The Numenera thread is by no means the only one, and the post I've chosen as an infraction is just an example: Insisting that this one monster is Definitely Sexist because it doesn't meet an arbitrary definition of sexism you came up with, asserting that anyone who disagrees has to produce scientific studies about elfgames (that work with your definition of sexism) which have been mysteriously absent from your sexism thread derailing posts up to and also beyond this point, waving around your G+ followers as an army of faceless posters who totally have your back on this, and passive-aggressively insinuating that people who disagree think all women are alike, are the real sexists and need to do their research. That is the kind of un-chill posting we are talking about here.I'm not even going to discuss whether these descriptions are a correct summation of Zak's posts in the discussion. From what I can see, the posted guidelines about derailing at rpg.net are less narrow than the ones the mods seem to use. But because these standards are coming from moderators, who are supposed to provide ground rules for civil discourse, we might presume that their reasons are valid rules that govern any kind of argument, right?
In fact, the same assumption is not made in the apparent source for this decision, the internet literature on "derailing" and in particular this bit. The "Dummies' Guide to Derailing" critiques specific rhetorical moves by privileged group members. The same rhetorical moves, presumably, are OK when used by non-privileged group members. At least I can't imagine rape statistics that support a feminist point of view being criticized as "intellectualizing," and so on. I wonder if the derailing guide is presented in that sarcastic, "Screwtape Letters" mode because it would just be a little much to come right out and say "The more privilege you have on a demographic basis, the less you are allowed to use these rhetorical moves in discourse."
So back to RPG.net. If we are to take these as universal guidelines for what is acceptable then:
- Nobody should be able to use an "arbitrary standard of sexism that they came up with", implying that all allowable references to sexism at rpg.net should be annotated with a reference to a non-arbitrary definition of sexism and which other person is, acceptably, responsible for that. (They aren't.)
- Nobody should assert that someone who disagrees with them should come up with scientific proof, especially if their own posts have been previously lacking in scientific proof. (This means it is not allowable to challenge, for example, a claim that female cranial sizes make women less intelligent than men, by using the scientific evidence that speaks against it.) At the same time even if Zak had, as requested, produced scientific evidence that was lacking in his previous "thread derailing posts," that would have been disallowable as a form of thread derailing - intellectualizing - under the Dummies' Guide.
- These games are silly things not worthy of scientific study - "elfgames." (Then why take them and their representations so seriously?)
I actually think a lot of people are arguing in bad faith because they have a model of how people's minds change, that has been drummed into them by a society and educational system, but that is profoundly out of touch with reality. They will try at all costs to pretend that they are working from this model, when they are working from another, and people's minds actually change yet another way.
The standard model is like a nice high school debate. People state point and counterpoint, present evidence and examples pro and con, sum up their piece, and the most convincing side wins.
But the standard model only works if everyone accepts certain things as true, certain ways of knowing as reliable, certain values as worth pursuing. This is precisely not what happens with gender debates on the Internet. This is why so much rhetoric is devoted to labeling and name-calling. People sense, somehow, that they belong to one of two mutually intolerant tribes, who at the base of it believe very different things about how the world is set up.
And right you are to exclude people who are not on the same planet from your discussion. I'm not being sarcastic. This is a social fact. You can't have a meaningful discussion about what the best role-playing game is, and include everyone who believes roleplaying games are evil or pointless.
The name-calling, argument labeling, "passive-aggressive" and "shaming" and "Tipper" and "white knight" and "mansplaining" are all terms of emotional warfare to push and exclude and claim a safe space. "Concern trolling" is often a term used to claim an even narrower space - to exclude not just people who disagree with your ends, but also the people who agree with your ends but disagree with your preferred means to achieve them (see definition 4 in that link).
We fought that battle, we maintain this armed perimeter, so we can play ball on this field.
It's honest to admit that. It's not honest to pretend that anyone can come play ball, and then require them to play without the same kind of equipment available to the home team.
So this is pessimistic. I think most people who put their heart and soul into arguing on the internet (including, evidently, me) are hoping to actually change minds on fundamental issues. How does that really happen? I have a suspicion, and I might write on that next post.