“A few weeks ago” is beginning to be the expected delay in these posts.
Still, a few weeks ago, I got into a dust-up on metafilter about white supremacy. It started here, where I noticed that a character by the name of Milliken was engaging in some heavy-handed, long-winded, over-broad generalizations about black people. In response, I posted this callout on metatalk, which is the meta-space devoted exclusively to snark and personal attacks, but also the place where important discussions about the constitution of the community get fleshed out. The discussion did not go well at first… see here, here, and here.
But I eventually managed to coax Milliken himself into responding, and he quickly proved what I had already concluded: that he fervently believed some of the worst rhetoric of white nationalism. As he wrote in one of his last screeds: “I really am not racist. IM NOT. I am more upset and care to be more involved in the deconstruction of the liberal mindset towards minorities because I have read about and seen the results of things like affirmative action.” I managed to find versions of his arguments over at stormfront.org, which I won’t link because it just makes them more popular on google and would connect -me- to white supremacy. So Milliken was banned. What I still haven’t settled, despite the callout, is whether it’s really better for a community to exclude its most intolerant members, or whether the real goal of such experiences is to shame them into self-reappraisal.
Then, too, I’m interested in the operation of a self-policing community that can do all this on its own. It truly is a fairly homogenous community, not insofar as it excludes conservative views (by far the most popular/reviled character there is a guy named dios, who is fairly anti-liberal,) but because everyone who remains manages to preserve a level of civility and respect that’s surprising for such an online community. Or… perhaps not civility… but a toughness that makes civility possible. People who take offense when insulted are not respected, while those who respond well and wittily to the general tenor of snark are treated like local heroes. In the midst of this, we have a fairly high-brow discussion. It’s no wonder I spend so much time there.