The company that runs Discourse is “Civilized Discourse Construction Kit, Inc.” One of the primary roles of Discourse is to help promote civilized discourse, especially as expressed in the default FAQ.
This is a Civilized Place for Public Discussion
Please treat this discussion forum with the same respect you would a public park. We, too, are a shared community resource — a place to share skills, knowledge and interests through ongoing conversation.
These are not hard and fast rules, merely aids to the human judgment of our community. Use these guidelines to keep this a clean, well-lighted place for civilized public discourse.
Lately I’ve been thinking about the concept of “tone policing,” as expressed, for example, in this comic.
If you Google for tone policing you’ll find a lot more discussions of this.
Here’s another one, in text. Do or die — This is a post about tone policing
Tone policing assumes that the oppressive act is not an act of aggression, when it very much is. The person who was oppressed by the action, suddenly is no longer a victim, but is “victimizing” the other person by calling them out. Now, I’m not saying it’s okay to be abusive, or oppressive in response to a person who fucks up. But anger is valid. Anger is valid, anger is important, anger brings social change, anger makes people listen, anger is threatening, and anger is passion. Anger is NOT counterproductive; being “nice” is counterproductive. Nobody was ever given rights by politely asking for them. Politeness is nothing but a set of behavioral expectations that is enforced upon marginalized people.
From time to time, folks on our Discourse forum have expressed pretty heated anger about discrimination, oppression, or other unfair BS they’ve experienced. Sometimes, as angry people tend to do, they hurt other people’s feelings by expressing their anger. (And in at least some of those cases, the angry folks have later expressed regret about their choice of words, though certainly not in all cases.)
What’s weird about the role of the moderator is that arguably the whole purpose of having a moderator is to moderate the tone of the discussion, even to “police” the tone. Online, some people are uncivil for no reason other than to be hurtful, and the role of a moderator and civility guidelines is to promote healthy discussion.
I optimistically think that moderators are usually more helpful than harmful. Moderators sometimes have to delete/ban some disgusting stuff that I feel no qualms about deleting.
But sometimes, I worry, that by requiring that the tone of our conversations remain civil, we’re interfering with the expression of righteous anger which should hurt our feelings.
Please treat this discussion forum with the same respect you would a public park.
We do a lot of things in a public park; not just healthy conversation, but protests, even angry ones. A public park is often the canonical example of where we have to support the free-speech rights of people to make political remarks that sting.
I’m still working through what I think about all this. I feel like all of these ideas are coherent:
- Civility rules are inherently harmful, because they forbid marginalized people from productively expressing their anger.
- Tone policing is what we do; if this prevents marginalized people from expressing righteous anger, that’s not our problem. They can go find another space (an actual public park) to protest angrily.
- The role of the civility rules is to forbid assholes, but to allow righteous anger; we’ll have to use our best judgment to distinguish them. (Perhaps the guidelines should say more to clarify this, and help distinguish the cases?)
What do y’all think?
P.S. I recognize that this thread runs some risk of becoming a political discussion in itself. For example, some of the articles I’ve linked are from feminist resources, and you might have opinions you’d like to share about feminism, content warnings, or political correctness. That’s not what this thread is about. There are uncivil marginalized voices across the political spectrum, left and right. Maybe you think some of those voices should be marginalized, but this is not the thread to discuss which of those are which!