The “I Fully Expect Abuse” Gambit

Noting this here as an addition to comment moderation policy:

If during the writing of a comment here, you add the line of “Now, I know what I am saying is going to get me abused,” or some close version of the same, I consider your comment immediate fair game for deletion. Why?

1. Because you are signaling that your comment will prompt other commenters, acting rationally on the basis of what you’ve written, to heap abuse on you, in which case you’re probably trolling, in which case I should delete your comment to avoid the inevitable derail;

and/or

2. Because you are signaling that you do not believe other commenters here are capable of rational discourse, in which case I’ll delete your comment to protect you from the onslaught of terrible people being terrible to you terribly, because of course as a gracious host I cannot allow such a horrible thing as abuse of a guest to happen. That would be wrong.

Now, there is an alternate version of events in which the reason that you put in such a line is as a cheap rhetorical ploy to suggest that your comment posits the only logical version of the discussion, and that any alternate view of events or rebuttal to your argument is mere abuse, as an attempt to put other commenters on the defensive and/or to give yourself permission not to take other people or their responses to your comment seriously. But I see no possible way that someone who would comment here would stoop to such abject silliness. So I will, properly, disregard this as a possibility.

On a related note, if you choose to write some version of “I expect this comment to be deleted” in your comment, I’ll take that as a sign that you would be in some manner disappointed if I did not delete your comment, as opposed to, say, merely employing the phrase as a magical talisman against the comment being deleted. And I, as a gracious host, would hate to disappoint you.

No, no. You don’t have to thank me, as your host, for such kind and tender thoughtfulness. I am merely acting as you, my guest, deserve.

132 thoughts on “The “I Fully Expect Abuse” Gambit

  1. I understand this will be the cue for many of you to write “I expect abuse!” and/or “I expect this comment to be deleted!” for arch, humorous effect here in the comment thread.

    RESIST THE TEMPTATION, I SAY.

    Yes, I know. I spoil ALL THE FUNS.

  2. Well, I expect this comment to be deleted due to the amount of abuse I would get just from posting this but I’m not entirely sure.

  3. Are you sure posting this isn’t going to increase the number of people using those terms? I mean if they’re looking for your attention now they know how without being a total jackass about it.

  4. Not commenting for fear of being abused reminded me that I was recently looking for your posts about what harassment is, what policies should be, and other lists I may or may not remember correctly. It seems that I’m terrible at searching blogs: how do I find them?

  5. In fact, the I-Fully-Expect-To-Be-Abused Gambit is simply a subset of the I-Know-Saying-This-Won’t-Make-Me-Popular Ploy, and both are subheads in the broad category of Strenuous Self-Congratulation.

  6. Thank you. I’m not inclined to post the kind of comments that would lead me to using such phrases, but reading this reminded me that I do sometimes employ passive-aggressive , or maybe it’s passive-pathetic phrases to deflect responses that might hurt my feelings. Phrases like “I’m not articulate but…” or some variation.

    So, while I’m not trolling I am trying to control how people respond. I’m also doing myself a disservice by telegraphing that my opinion or post isn’t important because I’m a delicate flower who is not able to reach intellectual heights… Or something like that.

    So, thanks again for reminding me to own my comments and not use them to manipulate the conversation. As for those who use the phrases you mention they should do the same. Just comment honestly and if you think to yourself ( huh. This might get people mad at me) then either revise or post and accept the consequences.

  7. There’s also the subset of people who absolutely *love* to say, “I knew it!” or “I told you so!” The, “I expect…” gambit enables them to say these things later and feel prescient. The fact that they’ve gamed the system to encourage the things they expect is either lost on them or they think they’re being especially subtle and clever.

    As a kind and gracious host, you are good to reintroduce a state of entropy into the comments so as to give these commenters a scenario where they can test their theories without introducing bias into the scenario.

  8. This gambit is a favorite tactic of a schizophrenic troll called julianpenrod on SciAm. It is a sign of an inferior or unstable mind.

  9. “I fully expect abuse” is the comment-version of the real-life phrases, “Don’t take this the wrong way…”, “This will probably sounds sexist/racist/homophobic, but…” It’s an attempted peremptory strike so that the “victim” can come back and whine, “Don’t you have a sense of humor…????” Ugh.

  10. My apologies for the double-post–the above comment was me, Bryn, but the dreaded WordPress and I are having a….”moment”. *scowls WordPresswards.*

  11. What about comments that deserve abuse and by admitting it, the poster is making a plea for help? For example, “I know this will get me a lot of abuse, but I really like the latest Smurf movie…”

  12. I’m not making any precise parallels here, but professional dominatrixes run into this same type of eagerness to misbehave and desire for (free) abuse all the time. It may also be akin to inviting a musician to a party in the hopes that she or he will perform — again for free.

  13. “I understand this will be the cue for many of you to write “I expect abuse!” and/or “I expect this comment to be deleted!” for arch, humorous effect here in the comment thread.

    RESIST THE TEMPTATION, I SAY.

    Yes, I know. I spoil ALL THE FUNS.”

    Oh, no fair. :-(

  14. Floored: attributing mental illness to those you dislike online is (1) irresponsible, and (2) rude, especially to those of us (including me) who are dealing with actual mental illnesses.

    This isn’t my blog, of course, and I can’t tell you what to do, but I respectfully request that you not do this.

  15. I’ve never commented before but the Whatever comment threads sound like magical places with Lots o’ Rules. Sort of like the Realm of Faerie.

  16. Ah, the sarcasm gambit. I had no idea that an explanation that applies 99% of the time is the alternate version of events. I learn something new every time I come here :)

    So does this mean that if I say I fully expect this comment to live a long healthy life, that it’ll be Mallet-proof? Or do I need to invoke the Aegis of Athena?

    I think this calls for a theme song.

  17. @ Lila: The troll in question shows all of the hallmarks of advanced paranoid schizophrenia, especially disordered speech/writing, unfamiliarity with basic grammar and punctuation rules, and a fixation on a ridiculous “New World Order” that is out to get him. If you’ve read the guy’s screeds, you wouldn’t argue that he’s sane.

  18. Yeah, people who write letters to the editor (my job is editing letters) every now and then come up with the idea that including “I know you won’t dare to print this because ” will make their letter more likely to appear. No, it’s generally grounds for rejection as evidence of bad faith on the writer’s part,

  19. Floored: I’m not arguing anything of the kind. I’m pointing out that when you use “inferior or unstable mind” as an insult, you’re causing collateral damage.

  20. If everyone played fair and nice all the time, on the playground or in the comments section, then rules would not be necessary. Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, this is not the case. Now if only one could institute a “comment policy” for politics or interpersonal relations…

  21. Floored, Lila:

    Wandering off topic, here.

    Floored:

    As a general rule, diagnosing someone’s mental illness from their online screeds is not useful, especially if you’re not trained. Beyond that, there are a lot of people who comment here who have, to greater or lesser degrees, some form of mental illness and who are sensitive to assertions that mental illness is equivalent to mental inferiority. This is a not unreasonable sensitivity. (Also, there are quite a lot of world-class minds that are also afflicted with mental illness. They are not exclusive to each other.)

    Something for you to consider and incorporate into your thinking for future comments, is all.

    K. Howard:

    The commenting rules are actually pretty simple.

  22. @ Lila: Good point. It wasn’t meant to be an insult, but rather to indicate that anyone who uses the “I-fully-expect-abuse” gambit should not be given much credit.

  23. @ Mr. Scalzi: Sorry, crosspost.

    As someone with OCD, ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome, and chronic insomnia (which makes everything else worse), I understand the sensitivity that you mention; my mother has it in a big way, although I am generally oblivious to all but the most obvious neurological disorder-targeting jerkdom. I see in retrospect where my comment went wrong, and I will keep that in mind for future comments.

  24. There’s a third reason people use that gambit:

    More and more often, in forums where only groupthink is allowed, I see people defending themselves with just such words — whenever they have something to say that’s not politically correct, probably to signal that they know their comment is going to get the inevitable dogpile. In which case they aren’t trolling, they’re just being honest. :(

  25. If one expects abuse, one should go to Graham Chapman’s office down the hall. (Stupid gits.)

  26. Usually when I see the “I expect abuse…” comment, it is in the contexts most others have highlighted here (I think Bryn, above, hit the nail on the head for 80% of the time I see it employed). The other times, however, seem to be in instances like what Reziac and Matthew Hughes have stated — some websites foster a kind of discourse that favours a particular view. I, myself, have employed it when defending topics like universal healthcare and immigration amnesty at Christian websites; I’ve seen people here at Whatever employ it when trying to express thoughts on why Politician X isn’t such a rancid turd, or why a totally laissez faire free-market system is for the best.

    In those situations, still, I think your policy is right, Scalzi, because the best thing to do when you’re expressing an unpopular opinion on a website that you participate in isn’t to say, “I expect abuse,” play the martyr, troll, etc., etc. The best thing you can do is come up with a well-thought, cohesive argument as to why your unpopular opinion is worth considering.

    And a good moderator (like I’ve noted Scalzi to be) will be able to tell the difference.

  27. Laurie Mann writes, “If I expect to have my comment to lead to my being abused or it being deleted, I’d have to be posting in a Fox News forum…”

    Liberals are just as likely to behave emotionally and resort to ad hominem arguments as conservatives. Those expressing a conservative viewpoint on HuffPost would get abuse as well.

  28. This comment policy is one thing that keeps me coming here. I get so sick of comments I see in some other places, like “Obviously all the republicans are trying to destroy the country” or “Obviously all the democrats are trying to destroy the country” or “As Glenn Beck (or your favorite radio person) conclusively proved..” or “You aren’t disagreeing with me, you are disagreeing with the Bible, which means you are disagreeing with God!”

  29. I don’t understand why you’d post something controversial in a forum “where only groupthink is allowed”. Sometimes people don’t want their viewpoints challenged; they want a space where they are only going to see things that conform to their perspective. I don’t think that’s healthy, and I try to avoid forums like that, but if such an atmosphere is what the owners of a forum and the community there want, then I think that ought to be respected.

  30. As I was reading the “Now, there is an alternate version of events…” paragraph, I was thinking to myself, “He should also Mallet any comment containing the phrase ‘I expect this will get deleted’, just so that such people won’t be disappointed”.*

    AND LO! You had already had the same thought! Praise be to the internet gods!

    Now, were I to wield the Mallet, I’d delete everything but the deletion request, and leave behind a note to the author, something like:

    TrollCommenter: [deleted text] I full expect this to get deleted [more deleted text]

    [Wish granted - DRS]

    But I’m a smartass like that.

  31. Elspeth’s post, above, makes me wonder whether it might not be a good idea to have a Canonical Harassment Policy post linked in the sidebar, where John can have links to his various excellent discussions of what conventions he will/won’t attend and what he considers to be an acceptable policy for those conventions to adopt. That sort of thing.

    If this is too much of a derail, John, I apologize.

  32. Laurie Mann, gls:

    My experience with both foxnewsdotcom and HuffPo is that every viewpoint gets abused at both sites. It’s not like conservative flamers are shy about ripping into HuffPo articles, nor liberal flamers about Fox stories. Again in my experience, the more controversial the subject, the further down the comment thread you have to go to find the first supportive commenter. Both sites’ comment sections are flaming cesspits of abuse.

  33. I fully expect that this comment will lead to love and appreciation showering down upon me. Even sparkling unicorns will be charmed by this comment.

    Thanks for the post.

  34. CLP wrote; Sometimes people don’t want their viewpoints challenged; they want a space where they are only going to see things that conform to their perspective. I don’t think that’s healthy

    Just a thought: what you think is not healthy may be cause you’re looking at too small a picture. If I write a blog, and don’t want rude or disagreeing/disagreeable comments, your thinking is that this makes my life an echo chamber. But you don’t know whether, for instance, every time I express my opinion “IRL”, I get swamped with opposition. Or maybe my Twitter feed is full of abuse because I’m a woman having an opinion on the internet.

    So if my blog is kept quiet and peaceful, even though i write about the same things I’m expressing IRL and even if they’re potentially controversial issues, where do you see the assumption fitting that it’s “not healthy”? For me, having that one place where I don’t have to constantly defend myself is central to making online life bearable. It’s a fairly narrow point-of-view to suggest that just because one venue of a person’s life – the only one you know of, generally – is kept peaceful, that this means the person only wants an echo chamber.

    In short, don’t generalize about other people’s motives when you don’t know them. There’s a whole big Internet out there. If you don’t like the way it’s done at a given blog, maybe try a different blog?

  35. Is there a counter-statement to this to compel people to write rational and thoughtful remarks? “I fully expect this to be debated in a polite manner with cited sources” or something? That would be nice if things worked that way.

    [Is it just me, or is there a terrifying Scalzi watermark in the right hand side of his comments? I only just noticed it on a longer reply. I scrolled down and this looming figure appeared in my vision, and I was smote with its vison of terrible beauty.

    (But seriously, I can see a hairline and and ear in Scalzi's comment. Can someone please confirm this?)]

  36. @fullmetalfeminist: Fair enough. I didn’t really have a personal blog in mind when I made that comment, but say a community about politics where only one political perspective is allowed to be expressed. That said, you’re right, my comment (which was a response to Reziac’s comment) definitely overgeneralized, for which I apologize.

    If you don’t like the way it’s done at a given blog, maybe try a different blog?

    That’s exactly what I was trying to say.

  37. Thanks for understanding, CLP; I do see your point, it’s a bit of a hot button for me, apologies if I overreacted. I just recently started up a new feminist/atheist blog, and had forgotten how annoying it is to hear that “echo chamber” crap, as though my blog is the only place I exist in the universe. :)

  38. Yes, there is a Scalzi watermark. I was wondering why I had several smudges on my screen, then I looked closer. It only shows up in Scalzi’s comments, which seems kinda cool, graphic-user-interface-wise.

  39. Well, I fully expect that my comments are greeted with joy, delight, and gratitude for the insight and unique perspective they bring to the conversation. I’m quite certain that they will be engraved in some long lived tome somewhere for future generations to consume.

  40. @Reziac – so by that reasoning, you should be able to troll to your heart’s content on a liberal blog…and I should be able to troll the Right Wing LIARS on Fox News’ and Rush Limbaugh’s blogs with impunity? All because I should be able to piss on anybody else’s online rug and nobody can say “Boo” to me because of “Free Speech Rights”?

    Wow! I never KNEW I could get away with kicking Right Wingtards in the balls that way before!

    ::rushes off to punch Glenn Beck in the nuts – assuming I can find them on the revolting little Two-Faced Faux “Libertarian” Mormon Eunuch….::

  41. @timeliebe

    Sincere appreciation to you for putting Libertarian in scare quotes since Glenn Beck is nothing of the sort. On a separate note, I had no idea Beck was a harem-guard :)

  42. This comment is totally off topic, but I really want to say how much my husband and I love The Sagan Diary. We are on vacation and are doing a marathon listening to the Audible versions of the Old Man’s War series. It’s the first time through for my husband. I’ve told him he would love the series and he does.

    I have to say that of all of them, I still love The Sagan Diary best. It was my first introduction to the series. I picked it up when it was offered in some deal through Audible. I enjoyed it then, even without having heard any of the other books in the series. In fact, it led me to the rest of the books. After having heard it for a third time last night, it is still my favorite. The intimate and sensitive tone touches me deeply each time I hear it. Many thanks! Muchas gracias! Merci! etc.

  43. I find that the “I expect this to be abused/deleted” gambit is right up there with prefacing or ending a statement with “no offence.” It’s basically a sign that the person is an offensive ass but doesn’t want to deal with the consequences of being an offensive ass.

  44. @Kay

    I find that the “I expect this to be abused/deleted” gambit is right up there with prefacing or ending a statement with “no offence.” It’s basically a sign that the person is an offensive ass but doesn’t want to deal with the consequences of being an offensive ass.

    Meh, I sometimes preface statements with no offense, or something to that general effect, if it’s pretty clear to me that there’s a small chance it could be construed as an insult and I don’t want to telegraph the wrong signal. Which is not to say doesn’t also get used as you say, but I think that one’s a lot more murky than the obvious I expect abuse ploy. YMMV.

  45. What if one holds a view that, from past experience, people do not agree with? And what if, over the course of many years, one has learned that instead of a reasoned discussion, the typical response is abuse (and name calling, and censoring)?

    Wouldn’t then that particular line be justified in view of past experiences?

    Or is the thinking here all rational people will arrive at the same conclusion? That there is no room for disagreement, there is no chance for rational people to get offended and slip into abuse?

    One can think of many examples, with religion and politics being two prominent ones, and the topic of guns in America being especially good for bringing out the rabid in most people.

    However, at the risk of being abused and deleted, I do agree the odds are the use of such phrase has a manipulative intent at best, and is likely disingenuous. I mean, if one expects such things, why post at all? . . . perhaps just stabbing at windmills is sufficient justification.

    Still, I would like to point out there are no absolutes, and that not all your commentors (me being an example) are kind souls, no matter how rational they are.

    . . . by the way, the other phrase I like “you are not likely to read this, let alone respond” . . . it has near magical properties; it’s either an accurate prediction, thus claiming the status of semi-victimhood, or it gets a response, in which case it’s wildly successful. A win-win, I would call it.

  46. @disperser

    Wouldn’t then that particular line be justified in view of past experiences?

    John evidently doesn’t want someone to comment here if their default assumption is that the other commenters are abusive assholes, and I happen to appreciate that deterrent. It has nothing to do with justice; it’s just housekeeping. This isn’t a public forum, it’s a private blog.

    Or is the thinking here all rational people will arrive at the same conclusion?

    That is not the alternative to abuse. Disagreement does not imply or require abuse.

    That there is no room for disagreement, there is no chance for rational people to get offended and slip into abuse?

    The question is what good reason is there for simply assuming that’s what someone will do. If someone can’t debate in good faith, they’re failing out of the gate.

    I mean, if one expects such things, why post at all?

    Bingo.

    . . . by the way, the other phrase I like “you are not likely to read this, let alone respond” . . . it has near magical properties; it’s either an accurate prediction, thus claiming the status of semi-victimhood, or it gets a response, in which case it’s wildly successful. A win-win, I would call it.

    That incorrectly assumes the phrase has any bearing on the outcome. Resorting to the rhetorical tactics of a small child is not magic, it’s pathetic.

  47. @dispenser – So you’re always the victim – and always right? Because that’s what it sounds like you’re saying.

    The Point Is Simple – His Online Treehouse, His Rules. They may be arbitrary, you may disagree with them, they may even be completely unfair – but if you don’t like it, you can build your own treehouse (as easily as Scalzi built his) and offer your own opinions to your heart’s content. Whether your voice will have as broad a reach? That’s another story….

    As somebody who’s both run discussion boards and participated in them, I find Scalzi’s Rules both reasonable and fair. If you don’t – stop trolling, and go start your own WordPress blog.

  48. @Gulliver – well, as somebody who actually read Ayn Rand in college? I find a lot of people who claim to be “Libertarians” and “Objectivists” to be exactly the kind of “looters and moochers” that Rand herself railed against in her work….

  49. @timeliebe

    Hmm…I’m not sure Rand really fits any of the categories of libertarian, even ones defined after her death. But yeah, a lot of soi-dissant Libertarians miss the whole liberty part.

    This is off-topic, but I love your gravatar pic.

    This is really off topic, but we had a misunderstanding a few threads ago and I may have inadvertently helped contribute to it by not making it clear that I wasn’t trying to insult you in the course of my criticism of one of your comments. I’m sorry if I gave that impression.

  50. @Gulliver @ Timeliebe

    Hmmm . . . is being called a troll a form of abuse?

    To my mind I was offering a viable response, infused with, perhaps, a small measure of humor.

    Come to find out, I am a troll. Go figure!

    Tell me, if I say I like guns, own guns, and carry a gun, is your opinion of me not swayed by whatever opinions you hold regarding guns, be they positive or negative? Would that have no influence on the way you respond to me?

    Mind you, I’m not looking for a discussion on guns here. I could have just as easily used religion or politics.

    The point is that certain topics may elicit comments which some might find abusive, and which the writer may not even realize they are so. Your response, by the way, comes close.

    I did, by the way, say that I agree with Mr. Scalzi’s statement, and only added there are no absolutes. Someone using that line may in fact do so not out of ulterior motives, but rather based on how they were treated in the past.

    Oh, and Gulliver, thanks for calling me “pathetic”. Know I did not find it abusive in the least.

  51. A related opening comment that sets me off is, “Now I know a lot of people are going to think that this is politically incorrect, but…” Invariably, what follows makes me think no such thing; as a rule, I instead think “Wow, this guy is an a**hole.” I also resent the implication that I’d agree with the writer if only I had the cojones to stand up to prevailing political thought.

    I don’t know if such comments are worthy of deletion, but I classify them as TD;DR (too disingenuous; didn’t read) and move on to the next comment.

  52. @disperser

    Oh, and Gulliver, thanks for calling me “pathetic”.

    I did nothing of the sort. I called a rhetorical tactic which you stated you liked to be pathetic. If your unwilling or incapable of not taking disagreement personally, I’m not surprised you have a persecution complex.

  53. Thank John. I really needed the laugh. No not laughing at the policy… just how it was worded. After more than 200++++ hours of work in the last three weeks, I need some humor to keep me sane. Seriously. Thanks. And the steak I’m grilling will be in your honor.

  54. Well… yes, I actually do expect abuse when I comment to open/un-monitored blogs. But not when posting to sensible ones like this, Making Light, Charles Stoss’, &cet. In places like these, the most I can expect (& hope for) is Vigorous Disagreement, presented in a civil manner, with possibly enough factual backing that I’ll have to change my opinion. The InterNet isn’t _entirely_ bad — sometimes it results in Growth. In point of fact, at leastt 90% of the time everyone ignores what I post, and I’m used to this.

  55. Ahhh, sacre bleu, the fun, she is spoiled.

    John, mucho gracias for thwacking those self-righteous twits.

  56. You’re just being polite, John. I understand. Polite is good. I like to be polite, from time to time. Like, for example, when the return envelope that I am using has a square in the upper right-hand corner containing the words “PLACE STAMP HERE”: I put my stamp just to the left of the box so that the words “PLACE STAMP HERE” remain visible. I do that to be, you know, polite. It turns out that, when I was seven or eight years old, I learned that stamps are to be adhered to the upper right corner of the envelope for outgoing mail. Therefore, as an adult, I don’t need to be told where the stamp goes. Therefore, the message “PLACE STAMP HERE” is not meant for me. Therefore, the message “PLACE STAMP HERE” must be for someone else. If I cover up the message “PLACE STAMP HERE” with my stamp, then whoever the message is for would not be able to see their message. It would not be polite for me to cover up other people’s messages. I like to be polite, from time to time.

  57. @PNH, who knows from moderating, put his finger on it by calling it “Strenuous Self-Congratulation”. Indeed. It’s exactly “Hey look at me, aren’t I IMPORTANT and SPECIAL!”

    We all need oases of civility here in the wilds of the Internet, and I’m glad John has so clearly stated how thoughtful he is about his commenters. He really CARES, man.

    Also, I’m glad I wasn’t drinking anything while reading John’s post, as I would have inhaled liquid along with sarcasm.

  58. *sigh* . . . @Gulliver . . . read the last sentence of my original comment very carefully. Then read your reply.

    Not only did you miss the irony, but having taken it seriously, you did in fact call me pathetic.

    . . . and repeated it in the last reply. ” I called a rhetorical tactic which you stated you liked to be pathetic.” Or am I to infer that just because the tactic is pathetic, it does not follow you believe anyone using it is pathetic?

    But, I thank you for that exchange, as I learned a lot from it. I learned not to assume as much as I do when I post something.

    And Gulliver . . . I hope you read this quick, for while you may not recognize it, I’m pretty sure Mr. Scalzi will recognize the intent of my previous paragraph . . . if he read it, this may not last long up here.

    Ooops! I did it again! Called abuse, gave abuse, used the magic sentence, and implied I will be malletted. I can now move on with my life, having satisfied my new-found persecution complex.

  59. I never noticed the “watermark” in John’s comments before. It only shows up if I tilt my laptop screen way back. Now it’s giving me the willies, in an “I AM BEING WATCHED” sort of way……

  60. Serious question: is there a way to subscribe to the comments of individual posts?

    Not that this one was all that interesting, but many have worthwhile discussions, and it would be nice to follow such. I see the RSS for all comments, but that would just swamp my reader. I don’t see the option for individual posts.

    If I am missing something obvious, I would appreciate someone letting me know. Thanks.

  61. I know this comment will warrant praise and even a by-line in the next book but I must say that I wonder what caused all this drama

  62. John, you’re not going to ban the “You need to read my post more carefully because you didn’t get what I was trying to say” gambit, are you?

  63. I understand this will be the cue for many of you to write “I expect abuse!” and/or “I expect this comment to be deleted!” for arch, humorous effect here in the comment thread.

    We’re not going to get away with any self-referential shenanigans either, are we?

  64. @Scalzi . . . I believe the option to unsubscribe is at the user end (i.e. I manage my subscriptions to both comments and blogs). Of course, I could be wrong on that.

    No biggie; I catch what I can. Thanks.

  65. If people REALLY think their comment will be deleted, they’re just being rude to post it. Which makes them trolls.

    Matthew Hughes, then you post them in polite terms without crowing about how brave you are to do so. I don’t understand why that seems hard.

    David:

    I’m not making any precise parallels here, but professional dominatrixes

    I thought that was “dominatrices.” :-)

    K. Howard: Read the link John gave you. It’s common sense and basic courtesy, really. It’s just that some people weren’t raised right and need the details spelled out for them.

    Floored: I’m starting to really like you. A sincere apology with a promise for remediation shows character. Not that I didn’t like you already.

    Reziac: You know that whole comment is full of right-wing troll keywords, right? And kind of insulting, since this is manifestly not a forum where only groupthink is allowed.

    In fact, any virtual domain where only groupthink is allowed fails the very definition of ‘forum’, in my opinion.

    gls:

    Liberals are just as likely to behave emotionally and resort to ad hominem arguments as conservatives.

    Wow, do you have stats on that? Because it sure goes directly against my experience. We may have different definitions of ‘conservative’, though; these days it seems to mean “right-wing homophobic misogynist radical Dominionist lunatic.” Those folks are irrational full time (and full stop).

    If you mean real conservative conservatives like, say, Obama, then yeah. (OK, there are people well to the right of Obama who aren’t radical-right lunatics. But IME lefties don’t go as nuts as the usual brand of teapublican loonies that now call themselves “conservative.”)

    Gulliver, the phrase “no offense” (and its kin starting with “I’m not Xing, but”) have been misused so much that they have become keywords that mean “I’m going to be offensive (or X), but I claim the right not to be called on it.” I’d recommend not using them in your more literal sense, because they’re virtually guaranteed to be misconstrued.

    Also, nice exegesis contra disperser.

    disperser, [comment omitted in view of Scalzi's request to wrap it up]

    Bob:

    A related opening comment that sets me off is, “Now I know a lot of people are going to think that this is politically incorrect, but…” Invariably, what follows makes me think no such thing; as a rule, I instead think “Wow, this guy is an a**hole.”

    DING! DING! DING!

    Indeed. When people say they’re going to be “politically incorrect,” they almost always mean they’re going to be racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise dipshitty. As with “I’m not Xing, but…” they are claiming an imagined right not to be called on their shit.

    Lurkertype, actually I think that was TNH.

    Phoenician: This comment is self-referential. See?

  66. There’s a good way to deal with anticipated objections without sounding like you’re strenuously self-congratulating: be more specific, and be personal. It’s not uncommon for me to write something like “I realize that statements like this are usually meant sarcastically. I’m serious about it, and wish I had more distinctive words for it. If I end up giving offense anyway, please let me know so I can make amends and adjustments.”

    Doing it that way makes it clear that I regard hostility as a failure, that I will want to fix if I can. A bit of establishing good will rather than superiority goes a long way, in my experience.

  67. I’m so happy to hear that you are looking out for our best interests. I know all of us would be honored to be Malleted for our misuse of the comment section.

  68. Phoenician: This comment is self-referential. See?

    I’m glad neither of mine are.

  69. This comment is both self-referential and non-self-referential. And neither of those. Gate gate paragate parasamgate. Bodhi! Svaha!

  70. In my experience, the people who use these tactics are spoiled brats who like to fancy themselves as oppressed, and troll thus because it feeds into their fantasy that they are Joan of Pixellated Arc.

    They also tend to really dislike people who actually are oppressed, because it steals their spotlight. Preventing little Joffrey from doing/saying exactly as he wants to no matter who else gets hurt is abusive, doncha know.

  71. Mr. Scalzi, can you please Mallet and/or Kitten this comment, just so I can say that I have been Malleted and/or Kittened?

    (I post this actively hoping that Mr. Scalzi will Mallet or Kitten it. I will wear this badge of honor, proving that I am a true servant of the mighty Scalzi)

  72. AML: Hear, hear, and Brava. Especially the reference to “little Joffrey.” May I quote you?

    Floored, don’t. It isn’t a badge of honor. It’s a badge of Having Been A Dick. Which you aren’t and haven’t.

  73. @ Xopher: I’ll still happliy take anything from Mr. Scalzi, even if it’s a dishonor that I didn’t earn. COming from him, it’s an honor.

    Plus, Mr. Scalzi’s Kittenings are hilariously creative.

    @ anyone who cares: The cover for Brandon Sanderson’s next book has been revealed, and it is awesome. Mr. Scalzi, you HAVE to get Michael Whelan to d the cover art for your next book.

    http://www.tor.com/blogs/2013/07/brandon-sanderson-words-of-radiance-cover-reveal-michael-whelan?utm_source=newsletter-

    That is FUCKING BEAUTIFUL.

  74. Xopher Halftongue, thanks for proving my point so succinctly. I couldn’t have put more ad hominem arguments in a comment if I tried.

  75. You need to study your logical fallacies, gls. There were no ad hominems in my comment at all.

  76. I kind of want to reply to all “I know this is going to get me nothing but abuse, but…” posts with a flame that starts either “No offense, but…” or “Aw, bless your heart.”

    I figure I can create a runaway passive-aggression chain reaction and either a) power a city block for a week, patent the method, and make a jillion dollars, or b) accidentally blow up a mountain range somewhere.

  77. @Mr. Scalzi vis diagnosing someone.
    I admire your uh niceness. I would have been mean and said that doing such is what I’d expect from someone who has been taking psych 101 for a few weeks. And woulda felt guilty in a bit.
    As I understand it, it is possible to look at what someone has written when they are writing as themselves and get the legitimate q. of whether that person needs a psych eval for that condition iff (not a tlypo) that person seems a threat. Are legal channels to follow if one has lots of patience and free time.
    -
    -
    disperser 5:31 pm “Serious question: is there a way to subscribe to the comments of individual posts?”
    If by “posts” you mean such as http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/08/04/the-i-fully-expect-abuse-gambit/ than subscribe, no. But I pay attention to things in my own way and will bookmark, after I post this, this article under “daily1″ and in a few days del it from that bookmarks folder.
    Here, this bookmarked after I post thinglet will open the tab to my comment.
    Here in FF that I’ve been messing with for a few years a middle click opens all urls in a middle clicked folder in new tabs.
    I look at “daily” every day, and almost always get to “daily0″* and “daily1.”**
    -
    -
    * Heavenly Nostrils.
    ** I wonder if I should give a crap. I’ll check when I get bored enough.

  78. I occasionally make posts on fora where I expect abuse for my opinion. However, I don’t invite this reaction as part of my post! I far prefer doing my best to see if I can get some people to agree with me before the rest realize that they don’t like what I wrote. And who knows, by presenting my differing opinion in a reasonable (or at least reasonable-sounding) way I may make some headway, especially among those who post less. I try to act as though they are, in the words of our gracious host, “capable of rational discourse” even when I think they’re not, and sometimes I am pleasantly suprised.

  79. Guys.

    So has that officially become a non-gendered collective salutation now, because I’ve seen mixed messages on it?

  80. I was under the opinion that “guys” was non-gendered as early as the 1970′s (cf. “Electric Company”). If you mean it genderally, then it’s further qualified with masculinity or contrasted with “guys vs. gals”.

    While “dudes” as a collective noun is more strongly gendered, “dude” as a term of address is not. “Duuuude” pretty much has no gender at all by now.

  81. I kind of look at it three different ways, I guess.

    The first one is that using the word “abuse” to mean “people arguing with me on the Internet” is ridiculously melodramatic. There are people in this forum who have been actually abused in life, who very bravely talk about very hard subjects and personal experiences of that real abuse, who can take that mis-use of the word personally. And there are participants in discussions, such as women who are threatened with rape and murder for posting an opinion on knitting or daring to play an online game, who do actually come under real verbal abuse on the Internet. So if you’re using the word abuse to refer to simple dissenting opinions in a forum, then you are signalling that you have a tendency to hyperbole and that you aren’t really prepared to have an actual argument on the Internet.

    However, in opposition to that, if you are announcing that you expect controversy to your expressed opinion, you are inviting me to argue with you. You are giving me free license to engage you and express why I think your opinion is beef jerky if I so choose. You can’t then turn around and say you’re shocked that I argued with you passionately about the thing that you were sure I was going to argue with you passionately about, that I am horribly misinterpreting what you said and putting words in your mouth, and that you will not be disrespected and take personal offense at my tone. Because you invited me to vigorously argue with you. It was so important to you that I do this that you made sure I knew exactly how far you were prepared to go. If you were not actually prepared to have an actual argument on the Internet and yet announced that this is exactly what you wanted to have, well then that’s your problem handling the results. Don’t lay down the red carpet for me if you don’t want me to walk all over it. And don’t come out swinging, so to speak, if you don’t really have any substance behind it to defend your points. The argument that I am hysterical, overly sensitive, etc. because I took you up on your invitation to argue is weak sauce.

    The third level to it is that it signals that the person is about to say something that someone with similar leanings already said earlier without the melodramatic announcement to it, and that the person expecting controversy hasn’t bothered to read the controversy already going or what anyone else has said. (And also seems to believe that people on the Internet never encounter counter opinions, which is a strange idea.) This is a person who will not really be an interesting arguing partner and probably slink off because they don’t really have anything to say. So it’s a red carpet that I might not actually walk on because it’s boring and old hat.

    Basically, it’s not putting your best foot forward, and in Scalzi’s pit arena, it’s rather unsuccessful, whatever your positions. So if he wants to clear that tactic off, I suppose it’s not a surprise. We’ll just all have to be more rhetorically clever.

  82. Whenever someone starts making a comment with the phrase “With all due respect”, I know the person is lacking any.

  83. John, can you also throw in the ones that start with “I wasn’t going to say anything, but…”? Whenever I read a comment anywhere beginning with that, I find myself wishing that, in the future, they’d go with that first instinct and *run* all the way to Burkina Faso with it. It falls under that “strenuous self-congratulation” category, I think.

  84. Whenever someone starts making a comment with the phrase “With all due respect”, I know the person is lacking any.

    Technically, “none at all” might well be the answer to the question “how much respect is your opinion due”?

  85. I don’t think it would be possible to run to Burkina Faso from Scalzi’s house. At least, not unless you wait a few months for the Arctic to re-freeze, and even then it’ll be really chancy these days.

  86. @ Bruce: True, except of course for Gulliver, who always means what he says.

  87. @Xopher

    Also, nice exegesis contra disperser.

    Thanks, but I fear I have fed a troll. Oh, well, disperser is now on my ignore list.

    @Floored

    Mr. Scalzi, can you please Mallet and/or Kitten this comment, just so I can say that I have been Malleted and/or Kittened?

    If he kittened you, there’s a good chance John would have to deal with a flood of trolls that would follow asking to be kittened simply to get a reaction out of him. I suggest not taking the rejection personally :)

    True, except of course for Gulliver, who always means what he says.

    Thanks. I don’t know that I’ve never been disingenuous, but I strive not to (not counting deliberate sarcasm, of course, which I try, but also sometimes fail, to make obvious). Even so, I’m starting to realize that some commonly used phrases may sound disingenuous to people who don’t know me, such as casual non-posting readers, and I can hardly blame them for that if it’s their near universal experience. While I would hope the context in which I use certain oft-misused phrases would signal my earnestness, there’s no way to really be sure. I shall heed Xopher’s advice at least insofar as I’ll try to seriously think twice before using some of these phrases in the future, most especially if there’s another way to get the message across.

  88. I am once again overwhelmed by your thoughtfulness and generosity as a moderator, Mr. Scalzi.

  89. I KNOW THIS AD HOMINEM ATTACK BE OFF TOPIC AND EXPECT TO GET DELETED, BUT WANTED TO COUNT HOW MUCH COMMENTS BAD COULD PUT IN ONE COMMENT, AND YOUR MOTHER SMELLS OF ELDERBERRIES. Five!

  90. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with typing out the words “I know I’m probably going to get flamed for this, but” if you know that what you’re about to say goes against the prevailing opinion of the forum and you’re writing your thoughts as they come to you. Writing those words might help you fortify yourself to write the thing want to say, which may very well be worth contributing to the conversation. But in blog comments, as in most writing, editing is your friend. Go ahead and write what you feel, but then *take that phrase out” before you post. Your argument will be the stronger for it. Really it will.

    As for “I know this is going to get deleted,” once you’ve framed that thought, don’t bother to finish the post–unless you’ll feel better for writing it out and deleting it yourself instead of posting it. If you know it’s going to get deleted, you know it’s not in keeping with the house rules, and thumbing your nose at the host is rude and arrogant at best. If you think it’s clever to include this kind of “I’m so naughty” disclaimer, remember what the failure mode of clever is and remember Wheaton’s Law.

  91. My take on all this is simple, own what you say and don’t try to head it off, or manipulate others by prefacing with various passive/aggressive statements meant to draw attention, “shame” the OP into accepting them or somehow mitigate your words.

    If you think what you are about to post is going to be received poorly then accept that if you are truly compelled to post and accet that if it violates the guidelines of the site where you post you will likely face consequences.

    If only online newspaper articles could manage their comments so well.

  92. if you choose to write some version of “I expect this comment to be deleted” in your comment, I’ll take that as a sign that you would be in some manner disappointed if I did not delete your comment, as opposed to, say, merely employing the phrase as a magical talisman against the comment being deleted. And I, as a gracious host, would hate to disappoint you.

    Hmm …

    I expect that this comment will result in John sending me a check for thousands of dollars (or at least an autographed color glossy photo of Ghlaghghee).

    Hey, it’s worth a shot. :)

  93. People who troll for “abuse” should be directed to the nearest Dom/me, whom they may pay for the privilege. It’s exploitative to expect comments to dish it out for free. Such entitlement, sheesh!

  94. @Phoenician -

    Guys.

    So has that officially become a non-gendered collective salutation now, because I’ve seen mixed messages on it?

    Apart from what Lurkertype said right below you there, well, I don’t know where you post from, but it is certainly more culturally prevalent in some places than others. I recall working with a few people from Ireland (back when I lived in California) who were infinitely amused by the use of “guys” as a collective noun, similar to how “y’all” is used in the American South.

  95. To be fair to John, there were two guys* (in the have-a-dick sense) engaging in a typically-male (immature variety) pissing contest. Which was pretty stupid for both of them to be doing, but stupider for the one who’s been commenting here for a much longer time and really ought to have bloody well known better.

    *Pretty sure. Anyone think otherwise?

  96. Hamburger Halpin trolls for fun. He likes to [use buzz words that will drive his targets into the same paroxysms of rage that they suffer every time they encounter that word/phrase/meme.]
    -
    At Gulliver IIRC, who IIRC has me kill filtered.
    “Thanks, but I fear I have fed a troll. Oh, well, disperser is now on my ignore list.”
    There exist many places where an ignore list is very useful. My land line is the only one I’ve been to for a long time.
    This blog is not a place where I would find kill filing anyone worth the effort.
    But hey, that’s an opinion thing, and your stupid ;p one is correct for you just as you perhaps think that my stupid opinions are okay enough for someone like me. ;p
    -
    Hmm, from a look at the page source, it appears that I _could_ remove divs with certain keywords. This would prevent my seeing content from certain posters.

  97. @Xopher: It’s true, in that situation, John was addressing males, and likely even cis-men.

    “Y’all” needs wider usage. Since we dropped the second person singular/familiar (thou) and shoved the plural/polite you into both slots, “you” seems to have become mostly singular. It’s much more precise and quicker to say “Y’all” than “you… no not, you personally, you plural.”

    @Amysue, exactly. Just say what you want to say and don’t try to set up some pre-conditions in the reader/listeners.

  98. Oh, Goddess.
    -
    Something I read on the internet at a place I remember by a lady who has a nym that I could find.
    About pissing contests. I remember this poorly. She said-ish
    Males with good hands can aim better and write the first few letters of their name in the snow, but a female who really needs to pee can pull down her pants, get on her elbows and knees and win the ‘for distance’ contest.

  99. I think some (not all by any stretch) of this stuff comes from the roots of nerd/geek culture. Mostly socially awkward young guys. Most of them learned that their one ‘power’ was that they were smart and could digest and cough up reams of facts better than most. I remember the ritual back when I was in college where two of these critters would meet (and at time I was one of them) and the trivia/facts/analysis smack-down would ensue. Sometimes they’d finish up as friends, sometimes they’d wind up walking away angry and upset. Generally back then it was relatively symmetrical. I think with the base of things nerdy broadening this has become a much more problematic interaction. Instead of a hard-core SF reader going toe to toe with a hard core fantasy reader about whose favorite character is best/more powerful/shiniest you get a twenty year deep immersion nerd who still hasn’t found the social graces starting in on someone who just went to their first con out of curiosity and neither wants to engage in that sort of contest nor understands the roots of the interaction. I think many of us have grow older and grown up/mellowed and help to dilute this a bit, but I would expect that there are still plenty of thirty somethings who haven’t gotten there yet and whether they’re really trying to play gatekeeper wind up coming across as combative and scary…

  100. I maintain a growing list of opening sentences that signal I can confidently skip the rest of the post. Among them are all the variations on “I know this won’t go over well with the hivemind/doesn’t conform to your groupthink/isn’t politically correct/will get me flamed/well get deleted,” as well as the smarmy permutations of “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again/How many times do I have to tell you all that/The blogger clearly doesn’t get it and I do.” I also reflexively skip the rest of a post once I hit playground-level name-calling and insult-substitutions for group descriptors, all the more so if the insults are ablist or racist or sexist or gay-bashing or trans-bashing or etc.

    I’m really grateful for people who front-load their posts with these sentences. It helps me better prioritize my precious free time. There’s only so many hours I can get away with reading blogs before I run out of working hours in my day, after all.

    So I hold a special ire for people who end their posts with clear indicators that I shouldn’t have wasted time on them in the first place, like “Ok, I’m done–flame away! Unless you don’t see this because the moderator deleted it, of course,” and “Sorry I hurt your libtard sensibilities by not being PC enough,” and “But really, what do you expect from insane rethuglicans?”

    It’s like being Rickrolled, only not nearly as fun. AND I CAN NEVER GET THOSE MINUTES BACK.

  101. Kyle: The roots of geek culture really are not from socially awkward young males. Honest and truly. You need to give up the stereotype. The “I know this will get me abuse” types are not socially awkward. Socially awkward people don’t troll. And a fair number of folks who do it are not male, though it leans that way. The people who do it are using a diversion strategy trying to force others to defend themselves as not zealots who are not willing to hear uncomfortable (and terribly noble,) divergent opinions. It is not socially awkward. It is socially adept. (Though rhetorically lazy.)

    Socially awkward young males do not automatically hate me or look down on me as lower caste or more distasteful because I am (cis) female. They do not try to piss me off. They do not make comments about my tone. They don’t want confrontation. Because they are socially awkward. Talking to me, being in crowds, etc. are hard for them, and while they may sometimes seem rude, they aren’t deliberately trying to create a flame war. The people who actually do it tend to be in their thirties and forties, married, often with kids, are not math geniuses and not necessarily involved with technology and frequently athletic. They see themselves as smart gadflies. They are not people having problems communicating nor are they unaware of the rules of social engagement. That’s why they are being oh so polite about announcing their intentions to get up in other people’s faces. That is not a socially awkward trait; it’s not even entirely a young male trait. It’s actually kind of bureaucratic.

  102. Now, I know what I am saying is going to get me abused, but I fully agree with you. If you listen carefully to people, they will tell you who they are. That includes creeps.

    I fully expect this comment to be deleted.

  103. @Bruce: Not quite, although the long form I recall from the service (“With all due respect to your rank and position…”) was a HUGE indicator that what one was about to pop off with was going to skirt the limits of military discipline and protocol. (But it was not an anodyne for things like “where did you get those bars, a Cracker Jack box?!”) Military or civilian, when properly used, it’s shorthand for “I am attacking your ideas, not you.” Which is the way things should mostly go anyway.

    Otherwise: the only marginally acceptable phrase I can think of is “I may be in the minority here, but…” Doesn’t invite attacks, doesn’t cast oneself too much in a ‘victim’ role, but still gets the point across reasonably.

  104. @Don, even that smacks of “you shouldn’t hurt me because I am special”. Just say what you want to say and don’t preface it. Either you ARE in the minority opinion and everyone knows it (or will tell you in no uncertain terms), or you’re fake-humble because you’re actually not and it looks like you’re trawling for praise. Whether that’s your intention or not.

    Just come right out and say “I think blah blah blah.”

    Also, on gendered usage: “Dudebro” is as male as it gets. 99.9% cis-male AFAIK.

  105. @Lurkertype: Hence the term “marginally acceptable”. As in, said opinion had better be well thought out…and you’re still not getting sympathy points for a self-described “minority” opinion, I’m just not going to automatically blank you for the “I Fully Expect Abuse Gambit” as described above.

    (The “you” is general as opposed to directional.)

  106. And a belated followup for clarification: One of the most scathingly accurate analyses of modern media, Edward R. Murrow’s speech to the Radio and TV National Directors’ Association (use Google for the full piece, or see the excellent film Good Night, And Good Luck for a truncated but still effective version) began with the immortal words, “This might just do nobody any good…”

    Mildly apologetic, but did little to blunt the truths that followed…which is why I’ll give that approach some benefit of doubt. (As opposed to “You May All Now Scream”, which I’ve seen as an actual tagline.)

  107. Well, Murrow was Murrow, and that’s not apologetic but confrontational. More second person oriented than first person.

    In similar matters, we would all do well to heed the wise words of the great American Craig Ferguson and before we speak, ask:

    “Does it need to be said?
    Does it need to be said by me?
    Does it need to be said by me now?”

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