The point; ….is there one… and does it really matter to anyone but you?
Wiser people than we have spent much of their lives pondering such a question. Yet often, despite what would seem sterling logic and well-spoken
dialogue; the point remains as quick to become obfuscated as it was difficult to determine in the first place. It is no different in the real world,
including our own ATS.
It seems when member of ATS attempt to put forth a concept or even a neutral inquiry, the rush becomes for the point to be redefined by responders,
diminished by detractors, or overtly usurped by some over-zealous enthusiasts with an agenda peculiar to their perspective.
Such is the nature of an open discourse.
There is a lot to be said about the framework and nature of the community we call ATS.
First and foremost, ATS is something which is self-evident. In the simplest perspective it is a web site. A virtual meeting ground of minds, with
relatively unfettered freedom to exchange both fact and opinion.
Those who actually expend the resources to keep ATS alive and functional have proposed to foster, promote, engender, and nurture, open dialogue
generally geared towards discussions that are shunned by the mainstream ‘vanilla’-flavored social networking sites.
As such, this site excels at self-preservation and stewardship, mainly because the culture of the organization behind it recognizes the viability of
the niche, and the ‘market-friendliness’ of the community. Some jaded and cynical purists are inclined to decry the realities of the market
constructs to which the organization must conform. Nevertheless, without precisely that kind of approach this community forum would be denied to us
The membership created the community, not the organization that made the medium available to us. Theirs was a simple set of guiding principles
that are central to the continued existence and growth of the medium. Some of those principles are in peril now, as corporate lobbyists pursue an
agenda to unlevel the playing field to rescue their big-media clients from institutional inertia and arrogance (keepourwebfree.org...
The principles are interpreted within the Terms and Conditions to which each member agrees when they sign up. But I like the way they have been
• We refuse to allow short "drive-by" posting that add nothing to the thread.
• We refuse to allow insults and mayhem that you'll see on many other boards.
• We refuse to allow spam and hate speech.
• We promote intelligent posting.
• We promote productive debate and collaborative discussion.
• We promote the examination of any topic as long as manners are maintained.
• We respect the content of other sites and encourage linking.
• We respect our members' content and defend its credibility and their rights.
To those who take the time to investigate, it becomes evident that the member-Moderator approach, when thoughtfully applied, clearly encourages
members to participate sincerely, and with a common foundation of respect. Few, if any, member-moderators can escape the critical review and
discourse to which inflammatory or punitive actions give rise.
There was a time, long ago, when people came together to listen to each other speak, to question, and learn from one another. Such gatherings were,
of course, limited to those who were driven by interest and enabled by circumstance. Those limitations have all but vanished in the community
spawned by the Internet.
And here we see, for those of us who have been here long enough, a cyclical influx of new members, asking and commenting on the same issues, because
the changing environment spurs us to fear that we are losing that which we thought we had found – a forum for open discussion, free from barren
suppression, free from overarching bias, and most importantly – simply ‘free.’
Most of us know that there is no such thing as ‘free’ in any non-metaphysical sense.
Believers offend non-believers. Debunkers offend anyone who thought they were immune from debunking. And debunkers are offended by the fact that
they are not considered ‘the last word’ on any given subject. Non-believers are offended that believers want
to believe and encourage
others to do so.
The level of angst and ire evokes questions about arrogance, maturity, an overinflated sense of self-importance, blind ‘sheeple-ism,’ or an
evident insincere agenda driven disinformation or propaganda.
This can be interpreted as one part, among many, of the ‘price’ we must pay for open discourse.
I offer this for your consideration, kind reader; that we in fact are the architects of this forum, this board, this community. That it is we who
will determine, by our behavior, what this community can become.
Those who declare that we should be sheltered from disagreement, dissent, or contradiction have misunderstood what part debate, argument, and dialogue
have in the consideration of the less clear-cut aspects of our world. Mostly, these things are as contentious and misunderstood as they are precisely
because people won’t
discuss them without the protection of harassment, ridicule, and denigration, on their side.
Those who maintain the practices of derision and cynicism, personal jabs, and rudeness are the very people for whom ignorance is both a weapon, and a
refuge. Their one fatal weakness is their inability to hide amongst our numbers. They stick out like sore thumbs, arrogantly lashing out a people,
instead of the topic, generalizing points into pointlessness.
You know who they are.
You have seen and starred their posts – when they agree with you. You have complained about them, when they don’t.
You have called upon them to ‘debunk’ whatever rubs you the wrong way, and you have rushed to support those you agree with, who were faced down
by them. You have made sideline snide remarks about them; you have wondered why they were even commenting, as if disagreeing removed their right to
give an opinion.
But in the end it seems that our own behavior towards the ignorance empowers
When I see a question – predicated or embedded within a snide or disrespectful comment – I resist responding. When I see a person being attacked,
I acknowledge that attack. When I see a post whose entire content is intended to diminish the personal qualities of another, I react based upon the
principles to which I adhere.
I don’t expect all to agree. I want to be educated when I am in ignorance. I want to know all the facts I can about all the things I am interested
in. But I don’t expect that I am owed such answers, nor that my opinion will be especially significant for anything beyond what it is.
Many are lamenting the presence of zealous debunkers, the excitable faithful, the entrenched political ideologues, and of course, the ever-present
presumptuous ‘know-it-alls’ who expect that once they have decreed their take, all should acquiesce to their ‘wisdom.’ I remind those aching
from dealing with these people that to many, or at least some, you are just like them.