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[P]
The case for discrimination and politics

By End in Op-Ed
Tue Oct 10, 2000 at 11:54:04 AM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Ever since Kuro5hin came back from hiatus, I've seen it become increasingly misappropriated as a propaganda tool by people of various political persuasions. I know the elections are close, and people are getting edgy about politics; but the bottom line is that politically slanted stories typically make for poor reading and low-quality discussion. I'm suggesting that we seriously scale back the kinds of political stories we tolerate here.


This story may seem a bit US-centric at first glance (amen!) but there is a useful principle here that seemingly a lot of kuro5hin readers could do well to take to heart.

I've seen a lot of (often poorly written, unoriginal) political stories from both sides of the spectrum lately (including yours). I can only speculate that, this being an election year in the USA, k5 readers have political/philisophical issues on their minds, thus the great temptation to inject their opinions and latest pet peeves into public view. It is very easy to whip up a quick story, clothe it under a thin guise of objectivity, and add a link or two for credibility. (Have I just described journalism as we know it? :-) )

The Futility of It All
Speaking of political and philisophical issues here, have you ever known anyone's mind to be changed by persuasive information they read in a newsgroup, weblog, or ANY medium for that matter? Trying to persuade people by means writing opinionated stories is utterly futile. Why? Because it has no effect on a person's mind. He may agree or disagree with you, but he always does so becasuse he was already so inclined.

Not surprisingly, this is contrary to what the Great Web Visionaries of yore hade to say about the impact of the Internet on politics. In theory, the 'net was supposed to revolutionize politics by massive increases in voter awareness and ease of participation. Such a claim could just as easily have been made about the radio, the TV, or the newspaper. It was easy to see that, no matter what the medium, neither content providers and content consumers are truly objective; and that people who do not participate in the political process do so out of willful apathy, not because it is hard for them to find the information they need.

Before You Submit: Stop, Drop and Roll....er, something
K5 does have sections for both political stories and overt rants; but this is primarily a discussion site, not a tournament grounds for pointless arguing. Furthermore, this is a site primarily by and for technically-oriented people, and these other "extraneous" topics -- including politics -- are most interesting where they relate to technology. Encryption is one good example of this. Bottom line: before you submit your story, ask yourself:

Am I bringing anything fundamentally new to the discussion? If not, you are merely generating a boring rehash of prior debate. It's like playing a "Life" simulation using the same configuration over and over again.

Am I attempting to persuade people to my beliefs? Nothing wrong with that, but your efforts will be ineffective and perhaps counterproductive if you waste them on a rhetoric-filled opinion piece and/or try to make it look as though you are being objective. As someone once said, this is the age of the engineer, not the pampleteer. Get involved locally and apply your ideas practically.

Does anyone here really care about the issue? If no one is really aware of the subject or the issues, it might be your task to show us why we should care; but more often than not, nobody cares because they've already decided not to.

When Did Discrimination Become a Bad Word?
I'm not surprised that these stories have been written and submitted, but I am surprised that many of them were voted to the front page. Most of them brought nothing new to the discussion of subjects they concerned. The title of this paragraph has nothing to do with racism or sexism; it used to be said of a man, when he knew how to pick out the good and chuck the bad, that he was Discriminating. If kuro5hin is to have a high standard of quality in its stories and discussions, the voters must be more discriminating.

To put it in a nutshell, then, I humbly suggest that users here adopt a critical stance toward politically opinionated pieces. It is not because I can't stand flame wars or debates, and it is not because I disagreed with some of the opinions expressed here; but if there's one thing I can't abide, it's half-baked, undistinguished and uncreative slipshod writing, gudgeoned into a format that will make it palatabe to an audience that cares about exploring NEW ideas, and viewing familiar subjects from a new perspective.

(Maybe you don't think that accurately describes kuro5hin. Well, it did, before the Quadrennial Event rolled around. It was the chief impression I got about k5 when I signed up awhile back, and it was what interested me in the site.)

It doesn't require a lot of talent, but it does require a little thoughtfulness, consideration and discrimination.

Thank you,

-JD

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Poll
Your reaction to this article:
o The author brought nothing new to the discussion 12%
o I agree whole or semi-heartedly 13%
o HEY! CENSORSHIP! >:-O 2%
o I don't care 9%
o It's an opinion piece about opinion pieces ;-D 25%
o How does this relate to technology? 5%
o Assimilate Canada! 28%
o You sure changed my mind on that issue 2%

Votes: 177
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Kuro5hin
o Also by End


Display: Sort:
The case for discrimination and politics | 40 comments (25 topical, 15 editorial, 0 hidden)
null and void (2.31 / 16) (#1)
by fluffy grue on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 11:07:48 PM EST

Most of your argument pivots around something which turned out to be a bug in scoop. Sorry.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

not at all. (2.60 / 5) (#4)
by End on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 11:40:29 PM EST

I was not complaining that they had not been sent to the section page only; I was merely surprised that they had been voted up at all. The section vs. front page thing is a different issue.

-JD
[ Parent ]

Put this political article on the front page! (1.92 / 13) (#3)
by your_desired_username on Fri Oct 06, 2000 at 11:30:55 PM EST

I had to vote this article to the front page, just for the sake of the
  irony.

I think you exaggerate in your 'The Futility of It All' paragraph. I
  think that a few people will change their minds due to a
  well-written political opinion. Less than 1%, but still non-zero.

As for predictions of the 'The Great Web Visionaries', well, I believe
  the accuracy of those predictions is yet to be seen. Most people
  change slowly - and many people do not change at all, we have to
  wait for them to be replaced. ;-) Many people still do not have
  access to the web. Many people use the web solely for
  pr0n^H^H^H^Hentertainment. So the effect of the web on voting is
  unlikely to become visible soon.

Now that I have posted a paragraph of the pointless political
  discussion you wanted to see less of, and entirely avoided the issue
  of whether or not less mind-numbing manipulative near-propaganda
  should appear on k5, I will sneak off into the dark...



Changed my mind? Sure! (2.91 / 12) (#6)
by Potsy on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 01:39:13 AM EST

I have to chime in here and say that, yes, my mind has been changed by things I've read online, and on some very controversial issues, too. Besides, I like reading what people have to say, and I enjoy the fuming energy that comes with rants and angry posts. It's one of the main reasons why I read weblogs like this one.

Re: Changed my mind? Sure! (3.42 / 7) (#11)
by speek on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 10:26:02 AM EST

I think everyone's mind has been changed by reading, listening, and watching stuff. The thing is, we don't ever admit it when it happens. Either we keep arguing because our ego is bruised (but next week, different opponent, we find ourselves arguing the other side), or, we stop posting and go away. Either way, the person we're talking to never gets the satisfaction of having changed our minds.

Here's an idea - have a button people can press for each post that indicates "your post changed my mind". That way, a person can stop debating, and give feedback to their worthy opponent anonymously. You can always deny it later :-)

Are you kidding? If I ever got a "your post changed my mind" rating, I'd be jumping up and down excited! Who cares about a "5" rating - that just means the readers already agreed with you, but "your post changed my mind"??? I just changed the world! You want to build community? I think this would help. You want people to think about their posts? This is IT.


or ... not ... whatever

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Re: Changed my mind? Sure! (2.50 / 6) (#15)
by End on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 01:10:30 PM EST

I like your idea of the "changed my mind" button, it certainly would be a much more meaningful rating. I was speaking, however, in the context of purely political/religious issues. I maintain that no interesting discussion was ever generated by, nor was anyone's mind ever changed by the kind of "here's another example of how conservatives/liberals are wrecking the country" stories that have been showing up in the queue. Political beliefs are usually formed early on in life, and are hardly likely to change in any kind of temporal online discussion. Of course technical and other discussions do not have these characteristics.

-JD
[ Parent ]

Re: Changed my mind? Sure! (2.66 / 6) (#18)
by pete on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 04:40:42 PM EST

I strongly, strongly disagree with you. You could just as easily argue that noone's mind is ever changed about anything. Sure, I may not convert the entire readership of kuro5hin with every brilliant post I make ;-), but darnit, sometimes forcing someone to think about something in a different way DOES change their mind. Again, it doesn't happen all the time, and might not happen right away, but hell, I voted for Bill Clinton 8 years ago!


--pete


[ Parent ]
Re: Changed my mind? Sure! (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by aphrael on Tue Oct 10, 2000 at 07:17:10 PM EST

I was speaking, however, in the context of purely political/religious issues.

That's because people approach politics as a religion. It's a self-reinforcing problem; people argue politics using thinly veiled code-words, and people train themselves to react to that. It's *really* irritating when this creeps into law, which is supposed to be dry, boring, and impersonal, sort of like banking.

A well-reasoned post which approached politics as a *technical* issue rather than a religious one not only can change my mind on an issue, but often has. But those are rarer than the proverbial needle in a haystack. (The "arguments" in California's ballot pamphlet are the worst example of this; I can't imagine them changing anyone's mind except by frightening them into submission).

I often wonder how the quality of political debate can be increased. Sadly, I have no answers that aren't exclusionary --- a troubling thing for a democratic soul.



[ Parent ]
Re: Changed my mind? Sure! (2.50 / 2) (#21)
by Potsy on Sun Oct 08, 2000 at 10:42:22 PM EST

What can I say ... that's damn a good idea. Maybe you should submit a change to Scoop!

[ Parent ]
Here's a gudgeon for ya. (3.72 / 18) (#8)
by driph on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 05:19:32 AM EST

Hey, I've got a novel idea. If you don't like something, vote it down.

Personally, I go to bed dreaming that a new political article will be waiting in the queue in the morning when I wake up, but that's just me.

Of course, now that [harrumph] the Sections are working again, you most likely won't ever have to see a political article again if you choose not to. Unless it's a really good political story, 'cause then it's front page baby.

If something is half-baked, undistinguished and uncreative slipshod writing, vote it down. Politics or not.

Am I attempting to persuade people to my beliefs?

You bet your ass I am. With every article and comment I write.

--
Vegas isn't a liberal stronghold. It's the place where the rich and powerful gamble away their company's pension fund and strangle call girls in their hotel rooms. - Psycho Dave
Re: Here's a gudgeon for ya. (3.00 / 5) (#10)
by speek on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 10:17:02 AM EST

Hey, I've got a novel idea. If you don't like something, vote it down.

Hehe, your little posty got a "5" from me just for that. Really, End is just trying to gain more power than his one vote affords him by writing another article to try and effect what goes to the front page. Nice try End! Unfortunately, I'll probably be seeing this on the front page - now that will be a tragedy.

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

This isn't needed... (3.90 / 10) (#16)
by itsbruce on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 01:59:44 PM EST

So far, even with the Front Page bug, this just hasn't been a problem. Even the What kind of programming language to learn first submission hasn't started any bitching - and if anything would, in this kind of forum, it's that.

Those stories on politics that have made it to Front Page or Section (e.g. The corporitization of American politics) have taken a mature approach and attracted equally mature discussion. Even the bitchy submissions, like the Spark.org story, haven't actually generated bitching in the comments posted as the submissions move inexorably towards dump.

I think the members of the kuro5hin community are taking a perfectly sensible approach to political discussions. Can you give one example that has been accepted for submission where they haven't?

--

It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
My suggestions (3.93 / 15) (#17)
by intol on Sat Oct 07, 2000 at 04:02:59 PM EST

For some reason I feel as though this rant is directed at me. Here is my response.

BEGIN RANT

It is very easy to whip up a quick story, clothe it under a thin guise of objectivity, and add a link or two for credibility. (Have I just described journalism as we know it? :-) )
No, but you certainly have just perfectly described your own article

Trying to persuade people by means writing opinionated stories is utterly futile. Why? Because it has no effect on a person's mind. He may agree or disagree with you, but he always does so because he was already so inclined.
Well then, why have you submitted this flameb^^^^^^story? Are you trying to persuade us by writing an opinionated story, or are you merely trying to make everyone who voted +1 for a political story in the past very angry?

Before You Submit: Stop, Drop and Roll....er, something
I really appreciate the advice on submitting a story. If you don't mind I'd like to add 2 more points which I feel were omitted in error. Bottom line: before you submit your story, ask yourself:
  • Is my story nothing more than flamebait? Will it upset a large portion of the user base?
    If yes, then this kind of story is sure to not generate any kind of productive discussion at all. If you have said yes but are still not sure if you should delete your story, ask yourself this:
    Is my Story a complaint about the level of discussion on K5? Is my story, which is sure to NOT generate any productive discussion, a complaint about the level of discussion on K5? In short, in my story do I come across as being very hypocritical?
    If at this point your answer is still yes, you MUST do 3 things: (1) delete it (2) Do 20 pushups (3) Run 2 laps around your block in a dress, while singing "Mary had a little lamb" as loud as you can
  • In my story, do I try to persuade people to my beliefs, while at the same time, complain about stories that do exactly what my story is attempting to do?
    If the answer to this question is yes, then you MUST do 3 things: (1) delete it (2) email 10 of your friends and tell them that you love them (3) jump through a flaming hoop while wearing a cat suit and shouting at the top of your lungs
You MUST do exactly as I tell you. I control the horizontal and the vertical. Do some of these suggestions sound a bit silly? Yes. Do some of these suggestions sound a bit demanding? Yes. Do they sound silly or demanding when compared to your suggestions? No.

Does anyone here really care about the issue? If no one is really aware of the subject or the issues, it might be your task to show us why we should care; but more often than not, nobody cares because they've already decided not to.
Isn't this the reason we have a voting system, so that stories that no one here really cares about get voted down? If the stories that you say no one really cares about got voted UP, well then gee, perhaps you are wrong and people here really do care about them? I think what you meant to say was "Does END really care about the issue? Is this story going to make END happy?" Perhaps we should all contact END before we post a story to get his approval. Heck, with a little hacking I'm sure that the scoop code could do this automatically. Hint: the voting system is here so that stories no one cares about get voted DOWN, and stories that people do care about get voted UP.
I'm not surprised that these stories have been written and submitted, but I am surprised that many of them were voted to the front page.
Well I am surprised that you are not aware that this was due to a bug in the code. If you are surprised that anyone voted it up at all, well gee, you'll just have to come to terms with the idea that maybe people here DO care about the issue?

I have used discrimination and voted your story down -1. Although I do hope that every other user does the same thing, even if they do not, I will accept the fact that users DO care about the issue, even though they disagree with me! I will not submit a story whining and complaining that I did not get my way.

END RANT

Have a good day.

Re: My suggestions (2.00 / 1) (#29)
by Spendocrat on Tue Oct 10, 2000 at 02:40:48 PM EST

There's little that makes for better reading that a good rant now and then.

Unfortunately, delimiting yuour rant with begning and end tags ala HTML and the like just ruins the whole experience. As a reader, I feel that I can darn well tell when you're ranting and when you're not.

Don't provide me with a roadmap to a postage-stamp gardern, I can find my own way.

[ Parent ]

Re: My suggestions (none / 0) (#32)
by intol on Tue Oct 10, 2000 at 06:09:18 PM EST

Well please accept my humble apology. This was done on purpose to "lessen the blow." It means not to take the post _too_ seriously. I really dont have anything against End personally. Ruining the experience was the whole point, but in the future I will try to take people like yourself into consideration :o)

Cheers.

[ Parent ]

Re: My suggestions (none / 0) (#30)
by End on Tue Oct 10, 2000 at 03:36:10 PM EST

I thought I made it clear that I was talking about political stories, not any and all stories where the writer is reflecting an opinion. I realised that, if so broadly applied, my story would be an ironic commentary on itself, and the poll I created reflects this. Perhaps that added to the confusion, you tell me.

The whole point is that it makes no sense for someone on this site to come up with some story about who we should vote for or why the other side is wreckingthe country. In 9/10 cases, we've heard it all before; and if you haven't, chances are you probably don't care anyway.

I did not direct the story at anyone in particular.

-JD
[ Parent ]

Re: My suggestions (3.50 / 2) (#34)
by intol on Tue Oct 10, 2000 at 07:07:23 PM EST

Well apologies for taking your story out of context, and yes, it is a bit confusing. One thing that is definitely clear after reading your story, is that you donít like political stories. I personally, despise stories about Microsoft. If I donít have to read another story about why Microsoft sucks for the rest of my life, I may just die a happy man. This is why whenever I see a story about Microsoft I donít read it! Its not as hard as it sounds. Try it :o)

There are many topics that have already been argued and discussed and beat to death, twice. I think that what you may not be taking into consideration is this: some people like to argue for the sake of arguing. There are people who just love a good debate. Its fun for them. There are people who enjoy reading an argument/debate. Even if they have read or taken part in a similar debate before, this time the players are new. Although there is a good chance that nothing fundamentally new will get said, these people donít care! Have you ever watched a Soap Opera? There are all the same. After youíve watched one for a while, youíve pretty much seen all that ever existed or ever will exist! Why do people watch them? People enjoy this crap. People argue for the sake of argument! I know how pointless this can seem to some people.

The main question is this: should these types of debates/arguments be allowed to continue on K5? Take this hypothetical situation:

Suppose that there are 500 active K5 users. These 500 users are only interested in talking about widgets. Tomorrow, 1000 new users join. These 1000 new users donít mind if the original users like widgets. However all of the new users really love to talk about politics. These new users have the power to outvote all of the old K5 users. As a result of this a lot of political stories get voted up. And as a result a lot of the original K5 users get pissed! The new users wonder what the problem is, it is after all, a public forum.
This isnít very far from what seems to have happened on K5. I am not an old timer. I personally donít care if political stories get voted up or down. What can we do about this situation? The final decision rests with the people who run the site. It is up to them to create some kind of formal policy on what kinds of stories can or cant not be submitted. Right now the general policy seems to be ďSubmit any story that you find interesting. The voters will decide if it is worthy of our timeĒ. The problem is that a lot of the new users seem to be interested in the same things :o)

Submitting a Rant about what kinds of stories the users should or should not post will only piss people off. It comes across as being very pretentious since, well, you are just a regular user like the rest of us! A side affect of having a democratic voting system is that all the users become equal. Everybody feels important, and old timers get no more power/respect than someone who just joined yesterday :o)

People argue for the sake of arguing! Some have a lot of time to waste, other just like to read a good flame. As far as im concerned, whatever rocks their boat is fine by me! I just skip the stories that donít interest me. If the people who run the site say ďStories about politics are not allowedĒ, well then Iíll vote every political story I see down! Right now that wouldnít be much of a problem though, since I tend to vote every story down anyway.

Cheers.

[ Parent ]

Another seen-b4 rant. Not needed. -1 (2.66 / 6) (#22)
by NKJensen on Mon Oct 09, 2000 at 07:32:09 AM EST

Use the vote system. Stop ranting, it is just noise in the debate.
--
From Denmark. I like it, I live there. France is another great place.
Isn't that what the post moderation concept is for (3.50 / 4) (#24)
by Quark on Mon Oct 09, 2000 at 11:06:31 AM EST

If the readers don't want "yet another politics" story, they should vote it away. If for one love the American Politics stories, most notably because I'm not an American. Read the mission statement on the main page, as far as I'm concerned American Politics stories definitely fall under the "good humour" category:-)

So much bandwidth, so little time...
Re: Isn't that what the post moderation concept is (none / 0) (#37)
by aphrael on Tue Oct 10, 2000 at 07:12:32 PM EST

Read the mission statement on the main page, as far as I'm concerned American Politics stories definitely fall under the "good humour" category:-)

Unlike, say, Italian politics? *grin*



[ Parent ]
Re: Isn't that what the post moderation concept is (none / 0) (#40)
by Quark on Thu Oct 12, 2000 at 12:18:46 PM EST

*grin*

Told ya it's funny, isn't it? From a European point of view, at least... Arrivederci, Quark

So much bandwidth, so little time...
[ Parent ]
What is it with you guys? (3.16 / 6) (#25)
by The Baptist Death Ray on Mon Oct 09, 2000 at 11:29:19 AM EST

Is this supposed to be a public forum or not?

All too often I hear the way old-timers here bitching and moaning about the supposed inferior quality of the posts on this site. What you guys are really complaining about is that the public has actually starting using this "public" forum, and they're going directions you don't want to go.

Really, that's too damn bad.

When you open something up to the public, that's the risk you run. If you don't want it open to the public, then you should run this site like a magazine, have a dedicated group of people post articles, and only let the rest of us talk back. If you can't handle the risks of the public getting interested in topics you aren't interested in then you need to find something else to do with your time.

The Baptist Death Ray
"The urge to destroy is a creative urge."
- M. Bakunin

False. (3.00 / 5) (#28)
by error 404 on Tue Oct 10, 2000 at 01:16:43 PM EST

My own political views have (in one particular situation) been changed by a well-written web logger article.

..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

Definitions ... (1.66 / 3) (#35)
by aphrael on Tue Oct 10, 2000 at 07:09:02 PM EST

The biggest problem with political debate is that nobody agrees on the meaning of words before starting the debate. That is to say, for example, that "liberal" and "conservative" have distinctly different meanings to different people; yet people will use them in debate without specifying what meaning they are intending, and other people will respond using a different meaning than the original poster!

One solution to this is the legal one (like that adopted in ballot measures) where the first third of the message is in essence a dictionary, with things like: "child means an individual between the ages of 0 and 17 inclusive". A better one is to avoid words which are known to have politically and emotionally charged denotations that differ from group to group --- which occasionally leads to turgid and difficult-to-read prose, but in the end makes conversation more clear and reduces the likelihood of flames ...



Cynicism is for wimps (2.00 / 1) (#39)
by Beorn on Wed Oct 11, 2000 at 05:56:25 AM EST

Seems to me like you're the one who's hiding a subjective opinion behind objectivity here. There's no qualitative difference between your opinion of political posts, and others opinions of politics.

The old "nobody listens to you anyway so don't bother"-argument is irrelevant. *Of course* you can't expect to win a political/religious/cultural debate. Complete victories happen, but online discussions are usually fought like WW1, one hill at a time. But that's not the point. It can still be fun, and you can still learn something.

It is also completely inaccurate to dismiss the net as opinion changer just because it doesn't make people "objective". Nobody swallows everything they read, but we're *always* influenced in one way or another. How we're influenced is a product of various factors including personality and social circumstances -- and the medium is at least half the message. The internet changes people. Not in an obvious way, and definitely not by changing human nature, but by creating new paths where information, ideas and emotions can flow, crash and cooperate in ways we haven't seen before.

My advice for political writers on k5 is to ignore the cynical meta-anxiety outlined above, and just write clearly and focused on interesting subjects. Now *that's* difficult.

- Beorn

[ Threepwood '01 ]

The case for discrimination and politics | 40 comments (25 topical, 15 editorial, 0 hidden)
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