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Evolution of a discussion
james_nicoll
I'm sure there's a Kübler-Ross joke in here somewhere.


Dismissive

Defensive

Contemplative

Apologetic

Explanatory


With a special guest appearance by someone with a lot more patience than I'd have in their position:

Race 101 A

Race 101 B


People following the reader reactions to Race 101 A and B may want to keep this card handy.

Why does this post not have the oh noes don't look tag?

I didn't think it was needed.

This is why you should open up tagging to all of us. Another writer acting like a jackass is not what I need to see.

Edited at 2009-03-14 05:44 pm (UTC)

He actually recovers damn well; this is why it's called an evolution. Where he ends up, thus far, is a much, much better place.

I don't give him many any points for people calling him on his bad behavior.

I thought "Man learns lesson" was supposed to be one of the great story shapes?

No, and nor do I, because calling him on it is their efforts and not his. What does regain him some of my respect is that, unlike a huge number of people, he actually listened, made an apology, and then went at least part of the way towards deliberately and meaningfully making amends by opening up his platform to Mary Anne Mohanraj, who has a better clue than he does. The discussion that's come out of it on the second phase? Well worth reading.

Yes, I wish he hadn't been clueless in the first place. But he can learn, and has shown that he's willing to do so, and in a way that doesn't involve whining about not getting a cookie for his apology, nor mouthing empty words about "well, we can discuss this later."

In the context of what has gone before in Race Fail 09, not flipping out when called on poorly thought-out behavior exceeds the median for BNA reactions.

I would like to note that I suspect John initially saw a very different shape of the conversation than you did, and quite likely something like what I saw.

What I saw was, first, vague references to what sounded like an unpleasant argument about racism somewhere outside my livejournal friendslist. It sounded like the sort of thing that leads to acrimony and no enlightenment, as I have seen many similar conversations go. I saw references to unfounded accusations and name-calling; I saw no references to anything that sounded like intelligent or enlightening conversation.

And then a bit later, bits of it landed on my friendslist directly. What landed there were people who were deeply upset and emotionally distressed to levels that I'd rarely seen them. People clearly in pain beyond the point of acting rationally, and comments on the posts that were continuing to poke at them in ways that were obviously only going to make the pain and irrationality worse. It was clearly in a feedback loop of people becoming more upset and more hurtful to others, and thereby becoming less and less likely to have any beneficial output to anyone.

Somewhat distressingly, I was seeing this same thing from what I thought were relatively disconnected parts of my friendslist. It seemed like it was happening all over the place, and all over the place was the same story of hurtfulness and lack of sane intelligent conversation, and people too upset to reach out without lashing out.

So, that was what I thought the whole conversation was. Some of the people who were badly hurt were people I thought were reasonably sane and intelligent people; I assumed they had good reasons. And I saw three ways of addressing the conversation -- try to call them on the things they were obviously starting to do badly, which seemed unlikely to have any useful effect beyond poking them with more sticks; try to defend them, which seemed to be how they got into the mess and besides they were doing hurtful things; or stay well out of the way.

So, I stayed well out of the way. I successfully made my roll against making a public statement of "You all are only making things worse by continuing this conversation," but just barely. I still stand by that feeling, though, for the portions of the conversation that I saw at that point.

It was to my very deep surprise that I, a few weeks later, came across deepad's post and discovered that there was enlightening and worthwhile conversation about race issues hiding behind the wall of acrimony that I'd seen from my perspective. And to my horror and sadness that I then found out that this wasn't something separate, but was actually deeply intertwined into where the acrimonious bits had come from.

I was again quite surprised to find that there was a whole large core of conversation that had continued to be useful and enlightening for its participants (at least mostly), in parts of livejournalspace outside of the large range of stuff that had happened all around me. And I am remarkably happy at humanity, and a bit amazed, that it seems to be winning out.

But I think that John's response was not an entirely unreasonable or "bad behavior" response to seeing the conversation from a similar perspective to where I initially saw it, where it looked like half of the fandom blogosphere was yelling at each over in a conversation that didn't contain any visible worthwhile bits (and, in the part that I initially saw, there very much were none nor any indication that there had ever been). I also think that his apology was appropriate to learning of the rest of the conversation, which did indeed contain lots of worthwhile stuff.

In any case, one of the key lessons for me has been just how large these sorts of things can get, and how much different they can be in different parts, and how what I can see off the edges of my friendslist can be just a small corner of it. I really earnestly thought that what I saw was broad enough to be a representative sample of the whole thing -- and apparently I was quite wrong about that.

Re: excuses, excuses (Anonymous) Expand

If all the other defensive idiots acted like Scalzi, this wouldn't be a RaceFAIL.

jamiam

2009-03-15 12:27 am (UTC)

The fact that he's capable of actually understanding how he fucked up, and how his white privilege led him to fuck up, and how many people without the benefit of his privilege are being hurt very badly by all of this--and all of this well enough to actually compose a heartfelt, non-fake apology, and screw his pride--really does put him in the human being league. Nobody else has waded in that deep and still managed to figure out that they'd picked the wrong side, let alone tried to make amends.

okay, maybe Monette. Does Monette count?

Did you actually read his posts?

Yes, and I didn't think it needed a warning.

This is why you should open up tagging to all of us.

I don't even like to let meter readers into my house so handing tagging over to other people is really, really not going to happen.

Woe, there goes my Eddie is awesome tag. (how is there no eddie tag?)

how is there no eddie tag?

james_nicoll

2009-03-14 07:00 pm (UTC)

I am amazingly lazy if there's no money involved. Most of the time I don't even spell-check.

I do have a cat story which I will put in another entry.

He screwed up, yeah. He also admitted that he screwed up. He's tried to take that as a learning experience, and also to take advantage of the size of his readership to put some very thoughtful stuff out there where people will see it. (Also, unlike other participants in this, he's been moderating comments in a fairly solid way IMO.)

If that's "acting like a jackass", I think your standards are significantly different than mine are.

Re: Evolution of a discussion

pir_anha

2009-03-14 06:57 pm (UTC)

thanks for that. i dropped him off my reading list after "defensive" and wasn't gonna go back any time soon.

and his comment section is made of so very much fail i can't bear to read it even now that he's gotten a clue.

I shrug more than a bit at Scalzi's doings, but I thought MAM's posts were tremendously useful, so thanks for those.

And I did not read the comments. No indeed.


I suggest you shut off comments to this post. This whole topic is like the Blight: omehow it manages to subvert and incorporate into itself even high-level meta-criticism.

I pray my post is abstract enough to do more harm than good.

Aargh!

s/omehow/somehow/

s/harm than good/good than harm/

what's with the bow?

pir_anha

2009-03-16 04:01 am (UTC)

completely off-topic: lately i've seen several different userpics with that same gigantic bow, and yours is particularly fine in its juxtaposition. what's the reference?

Re: what's with the bow?

pir_anha

2009-03-16 11:57 pm (UTC)

tnx!