So I'm involved in this weird saga over at RedState.org. I joined to see what it would be like to participate in a Republican site. It's been an educational experience, let's say.
I managed to get my comment privileges revoked with my first comment. This may be a record of some sort. Someone on the site had posted that an ABC poll about the Rove scandal was illegitimate because they didn't restrict the poll to people who had actually been following the scandal closely. "Why should we care what ignorant people think about it?" asked the other poster. I responded: "Because ignorant people vote. In fact, they usually vote Republican."
This comment would hardly raise an eyebrow and wouldn't even be counted as trolldom if it were inverted and posted by a conservative on DKos; but it violated RedState's posting rules, which I hadn't read. Fair enough. I sent an email to the administrators apologizing and resolved to restrict myself to substantive points in the future.
In the meantime, however, it looked like it might take a day or so for the administrators to reinstate me, and I felt like doing some more posting. I took out a new ID and made a few posts, which were all pretty reasonable and substantive and avoided any harsh personal attacks.
Yank! Another administrator realized I was the same guy who'd been ousted (or "put on The Pile", in the site's parlance) and bumped me again. They apparently hadn't yet seen my apologetic email. How they noticed it was me I don't know; perhaps they run checks on all posters of liberal sympathies, or maybe the IP address just shows up automatically.
I then alerted two administrators to the apologetic email, and they reinstated me by the following day. Props to RedState - very decent of them.
Today, I made a few posts on various issues, then got interested in a thread about whether or not Justice Scalia wavers in his interpretational strategy between a "textualist" and an "intentionalist" stance. A poster named kleptocrat had made this observation; a site administrator named Thomas savaged him instantly:
You clearly know nothing of Scalia's jurisprudence. Head back to throwing darts at a picture of Jim Dobson and leave the adults to debate this.
Wow, I thought. I guess the politesse enforced in RedState's posting rules wasn't supposed to be quite as gentle as I'd thought.
But Thomas, it soon turned out, had misgauged his opponent. kleptocrat turned out to be, first of all, a Rehnquist supporter, not a liberal. And he seemed to have a much firmer in-depth grasp of this particular issue than Thomas did. His posts were more substantive, and included none of Thomas's harsh sneering rhetoric, which began to mount up, post after post:
"No need to prove the first part of the sentence with the parenthetical, genius."
"Ever read the Constitution? Indeed, ever read anything about, oh, American history? These are of course rhetorical questions."
"I doubt seriously my ability to explain anything to you, and I've tutored Order of the Coif folks in my time."
"When you actually understand his jurisprudence
come on back. I'll be here in five years."
"...waste my time. It's addressed elsewhere. Have a nice day."
kleptocrat, meanwhile, was explaining quite substantively and clearly, with relevant citations, that Scalia's opinion in Bush v. Gore took an intentionalist stance towards the Constitution - what did the Founders intend? - where elsewhere, he had eloquently held that laws should be interpreted according to their text and the accepted meaning of their language, not according to what might be divined by looking into the probable intentions of those who frame them.
So I decided to note that I felt kleptocrat had gotten the better of the debate. I did so in what I considered to be standard strong-worded blog style:
"I knew nothing about textualism vs. intentionalism when this thread started, but now feel I have a vague sense of what's involved. My thanks to kleptocrat. Thomas: your ass has been roundly kicked."
Immediately, someone named c17wife responded:
"Send him to The Pile."
Thomas appeared to share her opinion that I had insulted him:
"Obscenity: one warning."
Thomas and c17wife then had a short and gloating exchange about the desirability of kicking me out again.
What's going on here? RedState claims, in its mission statement, to welcome the presence of those with alternative viewpoints, so long as they understand that the site is intended to be a conservative Republican community. The posting rules are supposedly designed to maintain the cordial tone of debate and prevent topic drift. But in practice, it looks to me like there's a tremendous temptation on the part of those who enforce the posting rules to use them as a club against liberals posting on the site. Conservatives on the site are allowed to foam at the mouth and to post unsupported slander regarding Democrats; the same comments, made about Republicans, earn one a "warning" from one of the site's administrators. Administrators sometimes note that "this type of argument adds nothing to the discussion and you've been warned about it before. Enough said." And when a liberal poster makes a misstep - like my note, in a debate between two conservatives on the site, that I felt one's ass had been kicked - the site's regulars start baying for the blood of the liberal poster.
So: is RedState an organization that actually wants to have a diversity of views present? I give it the benefit of the doubt - I think they do. Or they think they do. But I'm not sure that they understand what is actually involved in allowing for diversity of views, and I'm not sure that, characterologically, they're able to tolerate it.
As a test, let's see how long it takes them to find this diary entry, and whether, in response, I again find myself "on The Pile".