/readers are expected to interact?  Why has this become such an issue that at a little past 3 AM on a worknight I'm writing a post that'll pretty much say that why can't people just be civil and at least consider what others are saying before blurting out something that feels momentarily good for them?  Isn't that pretty much what should have happened, people considering other viewpoints and treating those opinions with respect while advancing their own complementary or dissenting takes?  If only...but instead, we just showed the parts of humanity that we try to keep covered up, as usual.


Mulluane said...

I don't see the signs as odd. I personally think having a comment policy is a good idea since opinions vary so wildly.

None of us are mind readers. Clarifying where you stand on the issue in regards to your own blog(s) seems to me like a good way to avoid misunderstandings later.

Then if anybody crosses your line, whatever that line may be, you can point to your policy and politely inform them that they are no longer welcome in your comment thread.

But that is my opinion and I respect your right to consider it as odd. :)

The Reader said...

Hi Larry,

Thanks for this follow-up post & since I'm one of those who participated in those "discussions". I must admit there was some daftness involved.

My main issue of consternation was with the comments, and that included everyone. Did Ana & Renay fit into this? Surely because they're linked by the column (which Renay wrote) and the original review discussion that Ana wrote. But when I said that this behavior was despicable, it was made to include the comments sections as a whole.

That it devolved the way it did on twitter, I'm repentant for I was part of it. I stand by denouncing how the author was treated when he entered the discussion in both cases and regardless of how I feel about Ana & Renay's interaction with the author, the vile, nasty, and repulsive emails she (Renay) apparently received is uncalled for. And for that or for being part of what led this to happening, my unreserved apologies. No one should have to deal with such vitriol.

As for bullying, well I think we just have different interpretations about the meaning. So I'm entirely comfortable in retracting that part as I feel that there was a distinct lack of empathy and civility shown and unnecessary rudeness combined with intimidation (all of which in combination correlates to bullying IMHO, but at this point I'm willing to let it go) towards the author. And I take this opportunity once again to point out this includes everyone that participated in an uncouth manner in those comments. Renay and Ana weren't meant to be singled out to carry the burden, but it doesn't excuse their behavior either.

What truly curdles my mind is that these commentators were not even trying to consider the other person's train of thought. It's more like "you disagreed with my opinion and so you are wrong." period. That & the intimidation, I believe are the issues which Gav & I tried to redress.

At this point though I'm not angry any more but simply disappointed. I've always tried to be civil with folks who try to look at the issue at hand without first pointing fingers. So I'll stop now & say it was my fault that I wasn't as civil as I could have been.


Larry Nolen said...

Couple of things, since I'm not quite as groggy now:


I consider the signs and all odd precisely because I think having such visual signs pretty much admits a breakdown in the idea that forums could and should be a civil marketplace of ideas. Furthermore, such a thing just seems to simplify too much the complex system of human interactions we have in all facets of our lives. No sign or even brief little "policy" will cover everything. Sometimes, discretion should be the value upheld the most.


To whom are you apologizing? I don't need it; I just merely noted that the behavior of many could have been better. Perhaps it would be best if you directed this to the persons with whom you and Gav were involved the other day? It'd be nicer if there were a more direct resolution than having me be a go-between, to be honest.

The Reader said...


Yes you didn't ask for my apology but I thought to post it here as it had the best chance of being seen by Renay & Ana.

It definitely would be nicer to have a more direct resolution but at this point, I am not looking forward to another mud-slinging round. With this being here, I feel that those who want to read can do so & those who want to ignore can do so as well.

Plus I feel safer here among the squirrels ;)


Larry Nolen said...

I don't know...I don't control the squirrels. Only their mistress does. ;)

But seriously, I think either a short mea culpa tweet or at least a reposting of what you said here on FBC (maybe in the comments of the Deas guest post?) directed toward them would be better received than just commenting here and having it look as though you were saying contrite words to myself while not exactly saying them to the persons most directly involved?

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