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An Open Letter to the HFO Debate Team

A place to debate issues or to rant about what's on your mind. In addition to discussions about historical fiction, books, the publishing industry, and history, discussions about current political, social, and religious issues and other topics are allowed, so those who are easily offended by certain topics may want to avoid such threads. Members are expected to keep the discussions friendly and polite and to avoid personal attacks on other members. The moderators reserve the right to shut down a thread without warning if they believe it necessary.
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LoveHistory
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Location: Wisconsin, USA
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An Open Letter to the HFO Debate Team

Postby LoveHistory » Fri November 19th, 2010, 7:26 pm

I love how HFO is such a respectful place. Free from rancor and flagrant self-promotion. We all get along well despite our differences.

Recently a topic was posted in the Chat section and moved to the Debate Forum that has sparked some…well debate. The post in question obviously was not meant for the debate forum because no questions other than the rhetorical were posed, and no opposing viewpoints were sought. Chuck, in the post said “excuse my rant.” He did not say he wished for comments. He just wanted to vent, as we all do sometimes. However, a very wise moderator anticipated some kind of reaction and thus moved the post to the Debate Forum. (note: not being sarcastic, that was a good move)

The debate seems to be on the topic of respect for the viewpoints of others. Though some have taken it to be a debate on what is or is not debateable.

I’d like to add a disclaimer of sorts at this point for the sake of clarity: politically speaking I am a moderate. I’ve been researching my views and the issues for years and I am right smack in the middle of the American political spectrum. I am neither Democrat nor Republican, liberal nor conservative, radical nor reactionary. I have been hit by both sides of the spectrum with unflattering names, being called both a neo-con and an Obamanut on the same website during different administrations when I dared to be reasonable. I am happy to say that site is not HFO.

It is a paradox in American culture that quite frequently those who claim to be the most open and tolerant are the first to criticize and denigrate those who see differently. To be liberal is to be tolerant. I am not making this up. Check your dictionary. Now look up conservative. Is the word tolerant in the definition? No. This is not to say that conservatives shouldn’t be respectful, but it’s not contrary to their existence to be disrespectful. Maybe not a salient point, but I am always interested in how words mutate away from their definitions. Bacon’s Idols of the Marketplace still apply.

I always find it interesting that when someone takes offense at the way an idea is presented, invariably some other always takes offense at the offense taken. To suggest that because someone was offended by the way certain ideas were presented means that they object to a debate of issues is a leap of logic.

Leo asked about the “mythic” conservatives on the HFO site. Just because we don’t regularly see posts with subject lines like “Bill Clinton is a hound dog,” “Harry Reid needs a lobotomy” or “Another victory for the left” doesn’t mean there are no conservatives here. The conservatives on this site—at least to my knowledge—are not gun-toting, Hell-and-Damnation, rednecks who “can’t write/speak.” Those types are entertaining, and certainly get more press than the others, but they aren’t the only conservatives around. There are degrees of conservativism, just like there are degrees of liberalism.

Back to the debate. I think this sentence from Chuck’s initial post sums up the starting point: “The Americans who buy her and listen to her rubbish....is beyond comprehension.” Whether the word “buy” refers to a purchase or a belief, this statement could easily be taken as denigration of Palin supporters. Denigration is not respectful. How would Chuck, or anyone else feel about a popular symbol of their own political beliefs, and fans/supporters of said symbol being described in the way Palin and her followers were described in the initial post? In fairness I’m sure Chuck only meant that it is beyond his comprehension, which is not the same as all comprehension.

Chuck did ask us to excuse his rant. And we should do just that. He had no intention of starting a debate about Sarah Palin, conservatives, or anything else. If he had meant to start a debate, he would have posted in the debate forum to begin with, and I’m certain he would have followed the only posted rule for that forum: “Please remember to be respectful of each others’ views.”

Now, if anyone would like to debate this post I’ll have to request that you take a few deep breaths first. Posting while upset only causes more misunderstandings.

I think I’ll close with a song: “Why can’t we be friends? Why can’t we be friends?” :D (you can’t hear it but I’m actually singing) :D
Last edited by LoveHistory on Fri November 19th, 2010, 7:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Ash
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Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Fri November 19th, 2010, 9:07 pm

If he had meant to start a debate, he would have posted in the debate forum to begin with, and I’m certain he would have followed the only posted rule for that forum: “Please remember to be respectful of each others’ views

I didn't realize his original post was not on the debate thread. I do think he was ranting, out of frustration. Not sure this is the place to do it. It certainly isn't something that appears to be welcomed, and perhaps it is something that needs to be outside the scope of this forum. Why have a debate thread if 1) no one is comfortable having one (or appears to be) 2) its obvious that any deviation from anyone's opinion is not welcomed. Perhaps the 'debate' thread needs to be 'historic debate' which can include debates about historic fiction issues; tho to be fair we do that anyway on the other threads so why bother having a debate thread?

However, a very wise moderator anticipated some kind of reaction and thus moved the post to the Debate Forum. (note: not being sarcastic, that was a good move)

Unless said moderator asked Chuck specifically, no, it wasn't. But really, the more I think about it - its just not worth fighting about here. Nix the debate thread, and let topics about HF issues come up as we already do.
Last edited by Ash on Fri November 19th, 2010, 9:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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boswellbaxter
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Postby boswellbaxter » Fri November 19th, 2010, 9:15 pm

Political comments or rants, whether or not intended for the debate forum by the poster, will continue to be moved there as long as the forum exists. There's really no other appropriate place on the board to put them.

As I recall, there were some questions raised on the old forum about having a debate forum because none of the mods really wanted the job of policing it. I don't believe either of the mods wants that job now (I certainly don't!), so we have some options:

1) Ban mentions of current politics, religion, or social issues from the forum altogether, which means deleting any posts that mention such topics.

2) Have some brave soul volunteer for the task of moderating the debate forum.

3) Continuing the hands-off policy that we've had, which means allowing such posts, but moving them to the debate forum with the understanding that those who enter that forum do so at the risk of being offended or offending others, even if they keep things civil.

Thoughts?
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Misfit
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Location: Seattle, WA

Postby Misfit » Fri November 19th, 2010, 9:29 pm

I don't care to police them either and as with most political topics I avoid them altogether and that's just not here.
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LoveHistory
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Location: Wisconsin, USA
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Postby LoveHistory » Fri November 19th, 2010, 10:14 pm

"Ash" wrote:If he had meant to start a debate, he would have posted in the debate forum to begin with, and I’m certain he would have followed the only posted rule for that forum: “Please remember to be respectful of each others’ views

Why have a debate thread if 1) no one is comfortable having one (or appears to be) 2) its obvious that any deviation from anyone's opinion is not welcomed.


Ash, the problem on that thread was not that people disagreed about Sarah Palin, or even about American Idol.

Respect for differing opinions is the overall rule on HFO. It was the disrespect inherent in some of the initial posts that was a problem. Debate is always welcome, but it has to be respectful.

Perhaps when one of us wishes to rant, we could say so in the subject line i.e. "Danger: Rant Warning!"

It's not necessary to have a specific person in charge of Moderating the Debate Forum if we'll all remember to moderate ourselves.

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cw gortner
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Postby cw gortner » Sun November 21st, 2010, 2:10 am

I just checked these posts and had no idea it had gotten so heated. In the future, I will definitely keep my political opinions to myself.

I appreciated LoveHistory's thoughtful open letter. I concur that we should be able to disagree in a civil manner and I read the initial post in question as a personal opinion, nothing more. Indeed, I've seen similiar heated opinions vented here about authors, books, and other public figures, both living and dead.

So, in the interest of democracy, I did vote that we should allow political debates, though I bow ultimately to the moderators' wisdom. I think our moderators do an incredible job of keeping our tribe functional, and, frankly, if it's a headache or is going to turn into a virtual firestorm, who needs it?
Last edited by cw gortner on Sun November 21st, 2010, 2:32 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Divia
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Postby Divia » Sun November 21st, 2010, 3:11 am

We have an area on another MB that I moderate. Its pretty open but as soon as someone crosses the line and takes shots at another poster by calling them names we step in and edit the post.

For the most part we've been pretty civil on this MB. I think we should wait it out and see if this trend continues or if more political threads become so headed that we need new rules or another mod to take over the debate thread.

Personally, I don't think we are there yet where we need another mod.
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Michy
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Location: California

Postby Michy » Sun November 21st, 2010, 3:27 am

I am neutral on this issue. That is, I am apolitical in that I have a very low regard for ALL politicians -- left, right, and everything in-between. Although I do have strongly-held beliefs on most current issues, I keep them to myself or discuss them only with closest friends (and then rarely). I dislike political debates of any form -- whether on the radio, in person, or on a forum such as this one.

As for whether we should allow debates/rants/venting of non-HF issues on this forum, I think MLE made some excellent and very valid points. I come here to discuss HF and related issues. I don't mind debating issues relating to that, such as were mentioned in CW's post above. In the few months I've been participating here, those types of discussions have come up occasinally and they always are conducted civilly and without any problems. I really wouldn't like a limitation imposed on what we can and can't talk about as it relates to anything other than current political issues; that just feels too restricting. Personally, I don't see why we need to allow debating of political and other hot-button issues here, since there are endless other venues for people to discuss and debate those things to their heart's content if they want to.

That being said, if the majority of members want to continue leaving the debate thread open to virtually any topic, I don't have a problem with that, either. I can easily ignore it. I do think, though, that especially after this latest kerfuffle, if we do leave the debate thread as-is, everyone should understand that if they go there and read the posts, they are taking the risk that they are going to be angered or offended. Likewise, the person who initiates such threads should 1) try as much as possible to not use inflammatory and offensive language 2) understand that if they raise a controversial issue, no matter how carefully or respectfully they word it, they are going to get some flack from those who disagree. If you don't want to deal with flack, then don't start a debate! ;)

I don't blame the mods for not wanting to police such things, and if they employ a hands-off policy for the future, I wouldn't blame them. :)

I don't know how helpful they are, but those are my thoughts.
Last edited by Michy on Sun November 21st, 2010, 3:32 am, edited 2 times in total.

chuck
Bibliophile
Location: Ciinaminson NJ

Postby chuck » Sun November 21st, 2010, 4:43 am

I apologize for creating a problem for our hardworking,very fair and always friendly Moderators....It was a pure organic rant on Sarah Palin's New book and a couple of her comments on American Idol, Levi Johnston and Michelle Obama that inadvertently got on some one's website....anyway it fired me up....I have ranted numerous before and I think I put it in the wrong thread...I really thought I hit the Chat thread....Oh well....It's over and I truly apologize if I was disrespectful to anyone.....I prefer a rant over debate....I can't type fast enough nor do I have the gift of writing like many of you do.....Lastly....I don't live in a vacuum and the World/USA Current Events....Regarding Our Society, the Economy, the Arts, Literature, Music, Sports or Politics...effects me greatly at times.....This HF Forum is a lovely respite and in the coming months I will try to keep my rants a bit more civil....

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boswellbaxter
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Postby boswellbaxter » Sun November 21st, 2010, 5:05 am

"chuck" wrote:I apologize for creating a problem for our hardworking,very fair and always friendly Moderators....It was a pure organic rant on Sarah Palin's New book and a couple of her comments on American Idol, Levi Johnston and Michelle Obama that inadvertently got on some one's website....anyway it fired me up....I have ranted numerous before and I think I put it in the wrong thread...I really thought I hit the Chat thread....Oh well....It's over and I truly apologize if I was disrespectful to anyone.....I prefer a rant over debate....I can't type fast enough nor do I have the gift of writing like many of you do.....Lastly....I don't live in a vacuum and the World/USA Current Events....Regarding Our Society, the Economy, the Arts, Literature, Music, Sports or Politics...effects me greatly at times.....This HF Forum is a lovely respite and in the coming months I will try to keep my rants a bit more civil....


You did put it in the Chat forum, but I moved it to the Debate forum because that's where we generally park threads that aren't HF-related and that involve topics that are likely to lead to particularly heated discussion. (Perhaps it should be retitled the Debate/Rant forum.) I suspect it would have engendered strong responses no matter what forum it was placed in, but I was rather surprised that it elicited as heated a reaction as it did, as other members have started threads about current affairs that were equally as controversial without provoking such an outcry. In any case, maybe this dust-up was a blessing in disguise, as it gave the mods a chance to revisit the board's policy on current events.
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