We have a situation on this Board that needs to be addressed. I have started this thread to get a dialogue going. I do not claim to have all the answers, but I do have, and will make, some suggestions.
There have been several posts made on this Board in the last few weeks which, in my opinion, violate our Number One Rule: No personal attacks. To me, this is a broad rule. It applies to how we interact with each other, certainly. We can disagree with each other, of course, and everyone is entitled to their opinions, even strongly held ones, even controversial ones.
But I think that "No personal attacks" also applies to our comments on comics creators. We can criticize the work, certainly, but this is a place where we don't criticize the person. Their work, yes; their actions, yes (for example, responding to a creator's Twitter comments). But their is a line. I think some posters do not realize that just because it is open season on creators on some corners of the internet, that type of thing is not okay here.
It's not just comics creators either. I think the same should apply to any entertainer we discuss (because we discuss a lot of them); again, it is the work we should comment on, not people we really don't know. I shudder to think if we started having threads on polarizing figures from the worlds of religion and politics.
We have seen several posts lately in the past few weeks where the "No personal attacks" rule has been broken. What could be deemed as personal attacks on creators has lead to personal attacks on other posters. This is not a place for flame wars.
It needs to stop.
This is the Captain Comics Message Board. The members are collectively known as the "Legion of Superfluous Heroes" which is why we refer to ourselves so often as Legionnaires. It's a little corny, but it also gives us a sense of identity.
Because his name is on the marquee, this is Cap's house, and we are his guests, and I think we lose sight of that sometimes. When we violate the rule of "No personal attacks", we disrespect each other, we disrespect the Board, and we disrespect Andrew "Captain Comics" Smith. None of that is acceptable, and I will not be silent about it any longer.
It should be clear what the rules of this place are. It should be clear who the moderators are, and how to contact them. There is plenty of info on the home page, and this should be there for all to see.
This should be a Board where all are welcome as long as they are respectful of this place. It is, as Commander Benson put it so eloquently only a few months ago, a haven.
This is a great Board, and what I have been talking about is a bump in the road. But it's a big bump right now, and it needs to be fixed.
Thanks for the responses everyone. Very encouraging to see.
So where do we go from here? I've made suggestions about posting the rules of the Board on the home page, as well as posting a list of who the moderators are, and how to contact them. I think it's a good start, it would be helpful for newcomers and all of us really.
I want to especially applaud Philip Portelli's comment:
We can bring up interesting points, controversial issues and, yes, even discussions about creators. And while we shouldn't focus on self-censorship, there's nothing bad about a little self-control: example: don't respond when you're angry.
Remember we should be here because we love comics and we should be here for each other.
We've been down this road before. And not too long ago.
Mr. Dunbar is right, of course. The pity is---he shouldn't have had to post this topic at all.
Rule Number One---and for those who can't seem to get the message, Rule Number One is "No personal attacks!"---has always included more than just our fellow Legionnaires. From the beginning, it enveloped commentary on others---comics professionals, political figures, authors, scientists, everyone.
The sole exception to the rule was if the commenter knew the subject personally. Not met him once at a convention. Not bumped into him at the grocery store. Not asked him for an autograph. But knew him. Interacted enough with him---him personally, and not simply having read what someone else wrote about him. And, for most of us, that's rare.
Honestly, it's not a rule difficult to follow. Ninety-nine percent of us do it consistently. But it's that one percent which erodes the ambiance of this board, as well as its reputation. Oh, yes, it has a reputation. Mr. Marconnet stated that he was directed here because of its reputation as the friendliest discussion group on line. When Comics Buyer's Guide put its web site together, it used this one as a model, because of that reputation. Most of us take pride in that reputation. Especially the veteran members, like Clark Kent_DC, Rich Lane, Randy Jackson, and, of course, Cap himself. But certainly not exclusive to them. Relative newcomers, like Mr. Portelli and Figserello and Mr. Dunbar, also embrace the comaradery and freedom to voice opinion without personal attack.
I've seen boards that don't safeguard that principle of "No personal attacks". They quickly devolve into sniping sessions that are noisome for even the non-participants.
None of us has a problem with disagreement. No-one fears or is offended by rational, well-reasoned, and respectful disagreement.
As I see it---without pointing fingers, because my intent is to address, not accuse---the offenders in the one-percent sub-set have certain "button" issues. Topics and/or persons about which or whom they hold strong notions. To those in that one-percent subset, I say this: We get it.
We know where you stand and we know how strongly you adhere to that stance. You've told us ad nauseam. You've made your point.
And even that's not the real problem. The real problem is that these views are expressed with such stridence tinged with vitriol that it disrupts the harmony of the board. And as far as the other ninety-nine percent of us is concerned, the harmony of this board is the most sacred of things here.
Moreover, the law of diminishing returns has kicked in. The more, and the angrier, the viewpoint is argued, the more the rest of us ignore it. It's self-sabotage, and that doesn't make sense from a logical standpoint.
To be quiet about it now doesn't mean you've "lost" the argument---there's no winning or losing here---it just means you've made your point and you're moving on. Believe me, we won't forget how you feel about that particular subject.
Mr. Dunbar asks, "Where do we go from here?" It's tough to supply an answer to that one. We've tried group influence, and we're still at this place. I assume someone has gone one-on-one with the perceived offenders off-board, and we're still at this place. Any further action lies officially, with the moderators.
I do know this. The fact that there is a very thread on this topic shows how important the sanctity of forum is to that ninety-nine percent of us. To those who have been especially offended or dismayed by the other one percent, please take heart in that. As Mr. Dunbar saw, we are solidly behind his concerns.
And to that one percent whom absolutely cannot relinquish stating their views with antagonism, perhaps it's time to find another sandbox to play in.
We're not letting go of this one.
I've been a lurker-for-the-most-part here since the internet was made of string and soup cans. It's because of this kind of HUMANITY that I come back again and again.
George Poague said:
OTOH, I've noticed a growing tendency for posters here to regard any disagreement as "offensive" and a personal "insult." Some people need to grow tougher hides. You can't expect everyone to agree with you all the time.
I assume most of the regulars here (except for myself, Andrew Smith, Alexandra Kitty and ClarkKent DC) haven't worked in newspaper journalism, where it's not uncommon to get emails from readers questioning your ancestry, speculating on what you put in various orifices, and telling you to move to Afghanistan ... but most of the rhetoric here is pretty mild by comparison.
At one period, it was my job at a semi-major metropolitan daily newspaper to select the published letters to the editor. Talk about "I read them so you didn't have to"! I've gained more than a few of my gray hairs that way.
As for the topic of this thread, I am reminded of something I once heard in a wedding toast: Getting married isn't so much about finding the right person as it is about being the right person.
For example: We've had these kind of flareups before, and some of the perpetrators have gone on to -- or been sent to -- another corner of cyberspace to be as abrasive and obnoxious as they will.
John is right in that being part of the "Legion of Superfluous Heroes" gives us a sense of identity. One aspect of that identity is we prize civility. The kind of person who is a true Legionnaire is the one who, when called on an instance of bad behavior, immediately and sincerely responds, "I'm sorry, and I won't do it again" -- and doesn't do it again.
George Poague said:
Alexandra Kitty said: "Angry, snarky insults have become so common (and no just the comic sites, let's face it) that they have become absolutely meaningless ..."
Snark was funny and refreshing when David Letterman was doing it in the '80s. Now that everyone is doing it, it's become tiresome.
Frankly, the appeal of David Letterman totally escapes me and always has.
George Poague said:
Clark Kent DC said: "At one period, it was my job at a semi-major metropolitan daily newspaper to select the published letters to the editor. Talk about "I read them so you didn't have to"! I've gained more than a few of my gray hairs that way."
At least in newspapers, there's a gatekeeper to keep the libelous and abusive comments out of print. That's not so easy online. Offensive comments can be deleted ... but generally not until after they're posted, and not until someone complains. Ubnfortunately, the use of pseudonyms online encourages people to be as nasty as they wanna be.
And when you DO delete a comment, the poster always screams that his or her First Amendment rights to free speech are being violated. They don't understand that they DON'T have a right to post comments saying a local politician or businessman is a child-molesting drug addict and a member of the Communist Party.
For that matter, they often don't understand they DON'T have any right to come into someone else's forum and post comments against the standards of the host, whatever those standards might be or however they are defined.
This board has always been a model of civility. That is because Cap wanted it that way from the start.
There is no place here for personal attacks. That is the ethos of this board and one of the reasons why it is what it is. To be anything less makes it less.
We all agree on this. So the problem is: What do we do when they occur?
The people who make the comments either don't think they're doing anything against the rules or get carried away and think their comments really aren't that bad. They probably are in agreement with this thread's assertions.
So. Do we ignore them, eliminating the fuel for the fire? Do we confront them, which never makes them back down? Do the moderators (who are well aware of past breaches) ban them, only to have them reregister under a new name?
Moderators can delete any post that crosses the line, and it's been discussed. But how do we handle a post that has one paragraph of slagging out of many, especially if others have responded to some of that before the moderators act? Is that the price they pay for crossing the line--even if they argue they didn't realize the line was set *there*?
And how do we handle the forthcoming outrage that a comment has been deleted for no reason--especially when no one else can see the offense any more to judge? Is the threat of deletion enough to make people think, or will it just make things nastier once the deletion occurs?
I hope restating the principle in this thread makes everyone reflect on their approach, not only to personal attacks but to negativity in general. But I'd be interested in any suggestions for handling the problem, too.
I assume most of the regulars here (except for myself, Andrew Smith, Alexandra Kitty and ClarkKent DC) haven't worked in newspaper journalism, where it's not uncommon to get emails from readers questioning your ancestry
I worked as a reporter for a daily paper for a little bit, as a police reporter and features writer, but those don't really rile people up much. I think it's more about expressing an opinion, especially with today's communication either via email or online comments (and the anonymity that comes with both). The comments on some news stories are often more interesting than the news story, if only for what they say about how some people think.
With my CBG column, I get a variety of "I like your column but..." emails, but I only got one "How dare you!" letter that I remember. Even then, via email, I could respond to that (even if I didn't know the writer's name).
People often confuse what was written with the writer ("First, let's kill all the lawyers!", says Shakespeare), and they stop thinking about the creators as actual people. That's encouraged by all the fantasy sports things, where people get upset over major injuries because it's gonna cost them points that week.
I'd think that seeing creators at shows, where there is way more interaction then ever before, would damp that down. But a lot of people seem to think they elevate themselves by pulling down others, and slagging someone makes them stand out. Just because it's commonplace many other places doesn't mean we have to accept it. But it may be difficult for some people to remember to turn it off when they get here.
Maybe we need to be more aggressive in issuing warnings and include a warnings procedure that everyone can read, so they can see how close they're coming to being banned. That may be more organized than we can handle.
I'm going to step out from my table in this dimly-lit corner of the Comics Cave Cafeteria and Laundromat for a little bit.
I hardly comment here anymore. The main reason is I don't buy new comics anymore. I just can't afford them on a single parent's salary. Secondary is that many of you people make me feel like a dunce. :D (That's my problem not yours). I still come in to read the threads, and what I've been seeing lately really disappoints me, because of what the forum was when I joined up years ago.
If I wanted a lot of sniping, there's other places I could go. (There are some here who know I can get pretty snarky myself on other non-comics subjects.) The Comics Cave, though, is a place where I came to listen to sometimes funny, sometimes spirited, but always respectful conversation. There are darn few places like that online. I don't want to see this turn into just another forum site where personal insults are tossed with no regard at all.
John, thanks for bringing this up. I'm going back to my corner now.
Frankly, the appeal of David Letterman totally escapes me and always has.
I used to like the Top Ten Lists...but that's neither here nor there. (Now I'm really going back to my corner table.)
It's voices like yours, Don, that we need here. And this is a site about COMICS, not current comics only. No one need feel excluded!