exodus very low tolerance for bigots and jerks (in the past I was too light with the ban hammer).
I came upon this thread right before bed and I’m gonna read and contribute when I can but I’d like to put some respect on this sentiment here, because it’s a bit ugly to think about on a surface level but it’s also way more important to the functioning of communities than most people give it credit for.
I was once a moderator for a Facebook group in what was then a nascent “Weird Facebook”, which shall not be named (unless someone asks then I will immediately identify it). When I was a mod we had an extremely swift ban hammer. This was around the time trigger warnings and content warnings were being spread around common usage, so you can imagine what that might have been like. For whatever reason the group attracted a ton of attention and membership was growing daily. This meant most of us were banning some ignorant shithead who didn’t want to play by the rules and didn’t care to learn a few times daily. But eventually, this worked to create a low tolerance for bullshit as part of the group’s reputation, and I’d say that it probably did more to teach people about the rules than anything else.
Eventually I split with the rest of the mods, though, not because I didn’t want to do it anymore, but increasingly, there was a more moderate faction in the mod team who wanted to ease up on this aspect of the group moderation. Why? Well, to potentially sell some trashy vanity press coffee book table. This was in the middle of the 2010s when Website: The Group: The Book was something people wanted to buy for some reason (or at least people thought that people wanted to buy it). But pretty much ever since then and as well as other forms of far right ideologuing has infiltrated more and more of the online cultural consciousness, I have been convinced that the only real way to cultivate healthy online spaces is on one hand to loudly and proudly communicate that the community strives to be a welcoming, friendly, co-operative, and loving space, but also one with a membership who are also just as quick to turn hostile on bad faith actors.
By this I mean, whether they’re doing it intentionally or not, no small number of people have inherited their sense of online conduct, with varying degrees of separation, from fascist failsons, and that is going to take a lot of time and effort to undo. Unfortunately one of the tactics employed by said fascist failsons, and spread out to other people by osmosis, is the expectation that one must tolerate someone so long as they are following the rules as written, or false appeals to free speech, even if they are clearly intentionally testing the boundaries of healthy social behaviour to the point of undermining them entirely by a clear and deliberate lack of respect for their spirit even if they can manage to maintain following them to the letter. So we got lots of people just out there being fascists, or having learned how to treat other people on the internet by fascists, who think because they aren’t sending walls of text entirely comprised of racial slurs, they’re not racist, even if they’re clearly just barely managing to keep it on a subsurface level.
Now, if these people are just bad faith actors looking to intrude on a good time, that’s one thing, but I’d say, even if we are talking about someone who is just, say, a bit casually racist, but isn’t really willing to do much about it unless forced to, it generally becomes relatively unproductive to keep a discussion going, in my experience. Most people just aren’t willing to change their mind or learn in that sort of setting, if they’re willing to debate it with a relative stranger, it’s more than likely that they’re quite entrenched in the sort of thinking they’re tying to defend. Especially if, say, in a group setting, it’s one person trying to reason with them and putting in a lot of effort to engage in debate or attempt at educating someone, and the rest of the group is more or less spectating if not ignoring it. This can create a wrong impression of, say, racism or misogyny being up for debate, since, well, you’re kind of doing it openly in public, in a protracted manner.
The antidote to this is, I think anyway, fostering a group culture where no one is afraid to call bullshit the moment they see it, and that they can feel confident that they won’t be alone and they will be backed up by administration. One person going “excuse me, would you care to debate about how the thing you said was transphobic, my good sir” presents these things as opinion based, three or five people going “what the fuck did you just say, get the fuck out of here with that shit” with a mod coming in to boot if needed makes those things appear as far more than simply something that is a matter of debate but, as it should be, a concluded moral and cultural touchstone that the group expects everyone to meet. I for one think that anti oppressive practices should not be apologized for or be put up for debate, it’s more a question of, allowing people to learn and correct a mistake if they are willing, but at the same time, risking people’s emotional safety is not worth one person probably not caring anyway, even if presented with the most immaculate arguments. I know for sure I should be responsible for several dozen people no longer being racist if that were the case.
I relate it to stuff like the Popper paradox of tolerance or Maoist concepts of combatting liberalism or the isolation of bad ideas and the promotion of good ideas. You really don’t gain anything by letting bad faith actors come in and be able to say their pieces as if it’s worth talking about. And keeping even one fuckboy around because they don’t completely break the rules just drags an entire community down around them, makes everyone feel like they’re walking on eggshells if they want to post about something that might attract their attention. And that feels doubly worse if it’s something good that they want to celebrate. The more overtly fashy ones are completely open about doing this sort of thing purely to waste people’s time and wear down other people and sway moderates to their perspective anyway so at the very least making a loving community that is also actively hostile toward intolerance is a really important thing I don’t see in the world nearly enough at all.
Building community takes active effort. It isn’t always easy either, every community has conflict sometimes, an as well most of us have internalized at least some unhealthy, anti-social tendencies from being socialized in a very unhealthy, paranoid, individualistic, and vindictive social culture (see, the entire English speaking world basically, thanks colonialism and capitalism and whiteness and McCarthyism and etc.). But I also think a better way is easy once you try it even just a few times. Not being scared of expressing emotion, being wrong and admitting it, refusing to act in an adversarial fashion when you can instead co-operate, gets easier after the first time ’cause these things tend to produce extremely fulfilling results. But it takes some convincing and a whole lot of community co-operation and solidarity, and an established history of consistent conflict resolution and decision-making, to be able to not come off as idealistic or hypocritical.