I don't post a lot of diaries, and it took me some time to nerve myself up to post this one.
Some people find "pie fights" fun but I think they are divisive, energy-draining, an embarrassment to this blog, and a contributing factor to the "circular firing squad" tendency in progressive politics. In the last one, mild and reasonable arguments were getting multiple troll ratings, one poster was wishing diseases on people, a front pager was calling numerous commenters insane or liars -- and it all got onto the rec list.
I think something needs fixing here, and I also think the fix is relatively easy.
Over and over, the "diary police" castigated other people for not respecting the rules of the site, meant to protect its public image and credibility, and warned them that they'd be banned by Kos. Over and over, other people expressed alarm and doubt that there were such rules, and confusion over what they are.
I've come to learn that in 99% of cases these things come about due to lack of communication, and I think that's exactly what happened here.
A new user will read this about CT diaries:
Diaries on certain topics are likely to generate angry responses. Most of these topics fall under the general heading of "conspiracy theories", i.e. "JFK was killed by Martians".
The rule for posting such diaries is "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". The more extreme the claim, the higher the burden of proof that commenters will demand. If you can't provide evidence to back up your claim, it is best not to post the diary. This guideline also applies to recommending extraordinary-claims diaries. If a diary makes an extreme claim with little or no evidence to back up that claim, it shouldn't be recommended, no matter what that claim is.
Now even though the word "rule" is used in this statement, it doesn't read like rules. It reads like a guideline or suggestion, meant to help people avoid drawing anger in comments. Rules don't say "shouldn't" or "it is best not to." They are more definite. They say "shall not" or "doing x is prohibited", etc.
Rules state clearly what they prohibit, and what the punishment will be if they are broached. Nowhere does it mention that a Kossack will be banned either for writing or recommending a diary with insufficient evidence, and nowhere is the standard of evidence defined. Kos' previously banning many people for writing/recommending certain diaries was cited; but new users have no way of knowing that, and occasional users might not either.
I have an opinion as to what should be allowed and what shouldn't, but I'm not going to state it, because it isn't the point here. Many people have said, and I concur, that this is Kos' site and he makes the rules.
What I'm saying is that his rules should be made perfectly explicit -- and any rule that is not explicit should not be enforced. Otherwise, what the site offers is really a type of bait-and-switch, which is bound to cause resentment -- which I think we're seeing. Unless people are told before or as they register that they can be banned for writing/recommending CT diaries, they'll come in thinking that Kos is a place where it's okay (and whether a claim is extreme or not is very much a subjective judgment). It's not because they're stupid, but because different spaces have different rules, and they haven't been taught those of Daily Kos.
Perhaps we need a "Code of Conduct" and an announcement that you're agreeing to it when you register. If I'm going to get banned for quoting Wayne Madsen, or claiming that the WTC was demolished by explosives, or arguing that an election was stolen, or any other specific thing -- or for recommending someone else's diary that does same -- I should know before I choose whether to join the site or not, because it should inform my choice. So each Kosdemeanor should be spelled out.
Some might argue that this might make the site more draconian or autocratic. I disagree entirely. Making the rules explicit means they need never be enforced arbitrarily, and it's arbitrary enforcement which is resented the most. No threats, no troll-rating, no personal attacks would be necessary -- just perhaps a private warning or three, and then punishment, and the culprit wouldn't be able to complain that they didn't know the rules. As well, with a clear prohibition on CT diaries, people who want to write them wouldn't join Kos in the first place, or at least would keep their theories under their (tinfoil) hats. Where there are clear boundaries, conflicts are always lessened.
Some might argue that these rules are too arbitrary to be stated. If so...... they shouldn't exist at all.
My thoughts anyway... after reading, with great pain, people who should be working together fighting each other.
Update: from dmsilev, FAQ maintainer, in the comments:
When I wrote that (a couple of months ago) [quoted above], there was no clearly stated policy from Markos re: conspiracy diaries. That has, to some extent, changed, and his more-explicit statements on the subject are due to be incorporated into the next revision of the FAQ (which is in-process).
It does need to be more explicit; I didn't want to do so until official word was given.