The competing claims on what Michael Oren represents, and over the appropriate way to handle his invitation to be Commencement speaker, fascinate me. How effective is the framing of different competing claims? Is their activism strategic and are their tactics well-thought-out?

I find this stuff fascinating. Here’s what I think is going on:

The competing claims

Regarding Oren, there are multiple groups struggling to define him and what his visit means, not just two.

On the general “pro-Oren” side:

–  enthusiastic self-identified Zionists / pro-Israel students
–  political conservatives and “anti-hippies”
–  the mostly apathetic annoyed by all this drama
–  the mostly apathetic that have a status-quo pro-administration bias

On the general “Pro-Unity” side:

–  those identifying as the pro-Palestinian / anti-Israel side
–  those identifying as the left on campus
–  those who don’t want to deal with the drama and want a unified commencement
– those who don’t have a deep personal stake in all this but respect their friends’  feelings and desire a unified commencement

And then there’s everyone else.

Now, these groups overlap and I’m not saying that they’re organized discrete units or anything, but they are separate.

What’s happened so far:

In response to the Oren decision, there was a lot of grumbling among students. I overheard people I’ve never spoken to before talking about how they were sad about how they felt forced to skip commencement. This was a real thing.

For a while, no one organized. On Sunday, Jon, a self-identified member of the left on campus decided to borrow some Innermost Parts online activism tools to create an “anti-Oren petition”. (Disclosure – I consulted on this) While it was conceptually initially conceived as such, the evolution of the framing and text of the open letter is interesting.

First off, it went from being a petition to an open letter. I think this was a valid and good strategic choice. Calling it an open letter makes sense – petitions demand change, letters express a viewpoint. The open letter didn’t make any demands, but instead was a venue for students to say “Hey, we’re thinking of skipping commencement because we feel so strongly about this.”

But the framing and the implied alliances are even more interesting. Instead of writing a fiery open letter talking about the “outrage” at the “unacceptable” choice of commencement speaker, (which would’ve appealed solely to the left and anti-Israel/pro-Palestine elements on campus), Jon chose a different frame. Instead, he made an implicit alliance with the third “those who don’t want to deal with the drama and want a unified commencement” group in order to make a more open coalition and vie for the support of the “are annoyed by controversy and division” masses.

This was a good move, I think. If you read the open letter (and allied facebook group) you’ll see language like this:

Commencement was supposed to be about us.
However, with the selection of Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, commencement has been hijacked to serve as part of a debate about Middle Eastern politics. Whether this was the intention is not important: in our eyes and the eyes of the world, Brandeis commencement is a stage for partisan politics, not a celebration of graduating seniors.

We, students, faculty, staff, friends and family of Brandeis University, respectfully believe that the choice of Ambassador Michael Oren as commencement speaker is inappropriate. His far-right views are divisive and do not reflect the diversity of opinion on campus, and moreover politicize what should be an uncontroversial, inclusive role.

This language was clearly meant to both oppose the choice of Oren and appeal to the broadest possible audience. Activism always tends to annoy people – the gambit was to use that annoyance and, judo-style, turn it towards those disturbances to campus unity.

This challenge went up online, and then a few days later a competing facebook group went up: Those who are in favor/don’t have anything against Michael Oren. This, too, was a strong attempt to attract the “apathetic/easily annoyed”  masses.  Soon after that, a stronger “A Letter in Support of President Reinharz and Ambassador Oren” with accompanying petition started gathering support.

While this was happening, a separate anti-Oren group was coalescing. Instead of building off the list names of open letter cosigners and facebook-group members, this new group was starting from scratch. They decided to build off the energy of the Source/ReSource event and use it as an occasion to protest. Soon before the event, there were more sophisticated second thoughts: (reprinted from an email with permission):

  • Michael Dowling is an activist himself, and he realizes that Brandeis is a broken community, especially in the wake of the Rose Art scandal.
  • The Source/ReSource event, in the view of its creators, is not a tool of the administration to say that the Rose is fixed.  Instead it’s supposed to bring people from all aspects of the community to unite around this place of contention, and if anything it’s a message of dissent directed at the administration.
  • Instead of occupying this space and effectively claiming it before the event occurs, perhaps we should use the message of the event and relate it to ours after it’s finished.  People should be coming away from this ceremony with a sense of campus unity, and that’s the very thing we feel was disrupted by the choice of Oren as commencement speaker.
  • By taking over the space before this event, we could potentially alienate or make enemies of people who should be our allies.
  • In the messages we display and literature we hand out we should connect the Source/ReSource idea to the conflict.  We could say something like, (these are my words) “Brandeis students are a great Source and ReSource of peace, justice and coexistence in the world.  Commencement is the ultimate ceremony signifying our transition from Source to ReSource.  Bringing Oren to our campus to speak about this issue at this event is both unnecessary and inappropriate.”

Therefore at the hastily-planned Source/ReSource art event, the pro-unity group taped fliers stating their position on buckets and participated in the event. The symbolism was good, but what was the strategic impact? The action got written up in the Justice, but the Justice was sure to mention the low numbers of protesters.

Later,  similarly, the pro-unity side staged a protest outside Bernstein-Marcus on Friday. It was a more explicitly “anti-oren” sort of thing and they did go to Jehuda’s office hours. Again, I think it may have done more harm than good – highlighting their small numbers. A nice tactic is to have all 10 or 20 protesters go into office hours with Jehuda and speak to him at once. I don’t think they did that.

How did the small core of pro-unity activists spread their message? They fliered a bit about the protest on Wednesday, they sent a facebook mail to members of their group once announcing each of the two demonstrations, and they posted sometimes on Innermost Parts.

State of play right now

In this time, the pro-oren side had spread their petition to right-wing blogs and gained a lot of signatures. Now, many of these petition signers are generic right-wingers or random panicked Jews. So the “pro-oren” petition doesn’t have too many actual Brandeisians in it, and a  petition is easier to sign than an open letter that says “I am seriously considering not going to commencement”. Still, I worry that these fine distinctions will be lost.

Speaking of distinctions, the distinction between the “anti-Oren” and “pro-Union” groups that hasn’t really been fleshed out yet. That has been deliberate – the anti-Oren faction really doesn’t want to alienate campus and is therefore subsuming their very specific, yet polarizing critiques under the more vague “we believe in campus unity, Oren is a divisive figure” message. The problem comes up when people say “Well, why is Oren so divisive?” They cannot respond because they do not know what they can allow themselves to say.

The pro-Unity position is also hampered by the fact that it anticipated ugly attacks at the anti-Oren (or possibly from the anti-Oren) group and tried to preempt them by pointing at the attacks/division as a reason why the Oren selection for Commencement speaker was an unwise choice. The problem, of course, is that the anti-Oren group decided to subsume itself into the “pro-Unity” coalition, such that the pro-Unity folks were attacked on grounds of creating the division themselves. If they didn’t run around claiming that Oren was divisive, the “reasoning” went, then Oren wouldn’t be divisive.

Now, clearly this is bullshit. People would be hurt and upset by the Oren selection in the absence of any organized activity. Still, the pro-Unity coalition tried to strike a “sensible middle ground” but has been hampered by the fact that there’s no one out there (except Professor Mairson) making the case as to why exactly Oren is a bad choice on the merits, and why exactly he makes students feel alienated from their own commencement.

I’m not sure what the “pro-Oren” side has been up to. I’d be very intrigued indeed to hear what sort of decisions, planning, and actions they’ve taken behind-the scenes. I’m genuinely curious – once this is all over, if someone would like to give me that side of the story I’d be much obliged.

So this is the situation. If I could advise group of students meeting and planning the unified “pro-Unity” coalition, this is what I’d say:

Advice for future action on the pro-Unity front:

You have several advantages. Use them. Firstly, you have meetings and are making plans. That’s great. You have made the choice to spend your time trying to make a change, and that gives you power. You have access to 247 students opposed to Michael Oren as commencement speaker, and 135 students have signed a letter saying that they’re so upset they are considering skipping out of commencement.  Use them.

You have access to all these potential allies and volunteers and organizers. Email them, use them.

Your actions have some merit. Symbolically joining the Source/ReSource ceremony, going to Jehuda’s office hours, that was nice. It made sure that you got into the papers. Fine. Still, it shows your weakness. You held a protest and 15 people showed up. Don’t make that mistake again. If you hold a protest, you damn well better be sure that enough people will show up not to embarrass you.

It takes time and effort, and I’m sorry, but you have to organize. Knock on doors, talk to people in Usdan. Put a flier under every door with a link to your open letter. That’s how you grow your organization and get new supporters.

Remember that famous Alinsky quote:

For an elementary illustration of tactics, take parts of your face as the point of reference; your eyes, your ears, and your nose. First the eyes; if you have organized a vast, mass-based people’s organization, you can parade it visibly before the enemy and openly show your power. Second the ears; if your organization is small in numbers, then do what Gideon did: conceal the members in the dark but raise a din and clamor that will make the listener believe that your organization numbers many more than it does. Third, the nose; if your organization is too tiny even for noise, stink up the place.

Ok, now strategy.

You need an anti-Oren foil. You need someone out there loudly making the case for why Oren is so offensive after all, and why they are hurt by him. Now, it has to be a separate organization from you guys. You might not even agree with what this new group will have to say – but as they grow in power and influence, you will too. You will be seen as the “reasonable middle” that you are.

You also need a demand. I know, I know. Up till now you’ve strategically not made any explicit demands on the administration. There was sound reasoning behind this – you know and I know that Jehuda isn’t going to un-invite Oren. Even if he magically agreed with us, he’d feel too embarrassed to back out now. You decided not to make a demand until you got a lay of the land and saw what was possible and thought up a think that could happen to “cancel out” the Oren invitation. Well, you’ve waited long enough. Time to start organizing around a specific change. You have options. Let me suggest a two:

1. More student speakers at commencement. One graduating senior every year gives a speech at commencement. Would-be speakers submit drafts online, seniors vote for the top few best drafts, and then a committee of “adults” picks the final speaker. Don’t settle for this. We want a united community, not a divided one, right? To cancel out Oren’s divisiveness, why not have 3 student speakers, not just one. I know that the finalists this year are all inspiring brilliant people with great speeches. Who better to unite around than our beloved fellow classmates?

2. A more open process for choosing commencement speakers. Michael Oren was a bad choice. We can prevent more bad choices in the future by creating a better decision-making process, one that empowers and respects students and recognizes our legitimate claim that we should have some power over choosing commencement speakers and honorary degree-holders. I know this lacks the emotional satisfaction that you might be looking for (and honestly won’t help you at all), but it would be a nicer senior gift than any money could buy.

This is the state of play on the Michael-Oren-at-Brandeis related front as best as I understand or can articulate it.  As for predictions for the future – the pro-Unity group really needs to step up its community organizing game, and it needs to also start activating all those potential leaders and volunteers found in its facebook group and petition-signers. However, we are entering finals – there’s not enough free time to make this happen. Therefore I’m pessimistic. The best hope is to adopt one of those two proposals (more student speakers or reformed commencement speaker selection process) and see if it can go viral.

29 comments on “Oren Strategy”

  1. J Says:

    Wow, I dont know where to begin. Lets go by this point by point.

    1. The whole “pro-Unity” title is ridiculous, because it implies that the “pro-Oren” side is somehow anti-unity. Please spare us from this simplistic rhetoric.

    2. Nobody (including you Sahar) seems to understand the issue of starting a group and petition that threatens “skipping commencement because we feel so strongly about this” by a JUNIOR, and therefore wont even be there in the first place. This would be like me starting a strike and threatening to quit the women’s baseball team. Similarly, the fact that you Sahar, a junior as well, are taking it upon yourself to discuss how OUR graduation should be handled is also extremely paternalistic.

    And please don’t argue “well, some seniors agree with us.” Clearly they do, but thats not the point- its their job to start a group and petition, which you are more than welcome to join in and support. But to run it and dictate what should or should not be done and how best the SENIORS should respond is completely out of line.

    3. As I posted in your last article here, you seem to focus solely on the crazies on the pro-Oren (er, “anti-Unity”) side, yet fail to go through the petition that Jon created, nor the posts on the Justice, some of which are SERIOUSLY insane (a freaking Iranian Revolutionary Guardsman (!) posted, for gods sake). If youre gonna point out how crazy people have been, at least be even about it.

    4. I also take offense to your suggestion that everyone out there who is against the protests against Oren thus far are crazy radicals that don’t understand the issues. Many of us do, and still think this whole thing is stupid. In fact, most of us do. Don’t sell us short.

    5. The idea that another protest should occur/continue also baffles me. They did it twice- we got the message. Should the message you are sending really be “well, try again until you get enough people to justify it!”? Again, point was made, people know. Thats it. The idea that “the pro-Unity group really needs to step up its community organizing game” is ridiculous at this point- do you REALLY think the issue is access at this point? Or is it that people have heard and just don’t agree? As others have very accurately pointed out before me, the whole irony here is that you’re destroying the very unity you attempt to create by continuing this process of debating/protesting (again, not to mention the fact that you are telling people how to act for a graduation you wont be at- more irony!)

    However, ill be fair and say your last 2 suggestions are nice ideas, even though they are unlikely. Keep it up for next year…when you actually graduate.

  2. Sahar Says:

    J – We’re starting to more strictly enforce the commenting policy here. I’d like to ask you to start posting under your real name. For more, see this.

    I could respond to you point by point. I think I shall.

    1. The message these people are sending out is “we want a unified commencement” NOT “Michael Oren sucks and eats babies”. That’s their frame, so that’s their name.

    2. The Junior/Senior thing is a red herring. Jon started a group because he had free time and his senior friends were busy. As soon as he started it, he handed it over to them. Seniors are the ones meeting to plan protests etc. But, to take a step back – you’re attacking the messenger, not the idea. It’s a weak form of ad-hominem attack.

    3. If you think I’m not writing about something important, start your own blog and do it yourself.

    4. Didn’t make that suggestion. Straw man.

    5. Again, read what I wrote more carefully. The point of protests isn’t to send a message, it’s to achieve concrete results, unify a group, draw in more members, etc. You disagree with their goals – so why should anyone listen to you about tactics?

  3. Carrie Says:

    J-
    Haha. Your point #2 doesn’t make any sense. You use women’s baseball as an example, but in this case, the scenario more closely, yet still loosely, resembles the 1940’s and 1950’s with the prevailing sense that white people should not involve themselves in the struggles of black people – that they should stand up for themselves without the help of allies. As Sahar points out, Jon noticed the sentiments, felt them himself, and filled a void that, in time, anyone else might have filled. It may be “your” commencement, but it’s Jon’s and Sahar’s school, too.

  4. J Says:

    Last post apparently, since I really dont get the whole posting thing.

    1. If that is what you really believe, youre more delusional than I thought.

    2. Ah, im sorry. So when you post things like “this is how things should be done”, youre saying “well, IM not doing it, so dont attack me!”? Real noble, my friend.

    Why arent seniors the one writing these posts? Is it because they are “too busy” (is that a serious argument?) Or is it because most have them have freaking moved on?

    3. Again, my apologies for expecting some sort of balance. So much for unity, eh?

    4. Actually, when you say things like those supporting Oren are “enthusiastic self-identified Zionists” and “political conservatives and “anti-hippies”” (as opposed to the anti-Oren…er, pro-Unity side, which is made up of “those identifying as the pro-Palestinian / anti-Israel side” and “those identifying as the left on campus”), or write entire posts (like your last one) dedicated to how nobody on the pro-Oren side has anything logical or reasonable to say, I would call that not just a suggestion, but a strong one at that.

    5. Uh, im not putting forth tactics. Im saying they were done and trying to get people to move on so nobody does anything stupid. You tried getting results, and failed. This means you can either play the sore loser and “reevaluate” or move on, good luck with finals (not graduation, since you wont be there), have a nice summer.

  5. J Says:

    Actually Carrie, in the case of the 50s-60s, you could very nicely argue why the plight of African-Americans related to those of whites. You would have to argue in this case how Oren coming to our graduation impacts those who wont even be there, to the point where they should be the one creating protests.

    Also, in the african-american case, whites took the cause because those directly affected by the terrible racism were not as easily able to speak for themselves(I am making this absurdly simplistic, I know, but I really dont have the time to get into race relations in the 50s), whereas here, Seniors are more than capable of handling themselves without needing underclassmen to lead the charge and tell us how to act.

  6. Alan Royals Says:

    Sahar- surely you don’t think your characterizations of those on the two sides is fair. One side is either conservative or apathetic, while the other side is sensitive to people’s feelings? It’s not possible that someone on the other side of the debate is very conscientious and just happens to (prepare for this, it will blow your mind) disagree with you? The world is certainly an easier place where everything is black and white, good and evil, but such oversimplification is something I’ve come to expect from the radical right, not the left.

  7. Amanda Says:

    Hey Alan, I think that in characterizing the “pro-Oren” side, Sahar was making his assessments based off of the pro-Oren people who have made their opinions known, the vocal ones, the public ones. That is, opposed to trying to characterize every single person who is self-identified as pro-Oren. So gathering information from the pro-Orenites who have expressed themselves. Does that make sense?

  8. Alan Royals Says:

    If that’s the case Amanda, it’s flawed. All the time I argue with Islamaphobes who say terrible things about Islam because those they hear the most from/about are those few who are extremists. The consequences of Sahar’s words aren’t nearly as bad as hate speech about a marginalized religious group, but I contend the argument is just as wrong.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    if you look at the early signatures on the letter to president Reinharz in support of Oren, you’ll see that most of those signatures are members of the Brandeis community- students, parents, alums, etc. It later caught the attention of people outside the community. If the open letter opposed to Oren had gained momentum as quickly and garnered support outside of Brandeis, would you be crying foul over that?

  10. Wajida Says:

    Thank you for this post, Sahar!

  11. Carrie Says:

    Hey J-

    No need to try to school me in race relations. I know a fair amount on my own. However, I feel that you should know “African American” is never, ever hyphenated. If you think about it, hyphenating is insulting, in the sense that a hyphen insinuates people of African ancestry are modified Americans. While in practice, this is true due to inequality, the written word should not reflect that. Also, it should be noted that it was not just African Americans who were alienated during the specified time periods – it was all people of color and even groups now considered white… hence my use of “black” – to play on the race dichotomy of us v. them.

    Also, it should be noted that in your idea of who should be handling the cause, you are maintaining an age-structured hierarchy and a sense of seniority. Perhaps you feel entitled because you’ve almost completed four years at Brandeis, but that doesn’t make anyone any less capable than yourself… to some degree, I would argue that Jon is more capable than the average senior. But thanks for your quick response.

  12. J Says:

    Wow. Apparently you missed the point of my post. The point was NOT to “school you” on race relations, and obviously my hyphenating mistake is obviously just that. I was just explaining why I thought the comparison that you brought up didn’t fit. Apparently you can’t say anything on the internet without starting a fire.

    As for your second note, you argue that I am “maintaining an age-structured hierarchy and a sense of seniority.” I dont understand- I am graduating. I will be at graduation. Therefore, it concerns me. Others in my grade are graduating. Therefore, it concerns my grade. It does not concern those who will not be there. It certainly does not concern those who threaten not to be there when they will not be there in the first place. Im not saying Jon wasnt capable (at all- where did you even get that from??), I was just saying it wasnt his place for it. So, tell me, is this “sense of entitlement” really crazy? Is it crazy to think those who will actually be there should be the ones on the forefront of dealing with what will take place there?

    “Age-structured hierarchy and a sense of seniority…” Seriously?

  13. Carrie Says:

    J-

    You take this all so personally. My oh my…

    Haha. You seem to think that I thought race relations was the point of your post, but I was just letting you know that your references – as vague as they are – don’t need further explanation. That was to let you know not to babble on, as I was afraid you might later do, which your statement “I am making this absurdly simplistic, I know, but I really dont have the time to get into race relations in the 50s” suggested.

    I was letting you know that the hyphen was a mistake so that you would avoid it in the future, and I explained myself so that you would understand that it’s more than simply a grammatical error. It’s not an attack on you, per se… I was wanted to give you a clear heads-up. Stop perceiving everything as an attack – don’t flatter yourself.

    I’m not a senior. Hell, I don’t even go to Brandeis anymore… and I will be at graduation (not for you, seriously, calm your ego…) so according to your last comment, your graduation should concern me (referencing: It does not concern those who will not be there). How do you know that Jon wasn’t going to go? Have you been peeking in his iCal again? Oh, you funny kid.

    You ask, “So, tell me, is this “sense of entitlement” really crazy? Is it crazy to think those who will actually be there should be the ones on the forefront of dealing with what will take place there?”
    And again, I say that I will be there. And I’d much rather have Jon advocate for my opinions than do it myself. I agree with Jon. I support Jon. And he does what I am far too lazy to do myself. You will respond by clarifying that you meant only seniors and their family members, but I’ll go ahead and tell you that is not what you have previously said (see, I saved you a post!) and I am going not because I am invited by someone because I’m a friend, but because we might as well be family. So, refute at your will.

    These “pro-unity” individuals go to Brandeis. Everything that transpires at Brandeis has an effect on them. Again, pretend you’re entitled and your desire for a self-indulgent graduation matter more than the concerns of all of the juniors, sophomores, freshmen, and generations to come. You sound like a stubborn kid whose birthday party has been disrupted. Quit putting such a price on banal social customs.

    …And that’s all I have to say about that. Respond at your will, but I bid you adieu (until the 23rd!)

  14. J Says:

    Fair enough, Carrie. Apparently it is wrong for me to claim that the commencement for the class of 2010 is not about the class of 2010- how incredibly immature of me. Its just odd that despite this being a “banal social custom”, here you are commenting on it- and deeply supporting those who are making a big deal of it (all because you are too lazy- noble!)

    All I can say is, I sure hope I fare better after I graduate. Would sure be highly disappointed if I was still around posting on undergraduate blogs- and not doing a very good job at it.

  15. J Says:

    Er, thats “class of 2010 IS about the class of 2010-” Damn rushed posts.

  16. Sahar Says:

    Everyone, please, chill out, be more respectful, no more personal attacks.

    I’ve been *this close* to deleting a lot of comments on this post and another one many times today. I don’t like doing that but if I have to keep a certain level of decorum up I will.

    I don’t care who the author is or what else is in the comment – if any more comments attack people, rather than ideas, I will delete them.

    Update – In fact, on further reflection, I’ll go further and say this: If you post anonymously starting right now, you better be on your best behavior. J – this has not been your best behavior.

  17. J Says:

    My apologies. All in the name of fun…and the everlasting fight against boredom.

  18. Carrie Says:

    J-

    Point of clarification: I’m going into my junior year at Duke University. Feel free to double check next time before you comment on my standing. Lolz.

    Take care.

  19. J Says:

    Yikes. Sure explains a lot more though.

  20. art Says:

    I do not think the cost/benefit analysis of the 135 potential skippers is worth it.
    If they skip out their own graduation ceremony, all they achieve is something the administration likely has, if they ever will, learned from this-that a class’ speaker need be chosen in some fashion by that class. They won’t be retroactively replacing Oren.
    What do they loss? Their own graduation ceremony, plus the embarrassment of their family. Grandma Milly loves that you’re an activist and rebel, but would love it more to see you walk and get your diploma. And all arguments end at Grandma Milly.

  21. Phil LaCombe Says:

    Why is “J” allowed to post anonymously? He/she is violating our commenting rules. We need to enforce our first and last name policy and only allow anonymous comments when the content is exceptionally sensitive.

  22. Amanda Says:

    Sahar I want to be polite but *frustration with trolls builds up and explodes like a gas bubble in an offshore drilling site*
    …….whoops.

  23. Alex N. Says:

    *Injection of Honesty*
    Ok, so listen. My views on Michael Oren speaking aside, you guys (Carrie, Phil, Sahar, Amanda) need to remember what this shit is about. By this shit I mean the internet.

    J over here is not a troll. Those jerks insulting Judah and the Law Journal were trolls. We’ve had other trolls on this Oren thing. But J is engaging in honest debate with you guys, despite the fact that he gives us only a letter to know him by. If you read this objectively, the debate really went downhill when Carrie started treating him like he was being a jerk.

    I remember when you first tried to institute your named comment policy and Melman outed me for speaking as Karl Marx. I thought it was dumb then and I think it’s dumb now. Especially if the way you are going to enforce it is if people disagree with you too strongly.

    It’s up to Innermost Parts as a community I suppose, whether you want to stifle dissent or not, but don’t pretend that’s not what you’re doing.

  24. Leigh Says:

    Hey at least “Alan Royals” hasn’t started posting. I mean come on, we all know it’s a pseudonym for someone who want to post angry messages but is too cowardly to own up to them.

  25. Leigh Says:

    oh whoops too late.

  26. Amanda Says:

    Alex, I find your point to be pretty valid.

    My first comment to Innermost Parts was Teddy Roosevelt.

  27. J (would Jay be better?) Says:

    Appreciate it, Alex. Sanity is so hard to come by these days.

  28. Sahar Says:

    Alex: I apologize, because I don’t I expressed myself well enough, because I think you got the wrong impression about me.

    I’ve been largely silent today as comments got heated because I explicitly did not want the reality or appearance of stifling dissent.

    See also:

    I don’t care who the author is or what else is in the comment – if any more comments attack people, rather than ideas, I will delete them.

    Can’t get more equal than that.

    I did call out J by name – and that’s because he/she is posting under a veil on anonymity. J – I’d like to politely ask you not to. I think you could be a great member of the IP community, but your anonymity presents a policy dilemma for me. I don’t want to ban your comments, but I’ve committed myself to very stringent rules regarding anonymous posting. If you unmasked yourself, frankly, you’d be getting me out of this dilemma.

    You may disagree with me, but I’m convinced that if we used our real names there would be much less ad-hominem attacks, and more willingness to approach each other in good faith.That’s why things don’t tend to get out of hand on facebook, for example. Up till now, first names worked fine since there’s only one Sahar on campus, for example, and Jon and Amanda are friends of mine. I’m not going mandate full names or anything, but I hope you can see the spirit which I’m coming from.

    See also this… (for the general theory, I’m not trying to apply that as an example about anyone in particular)

    If you disagree with this policy, we can have a discussion about it, but please don’t accuse me of stifling dissent when I’m bending over backwards and I’ve been letting through hurtful and counterproductive comments lately just so I would avoid doing just that.

  29. Alex N. Says:

    I get what you are trying to do but I think you need to think it through a little more. You know Jon and Amanda and Carrie, and so do I, but there are a lot of people on this blog for whom they are but swirling electrons. So of course this policy is going to be biased towards those who disagree with you because you know a lot of the people who agree with you. You’ve never asked Comrade to post under his real name, even when he has called out Art on the charge of general stupidity. I’m not saying that you should. I’m saying that when most of the anonymous commenters are anonymous or can be anonymous simply because you don’t know them, there is a problem.

    No one wants to allow hurtful, malicious comments to ruin the discussion, but perhaps you should reconsider the best strategy for limiting them.