"I/P". Israel/Palestine. There is seemingly no issue here that inflames passions as strong. Unfortunately, those inflamed passions are interfering with this site's stated and necessary goal of electing more and better Democrats and advancing progressivism in America.
It's time to ban tangential I/P discussions, for the good of this website and its mission. No more endless fighting about what's going on, and has been going on for years, in Israel and Palestine. No more accusations and implications that have nothing to do with electing Democrats. An exception could possibly be made for diaries directly having to do with current American policy or current political campaigns, but that's it.
Permit me to make the case.
(this diary is intended to be moderated and non-dickish, in the new DKos parlance)
Hate and hyperbole
Most site members long ago decided never to engage in I/P discussions at this website. They know that the environment is too poisoned, too hurtful, and too hyperbolic, with no hope of any agreement or common ground. It is, to put it simply, only a forum for sowing negativity and discord among the left.
For those who have been ignoring I/P for years, I will provide some brief examples of the sort of hyperbole and hate that characterizes the discussions: In Daily Kos I/P, people actually deny the Darfur genocide, and get uprated for it. They say that Hezbollah and Iran should be given nuclear weapons, with massive uprates for both of those, of course. And they actually channel Rush Limbaugh's misogyny in calling a prominent Democratic female politician a "shrill pantsuit".
And that's just when the gloves are on. When the gloves come off? Oh my. In I/P, people say that Israel is "far worse" than mutilation and stoning, that it is worse than fascism, that Palestinians practice mass child marriage, that Hitler wanted peace and WW2 was Churchill's fault, that the US government's sole function is to oppress Palestinians, that Zionists collaborated in the Holocaust, that notorious Holocaust deniers are acceptable experts, that Jewish people (and DNA evidence, apparently) constantly lie about their heritage, that Helen Thomas was right in saying that Jews have no place in the Middle East, that American politicians are slaves to "Jew gold", and so on. These examples are only the very tip of the iceberg, and are provided for context only.
If you are now tempted to object that I have highlighted the hate and hyperbole from one side in the I/P wars more than from the other, and would like to assert that a similar litany exists from the other side, that would only further prove my point. These discussions sow hatred, discord, and insane extremism, do not result in progress, and have been so for years. One might also be tempted to argue that the authors of some of the comments I highlighted are banned and no longer with us. However that would be incorrect, as I/P is the land of perpetual zombies. Nobody can actually be made to go away, and almost all previously banned authors are still with us in some form, some on their third or fourth incarnation, uprated by their side until they step over the line one too many times, only to be banned and return again.
I/P remains the only subject where, as far as I am aware, Meteor Blades demanded a public apology, or where a user created a new fake profile to impersonate and slander another user, or where people deny the existence of the Jewish people entirely, or for that matter the existence of the Palestinian people.
There is no agreement, no accommodation, and no progress. There is only hurt, hate, discord, and extremism. This issue is too divisive, too tangential to the goal of electing more and better Democrats, and even too counter to the goal of building a cohesive progressive coalition to be allowed to fester here.
That is big "D" Democratic - as in the Democratic Party. There is no escaping the fact that one entire side of the I/P wars on this website is constantly advocating a position – opposition to the two state solution – that runs contrary to the positions of Democratic Party platform, president Obama, and every single major Democratic elected official in the country.
There is simply no other issue where such deviation from basic Democratic orthodoxy is tolerated here. The site administration has wisely decided that this isn't the forum where people can debate whether gay marriage should be allowed or whether abortion should be banned, as these positions are so far out of the mainstream of the Democratic base. There are hundreds of other websites where one can advocate for a one state solution, or the end of Israel by some other means. Why should this site - where the mission is to elect and support more and better Democrats, and said position is at odds with the Democratic Party Platform, the President, and essentially every single major Democratic elected official - be one of them?
Furthermore, many of the I/P participants are not American voters, which is in of itself not a bad thing, but many are quite up front about their lack of interest in Democratic Party electoral success. A review of some of the major participants reveals that they write and comment almost exclusively on I/P, and use this website solely for that purpose. They do not betray interest in the success of the Democratic party at large.
Can it be saved?
The question may be raised whether I/P participants could be forced under some scheme to behave differently, to shelve the hate and hyperbole, and to table the more extreme anti-Democratic Party viewpoints. All indicators are that this is not possible. Over the course of years, under the combination of light moderation by the administration and community policing such a thing in no way happened. I/P is not amenable to any form of community moderation, because the two sides are too firmly entrenched and there is too much historical baggage. It is difficult, for instance, to extend courtesy or the benefit of the doubt to someone who has previously advocated for Hezbollah to have nuclear weapons, or who denied the existence of the Jewish people. Will the forthcoming new moderation scheme improve matters? On the contrary, the new moderation scheme will be a disaster as far as I/P goes, with participants voting in blocks and non-participants making ill informed judgments without knowledge of the histories of various posters.
Unless Kos invests in paying a full time moderator just for I/P, which he should not be expected to do and has no intention of doing, there is no realistic prospect for a change. It hasn't happened in seven years, and it won't happen in another seven.
Lately Markos has banned a number of I/P users. I can guarantee that this will not change the nature of I/P here. These users will simply return. In the interest of this site's mission to elect more and better Democrats and build an effective progressive coalition in America, I/P needs to go. It is time to ban the topic. There are hundreds of other websites where people can hash that issue to their hearts' content - and just like there are hundreds of other websites where people can debate what happened on 9/11, this website doesn't need to be one of them.
The two most common objections that will greet this proposal are as predictable as they are banal. So allow me to quickly dispose of them.
1) There will be cries that a such a ban is "censorship" or "stifling discussion". As always, these objections fail to understand the role of a private website with a specific mission. Daily Kos already does not allow a wide array of topics and positions, and rightly so. It is against the rules to advocate for Republican talking points or 9/11 conspiracies. It is rightly against the rules to advocate against evolution or for voting Green Party. All of these things are gloriously protected by the First Amendment, and such protections just as gloriously do not apply to a private website with a specific mission.
Kos and the other admins have rightly decided that advocating against evolution, or for voting for the Green party, are not consistent with the mission of this site, and wisely banned them. One would even be HRd and eventually banned for arguing against abortion rights or gay marriage, positions held by nearly half of Americans. There are reasons to oppose an I/P ban, but those who would oppose an I/P ban on "censorship" grounds must then also be ready to allow these and any other discussions as well. I hope I have shown above that the I/P wars are not manifesting as consistent with the site's mission.
2) There will also be cries of hypocrisy, on the grounds that your humble author is in fact a vociferous participant in the I/P wars. These objections are also banal and transparently silly. Of course I participate in the I/P wars - as long as they exist, I feel I have to fight against content and memes which I think are wrong, biased, based on falsehoods, and even genocidal (see examples above). I would be just as vociferous a participant in the 'evolution wars' or the 'gay marriage wars', if they were allowed here. Fortunately, those wars are not allowed, because the site administration has banned them. I am advocating for the site administration to free myself and others from the distraction of countering what we consider to be incorrect or even dangerous memes, in the name of being able to focus on this site's intended purpose.
I hope to persuade the community that I/P should be banned for the sake of avoiding terribly divisive rhetoric in the name of advancing the progressive agenda rather than driving people from it. But I also hope to persuade the person who built this website.
I know that Markos has contemplated banning I/P in the past. It is now time to pull that trigger. The I/P discussions have continuously gotten worse over the years, and banning and sanctioning individual users, even in groups, has never made any difference. It is time to excise the topic, rather than individuals. Such discussions are sowing discord, distraction, and extremism, achieving nothing of value, and detracting from the site's mission of electing more and better Democrats and forging an effective progressive coalition.