This is going to be a long post (sorry) in response to Paul’s post (quoted in part here), his follow-up question, “Just out of interest, were you to be managing a News & Current Events section of a Buddhist forum, what measures would you implement to improve the calibre of discussion, whilst respecting the spiritual and intellectual autonomy of the membership?” and various other responses … here goes:
retrofuturist wrote: ↑
Sat May 26, 2018 12:31 am
... what we've done is to allow a "marketplace of ideas" where all perspectives are allowed to have a voice, without partisan moderation stifling or shutting down views for lack of conformity to any particular worldview. The rules of that section were created to facilitate that marketplace of ideas, without it devolving into ad-hominem attacks - hence the basic principle, "Play the ball - not the man" (not, "let them fight it out").
At which point, I'll reveal my hand and say that I voted for the option that says News discussion "Is fine in theory, but has become too difficult to manage in 2018, given people's attachment to views and widespread political polarization."
I appreciate Kim acknowledging that the staff's approach to overseeing such discussion has been "tolerant", but unfortunately in the current political climate, certain members have been unable or unwilling to reciprocate that tolerance, in the sense of allowing opposing views that they disagree with to "just be".
My starting point is that DW should ideally exemplify the dharma as well as being a forum for discussion and dissemination of the dharma. If we can’t integrate the dharma into our daily life and relationships with other people, our practice is (frankly) rubbish.
Polar Bear suggested that “you could only post opinions on politics by providing some Buddhist justification for that opinion with a requirement to cite some actual Buddhist text.” It’s a nice idea but useless in practical terms since on the one hand, some of us don’t spend much time collecting useful sutta quotes and on the other, we know that scriptural quotes can so easily be taken out of context, mistranslated, distorted, misinterpreted, etc, to “support” blatantly non-Buddhist positions.
I would suggest, instead, that we judge posts by the broadest and most fundamental Buddhist values, starting with compassion and going on through the Brahmaviharas, the Five Precepts, and the guidelines for Right Speech.
Paul’s post which I quoted above continues:
The recent trend of people to become increasingly intolerant of views other than their own, and the need to control what others think, do, or say is an authoritarian urge that I find quite disturbing, and I'm quite disappointed to see it have any degree of prominence on a Buddhist forum. Unfortunately, from my vantage point, the majority of this intolerance comes from an area in the political spectrum accustomed to priding themselves on their "tolerance", "compassion" and willingness and ability to "coexist". I humbly suggest that some reflection may be in order, if such individuals wish to reconcile their self-image with their words and deeds in the future, so as to steer away from "aversion".
His “area in the political spectrum [where people are] accustomed to priding themselves on their "tolerance", "compassion" and willingness and ability to "coexist" is, I suspect, the Left but again, this is valueless in practical terms because everyone in public life, from Gandhi to Pol Pot, claims "tolerance", "compassion" and willingness and ability to "coexist.”” The gap between claim and reality would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
Once again, basic Buddhist principles are the best measuring stick.
Another general point: the "marketplace of ideas" is a model which insidiously reflects a worldview, and that worldview is one which is value-free - or, rather, one in which the only value is the dollar. George Monbiot argued against this very cogently in an article I shared here not long ago - viewtopic.php?f=54&t=29492&start=160#p472098
The dharma, of course, is not at all concerned with dollar values but considerably concerned with Sila.
And yet another: the Paradox of Tolerance, which is essentially the same as the Paradox of Free Speech. Type either of those phrases into your search engine and you will get more hits than you can read in a lifetime, but the core idea is that, “Hate speech, and other speech acts designed to harass and intimidate (rather than merely express criticism or dissent), are routinely used to thwart other people’s freedom of expression.” (I grabbed that here - https://medium.com/@juliaserano/free-sp ... 547aefe538
- and it’s worth reading if you have the time.) The author goes on to say that, “Those of us who are passionate about free speech, and who want to live in a truly open society, cannot afford to be bystanders anymore. We must absolutely refuse to tolerate intolerant speech and the people who promote intolerant ideologies,” which is my position exactly.
My final general point (I promise!) is that DW exists to support and promote the dharma and the admin team is the leadership team in that endeavour. The role is somewhere between that of a teacher, a mentor, a social worker, a cop, a tour guide … and a few others, I guess … but all of these roles do require setting and upholding standards. Does that make them “authoritarian”? Yes, but ideally only so far as that benefits the community. My favourite metaphor for the job when I did it over on the other Wheel, was actually gardening: encouraging flowers to flourish and removing the occasional weed. Every gardener knows that weeds take over if left unchecked.
I seem to have half a dozen starting points but they all lead me to one conclusion: that moderation needs to be pro-active and needs to be guided by fundamental Buddhist values.
I thank the admin team for the (largely thankless) work they already do and hope they can consider my points as I have made them, i.e. apolitically.