Relaxation of real name policy and and a crack down on name calling…

Hugh asked in the comments the other week if we had changed the policy requiring real names on posts.

I explained a few months ago, but I thought it would be helpful to have a post on the issue.

We have always preferred that people use their real names in the posts and, ideally, in the comments. The policy came from observing anonymous accounts’ toxicity to social media and not wanting the ‘contagion’ to infect Slugger (yeah, I know, wishful thinking).

If you are going to say something, you should be brave enough to put your own name to it.

The one exception to this policy was always Choyaa, as he would not be as free to give us an insight into The Orange Order if he had to be public.

In the years since we implemented this policy, the online world has become even more toxic. For understandable reasons, Many don’t want to stick their heads above the parapet.

We were finding it harder to get certain groups to write for us as they did not want to face the personal attacks that could happen on social media.

Also, unless the writer had a public profile, nothing stopped people from making up a fake name and writing under it, and we would all be none the wiser.

So, to cut a long story short, there is now a bit more leeway on the names. This is why you might have noticed more pseudo-names lately.

While I am here, you may have noticed more posts under the name ‘Slugger Team’. This is an account the mods use if they want to post something. Often, they collaborate on posts with several people getting involved, so it is simpler to post these under the generic ‘Slugger Team’ account. This account is also used if a mod wants to fire up something quick and short to open up a discussion.

 

While on the subject of names, the mods have also written the following post: Sticks and Stones 

One of the goals of Slugger O’Toole is to provide a convivial atmosphere, kind of like what you would find in a friendly and cosy pub where you can sit back, relax and unwind whilst at the same time engaging in spirited conversations with your fellows. Sometimes though, the conversation can become less spirited and instead become angrier, with insults and barbs being traded or the initial topic being lost in irrelevant tangents. 

Maintaining the convivial atmosphere means that the boundary between what is acceptable and unacceptable has to be watched. That’s where your friendly Slugger Moderator Team steps in, to prune threads going wildly off-topic, ensure conversations remain productive with everyone treating everyone else civilly, and to occasionally show a patron the door till they’ve had time to cool off. The boundary itself is subject to constant review, and sometimes what is deemed to cross the boundary, and what does not, is itself a topic of spirited discussion amongst the moderators behind the scenes.

Since autumn last year the moderation team has been giving thought to how we treat the names of people and organizations in the comments. In particular, there have been multiple instances of Jamie Bryson being referred to as ‘binlid’, in reference to his use of a blue wheelie bin as a prop with which to address the crowds, or referring to Ian Paisley Jr as ‘Ian Óg’, juxtaposing his first name with the Irish form of the word ‘junior’ in what is clearly implied as a barb, given his antipathy to that language.

Whilst some may consider the use of snarky names is a minor thing, such posting comes across as cheap shots. Not only are they man or woman playing the individual referred to, but the use of such terms significantly colours the character of the conversation going forward as it invites others to either pile on to the targeted individual or to rush to their defense, instinctively responding in kind. It lowers the tone of the discussion, and everyone is dragged down with it. The moderators believe contributors on the threads are fully capable of critiquing public figures, even those as divisive as Jamie Bryson and Ian Paisley, without taking cheap shots at their names.

And this concern is not simply about individuals, it applies equally to organizations. The increasing tendency to refer to Fine Gael as ‘blueshirts’, or the old chants regarding ‘SSRUC’ (or these days ‘SSPSNI) have the same impact of distorting debate and dragging down the tenor of discussion.

And so, after much discussion, the moderators have decided to apply the following change. When referring to any individual or organization, you are being asked to use that individual or organization’s proper name. Nicknames will be acceptable where they are understood to be affectionately employed for the individual or organization concerned, but clearly derogatory names will be subject to alteration or deletion by moderators with timeouts applied to anyone who persists in using clearly offensive names. 

If you have a point to make about an individual, you can do so, even robustly, without name-calling. 

But this of course leads us to the big one, and it would be remiss of us not to acknowledge it. Yes, this does mean that references to Sinn Féin as SF-IRA or any variant thereof will no longer be acceptable.

We recognize that for many commentators, particularly those from the Unionist community, the link between Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA is an insuperable factor in their perception of that party, and the use of the term SF-IRA is a way of reminding everyone of that link. Nevertheless, the use of the term does prejudice discussions and inevitably degrades the tone of the conversation. Accordingly, whilst recognising why some of our commentators may instinctively employ the term, we ask everyone to refer to Sinn Féin as Sinn Féin.

Furthermore, certain contributors have resorted to using the term gaslighting as a way of dismissing interpretations of others that they find difficult to address: such exchanges always demand a systematic analysis of what is considered as inaccurate or misleading. The word refers to a conscious manipulation of another’s perceptions of reality and is seldom an accurate description of what’s actually going on. It’s usually just another way of avoiding the hard work of thinking an issue through and is liable to be deleted where its encountered. 

This pruning of contributions that clearly inhibit convivial exchanges of views is vital, as has been said in earlier Slugger comment guidance, for creating virtuous circles through conversation. Before contributing, first consider if what you’re posting cultivates a genuine curiosity rather than simply distaste in others. Robust challenges have an important place where disinformation and careless inaccuracy are entering the threads but simply posting impromptu derogatory put downs is usually just wanton self-indulgence, dragging down any possibility of the serious productive exchanges that make the threads worth reading for others.   

We will try not to delete any comments, but if possible, we will edit them to remove the offending term.


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