Swimming in the Sewers

Update: Welcome, lizards! Enjoy poking around, if you like. Then feel free to ask Charles what happened to the LGF Dictionary — a stupendous contribution to the blogosphere. I particularly liked this entry:

racist – A statement of surrender during an argument. When two people or disputants are engaged in an acrimonious debate, the side that first says “Racist!” has conceded defeat. Synonymous with saying “Resign” during a chess game, or “Uncle” during a schoolyard fight. Originally, the term was meant to indicate that one side was accusing the other of being racist, but once it was noticed that people only resorted to this tactic when all other arguments had been exhausted, it acquired its new meaning of “indicating one’s own concession of defeat.”

There�s nothing like a good political argument. I�ve thought that for years � it�s always nice when you can have a calm, rational discussion about issues, without getting personal, hysterical, or vindictive.

A little over a week ago, I decided to venture into �Democratic Underground.� I read the FAQs and realized that I (marginally) qualified to post � I�m a registered Democrat.

(I apologize for that; for years, I didn�t belong to either party � I�d declare for one party or another for primaries, then re-declare as an independent. In 2000 I joined the Democrats to vote for Bradley, then forgot to un-declare it later. Sooner or later I�ll get around to re-registering as an Independent.) I dove right in and started arguing.

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It didn�t take long to get into arguments � after all, I�m a moderate with Libertarian and Zionist leanings, and I�m not bashful about sticking up for either. This was around the time Israel was redecorating Hamas leaders in Swiss-cheese patterns and the anniversary of Rachel Corrie�s misadventure with construction machinery, among other things.

I was really getting into it � I was simultaneously helping a student sharpen his Bush-bashing speech, discussing the relative status of gays in Israel vs. Palestine (as a straight agnostic WASP from New England, I considered myself as the ultimate disinterested party), and the justification for the war in Iraq. I had over 40 postings, and a LOT of responses. I was having a grand old time � until I BROKE THE RULES.

Chomsky forgive me, I engaged in �hate speech.�

In the middle of a casual discussion, I gave another person a nickname. �Aussie_Hillbilly� was his name, and I plunged into ethnic slurring and stereotyping. I asked him if I could call him �Billabong_Bubba.�

Next thing I know, I was banned. I ran to the page that explained why I was banned. They say that if you break their rules, you will be banned. You can appeal it, and occasionally such appeals are granted, but if you don�t hear back from them, forget about it.

I composed a calm, thoughtful appeal and sent it off, then waited for them to answer.

And waited.

And waited some more.

So I got bored and guilty � the post that got me banned contained a few links Aussie had asked for � so I created a new ID and jumped back in to the fray. I carefully made JohnStarksHeir�s writing style and personality slightly different from BunnyThief�s and picked up where I left off.

John made it through two or three postings before he got banned, too.

In the process, though, I learned a LOT. First, the first reaction to the DUmmies to any horrid situation in this world isn�t �we better fix it,� but �how is this the US�s fault?� Second, if the US can be found to have any culpability for that horrid situation, the US has absolutely no right to try to fix it. Thirdly, the DU is nearly overwhelmingly anti-Israel (apologies to drdon326, Gimel, Muddleoftheroad, tinnypriv, and others with a modicum of sense and decency — a decidedly rare commodity over there). Finally, a huge number of their posters strike me as young, snotty punks who adopt the trendy rebellious, anarchistic, ultraliberal persona in an effort to out-extreme and out-cool each other.

DU isn�t a debating society. It isn�t a place to meet and discuss issues. It serves two functions. First, it�s a competition to see who can agree with everyone else the best. Second, it�s a competition to see who can be more outrageous, who can go farther to the extremes, who can push the limits to the left. And if you don�t fit in to their carefully crafted rules, you will get kicked out without warning.

I don�t begrudge them that. It�s their site, they pay for it, they set the rules. In fact, the very first rules of their forums is �We reserve the right to ban anyone for any reason, and to delete any post for any reason.� It reminds me of my employee agreement at work � �co-worker�s employment may be terminated at any time, without notice, for any reason or no reason, by either party� or words to that effect.

I opened this by saying that �there�s nothing like a good political argument,� and I stand by that. Democratic Underground is NOTHING like a good political argument.


(note: I have deliberately not linked to any pages over at Democratic Underground. If you’re that curious, go find it yourself — I’m not giving them that much publicity.)

(note 2: edited twice for stylistic reasons)

What Ever Happened To...
Moderate Humor


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