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MyNewtBoobs's avatar

What constitutes a personal attack?

Asked by MyNewtBoobs (19026points) December 18th, 2010

And what is within the guidelines? What criteria do you mods use to make that decision?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

44 Answers

iamthemob's avatar

I’d be interested to hear from the mods on this one – and see if they could provide some “hypotheticals.”

I feel like the standard is pretty high, as there are several posts that I would think qualify.

tinyfaery's avatar

You are a sanctimonious bitch.
You should fuck-off and die.
Eat shit you priggish cunt.

I’m sure all of those are personal attacks.

DeanV's avatar

Your mom constitutes a personal attack.

You know, stuff along those lines. Like things that… attack a person.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@iamthemob Yeah, see I see what I would call personal attacks all the time (especially this past week or two) that don’t get modded, so I figure I’m missing something in the criteria.

wundayatta's avatar

I don’t know how the mods decide, but I do know what I consider a personal attack. It’s fairly simple. Anything that focuses on the person and not on the issue is a personal attack. It is ok to focus on the person if it is not an attack (although sometimes I have been known to consider a compliment to be an attack, but that’s just my pathology). So compliments and sympathy are all ok.

I think it gets difficult when the person is also the issue. How do you tell someone who makes demeaning comments about your way of thinking that they are an asshole? You don’t. Rather, you stick to “I” statements that explain how you feel about what they said. “That comment made me feel like dirt, and I don’t think it was warranted. You didn’t really answer my point, you just made disparaging remarks about my way of thinking.”

But here’s the wonderful thing. If someone is calling you names, that means you won! That means they don’t have an argument left in them, so when you have no more idea, you resort to trying to makes someone feel stupid. That’s the personal attack. I actually don’t mind them because I can point out how the person has gone off topic and that means they have conceded the field of battle to me. Usually they don’t know what to say and the kicker is that you usually get tons of lurve when you point that out.

But, alas, fluther wants to control ad hominem attacks themselves and not let us police ourselves with our wit and intelligence. So we don’t get to get all snippy to other people who are clearly mental midgets. I suppose it’s hardly fair. So the mods cut them off at their knees, metaphorically speaking. Unfortunately, since they are midgets, that means the mods are decapitating them.~

YARNLADY's avatar

To me, it’s when a nasty crack is directly specifically at another use. I could say I think some users sound like they have their feathers ruffled and that’s not a personal attack, but when I put @user, Don’t get your feathers ruffled that is a personal attack.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Generally, a personal attack is something fairly harsh. @YARNLADY‘s example above does not count as a personal attack. It’s not the nicest comment, but it’s not an attack.

There is a lot of grey area as to what constitutes an attack. Swearing at someone or calling someone stupid or an idiot are definitely attacks. If we do not remove them, please flag them or send us a message. We never leave an attack up just because we don’t like a user.

Most of the time, mods are unsure if something constitutes an attack so we confab about it.

I guess the clearest definition I can come up with of a personal attack is a comment that is both directed at a user and meant to be malicious with no social value.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@KatawaGrey So then would “Don’t be so stupid/lazy/retarded/immoral” be a personal attack?

Aethelwine's avatar

@KatawaGrey I’ve seen comments such as @YARNLADY‘s example removed before. Clearly there are not guidelines for this. I know. I had to fight to have a comment removed, for what I considered a personal attack towards me, especially after I saw a comment like @YARNLADY‘s example had just been removed. Both remarks we quite similiar in nature, yet it took an hour before a decision was made to remove the remark directed towards me. The situation was explained to me, but it left a bitter taste in my mouth.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@jonsblond There’s actually a comment still on a thread where someone threatens to get the OP fired from his job, but doesn’t call him any names.
I’ve seen a LOT of comments like @YARNLADY,‘s some removed, most not.

KatawaGrey's avatar

I didn’t say it was a perfect system, I didn’t say all moderators agreed with me. This is what I keep in mind when I moderate attacks.

@papayalily: I would consider stupid and retarded remove-worthy but not necessarily lazy or immoral.

This is something people always seem to forget. We mods are human and we do not have posted hours. Most of us have jobs. Some of us have school. We all have families. We do not all mod the same way. We do not all agree on what should or should not be modded. Each of us is not on all the time. Please also keep in mind that no one is objective. You may think that what you wrote should stay while we disagree and vice versa. Just because you wrote it doesn’t mean it should stay. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it should go.

Remember, we are always open to dialogue.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@KatawaGrey I know you guys are human. Unfortunately, on threads that criticize you guys, it then tends to become either that the mods are above humans, or the mods are conspiring d-bags, instead of something more nuanced than the dualistic approach.

KatawaGrey's avatar

@papayalily: Do you think mods contribute to that duality? Other than how our moderating is interpreted.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@KatawaGrey On the threads where you guys are criticized? Yes, some more than others – and it’s certainly understandable. It’s not like anyone is really great at not being defensive when they’re attacked. I think the less you guys are being attacked, the more most of you are willing to say “we’re not perfect”. Shocker, I know…;)

jerv's avatar

It is a somewhat subjective thing, and highly context sensitive. Like pornography, you can’t really define it formally but you know it when you see it. Most start with a @-sign and are followed by some nastiness.

@dverhey “Your mom constitutes a personal attack.”
Actually, your mom constitutes a fun night :P
(I kid, but it seemed appropriate in the context of this question.)

@KatawaGrey Do you account a bit for the personality and style of the poster? I mean, I am a bit of an asshole, and often a plain-spoken one at that, so I have to wonder if I would get my shit yanked for merely staying true to form. Part of what made me leave AB was that a non-directed comment was taken as a personal attack to the point where I got PB’d by an overly sensitive prick with an inflated sense of self-importance, and I don’t want that to happen here.
I want to be myself, and I would rather get a message from a mod telling me to cut the shit than just find my posts modded without knowing exactly where I went wrong (Honestly, I don’t always know!) but that often involves saying things that others may consider a personal attack.

Blueroses's avatar

It seems to me like an electoral college. If more than one (non mod) user flags a post as a personal attack, it makes it easier for the mods to interpret the quip in that way.
We, the collective, are responsible for providing the feedback that give our “officials” their cues.

If you disagree about a quip being removed, yours or another’s, I would think that any moderator would give weight to your opinion if it’s stated reasonably.

They are individuals and collective members also. There are many judgement calls I, as one person, disagree with, but many other times I’m glad I’m not the person to have to make that call. Pity the moderators who have to decide whether to moderate a quip on a thread criticizing moderators.

anartist's avatar

The mods, like the persons writing angry retorts are human. Sometimes a mod sees a remark as flame, sometimes not. If the injured person complains, I believe [although I do not know] the remark is studied more closely.

breedmitch's avatar

Yesterday I wrote “Fuck you and your beliefs” which was removed as a personal attack.
I’m fine with it. his beliefs were fuckworthy

jerv's avatar

@breedmitch I wonder if it would’ve been better if you had said something more like, “What sort of inbred fuckwit would honestly believe that horseshit?” as opposed to actually aiming at someone. I mean, yeah, it’s still offensive, but it isn’t exactly personal.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

@jerv But (in general, not just Fluther), is there really a difference? Isn’t that simply a broader personal attack that’s phrased in a way to include lots of people instead of just one?

Blondesjon's avatar

@psychocandy . . . You kiss my mom with that mouth?

jerv's avatar

@papayalily That depends. In practical terms, not really, but there are some that like to make a point of arguing semantics to the point where “Good morning!” sparks a multi-hour diatribe about subjective morality.

Some would argue that the inclusion of more than one target makes it non-personal by definition. Others like to slap people like that with nine limp inches just for being argumentative pricks.

Blueroses's avatar

@papayalily If it’s broader, it isn’t personal. Did you learn nothing in the Passive/Aggressive seminar last week? ;) <wink, wink> that was not an attack

Cruiser's avatar

Using meatloaf or fruitcake in a threatening manner is definitely a personal attack!

augustlan's avatar

“That argument is idiotic.” is not a personal attack. ”You are idiotic.” is.
Sometimes, fairly mild things (like “Don’t get your feathers ruffled”) get removed as a personal attack but only because it’s part of a clear pattern of harassment. In and of itself, that remark would not constitute a personal attack.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@Cruiser : Oh, it is so on, now!

Seelix's avatar

Of course it’s subjective. I’m sure that in some cases, the mods know the user who’s doing the “attacking” and the user who’s being “attacked” pretty well, and can tell what will be considered upsetting. I would also think that if a user who sincerely feels that they’re being attacked flags a particular post, that the mods would remove the post.

But then, I haven’t been here all that long, so I haven’t seen any attacks. Just what I think.

syz's avatar

Having comments flagged by the community is the best possible option for keeping the process as unbiased as possible. If there is a post that I am on the fence about, multiple flags by users is a sign to me that I’m not imagining the attack. Also, I soooo do not read every post of every question. There’s no way in hell that I have the time for that, so flagged quips direct me to a problem thread that I would otherwise have never seen.

That does not mean that if you flag something, it will automatically be removed. Sometimes we do not agree with your opinion that the flagged comment violates guidelines. Sometimes we are privy to information that you do not have. Sometimes we err. But the fact that all of us see all of the flags and comments allows for a system of checks and balances – the more lenient among us the slug it out with the more hard nosed, and we make the best decision that we can.

jerv's avatar

@syz There is another site I frequent that is peer-modded. Every user can give +1 or -1 with a 1–2 word reason for the mod. Anything that goes to -10 or below the threshold you set in your control panel disappears, while anything that hits +10 cannot be up-modded further.
Then again, the community there is less trigger-happy when it comes to modding anyways, so the majority of stuff in the comment threads is at zero. Personal attacks happen, but are rare and generally frowned upon; they don’t like ad hominem any more than we here at Fluther do, and the community there will rip you to shreds if you are an asshat. No intervention from the mods is necessary due to the way they are set up.

mattbrowne's avatar

When it’s about the person and not the opinion of the person.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Thank you @syz and @augustlan. I spent the last day or so sans computer so I did not see all of these new responses until now. You two have explained it very well.

iamthemob's avatar

“That argument is idiotic.” is not a personal attack. ”You are idiotic.”

To be honest, I think the above is a distinction where there really is none. The former clearly implies the latter, and I think that the reason why there are inconsistencies in how people perceive a persona attack being moderated is because of this false separation between statements that claim to attack an opinion rather than a person.

With a small edit, someone can make an attack about the idea as opposed to the person, when the effect on the user is probably going to be about the same. If that’s our concern, then really we should be including “That’s an idiotic idea” in the realm of personal attacks.

If there is an attack on a person or idea that describes it in a negative manner solely and without any substantive critique or without a repeated attempt to get at substance of an underlying idea, it should be considered a personal attack. Perhaps it is best to redefine it in that manner, and retitle it as an “attack” or include everything under “Unhelpful.” If anyone has a substantive argument as to how “That argument is idiotic” and “You are idiotic” are functionally different in terms of the message implied, I’d like to hear it.

jerv's avatar

@iamthemob There are many otherwise intelligent people saying stupid things, and there are some arguments that deserve to be ripped to shreds even if the person posting them doesn’t. Then again,i think that would fall under “substantive critique”, but occasionally it’s simply a matter of, “I’m going to assume you already know why that is stupid and move on” when someone doesn’t feel like doing a lot of typing. In that context, it is implied that the poster has the intelligence to figure it out on their own so its not quite as disrespectful as it appears on it’s face.

iamthemob's avatar

@jerv – I think you’re right in your assumption. I feel like when those situations arise you get. “You know what you’re saying is incredibly stupid, right? You do know (insert various facts here)?”

But you know, there’s very little value added to the substantive critique with the opening line. We all resort to the “WTF!?!?!” moments – but I wouldn’t mind those getting kicked back (personal opinion only) to me to give me a chance to be less rash – a whole ” [as moderator] – your post is great – but do you really need the opening line? Let us know if you want us to repost it without the idiot remark, or leave it in.” Yeah, that’s the moderator acting more like a conscious – but the only thing you get out of acting like an asshole is a bunch of shit in the end.

As to comments that are simply “Your idea is idiotic” or “You’re acting like an idiot right now” – I mean, in the end that’s the kind of shit we’re trying to avoid on Fluther in my opinion.

Everyone has the right to their opinion, and express it as they want…but you know…it’s nice to really know what the opinion really is rather than so vague.

jerv's avatar

@iamthemob I see your point, but part of the charm of Fluther is the conversational tone; the posts here read more like talking to real people than reading a textbook.

iamthemob's avatar

@jerv – Of course- and this wouldn’t interrupt that necessarily. I mean, I cussed a whole bunch above – pretty conversational. But I wasn’t calling anyone an idiot.

It can still be conversational…but you know, what kind of conversation to you want to have? ;-)

It’s clear we’re on the same page, essentially.

JilltheTooth's avatar

@iamthemob : You’re burbling. You never burble. It’s OK, sweetie, we’ll take care of you.

iamthemob's avatar

@JilltheTooth – I’m only burbling a little. ;-).

All I’m saying is that it’s possible to be conversational without being an asshole – as when the mods come in and say “let’s disagree without being disagreeable.” There’s rarely a reason to use the terms “idiot” or “idiotic” and the various other permutations. There’s often, surely, a motivation. So I think the confusion in this whole thread about what is a personal attack is based on the fact that there really isn’t a difference between a nasty attack on a person and a nasty attack on their statements.

YARNLADY's avatar

@jerv Yes, and in a conversation, I would never say “You are an idiot”, but rather “No, that sounds idiotic, what did you mean by that”. The “you” part is the personal attack, and it really does make a difference.

On Fluther, saying ”@user Don’t be an idiot” is completely different than “I disagree with the information provided by @user and this is why…..”

jerv's avatar

@YARNLADY I think we have long since established that I personally am not one to mince words for the sake of being nice or politically correct. While you may not call people “idiot”, you are far less likely to use other words than I am; asshole, fuckwad, cocksucker, cum-gargler, shit-stain, and quite a few others I use at least a couple of times a week probably are even in your personal collection of commonly used pronouns.

@iamthemob It really is a matter of intent. If you take my words at face value then I come scripts as a bigger asshole than I really am. Sure, I can be condescending and a bit arrogant, but I am actually nicer and more reasonable than I sound.
Some would take offense at bring given the finger whereas some of my coworkers and I use it as a greeting about on par with ”¿Qué pasa?”.

YARNLADY's avatar

@jerv Yes, what you say is correct, and I attribute the uncivilized type of response that is preferred by some users to be a consequence of their inability to show empathy to the user coupled with their refusal/inability to utilize the abundance of non-abusive words in the English language that are available to us.

jerv's avatar

@YARNLADY I strongly resent your use of the term :uncivilized” there, and in fact, consider it insensitive, highly derogatory, quite elitist, and only a couple of baby-steps above “nigger”.
Fortunately, I know you well enough to know that you probably did not mean to cause offense, but had it been a stranger that said that, I might have actually taken that as an attack! Please bear in mind that not everybody is as lady-like as you, but that in no way makes them inferior.

Oh, and Merry Christmas to all :)

Blondesjon's avatar

@jerv . . . I find it hard to believe that you had to use such an inflammatory term just to make your point.

I’m all about one’s right to free speech but iIbelieve that “baby-steps” crosses a very well drawn line.

Good day, sir!

jerv's avatar

@Blondesjon “Well drawn” by whose standards? I am honestly confused now….

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