The Fractures and Factions of Mormon Blogging, Part I

By: Andrew S
September 15, 2011

This post is the first in a series. Find the later parts 2, 3 and 4 in the coming weeks…

My Naive Beginnings

PangaeaWhen I first started Mormon blogging, I thought the field was pretty simple. I thought the Mormon blogging world was summed up by one word: Bloggernacle.

To be sure, from even my first article, I knew about the “Disaffected Mormon Underground” or “Outer Blogness,” but these things seemed to be subsets of the Bloggernacle.

How naive I was back then. It’s only been with time that I’ve come to realize that not only is the Bloggernacle not a catch-all term for Mormon blogging, but in fact, to understand the Mormon Blogging world, you have to understand the various factions and fractures within it. It goes way back. All the way back in a 2006 post about angst, J. Stapley makes it clear that, “Without qualification the DAMU community is not welcome here at BCC.” This stuff holds today. In a (coincidentally and conveniently) deleted-by-server-error comment at 9 Moons, Steve Evans wrote similarly in 2010: “I can assure you that in the Bloggernacle there are no awards to be handed out to Chanson or Chino Blanco.” (Chino Blanco and Chanson are both notable personalities in Outer Blogness, especially if you ever read Main Street Plaza.)

Why does this even matter?

Well, the blogging doesn’t really matter, not so much. However, as I mentioned in last week’s article about strange bedfellows for progressive Mormons, various groups, even if they have similar ideas about what the church should do, are unlikely to form a coalition because the fault lines are drawn based on theological beliefs, or, to put in a different way, different ideas about what the church is. But, as will turn out to be the case (later on in the series), having similar theological beliefs won’t create a cohesive community either, because those differing political (in a what-should-the-church-do? sense) end up mattering after all.

What’s this all about? The name of this entire game is boundary maintenance.

World Fault Lines

To summarize, blogs are hubs of communities, and communities are the focal points of various norms, expectations, ideals, goals…all of those good sociological things. Boundary maintenance is about preserving the previously mentioned things from being diluted or subverted by outsiders or insiders. When J. Stapley says “the DAMU community is not welcome here at BCC,” he says so because of several traits he ascribes to members of that community. The full paragraph that the previous quotation is taken from goes:

You can’t have angst and remain. You either get over your angst or you leave. There are tons of web communities that are antagonistic to Mormonism. These communities, sometimes referred to as the DAMU (Disaffected Mormon Underground) are cauldrons of angst and antipathy. We recently had several links to BCC from some popular DAMU sites and the decline in the conversation here was palpable. This isn’t because somehow the truth was more fully elucidated, but because these individuals aren’t interested in constructive discourse. The light can handle all things on which it shines, but truth is not flavored with angst. Without qualification the DAMU community is not welcome here at BCC. Additionally, the message board style handles and disrespectful discourse that is common on many internet fora are not welcome here.

Whether these traits properly describe members of the DAMU is one thing. But whatever the case, as a preserver of BCC’s community, J. Stapley and others are certainly within their bounds to  assert community standards.

(It is important to note that in the same discussion, Steve Evans does qualify Stapley’s comment. Stapley’s response is to assert that if a member of the DAMU qualifies for BCC, then it is because they have not brought their community with them.)

In a later article at BCC, John C contrasts online communities to offline communities.

In his essay, “Why the church is as true as the gospel,” Eugene England argued that the one greatest effect of the church is that it puts you into situations with people whom you would never voluntarily associate with. In these situations, if you are a good church member, or even if you would only like to be one, you are supposed to serve these people out of love. Serving in love, with all our heart, is the one thing really asked of us by Church service. And we have to extend that love to everyone, in and out of the church, but particularly in, where we are easily frustrated by the bigots, sexists, liberals, feminists, conservatives, and John Birchers among us. We’re supposed to love everybody.

The internet isn’t like that. Ultimately all internet participation is voluntary. We don’t ever have to be here (as spouses tell us all the time). Therefore, we tend to congregate in groups of like minded people. The argumentative among us will engage in excursions to the other side under the guise of dialogue, but usually with an understanding that we are doing this for fun or as a distraction. If real human emotion was considered to be in play, we wouldn’t discuss half the things we discuss and we certainly wouldn’t talk about them the way we do.

The bloggernacle isn’t a place where everyone is accepted with equal trust. Trust must be earned within it. Some people will always be viewed with suspicion, simply because of the questions they ask, the manner in which the questions are asked, and because of implied agendas (real or imposed) behind those questions. In other forums, they will be welcomed and embraced. I don’t truly know if this is a bad thing or a good thing. It simply is.

These are just a few comments from bloggers at By Common Consent, but I think these are important in highlighting one point in particular: By Common Consent is very big on boundary maintenance. It is very big on maintaining a particular tone and message…and it has a long-developed (at least in internet time frames) discourse about it: earned trust vs. suspicion.

Unfortunately, the posts I’ve already linked to don’t help entirely much, because they are already in medias res. Even from these 2006-era posts, the Bloggernacle already appears to be established as something separate from the DAMU, which appears to be something separate from the “Sunstone” crowd.

How to make sense of it all?

Well, there’s a wikipedia page that has a dubious history of the Mormon blogosphere, but it seems to hint that this blogosphere, the “Mormon portion of the blogosphere,” is the Bloggernacle (and that the only exceptions are LDS-themed bloggers who do not like or use the name Bloggernacle, or even consider their blog as part of it.) This kind of characterization makes me doubt the entire page.

I think that, history or not, one is better suited to start at the Mormon Archipelago, the Gateway to the Bloggernacle, and in particular, look at the info and contact page for its founding members:

Ronan (United Brethren and BCC), J. Stapley (Splendid Sun and BCC), John Fowles (A Bird’s Eye View and Mormon Mentality), Geoff J (New Cool Thang), Dave (Dave’s Mormon Inquiry), Roasted Tomatoes (LDS Liberation Front and BCC), Rusty (Nine Moons), Justin B (Mormon Wasp), J. Daniel Crawford (Faith Promoting Rumor and BCC). All of the MA bloggers also post at the Bloggernacle Times, where any MA announcements will also appear.

Pay attention to how many of the founding members have a parenthetical “BCC” next to their names (along with any other blog.) I’m sure that many will deny it (see Scott’s protestations at the idea of a “BCC-run competition”), but effectively, Mormon Archipelago can be considered a proxy for the “Bloggernacle,” and By Common Consent is a metonym for the Bloggernacle as well. It is the Bloggernacle’s “White House” or “10 Downing Street,” if you will. (Bloggernacle Times, the associated group blog of Mormon Archipelago, goes so far as to say something to that effect.)

And although Steve Evans doesn’t number as any of those founding members, as the founder of By Common Consent, his considerable influence ought not be underestimated. (See J. Max Wilson’s first post in his series “A Critical Look at LDS Blog Portals“)

(As an aside, you will note that Times and Seasons doesn’t appear anywhere in the founding list…that’s an interesting story, since while today, it seems obvious that T&S is a venerable member of the ‘Nacle [the term was coined there, even], in the past T&S was completely delisted from MA, and then relegated to a lower box…ostensibly because it did not publicly display a link to the Archipelago.)

Pay attention to the blog and blogger who write that last link, by the way. J. Max Wilson becomes very important to describing another fracture and faction within Mormon Blogging. His blog series on The History of LDS Blog Portals is classic, whereas this post series will try to bring us to the present. But you’ll have to check out part 2 and beyond for that.

Questions for Part I and to think about the Future Parts…

I think that some of the above quotations represent significant philosophical differences between what we are doing here at Wheat & Tares and what others are doing at other blogs. So, I’ll ask:

  • Do you agree with the idea that internet communities and blogs are designed for like-minded people to discuss (and that excursions to the “other side” are “for fun” or “a distraction”?
  • Do you believe that this distinction only holds for the internet, or does it spill out into offline life? Should it exist in either sphere?
  • Angst? Is it a deal-breaker for conversation, or can someone still speak constructively with it?
  • With respect to the church (or to any church), is the important faultline the difference between belief and disbelief, or does it lie elsewhere? In other words, can there ever be constructive dialogue between believers and disbelievers (think about the implications of this in a more general sense)?

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70 Responses to The Fractures and Factions of Mormon Blogging, Part I

  1. Jettboy on September 15, 2011 at 9:53 AM

    I will number the questions rather than quote them for reference.

    1. Yes and no. The answer will have to be on a case by case basis. It depends on the combination of those who blog and those who comment. You don’t, for instance, have to “ban” someone in order to keep them at a distance. Ridicule and ganging up on a blog participant sends as clear a message as any “ban” for boundary maintenance. It is clear, for instance, that the Mormon Archipelago is not a resource for orthodox members. Even if it includes blogs that are with a flavor of orthodoxy, there is no mingling going on between those and the other blogs. There is no cross-pollination of participants even in the comments sections. Wheat and Tares is no different, as the tone toward more orthodox might be more tolerant than BCC, but its not consistent. How many here, for instance, will visit and comment on my blog or millennial Star?

    2. A. Oh yes it does! In fact, It has been recognized by many that the whole existence of the Bloggernacle is a reaction to perceived outside orthodoxy and boundary maintenance. B. I think it should, and of course others disagree. One of the reasons that I post when there is not much respect shown me is my belief in boundary maintenance for the health of the LDS Church religious mission. I would rather have 100 faithful orthodox members than a billion Reform Jews (you know what I mean).

    3. If you think that the Archipelago is without angst, then just read any topic on Prop. 8 and feminist views. From what I said last time, for the most part I don’t see much difference between them and the Damu other than continued clinging on to something they don’t like, where the others let go.

    4. Complicated question. I think it starts with belief and disbelief in the LDS Church as a whole. From there it breaks down into belief and disbelief in specifics. I think there can be constructive discussions, but only when both sides have more than grudging respect for the views expressed (See my comment to question number 1). Some views are so polar opposite and based on such different assumptions that there is no room for constructive anything; and parting ways is the best solution.

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  2. Jeff Spector on September 15, 2011 at 11:30 AM

    Isn’t it all so silly?

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  3. Cynthia L. on September 15, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    Do you agree with the idea that internet communities and blogs are designed for like-minded people to discuss (and that excursions to the “other side” are “for fun” or “a distraction”?

    Maybe rephrase this? “Do you agree that internet communities of different types can/should exist—some that are for like-minded and some that are for “cross-” discussion?” Why can’t there be both, and each venue gets to decide what it wants to be, and if you don’t like it, you make your own venue? I thought that’s how the internet worked.

    One other thing I will throw out there before this heats up–many people in these conversations (how many times have we had this exact conversation?) seem to think that this boundary maintenance stuff is unique to Mormon blogging or the bloggernacle. Or that Momrons are more prone to wanting to have separate spaces than other people, or whatever. Just as one data point, I refer you to the dailykos FAQ:

    This is a Democratic blog, a partisan blog. One that recognizes that Democrats run from left to right on the ideological spectrum, and yet we’re all still in this fight together. We happily embrace centrists like NDN’s Simon Rosenberg and Howard Dean, conservatives like Martin Frost and Brad Carson, and liberals like John Kerry and Barack Obama. Liberal? Yeah, we’re around here and we’re proud. But it’s not a liberal blog. It’s a Democratic blog with one goal in mind: electoral victory. And since we haven’t gotten any of that from the current crew, we’re one more thing: a reform blog. The battle for the party is not an ideological battle. It’s one between establishment and anti-establishment factions. And as I’ve said a million times, the status quo is untenable.
    The site has grown in the years since that diary.

    This site is CERTAINLY NOT for all Democrats. Joe Lieberman learned that. Blanche Lincoln is about to learn it.

    This site is about more and better Democrats, not necessarily in that order.

    You’ve got your Politico.com’s that cover both side of the aisle, and you’ve got your HuffPo’s/dailykos’ and DrudgeReport/RedStates where like-minded gather. Welcome to the internet.

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  4. Cynthia L. on September 15, 2011 at 11:59 AM

    Ok, Jeff Spector said the same thing as I did, but in many many fewer words. Tip o’ my hat to Jeff.

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  5. Jeff Spector on September 15, 2011 at 12:15 PM

    Thanks, Cynthia!

    I think that we consistently see positions taken and hostility that we would never (or usually never) see in a F2F encounter.

    I think that tells you something right there about how some folks hide behind nicknames and the semi-anonymity of the Internet to just be disagreeable.

    OTOH, some other folks would be that way regardless of the medium.

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  6. Andrew S on September 15, 2011 at 1:09 PM

    re 1:

    Jettboy,

    Your answer to question 1 is interesting. There are those within the Bloggernacle (John C, Scott B, for example), who want to increase the cross-linkages between blogs. So, for example, invite people from BCC to blog at Millennial Star, and vice versa, and encourage different bloggers to read other blogs. That this doesn’t already happen (and that it happens less than it used to) is the question to be addressed.

    I’m just one person, but I try to cross-link from a variety of sources. Including, yes, Millennial Star. It just depends what topic I’m discussing at the particular time and where I think the most relevant commentary relating to that topic is coming from.

    2) So, is your quote to mean that you would rather the church be more separated, so that if there must be fewer people there (but they are orthodox), then so be it?

    3)I guess it’s a continuum of angst, huh?

    4) Does this also apply for things like political differences, etc.,? What do you think this means for a pluralistic political and cultural society? Should groups just “stick to their own kinds”?

    re 2:

    Jeff,

    Indeed, but I like to blog about the silly because blogging about the serious is too depressing.

    re 3

    Cynthia,

    I’d agree with the rephrase, but that’s considerably weaker than the position I quoted. John C’s position as quoted is that because of the voluntary nature of the internet, it’ll always develop into groups of like-minded people, and the only cross-overs will occur because of argumentative people, usually “for fun” or as a “distraction.”

    And, also to state before this blows up, I don’t think this is unique to Mormon blogging or to the Bloggernacle (but I think there may be something about the internet that inspires it). The question is whether we agree with the status quo…is this a feature or a bug of the internet?

    Most people recognize, for example, what Jeff recognizes in 5. “We consistently see positions taken and hostility that we would never…see in a F2F encounter.”

    Yet, on the other hand, we say, “This is just how the internet is supposed to work!

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  7. FireTag on September 15, 2011 at 1:42 PM

    Jettboy:

    I have found Millennial Star (including your posts there) to be a perfectly fine place to read and to undertake respectful discussion. I’ve even been known to learn something there that modifies my ideas. Given enough time, I’d visit more often. But I don’t have enough time even to keep up with my fellow permas here own blogs or to write my own, so please don’t interpret lack of visits as lack of well-wishes or respect for your positions.

    Andrew: Great graphics. Let me extend the analogy a little. The edges of the continents often get modified by collisions. I’m living on, or at most a few miles from, a piece of Africa that stuck to North America when Pangaea broke apart, for example. But the “cratons” in the geographic interior of the continents have survived three or four cycles of super-continent formation and breakup.

    Similarly, I think various communities of faith, in or out of the internet, harden, and only jostle each other around the edges over time.

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  8. jmb275 on September 15, 2011 at 2:00 PM

    Interesting Andrew

    With respect to the church (or to any church), is the important faultline the difference between belief and disbelief, or does it lie elsewhere? In other words, can there ever be constructive dialogue between believers and disbelievers (think about the implications of this in a more general sense)?

    I think this is the most important question because I think it shows up in the church, in the b’nacle, and everywhere else in Mormondom. In RSR, Bushman spends a non-trivial amount of time discussing the role that knowledge plays in the sanctification process. That is, to other churches sanctification meant removal of sins, living a life in harmony with espoused commands. But to Joseph, this was only half the equation. His idea of sanctification included that, but also includes the idea special knowledge of the cosmos, of patriarchal order, or Godhood, etc. etc.

    Mormons absolutely place a high priority on knowledge. This is why if you’re a NOM, but still hold a TR or a calling, you are nevertheless likely shunned or thought of as “astray” by those who know your true feelings. Behavior is NOT enough in Mormonism. Knowledge is required.

    I think this spills over into the boundaries we set. So no, I don’t think there can be dialogue between believers and non-believers even if they agree on what to do. And the reason for this goes all the way back to the origins of Mormonism.

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  9. John C. on September 15, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    Andrew, I think you are misreading me slightly. I was trying to say that often we treat engaging with folks with whom we disagree as a fun passtime (debate as recreation). I certainly didn’t mean to imply that cross-notional interaction only occurs in those circumstances.

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  10. Jettboy on September 15, 2011 at 2:31 PM

    “So, is your quote to mean that you would rather the church be more separated, so that if there must be fewer people there (but they are orthodox), then so be it?”

    I am saying that the LDS Church (or at least many of its members) is/are becoming social rather than religious adherents. The Church was not founded on abstract social theories, but theological declarations backed by authoritarian structures. So, in answer to your question, yes I suppose.

    “Should groups just ‘stick to their own kinds’?” I think this happens for the most part already in real life. You might have a few overlaps, but the only difference in the Internet world is much more is said than what is unsaid in the Real World. How many groups and organizations existed before and how many after the blogging? Is this good? I think it is only so far as it develops fluidly and democratically. On the other hand, tension can never be fully alleviated, just controlled.

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  11. Jeff Spector on September 15, 2011 at 3:31 PM

    Andrew S,

    “Indeed, but I like to blog about the silly because blogging about the serious is too depressing.”

    I don’t think that blogging is so silly. but I do think the factionalization (made up word, apparently) to be silly with people taking sides.

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  12. SLK in SF on September 15, 2011 at 3:43 PM

    Cynthia wrote:

    many people in these conversations … seem to think that this boundary maintenance stuff is unique to Mormon blogging or the bloggernacle.

    Indeed it is not. Last year I was managing editor for the Daily Kos-affiliated blog for progressive/liberal people of faith, and the issue of boundary maintenance caused me the most day-to-day problems (and ultimately provoked my resignation). In short, I didn’t like the feeling of having to babysit other adults, even if it was occasionally necessary.

    I would add that, as a generally friendly (if sometimes irritated) former member of the Church with a sort of dual insider/outsider identity, I often have a hard time staking out my own boundaries, and I would not willingly undertake the task of policing others’ ever again. :-)

    As for the OP’s questions, I have no answers succint enough to fit within a comment box, but they’re certainly worth pondering.

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  13. Jake on September 15, 2011 at 4:11 PM

    1. I think that the internet and blogging is part of that is part of the public sphere. I think that it should be about expressing views for others to think about and discuss. People will naturally be drawn to certain areas as like minded people are attracted to similar minds, but I would hope that there are no boundaries of exclusion. I don’t think that they are designed for a certain market, if you will, but that certain types will find what interests them in the web of the blogosphere. I like to think of blogs and the internet as democratic and open. That the principles of free speech for all are followed within them. I think the ideas of censorship and exclusion or niches are reprehensible.

    I don’t think angst is the problem but respect. You can be angst about something but as long as you have respect for the other holding the view then its fine. I have found that some of the BCC bloggers can be guilty of being as disrespectful for those outside of their niche. The ‘apostasy porn porporting as progressive mormonism’ by J. Stapley comment and the discussion around it springs to mind. I like what Voltaire said about right of expression ‘I may not agree with you, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.’ I think as soon as you say a certain type of commentator is not welcome you are in breech of freedom of speech. So let everyone say what they want and respect them and their opinions even if you disagree with them.

    When people genuinely respect each others rights and liberties then we can start to have a constructive dialogue between two parties. The problem is that often believers have contempt for disbelievers and hence show little respect to their views and vice versa.

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  14. Scott B. on September 15, 2011 at 4:23 PM

    Holy smokes this is hilarious, Andrew.

    I’ll only respond to one thing, since time is short. If you look at the founders of the MA and look at BCC today, YES–it looks like BCC had its fingers all over in the creation of the MA and is therefore essentially the same thing.

    What you’re ignoring in doing that, however, is the minor problem of chronology. The list you quoted from Wikipedia shows where those founders are currently; it doesn’t bother to mention that not a single one of those people was at BCC when the MA was created.

    It’s been 7 years, man. You can’t just cite what the world looks like right now and say, “SEE! BCC is the center of the universe!”

    (Don’t get me wrong–it totally IS the center of the universe. But you can’t demonstrate it with Wikipedia cites from the MA circa 2004.)

    (p.s.–don’t let the fact that I dropped our email conversation convince you that I conceded any of your points, or even lost interest in the conversation. I am just short on time.)

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  15. Jeff Spector on September 15, 2011 at 4:31 PM

    Andrew,

    i should have answered the questions:

    1. Do you agree with the idea that internet communities and blogs are designed for like-minded people to discuss (and that excursions to the “other side” are “for fun” or “a distraction”?

    Yes, sort of. That is the main point of having a subject/orientation. Like minded sounds like everyone should agree, but that is not always the case.

    2. Do you believe that this distinction only holds for the internet, or does it spill out into offline life? Should it exist in either sphere?

    Like minded groups exist everywhere.

    3. Angst? Is it a deal-breaker for conversation, or can someone still speak constructively with it?

    One can have angst, anger and unbelief. It is all in the approach as to how you deal with others.

    4. With respect to the church (or to any church), is the important faultline the difference between belief and disbelief, or does it lie elsewhere? In other words, can there ever be constructive dialogue between believers and disbelievers (think about the implications of this in a more general sense)?

    The only faultline is between respect and disrespect for all sides.

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  16. Scott B. on September 15, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    Okay, one more just for fun.

    And although Steve Evans doesn’t number as any of those founding members, as the founder of By Common Consent, his considerable influence ought not be underestimated

    Well, duh.

    Anyone who thinks that Steve’s pinky finger doesn’t weigh more than the collective stick that the rest of the bloggernacle carries is mistaken.

    That’s not a challenge to anyone else; it’s not an attack or a criticism of anyone else; it’s not a suggestion that other people aren’t relevant or important or 1,000x better bloggers. It’s also not meant as a compliment to Steve, or a suggestion that he should be praised or loved or high-fived by anyone.

    It’s just my assessment of what happens in the bloggernacle when Steve touches a project.

    So, yeah–Duh.

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  17. hawkgrrrl on September 15, 2011 at 5:09 PM

    Now where did I leave that ten foot pole . . .?

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  18. Scott B. on September 15, 2011 at 5:34 PM

    hawkgrrrl,
    I’m sorry if that came out in a way that was rude or insulting, because it really wasn’t meant that way.

    Like I said–I’m not trying to praise Steve or disparage anyone else. I just think that Steve’s heavy influence on the first 7 years of the bloggernacle is kind of undeniable, whether you like him or not personally.

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  19. Chino Blanco on September 15, 2011 at 6:36 PM

    Is it silly? Yeah, probably. But ask a few hundred of your friends to vote in a BCC contest, and the same folks above suggesting that it’s all just good fun will start sending very serious emails asking you to make yourself scarce. It’s not about belief/disbelief, it’s about control. And that’s OK. But pretending otherwise is kinda annoying and laughable.

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  20. Carson N on September 15, 2011 at 7:00 PM

    There is a huge difference between banning/censoring people and arguing with or mocking them. It makes perfect sense why BCC would want to insulate their community from outside perspectives and it’s well within their right, but it is dishonest to state that the boundary has anything to do with angst because it clearly does not.

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  21. hawkgrrrl on September 15, 2011 at 7:15 PM

    Somewhere in the middle of all of this there is a parallel to our Mormon story. I’m sure of it.

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  22. Steve Evans on September 15, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    hawkgrrl, there’s a pony in here somewhere!

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  23. Andrew S on September 15, 2011 at 7:25 PM

    Looks like a bit of a discussion has bubbled up while I was away all day…

    re 8:

    jmb

    That reference to RSR is actually kinda interesting…because a lot of people talk to try to drum up the importance of orthopraxy over orthodoxy, but that would suggest instead that yes, right belief (and knowledge) is critical.

    Nevertheless, I can’t help but think that the DNA of Mormonism also has just as strong of strands emphasizing that Mormonism is about sociality and friendship. It’s about letting anyone in.

    re 9:

    John C,

    Right. Now that I see it, the “fun” or “distraction” part is only claimed to *usually* be the case. But it’s the argumentative of us who do it, whatever the cause, under the *guise* of dialogue.

    re 10:

    Jettboy

    I think that when you have a religion where friendship is the grand principle, then social and religious blur. Nah, I get what you’re saying…

    “Should groups just ‘stick to their own kinds’?” I think this happens for the most part already in real life. You might have a few overlaps, but the only difference in the Internet world is much more is said than what is unsaid in the Real World. How many groups and organizations existed before and how many after the blogging? Is this good? I think it is only so far as it develops fluidly and democratically. On the other hand, tension can never be fully alleviated, just controlled.

    That it happens both offline and online doesn’t establish that it *should* happen. After all, it could be the consequence of living in a fallen world…one that we are trying to overcome.

    re 11,

    Jeff,

    I didn’t say blogging was silly. But that I blog about the silly.

    re 13:

    Jake,

    One important thing to note is that “freedom of speech” isn’t universal. There can be time, place, and manner restrictions…AND the rules change completely for private areas. So the question is whether private sites should uphold a public ideal?

    re 14,

    Scott,

    It’s not that BCC had its fingers in all over in the creation of the MA, but that regardless of the MA’s origin, BCC certainly has taken over. In fact, perhaps this is an even bigger point to raise.

    (P.S., that particular information was NOT drawn from wikipedia.)

    (P.P.S., I have well considered points you made during our conversation.)

    re 15:

    Jeff,

    That’s a bit coy. If ‘like-minded’ doesn’t mean “everyone agrees,” then what do we call groups/sites where, yes, everyone mostly agrees?

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  24. John C. on September 15, 2011 at 8:49 PM

    Andrew,
    I think you may still be misreading me. My point regarding the argumentative is that some people like to argue for its own sake. As such, they aren’t really interested in dialogue; they are interested in fighting. I certainly wouldn’t characterize every attempt to engage in dialogue with contrary folks as acting in a guise. But if you doing it primarily to ruffle feathers, sure.

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  25. John C. on September 15, 2011 at 8:51 PM

    Ah Chino, how we heap persecution upon you. Its a wonder you can get out of bed in the morning.

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  26. Andrew S on September 15, 2011 at 9:11 PM

    re 24:

    John,

    I guess I just don’t get that from the original article I’m quoting.

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  27. jacobhalford on September 15, 2011 at 9:19 PM

    Andrew S,

    They are not private sites, anyone with a computer can access them and comment on them. This fact makes them part of the public sphere and the distinction you make arbitrary. If they want to make it private then do so, make it members only and give them secret passwords and little handshakes to identify who belongs to it. Perhaps its more fitting to say they give the illusion of freedom of speech by making it public but holding private principles in comments. This makes me think that its only a cheap copy of democracy and not the real thing, as you can only comment if you are part of the brotherhood, or adhere to its code. Having a private censored community is fine, but at least be honest about the boundaries that you have constructed instead of making them invisible and pretending they don’t exist.

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  28. Chino Blanco on September 15, 2011 at 9:59 PM

    @25: Persecution? I think I’ve been pretty consistent in noting that I approach discussions of BCC for the guaranteed chuckles. And, hey, I just got another one, so thanks!

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  29. Andrew S on September 15, 2011 at 10:01 PM

    re 27:

    jacob,

    But that’s like saying that since a mall plaza is not gated, that makes it part of the public sphere. Private property can be “open,” yet still escort rowdy people off the premises.

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  30. Carson N on September 15, 2011 at 10:48 PM

    But Andrew, they escorted you off of the premises. That deserves a little more scrutiny in my opinion.

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  31. hawkgrrrl on September 15, 2011 at 11:17 PM

    A few totally disjointed thoughts:
    1 – a lot of those quotes are pretty old (2006). I’ve only been participating since 2008 (has it really been that long?) and was only aware TPTB existed about mid-2009. I do see some shifts in attitudes, whether acknowledged or not.
    2 – like everyone else, I originally just went to various sites based on how interesting the posts were and how engaging the discussion was. Unless you’re a lurker, if you don’t find your way into group’s conversations, you eventually go away.
    3 – That previous comment pretty much sums up our extremely light handed comment moderation policy that this team has employed here and at MM before. Why ban what you can starve with neglect?
    4 – the list of who’s who names from Wikipedia is like an India discoteque: where are the women?

    As to boundary definitions, they are typically drawn up by others based on things I don’t care about, so I suppose I’m about as curious about it as I am about what they are talking about in Priesthood meetings. (Not very curious at all.)

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  32. n00b on September 16, 2011 at 12:45 AM

    Any chance you can put together a ‘map of the online mormon communities’? (Here’s the obligatory reference – http://xkcd.com/802 ). Ideally it would map the blogs into some sort of continuum of belief.

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  33. hawkgrrrl on September 16, 2011 at 2:29 AM

    I forgot to weigh in on your questions:
    1 – “Do you agree with the idea that internet communities and blogs are designed for like-minded people to discuss (and that excursions to the “other side” are “for fun” or “a distraction”?” I don’t think it’s about finding a place where everyone agrees with you so much as finding the tone of discussion that suits you. And finding your input valued matters as well as finding the input of others valuable. Places I didn’t stick around at had issues like: conversation was too insider or proceeded too quickly to join in, too many stupid comments, heavy moderation, or I just wasn’t interested in the topics.
    2 – “Do you believe that this distinction only holds for the internet, or does it spill out into offline life? Should it exist in either sphere?” I think some people want to live in an echo chamber, both on line and in their personal lives. To some extent, validation is good. I also think people have different aims in being on the internet.
    3 – “Angst? Is it a deal-breaker for conversation, or can someone still speak constructively with it?” I think this is a question of tone and respect more than anything. People don’t like being challenged, and some don’t like being associated with values or views they find objectionable.
    4 – “With respect to the church (or to any church), is the important faultline the difference between belief and disbelief, or does it lie elsewhere? In other words, can there ever be constructive dialogue between believers and disbelievers (think about the implications of this in a more general sense)?” I think respectful dialogue between believers and non-believers has limitations based on degree of belief and disbelief and self-awareness of the same. This is manifest in how dogmatic the person is in his or her tone. To me, tone is what people really object to. People will generally accept dogmatic tone if they agree with the content, but if they disagree with the content, they object if the tone is dogmatic. When dogmatic belief meets dogmatic disbelief: boom!

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  34. John C. on September 16, 2011 at 5:51 AM

    Andrew,
    Then I humbly suggest you aren’t reading me generously enough OR that I am delusional on this point. Probably both.

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  35. Stephen Marsh on September 16, 2011 at 6:03 AM

    I find it fascinating to compare the “original” (i.e. first stable entry) at http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Bloggernacle&oldid=18989085 with the current one as an illustration of history and boundaries.

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  36. Jeff Spector on September 16, 2011 at 6:57 AM

    Andrew,

    “That’s a bit coy. If ‘like-minded’ doesn’t mean “everyone agrees,” then what do we call groups/sites where, yes, everyone mostly agrees?”

    BCC

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  37. Andrew S on September 16, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    re 30,

    Carson,

    I’m a relatively obnoxious person, apparently.

    re 33,

    hawkgrrrl,

    Great points on tone.

    re 32,

    n00b,

    I have no idea if you’re a spammer, but I thought the comment was nice. In any case, probably not.

    re 31,

    (forgot to address these first)

    1) I actually started this far earlier than I originally wanted to to show a point. Scott, for example, wants to say that a lot of things can change in 7 years, but it seems that people have been saying, for the most part, the same things then as they do now. Things just “settle” in a steady state of particular alliances that may not have been explicit back then.

    4) I actually have an entire post coming up later for the women (although that’s not because I’m a saint, but because I realized at some point that I was grossly underrepresenting.) I still have a lot of research to do here, but I think one thing that’s interesting is what’s been happening at fMh…especially with Joanna Brooks continuing her provocative series Ask Mormon Girl there.

    re 34,

    John C,

    I have tried reading the original post several times again. It’s entirely possible that you have modified your position since then, but I can’t get it from your 2006 article. I think the two options you provide are a false dichotomy.

    re 35,

    Stephen,

    Indeed it is! It’s also interesting to read the “Talk” page for the discussion about the direction of how the wikipedia page covering the bloggernacle should go.

    re 36,

    Jeff,

    ;)

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  38. aerin on September 16, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    Perhaps I’m being obtuse, but I’ve never really understood the various differences in tone, why some blogs, people or groups are “in”, and others are “out”. I think it really depends on the individual, people who write for the blogs, things that happen IRL outside blogs, personal preferences…even hot button issues that may drive a person’s reaction.

    Also, what one person considers as respectful commenting or dialogue can be seen as angst ridden drivel by others. If anyone can better explain that division to me, I’d appreciate it.

    I have found that it seems to be “I know it when I see it”, which also means there are usually no objective criteria.. Aside from attacking a person themselves, which almost all the blogs and fora agree with (that usually leads to warnings/moderation).

    Personally, I have no problem with boundary maintenance, even arbitrary, non objective boundary maintenance. I think the Joe Lieberman example is apt. Some people or blogs use certain ideological positions as a boundary, andas long as everyone agrees, I don’t see what the issue is. The world (and the web) is/are a large place, and people will make the decisions they make about where they want to participate.

    Finally, I think some people on either side may be unfairly labeled. I think it’s important for everyone to evaluate for themselves and come to their own conclusions.

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  39. John C. on September 16, 2011 at 2:04 PM

    Which two, Andrew?

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  40. Andrew S on September 16, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    re 39,

    “not reading generously enough”

    or

    “delusional on this point”

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  41. John C. on September 16, 2011 at 4:46 PM

    Meaning what? That you couldn’t read me more generously, but that I am not mistaken in thinking that I was nicer than you were reading me as being? This is getting confusing.

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  42. Scott B. on September 16, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    Jeff (36)
    LOL HAHAHA LOLZ. I love it when you so sharply zing us.

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  43. Andrew S on September 16, 2011 at 4:59 PM

    re 41,

    John,

    …to what does “this point” (re: 34) refer? I suspect we’re not thinking the same thing…

    I mean: it’s entirely possible that I cannot read your article more generously (it simply does not say what you want it *now* to say), but that you may not necessarily be mistaken in thinking that you *are* nicer than I *was* reading you as being. A 2006 article might not represent your 2011 opinion.

    I could come up with alternative explanations, but then those would indeed not be generous readings of what you are saying now.

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  44. Stephen Marsh on September 16, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    For those who are curious, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Mormon_blogosphere is the talk page.

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  45. Stephen Marsh on September 16, 2011 at 5:24 PM

    It is also interesting to watch how some users promote each other, or delete other’s promotions or comments.

    I do enjoy this conversation, and the way it has been fairly respectful.

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  46. John C. on September 16, 2011 at 5:39 PM

    Andrew,
    I reread the piece and I stand by it (within reason). I also think I am being nicer in the piece than you do. Specifically, I did not accuse everyone who ventures into foreign blogs of being duplicitous (or rather I did not intend to). I meant to admit that I (and others) are sometimes duplicitous, because sometimes we go looking for a fight, rather than a conversation. You seem to be saying that I said that any DAMU commenter on a bloggernacle blog is being inherently duplicitous. That isn’t my position and wasn’t my position then.

    Am I making myself clearer?

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  47. Ray on September 16, 2011 at 6:02 PM

    I’m reading this a bit late, but the following are my answers to the questions in the post:

    1)”Do you agree with the idea that internet communities and blogs are designed for like-minded people to discuss (and that excursions to the “other side” are “for fun” or “a distraction”?”

    No. I think that internet communities and blogs are designed for whatever purpose is desired by the creator(s). The degree to which “like-minded people” dominate is nothing more than a reflection of the desire of the creator(s).

    For example, BCC is not just like-minded people discussing the posts – but it is closer to that description than W&T (or Mormon Matters was before the meltdown and reconfiguration). BCC is intentionally more focused on “faithful” discussion and administers more vigorously than W&T – but I have no problem with that. I read both regularly for what I can learn and contribute – and I can learn from and contribute to both communities. Individual blogs are all over the map with regard to this question.

    2) “Do you believe that this distinction only holds for the internet, or does it spill out into offline life? Should it exist in either sphere?”

    It’s a basic part of life – and immutable, in general, although it can change within organizations and for individuals. Maybe it shouldn’t exist in an ideal world, but I don’t like the unrealistic expectations associated with many “shoulds” in the real world.

    3) “Angst? Is it a deal-breaker for conversation, or can someone still speak constructively with it?”

    I agree that angst has little to do with constructive conversation, IF it’s not accompanied by anger and a need to vent. Tone is hard to judge sometimes, lacking the ability to see someone’s expression as they type, but I think it’s much more about respect than angst, at the most fundamental level.

    4) “With respect to the church (or to any church), is the important faultline the difference between belief and disbelief, or does it lie elsewhere? In other words, can there ever be constructive dialogue between believers and disbelievers (think about the implications of this in a more general sense)?”

    I agree that tone and the impression of respect or disrespect is a far more critical “faultline” than agreement. Imo, it is the impression of disrespect and belittling that causes threads to spiral out of control and turn into name-calling and vitriol, not simple disagreement.

    I apologize for picking on Will, but it’s instructive to see the change in emotional response to his previous tone and the one he uses now.

    There’s a commonly understood difference, for example, between a drunk and a mean drunk.

    I also think there’s an element of the blogging conflict that nobody has mentioned yet. Many people use the Bloggernacle or similar settings to express online what they feel they can’t express in organized, face-to-face meetings. For the LDS Church, that means those who want to say something but don’t want to try to shout down the dominant piccolos often turn to online discussion groups to be able to say the “traditionally unsayable”. That leads to conversations that are uncomfortable to those who are the ones causing the silence in church – and when the piccolos enter the Bloggernacle, there often is a sudden discord as everyone joins instruments to outplay those piccolos who normally dominate at church.

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  48. Andrew S on September 16, 2011 at 7:18 PM

    re 46,

    John,

    Regardless of whether or not you accuse anyone of being duplicitous, here’s what you do:

    Some people will always be viewed with suspicion, simply because of the questions they ask, the manner in which the questions are asked, and because of implied agendas (real or imposed) behind those questions.

    Does viewing someone with suspicion because of questions they ask, or the manner in which they ask, or the implied agenda (how would YOU know implied agenda? I imply; YOU infer) equate to viewing them as being duplicitous. Perhaps or perhaps not. But you have clearly made your stand.

    I don’t know why you want to minimize this now. If you’re for community boundaries, this shouldn’t really be anything to be ashamed about from these sorts of statements. Just then, recognize 1) that someone could make a similar judgment about you (viewing you with suspicion for questions you ask, the way you ask them, or implied agendas), and 2) that you’re admitting that on the internet, you’re “breaking” from your self-admitted offline goals within the church to better serve in love people with whom you never would normally associate. (To clarify on this point, I think that human nature would be to stick to your own kind. That’s how things *are*, offline or online. But if you hold that things *should* be different…as your quotation of Eugene England suggests you do, then the mystery is how you go about treating online as a respite from all the work you’re trying to do offline.)

    So, you don’t have to be saying that any DAMU commenter is duplicitous. But you do have assumptions about people who ask certain questions, the kinds of people who would go over to a certain place and ask certain questions, etc., and you engage those people according to your assumptions.

    re 47

    Ray,

    Just to answer your point 2, I guess “should” shouldn’t (oh ho ho, see what I did there?) have unrealistic *expectations*. Should can be something to work toward, not just something you *expect* to happen. So, to say that something should or shouldn’t be the case in an ideal world perhaps is a calling to work toward changing our current world (one person — ourselves — at a time).

    I think what you say in your last paragraph is profound. But then again, a lot of things you say are.

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  49. hawkgrrrl on September 16, 2011 at 10:24 PM

    I’m not totally clear on this idea of boundaries & shoulds, but I think that is a fundamental difference between sites. I think the key reason we want broader boundaries at W&T or previously at Mormon Matters is because we are generalists, so our posts are intended to be more broadly popular. Having boundaries makes sense if your posts are deeper, more scholarly, and of more specific appeal, like those at BCC and T&S. It’s like the difference between the Atlantic and the New York Post. Unfortunately, that analogy makes us the Post.

    As for “shoulds” that’s a political question, IMO. Those who like more shoulds tend to be social conservatives. Those who like fewer shoulds are not.

    I tend to think Andrew is not interested in redefining shoulds or boundaries, just in observing the whole thing like a kid with an ant farm. Hopefully he’ll keep his magnifying glass put away.

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  50. FireTag on September 16, 2011 at 11:13 PM

    I always liked the New York Post. Just remember to start at the back with the sports section and put it away before you work your way forward to page six, where modesty never dwells.

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  51. John C. on September 17, 2011 at 6:41 AM

    Andrew,
    My suspicions are now and ever have been specific, not general. There are specific people whom I am suspicious of (you, for instance, aren’t one of them). Nor am I minimizing what I wrote. I am saying that you misunderstood my intent and my message. Some of the fault lies with me, for being unclear in writing. But, trust me, you misunderstand me now and then.

    “Does viewing someone with suspicion because of questions they ask, or the manner in which they ask, or the implied agenda (how would YOU know implied agenda? I imply; YOU infer) equate to viewing them as being duplicitous.”
    For that, I’ll send you to this comment on that thread. It’s the best I can do to explain the sort of moral calculus dealing with people you don’t really know on a blog entails.

    “that you’re admitting that on the internet, you’re “breaking” from your self-admitted offline goals within the church to better serve in love people with whom you never would normally associate.”
    I think you are seeing pride in that admission, where pride is not intended. That I point something out about myself doesn’t mean that I am happy about it. I am not always happy with my online behavior. People who know me know that. I don’t particularly like the fractiousness of the internet church (as you well know). But then again, I find certain boundaries more significant than you do, so I must be a hypocrite? Fine, I’m a hypocrite. Add it to the list of my misdeeds.

    “But you do have assumptions about people who ask certain questions, the kinds of people who would go over to a certain place and ask certain questions, etc., and you engage those people according to your assumptions.”
    Andrew,
    Why wouldn’t I have assumptions? I assume that the folks I interact with online aren’t actually dogs. You assume certain things about me. That’s natural. We can’t communicate without making assumptions. Again, how does this make me different from anyone else who engages in online discussion?I’m able to admit that my assumptions are likely often wrong, if that helps.

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  52. John C. on September 17, 2011 at 7:56 AM

    Another brief thing,
    In blog conversation, I am looking for an honest partner, someone who is open to listening to the best of my argument. I try to be an honest partner. I admit I am not always successful (and that I don’t always try to be), but I should and usually do. Trolls (which was the topic of my post of yore) are not honest partners. Discerning the honest from the trollish is difficult (arguably impossible). Nonetheless, the conversation works better if you attempt it. No-one is constantly throwing a spanner into the works or saying things just to provoke angry reactions. Would I say that my judgment is always accurate? no. Is that too bad? yes. Have I hurt people’s feelings? Probably, and I am sorry for it. But there you are.

    For that matter, we’ve even tolerated dishonest partners if they are polite. Hellmut, for instance, is never going to find the church (as it is now) to be good. Nonetheless, he isn’t in moderation at BCC (as far as I know) and I doubt he should be, because he is unfailingly polite. Do I agree with him? Pretty much never. Do I wish he would go away? Yeah, sometimes. Do I miss his contributions now that he has gone away? Sometimes (but not many). But he isn’t banned or moderated (as far as I know). That he doesn’t post there much anymore is more a function of self-selection than boundary maintenance.

    Steve Evans has described our comment policy in the past as “Don’t be a jerk.” That’s probably as accurate a description as you’ll find. It is incredibly subjective and probably prone to error, but it seems to work. We’re certainly not a conflict-free zone. Nor are we disproprotionately discompassionate.

    I guess my worry is that you are taking my feeble attempt to explain myself and using it to draw conclusions regarding other people’s reasons for what they do. Considering that I think you are reading me incorrectly (and pretty much calling me a liar, since you don’t want to call me delusional), your whole analysis strikes me as misbegotten. Nonetheless, carry on. Yours wouldn’t be the only misbegotten analysis in the bloggernacle.

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  53. Stephen Marsh on September 17, 2011 at 8:26 AM

    I find myself curious who the jmb is who has been asserting control over the wiki article and have been fascinated to see how that Wiki article has evolved.

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  54. hawkgrrrl on September 17, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    I would certainly assume John C. is aware of what he meant, even if the meaning is ambiguous to others. As I pointed out before, these quotes are pretty old, too. I hope nobody reminds me of stuff I said 5 years ago, either on the internet or elsewhere.

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  55. Stephen Marsh on September 17, 2011 at 8:42 AM

    Hawk, but what about the good stuff you’ve written. It is always nice to have someone remember that.

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  56. Andrew S on September 17, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    re 49,

    hawkgrrrl,

    *slowly hides magnifying glass*

    re 50,

    FireTag

    That’s similar to how I feel about the Wall Street Journal. All my professors (business school) suggest reading it, but then I get to the Op Ed section, and rage.

    re 51:

    John,

    I just haven’t had the fortune of being called out by name as someone for whom there are no awards to be handed out in the Bloggernacle. But in any case, if there are only *specific* people for whom you are suspicious, then it doesn’t make sense that you would provide broad categories of people for whom you (or your community, or your cobloggers) are suspicious (those who ask particular questions, in a particular tone, who have an “implied agenda”.)

    And, in fact, the broader categorization of suspicion seems to fit. If people ask certain questions, or have a certain tone, or are perceived to have a certain agenda, then they will be asked to can it. And if not, they will be moderated.

    With respect to the comment link you provide, I’ll notice that you first start off by establishing that you think there is a kind of duplicity built into internet communication, by virtue of all of the contextual and nonverbal clues that are missing. Or, as you summarize: “Because all we have are words, the ability and opportunity to deceive are great”

    The rest of the comment is your separating duplicity from distrust…you have examples of several people who distrust (either for the agenda you perceive them as having, or for varying levels of “trollish” behavior), but you establish that you don’t think any of them are duplicitous.

    So, the point about duplicity was a smokescreen. The important part is that you don’t trust them because of what they say, how they say it, or the agenda you perceive them as having. And that defines how you or your cobloggers will interact with them in an online context.

    I think you are seeing pride in that admission, where pride is not intended. That I point something out about myself doesn’t mean that I am happy about it. I am not always happy with my online behavior. People who know me know that. I don’t particularly like the fractiousness of the internet church (as you well know). But then again, I find certain boundaries more significant than you do, so I must be a hypocrite? Fine, I’m a hypocrite. Add it to the list of my misdeeds.

    I don’t think it’s necessarily a matter of pride. Rather, it’s a matter that on in offline venues (at least, “the church”) you recognize it as an issue to be worked against But in other venues (say, “BCC”,) it’s not something to be worked against. BCC is *for* trusted people. Maybe you take pride in that; maybe you don’t. But pride or no pride, there’s a mismatch.

    Secondly, finding different boundaries more significant doesn’t make you a hypocrite. It’s that the same boundaries you find significant (and thus you are trying to build common ground between people within those boundaries), others don’t. Shouldn’t it be OK for Nothing Wavering to make a boundary that the “Murmurnacle” is outside of? Shouldn’t it be ok for them to distrust the Bloggernacle by their criteria? You dispute this because you’re all co-religionists (the boundary you have set) and that’s more important than political differences.

    OTOH, even when some people *do* try to reach out (on the criteria of similar political aims and goals), they are outside of your defined boundary (they are not co-religionists) and thus distrusted. And you know, I guess this is more complicated issue than I’m pointing out. Because it’s not so straightforward to say something broad like, “Outer Blogness, the Bloggernacle, and whatever you want to call John Dehlin’s circle of influence generally have similar political goals.” Because people get discouraged. One can only be rebuffed so many times before they start to think that the Bloggernacle is ineffectual or that the church can’t be improved (in even the uncontroversial ways…we don’t have to get into heavy hitting stuff to at least concede that both the Bloggernacle and Outer Blogness would both benefit from the church being more “engaging” for single adults, young and old. So you can read articles in both areas calling for similar attention to be given to this issue.) So, then, after people are discouraged (the second disaffection, as I wrote about last week), then perhaps all *you* can see is disaffected people who have nothing in common with you.

    Basically, here’s the thing…Scott wants more cross-linking and cross-communication…but of course, there already is quite a bit of cross-linking and cross-communication between, say, Outer Blogness, and the Bloggernacle. Or between the Bloggernacle and whatever you want to call blogs and efforts that are related to John Dehlin’s circle of influence. But these efforts to cross-link and cross-communicate are rejected, because you see them as having an implied agenda you distrust (criticism, etc.,), because they ask particular questions, in a particular tone.

    Andrew,
    Why wouldn’t I have assumptions? I assume that the folks I interact with online aren’t actually dogs. You assume certain things about me. That’s natural. We can’t communicate without making assumptions. Again, how does this make me different from anyone else who engages in online discussion? I’m able to admit that my assumptions are likely often wrong, if that helps.

    I have little problem with assumptions. Just own up to them. In these comments, I see you vacillating between a position where you try to minimize the assumptions you make, (e.g., “my suspicions are specific, not general,” or “You seem to be saying that I said that any DAMU commenter on a bloggernacle blog is being inherently duplicitous.” [p.s., which I didn't say. It seems that "duplicity" has been completely a smokescreen, because you can distrust without inferring duplicity.] Comments like these really underlie a lot of what you’ve said here) and another position where you argue that the assumptions you make are completely rational (of course, in the internet, you can’t tell who’s a dog or not…)

    I have attempted to plot within this post what I think are some reasonable assumptions to infer from words you or your cobloggers have made. In the Bloggernacle, there are no awards for Chino Blanco and Chanson. Without qualification, the DAMU community is not welcome at BCC. (Actually, there are qualifications. To the extent they can dial down angst, or questions, or tones, or an agenda, then they can be welcome. But I suspect that what Stapley uses to define the “DAMU” includes precisely these things anyway.) Etc., Etc.,

    These should be uncontroversial if you own up to your assumptions. But you and others from BCC come here to point out that, “oh, you’re not giving a generous reading.” What’s “ungenerous” about this, if this is your actual position? It’s not something to be ashamed about.

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  57. Andrew S on September 17, 2011 at 4:04 PM

    re 52:

    John,

    One thing to note (from your comment linked from the discussion, no less) is that it’s not just about trolling. Suspicion isn’t just for trolls, as your elaboration into Hellmut’s “agenda” points out.

    (And your comment here introduces something different. On your BCC post’s comment, you write you would *not* consider the posters mentions [of which Hellmut was one] to be deceptive, because they are pretty open in their agendas. But here you say that Hellmut is “dishonest…[but] polite.” I don’t know what to say, other than that there’s no way to sort out words like “duplicitous” or “dishonest” or “suspicious” when they mean whatever you want them to mean whenever you want them to mean them.)

    This applies to something like “being a jerk,” too. You can define that any way you want. “asking particular questions, in a particular way, with an implied agenda.”

    I guess my worry is that you are taking my feeble attempt to explain myself and using it to draw conclusions regarding other people’s reasons for what they do. Considering that I think you are reading me incorrectly (and pretty much calling me a liar, since you don’t want to call me delusional), your whole analysis strikes me as misbegotten. Nonetheless, carry on. Yours wouldn’t be the only misbegotten analysis in the bloggernacle.

    I guess one thing to note is that I am also using the words of your cobloggers. So it’s not that I’m only using what you say to draw conclusions about other people’s reasons for doing stuff. I’m drawing a body of pretty consistent commentary across a group of people.

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  58. Stephen Marsh on September 17, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    I kind of like many of the things John C is saying and trying to do.

    But then I see the bloggernacle as an on-line recreational and thought destination.

    I also like the original post’s effort to analyze, and I think we are getting too meta by reading criticism into it.

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  59. John C. on September 17, 2011 at 4:32 PM

    sigh

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  60. John C. on September 17, 2011 at 4:33 PM

    I just meant that he isn’t an honest partner in the conversation. Not that he is being duplicitous or something.

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  61. Andrew S on September 17, 2011 at 4:50 PM

    re 60,

    John,

    I don’t understand what you mean. He’s honest and upfront with his point of view. He’s not hiding anything. Once again you’re introducing this irrelevant (or at least, undefined) concept of “duplicity” when you yourself admit that you think “he isn’t an honest partner in the conversation.”

    I’m asking, “why not?”

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  62. Andrew S on September 17, 2011 at 4:54 PM

    re 58:

    Stephen,

    I also like the original post’s effort to analyze, and I think we are getting too meta by reading criticism into it.

    I actually agree, ultimately. It’s unfortunately easy to lose track of things…And I guess, to a certain extent, *any* analysis is going to be somewhat meta, because of the nature of analysis.

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  63. hawkgrrrl on September 18, 2011 at 1:53 AM

    Perhaps when John C says Hellmut is not an honest partner in the conversation he means what Andrew S pointed out with the term “co-religionists.” If you are not approaching the discussing with the same underlying foundation or premise (e.g. one that is positive toward the church), no matter what you say will be viewed as not being an honest partner in the discussion. Did I get that right?

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  64. Cowboy on September 22, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    “Steve Evans has described our comment policy in the past as “Don’t be a jerk.” That’s probably as accurate a description as you’ll find.”

    Still this is incorrect as universal policy because Steve Evans is himself a jerk, and often he behaves just that way when responding to what he percieves as the hidden agenda of some commenters. So the don’t be a jerk requirement at BCC applies only to those expressing contrary viewpoints. Still, it is your blog, and it is easy to not participate there anymore.

    I found myself at BCC at the early stages of my blogging experience. At the time I had awareness of boundaries, and I was also in the preliminary stages of dealing with my loss of faith. I never had the intent of just arguing for arguments sake, but I did argue. It was helpful to be able to participate in intellectual conversations with other people who clearly understood the “issues” as well or better than I did. In arguing I wasn’t trying to hurt people, troll, or just be a jerk, rather I was trying to understand why we were at such polar ends of the playing field when we were each working from the same information. Mormon Matters (Now Wheat & Tares) seemed to be the only place where these conversations were reasonably welcome.

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  65. Andrew S on September 22, 2011 at 12:07 PM

    64

    Cowboy,

    The last paragraph kinda saddens me. I think that Mormon blogs can have the exact role that you describe: allowing people “to be able to participate in intellectual conversations with other people who clearly underst[and] the issues.” But in the process of doubt or disaffection, people may have questions that may seem to have an agenda to the unsuspecting. It’s a shame that someone would be pushed away for having those questions.

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  66. Cowboy on September 24, 2011 at 1:03 PM

    Well, the reality is we all make assumptions about each other beyond what is warranted from our limited interactions. They assumed that I was there to create difficulty simply for its own sake. I on the other hand assumed that they had tried to build a pseudo intellectualism on Mormon spirituality by insulating it from the questions that matter the most. They can probe quite deeply into questions of consciousness and spirituality, the mysteries of God, etc, if they accept unquestionably that Mormon cosmology is more or less valid in some fundamental parts. Because of the caliber of Mormon intellectuals who participate there, their theoretical and theological probing can be quite intricate…and even somewhat interesting. However, it all lays on the bedrock of Joseph Smith’s credibility, which can bring all of this interesting inquiry down in shambles if someone asks…”do you really believe in magic rocks??”.

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  67. [...] The Fractures and Factions of Mormon Blogging, Part I and Part II – Andrew S [...]

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  68. [...] an aside, I would like to point out that anyone who has read my series of posts about the Mormon internet communities would realize that you really can’t place the Bloggernacle, Mormon Stories, and Mormon [...]

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  69. [...] panel on some of the divisions within Mormon communities online. I’ve written a bit about the fractures and factions of Mormon blogging, and this is still a topic in which I’m interested, so [...]

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  70. [...] So, I’m starting my own Mormon blogging history series at Wheat and Tares, and the first part of Fractures and Factions is up. [...]

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