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No Politics. Well, okay. (?)

Adam Phillips

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I don't know what it is about politics that makes us all foam at the mouth. Sometimes--like the people who rubberneck at terrible auto accidents on the highway they're traveling--I can't keep myself from looking at the comments to political essays posted to the Internet, but most of the time it just depresses me. People are mean, hateful, and ignorant on matters of politics, and they seem to be enjoying being those things and beating up other people with those things!

 

We had a politics-place in the Forums here once. And, predictably, it got mean and ugly too. And that's why we don't have it anymore and why we're not allowed to talk about politics here.

 

I'm a team player and don't wanna tick anybody off. The good people here host me and they make decisions they feel are best for the health of the site. And I'm not gonna argue (much) with them...athough from time to time I poke a little bit of fun at the enforced "niceness."

 

But a thread devoted to exploring people's visions of the future got locked here because people couldn't keep politics out of it...and something in me offered up a silent "hey, now, waitaminnit."

 

How you gonna do a vision of the future without reference to politics? The state of income inequality? The environment? Etc., etc. At the heart of all our hopes and fears for the future are realties which are inescapably political. So I guess we just can't talk about the future at the Forums.

 

Or the state of health care in this country and the rest of the world? This is no inconsequential topic, and it actually has some specific relevance to gay men as gay men, though not only to them. Seems like it would be something we should be able to discuss here.

 

Or how about how society looks at and treats people of Our Community. Marriage is only one of the issues in this category. These have inescapably political ramifications, too, and seems like we could have some great discussion. But I'm not sure how to discuss these without venturing into politics.

 

Is your state board of education trying to put non-science in science books, rewrite history for their history books, and legislate about the moral worth of gay people? Doesn't seem like we can talk about it here, because it inevitably involves politics.

 

The more I think about this topic, the more subjects it appears we can't talk about here in the forums. Because politics touches us all over the place.

 

Which leads me to wonder...instead of banning a topic from the site, can't we just warn people that the political threads will be aggressively moderated, and that we have a two-strike, or even a one-strike-and-you're-out policy regarding rudeness or incivility or flaming or whatever it is that has made political discussion taboo here? Maybe that would take up too much time from moderators, but would it take any more than they're having to give over to it now, locking down threads and warning people? That way the people who play nice would retain their ability to discuss, and the "problem children" would be escorted out and sent to the nursery to play with the Duplo blocks.

 

And we could have a fun thread like "What's your vision of the future?". :*)

 

Just my wandering brain, wandering and wondering.

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My vision of the future includes no politicians.  You may laugh, but I invite you to stop and think about the breath of fresh air that would bring.  That would result in anarchy you say?  Our politicians' "deliberations" are anarchy.

 

Seriously, I agree it is unfortunate that we can't discuss politics here.  Politics is important to us.

 

I have found that we can't even joke about politics because someone may be offended.  It's a bad day when politics keeps you from having a good laugh.  There is so much to laugh about.

 

Thanks, Adam.

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To be honest, I LIKED the soapbox. When it was completely unmoderated.

 

Was it ugly? Yes. Was there regular massive arguments and did discussions regularly descend into all-out flamewars? Yes. Where there also some very interesting and completely calm discussions in that section? Also yes.

 

To be honest, I think the politics ban on this site is an utterly misguided attempt to make all of the members always happy all the time, and it is failing. The fact that this ban exists on a site which is political in its very nature is ridiculous.

 

The Unmoderated Soapbox was a wonderful thing, as far as I'm concerned. Yes, the discussions got out of hand but...does it matter? The place had a warning saying it was unmoderated, so anybody who entered did so at their own risk, it didn't (or at least shouldn't have) taken up any of the moderators time and... to be honest... I think the forums are worse off for not having it.

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good point well made :) As you say, pretty much everything does have a political dimension. And there's nothing wrong in that. Nothing at all.

 

The problem is not the politics, it's the Party Politics. The Party Line hijacks reasoned debate because - especially in the US it seems - so many people have chosen to align themselves with the spoutings of a particular political party. This is corrosive and throttles reasoned debate. A good example at the moment in the UK is the upcoming Scottish Independence vote *note to self: must do the update promised for Daddy :P* where a substantial core is irrevocably aligned to the Yes campaign based on emotion not reason.

 

I can see some merit in wishing GA to be a "nice" place, a refuge if you like, but it is ironic that a US site - the country where free speech seems to be part of its citizens' DNA and defended above all else - should have opted for this.

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I too remember the soapbox and people did behave with contempt and became very inflammatory in their responses.  So while I can see why the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction as to avoid all politics, I also think it more than a bit unrealistic to mandate a complete avoidance of the subject.  

 

As a further note, the site did lose some very good authors because they were made to feel unwelcome and that is beyond sad.  Virulent attacks are not good anywhere and usually accomplish little.  I don't advocate any return to the non-moderated soapbox but Adam raises some very valid points.  

 

As an aside, political jokes have their place but repeatedly demeaning public figures and vilifying them has not helped public discourse.  In the process, the 'government' has become the source of all problems rather than a source for fixing problems beyond the scope of individuals or private companies. 

 

Finally, Zombie makes an interesting point as well.  People who identify strongly with a political party are more apt to spout the party line or "spin" as it is called.   Unfortunately, in the US, the two major political parties regard the other with so much contempt, that compromise has become a dirty word.  As a result we have gridlock.  

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In my opinion, this site bent over backwards to the whims of a few people who got butt-hurt because someone challenged their opinions in taking the Soapbox down. Taking away the Soapbox took away a huge dimension of this site that many of GA's most active members participated in. Was it dirty, nasty, and bare-knuckled? Hell yes, and thats what made it fun. But it was also a place where many a intelligent discussion took place and valuable debate was had. Why they couldn't just leave it unmoderated like it was before it's death is beyond me, but again, someone has to keep a very small few from being butthurt at the expense of the many. 

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I too was particularly disappointed when the Soapbox was taken down because there definitely were interesting, valuable, and informative discussions.

 

However, I completely support that decision. Some of the virulent, personal, diatribe which surfaced was not the challenging of opinion at all, and has no place in the welcoming, supportive community of GA which the administration works hard to nurture.

 

I don't think your point about free speech is quite right, Zombie. As I understand it, GA members can express themselves quite freely, as long as they do it in a blog and not an open forum.

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I don't think your point about free speech is quite right, Zombie. As I understand it, GA members can express themselves quite freely, as long as they do it in a blog and not an open forum.

 

yes, you're quite right :) but the blogs are at best a backwater and quickly fade from view and memory unlike threads which remain prominent for as long as people want to keep a discussion going

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I don't know if those posts got deleted, but I didn't even see the political posts in the future thread. Hmm. Oh, well.

 

There are ways around it, like if you're on a subforum dedicated to a story that has political overtones to it.

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The following is my personal view only, and while I'm using my experiences as a long term staff member to write this, it is not an official comment in any way :)

 

To put forward my personal view, the problem with politics is simply that too many people can't be polite.... When arguments and antagonism that starts in a restricted area of the site starts to spill over to other parts, then it endangers the basis for what we are here.

 

There are plenty of sites around the Internet where politics can be discussed. This is not a political site -- it's a story site. Yes, there are politics associated with what we write about, and as this is also a gay community, there are political issues that affect us...but why not discuss them on a site that's about politics?

 

I would love it if politics could be discussed in a sensible, rational way, but six years of experience as a moderator here has told me that good intentions get left behind way too quickly, and things spill over to affect other parts of the site.

 

I'm sad that we can no longer discuss politics in the forums, but we can still discuss them in the blogs if you really want to. Yes, as Zombie points out, the blogs are a bit of a backwater, but that protects the rest of the site from any fallout from a political explosion (and I've seen a few of those in my days). If there is really that much interest in discussing politics, blogs on politics will maintain an interest. If they don't...then that's pretty much saying that it's not really political discussion we want, but rather political ranting.

 

Political discussion: I'm all in favour.

Political ranting: I'm very much against.

 

Guess which one we see the most of.... :(

 

Oh, and on the subject of political humour, the problem is that 90+% of political humour is, at best, poking fun at those who have an opposing view. Those with the opposing view generally find it not funny, which is why we don't allow that, either. Insulting a large number of members because of their political views (and as an Australian, I don't really care if that's Democrat or Republican) is not the way to build a community. There is certainly political humour that all sides in politics can laugh with, but too much isn't like that.

 

Debate and arguments are still allowed here at GA. We don't require sweetness-and-nice, we only require civility. Everyone has their hot-button issues where we lose our civility, and politics is a subject that is a hot-button issue for too many people. I wish it wasn't. If babies was a hot-button issue for a lot of people, that would be the subject that's banned.

 

Er...are babies a hot-button issue for anyone? :P

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As a P.S. I'm adding my personal pet peevee: I still find it incredulous that you are not allowed to post erotic pictures in here, say a blog where they post cats and kittens in cute pictures on one side and men posing in similar positions like those cats in the other. There are no genitals (or I don't remember seeing any) but it was not allowed to be posted in here. Again, I point out, that the 12 and 13 year olds that come to this website can read all sorts of obscenities in the stories here (and let their imagination run wild) but got forbid they see a hot man in here.

 

that's a general USA cultural thing rather than GA specifically: erotic pics of the male body is plain wicked and corrupting, but anything else is just swell :P Seem to recall I did a blog on that a while back...

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One of the problems with US politics is that it has become so polarized. If you are a democrat, that tells the other side that you hate God and want to kill babies. If you are a republican, then you must be a drooling religious fanatic that thinks the second coming is at hand and we can destroy the environment for a buck and have no compassion for anyone. Oh and BTW- they hate gays and want to see them all stoned.

 

There no room for a spectrum of beliefs, no room for the actual 10,000 shades of gray that actually define humanity.

 

There are a lot of reasons for it and it's NOT just at this site. The rancor is so angry and bitter that it is all over the US parts of the internet and points far beyond.

 

I blame the media and particularly the party mouthpiece whores like FOX and pmsNBC. They are practically the propaganda arms of the two parties. The other networks aren't much better. You would be surprised and disgusted if you knew how inbred the current administration and the media are. If you've any wits at all you have to know that there's very bad stuff the media is not talking about in deference to the administration.

 

It goes much further than that.

 

On the right you can't be a moderate and discuss common sense gun control reform. God knows I would LIKE to. If you do, then you are a sell out.

 

On the left if you are queasy about the all abortions all the time policy the Man Hating Lesbian wing of the party will burn you at the stake.

 

The problem is even INSIDE the parties.

 

I don't know what the answer could be. I've often wished for a 3rd party. I even voted for one last time out. However- you've got to win if you want to accomplish anything and unless there is a D or an R after your candidates name, it's not happening.

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Yeah, I understand that. But that should not mean that GA will pretend politics - and gay politics - doesn't exist and we don't talk about it.

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