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Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

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Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  jimhabegger on Tue May 21, 2013 3:28 am

I have an idea about how to make the Atheism Plus forum safer, but before I present it to the administrators, I'd like to get comments from the members. I want to have that discussion here, for consistency, because what I want to propose might exclude this discussion from that forum.

My idea is to make the Atheism Plus forum strictly a safe place, with no place at all, anywhere in the forum, for questions and comments that are not welcomed by the people it was created for. It might help avoid some problems to specify that the Atheism Plus forum is strictly a safe place, and that anyone who has suggestions for improvement, or questions that are not answered by reading the FAQs (links) and searching in the forums, can take them to (links to other forums) or contact (list of volunteers).

One of the links to other forums would be to the Secular Social Justice forum.

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  scott1328 on Tue May 21, 2013 10:19 am

As you are no doubt aware this forum gets very low activity but would welcome any discussion on social justice issues you would like to persue.

I fear that any suggestion you have for any change at the Atheism Plus forum would be met with extreme hostility and derision and would end with your summary banishment.

This is not to say that your idea is bad. Personally, I believe the nature of pseudo anonymous forums renders implementation of a safe space on a such a forum unworkable.

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  jimhabegger on Tue May 21, 2013 10:59 pm

Thank you, Scott.

For now I'm not planning to discuss anything here other than this idea I'm proposing, except possibly the need for safer environments in Internet discussions and conferences.

I posted some other ideas in the Atheism Plus forum, to make it safer, and I haven't seen any hostile responses to that. In fact I haven't seen any hostile responses to anything I've said. I've been treated very gently so far.

I've seen the hostility some others have encountered, I understand their bewilderment and resentment. I've encountered that hostility elsewhere, and the first time it happened to me, I took it very badly, and fumed about it for a few days. At the same time, I feel the same hostility towards the behavior that arouses it.

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  mood2 on Wed May 22, 2013 2:59 am

I can't see a problem with this board being used that way, but I wouldn't want the rules changed here in order to protect those discussions or anything like that.

I definitely agree with the need for better signage there, whether your suggestions are taken up or not.

Personally I think trying to combine a support group type safe space and an ideological safe space is fraught with problems and needs a lot of thought, and as the board has developed over time in an ad hoc reactive way, that's way overdue. I wish you luck!

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  jimhabegger on Wed May 22, 2013 10:25 am

Mood, I agree about not changing the rules in this forum. The whole idea, in my mind, is for people who can't say what they want to say in the Atheism Plus forum, to say it here.

I also agree that it's a daunting challenge to try to have a safe space, and a place for anyone to discuss anything they want to, in the same forum, and I don't see any reason to even try. I don't think it should even be all the same people. As I see it, the only people who should be in a safe space are the people it's made for, and people who are trained, or willing to be trained, in how to act in a safe space.

It looks to me like there's been some confusion and misunderstanding about the purposes of Atheism Plus from the very start, even among supporters. As I see it, Atheism Plus was a response to some atheists being systematically disrespected and marginalized by other atheists, then stigmatized and treated cruelly for complaining about it. Among those marginalized atheists I see a lot of interest in feminist issues and other social justice issues, so to me it seems natural for work on those issues to be included as part of the purpose. That doesn't mean that it's an open forum for anyone to have any kind of discussion they want to about social issues. That's what is not clearly spelled out, and might never be clearly spelled out. I'm not going to try to argue with them about that, at least not over there, because that kind of discussion compromises the safety of the space, which I value very much.

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  jimhabegger on Wed May 22, 2013 4:02 pm

I might also propose that anyone who persists in questioning the purposes and administration of the A+ forum, without participating in any other way, be suspended or expelled, no matter how friendly he might seem. It looks to me like friendly reformers wear people out even more than hostile ones do.

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  mood2 on Thu May 23, 2013 8:00 am

Mood, I agree about not changing the rules in this forum. The whole idea, in my mind, is for people who can't say what they want to say in the Atheism Plus forum, to say it here.

heh. That's kind of how this place got started. There wasn't much positive interest from the A+ members, but there was a bit of an influx of people with gripes about that board, which eventually trailed off and now it's dead here.

Doesn't mean your efforts won't come to something more positive tho.

I also agree that it's a daunting challenge to try to have a safe space, and a place for anyone to discuss anything they want to, in the same forum, and I don't see any reason to even try. I don't think it should even be all the same people. As I see it, the only people who should be in a safe space are the people it's made for, and people who are trained, or willing to be trained, in how to act in a safe space.

Well peer led support group type safe spaces are tricky on the net, but there are models from meat space which can be adapted. There's plenty of good practice guidelines around, a bit of research might be a good idea. The A+ site isn't a good example as it operates at present imo, there are plenty of easy ways to improve. Without some framework like that what tends to happen is the culture and rules end up being dictated by the most dominant members, for better or worse.

It looks to me like there's been some confusion and misunderstanding about the purposes of Atheism Plus from the very start, even among supporters. As I see it, Atheism Plus was a response to some atheists being systematically disrespected and marginalized by other atheists, then stigmatized and treated cruelly for complaining about it. Among those marginalized atheists I see a lot of interest in feminist issues and other social justice issues, so to me it seems natural for work on those issues to be included as part of the purpose. That doesn't mean that it's an open forum for anyone to have any kind of discussion they want to about social issues. That's what is not clearly spelled out, and might never be clearly spelled out. I'm not going to try to argue with them about that, at least not over there, because that kind of discussion compromises the safety of the space, which I value very much.

I'm not an expert on the history, but personally I'd have liked A+ to be more than that, to have a more proactive focus on activism, consciousness raising and so on too. But to be honest I've come to think there's not much appetite for that, from either 'side'. Insularity and infighting is more fun!

But if some people want a supportive safe space that's totally understandable. Just put a big clear sign on the door making sure that's obvious to unsuspecting noobs.








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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  jimhabegger on Thu May 23, 2013 3:50 pm

mood2 wrote:but personally I'd have liked A+ to be more than that, to have a more proactive focus on activism, consciousness raising and so on too. But to be honest I've come to think there's not much appetite for that, from either 'side'.
I haven't seen much of that anywhere, either, on line.

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  jimhabegger on Sun May 26, 2013 11:43 am

mood2, I just read the thread in the A+ forum about your complaints, and I pretty much agree with everything you said.

After reading that thread, I have a *lot* more sympathy for what some people might be trying to do there. I'm wondering about the qualifications of the administrators for that purpose, but I'm certainly not qualified to judge their qualifications.

I can also understand very well some people's objections to the name of Atheism Plus and what's been done in that name, and the temptation to try to argue about it with the people in it. I'm still hoping to dissuade people from doing that, because some of what I see happening there means a lot to me, and I don't like to see it disrupted. It seems futile to me to try to change the name or the direction of Atheism Plus, and even if I were going to try, I would take it up privately with the administrators.

(edited for clarity)
It seems to me that atheists who want to work together on other social justice issues, besides trying to provide a safe space for the specific population that might possibly be benefiting from the A+ forums, would do better to forget about A+, and find some other place to do that, which is what I thought these Secular Social Justice forums were for. If these Secular Social Justice Forums aren't being used for that purpose, maybe atheists who are working for social justice are already finding all the encouragement and support they want or need, somewhere else.
(end edit)

This is the paragraph as it was originally:
It seems to me that atheists who want to work together on other social justice issues, besides trying to provide a safe space for the specific population that might possibly be benefiting from the A+ forums, would do better to forget about A+, and find some other place to do that, which is what I thought these forums were for. If they aren't being used for that purpose, maybe atheists who are working for social justice are already finding all the encouragement and support they want or need, somewhere else.


Last edited by jimhabegger on Mon May 27, 2013 7:26 am; edited 3 times in total (Reason for editing : for clarification)

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  nullnvoid on Mon May 27, 2013 3:14 am

Jim,

I think you need to be clear on what Atheism Plus is. First and foremost Atheism Plus is a name that a group of bloggers from the Free Thought Blogs site attached to themselves to identify what they were trying to achieve. Atheism, plus social justice stuff. One of those writers claimed credit for the creation of the term and someone grabbed the domain and set up a forum. The bloggers don't seem to be highly active on the A+ forum. The forum seems merely to be a place where you can go to learn about the sociological concepts of social justice terms. They have created a kind of support group, where ingroup members are protected and outgroup members are largely provoked and attacked based on simplistic guesses about the 'identity' of the member. Debate about the principals of Atheism Plus is discouraged. Discussion is limited to a pedagogic style - where people are either teachers or students of the concepts already agreed upon and laid out in their 'welcome' package.

From that perspective I think it's clear to see why unmoderated discussion is not wanted or needed on that forum.

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  jimhabegger on Mon May 27, 2013 7:25 am

nullnvoid, thank you. I see that my last paragraph in my post above could be easily misunderstood as it was originally written. I've revised it.

"The forum seems merely to be a place where you can go to learn about the sociological concepts of social justice terms."

It doesn't look to me like a good place at all to learn about social justice concepts. I see feminist and social justice terms and expressions being misused, out of their original contexts, simply as sticks to hit people with. I understand that it's in self defense, but that doesn't make it any more educational, as far as social justice work is concerned.

In spite of the defects of the A+ forums, I see something happening there that means a lot to me, and I'm hoping to persuade people not to interfere.



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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  scott1328 on Mon May 27, 2013 10:39 am

jimhabegger wrote:nullnvoid, thank you. I see that my last paragraph in my post above could be easily misunderstood as it was originally written. I've revised it.

"The forum seems merely to be a place where you can go to learn about the sociological concepts of social justice terms."

It doesn't look to me like a good place at all to learn about social justice concepts. I see feminist and social justice terms and expressions being misused, out of their original contexts, simply as sticks to hit people with. I understand that it's in self defense, but that doesn't make it any more educational, as far as social justice work is concerned.

In spite of the defects of the A+ forums, I see something happening there that means a lot to me, and I'm hoping to persuade people not to interfere.



I wish you the best in your efforts. You will not likely see any interference from those few that still login here.

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  nullnvoid on Mon May 27, 2013 12:33 pm

No - we won't interfere, and I'd go as far to say that if you can come up with some positive steps that could be taken towards collaboration on a specific social justice issue then I'd be happy to help. I think there are just a few disillusioned people here - who answered the initial enthusiasm of Atheism Plus only to realise that the very definition of social justice being used by people in that movement really didn't reflect our view of it.

I don't think those needs ARE being met - but a significant number of people are being driven away from wooden ruler wielding teachers on the Atheism Plus forum that the term "Social Justice" has taken on something of a sour taste in their mouth.

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  mood2 on Tue May 28, 2013 4:52 am

It seems to me that atheists who want to work together on other social justice issues, besides trying to provide a safe space for the specific population that might possibly be benefiting from the A+ forums, would do better to forget about A+, and find some other place to do that, which is what I thought these Secular Social Justice forums were for. If these Secular Social Justice Forums aren't being used for that purpose, maybe atheists who are working for social justice are already finding all the encouragement and support they want or need, somewhere else.

Yes I'm sure that's largely true. Especially when it comes to identity politics. If I'm wanting to join a group to say promote LGBTQ rights, or find personal support, an atheist forum isn't where I'm going to go looking for it.

That said, for people already involved in online atheism, or local groups, making Social Justice a significant Plus part of that is something which could potentially be attractive to people I think. How to make that happen in practice in such a toxic atmosphere is a problem. As we've found here.

Maybe if some Big Name Atheist wanted to take it on in a new way divorced from all the in-fighting it could work, but it's a bit of a poison chalice.

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  mood2 on Tue May 28, 2013 5:00 am

And I third what Scott and null said.

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  jimhabegger on Tue May 28, 2013 9:10 am

I see the Atheism Plus forums encouraging and supporting a few people, and encouraging and supporting some individual initiatives for social justice, and the assaults against it seem to have died out, so I don't see anything for me to do. I might be finished with it.

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  lpetrich on Thu May 30, 2013 11:17 pm

jimhabegger wrote:I might also propose that anyone who persists in questioning the purposes and administration of the A+ forum, without participating in any other way, be suspended or expelled, no matter how friendly he might seem. It looks to me like friendly reformers wear people out even more than hostile ones do.
That seems rather extreme to me. I'd prefer some "dungeon" forum for such things.

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  scott1328 on Fri May 31, 2013 5:49 am

jimhabegger wrote:I might also propose that anyone who persists in questioning the purposes and administration of the A+ forum, without participating in any other way, be suspended or expelled, no matter how friendly he might seem. It looks to me like friendly reformers wear people out even more than hostile ones do.

You probably haven't been paying close attention, but this is already the procedure at the so-called safe space.

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

Post  jimhabegger on Fri May 31, 2013 10:56 am

Scott, I've seen at least two examples of people persistently questioning the purposes and administration of those forums, without participating in any other way, and without being suspended or expelled, and that was without searching for examples.

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Re: Ideas for a safer Atheism Plus forum

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