Satire and parody as tools for debate.

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Satire and parody as tools for debate.

Postby JewelSong » Tue May 05, 2009 10:30 am

I am starting this thread to discuss the use of satire and parody in debating various controversial topics. Many people are uncomfortable with satire - it makes them squirm. Others think it is an unfair tactic because satire, by definition, holds something up to ridicule.

The recent disagreement in the now-locked thread "What Dinosaur Would Jesus Ride" got me thinking about this and wondering if some people simply did not understand the value of satire in literature and debate...or if some people mistakenly assume that satire is designed solely to make fun of a person and miss the larger point, which is to hold an idea up to the light so people may see it for what it really is.

Sometimes satire is gentle and almost kind; sometimes it is biting and almost cruel. It partly depends upon the egregiousness of the fault being pointed out. The definition of satire (from the Random House Dictionary) is as follows:

sat-ire –noun
1. the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule, or the like, in exposing, denouncing, or deriding vice, folly, etc.
2. a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule.
3. a literary genre comprising such compositions.

Origin:
1500–10; < L satira, var. of satura medley, perh. fem. deriv. of satur sated (see saturate )

Synonyms:
See irony, burlesque, caricature, parody, travesty. Satire, lampoon refer to literary forms in which vices or follies are ridiculed. Satire, the general term, often emphasizes the weakness more than the weak person, and usually implies moral judgment and corrective purpose: Swift's satire of human pettiness and bestiality. Lampoon refers to a form of satire, often political or personal, characterized by the malice or virulence of its attack: lampoons of the leading political figures
.


Here is a list (with links) of some notable examples of satire starting from almost 2,000 years ago and continuing to the present day.
http://www.spiritus-temporis.com/satire ... atire.html

I believe that the locked thread was a wonderful example of light and humorous satire and that it was a shame that some people were unable to appreciate the mechanism being used. Therefore, I am opening this thread to discuss the general use of satire as a tool for debate.

Have at it.
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Postby Storyteller » Tue May 05, 2009 10:47 am

So long as no one mistakes satire for the truth, it should all be fine.
Come, let us hasten to a higher plane,
Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
Their indices bedecked from one to n,
Commingled in an endless Markov chain!
Come, every frustum longs to be a cone,
And every vector dreams of matrices.
Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
It whispers of a more ergodic zone.

In Riemann, Hilbert or in Banach space
Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
We shall encounter, counting, face to face.

I'll grant thee random access to my heart,
Thou'lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
And so we two shall all love's lemmas prove,
And in our bound partition never part.

For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?

Cancel me not -- for what then shall remain?
Abscissas, some mantissas, modules, modes,
A root or two, a torus and a node:
The inverse of my verse, a null domain.

Ellipse of bliss, converse, O lips divine!
The product of our scalars is defined!
Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
cuts capers like a happy haversine.

I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he but known such a squared cosine 2 phi!
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Postby Cerin » Tue May 05, 2009 10:57 am

JewelSong wrote:I believe that the locked thread was a wonderful example of light and humorous satire and that it was a shame that some people were unable to appreciate the mechanism being used.

One can appreciate the mechanism being used while disapproving of the choices made in employing it, which is what I did, for the reasons I've explained.
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Postby vison » Tue May 05, 2009 11:04 am

As for me, I think this: if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. This is not a kindergarten.

A poster who pops in now and again to post absurdities is not entitled to any particular respect from anyone. That poster does not stick around to debate, he makes assertions and then leaves. We are not, IMHO, bound to treat him or his views with any special reverence.

One can respect a person's right to any belief or opinion, but that "respect" does not mean granting the belief or opinion validity or standing as "truth". Since this forum is designed for debate, then the tools of debate are allowed.

Satire and parody lighten the mood. Whether they are "tools of debate" is in itself debatable.
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Postby Lee~ » Tue May 05, 2009 11:05 am

The recent disagreement in the now-locked thread "What Dinosaur Would Jesus Ride" got me thinking about this and wondering if some people simply did not understand the value of satire in literature and debate...or if some people mistakenly assume that satire is designed solely to make fun of a person and miss the larger point, which is to hold an idea up to the light so people may see it for what it really is.

What do you think the value of satire is? It's much more than simple humor. I think it's an intellectual challenge, a puzzle game that tests the thinking ability of debating opponents. I also think it takes the place of hooting, blowing, chest pounding dominance behaviors of primates.

Ooo Oo Ooo! Aah Aah Ah!

I tend to think that people are less offended by satire when it is used defensively rather than in an offensive tactic in debate. Everybody loves an underdog. (Under gorilla) Offensive satire can muddy the argument, and spiral a thread. Heck, I'd even go so far to say that satire is a tool of the powerless. It's certainly not a commonly used tool of State, although I do have to say that some of Former President Bush's speeches would apply.

In forums such as this one, satire is entirely appropriate, since it can challenge status quo thinking. Of course, sometimes satire can turn into the status quo, and in that case, becomes entirely ineffective and ends making a statement of itself, if one has the wits to see it, though the participants may not be aware.

As a general rule, satire is inappropriate in support forums, when dealing with vulnerable persons undergoing transitions in life.

(Jeeze, that reads like an 8th grade book report... Oh well.)
<pounds chest...hoots>
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Postby JewelSong » Tue May 05, 2009 11:08 am

Cerin wrote:One can appreciate the mechanism being used while disapproving of the choices made in employing it, which is what I did, for the reasons I've explained.


The mechanism of satire has nothing to do with the "choices made in employing it." Satire, by definition, ridicules and exposes bad ideas and/or choices. That is what makes people squirm. It can also be screamingly funny. If one has a sense of humor, and doesn't take oneself too seriously, that it.

You didn't really explain anything - instead, you made assumptions about people's intent. You seem not to approve of satire as a tool in debate or discussion at all. If that is not the case, I would be interested in hearing under what circumstances you find satire appropriate and perhaps you could give an example from the list of links, so others could read it.

And Storyteller, good satire almost always points out the truth. In Swift's "A Modest Proposal" do you think he really thought the Irish were going to eat their children? But the truth he was highlighting was made clear by the satirical essay.

ETA: Lee - excellent points in your post!
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Postby Storyteller » Tue May 05, 2009 11:23 am

JewelSong wrote:And Storyteller, good satire almost always points out the truth. In Swift's "A Modest Proposal" do you think he really thought the Irish were going to eat their children? But the truth he was highlighting was made clear by the satirical essay.

And yet satire is all too often taken as fact. Examples are abundant. (You might want to scroll down to the "War on Starbucks" thread, where I posted about just such a case turning into a global siege on a business outfit).
Come, let us hasten to a higher plane,
Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
Their indices bedecked from one to n,
Commingled in an endless Markov chain!
Come, every frustum longs to be a cone,
And every vector dreams of matrices.
Hark to the gentle gradient of the breeze:
It whispers of a more ergodic zone.

In Riemann, Hilbert or in Banach space
Let superscripts and subscripts go their ways.
Our asymptotes no longer out of phase,
We shall encounter, counting, face to face.

I'll grant thee random access to my heart,
Thou'lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
And so we two shall all love's lemmas prove,
And in our bound partition never part.

For what did Cauchy know, or Christoffel,
Or Fourier, or any Boole or Euler,
Wielding their compasses, their pens and rulers,
Of thy supernal sinusoidal spell?

Cancel me not -- for what then shall remain?
Abscissas, some mantissas, modules, modes,
A root or two, a torus and a node:
The inverse of my verse, a null domain.

Ellipse of bliss, converse, O lips divine!
The product of our scalars is defined!
Cyberiad draws nigh, and the skew mind
cuts capers like a happy haversine.

I see the eigenvalue in thine eye,
I hear the tender tensor in thy sigh.
Bernoulli would have been content to die,
Had he but known such a squared cosine 2 phi!
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Postby Alys » Tue May 05, 2009 11:36 am

Speaking as a poster, not a mod, I do quite enjoy a bit of humorous satire. Or at least I do when it's aimed at an idea. When it's aimed a particular person (within our community, public figures are fair game) I'm not so keen on them.

For me (poster me) the locked thread became somewhat unkind when it was made clear that it was directed at one particular poster, up until that point I'd seen it as nothing more than amusing. I'll confess that I hadn't seen it as insulting to the Christian faith, but that's something I'm not particularly sensitive to.

This forum is lightly modded, it always has been, and we do allow exchanges and humour here that would have other boards throwing up their hands in horror, (just as I'm aware that others would find us prissy) but overall I think we enjoy a free and fair exchange of ideas that encourages debate, rather than stifling it.

As a mod though I have to agree with Hobbituk, please contact the mods if you have a problem with a thread/poster/comment.
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Postby vison » Tue May 05, 2009 11:36 am

Storyteller wrote:
JewelSong wrote:And Storyteller, good satire almost always points out the truth. In Swift's "A Modest Proposal" do you think he really thought the Irish were going to eat their children? But the truth he was highlighting was made clear by the satirical essay.

And yet satire is all too often taken as fact. Examples are abundant. (You might want to scroll down to the "War on Starbucks" thread, where I posted about just such a case turning into a global siege on a business outfit).


Idiots will always be idiots. I don't know what we can do about that.

Except laugh at them?
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Postby Cerin » Tue May 05, 2009 12:04 pm

JewelSong wrote:You didn't really explain anything - instead, you made assumptions about people's intent.

(With apologies to everyone else for this needless repetition) There was no need to start a new thread to respond satirically to xfrodox's link. We already had a thread. That was the extent of my first comment regarding the second thread -- it was unnecessary.

The other facet of my objections had to do with particular comments, which I cited, that I found denigrating from a religious perspective and therefore offensive. I mentioned that I found them offensive in the hope that people would take more care knowing that the subject was sensitive to some.


You seem not to approve of satire as a tool in debate or discussion at all.

That would seem to be a sweeping conclusion based on a single incident. I enjoy satire. I've not thought about it as a tool in debate, and do not have the time now to investigate your links. In this case it was not satire I was disapproving of, but:

1. The decision to start a new thread when there was already a thread in which to respond to xfrodox's dinosaur link. I felt this was, in effect if not intent, needlessly holding a particular poster up to ridicule.

2. The decision to use an aspect of a religion as the basis for the satire, since religion is a sensitive topic and that road therefore fraught with the peril of offending, which was born out with

3. A few specific posts that I thought were denigrating from a religious viewpoint.


Regarding contacting the moderators, my point in commenting initially was to ask that people try not to denigrate religious beliefs while exercising their wit. I felt that a few posts had crossed that line. I didn't feel it rose to the level that would prompt me to contact a moderator, but I guess that's because I was in the member-moderated mode that prevails on the other boards. I'll try not to make that mistake again.
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Postby rwhen » Tue May 05, 2009 12:14 pm

Satire IS and can be a useful tool for debate. I think it can also be a release for stress or frustration, giving an outlet that can be humorous.

However, and up until someone says that it is offensive to them, then I think the direction changes. Jadeval has accused me of being too saccharine, sugary sweet, tooth achingly kind and easily offended. I don't even know when I have written that something one of you wrote was offensive to me, I am pretty thick skinned after a bunch o' years on the planet.

I don't know about you lot, but in real life if someone came up to me and said .."what you said offended me." I would not reply with "Tough or buck up or why do you take me so seriously". I would say "I certainly didn't mean to offend you." Even if I think the other person was too touchy about what offended them. I would probably explain what I said, it might clear up any misunderstanding and the person offended might in fact see that no offense was intended.

I would also add here that religion is such a touchy subject to those whose beliefs are a central part of their lives. I don't think others have to change how they respond to that person, but should be aware and sensitive to saying something that could be hurtful. While it is easy to point at religion and that becomes the target, with very few exceptions, I would think we all have something in our lives that is very important to US, that others may think is inconsequential. And we may feel, "I don't care what people think about my dogs, cars, children, or whatever...say what you want."

But I think if everyone honestly looked at themselves, there are things that are offensive to all of us. On a messageboard, where the written word can so easily be taken out of context, it is doubly important to me to be understood.

In the example of "Jesus/Dinasaur"...I made up a name that involved using the word Jehovah. Upon reflection, regardless of how silly it was intended to be, I can see where a Christian or certainly a Jehovahs Witness would be horrified to read that. Some would, some would not. But if that one who WAS genuinely offended by it said they were offended, then I would offer the apology, not defend that just because it was satirical, therefore I have the right to say it.

As usual, lots of words here. I am not defending either position. Debate happens because we all have differing opinions on many subjects. I have noticed in Manwe that humor is MANY times lost completely or a poster who uses humor to prove a point is not taken as seriously. And when humor is used, it often has to be pointed out to the opposing opinion maker, that the line or words were meant in jest.

I feel I inadequately expressed my real opinion on this, but I do hope the meaning of the post comes through okay. We may not all be Christians, but we are all human and I am certain that as humans none of us want to be seen as offensive and therefore, it causes more defensiveness.
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Postby JewelSong » Tue May 05, 2009 12:37 pm

Satire is designed to offend. It is meant to shake people up and get the cobwebs out of their brains about whatever topic is on the table.

In the "Jesus Riding Dinosaur" thread, it was an extension of the repetitive nature of xfrodox's posts and deliberately silly in content and style. Was it "necessary?" Well, no. But NO thread is "necessary." The other thread was quasi-serious. This one was a joke. A JOKE. A satirical joke.

As far as I'm concerned, religion is fair game for any kind of debate and should not be given some kind of kid-glove treatment. Especially in Manwe. As far as I know, there is no rule about discussing and debating religion and religious beliefs in Manwe. People should be prepared to defend their beliefs if necessary, especially if they are in a minority and especially if their beliefs fly in the face of...well, of everything.

(Flying Spaghetti Monster, anyone?)

Just because someone states that they are offended does not mean that the topic shouldn't be discussed or that the other person should stop talking about it. Some people are so easily offended that you'd end up never talking about anything of substance.

(Nice weather we're having. Think it might rain? Rain sure is wet. And so on.)

Basically, I am not going to stop discussing something simply because someone tells me it offends him. Sometimes, it can't be helped. If you, Cerin, are offended because someone made a satirical post about Jesus riding a dinosaur and you feel that is an affront to your own beliefs...well...it can't be helped. You can be offended, but I found it funny and I found your taking offense to such a light-hearted thing bewildering. Personally, I like the idea of Jesus on a T-Rex. Think of how powerful he'd be! :D

Again, I feel that satire is designed to offend and to make people squirm. And to make people think. It can be a very effective tool.
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Postby Hobbituk » Tue May 05, 2009 12:42 pm

I disagree with that, satire can be used to offend, quite effectively too, but it doesn't have to.


Satire (in debate) is simply a way of presenting a viewpoint using exaggeration and irony to the point at which it makes the original viewpoint appear silly.
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Postby Cerin » Tue May 05, 2009 1:02 pm

JewelSong wrote:Just because someone states that they are offended does not mean that the topic shouldn't be discussed or that the other person should stop talking about it.

Certainly it's up to each individual to decide how they will respond once they learn that what they are saying is offensive to someone else. When I said I would appreciate it if people could avoid denigrating religious belief while exercising their wit, that is what I meant -- that I, personally would appreciate it if people made that effort. It certainly doesn't mean they are required to do so.

Likewise, my initial comment about the thread being unnecessary was not meant to suggest that the thread violated the TOS; although after GM mentioned the TOS, I went and looked out of curiosity and posted a portion that I thought might apply.


If you, Cerin, are offended because someone made a satirical post about Jesus riding a dinosaur

Once again, what offended me was:

1. the unnecessary starting of a new thread with the result that a particular poster was held up for ridicule, when GM could just as easily have had his fun and made his point in the existing thread

2. a few particular comments that I thought denigrated certain religious beliefs
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Postby vison » Tue May 05, 2009 2:00 pm

I thought GM started the thread so it wasn't making fun of the poster in question, but removed the sarcasm, satire, irony, and parody aspect to another place.
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Postby ILvEowyn » Tue May 05, 2009 2:36 pm

I would also add here that religion is such a touchy subject to those whose beliefs are a central part of their lives. I don't think others have to change how they respond to that person, but should be aware and sensitive to saying something that could be hurtful.


Well, I have my own religious beliefs, but I generally don't share them here. I think that anyone who does and then acts offended when those beliefs are challenged is being weak, or else does not realize what goes on here. Of course satire and criticism can get to the point of being mean, but it seems to me like really religious types have too little tolerance for it.
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Postby Cerin » Tue May 05, 2009 2:55 pm

ILuvEowyn wrote:I think that anyone who does and then acts offended when those beliefs are challenged

I just want to clarify that as far as I'm aware, no one has expressed offense at their beliefs being challenged. I was offended by comments made in a joking context that I thought were denigrating to things some people hold sacred. I realize now that I should have expressed my concerns to a moderator rather than in the thread.
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Postby Tuor, » Tue May 05, 2009 3:24 pm

Cerin,

Unless you upgrade your membership, you don't know which mod will be reading your concerns. Mods are people. Some may think your concerns aren't a big deal, others may act on it.
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Postby rwhen » Tue May 05, 2009 3:29 pm

I have never ever written to a moderator for any reason and not received a response. I DO write moderators, ya know...just to say hello, or tell them I like their sig piccie or tell them I think they handled a situation in a thread well.

When I have a concern on a thread, I usually go to one particular moderator, one that I feel comfortable writing/talking to. I have always received a prompt reply and it has always been taken seriously.

I realize that this is just my experience, but I would encourage posters who feel the need...for praise or just a question or to lodge a complaint, not to hesitate.
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Postby vison » Tue May 05, 2009 3:30 pm

Cerin wrote:
ILuvEowyn wrote:I think that anyone who does and then acts offended when those beliefs are challenged

I just want to clarify that as far as I'm aware, no one has expressed offense at their beliefs being challenged. I was offended by comments made in a joking context that I thought were denigrating to things some people hold sacred. I realize now that I should have expressed my concerns to a moderator rather than in the thread.


Around the world a great many things are held sacred. There is no way a person can comment on any aspect of life without offending someone somewhere.

We can do one of two things: we can refrain from comment or we can not.

If we choose the former, what will become of Manwe? :?

A great deal of what is said by some self-identified Christians on this forum is deeply offensive to me - but I put up with it. I don't recall ever demanding or even hoping that everyone cater to my sensibilities.
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Postby RoseMorninStar » Tue May 05, 2009 3:31 pm

vison wrote:I thought GM started the thread so it wasn't making fun of the poster in question, but removed the sarcasm, satire, irony, and parody aspect to another place.
This is exactly how I saw the thread vison.
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Postby Cerin » Tue May 05, 2009 3:38 pm

vison wrote:A great deal of what is said by some self-identified Christians on this forum is deeply offensive to me - but I put up with it. I don't recall ever demanding or even hoping that everyone cater to my sensibilities.

Neither did I demand that anyone cater to my sensibilities. I said I would appreciate it if people could avoid denigrating Christian belief while exercising their wit -- just to let people know that I would, you know, appreciate it if they could avoid doing that. I realize now what a completely daft statement it was to make here, and I certainly wouldn't have made it had I known what a fuss would ensue.
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Postby RoseMorninStar » Tue May 05, 2009 3:49 pm

Cerin wrote:
vison wrote:A great deal of what is said by some self-identified Christians on this forum is deeply offensive to me - but I put up with it. I don't recall ever demanding or even hoping that everyone cater to my sensibilities.

Neither did I demand that anyone cater to my sensibilities. I said I would appreciate it if people could avoid denigrating Christian belief while exercising their wit -- just to let people know that I would, you know, appreciate it if they could avoid doing that. I realize now what a completely daft statement it was to make here, and I certainly wouldn't have made it had I known what a fuss would ensue.
With this point of view it would seem that any discussion of religion.. or politics for that matter... would be off the table, someone is likely to be offended no matter what anyone says. IMO taking the discussion to another thread (rather than making light/jest of any one poster) was an attempt to step away from personally offending anyone.

In any case, why single out 'avoid denigrating Christian belief'?? What about other faiths?
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Postby Hobbituk » Tue May 05, 2009 3:51 pm

Cerin,

Unless you upgrade your membership, you don't know which mod will be reading your concerns. Mods are people. Some may think your concerns aren't a big deal, others may act on it.


I would have thought this was common knowledge (the details are in TheOneRing forum), but all moderators have their own direct e-mail address if anyone feels more comfortable contacting one in particular, rather than all of us at once. (If you do choose to go down this route, please be aware it may take slightly longer to receive a reply as it will depend on that particular person having the time to deal with it).

To clarify: It is not necessary to have a Premier Membership to contact the moderators.

We take all complaints seriously and discuss them between ourselves if we are unsure whether action is required.
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Postby Cerin » Tue May 05, 2009 4:28 pm

RoseMorninStar wrote:With this point of view it would seem that any discussion of religion.. or politics for that matter... would be off the table, someone is likely to be offended no matter what anyone says.

To be clear, 'this point of view' is that one should be careful when joking about religions, because religions are something that people tend to be sensitive about (because they involve what people hold sacred). With that in mind, I have to disagree with you, Rose. I think the comment I made in response to some people's joking remarks about Jesus has little to do with the notion of serious discussion.

To reiterate, we are not talking here about objections anyone had to any discussion of religion (or any other sensitive subject). We're talking about objections I had to what I took to be belittling jokes people were making about God/Jesus. I found some of the remarks offensive, so I mentioned it.


In any case, why single out 'avoid denigrating Christian belief'??

Because the jokes were being made about God/Jesus, not about some other religion.



What about other faiths?

Well, perhaps the next time there's a joke thread started about another religion or religious figure, an adherent of that religion who is offended will speak up and say they'd appreciate it if people could avoid denigrating their religion while exercising their wit?



Thank you for that info, Hobbituk.
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Postby Tuor, » Tue May 05, 2009 4:38 pm

When I have a concern on a thread, I usually go to one particular moderator, one that I feel comfortable writing/talking to. I have always received a prompt reply and it has always been taken seriously.


You don't have the option unless you have an upgraded account. Unless there's a list of mod e-mails somewhere that I'm not aware.
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Postby ILvEowyn » Tue May 05, 2009 5:00 pm

As far as complaining to mods about threads here, I have generally tried to go to the more conservative ones, figuring that if they agree with my complaint, it is especially likely to be valid. Obviously it's not a rule that it has to be that way. Just a thought :)
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Postby crispycreme » Tue May 05, 2009 5:15 pm

Tuor, wrote:
When I have a concern on a thread, I usually go to one particular moderator, one that I feel comfortable writing/talking to. I have always received a prompt reply and it has always been taken seriously.


You don't have the option unless you have an upgraded account. Unless there's a list of mod e-mails somewhere that I'm not aware.


Not sure where you're getting this idea, Tuor. The concept of email works whether you're a member of TORC or not. The list of mod emails can be found where they've always been found.. for years: at the top of the One Ring forum:

Who Are The MODS?
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Postby Tuor, » Tue May 05, 2009 6:05 pm

It seems to me they used to be a sticky thread in each forum. Thanks for the link. Now I know where to look.
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Postby portia » Tue May 05, 2009 6:23 pm

I will stick my nose in here to comment that this forum is generally regarded as a place for robust debate, on-topic debate. Personal remarks and such are not on-topic. BUT, anyone who strays in here should leave most of his/her sensibilities at the door, because people are going to disagree with you, even strenuously.

Some people regard religion as being beyond the pale of debate, but I strongly disagree. The fact that some people disagree with my religious orientation does not offend me, and I doubt I'd be offended any any remarks along that line (I'd just regard the remarks as wrong :lol: )

Thick skins are an asset. We should be able to say things here that might not be tolerated in person, because writing provides distance. While there are certanly limits, they should be set wide, to encourage discussion.

On the specific topic, I agree that satire can be very useful in exposing perceived weakenesses in a position. It can be cutting, but that is not a characteristic exclusively of satire.
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