A space for conversations in a time of global disruption
Hi everyone -
Firstly, apologies. Although Paul and I had intended to allow a slight cooling off period following the suspension of Stranger and Wolfbird, it wasn't intended to go on this long. On the other hand, perhaps a quiet few weeks is no bad thing, if it gives us all a chance to see what happens next with these forums.
In almost any situation, there's a wisdom in asking, "What if we didn't?" In this case, what if we didn't have an online forum associated with Dark Mountain? I suspect we could all agree that it wouldn't be the end of the world...
The point of asking the question is not to disregard the good that people have found in having this space for conversation, but to be reminded that when we get intensely caught up in anything - an argument, an idea, a project - we easily end up acting as if the stakes were far higher than anyone could reasonably judge them to be.
It strikes me that there is a particular problem when we get on to talking about very serious subjects, like some of those discussed around Dark Mountain. A conversation about matters of life and death is not, in itself, a life or death matter, but we often act as though it were.
Then there's the cursed blessing of the internet, which makes all manner of things possible. Not least, it makes it possible for us to have kinds of conversation that would almost certainly never take place in the flesh. At best, because it brings together wonderfully unlikely combinations of people. At worst, because most of us find it easier to be cruel or thoughtless when typing words at a machine than when we can see and smell each other.
Finally, there's the difficulty of having an absentee host. I'm glad that Dark Mountain matters enough to people that this site has a life of its own, but I'm stretched between too many other commitments to give it the attention it deserves, to hold a space of hospitality in which these conversations might be sustained as something thoughtful and welcoming. Apart from anything else, I just don't have enough of a feel for the day-to-day life of the site any more, which makes it tricky when situations arise which lead to people asking me to intervene.
I'm grateful, therefore, to Malcolm Ramsay, who has agreed to take on the role of moderator in a more active way than I've been able to play it. He wrote to me a few weeks ago with some thoughts about how this could work, and he'll say more himself about how he intends to approach this. He's been a member here for a while and seems to have had a fairly sane influence, and he agreed to this role on the basis that you could all take him out and shoot him if he turns into some kind of dictator. (Those may not have been his precise words, but that was certainly the spirit of his offer.)
Before I hand over the keys, I've taken a couple of decisions that relate to that rumpus a few weeks ago. As became known at the time, I'm of the opinion that Wolfbird can be "a cantankerous old git" at times, when provoked. But he's also brought a huge amount to the conversations here and has always responded thoughtfully when Paul or I have taken him up on his behaviour. So - as you may have noticed already - he's back, and I hope having an active moderator may make it easier to contain his excesses.
Meanwhile, I've decided not to reinstate Stranger. Whatever his intentions, the effect of his presence here seemed to be overwhelmingly disruptive.
I won't pretend that I've made these decisions by any kind of code, only to have done my best to exercise judgement under the circumstances. It's arbitrary - but once again, the stakes just aren't that high. (If the government takes away your access to the internet, you can reasonably say you've been censored; if you find yourself banned from a small online forum, it's more like being asked to leave a party because you wouldn't stop making a nuisance of yourself.)
I'm out of the UK for the next few weeks and probably won't be online that much, but I will check in on this thread when I get the chance. For those around London, it would be great to see you in the flesh at the Midwinter Meetup on 8th December.
For now, I wish Malcolm the best of luck, and I hope you all find some measure of what you are looking for here in the conversations that lie ahead.
Thanks Dougald. I thought I'd said that you could take me outside and shoot me - but no doubt you'll do whatever the consensus is, so I guess it comes to the same thing!
I've posted a new thread about how I intend to approach it: Forum Moderation.