A Tale of Two Communities (Part 2/3)
If you haven’t already seen it, here is my first post in this series, which provides some necessary background on the genesis of the SlymePit and the Atheism Plus forums. I’d recommend reading that one first.
I’ve been mostly lurking and very rarely posting (under my usual handle) at both websites ever since their respective inceptions, but since I recently installed Tapatalk on my iPhone, I’ve been seriously considering delurking in both. A few days ago, in the spirit of skeptical inquiry, I posted the exact same request for information (word for word) on both the SlymePit and the Atheism Plus forums. Despite personal doubts about both fora, I sincerely wanted to find out what draws people to post in each of them, and to find out directly from the regulars themselves. Here is the post itself:
I’m working on a post comparing the two forums (which are alike in a number of surprising ways) but so far it is mostly quantitative and historical and oddly dry. I’d like to try and get a sense (mostly from non-mods) of what it is about the moderation rules, stated goals, and unstated ethos of this particular forum which draws you to post here. I have my suspicions, of course, having lurked quite a bit, but I don’t want to paraphrase when I can quote directly from the users themselves.
I would have been content with a non-response, downright pleased with pointers over to relevant posts, and completely thrilled with detailed answers which would help me (and anyone else reading along) make an informed decision between these two forums.
You are more than welcome to read both threads for yourself and come to your own conclusions: SlymePit, Atheism Plus. If you don’t feel the need, here is the teal deer: The folks at the SlymePit gave me loads of substantive feedback about why they are there, while the folks at the A+ forums provided nothing but mockery, disdain, and a formal warning. Some friends had warned me that this would happen, but as a practicing skeptic, I had to see for myself.
Here are a couple of the choicer bits from the Plussers:
What we’re not is a zoo or an experimental lab, so you can take your privileged, observational ass back to the slymepit. See, we treat people here like human beings with value, and when you come in asking to perform an experiment on us that you get to walk away from, and even joke and laugh about with people at the slymepit, then you have shown that you are willing to devalue other human beings. You will fit in very well over there.
I’m dreadfully sorry to ruin everyone’s fun but I’m afraid this thread falls under the heading of “Pointless and Obvious Trolling”.
d4m10n, this is an official warning. This is not a zoo. Users here are under no obligation to prove anything to you. Participate constructively or GTFO.
Just after that, the thread was locked. Apparently, asking them honest questions in a forthright and friendly way is considered trolling over there, even if you stick around to respond in a non-confrontational manner. So much for my foray into that forum.
Now here are a few of the more substantive comments from the Pitters:
A big appeal of the Slyme Pit is that you will not be judged. You might be judged by the individual members, but there’s no arbiter that represents the will of the forum itself.
It’s the only place where there’s a free and honest conversation about elevatorgate and related dramas.
I posted on Abbie’s threads because there was literally nowhere else talking about it that didn’t ban those who disagreed. Even though that isn’t the case now (Twitter has lit up with criticism, and there are other blogs, etc.) I post here sometimes because it’s an extension of Abbie’s threads.
I see this site as a repository of all information regarding the ongoing hypocrisy of the FTB/Skepchick/A+ crowd.
I don’t agree with everyone who posts here and I don’t accept that posting here means you agree with anything but what you yourself have posted.
I certainly do not see this place as a hate site. We have not arranged any organized targeting of the FTB crowd while they do it constantly.
We do not seek to bring internet political disagreements into the meatspace – such as by trying to get people fired from their jobs – something the FTB crown do constantly.
We do not seek to redefine words of hate (such as misogyny and racism) and then brand those people who have political disagreements with us as misogynists and racists – again, a frequent and even defining tactic of the FTB crowd.
I gravitated to ERV after mistaking Pharyngula and FTB for sites encouraging discourse and informed discussion and debate on issues of science, scepticism, and rational thought. It soon became apparent that the goal of Pharyngula and FTB was to coalesce people’s individual thought into a nub of thinking acceptable to Big Mother.
Naturally, after reading through these two threads, I felt welcome in one forum and distinctly unwelcome in the other. Accordingly, I’ve been posting far more often in the SlymePit of late, and I’ve pretty much abandoned any attempt at reaching out to the Plussers. Nevertheless, I’m still reading both forums with some interest, and I’ve come to a few tentative conclusions about who they are and what they do.
These two spaces exist in perpetual opposition, as polar opposites and mirror images of one another. One exists to uphold the values put forth by the social justice wing of the atheist movement, the other exists to mock their efforts (more means than ends) and to ridicule their most popular exponents. One place is highly structured, heavily moderated, and requires a certain ideological unanimity prior to participation, while the other consists primarily of a single freewheeling and practically unmoderated thread. One exists to provide safe spaces for solidarity among the oppressed, the other exists to create a place which is consummately unsafe, where no language is considered taboo and no ideas off-limits. One forum emphasizes unanimity of purpose and lack of privilege, while the other takes pride in individual independence and mental toughness.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that both forums serve a useful purpose for those who feel comfortable posting therein, but I still have my doubts as whether either one is providing much in the way of a positive benefit to the larger community of freethought. More on that in my next Sunday post.