What you CAN'T do is what you wouldn't do anyway
Rules (that are conditions of participation) are simple and short:
Nothing irrelevant allowed! Profanity, advertisements*, or other spam will get you instantly banned. Personal attacks (as opposed to relevant "criticism") will be deleted and you will receive a warning, or the attack portion may be greyed, if they seem marginally relevant to the discussion; if they seem mean or gratuitous, and are the whole substance of your content, you will be banned. Contributions only marginally on the subject of an article or a subheading will be deleted. Or perhaps moved if an editor finds a place where they are appropriate. The only time it is relevant to attack the character or qualifications of a person rather than the merits of an issue is when the person is the issue: for example he is a candidate for public office. But even then, unsupported criticism is a "personal attack".
That's about all that you can't do.
(*Actually we will allow a bit of advertising, in your personal page, limited to a 25 word description and a link, provided the link is to a legitimate product or service that you provide and not to subjects rife with fraud, lust, and spam.)
What you CAN do
You may freely submit any sincerely held, rationally presented political view, or politically relevant religious view. Our format allows you to disagree with anyone. This can stay fun to the extent disagreement remains respectful. Of course, others may likewise disagree with you, so you - your assumptions, patience, love, and emotional stability - may be challenged.
You don’t have to make sense. That is, you won’t be banned for not backing up anything, or for disagreeing with everybody. However, if you contribute something so counterintuitive and lacking in backing that the question arises how you could possibly believe it yourself, and you ignore subsequent requests to better explain your idea, your contribution may be moved to a “Hit and run” or “abandoned” category.
Our purpose is to persuade people who used to disagree. We trust it is also your purpose to persuade, or at least to seem reasonably intelligent. So we offer several Tips you might want to think about even though following them is not “required” for you to participate. The goal of these tips, which you are welcome to improve, is common sense relationship skills suggestions that will make you more persuasive in any situation. A related section discusses Scriptures that back up those suggestions.
Where you can contribute The Forum has a list of articles that have been started on this forum. Unlike newspaper and blog articles where you can add comments only beneath the articles, you can change these articles. You can correct mistakes, add information, and explain why you think an opinion is right or wrong. You can respond to a statement right by the statement, instead of at the end of the article.
Or, if your response is not to any particular part of an article, but is general, you can still comment like you can in other blogs, on the comment page (called a "Discussion" page on this website). If you want to talk about a different subject, you can start a separate article.
These rules were created especially for the kinds of issues that people care about so much that disagreement makes people emotional: especially political issues, and those issues where political positions are affected by religion, especially by the Bible. Other subjects are not welcome on this website at this time; this can change when at least one or two people with expertise in an area are willing to monitor contributions in that area to keep conversations honest and remove spam.
Sign your contributions! At the end of the section containing your contribution, enter four "tildes". A tilde is that little squiggle (~) in the upper left corner of your keyboard. That will automatically list your real name, state, and political party, and the date of your contribution. (You have to register with your real name before you can post. "FAQ's", above, explain why this is important.)
Can wisdom become, once again, as interesting as war?
How to Format your Contribution
Formatting rules are posted at Begin!
Personal Attacks vs. Criticism
Definition: "Personal Attacks" are any cluster of words which (1) add little or no understanding of the arguments or facts of the subject of a dispute, and (2) focus attention on alleged flaws of the person talking to you, and (3) insinuate that those flaws justify ignoring the evidence being presented to you because the person talking to you is unworthy of your attention or because his credibility is so low that nothing he says can be taken seriously.
"Personal attack" is a weapon against clear reasoning which has been described in many ways. It is very different than relevant, substantiated, respectful, evidence-based criticism. Personal attacks take attention away from any evidence. They redirect attention away from whether a position is correct, to whether the person who holds it is good. This wastes the time of readers interested in whether the position is correct.
The quintessential personal attack is an accusation of another's motives. How do you defend yourself when your accuser won't address your evidence or reasoning, but instead accounts for your conclusions by alleging sinister motives? You can back up reasoning and evidence. How do you prove the innocence of your motives? Paul, in Galatians 6:12, accused people responsible for much tyranny of being motivated by their own fear of persecution, but he did that after exhaustively addressing their scriptural and logical deficiency. But in general, he wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:5 that we need to hold off judging others' motives before God reveals what they are. And when He does He will reveal ours too.
Here is a classical definition of "personal attacks", describing the error we want to avoid:
- "A personal attack is committed when a person substitutes abusive remarks for evidence when attacking another person's claim or claims. This line of "reasoning" is fallacious because the attack is directed at the person making the claim and not the claim itself. The truth value of a claim is independent of the person making the claim. After all, no matter how repugnant an individual might be, he or she can still make true claims.
- "Not all ad Hominems are fallacious. In some cases, an individual's characteristics can have a bearing on the question of the veracity of her claims. For example, if someone is shown to be a pathological liar, then what he says can be considered to be unreliable. However, such attacks are weak, since even pathological liars might speak the truth on occasion.
- "In general, it is best to focus one's attention on the content of the claim and not on who made the claim. It is the content that determines the truth of the claim and not the characteristics of the person making the claim." Nizkor.org
Wikipedia has a long article about personal attacks which warns us not to be simplistic:
- "Note that it is not a personal attack to question an editor at their talk page about their possible conflict of interest on a specific article or topic....Accusations about personal behavior that lack evidence. Serious accusations require serious evidence....Insulting or disparaging an editor is a personal attack regardless of the manner in which it is done....Attacks that are particularly offensive or disruptive (such as physical threats, legal threats, or blatantly racist or sexist insults) should not be ignored."
Conclusions: Even when evaluating a person, there ought to be evidence; accusations ought never be brought without evidence. Therefore, if an argument is being made involving evidence against a person, any abandonment of that line of scrutiny to hit the person with some unsupported insult is the heart of what we mean by a "personal attack". Ironically it is not a "personal attack" to attack a person's credibility or character when that person's credibility or character is the subject, so long as the attack is based on carefully assembled evidence, even though an attack backed up by evidence is the most effective "attack" on the "person".
"Insult" captures the heart of the error we mean to avoid. A carefully reasoned, well supported, reasonably stated criticism is not an "insult". That is the kind of analysis loving parents make, and in fact that is made often in the Bible about Bible heroes. An "insult" is a criticism lacking support, or that exaggerates what support it has, so that it is stated unfairly, if not completely unrelated to any fact at issue or to any productive measure of persons.
The Bible offers thorough guidance on how to reason respectfully with someone who disagrees. Productive communication includes love, patience, honesty, frankness, forgiveness. "Bereans" were a people called "noble" by God because rather than dismiss ideas just because they were radically different - what we today would call "politically unrealistic", they were willing to take a lot of time to investigate the claims. Acts 17:10-11.
An insult to God. Personal attacks don't insult only their human target. Their logic is that the imperfection alleged in one's opponent leaves him too inferior to merit being listened to. The conceit that anyone is too inferior to merit being listened to is an insult to God. If there is a case where one is so far below another as to not merit being listened to by another, that is our case below God. To imagine that we are not far enough below God to lose our right to be heard by Him, but another human is far enough below us to lose his right to be heard by us, assumes that God is not as far above us as we are above another human. That is very insulting to God.
God listens to us. All of us. He even listens to Satan and answers some of his prayers (though with limits) according to Job 1! We ought to listen to each other.
Which doesn't mean that after we listen, we may never criticize what we hear!
When the person is the subject When the subject is the fitness of a political candidate, criticism of that person - backed up by evidence - is an appropriate part of evaluating him. However, criticism not backed up by evidence is slander - the enemy of a useful evaluation.
Credibility of a Witness When an argument turns on some fact witnessed by your opponent, his credibility as a witness becomes part of the argument. But if your opponent has documented the fact with evidence stronger than his own testimony, your scrutiny needs to be of that evidence; to draw attention away from that evidence to the credibility of your opponent is the kind of "personal attack" we need to stop.
If you are the subject of a personal attack (if you are debating someone who jumps from the issue to a list of your sins) you are authorized to grey out the offending personal attack and to post, near it, the following notice:
Alert: portions of this response have been greyed out because they are "personal attacks" which waste time for readers focused on facts and arguments. See Rules. For explanation, see Tips#No "personal attacks". For a Biblical perspective, see Scripture about "no personal attacks – attack nonsense"
<span style="color:#BFBFBF">This is the code to put in front of a personal attack. Text after it will turn grey. Where the text should return to black, insert </span> unless it is at a paragraph's end, which cancels the "grey" command already.
To copy the "Alert" from here to where there is a personal attack, click to "edit" this page and copy the paragraph that begins <blockquote><span style="color:#0000FF">and ends with </span></blockquote>
(Only do it if you are very sure the matter is a true "personal attack". False accusations create another obstacle to reasoning that must be dealt with.)
(For more babbling about Personal Attacks: see Tips#No_.22personal_attacks.22
Above was our most objective rule. The considerations that follow will not even be noticed unless they are unusually egregious, and even then will not be dealt with administratively without public discussion on the "talk" page paired with the article with the problem. These violations are usually unintentional, not being governed by clear, objective laws or court cases.
Plagiarism or copyrighted material - legally prohibited.. No plagiarism: if you quote somebody, use quote marks and say who you are quoting - don't take credit as if you were the first to think of it; and even if you give credit, don’t copy and past large portions of copyrighted material. (Using less than 5% of a copyrighted book or article should be safe; using more than 20% can get you in court, if you are not criticizing it. By this principle if you are criticizing every detail of it, you should be allowed to quote all that you criticize, although courts have not said so. Websites of candidates should be public domain. It should always be safe to summarize an article and give a link to it.)
No lying. No “Devil’s Advocates” without saying that is what you are doing. Don’t goad opponents in conversation by playing “Devil’s Advocate” by saying you believe what you don’t, making the errors in what you are saying a moving target for your opponents. A test of whether this is what you are doing is if you agree with a position at one point and dispute it in another, without clarifying the difference or admitting you have changed your mind.
You are allowed to be funny.
You are allowed to have fun. Humor used well can clarify an issue. Just keep it on the subject.
Promotion of illegal activity.
Many website managers assert their right to censor any promotion of anything illegal, even though our laws and courts don't criminalize "incitement to violence" unless violence is actually inspired by the speech within a very short time. Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969) It is possible that some post here might rise to a level of such gratuitous incitement that it should be banned here, subject to public discussion on the talk page, so that possibility is listed here.
But this wiki focuses on politically related issues. All political issues involve questions about what should be legal. Every position taken on what should be legal is literally a promotion of things that are not already legal. This makes a simplistic prohibition of "the promotion of illegal activity" technically meaningless if not ridiculous in any political forum.
This is complicated by conflicts that often occur between laws; such as between local and federal laws. Sometimes what is legal under one jurisdiction is outlawed in another. For example we often see law-abiding people violate what they consider an unjust, unconstitutional law in order to "test" the law in court. Sometimes we even see elected officials going to jail for upholding the Constitution as they understand it, while arguing in court that it is the court orders which are unconstitutional. This is actually a correct procedure for correcting incorrect laws, that is provided by our legal system, since courts will not review the constitutionality of a law unless there is a "case" before it, and a "case" has to have a defendant accused of violating a law or a plaintiff claiming to be harmed by a law.
Serious, passionate disagreement about which policies are right and wrong are usually stirred by perceived conflicts between human laws and God's Laws. Ideas about the right thing to do in that situation are all over the map. These disagreements can't be resolved without discussing not only what the law ought to be, but how we ought to respond until it is. In that situation it is uselessly simplistic to attempt to identify "promotion of illegal activity", since the central disagreement is over what is genuinely legal. When a law or court order conflicts with the Constitution, and/or with the Bible, which is legal? Is it then "promotion of illegal activity", to argue for the other side?
How about when some judge takes a position that defies the Constitution, local and federal laws, all court precedent, and the Bible, but he still has the power to order the police to put you in jail? Are you allowed to present legal arguments for your innocence? Defending yourself either in court or in the court of public opinion would be "promotion of illegal activity" by the simplistic notion of "promotion of illegal activity" which the rules on several websites authorize administrators to arbitrarily censor. Martin Luther King Jr. continually "promoted illegal activity", these administrators would all have said had they started their websites a couple of generations earlier.
However, there is a kind of "promotion of illegal activity" which we don't need in this forum. An example might be the book "Hit Man", published by Paladin, which tells how to murder somebody. Even after the book was followed carefully by one of its readers to commit a double murder, our courts took no criminal action against its publication, and a lawsuit over it was settled out of court in 2002. That is an example of gratuitous "promotion of illegal activity" unrelated to any "higher law" or to effect any change that anyone would want in our laws. Therefore it would be irrelevant to this forum not only because it is reprehensible, but because it is unrelated to any political purpose.
Islam is a knottier question. The Koran proudly promotes a way of life which is profoundly criminal by the standards of American law. And yet as an increasingly popular religion, who is ready to censor any favorable reference to it on the ground that it promotes illegal activity? Plainly, the appropriate response to Islam is going to be a lot of discussion - a lot of getting Americans on the "same page". This is not a challenge which is going to go away by censoring discussion of it. And of course the Koran's precepts, called Sharia Law, lapping at the edges of American law, determined to utterly displace American law, makes it profoundly related to every political purpose.