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The question of political / conspiracy theory content
#1
Greetings, all. I write this post in the spirit of keeping this forum as community-focussed and community-driven as possible (a spirit yet to be formalised, but I believe it will have the support of other forum founders).

The question has come up: how will this forum deal with political / conspiracy theory content? It has been discussed both publicly - in the two threads, Purpose of this forum and "Welcome to Psience Quest", from post #12 - and privately in the Skeptiko PM thread which the forum founders have used to plan and implement this forum. The public discussions obviously are already available, so here I will summarise (trying to maintain the authors' anonymity) the views set out in the private discussions. I then invite all forum members to make their own views known. Let's try to come to an amicable consensus on how we are to deal with this issue.

Without further ado, here is my anonymised paraphrasing of the views set out privately by founding forum members:
  • It is off-topic. There are other places where folks can discuss such things. This forum should be focussed on consciousness/science/spirituality.
  • Agreed with the above. We need not ban it completely, but it should be a minor part of the forum.
  • Agreed: we should be wary of these sort of topics, which tend to create tension. Maybe allow conspiracy theory threads, but it's hard to draw the line between them and "political mayhem".
  • Disagreed: I enjoy certain conspiracy theories and am intrigued by the direction politics has taken. Cutting these out of the forum would be a bad thing. The length of the Skeptiko political threads indicates how popular these topics are, and like it or not, popular threads sustain a forum.
  • Wouldn't these topics simply fit under Other Stuff?
  • We should have a category for conspiracy theories, but let's hold off on a whole sub-forum for politics.
  • Topics like climate-change have always seemed off-topic to me, and conspiracy theories are an invitation to cranks and crackpots. The Apollo moon landing conspiracy thread on Skeptiko caused several members to leave. This is a collective effort though, so we should consider all voices and find a middle ground.
  • Agreed, would discourage all non-mind stuff that doesn't crop up naturally in discussions.
  • Not a fan of politics, but happy to keep it in a separate section.
  • How about a members-only forum for political discussions?
  • That seems possible.
  • Agreed. Or maybe set up a Conspiracy Theory Discussions forum inside of Other Stuff if this is possible. My thinking now though is that we allow for conspiracy theory discussions but not pure poltiical discussions, unless we host political discussion in a single thread in Other Stuff called Political Discussions or something of that nature. This would avoid the problem of the Other Stuff forum becoming completely cluttered with multiple poltiical threads.
  • I have received at least two PMs from potential members who have indicated that they were sick of the political discussions on Skeptiko, which discouraged them from participating, and that they are very keen not to see politics become prominent on this new forum.
OK, so, as you can see, the founding members have been proactive in discussing this issue. I now open up the floor to all other community members for you to have your say. Have at it, folks, and let's try to come to a reasoned agreement on how to deal with this issue.
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#2
I've never understood why people are incapable of ignoring threads on a forum that don't interest them. If you don't like that particular subject, then don't read that thread. Believe me, I ignored the majority of threads on skeptiko. Never even opened them. Just wasn't interested.
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#3
My 2 cents:

Agree that anything related to Dems, Reps, SJWs, alt-right, the Middle East, etc. can only lead to trouble.

Also, I would vote against anything related to global warming... It's not one of those things that can overlap with psi or consciousness and the debates about it at the old forum were poisonous.

Religion... I despise the topic, but can tolerate regular discussions as long as we don't make it the main focus of the forum (my main criticism of 2016-17 Alex).

I don't think that you can fully separate government experiments (LSD, remote viewing, PK, etc.) or UFOs from consciousness, so those should be allowed despite the obvious political elements.
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#4
Peeps want to concern themselves with just adding content, instead of worrying about managing non existing problems. At present we've got 40 odd members, and no content. 

Breaking up subjects into more and more sub forums is not very good. Less is better... split off if/when things become a problem.
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#5
(08-15-2017, 12:48 PM)chuck Wrote: I've never understood why people are incapable of ignoring threads on a forum that don't interest them. If you don't like that particular subject, then don't read that thread. Believe me, I ignored the majority of threads on skeptiko. Never even opened them. Just wasn't interested.

The only thing I'd say about that strategy is that I wouldn't want to dictate what people can discuss, but personally I wouldn't want to be associated with a website where some kinds of material were being posted. There was a time on Skeptiko where some of what was being posted about the Holocaust would have fallen into that category for me.
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#6
(08-15-2017, 01:42 PM)Chris Wrote: The only thing I'd say about that strategy is that I wouldn't want to dictate what people can discuss, but personally I wouldn't want to be associated with a website where some kinds of material were being posted. There was a time on Skeptiko where some of what was being posted about the Holocaust would have fallen into that category for me.

Yeah. That's the tough part. Where does the scalpel cut? Who makes that decision? I think you just have to go at it when something questionable comes up, instead of making rules ahead of time. And open it for discussion to the community since there may be arguments for not removing something that weren't made perfectly clear at first.
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#7
(08-15-2017, 01:52 PM)chuck Wrote: And open it for discussion to the community since there may be arguments for not removing something that weren't made perfectly clear at first.

Chuck, I see totally eye-to-eye with you here. This is one way in which I came into conflict with Alex and David as a moderator on Skeptiko: I was very much in favour of consultative moderation, which was not their cup of tea. I think we need to involve the community at the very least in setting the parameters of moderation, but I'd go further and involve everybody in specific moderation decisions which were potentially controversial.
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#8
(08-15-2017, 01:56 PM)Laird Wrote:
(08-15-2017, 01:52 PM)chuck Wrote: And open it for discussion to the community since there may be arguments for not removing something that weren't made perfectly clear at first.

Chuck, I see totally eye-to-eye with you here. This is one way in which I came into conflict with Alex and David as a moderator on Skeptiko: I was very much in favour of consultative moderation, which was not their cup of tea. I think we need to involve the community at the very least in setting the parameters of moderation, but I'd go further and involve everybody in specific moderation decisions which were potentially controversial.

Part of the reason for the unilateral aspect to the moderation at skeptiko was explained by Paqart when we had a serious troll attack. Trolls will sometimes point to the disruption they cause as a "trophy" and for that reason open moderation will attract trolls.
The first gulp from the glass of science will make you an atheist, but at the bottom of the glass God is waiting for you - Werner Heisenberg. (More at my Blog & Website)
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#9
Jim, I feel I have introduced an off-topic element to this conversation, which you have (quite legitimately) taken up, but which I don't think should be continued in this thread. It is a very good topic for a new thread though. If you don't start it first, then I will.
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#10
This is a hell of a dilemma...

If we do wind up allowing political discussions, I think it would be best to keep them out of sight in the Other Stuff forum. Same with the conspiracy threads.

People who like to post on such taboo topics should be aware that many others don't share their interests or sensibilities, and try to tone down the passion. People who find those subjects repulsive should also be aware that a site devoted to encouraging quality discussion on psi- and consciousness-related topics will not be able to stand on its own. Most everyone here believes the level of discourse on psi- and consciousness-related topics at Skeptiko was the highest, or nearly so, that can be found nowadays in Web-based forums. That's because the taboo threads attracted large numbers of people who also occasionally provided interesting accounts and intriguing insights related to psi and consciousness.

Being confronted with political opinions that are very different from our own can be difficult. I have a lifetime's worth of experience in that regard. I'm a full-fledged libertarian, and am often repelled by posts from members on both the left and right of the political spectrum. I belong to one of the tiniest political minorities on the planet, yet I've still managed to find a way to interact positively with those whose political visions are so very different from my own. I wish others would try harder to do the same.

Being tolerant of those who disagree with us politically doesn't mean we have to like or agree with what they say. We just have to learn to politely ignore whatever abhorrent political opinions they might have while engaging with them in discussions on less taboo topics.
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