Dear Forum Admin and Moderators,
I am writing this as an 'Open Letter' with the intention of opening up mature and open discussion about the recent decisions taken to:
1. Close the Real World section
2. Ban discussion of political or 'hot button' issues.
I have thought long and hard about writing this, I have spent a lot of time drafting it and I have made the decision (feeling I am possibly dicing with my future participation on here) to go ahead and 'publish' it......because I believe it is an issue that deserves discussion and maybe just maybe a compromise can be found for the good of all that use here...
Please read - I have made a big effort to be respectful, thoughtful, mindful of the background etc. and to put out there a balanced thought provoking offering for consideration and discussion....so here goes.....
I appreciate that you as the people who keep this place running have to make decisions and sometimes those decisions are taken due to problems existing in our community - I also appreciate it can be a thankless task doing what you do so let me say Thanks for doing it!
I believe it is important to question the received way of thinking at all points in life, but I also recognise an internet forum is not a democracy and those 'wielding the power' are unlikely to listen to loud, shouty requests to make it more like one - so I write to you respectfully and thoughtfully to raise what I believe is an important issue within our community that is this forum.
I realise that you have not taken the decisions you have lightly and I respect your right to enforce whatever rules you decide to enforce... I also believe you are not banning people simply because you dislike or disagree with them; I've only seen you temporarily ban people who you judge to have broken the forum rules and certainly who have insulted other forum members.
That gives us some space to speak freely (which is of course a good thing) without 'the arm of the law' coming down on us, which I've been attempting to make the most of as a regular contributor and I know others have too.
However, it is my observation that the 'no-politics' rule is in danger of backfiring/becoming a problem – people don’t know what they can or can’t say and there are grumbles of discontent from thoughtful posters.
I quote former member Borack who made the following comment as his last on the forum before leaving:
“If people can be banned instantly for saying something disagreeable, based on some subjective whim, then we've all lost a useful resource”
Edge appearing at a Women’s Right march (which was distinctly partisan) really throws up a challenge for members here who want to respectfully, thoughtfully and intelligently discuss the matter and it is my view that people are caught in a little bit of a grip of fear of doing so in case what they say crosses what is for me a somewhat blurry line.
I think that’s why mods have not elaborated when people have questioned the rule and in some cases have resorted to short and arguably borderline rude replies when dealing with issues arising from the ban on discussion.
On the other hand it is clear the “real world” section was getting nasty and was spoiling the atmosphere on the forum.... I wasn't an especially prolific contributor to the section but I miss being able to post there when I wanted to and I miss learning things from the perspective of and experience of people thousands of miles away, as well as being able to post a face palm gif as a part of banter with posters like il capo for example when he thinks I vote for Farage!
Yes people really were pushing it all too far and of course action was needed.... Talking about American politics brought out the worst in some users, of that there is no doubt.
However, it is my hope that compromise can be reached through open and mature discussion... the mod team is about to be strengthened which will be a good thing and hopefully any new appointees are actually active contributors to the forum and can be more proactive rather than needing to be reactive in helping keep a good atmosphere and dealing with any potential problems.
Member So Cruel wrote this after Borack left:
“At the end of the day people of all different faiths, countries, backgrounds, politics, etc.gather here because of our common love of U2.
Sure there are arguments, things can get heated, but that is life. Things aren't always sunshine and rainbows. I'm pretty shocked that the Real World thread was shut down. It was a place for me to read various opinions and learn things to people thousands of miles away that I wouldn't have learned otherwise. An example is reading the Brexit thread it gave an insight from both sides of the issue from people directly affected by it. A shame it was shut down.
I don't own this site and I can't call how it is run. The only thing I can do is determine where my time is used and if we continue losing some of our best posters I believe my time may be better used elsewhere. Any forum is really only as good as the posters that make it up. This forum just got a bit worse with the departure of Borack”
These are powerful words from a well respected member of our forum.
I honestly don't believe in or agree with telling people that they can't discuss politics etc.... I absolutely support a push to ensure people do so respectfully though - to my mind you don't close the park down just because a few people aren't playing nicely on the slide!
So what I am proposing is that a discussion between the members and the admin and mod team is instigated to see if a way forward can be found to re-instate a new and improved real world section where respectful, thoughtful, intelligent discussion of political issues etc. is allowed - but where there is a zero tolerance towards personal insults, abuse, flaming etc.....this forum is run by and posted on by intelligent decent people and it is very much view that we can all manage to discuss these issues freely in a respectful manner and be agreeable even when disagreeing.... and if some people are incapable of doing so then hey they don't deserve the chance to and the community does not need them....so I would imagine nobody would turn a hair to those people being banned - especially if we are talking about being given the grace of a 2nd chance so to speak with a compromise being made.
Experience has led me to believe very strongly in the promotion of self moderation, people knowing what is and what isn’t the right kind of behaviour within the community without it actually needing to be an issue that is often discussed......unconscious consciousness!.... and this is achieved by building a healthy respect between admin/mods and members where we are really all the same at heart in terms of how we use the forum on a daily basis with a shared goal to create and maintain the best possible community for the use of and enjoyment of all, a truly all inclusive forum where people feel part of something a little more than “Just a forum”.
The removal of a well loved section of the board whilst maybe in the short term making things seem better does in my honest opinion make the place worse mid to long term - I believe we can all work together here to save and indeed improve a much loved and valued part of our forum and then treat it and each other within it with the respect befitting of such a resource.
Some Bono quotes about free speech, debate, difference, etc....
“The hardest thing to do is to stick together. Mates, family, marriage, business, band. It’s like resisting gravity. It’s like King Canute sitting in his chair trying to talk back the tide. But you can, and we have, and we will turn the waves around. The alternative is too predictable. You rid the room of argument. You empty your life of the people you need the most.”
“To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to be different is maybe even greater”
So all that said I ask you to please listen and engage in a discussion to return the real world section/the right to discuss politics - but with very clear and rigorously enforced guidelines that could leave us all with a great resource and enrich the discussion again.
Members - if you like this idea to find a way forward please add your voices - remaining silent when you actually would like to see if a compromise can be found do you and the rest of the forum a disservice....equally if I am talking rubbish in your opinion tell me so - but do so in an agreeable manner when disagreeing......just like I hope we can do in the real world and about the issues in our world we all care about/are affected by and even involved in.
Just like the band this forum is mainly about do!
Thanks for reading....