About the Gretsch Pages

On pumpkins and politics: Changing up what’s allowed on the site

1

I've been thinking about this for awhile. Definitely since Halloween, and really, quite awhile before.

As many of you know, I was once -- in a long ago former life -- a journalist, and have retained a deep respect for freedom of speech.

But at the same time, over the past few years we've seen freedom of speech weaponized in ways I don't think we've really seen before. I'm thinking of things like Reddit and Twitter and 4Chan, offering truly unfettered speech and allowing for the literal rise of Nazis, coordinated attacks on ... whoever and an elevated platform for every form of nastiness imaginable.

And it's not just that these voices have a platform, it's that they are, as I said, weaponizing. They are creating coordinated efforts to shut down rational discourse, other viewpoints, and, for that matter, simple factual statements they don't like.

I'm not saying that's happening here, but I am providing some insight into a pretty core-belief discussion I'm having with myself.

So I find myself shifting position a bit, and wondering if the absolutely free exchange of ideas is really that great an ideal after all. Some ideas are patently stupid. Or dangerous.

Some may be neither stupid nor dangerous, but simply require a level of intellectual commitment and nuance that is going to be in short supply on most internet venues.

Or maybe I'm just getting over myself. It's a guitar site. We're not gonna solve the world's problems here. If we're lucky, we'll solve an intonation problem. Or teach me how to play the dang things -- that'd be an achievement.

And I've also noticed that political discourse has reached an absolute nadir. I've been doing this since the Clinton administration. It was rough then, it was worse in the Bush years. And somewhere in the Obama years, it took an even deeper dive.

Nowadays, it's not just nasty and partisan, it's aggressively stupid and non-factual. Worse yet (and maybe due to "aggressively stupid and non-factual") we're no longer listening to one another. And what's the point in talking at all if no one is listening?

So, I intend to grab some wisdom from the not-too-far-past, courtesy of Mr. Linus Van Pelt:

There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.

So, while I still have some tattered belief in free speech remaining, I am going to start curtailing threads that dive into the above three topics.

To be sure I'm clear, we're gonna forgo any further topics diving into religion, politics, or the Great Pumpkin. I'm sure there are other forums that will be better venues for your thoughts on those things. As for me, I'm tired of it. Life is too short. And too good.

Since I know someone somewhere will feel that I am applying this rule inconsistently....

  1. If you are the last poster when I lock a thread, it may or may not be due to your post. Most likely, it's not, and you just happened to be the last person to post before I saw it. So don't take it personally.
  2. If you think something has fallen afoul of the Great Pumpkin rule PLEASE vote it down. Nothing gets my attention faster than a post marked as toxic.
  3. Don't hesitate to reach out to me, either, if you think a post needs attention.

And for the love of all things holy, if I shut a post down, don't start another one to argue over it. That's just causing trouble, and you know it.

I think that 'bout covers it, but if not, I'm happy to elaborate further.

3

I do feel at the core of the problem of “information” is the long standing lack of trust in government. People are ready for complete transparency. Instead we are treated like children and told stories of the Great Pumpkin for fear that we are not ready for the truth. It’s time to demand complete transparency in our government.

4

Seriously? You want to make this one the first I have to lock?

5

THE fellow is responding to the political commentary in your post Maybe suggest that comments on this post are unnecessary...(like mine) Can you just post a message to all forum members and disable the ability to comment on it. It's a good idea overall, especially as I think the GREAT PUMPKIN represents the creeping forces of darkness that threaten to overwhelm the pumpkin patch of our will to choose.

6

No, I’m just addressing your points and proving how I feel, so that we might listen to each other. Don’t fall into the trap of what you dislike, by shutting down and not listening.

7

You know, if there was ever a time to keep the discussion on-point and clear, this is probably it. Please -- and I'm asking you nicely here -- don't make me lock this. I would much rather keep it open in case anyone has any real questions or comments. And if i lock it, I'm concerned many folks hitting "latest topics" may not see it. SO... please. Just don't.

8

This sounds like a great idea and genuine service to this forum.

You just want another guitar right?

Seriously good idea; many thanks.

I have voted down posts that were prefectly fine but way wrong about some tech thing. Sorry if this drew your attention, that was not the intent. I will not do that from now on.

9

Remember we love you Baxter. And the great pumpkin. Asking inter web users to behave will be useless. I will be sinsere as possible. In before the lock!

10

A gentle suggestion, Bax:

Perhaps a more succinct and less poetic title might grab more folk's attention?

11

I look at this (mostly terrific) forum as a music (mostly Gretsch) forum. If the participants would stick to initiating music related threads, I think we'd be less likely to veer off into political/religious/social issues arguments. The bottom line is - no one is going to change the minds of anyone else on these non-music related threads. The only thing that might happen is further polarization and animosity. So, the trade off is that a person can feel smug, intelligent, and righteous when posting their opinion, while possibly degrading the quality of the forum community. Bad trade.

Some of these threads have positively or negatively influenced my opinions about a number of posters. I'm guessing that some of my posts have done the same to others. Democrat/Republican, atheist/believer, lefty/righty, leave/remain, over/under/sideways/down....... Who cares what you think!?! IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC!!!!!

Thanks Bax, for trying to keep this fine establishment civil.

12

Tim- you do a great job hereabouts. I am also signed into a number of other sites where the mods have either too much content control or not enough. Either way lies madness. Here, however, your ability to walk the tightrope between properly-expressed opinion and radical posturing is just about the best I have witnessed.

We seem to live in an age of disrespect, a time when tribalism has succeeded honour on the political battlefield, where for reasons that escape me, each side feels the other has pinned their backs to the wall and the "fight or flight" reflex has taken hold.

It's sad. Open and honest discourse is vanishing, and not just in the USA. It's also happening in Canada, Britain, and much of Europe.

Someday someone with a bigger brain than mine will be able to explain what happened. I just worry that it won't be before I leave the planet.

Meantime, please keep walking that tightrope. We appreciate it!

13

No, I’m just addressing your points and proving how I feel, so that we might listen to each other. Don’t fall into the trap of what you dislike, by shutting down and not listening.

– Hipbone

this is becoming a trumpkin..

14

“Who cares what you think, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC!!!”

But isn’t music about life?

I do feel this is the problem with the divisiveness we all experience. I personally like to engage in meaningful conversation with people I have a commen interest in, music. I do feel it’s a sad day when adults can’t have civil conversation. Censorship is a means to “keep it clean and friendly,” but is it really an appropriate approach? Can’t we just skip over a post that we are not interested in? Wouldn’t that be the adult thing to do? By the way I’m not trying to be an agitator, I just see this as the way people need to learn to go through life. Information is key, lack of information is suppressive and I feel we have all becomes victims of this. This response is about the beauty and need of free speech. I for one enjoy the diversity of ideas in this group.

15

For the avoidance of doubt, what Mr Baxter is saying is that he doesn't want political, religious or Great Pumpkin discourse in here. Which may correctly be thought of as his parlour. In his house. This is not a free speech or censorship issue. This is about good behavior whilst a guest in someone else's home.

I for one apologise for the many occasions I've put up pictures of Linus welcoming the Great Pumpkin. I really have done that, quite often.

16

Seriously? You want to make this one the first I have to lock? -Baxter

I read Hipbone's post and had to giggle to myself, imagining your reaction.

Can’t we just skip over a post that we are not interested in? Wouldn’t that be the adult thing to do? -Hipbone

That's how I'd like it to be. I enjoy the off-topic, often political stuff. It doesn't bother me or cause me to dislike anybody. Well, almost anybody. But apparently it does disturb a lot of people, which is presumably why so many forums prevent it. I'm fine with whatever Baxter wants to do. Speaking of which...

I would much rather keep it open in case anyone has any real questions or comments. -Baxter

Not to be pedantic, but what about threads like the "dizzying pace" sexual harassment one that might fall into a gray area? OT, but not religious, not inherently political or Orange Pumpkin oriented, though obviously can be made so. I don't think I've ever started an OT thread, so easy enough for me. But a little clarification might be helpful. No overtly political or religious threads? Or no OT threads that are likely to veer that way? Or no OT threads that even have the potential to turn political or religous? Or just don't deliberately provoke a political or religious discussion, and trust the membership to honor your wishes?

17

Those are really good questions, afire, and I'm afraid I don't have a great answer.

I think moderation always ends up being somewhat subjective, so on a long enough timeline, I'm going to close something prematurely, or not close something quickly enough.

I would ask people to start threads in good faith. The rules are pretty elementary, in every sense of the word, so 'good faith' should be pretty simple.

All kinds of threads can veer all sorts of ways, so starting in good faith is all I can really ask. Once they're out there, they go where they go, and we have a very long tradition of thread derailing around here. So, if you start one in good faith, that doesn't mean it won't end up off the rails. You control the topic and the first post. Make 'em good. After that, what happens with it is in the communities' hands.

The dizzying pace thread is butting right up on the edge, or maybe even past, but I also think it may be running out of steam naturally. We'll see.

To be clear, I enjoy the off-topic discussion and different viewpoints as well. I'm not trying to squelch them. I've just come to the conclusion that there's no longer such thing as a civilized discussion about politics, religion, or the reality of the Great Pumpkin. Or, if such a thing still exists, it's a unicorn.

18

Yes, I remember a post from many years ago about “Grooming Tips” It was an amazingly entertaining adventure that went on for many, many pages. I remember some “Great Pumpkin” content in that post. It’s a shame people can’t just decide what to read and what not to read.

19

Tim, I feel your pain. Asking people to behave with civility is not asking for too much. The rise of social media with it's ease of knee-jerk thoughtless responses and it's lack of accountability has not done our civilization many favors. I don't indulge in social media because I distrust the kind of reductive discourse -- and thinking -- it actively encourages.

Your simple plea in the dialog box, Make it worth reading. And don't be a jerk. is all too often ignored.

What I have noticed is that there are a select few posters that consistently enjoy being provocative; perhaps they could be treated like the children they are and given one warning; after that a time-out. Sometimes the topics they are commenting on have nothing to do with your three topics. ( Didn't Brian Setzer leave over being disrespected by trolls? I wasn't as active here and don't remember the details. ) This may be a way of allowing the adults to continue enjoying each others' diverse and different opinions.

Perhaps as the only moderator, you are also bearing the brunt of handling the garbage.

I'm not perfect. I once made what I thought was an innocent and funny remark here. Another poster whom I respect really put me down. I had no idea why and didn't until I did some research and realized that I was wrong and ignorant. And I'm the better for him flaming/informing me. It happens.

20

I'm in! I get it and I think you have been way beyond patient. I prefer to fight in person at the roundups, myself.

21

so 'good faith' should be pretty simple.

22

My rules are a lot simpler than bankruptcy law, commercial law or insurance law though, aren't they?

23

My rules are a lot simpler than bankruptcy law, commercial law or insurance law though, aren't they?

– Baxter

They are. I just didn't edit in my wink emoji quickly enough.

24

no one is going to change the minds of anyone else on these non-music related threads.

I'm familiar with that sentiment - it's so often repeated it's functionally a truism. But I don't believe it's true. It discounts the value of human discourse - and that's all we got.

If we learn something about guitars and music here, if we come here to ask advice about how to deal with squirrels in the attic and get good info from people we know and trust - why dismiss the possibility that we might learn and evolve in our thinking based on exchanges about even hot-button topics?

When emotionally invested in a position, and feeling - as you rightly put it - "smug, intelligent, and righteous" - few are going to admit (or possibly even recognize) that something another has said has sunk in and started to work a change.

People instinctively resist having their minds changed by others, but no one is ashamed of changing their own minds. That change has to start somewhere; a cogently, civilly, respectfully (and even passionately) argued point of view on an internet forum may well act as that catalyst.

Almost no one will say, in a passionate thread, "you know what - you just changed my mind and I'm chucking my belief system." But views can change over time, and months-years down the line an individual whose mind - and intransigent opinions - "couldn't possibly change" may demonstrate that in fact his views have changed. He may even recognize and admit that something he read in a forum was the catalyst for the evolution in his thinking.

It's happened to me; I've seen it in others.


Bax, to address your concerns:

over the past few years we've seen freedom of speech weaponized in ways I don't think we've really seen before. I'm thinking of things like Reddit and Twitter and 4Chan, offering truly unfettered speech and allowing for the literal rise of Nazis, coordinated attacks on ... whoever and an elevated platform for every form of nastiness imaginable.

And it's not just that these voices have a platform, it's that they are, as I said, weaponizing. They are creating coordinated efforts to shut down rational discourse, other viewpoints, and, for that matter, simple factual statements they don't like.

Agreed. I'm still in the trenches with some journalists who do not weaponize (even some whose publishers would like them to flog a political position they resolutely refuse to favor). We all recognize the phenomenon. It's profoundly ominous for the social future of the world we thought we lived in.

I'm not saying that's happening here

Full stop, man! I don't think it is happening here. We clearly have members who often wear their politics on their T-shirts, and whose responses to a given topic are predictable - but they don't drag in reinforcements and firebomb us. They're even civil and relatively respectful about 85% of the time. And we know from their non-political posts that they have the wider interests we all share, and have learned to trust their goodwill and good intentions.

And because it isn't happening here, that almost makes the GDP an island of continued civil discourse. I've dropped out of active involvement here for many months at a time because I'd spent too much time reading responses to stories on news sites and felt real despair for the race. Yes, the polarization. Yes the incivility, the rudeness, the personal attacks, the talking points, yes the blowhards and bludgeons and trolls and intimidators and mockers. The spelling, the grammar, the functional illiteracy, the tunnel vision, the ignorance of history. All of that on full and proud display. Wading in that raging sewer has often made me doubt the value of interacting with people online at ALL - and I've not wanted to add on to the load of crap that floats by.

But, as I say, the GDP is - for the overwhelming most part - not like that.

Or maybe I'm just getting over myself. It's a guitar site. We're not gonna solve the world's problems here.

Did you expect us to? I never did.

And I've also noticed that political discourse has reached an absolute nadir. Nowadays, it's not just nasty and partisan, it's aggressively stupid and non-factual.

Yes it is. Almost everywhere.

Worse yet (and maybe due to "aggressively stupid and non-factual") we're no longer listening to one another. And what's the point in talking at all if no one is listening?

But, as belabored above, I think there's a chance we do, occasionally, communicate here - that we hear each other and start to move pieces around in our own puzzle-picture of The Way Things Are.

It's almost like you're saying that, because things are so bad out there, we're not going to talk about it in here.

I don't remember that I've ever started a thread on politics or religion, and I guess I don't really care if we discuss them or not. But the discussions we've had (and we know I've participated) have focused my attention on issues and perspectives I hadn't fully considered. In the attempt to validate and support my own instinctive reactions, I've often been motivated to research and think more carefully about the issue at hand - and then either discovered that my kneejerk position wasn't worth defending in its original form and had to be revised, or found fuller and more cogent reasoning for it. Further study, further thought...more nuanced consideration.

Not bad things.

Your house, of course, and your rules. And I fully get the despair over the state of civic (and civil) discourse in the western world now. It will be no problem for me to refrain from those discussions. But a part of me resents (however subliminally) being told what I can and can't talk about (even if I had no intention of going there) - that gets a little GretschTalky - and I think you might be overestimating the threat to our discourse here, and underestimating its value.

Even if it takes some moderating now and again, it may be worth the effort.

Your call.

25

I have no problem with this. We have, for the most part, grown up as a community together, and as such it is very easy to fall into the bunch-o'-guys-chatting-in-a-bar scenario where it doesn't really matter what's said; we're all friends and we'll all come back here tomorrow for another pint and a squabble over something else.

But online stuff is not like that. Even longtime 'friends' can speak out in ways that they might not if the recipient was right there in front of them. So people end up getting riled, then annoyed, then downright angry.

And politics and religion are *divisive* (I tried to embolden and italicise that, not sure it'll work). I have dear friends and family members who have very different beliefs to me in many aspects of life. We have talked about it in the past, that's how I know, but we don't talk about it now because they think that and I think this and we'll stay friends longer if we just don't talk about that stuff. If it takes Daddy Bax to hold a firm stance every once in a while to maintain order I'm all for it.


Register Sign in to join the conversation