On playing the man (again)….

It’s ironic that some were keen to dismiss Marc Kerr’s keen observation on how, as often as not, the promise of a good discussion on Slugger is fouled up by visceral nastiness (political bigotry?), and ample doses of whataboutery. As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m keen to host a good debate on a variety of issues, but not a series of emotional bun fights. So let’s look at one thread recently and what some ‘nationalist’ posters offered as their contribution to a ‘rational’ debate:The first five posts (unprovoked by anything other than a politician’s statement of view) brought this response:

what a silly get, trying desperately to be offended.

What utter nonsense! Willie comes off as nothing more than a small minded _blank_

reinforces my ideas expressed on the DUP as an utterly shameful party yesterday on the ‘constitution’ blog. as a Derry man myself im sick to the back teeth with Hays and Campbells rants.

Which by comment five brought a pertainent question about the playing the ball rule of the site, which was then glibbly refuted by one of the offenders above. It quickly gave the next person the opportunity to indulge in a spot of whataboutery:

Flags, Don’t ye love yer flags. One question. What exactly do the DUP want. Any DUP supporters can you tell me what do ye want. Do ye want everything to remain the same, no power sharing, return to the RUC or do ye want to reach a soloution. What is it ye want ?

Now, all of these guys are expressing nationalist sentiments, but none are espousing an argument of any kind. It is for the latter and not the former that they ought expect short shrift from Slugger.

It’s not all gloom and doom. In the Paris thread, there has been a slow migration towards a kind of political synthesis, from an initial clash on the matter in hand. The reason for the most part being that the protagonists (mostly but not entirely Unionist) threw referenced political opinions at each other, that has (thus far at least) caused each to think and move on. Which is as it should be.

There are many other places on the net where people are free to vent their spleens, or enjoy the merry-go-round of historical loops. But if Slugger is going to live up to the name of the thinking man’s online forum (not my own description), then some of our nationalist commentators are going to have to work a bit harder at living up to that term’s lofty ambition.

  • Mick

    Those “first five posts” you noted?

    They’re the first five posts left after the thread was moderated.

  • Mick Fealty

    That was some liberal moderation Pete. For which I’m now grateful. Any of the ‘protagonists’ wish to defend their contributions above?

  • Well, the question of playing the ball had been raised by the time the moderator woke up.. and it seemed a very pertinent point. A light touch was applied so that the tackles could still be seen – without the more blatant offences.

  • The Lush

    I am the dude who is been accused of a spot of whataboutery. The only defense that I can offer is that the DUP man on about the tricolor appears crazy. It made me think is this guy for real. Which then brought me on to ask a serious question. What exactly does the DUP see for the future? What type of Northern Ireland are they working for? A question I would like answered. It is a genuine question.
    If I caused offence I apologise. But how about a no holes bared debate about the future.

    We know SF want a United Ireland, lets debate about how they see day to day life in the North until their goal is achieved.

    We know the SDLP want a United Ireland, lets debate about how they see day to day life in the North until their goal is achieved.

    We know the UUP want to remain part of the UK. Lets debate about how they see day-to-day life in the North until their goal is achieved.

    We Know the DUP want to remain part of the UK. Lets debate about how they see day to day life in the North until their goal is achieved.

    Maybe we could look at this subject under a number of headings. Firstly the stated goal of each section is already clear. We accept that.

    But what I want to know is in the mean time i.e. day to day life how equal are the parties.

    Power sharing in councils.
    Commemorations.
    Sport.
    Police.
    Water Charges.
    General day-to-day life.
    Is it a plurist society that the parties want if so all flags should be welcome.
    Education.
    Employment.
    Any other relevant topics.

    Sorry if I ramble but what is it that people want day to day. SF do they want everybody speaking Irish and dancing? DUP do u want everybody to march around in orange sashes?

    Bottom line is I am genuinely at a loss. I don’t think there has been a debate about day-to-day life regardless of aspirations.

  • Mick Fealty

    TL,

    I’m not questioning the legitimacy of the question you raise, just adverting the fact that by the time you made it, the waters had been sufficiently muddied to mean that the original question had been buried by the personal attacks above. It does not a discussion make!

  • John East Belfast

    Mick

    I always thought the ‘ball not man’ rule applied to how posters should treat one another rather than how they should treat an individual, institution, nation, idea… which was itself the subject of a thread ?

    Infact although I in principle for 90% plus of the time subscribe to the former (just basic civility) there are some complete space cadets appear on here sometimes where trying to engage in drawn out discussion with them is both awaste of time and only encouraging them – and although even they can be given some space an insult is often the best form of attack if not defence. Ignoring them is also good’ possibly better I suppose.

    eg that quip by ? to Paisley about putting his hat back on because the woodpeckers were about – was that Man not Ball ? – anyhow should he instead have got into some deep religious debate about the merits or otherwise of trans-substantiation etc at that particular open air religious rally.

    On looking at the first 5 posts in that piece I can’t see the problem – if that is how they feel about Hays actions then fine

    Its your site and an excellent one but I think you might be taking the censorship too far ??

  • mwk

    JEB:

    The point isn’t censorship, it is ignoring the substance of the current discussion and wandering off trying to score points by bringing up your own side’s grievences.

    And by mentioning censorship, you have done exactly that, ignore what was going on, and steering it elsewhere.

    And again, I will reiterate, on the subject of censorship: There is no freedom of speech here. Mick’s site, Mick’s rule. Don’t like it? Set up your own blog, isn’t that hard.

    As for the space cadets, everyone can see them for what they are, best off leaving them alone.

  • Padraig

    Its no good having a lot of nasty name calling, you just end up like a dog chasing its tale or like kids in a play ground. Its better to listen and listen carefully to people you disagree with. Its not those who agree with you most that can teach you the most. But those you disagree most with. Its not being nice for niceness sake, its giving space for rational dialogue. If you simply want sectarian abuse a football match is more useful and fun.

  • Mick Fealty

    John,

    There’s the letter and the spirit of the law. I don’t want to get into enforcement. I don’t have the time or the inclination. Of course, much of what politicians say in any day might not pass muster here on Slugger.

    That’s because the anti ad homimen rule here is simply a device, an attempt to promote coherent online debate, not some middle class meddling to get people to be ‘naice’ to each other. Neither am I trying to replicate the formality of an Oxford style debate.

    But as I’ve noted to TL above, if a thread opens with rampant attacks of the person making a statement distracts the reader from the substantive point. The intellectual indiscipline which follows often means that people end up emoting rather than arguing.

    And that makes for very, very dull reading.

  • I can’t say that i’m too pleased to have my comment highlighted considering some of the serious personal abuse which has gone unchecked in the past, especially in a post talking about “visceral nastiness” or “vent[ing] their spleens”

    Fair enough I didn’t put any argument forward but my obversation was valid considering the comments made by Mr.hay.

    I’d also remind you that I prefer not to be labelled nationalist. If you get that right i’ll promise to work on my “arguments”.

  • p.s. 🙂

  • Mick Fealty

    maca,

    I hear what you say. You’re a veteran of some fine discussions here. And you know better than most what happens when the game drops below par. Attacking Hay’s stance is fine and might well have given rise to some proper debate about flags, symbols, sovereignty etc. But Hay himself was the subject in that thread. It is now an ex thread, because it went directly from discussing Hay to posters attacking each other.

    I fully accept there may have been worse abuses in the past. I’m just at a loss as to what to do about it other than to constantly appeal to people’s better nature.

  • Mick, maca,
    if you think that some are posting petty and innane drivel than why not incorporate this in your rebuttal of any stupid point they are try to make.

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    Not having participated in the original discussion, I feel, however, that it’s wrong of Mick to tar all nationalist commentators with the same brush, something which he does when he calls on ‘our nationalist commenters’ to play the ball etc.
    I have been the victim of several ad hominem attacks here and been provoked in turn to carry out a few of my own, which I admit and which I regret in the spirit of Slugger, however I’ve seen a few carried out by those who would profess themselves to be above that style of fray also.

  • Mick Fealty

    You misquote me Oilbhear. I said “some of our ‘nationalist’ commenters” not “all nationalist commenters”?

    I’m not making it personal. And I’m not suggesting that some unionists are above sticking the leaden boot in.

    But this ad hominem stuff has just got to stop!

  • The Lush

    Lighten up a bit sure its only craic or “Crack” as some people may call it 🙂

  • SlugFest

    TL,

    Not sure who you were addressing in your last post, but I think we all need to remember that Mick has not only created this labor of love, but has also gone above and beyond to ensure that all of us — Nationalists, Unionists, Republican, Loyalist, and all the in-betweens are able to participate.

    By insisting on the ‘man, not ball’ mandate I don’t believe Mick is saying ‘this is my toy and i’m going home if you don’t play my game’, but rather encouraging each of us to challenge ourselves to play our personal best in that game.

    That said, please don’t assume i’m placing myself above the neer-do-wells … I’ve certainly hit below the waist myself a few times.

  • TOT

    as one of those whose comments are highlighted i’ll take it on the chin, but I’m not a nationalist, i just thought he was trying desperately to be offended regardless of which set of political spectacles we view his pronouncements through.

  • SF
    That’s one important point to remember and i’m happy to acknowledge (despite my complaint) that Mick has worked hard on this and does a great job providing a forum for us all to discuss, whinge, moan and bitch.

  • Mick Fealty

    More of the former and less of the latter, latter and latter please!

  • irishman

    Mick

    Snide commentary should be discouraged not only amongst those posting to the threads, but also amongst your team of contributors.

    You shouldn’t be surprised if people respond in kind when they are provoked- even though, I agree it doesn’t make great reading.

    On the Willie Hay situation, I actually found it far more interesting to note that his attitude confirmed that in no scenario would the unionist political leaders be willing to embrace symbols of the nationalist identity and accept them as being legitimate.

    For me, Hay’s response is a challenge to republicans to be more forceful in their assertions of the legitimacy of expressions of Irish nationalism, whilst simultaneously engaging in outreach work with unionists.

    Fundamentally, the problem would appear to be unionism’s utter lack of respect for their neighbours.

  • Fair enough a Mhick!

  • The Beach Tree

    Mr Fealty

    I’m afraid this thread, and your post above, are for me the final straw. I, not one of the posters admonished on this occasion I might add (so it is certainly not sour grapes), can no longer justify spending time on posts to such a site.

    The idea that ‘nationalist’ posters on this site are any, or have been, more guilty of the ‘crimes’ which you have accused them of than their ‘unionist’ opponents, now, recently, or at any time in the past,to be deserving of this one sided admonishment, is nonsensical, bogus and ,frankly, bigotry.

    And bigotry mascarading as ‘fairness’ , which is particularly odious.

    The ubiquity of Mr Baker as a commentator, his snide, dispariging and biased tone, compared with the practically complete lack of any sense of balance to him, and your own tone-deafness in relation to this, are indeed simply further examples of a clear deterioration in the quality, balance and worthiness of the site.

    It has unfortunately become clear that to your ears in recent months, any unionist argument, whether an article beginning a thread, or responses within a thread, to you appears by definition, to be ‘well made’, regardless of its lack of intellectual or factual content. Only the most craven droolings appear able to turn this presumption around. It has clearly become the default position of the ‘editorial team’.

    That ‘nationalist’ comments are now being publically denigrated, is only a predicatable development of this.

    If you wish the site to be a unionist talking shop, I’m sure David, Andrew and the Shankill Mirror will be delighted for the company. But to attempt to parade this site, and the editorial policy on it, as fair, even-handed or reasonable, in the cold light of recent interventions is pathetic.

    I shall continue to monitor the site, if only to watch its further degredation, but I shall, I fear, no more be able to respect it.

    Yours

    TBT

  • TBT
    Despite strong competition, that’s one of the most bizarre comments on here for a long time.

    Slugger is run by Mick and Co.
    They make the rules.
    If you don’t like them, go elsewhere.

  • D’Oracle

    I think it is beyond time here that a few people were reminded that it is very dangerous to say upsetting things. Most people most of the time just want other people to be nice to them about everything and above all not to be demanding shocking changes, causing upset and that sort of thing. Foreigners with funny ideas about stuff are particularly dangerous and can even undermine and subvert entirely previously happy people within idyllic societies.

    Remember -anyone with strange opinions about all of the great things you take for granted can not only cause increased coronary activity rates and upset needlessly but they you they can also have the effect of corroding the very foundations of their blind prejudice.

    I think that just a little thought, just a modicum of civility and a little consideration can go a very long way and that carefully chosen content-free words of caution should not upset anyone prejudiced in the opposite direction at all at all.

    I think thats is what I think but then if someone objects then I may find that I may be willing to defer to their prejudice.

  • Mick Fealty

    TBT,

    Without being disrespectful to a fellow blogger, Pete is often pugnacious, direct and has a certain instinct for mixing it, which is not my personal style. For that reason he may have to take what you say on the nose. That said, he has a sharp eye, intelligent brain and a good nose for an important story.

    The idea that ‘nationalist’ posters on this site are any, or have been, more guilty of the ‘crimes’ which you have accused them of than their ‘unionist’ opponents, now, recently, or at any time in the past,to be deserving of this one sided admonishment, is nonsensical, bogus and, frankly, bigotry.

    Where, in this post or indeed anywhere on this site, have I said any of this? My criticism was reserved for “some of our ‘nationalist’ commenters”, not “all nationalist commenters”!

    On other matters it’s up to you (and every other reader of the site) to determine the worth of Slugger for yourself. I have never held it to be above criticism. I have only asked that guests here show each other some degree of civility when they argue the bit out.

    If that’s too high a price to pay, then you might do worse follow than other readers’ examples and set up your own blog. The benefits are hugely underestimated!

  • Levitas

    I would agree with TBT -Mr Baker’s colours are far too often apparent to us all, he is down on robustly expressed nationalist sentiment like a tonne of bricks. Seems to me Mick you are getting far too precious for your own good, I think your rules are a little too intrusive , and you are conferring too much power on your “refs”, thats why I (and many others) find the discussions increasingly anodyne.

  • Mick Fealty

    Levitas.

    I would agree that some of the discussion on this matter has gotten way too precious. But there’s anodyne in one corner and banal in the other. I’ve not been asking people to pull punches, simply to quit the dull personal gubbins.

    At its best the discussion on Slugger is hard to beat. At its visceral worst, it becomes both banal and anodyne.

    Oiche mhaith….

  • mwk

    Levitas (and TBT)

    And so what if Pete’s colours are there for all to see? Can’t you take opposing views? Or is it that no one else (bar whatever one out of usuns and themuns you are) is allowed to even *have* a viewpoint? Whataboutery of the highest order. Merely proving the point of my original article.

    Still, I find Pete’s posts witty and erudite, never bigoted or petty.

  • I’d also add that I have gone to some lengths to ensure that Slugger gives a platform to people from right across the spectrum, from DUP supporters to stalwarts of Sinn Fein. And I will continue to do so.

    But, at the same time, I’ve no intention of running a political vetting process on whose opinion is acceptable and whose is not.

  • The Beach Tree

    As Mr Fealty has decided for a second time to avoid a robust discussion of the directionnhis site is taking, this time through private correspondence, I will, like a good politician, break my self-imposed rule only once.

    mwk

    I can only say you have a poor standard for what you consider erudite. And Pete’s musings are frequently the dictionary definition of petty.

    “Or is it that no one else (bar whatever one out of usuns and themuns you are) is allowed to even *have* a viewpoint? ”

    Facetious and deceitful. I am perfectly happy, Voltaire-like, for Pete to have, and to state, his views, however biased, unnuanced or prejudiced. Reasoned ideas rather than spleen would be a marked improvement, but that his lookout.

    What I expect is a reasonable and genuine attempt at balance. If i don’t get it, and we clearly don’t get anywhere near it currently, I have a right to challenge the site’s claim to fairness and evenhandedness.

    Mr Fealty

    “I’d also add that I have gone to some lengths to ensure that Slugger gives a platform to people from right across the spectrum, from DUP supporters to stalwarts of Sinn Fein.”

    Pete Baker
    Total entries: 720

    Every Other Editor bar Mr. Fealty
    Total entries: 76

    Gone to some lengths? Clearly nowhere near far enough. This level of domination clearly skews the entire site. But that is obviously fine with you, so on your own head be it. I have already suffered from you breaking your own rule on “playing the man ” in other threads, without apology. So frankly, I’m cannot be expected to have any respect for admonishments on that score from the same source.

    It’s your site, of course, and I abide by that. But it is your property rights only I respect, not your position.

    As I said, David, Andrew and the Mirror will be glad of the company. Perhaps Mark will join you. May you all enjoy each other.

    TBT

  • Pete Baker

    So, somehow, I’ve become the topic of a thread warning about Playing the man (again).. sheesh.

    Pete is often pugnacious, direct and has a certain instinct for mixing it, which is not my personal style. For that reason he may have to take what you say on the nose. That said, he has a sharp eye, intelligent brain and a good nose for an important story.

    Well, I can’t argue with that, Mick.. can I?

    On the other criticism aimed in my direction, I refer the critics to the excellent quote at the excellent Harry’s Place – “Liberty, if it means anything, is the right to tell people what they don’t want to hear”.

    In spite of what some may think, that’s how I approach each topic I choose to note here.

    That means not necessarily accepting the narrative being presented.. and if someone disagrees with what I write.. well, that’s what the comments facility is for.

    If others feel more comfortable, with their own hearing, by placing me into one of their pre-determined categories.. that’s entirely their problem.

  • Does Mick force Pete to post more than the other bloggers or does he delete the other blogger’s posts so that no one sees them or is it that the other bloggers do not exercise their ability to post and therefore the claimed lack of balance is on their head?

    Why don’t you volunteer to become a blogger that represents whatever viewpoint you have apart from whinger so that Pete’s voice is drowned out to your satisfaction in that manner?

    Otherwise, you can’t blame Mick for what those who have previously volunteered are failing at.

    Unless he is more of a hard man than we realise!

  • TBT: Well, I’m open to suggestions!

  • Mick, it reminds me of union rules, Pete is being asked to slow down production because he is making the other bloggers look bad!

  • I’d be wary of drawing too many negative conclusions on the other bloggers. Some of them have work committments that make it difficult for them blog as regularly as they might otherwise like to. That’s were TBT’s quant method falls down.

    I’m quite open to TBT volunteering to blog.

  • Mick

    Welcome back with the great Slugger. I note that you praise the ‘Paris’ thread and how there was movement away from calling it a Muslin riot to a riot of disenchanted youths who may be or may not have real grievances and yet this thread starts with

    ‘ So let’s look at one thread recently and what some ‘nationalist’ posters offered as their contribution to a ‘rational’ debate:’

    do we have to colour the point with political allegiance?

  • Concerned Loyalist

    To be honest, I feel patronised on Slugger at times. My views are constantly dismissed without proper discussion, and I may be wrong, but I feel this is because of my loyalist ideology. I feel that because I use the pseudonym ‘Concerned Loyalist’, a significant number of nationalists automatically think I must be a sectarian bigot, which is just not true! I think this is one of the defining factors behind the lack of Loyalist posters on Slugger.

    I admit to being guilty on one occasion of playing the WOman instead of the ball, in the case of SF’s Mary-Lou McDonald and I apologise for that, but on the whole I feel I have refrained from vicious personal attacks. If anyone disagrees I would be happy to discuss the matter further them…

  • I thought it was well worth marking it out, for clarity’s sake if nothing else.

    Having have been accused in the past of being anti Nationalist in the way material has been cut from the site – I wanted to make it apparent on this occasion why some Nationalists were being clipped. As I said originally:

    Now, all of these guys are expressing nationalist sentiments, but none are espousing an argument of any kind. It is for the latter and not the former that they ought expect short shrift from Slugger.

    Frankly, the fact of them being Nationalist is not in the least bit relevant to me. But others have seen fit to view action taken against some nationalists as a stick to hit Slugger with. Slugger should take hits for what it does wrongly or badly.

    But it should not have to take stick over what seems to me to be legitimate action against ad hominem attacks, be they on public figures or other commenters!

  • CL,

    It also an issue for some of the public figures who have on occasion put their noses in here. Last year we even had one Republican public figure pull out of answering questions on Slugger precisely because of the apalling behaviour of one particular (erm, moderate) Nationalist commenter.

    For me this is absolutely about behaviours and not politics.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    Mick,
    I sent you an e-mail recently, taken from the U.U. website, entitled “A Tale of two Cities”. It contained the findings of research into the polarised communities of the City of Londonderry and the fact that a significant number of Protestants in the city felt comfortable, on the one hand, shopping in areas such as Foyleside and Richmond Centre, but fearful and uncomfortable of walking through areas such as Guildhall Square and Foyle Street, where the main bus station is situated.

    I suggested it as the title of a thread and a topic of discussion, but you never got back to me. Did you not deem it worthy of discussion or is there another reason?

  • It may have come when I was in Denmark. I get a lot of mail. Will look it up.

  • Mickhall

    Like Concerned Loyalist, I to have sent Mick or Pete a URL about an article I thought may be worth debating on Slugger, sometimes they end up on the list some times not. My point being if anyone feels Slugger is getting to one sided, then there is no reason why they cannot send Mick and co a heads up. The real value of Slugger is people from the different communities and beyond can argue things through and get an idea how the other community is thinking beyond the political spin. If you think about it, this is priceless if the north is to move forward to a time when such conversations can take place beyond the sectarian wall in the local pub or coffee shop as they do elsewhere.

    By the way Stone frower, which trade union rule-book did you read, the same one the dogs in the street familiarize themselves with 😉

    (Mick, it reminds me of union rules, Pete is being asked to slow down production because he is making the other bloggers look bad!
    Posted by Stone thrower)

  • SlugFest

    Concerned Loyalist,

    I must admit that I’ve certainly read your posts with a grain of salt based strictly on your nom de blog. I have a bad habit of first looking at who the poster is, then reading what they have to say — in other words, approaching each post with my own pre-conceived ideas.

    Please accept my apologies …

  • joc

    As I say to my two girls (aged 7 & 9).

    Sometimes an outbreak of nice is nice 😉

    CL – I would have to confess the same about your postings.

    One of the reasons I like ATW is that the opinions there are very strong – I disagree with them, but generally enjoy the robust debate.

    I find Slugger has become a bit tame lately but that might just be due to the recent shutdown and change of env.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    SlugFest,
    I admire your honesty. I try and adhere to the adage, “You shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover”, but I know not always easy.

    I want peace for this land, but not at any price. The fact that I want peace is still a foundation to build on though, and the fact that I can articulate my views and listen to feedback from a different perspective, can only be a good thing – a stepping stone if you like.

    Constitutionally, Loyalists and Republicans are poles apart, but on bread and butter issues: quality of life in working-class areas for example- they have a lot in common. Deprivation and poverty isn’t an exclusive scourge on one community, both suffer immensely and the problems need to be tackled head-on.

  • Concerned Loyalist

    Joc,

    ATW?

  • joc
  • SlugFest

    CL,

    I very much agree with your concerns, and truly believe that if both working-class communities could come together to pursue their shared goals, the resulting bond just might be able to overpower arguments over the constitutional future of the land.

  • stu

    CL, SlugFest-

    This is what I want to see more of. With luck, this viewpoint will become the norm.

  • SlugFest

    Stu,

    Thanks for the props.

    I will certainly endeavor to keep developing my viewpoint(s) in the future.