Reintroducing myself, since some of you seem to have some misconceptions

Hi! I’m Liz Miller. I am the wife of Stevens Miller, the current Dulles District Supervisor. I blog as The Doorbell Queen, and often give the impression of being a generally light-hearted, easy-going person.

Here is the truth: I am the one who argued for a commenting policy.

I am the one who is fastest with the ban-hammer.

I am the one who doesn’t like people attacking other people on-line.

I don’t like to see insults passing back and forth.

I don’t like comments on blogs about people’s looks, or level of intelligence, or sexuality, or state of mental health, or whether they are gender-conforming, or their personality problems, or who they may or may not be sleeping with.

And here’s where I’m a hypocrite…I will absolutely join in those conversations in person or in email, but I won’t allow it on a blog I’ve got any admin power over.

So, on this blog, we do not allow you to call anyone a bitch, even if I am one.

And I do not allow you to say, “That’s so lame” or “that’s so gay” or “that’s retarded”.

“Lapdog” is a phrase that is used almost exclusively about men whom people are accusing of being under the thrall of someone else, (almost always a woman). It is belittling, and sexist, and I’m unhappy with its use on this blog. My co-bloggers overruled my putting the user of this phrase into moderation.

Today is that user’s lucky day.

88 thoughts on “Reintroducing myself, since some of you seem to have some misconceptions

  1. Eugenio

    Howdy great blog! Does running a blog similar to this take a great deal of work?

    I have virtually no understanding of computer programming but I was hoping to start my own blog soon.
    Anyways, if you have any recommendations or tips for new blog owners please share.
    I understand this is off topic however I simply needed to ask.

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  4. Epluribusunum

    Lee, I’m glad you enjoyed that post, and the comments. I did try to make it entertaining as well as factual, primarily because it did not make me feel victimized as some commenters have implied or stated outright. After the initial surprise, I did find the incident pretty funny and I don’t have any ill will toward anyone I mentioned in the post. I hope I conveyed that. Did you think there was anything anyone said on that thread that violated the policy? Because I didn’t censure anyone or remove any comments.

    Liz, did you see anything there you think should have been objected to?

  5. Barbara Munsey

    Paradox, I was thinking more of government schools as an example of program creep.

    I understand your point, and think back to the days of “the great equalizer” when kids from every country on earth were thrown in together and came out with basic tools to become whatever they had the energy and inclination to do.

    We have kids from every country on earth today too, but so much beyond basic tools are taught, with tracking that begins so early, that the programs to facilitate that have mushroomed, and programs themselves have mushroomed too–as a government entity, the door is open for any group to seek to include their own area of interest, and each one begets another, so it seems.

    A comment I’ve heard more than once about our schools in the county is “a mile wide and an inch deep”.

    That sums up some of what I meant in terms of government programs, with schools as just an example.

    And it sometimes looks to me that the stream is getting ever wider, with no channels deep enough to do much with.

  6. Barbara Munsey

    Mrs. Miller, it starts with the portion of the thread discussing the image of the monkey at the keyboard, and the brief discussion of “pass through belittlement”.

    Having just read the post on ableist language, I found it interesting that it appeared that it WAS a bit okay to belittle tea partiers, albeit indirectly.

    In a hypersensitive language environment (and I don’t think English should be dratted as a language, but at its wonderfully ambiguous and idiomatic capability to expand too fast for itself as a LIVING language) we can get so caught up in form that we lose content.

    And I guess that’s related to our own “ist”s in terms of acceptable ideas and acceptable ways to discuss them.

  7. Leej

    Well it is ya,alls blog. There is a saying from all our childhoods “”sticks and bricks will break our bones but names will never hurt us.

    Very few of you work in a industry that I do every single day. One moment I and talking to a Hollywood celebrity or a CEO of a fortune five hundred company. Next moment I am trying to explain on a job site to someone that can barely speak English. Of course many of you believe I can’t write english either ha ha ha ha which does not bother me in the slightest 😉 And they are all beautiful people.

    My dad who built extremely complex chemical plants all over the world. What I have learned from him is one thing especially. He loved everybody and he did have a out there sense of humor which I picked up from him. He was also far more educated then I will ever be at least in the formal sense. He was a engineer and I draw pretty pictures. As my kids would say when they were little to their teachers what their dad did. They would say the same thing we do in school our Dad does not work he just draws pretty pictures all day long. Now that is brutal ha ha .

    I guess what I am saying most of us on the blogs have very thick skins and this is not high school or even college we all have been around the block a time or two. Limiting certain words and phrases in my opinion is a mistake and makes this blog become lame and somewhat irrelevant. You are just not going to get a heavy discussion here and become no more relevant then the neighborhood blog.. Which in the big picture is nothing.

    It is your blog but their was a great discussion here about when David and Johnathon got kicked out of Sally’s property. Personally I found that both hilarious and entertaining but very especially very educational. I don’t know Sally but I would bet she would love to take back that moment. Just like Kobe.

    Life is what is and what you make it. Personally I believe it is a mistake to limit what you can say here, but again it is your blog.

  8. Epluribusunum

    I think that is possible. There have been times when comments were very active at EL, and I believe that’s what we had. People who couldn’t express themselves without telling me I shouldn’t exist didn’t participate, but that’s not what we’re there for. If it’s done the same way, here people who can’t express themselves without deliberately repeating insults will choose not to participate, because it’s not asking that much to respect someone when they say “what you said was demeaning to me, and here’s why. This is how I experience that.”

    Is it?

  9. Epluribusunum

    But I wasn’t trying to describe tea partiers in general. I was poking fun at people who would engage in the specific behavior of rating hundreds of books that they hadn’t read.

    Doesn’t anyone see the difference?

  10. Liz Miller Post author

    You know what? My co-bloggers may disagree with me, but if having a place where the commenters know they can come and discuss things and not get called names for expressing opinions means we have fewer commenters…I’m okay with that.

    I don’t think it will lead to just an echo chamber, because I know for a fact that there are plenty of people who disagree with me about almost everything on the political spectrum who DO agree with me that the solution to problems don’t lie in tossing insults around.

    Perhaps I will be proved to be wrong. Perhaps the comments here will be very, very quiet. Again, if it means that the people who DO come and comment here know that they won’t be personally attacked, I’m okay with it.

  11. Paradox13

    It’s not about specific words, EB. Never has been. If you look at some of the words in Liz’s recent front page post, you’ll see that.

    It’s about ad hominem insults on a person for their fundamental characteristics. That’s what’s out of bounds, and that’s all this is about.

    Criticize – attack even – what people say, and what they do. Do NOT attack what people ARE.

  12. Liz Miller Post author

    I don’t get how you got to your question from that first quote.

    The second quote was actually a swipe at MSNBC, which doesn’t really expect a higher than 3rd Grade comprehension level. And, since it was written in response to your question, I still don’t see how you get your question from anything I’ve said.

  13. Paradox13

    Well, I understand where those feelings can come from, and I think it worthwhile to get to the root of them a bit.

    First, programs aren’t always a solution, but they’re often a solution. Programs like ROCK in Leesburg, for example do help kids who would otherwise not have options after school. The Federal School Lunch program does improve the nutrition of kids at risk of malnutrition. Social Security does mitigate the risks of poverty among the elderly. Medicare and Medicaid do provide health care to populations that might not have affordable access to it otherwise. Federal college loan and grand programs do send kids to college who wouldn’t have the opportunity.

    Do these programs work as well as they should, always? No. Could they stand for improvement and re-examination on a regular basis, absolutely. But in all of the cases I’ve cited above, the programs are regularly examined, debated and improved. This is called the system working, in my book.

    The big lie is that “government programs don’t work.” They do work. If “government programs” didn’t work, police wouldn’t stop crimes, the Army wouldn’t be really freaking good at invading other countries, and schools wouldn’t educate our kids.

    And that last one goes to your point about “johnny can’t read…or locate Sacramento.”

    For my entire life, people have been decrying the state of education in this country. They’ve been predicting the downfall of American civilization because “kids these days” suck in manner x or skill y. And over the course of my life kids who grew up in the American educational system invented an entire industry that employs a strong plurality of my neighbors here in Loudoun County. Over the course of my life, kids who grew up in the American educational system elected a black President with a Middle-Eastern middle name.

    Those two facts are evidence of success of an educational system. Pointing out that X percentage of kids have a hard time reading (when the correlation between that percentage, and, say, the percentage of kids that don’t speak English in the home is curiously similar…) doesn’t say much about the outcomes of “the system,” as much as it says something about what part of “the system” may need to be critically examined and adjusted – something the U.S. does often and well.

    (Heck, I can say, truthfully, “half of the Republican voters in America think Barack Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.” but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s the President.)

    The U.S. educational system is fine. Schools in low-income areas who are starved for resources and respect are not. Remove the income variable from all your tests and studies, and suddenly the U.S. educational system looks a lot better.


    Now my hypothesis is that the growth in income inequality and the growth in “schools suck” rhetoric are strongly correlated. I further hypothesize that if you reduce income inequality, schools will magically return to being “great” all around, as those with the least opportunities are afforded more opportunities, and thus more incentives to take advantage of school.

    But that’s just a theory.

  14. edmundburkenator

    This thread is now all over the place…

    No where does the Tea Partier call his audience monkeys (or trained monkeys).

    Debate has many notes, some sour, some in tune. I would ask you to be more about the melody than the individual notes. Be more about substance than style. Allowing words is different from embracing them. I think Epluribusunum does it well at EL.

    Lines should be drawn. Rules are good things. Liz, this is certainly your place to draw lines, establish and enforce your own rules. But policing comments in this way will — and probably has – slightly raised the possibility that this will be more echo chamber than debate/discussion forum and lowered the possibility that folks from the other side of the political spectrum (Barbara not withstanding) and folks from somewhere near the middle (me) will visit.

    D, thank you for your kind remarks. I really do try to read everything before commenting. Liz, the limits of language are sometimes difficult to overcome. Perhaps another reason not to remove words that help us hear more clearly even things with which we don’t agree?

  15. Barbara Munsey

    “WE expect better of teapartiers than tea party leaders do.”

    I may have been reading too much into that, and perhaps also this:

    “actually expect their viewers to have a higher than 3rd grade comprehension level”

    Paradox, thank you for the strawman acknowledgement, and it did sound funny.

    I guess what I am getting at belongs perhaps both here and on the “lame” thread, in that growth in government for me doesn’t mean any one specific program, but the idea that a program for EVERYTHING actually solves something, or accomplishes anything other than acknowledging that we have spent time and money in the legislature to address a, b and/or c, and will now be devoting this much a year to studying, monitoring, administering, focus-grouping, and in general providing employemtn out of tax dollars for a, b and/or c. Coming up next year, the outRAGEous discrimination against and neglect of issues d,e, f and sometimes g, and how YOU can get involved in SOLVING these problems by contributing to get THIS bill passed!

    At the risk of broaching a fraught subject, I’m sure you’re all aware that the CA legislature has passed a bill to mandate LGBT history in schools.

    That is certainly their prerogative to add LGBT studies to a list including many mandated others in their state.

    The question for some is not so much a bigoted “geez, why do they have to include that?”(well, maybe because if you’ve specifically included all the others you’ve mandated in the government school system, it gives LGBT activists every right and incentive to ask why the heck NOT?), but “why are we spending x dollars per child on these now twelve historic justice programs, when Jane/Johnny can neither read, write, nor do math, and can’t find Sacramento on a map of the state?

    It’s a recurring question with our local school budget and county side too–how many programs to address how many issues are an absolute need to staff and fund?

    I’ll throttle back the rant–I just know a variety of people for whom a new program (and the department that gets created for it, and so on) is not always necessarily the answer.

  16. Liz Miller Post author

    I didn’t mean it to be directed at EB.

    I’m sorry EB, I didn’t mean to aim that at you specifically. I was using the “you” in the sense of teapartiers in general.

    Darn this English language!!!

  17. Liz Miller Post author

    I take seriously anyone who has been able to get elected, re-elected, and re-re-elected to public office; who earns a comfortable living through hate-mongering; and who seems to be able to get a free-pass from the press.

    This is not a person to be taken lightly, and taking him lightly will not enable us to defeat him in this November’s election.

  18. Liz Miller Post author

    But I’m confused, I haven’t said anything about who the tea party is made up of. I just said I expect all of them to be thoughtful and deliberative people despite my disagreeing with their conclusions.

    Do you think that expectation is wrong?

    In what way is that expectation one that is MSNBCist? Perhaps it’s Christian Science Monitor-ist, since they actually expect their viewers to have a higher than 3rd grade comprehension level.

    I can see the attraction of the tea party agenda, and even more the original impetus behind it…what, 2 years ago?, even though I disagree with it.

  19. Paradox13

    People who want to stop growing government?

    These folks need to start advocating for Zero Population Growth in that case, because in a democracy, the government is the people, and as long as the population is growing, the government is going to grow.

    Now, stepping back from my obviously hyperbolic straw man fallacy, above… 🙂

    The idea to “stop growing government” is hard to grapple without nailing down what “growing government” means. Growing the part of the discretionary budget that has grown the most in the past decade? Well, sure, that’s easy, just get behind absolute withdrawls from Iraq and Afghanistan. Growing the entire, overall federal budget? Sure, no problem, hope you like the barter system when we default on the Federal Debt and Treasuries turn into Confederate Currency circa 1865.

    But short of those two options, any objection to “growth in government” is actually an objection to “growth in a part of government I don’t like.”

    As a local example, I look forward to the day that the local Loudoun Tea Party contingent comes out in protest of an increase in the Sheriff’s budget. Laws and law enforcement are inarguably government. Or how about coming out in protest against more zoning regulation enforcement of the number of people allowed to live in a house in Sterling Park? Such regulation is clearly a violation of property rights as well as a growth in government mandates.

    It’s hard to see an example of protests against “growth in government” that are not actually protests against “growth in government programs I don’t like.” And once we’re picking and choosing which programs we do and don’t like, we’re just having a regular debate, not standing up for some abstract principle.

  20. The Shadow (redux)

    I can’t take anyone seriously who refers to a large spectrum of people as “IT”.

  21. Barbara Munsey

    I was replying to your reply to eb above, and David apparently hit the button right before I did with his own reply–he got in at :37, I at :38–lol

  22. Paradox13

    Nope. Not belittling. Note that in all of these cases the criticism is directed at people’s words and actions not the people (or person) themselves.

    Words and actions that someone says or takes are fair game, those are things that can be vicious, vacuous or vain, and demonstrably so.

  23. Barbara Munsey

    Just a thought, but what about plain old people who happen to sympathize with the reasons that Tea Party grew such huge momentum? People who want to stop growing government?

    That’s a legitimate position that attracted people from across the age, race, gender, political party spectrum.

    And now that various people and groups have SEEN that groundswell and capitalized on it for money, power, control, etc, what about all the people who think of themselves as having Tea Party beliefs, who are NOT Christian, or white, or a member of Tea Party Express (Trade Mark R) or Tea Party Patriots (Trade Mark R) and so on?

    Consider that you may be putting off plain old people who aren’t what you dislike about “The Tea Party” as imaged in the media.

    Some of whom may be your neighbors, that you like, and agree with on some things.

    Are you inadvertently being an MSNBCist? (Joking, but also gently asking)

  24. Epluribusunum

    I think generally I have found eb to be pretty thoughtful and not one to react to things without reading them, so that strikes me as uncalled for if it was directed at him – but maybe it wasn’t.

    It seems to me that the way I’ve dealt with this at Equality Loudoun works better. If someone said something that I felt violated my policy, I didn’t bring down the hammer, I explained why that specific thing was unacceptable to me. Just like I would do if the person was sitting in my living room. Sometimes it would take a lot of back and forth, and I understand that people can’t always take the time to do that. And also that sometimes people have the attitude that they have the right to say anything they want, and that’s not true in my house. I bet it’s not true in anyone’s house, in fact.

    Only if and when someone demonstrated that they had no intention of respecting (as opposed to understanding) my boundaries of what is acceptable would I bring down the hammer. That only happened twice.

  25. Liz Miller Post author

    No, EB, I’m pretty sure we’re not, since the post actually makes it pretty clear that WE expect better of teapartiers than tea party leaders do.

    Perhaps naively, we expect you to actually read things before reacting. We expect that even the people we disagree with are acting in a manner that shows thoughtful determination instead of behaving like trained monkeys.

  26. Epluribusunum

    I think what Liz said is definitely part of it, and a good way to put it. One could also argue that the trainer’s behavior, by his own description, fits the image well. He claims he rates hundreds of books he hasn’t read. Is it belittling to point it out with that image? I don’t know. If you think it is and I think it’s not, I guess your exception is well-taken.

    I also think this example is a bit different than if I put up a post insulting some regular commenter here, something titled “[Name of commenter] is an eggsucking liar,” for example. That would be belittling to a person participating in this community. You don’t expect me not to belittle Mr. Delgaudio, do you? Stopping snarky posts about public figures isn’t the purpose of the policy, ensuring a level of civility among commenters is.

    On the other hand, maybe Liz is telling me I can’t belittle Mr. Delgaudio here. I will find out shortly.

  27. Liz Miller Post author

    I’m pretty sure the monkey at the keyboard is supposed to represent what the guy doing the session thinks of the people he is training.

    In other words, the picture is not what WE think of anyone who identifies as a teapartier, it is what we think the tea party LEADERS think of people who identify as teapartiers.

    David, have I got that right?

  28. edmundburkenator

    A monkey at a keyboard does not belittle guys? It seems the box may be too small for posters too…

  29. Barbara Munsey

    ow! Thank you very much.

    It stands to reason that since we often disagree passionately on many threads, it is imperative that I respect the rules in order to continue to participate.

  30. Liz Miller Post author

    Barbara, amazingly enough, you are one of the easiest commenters to deal with ever.

    You never try to pretend you’re someone you’re not.

    You never try to break my blog’s rules.

    And you call out hypocrisy when you see it.

    We may never agree politically, or on social issues, but my hat’s off to you on this.

  31. Epluribusunum

    Here’s my take on it. With a comment like LI’s yesterday, an admonishment that it was uncalled for is adequate (since that one was directed at you, feel free to disagree). That’s especially true when it’s not clear to most people what was even wrong with what was said.

    On the other hand, if it becomes apparent that someone is deliberately provoking just to be an annoyance, I say invoke Quotable Joe’s quotable rule about “Wasting Joe’s Time.” There’s a simple remedy to that problem, and I won’t hesitate to use it.

  32. Paradox13

    Yes, true, it isn’t okay, and we would hope that in a spirit of respect and engagement, we wouldn’t have to whip out the delete key all that often after clearly delineating the rules.

    Now that people commenting here know what the standard is – stop violating it.

    As a reminder. The rule is simple. Don’t insult people.

    Unless people are violating it just to create annoying work for the admins, in which case I feel kinda sad about the pettiness of such an act.

  33. Barbara Munsey

    Not trying to make your life more difficult, but striving for standards means striving for consistency too.

    If it isn’t okay, then it isn’t okay.

  34. Liz Miller Post author

    Popping in to say that Pariahdog’s comments have both been deleted, and Pariahdog is now in moderation.

    Thank you, Barbara and LI. I’m trying as best as I can to keep up.

    I will also delete Barbara’s comment quoting Pariahdog’s, just to get the whole thing cleaned up. Okay?

    Co-bloggers, please keep an eye on the swimming pool for me, while I get back to off-line stuff.

  35. Barbara Munsey

    I see you at your kitchen table again.

    Gaining and sharing info is certainly one of the points.

    I gather you’re referring to the post at tc re this thread?

    I was responding to the growing chorus of “who has a reason to post there”.

    Plenty of people lurk at a variety of places; anyone who reads blogs does.

    I post at few of the ones I read, and have very few that I follow closely.

    I know people who don’t even lurk on some sites because they don’t want to give the blog the page hits.

    But I do like to participate here re some topics, and in spite of our full-prickly/challenge every word encounters, I think we get some good interaction.

  36. Epluribusunum

    I agree. Behave, Pariahdog. That sort of thing just makes those who want to trade insults here think they’re justified. Enough.

    Btw, Barbara, I was amused that you had to explain that you acquire “information” by participating on opposition blogs. I would have thought that didn’t require explanation – isn’t sharing information the point?

  37. Liz Miller Post author

    Commenters at a feminist site I frequent agree Lapdog has sexist connotations, but that it would be too much to expect the average commenter to agree…but it still meets the “belittling” standard.

    I withdraw the complaint that it is sexist.

    And Brian, I do often get insulted and verbally abused in person by people who disagree with me when I’m canvassing. However, in those instances, I’m at THEIR front door, disturbing them. In that context, I expect and am amused by a certain amount of blowback.

    What I don’t think I’m making clear is that the four of us are trying to make THIS blog one that welcomes people who disagree with each other to discuss their disagreements without name-calling or disrespect.

    I’m almost positive that everyone who has complained about the restrictive commenting policy here can live up to it.

  38. BlackOut

    Good comment Brian. I agree the tighter the rules the less traffic and the less debate. It’s actually non-productive to the blog’s agenda. If no one is visiting to read and comment then the supposed higher up comment or message is lost or never read. I’ve always said good debate leads to good decisions.

    With that said, I do respect wishes to keep the personal vitriol down to a minimum. For me I’ve gotten used to it, but discussions do flow much better without side fights braking out.

  39. Brian W. Schoeneman

    I’ve found that the stricter the commenting policy and the faster the ban hammer comes down, the fewer readers and commenters and the sooner the blog goes from being useful to being vapid, empty commentary.

    Yes, there are always trolls. And there are plenty of folks who are inarticulate in how they express themselves – Liz, you of all people should recognize that, because of your canvassing experience. Have you never been called a name or berated because of the party you belong to while out knocking doors? I know I have. I can’t ban that person from voting. So it doesn’t make a lot of sense to start banning people because of how they express themselves.

    It’s your sandbox, and you make the rules, but sometimes it’s better to err on the side of letting a comment that’s rude or unnecessary go through so as not to stifle the overall debate. This is politics. You have to have a thick skin or you’re in the wrong business.

  40. Epluribusunum

    As fascinating as all this has been, I think it could have been covered nicely with simply “don’t use personal insults here.” I hope it will become clear over time that this is all our policy is meant to accomplish, and that this is a goal worth striving for.

  41. Liz Miller Post author

    I don’t know. I seem to have missed that. Could you email one or more of us with the link? I’m going to be offline most of the day, so action may not be swift.

  42. Loudoun Insider

    So, letting Pariahdog make thinnly veield assertions that people are gay is OK? Is that because being gay is not considered a slur here? Not that I’m whining, I really could care less, but why don’t you folks be consistent here. They’re commenting on my appearance! Please make them stop! (sarcasm there, folks, I’m fine with the way I look and my brightly colored shirts).

  43. Liz Miller Post author

    Okay, real quick, because I have to be at my desk in a minute:
    1. Seems that at least the “belittling” portion of my complaint has been covered. I may concede the sexist portion, but belittling is covered in the commenting policy.

    2. For an example of how LI could’ve put his statement that would not have caused this brouhaha, look at his most recent post (please forgive lack of link, am posting from my phone). My co-blogger “constantly praises”. Hyperbolic, but arguably true. Certainly he seldom if ever criticizes her. The phrasing is not insulting, and it’s a valid statement.

    3. I don’t recall using the word “douchebag” to describe any but public figures here. If I have, then I am sorry I did and, in any case, I won’t use it at all on the blog in future. For those who may not know, I have often described it as a useless tool of the patriarchy.

    4. Yes, I am sexist. It is impossible not to be in this culture. But I’m working on it.

    That’s all I have time for. I will catch up later.

  44. Loudoun Middle Man

    Regarding my comment that was deleted, I see after a conversation I had with someone else how that could have been viewed as an attack on Barbara. I apologize for that. However, I did not mean it that way. I was trying to use a former elected official as an example, as I believe many folks either called him a lapdog of a corporate entity or implied much worse. I could have illustrated my point without using a real person as an example.

    My point was only that the definition of lapdog is:

    1: a small dog that may be held in the lap
    2: a dependent or follower

    I was trying say that when qualified by other words, I could see that it could be a personal attack. Standing alone, in the context LI used it, I truly don’t believe he was trying to say anything other than he thought one person was a consistent follower of another. I don’t believe he was being sexist or thought it was sexist.

  45. Paradox13

    So what’s the over/under on this thread going Godwin? 🙂

    Don’t insult other people. Simple as that. Really that’s the bottom line of the policy.

    For example, calling someone a lapdog is insulting. Mildly? Perhaps, but still an insult.

    Pointing out that a post someone writes reads to you as hagiography of a particular official is not insulting, but should accomplish the same result in terms of critical conversation.

    Feel free to criticize what someone has written (e.g., called someone a lapdog…) or done (e.g., kicked neighbors out of a quasi-public event), but do not insult the person doing the writing or taking the action.

  46. Epluribusunum

    Honestly, I think we’re still learning that ourselves. The four of us have different styles and that’s going to be reflected in the way we interpret the policy we reached consensus on, the one in the menu. We all have somewhat different policies at our home blogs, so that’s to be expected.

    This is why I wondered if people, including my co-bloggers, saw anything on the pig roast post that they thought was a problem. Not because I’m looking for one, but to see if our perceptions were different.

  47. Epluribusunum

    It doesn’t sound to me like you’re trying to promote civil discourse at all. In fact, this all reads very much like it’s intended to be a personal attack on Liz, simply because you disagree with her about a word. Why do that? You know it’s not going to be productive, so is this just an abusive drive-by? Does it make you feel better, or are you serious about wanting to discuss real solutions to real problems?

    This isn’t about a word, but it is about not resorting to gutter behavior, like the way you wouldn’t treat friends and family members (assuming you respect them), and hopefully you wouldn’t call them [insert horrible degrading thing]. So you shouldn’t call people [insert horrible degrading thing] here either, that’s all.

  48. Ref

    Okay, that makes a lot more sense. I guess the blog post led me to believe that saying the wrong word would summon the banhammer. I’ve only recently started frequenting this blog and I’ve enjoyed some of the discussion – just trying to stay within the bounds of you all’s etiquette here.

  49. J. Tyler Ballance

    To quote Dan Akroyd of SNL fame:

    “Jane, you ignorant slut…”

    Lapdog is not “sexist” as it was long used to describe someone who was merely a puppet of someone powerful. It is synonymous with ass-kiss, brown-noser, and suck-up.

    Every office has one, and the term(s) apply to anyone who has a propensity to curry favor with the boss, or others perceived as having influence.

    That Liz sees this term through the lens of sexism reveals much about her. Liz to find the sexist, go look in the mirror.

    Another term that may sound sexist, but isn’t, is, douche-bag, Liz.

    However, your point I presume was to promote more civil discourse and to that end I am entirely in support of such an initiative. Like most Virginians, I still have friends and some family members on both sides of the political divide, and we all manage to exchange ideas, even have fervent debates, without resorting to gutter behavior.

    So, let’s all stick to discussing REAL SOLUTIONS to the REAL PROBLEMS, and demand the same from our political leadership.

  50. Epluribusunum

    “I try to be respectful with my language, but lapdog as a sexist term is new to me and apparently many others. What other sexist terms are lurking in my vocabulary that I’m unaware of?”

    And this is exactly how I don’t think it should be used. If you try to be respectful with your language, that’s all (IMO) this is trying to accomplish. It applies to personal insults and slurs against people based on their characteristics. It doesn’t mean never criticize anyone or anything, that would be ridiculous.

    There’s a difference between being critical of someone’s ideas or behavior or of the mission of an organization, and calling someone insulting, demeaning names.

  51. Ref

    Precisely. If the policy is only to say nice things about people all the time, it doesn’t seem very productive. You all like to suggest that LEC is an “astroturf” organization, which I probably agree with, but it’s not a “nice” thing to say; it’s inherently derogatory. I don’t see a problem with people calling James Young and his commentary bigoted over at TC because that’s exactly what it is; he’d justify it with some nonsense explanation of the propriety of sexual mores blah blah blah….

    The question is, where to parse… should I always err on the side of using euphemisms when more powerful language might be more accurate? It’s just impossible to think of all of theways someone might take a particular word. As I said before, I try to be respectful with my language, but lapdog as a sexist term is new to me and apparently many others. What other sexist terms are lurking in my vocabulary that I’m unaware of?

  52. Epluribusunum

    “The definition you provided..”

    Do you mean the part I quoted from Barbara? Sorry, I’m not sure what you mean here.

    Yes, our language is rife with words like that.

  53. Ref

    The semantics are pretty interesting. Isn’t our language rife with words that mean slightly different things depending on one’s gender (or other factors that mold one’s identity and perspective)?

    The denotative meaning of lapdog – at least in the idiomatic sense we’re accustomed to – doesn’t change regardless of the gender of the dominant/submissive parties referenced. I’ve never heard someone refer to anyone (male or female) as a lapdog in any context other than referring to a lackey or yes-person. The definition you provided seems more like what one would reference as a “trophy wife/girlfriend/etc”, which is clearly a sexist concept in my mind.

    I am not trying to argue with blog policy here, just get a better understanding of it. It would serve us all to be more careful with our words, that’s for sure.

  54. Ref

    Exactly my thoughts. The term is demeaning, but it’s meant to be. There isn’t really a nice way to call someone a lackey. If anything, the term lapdog seems mostly insulting to… small canines.

    And policy is policy indeed, but perhaps we do need a list of what exactly is acceptable and what isn’t. I consider myself pretty careful with my language but here’s a word I could have let slip and had little concept as to why I was mod’ed.

  55. Epluribusunum

    And there. I just used words (a word, really, because the other one isn’t offensive, I don’t think) that probably violate some version of the policy we are discussing, if applied inappropriately.

  56. Epluribusunum

    That is an excellent summation. I think you’re right about being applied across genders – except that it doesn’t mean quite the same thing to be “something small and basically useless, except as a pampered (yet dependant) live accessory..” for males versus females. It is much more demeaning for males. Think of the difference in the way tomboys and sissies are perceived.

  57. Epluribusunum

    “I am challenging you to think about things in a way in which you may have never thought about them before.”

    This is just one line from a post Liz sent me about another blogger who doesn’t allow people to be bullied and insulted on her blog, and I think that’s what this is really about. It’s just asking people to listen to each other instead of what usually happens, which is that 1) almost any level of hostility is ok, and 2) if you don’t like it, leave. There are plenty of places to go where it’s normal to harass or ridicule women (I saw quite a few of them today, unfortunately), and then call anyone who objects whiny, hysterical, or a control freak. If a place is so unpleasant that many people avoid it, then the voices of those people don’t get heard there. Anyone’s voice is welcome here as long as they don’t make anyone else unwelcome. If someone is subjected to abuse, that behavior is not going to be normalized and treated as the price of admission, it’s going to be at least criticized. I don’t see anything wrong with that, and I don’t think being mindful of whether one is being abusive is an undue burden on anyone.

    The other side of that is that honest people both make mistakes and have differences of opinion on what constitutes abuse or offensive language. It seems to me tolerance needs to go both ways or we can’t even have the conversation about why something is offensive to one person but not to another.

    I’m personally not crazy about the idea of giving people a list of things they are prohibited from saying. The message should just be that people can participate and expect to be treated with respect.

    Some of you seem to be saying that if you all were sitting in my living room you couldn’t discuss any of this stuff without resorting to nasty accusations and personal insults, and I don’t believe that’s true.

  58. Barbara Munsey

    I understand the term to be demeaning, but not in any sexist or sexual sense.

    I would describe it as demeaning because the seeming intent is to diminish the person so described, by comparing them to something small and basically useless, except as a pampered (yet dependant) live accessory (with the often annoying overtones of being sedentary, but yappy, and often snappish), that serves no purpose other than to please the person in whose lap it sits. As the image implies.

    An effete accessory to someone who pampers and controls it.

    That can be applied without discriminations across any and all sexual and gender lines, at least IMO.

    However, that being said, policy is policy.

    And that’s the way it goes on any blog or forum.

  59. Ref

    I’ve never considered lapdog to be primarily in reference to a male in thrall of a female, but rather any person (usually politician or leader) in thrall of another. By virtue of most politicians being men, I think I’ve heard it much more often in reference to a male-male lackey to leader kind of situation. I mentioned over at TC that I seem to remember it used most in reference to Tony Blair’s deference to GWB in the run up to the Iraq war. In that way, lackey, yes-man, etc seem just as frequently used to me as lapdog; none of these terms have ever bothered me if use appropriately.

    Ms. Miller, I’m not trying to provoke, but can you give a little more clarity on how exactly it’s sexist? I did a cursory search on the old Google and I can’t find any reference to it being a sexist term, just a general term for a submissive person. If it’s a matter of your own perception, of course I’ll respect that if posting here because it’s your blog. But I am interested to know if there’s a historically sexist connotation of which I wasn’t aware.

  60. Epluribusunum

    Lee, I have a question, and I guess it’s for Liz and eb as well. In that long thread on my post about the pig roast, are there comments that to your mind violate the policy that Liz has articulated? Not do you think there comments that I should have objected to, but comments that you think I should have objected to if I were enforcing that policy.

  61. Liz Miller Post author

    It’s too bad. I gave you all credit for more creativity than you seem to think you have.

    I am surprised you don’t think you can comment on topics presented here without insulting people, and I won’t change the policy to please you. There are plenty of other blogs that don’t seem to mind that stuff: feel free to go and comment on their threads instead.

  62. Pingback: Lapdog Causes High Drama At Loudoun Progress

  63. Leej

    Liz you can’t have it both ways. David has done a wonderful job bringing some life to this place lately, don’t ruin that. And he did it with what could have become a very ugly situation if he was a control freak. Nope he did it with making fun about a crazy situation and he did not go too crazy about it. But just enough craziness. Perhaps there is a way to get Sally a sense of humor. Sally has done some good work also, just just gets a bit too serious at times. Life through a bit of humor about our differences is a good thing. 🙂

  64. edmundburkenator

    I just wanted to let you know my disappointment in the policy. A free and fast exchange of ideas/feelings can’t be conducted in that small of a box. So I won’t try. I suspect others won’t either.

    Too much tree thinking, not enough forest.

    Too bad. I think I would have liked this place.

  65. Pingback: NOVA TownHall Commenting and Banning Policy | novatownhall blog

  66. Liz Miller Post author

    I am not having an argument with you about what does or does not constitute an insult. I have decreed that lapdog does meet MY criteria, I am an admin, there are only 3 people who get to argue with me about it here, and you, Loudoun Middle Man, aren’t one of them.

    On the subject you raised on the earlier thread about whether p13 is a valid target, I would like to remind you that, unlike Steve Snow or Kelly Burk or…I don’t know…Ken Reid, my co-blogger is not a public figure.

  67. Epluribusunum

    Well, I just learned something. I wouldn’t have thought of the term ‘lapdog’ as specifically sexist, but it is used in exactly the way you describe. The fact that I didn’t have the sense to see that for myself, but learned a different way of seeing it from someone with a different set of experiences, is an example of the best thing that can come from having a forum like this.

    That’s exactly why we think it’s important to have a policy in the first place, and I completely support Liz in this even if we won’t always all agree on specific instances. I said this in response to LI already, but I think it’s worth repeating this explanation:

    On the commenting policy in general, think of it this way: Our respective blogs are like our homes, and commenters are guests. At your house, you think it’s ok for someone like JY to saunter up to me and call my humanity into question with slurs I can’t cite here. I go there knowing that those are your house rules, and I don’t ask you to edit or censure him. In our house, we don’t think it’s ok for our guests to treat each other like that. We want the conversations here to have a different tone, and not require that others accept being insulted as the price for participating. We insist that people express their ideas without using that kind of language. It’s not necessarily right or wrong, just different. But these are our house rules, take it or leave it.

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