This is the kind of topic that deserves its own thread, moonbeam, and it certainly deserves more time than I have this morning. Suffice it for now to say that I believe intent only becomes important if you hope to predict future actions. Past actions have to stand on their own merit.
How did I guess you were going to say that!
It probably won't surprise you to hear that I don't quite see it like that, and I think past actions can always be redeemed (or otherwise) in the light of later analysis or a better understanding of a person's mental state. So I am unclear as to what you mean by the phrase "have to stand on their own". And you are right about the importance of intent in predicting future actions - but isn't that what we all consciously or unconsciously do constantly in our interactions with other people. In short I see it as so self evident that trying to establish intent is not only important but crucial to happy relationships that I can only assume I am misunderstanding you.
Rules, I think, are a bit like ethics. Good rules, like good ethics, lay out a road map that is the "most likely" path to the desired destination.
Agree completely with that.
It's not much different with rules. If someone is hurt at PiP, it won't be because we applied the rules mechanistically, but rather because we made a mistake. Our rules are generally pretty flexible and open to interpretation (and re-interpretation). Indeed, I think that last thread got into trouble (does anyone here think it wasn't in trouble?) because I allowed myself to be enticed into interpreting our rules a little too loosely.
I was wrong to state that if someone is hurt at PiP it's just because of a mechanical application of the rules. That can be the case I think, but you are also right, "mistakes", perhaps better called misjudgements, are I suppose made, although this is such a subjective area it would be a braver person than me who started to dabble in an arena where we are essentially talking about an interpretation of what is right and wrong. Having said that, I am about to dabble! With the strong caveat that what follows is just my opinion:
Indeed, I think that last thread got into trouble (does anyone here think it wasn't in trouble?)
~Raises hand tentatively~
I'm probably jumping right into a bear or wolf or moose trap here Ron, but since you asked the question I'll answer "yes" and "no".
Yes - because I think the thread had about run it's course and was drifting off topic way too often; no thanks to yours truly introducing the Jaime's threads I might add. Having said that, I am not sure whether the mere fact that in a discussion forum the discussion wanders a little from the originating topic should warrant a moderator closing it down. So maybe that "Yes" is actually a No in any case.
Now the real No. No - because I think the reason you cited for the "troubled" state of the thread was both tenuous and also based upon a shaky recent moderating history.
The moderating history:
You already know from my comments here and my long e-mail to you, what I think about Jaime's two contentious posts. While I think you are right about politicians and people in the public eye being "fair game" I also think Ess has a point.
You make your bed and lie in it Ron.
If you want to allow such outrageously inflammatory, unsubstantiated and frankly (in the case of the Hitler references) obnoxious posts to remain standing in the forum that's clearly your prerogative as moderator. But then to get all precious about the rules when subsequent discussions in the febrile atmosphere thereby created, get heated, strikes me as a bit illogical. And lest you say that they were different threads, I'd point out that the "relationships" between posters are often forged over a series of threads, as I believe was the case here.
These semantics over what is and isn't disrespectful to a public person miss the point. I agree with Ess's view that it's not "nice" to say nasty things about anyone! I agree with you Ron that public people are legitimate targets. Two different points - irrelevant to the real issue here in the Alley, which is quite simply what level of unsubstantiated abuse you as moderator are going to tolerate given, what seems to me to be the perfectly predictable consequences of allowing, for instance, completely unsubstantiated vicious attacks to remain.
If you are fool enough to leave your tuna smelling finger dangling in a pirana infested river, don't complain afterwards if it gets bitten off!
The tenuous reasons for closure of the thread:
I shook my head and bit my lip Ron when you said as part of your closing speech:
"In my opinion, however, discussion only works when everyone has a voice."
I'm all for that, but really reflect on what's been going on in the Alley and tell me with a straight face that most "decent" PiP people wouldn't be put off posting in a forum with posts like Jaime's. I suspect you make the (admittedly unconscious) decision to exclude a large segment of PiP each time you let posts like that stand. And although I blame you (sorry correction, not "you" - the whole moderation effort) in the Jaime cases, as a general point I think you are right to leave rigorous posts and replies.
For instance Temptress made a recent originating post that was nothing more than an announcement that she was hacked off with the posters in Dark for not making more replies. Sure, it was a kind of criticism of other PiP posters, it was also a complaint and an outburst of frustration and it led to quite a bit of ensuing friction every bit as fractious as what went on in the Palin thread. And so what?
It was good. It aired the issue. People had their say in a reasonably "adult" way, and you didn't close the thread. Quite rightly in my view.
The point is Ron, you are running a forum here for "flaming' and complainin'" (yeah, I know about the respectfully bit!). You are not running a poetry forum. And my own opinion is that in the Palin thread you did, in one sense, apply the rules mechanistically in that you suddenly decided that precisely the same rules on "personal attacks" should be applied there as in the poetry forums, despite that fact that it seems to me some considerable latitude had been shown previously.
Imo (and I know you won't agree but anyway) there are very good and solid reasons for applying the "address the poem not the poet" rule absolutely rigidly in a poetry forum. The reasons are pretty obvious and I won't recite them here. However in a debating forum I'd contend that not only is it much more difficult to apply them consistently and rigidly, but it's also, up to a point, undesirable.
The reason is simple - in debate, as distinct from a poetry critique, it is (as you have said yourself) quite difficult to separate a criticism of someone words from a criticism of the person. Or put another way, it's all too easy when the rhetoric becomes heated, to transfer the commentary on text to a commentary on person. The judgement becomes one of opinion not fact and opinion is swayed by context and language.
So that what happens Ron is you start to judge not the FACT of a personal attack or otherwise, but simply the ferocity of the language.
Alison said that what I said was insulting. (Was she saying I was being insulting?)
I said that what someone said seemed hypocritical. (Was I saying he was a hypocrite?)
Jennifer said that someone's words were boorish. (Was she saying he was boorish?)
Mike accused Jennifer of conducting a smear campaign. (Was he saying she was a gossip?)
The words were all strong. The temptation to make a judgement of personal attack strong perhaps.
What you (Ron) do, in fact, is to make a subjective judgement about a poster's intent and motive, based upon the language that that poster uses!
And that's fine because at the end of the day you are moderating the forum and that's what you have to do. The problem that I have with your closure of the Palin thread is that I think you did, to use your words, make a "mistake" in your application of the rules. A misjudgement if you like. I think there were perhaps a few instances where direct comments were made about another poster, but even in these instances the people involved sorted out their differences and moved on. Throughout the thread emotions heated and cooled and people joined and people left. But there were no outright childish tantrums, and no flaming, swearing or name calling. In fact the discussion proceeded much as many debates I attended at university, except in a considerably more polite manner. There are occasions Ron when I feel you act a little like a parent stepping in to stop a squabble between children, and perhaps sometimes it's justified - this time I felt it perhaps wasn't. But, having said that, I thought that, for the reasons I mentioned above, it was no bad thing that the thread was brought to an end.
Well, you did ask!