[sixties-l] Fwd: A Primer for Online Activists

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 10/13/00

  • Next message: radman: "[sixties-l] Looking for substance behind the protest"

    >Although this document was conceived as a guide for
    >new animal rights activists, the principles discussed can
    >be generally applied to virtually any activist working
    >online. It is not intended to be a list of absolute
    >rules, nor is it meant to be a strict characterization
    >of my own posting style. It IS meant to be used as a
    >reference by people who have little or no experience
    >with online activism.
    >The Internet has been around in one form or another
    >for several decades. This, along with the somewhat
    >parallel development of dialup Bulletin Board Services
    >(BBS's), has resulted in the evolution of an Online
    >Culture of sorts, with its own "nettiquette". For
    >someone posting online for the first time, cyberculture
    >can be confusing at best, and downright offensive at
    >worst. Since the Internet isn't going to change for the
    >sake of new people (known as "newbies"), it is important
    >to be able to understand this medium, and to use it to
    >communicate effectively. Since the cyberculture
    >vocabulary extends to acronym-like abbreviations, and to
    >punctuation-based indicators of tone called
    >"emoticons", I have included a short list of the most
    >common shorthand expressions, and a helpful link, at the
    >end of this document. While it is very important to
    >understand whether the post to which you are responding
    >was intended to be serious, or just tongue-in-cheek, the
    >most vital aspect of online activism is your own
    >presentation; how you represent yourself and your cause,
    >and how well you communicate.
    >When you are posting online, people don't know what
    >you are like, how nice you are to your family, or how
    >intelligent you are at your job. They often don't even
    >know your gender. Consequently, your online identity
    >consists almost entirely of what you write. I say
    >"almost", because many people adopt online aliases,
    >either to help protect their identities or to make a
    >statement about who they are and what they believe.
    >This means that if you post under the name
    >"MoltenDeath" or "AK-47", you have lost quite a
    >bit of your audience's respect and empathy before you
    >write a word. If you want to use an alias, it's a good
    >idea to pick one that isn't instantly offensive.
    >The first time that you post in a newsgroup or other
    >online forum, it is important to think about what you
    >want to say before you click the "send" button. If you
    >are angry, take the time to calm down a bit before you
    >respond. Your first post doesn't have to be profound,
    >but it's a good idea to avoid being remembered as "that
    >jerk". This is of course a good idea for all posts, not
    >just your first one. Depending on the situation, you
    >may want to indicate that you have been following the
    >discussion, and perhaps explain why you have decided to
    >participate. That doesn't mean that you are expected to
    >tell the Story of Your Life in your first post, or that
    >anyone will appreciate it if you do.
    >It's generally better to slip into a discussion than
    >to crash it. That means following a topic "thread", and
    >reading a few older posts if necessary, before you
    >participate. Try to get a sense of the topic, and of the
    >positions and personalities of the people involved in it.
    >This will help you to contribute something meaningful.
    >One of the worst things an activist can do in any
    >discussion is to lose his or her temper. This may not
    >be obvious to everyone; there are many people online
    >who view personal insults and inflammatory rhetoric
    >(known as "flames") as a perfectly acceptable everyday
    >conversational style. Some people, often called Trolls,
    >post not to advance the discussion but to provoke angry
    >responses.  Don't fall into the trap of fighting Fire
    >with Fire; the only people who truly appreciate that
    >sort of "debate" are those who will never change their
    >minds, and those who make better opponents than allies.
    >The better way to win a skirmish is to be the one who
    >remains calm, not the one who comes up with the nastiest
    >flame. If you do lose your temper, apologize. When
    >dealing with people who just can't be civil, humor,
    >used in an appropriate manner (not as a substitute for
    >debate) can be effective. Avoid "baiting", or
    >deliberately provoking anger.
    >ARGUMENT 101:
    >When debating matters of fact, avoid the pitfall of
    >posting your own opinion as established reality. If you
    >believe that something is true, but do not absolutely,
    >positively know it to be true, it's a good idea to
    >indicate that by writing something along the lines of
    >"It's my understanding that..." or "I'm pretty sure
    >that...". This can save you enormous grief if you turn
    >out to be mistaken. On a similar note, remember the
    >Monty Python "Argument Sketch": contradiction is not
    >debate. Support what you say with reasoned arguments,
    >facts, or both.
    >When paraphrasing someone, never use double quotation
    >marks. Use single quotation marks, or none at all. Never
    >edit a quote to change the meaning, and if you do edit
    >for length, indicate that you have done so. Always
    >indicate whom you are quoting.
    >There are a handful of descriptive terms that get
    >bandied about in online discussion groups. They
    >describe tactics that do not represent honest
    >debate. Avoid stating that a person or source is
    >completely untrustworthy because they have lied in the
    >past ("poisoning the well"), appealing to emotion rather
    >than intellect ("ad hominem"), excusing behavior on the
    >grounds that the opposition engages in it (tu quoque),
    >and avoid attributing a position to someone that they do
    >not hold, and then rebutting it ("straw man fallacy").
    >You may be accused of engaging in these tactics anyway;
    >be prepared to defend your posts in a reasonable manner.
    >Avoid using a double standard: judge your opponents and
    >their organizations by the same ethical yardstick you use
    >to judge yourself and the organizations that you support.
    >Even when arguing passionately, try to refrain from
    >using excessively dramatic language, and, especially,
    >don't make sweeping generalizations. The latter can be
    >used to dismiss your position out of hand, even if it is
    >quite valid in a more limited sense. For example, the
    >statement "Many animals in slaughterhouses die in a
    >manner that isn't fast or free of extreme suffering."
    >is a little dramatic, but defensible. The statement
    >"All animals in slaughterhouses die a slow, horrible
    >death!" is not accurate, and will, rest assured, be
    >used to discredit you.
    >The most valuable asset that an activist can bring
    >to a debate is an open mind. Listen to what your
    >opponents are saying, and if it repels you, think about
    >it anyway. Even Trolls can present valid arguments.
    >Remember that no side is wrong (or right) about
    >everything, and that you can learn valuable lessons
    >from your opponents. What you learn can help you to
    >grow as an activist and as a person. Try to give
    >yourself some time away from the fray on a regular
    >basis; it will help you to remain calm, sharp, and
    >most importantly, sane.
    >When looking for facts to support your argument, one
    >of the absolute best places to look is in the material
    >provided by partisan, biased organizations *who support
    >the opposing position*. Quote a statement by PETA to
    >support a pro- animal rights argument, and the
    >opposition will laugh. Quote a statement from one of
    >their own sources, like the NRA or AMPEF - one that
    >presents facts that speak against their own interest in
    >this case - and they will be hard pressed to refute it.
    >Relatively neutral sources, of course, are also
    >excellent. Remember that all sources are biased in one
    >way or another, and don't treat any advocacy group, no
    >matter how close to your heart they may be, as
    >infallible. Above all, think for yourself!
    >IMO - in my opinion
    >BTW - by the way
    >AFAIK - as far as I know
    >LOL - laughing out loud
    >ROTFL - rolling on the floor laughing
    >:)   happy, friendly, or joking
    >;)   winking or joking
    >:(   unhappy
    >Many variations of these, and others, exist.
    >They are used to indicate tone and mood in a medium
    >where those things are not always readily apparent.
    >The use of asterisks to indicate *emphasis* (as
    >italics are used) may be desirable, because typing in
    >all capital letters is often considered to be SHOUTING.
    >More useful information for newbies can be found at:
    >Copyright 1999 by Michael Cerkowski
    >Distribute freely, but do not modify.

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : 10/13/00 EDT