Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby kbonn » Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:41 pm

Hi, I am very interested in this thread, and I think it is rather important, would it be possible to address each point in turn?
I think the large point first:

Robby B wrote:I understand how tempting it is to notice a common motif in the rhetoric of an Enemy, coin a name for that motif, and then use that name as though it on its own served as a magic word for banishing the Enemy and dispelling its arguments or insinuations. But in this case we already have names for the instances of "JAQing Off" that are problematic:

(1) When someone asks questions in a way that is meant to suggest a specific answer, we can criticize it as a leading question.

(2) When someone asks questions in a way that assumes a questionable premise, we can criticize it as a loaded question.

(3) When someone asks questions to dismantle a view no one holds, we can criticize it as a straw-man fallacy.

(4) When someone tries to implicitly defend a position by attacking an opposing view, we can criticize it as a false dilemma fallacy.

(5) When someone insinuates a conclusion rather than stating it explicitly, we can criticize it as a suppressed conclusion. (Likewise for suppressed premises.)

... and so on. All of these are much more specific, relevant, and informative than the generic term "JAQing Off," and have the advantage of being universally accepted as fallacies and errors by all parties. They're also easier to identify than the distinction between good-faith questioning and JAQing Off, and have a less subjective component than does the distinction between Socratic enlightenment and JAQing Off. I know of many excellent teachers who use a Socratic method to guide students toward a certain conclusion the teacher already has in mind, which in some ways makes them even more like the Off-JAQers than like Socrates; but that doesn't mean it's a bad teaching method. (The problem with it here is that we don't know a forum poster's expertise ahead of time, so we can't be expected to trust that leading questions will lead to the right place. That is why it's better to give your arguments explicitly in this context.)


Does anyone strongly disagree with this? (Not that using JAQing off always is bad, but that it doesn't appear to be particularly helpful or good when confronting the person who is suspected of it).


Secondly this:
Robby B wrote:Another problem with the "JAQing Off" meme is that its pejorative character depends on a slur against masturbation, and specifically against male masturbation. If someone started criticizing a certain rhetorical device using a slur that's a homophone for female masturbation (or for anal sex, or for any other stigmatized sex-act), we would rightly object to it. So it's at least somewhat problematic for us to be promoting and exploiting the sex-negative connotations of masturbation here. We should simply drop the "JAQing Off" meme and start using more serious and to-the-point criticisms of the methods we're trying to gesture at. In particular, "You're committing the leading questions fallacy" is a lot likelier to be productive -- in addition to being a lot less jargony and inaccessible to outsiders -- than "You're JAQing off."


Not to equate anything, but it doesn't seem the best way to describe it, and more importantly, I don't find the term to be particularly useful or helpful.
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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby ischemgeek » Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:43 pm

sondosia wrote:I usually see it used by activists who are sharing frustrations with each other, discussing comment threads on their blogs, etc. For instance, "Ugh, I had to take a break from responding to comments because there was an asshole just JAQing off all over the place." I think that having silly, humorous terms that we can use to vent to each other is really useful for our sanity.


While I admit the plural of anecdote is not data, I've rarely used the term "JAQing off" in a discussion with someone who I suspected of it. Usually only if I've made the mistake of perusing a heated comment thread while both cranky and tipsy. I do, however, use it quite regularly when venting about people who engage in such behaviors, or when I'm describing the problems with such behavior to others. In the former, I use it because I think it's a useful umbrella term for the range of behaviors in question, and in the latter case, I use it because JAQing/JAQing off is a much more concise term for the behavior than "engaging in repetitive, argumentative or intellectually dishonest questioning with the intention of irritating those in the thread or derailing the thread," plus it's what most people who experience this behavior call it.
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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby Cipher » Tue Sep 04, 2012 6:47 pm

Does anyone strongly disagree with this? (Not that using JAQing off always is bad, but that it doesn't appear to be particularly helpful or good when confronting the person who is suspected of it).

I think that the idea that specificity is always better is misguided, pedantic, and based on a context-free view of communication that doesn't work in reality. ("Look out, a Dolichovespula maculata just landed on your forehead!") Relatedly, I think that we don't always have a responsibility to educate people who are in fact JAQing off about what they're doing wrong, and I think that depends on the context. Frequently, people who are JAQing off are doing so in bad faith, and dismissing them offhand is valid.
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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby fullofthoughts » Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:37 pm

Robby B wrote:I understand how tempting it is to notice a common motif in the rhetoric of an Enemy, coin a name for that motif, and then use that name as though it on its own served as a magic word for banishing the Enemy and dispelling its arguments or insinuations. But in this case we already have names for the instances of "JAQing Off" that are problematic:

(1) When someone asks questions in a way that is meant to suggest a specific answer, we can criticize it as a leading question.

(2) When someone asks questions in a way that assumes a questionable premise, we can criticize it as a loaded question.

(3) When someone asks questions to dismantle a view no one holds, we can criticize it as a straw-man fallacy.

(4) When someone tries to implicitly defend a position by attacking an opposing view, we can criticize it as a false dilemma fallacy.

(5) When someone insinuates a conclusion rather than stating it explicitly, we can criticize it as a suppressed conclusion. (Likewise for suppressed premises.)

... and so on. All of these are much more specific, relevant, and informative than the generic term "JAQing Off," and have the advantage of being universally accepted as fallacies and errors by all parties. They're also easier to identify than the distinction between good-faith questioning and JAQing Off, and have a less subjective component than does the distinction between Socratic enlightenment and JAQing Off. I know of many excellent teachers who use a Socratic method to guide students toward a certain conclusion the teacher already has in mind, which in some ways makes them even more like the Off-JAQers than like Socrates; but that doesn't mean it's a bad teaching method. (The problem with it here is that we don't know a forum poster's expertise ahead of time, so we can't be expected to trust that leading questions will lead to the right place. That is why it's better to give your arguments explicitly in this context.)

Another problem with the "JAQing Off" meme is that its pejorative character depends on a slur against masturbation, and specifically against male masturbation. If someone started criticizing a certain rhetorical device using a slur that's a homophone for female masturbation (or for anal sex, or for any other stigmatized sex-act), we would rightly object to it. So it's at least somewhat problematic for us to be promoting and exploiting the sex-negative connotations of masturbation here. We should simply drop the "JAQing Off" meme and start using more serious and to-the-point criticisms of the methods we're trying to gesture at. In particular, "You're committing the leading questions fallacy" is a lot likelier to be productive -- in addition to being a lot less jargony and inaccessible to outsiders -- than "You're JAQing off."


my two cents, I agree.
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Re: Problems with sexually abusive language

Postby Exi5tentialist » Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:45 pm

I confirm I agree. I think this matter is becoming quite urgent now. This thread is making the forum feel like an unsafe and very bullying place. I really hate this sort of thing. I really can't believe it's not possible to express the same meanings about questions without justifying sexually abusive language. I don't see what the problem is with having a bit of respect for people's sexuality. I've had quite enough of this kind of vile rubbish on other atheist forums, I really wasn't expecting to have to put up with it here.
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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby Kristjan Wager » Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:48 pm

I think that the OP is wrong in claiming that we already have descriptions of why the questions are problematic.

Yes, each of those issues probably occur during someone JAQing off, but that's not really the problem - it is the simple fact that the questions are used as a derailing technique, and used as a tool to push hot buttons. I think the example of "asking" for statistics of harrassment is a great example (brought up by the perputrator him-/herself) - it seems like a innocent question, but in reality it is a "hyper-skeptical" question, since it is not really a particularly controversial claim. Of course, it also has the added bonus of being a question to which the person probably already knew the answer, and was using as a gotcha-question.

One question like that, doesn't, of course, mean that the person is JAQing Off. But many questions like that, is definitely so, even if each and every one of them, appears reasonable on the surface.

Oh, and regarding the term "JAQing Off", I don't have a problem with it.
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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby Cipher » Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:53 pm

Yes, each of those issues probably occur during someone JAQing off, but that's not really the problem - it is the simple fact that the questions are used as a derailing technique, and used as a tool to push hot buttons. I think the example of "asking" for statistics of harrassment is a great example (brought up by the perputrator him-/herself) - it seems like a innocent question, but in reality it is a "hyper-skeptical" question, since it is not really a particularly controversial claim. Of course, it also has the added bonus of being a question to which the person probably already knew the answer, and was using as a gotcha-question.

Well said.
I really can't believe it's not possible to express the same meanings about questions without justifying sexually abusive language. I don't see what the problem is with having a bit of respect for people's sexuality.

You're assuming the conclusion here, and as a result you're strawmanning the positions of people who disagree with your stance on the word.
I don't think that saying someone is JAQing off is sexually abusive or disrespectful to people's sexuality. I don't think that case has been adequately made.
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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby ceepolk » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:07 pm

o hell, I'm a tragic example? Damn it all.

I do ask a lot of questions. I do want to know why people assert what they assert, or how they came to agree that a given idea is valid, because I often find that when I'm talking to someone their surfacy declarations aren't really all that meaningful. But while I ask all of those questions, the line of what sort of question is appropriate is something that I think a conscientious questioner keeps in mind.

And I guess i'm insensitive. Because I'm totally willing to categorize aggressive questioning as a harassment technique as behaviour that should be called down, and naming it for one of its most popular disingenuous defenses while punning has a certain symmetry, and given my anatomy and technique, I kind of question the inherent maleness of the term...and am utterly unsurprised that female sexual organs are erased for the convenience of protest.
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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby Cipher » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:10 pm

o hell, I'm a tragic example? Damn it all.

I know, right? :lol:
I'm sorry for not calling out that condescending crap when I saw it, ceepolk. It was sloppy of me.
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Re: Problems with sexually abusive language

Postby Exi5tentialist » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:12 pm

Cipher wrote:I don't think that saying someone is JAQing off is sexually abusive or disrespectful to people's sexuality. I don't think that case has been adequately made.


I think, Cipher, you're arguing that black is white. I prefer to move on.

Sometimes, abusers will harass people repeatedly with the same language over and over again despite reasonable protests from the victim. I don't care what people do on blogs, but in a Forum situation where we are explicitly trying to create a safe space, it undermines people's sense of security to be repeatedly using sexually abusive language like the example given in this thread. There comes a point where one begins to suspect that the purpose of repetition is to deliberately cause distress and upset to other users. I think that point has already been passed in this thread.

Now it may be that people are doing this from a more innocent standpoint than appears to be the case at first glance. It may be that people want to defend their right to use this expression against people all over Atheist Plus, and to further punish people who protest in response. I can only go on explaining what I think the problem is with that in the hope that enough people will get it to begin to alter their patterns.

If the expression being used in this thread becomes common currency on this forum, you can be sure that some people will respond badly and possibly 'disruptively'. At that point a decision will need to be made about who to moderate. The previous pattern in the atheist community has been for the person protesting against sexual harassment to be moderated, i.e. the person causing the 'disruption'. That freedom without responsibility is the hypocrisy that the community has so far embraced. I continue to hope that Atheism Plus can move on to the next stage.

If people want the freedom to use a sexually abusive expression freely, then allow others to express themselves freely in response. That is all I ask, and all I have ever asked. Will Atheism Plus descend into the same quagmire as the others - first denying that anything abusive has even been said, and then disciplining the person alleging it? Or will we move on to more humane territory which is intrinsically disapproving of the harassment? I still don't know which way it is going to go.
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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby kbonn » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:15 pm

Cipher wrote:
I really can't believe it's not possible to express the same meanings about questions without justifying sexually abusive language. I don't see what the problem is with having a bit of respect for people's sexuality.

You're assuming the conclusion here, and as a result you're strawmanning the positions of people who disagree with your stance on the word.
I don't think that saying someone is JAQing off is sexually abusive or disrespectful to people's sexuality. I don't think that case has been adequately made.


Are you not willing to consider that it is, or that a better term could be used?
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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby Setar » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:16 pm

Cipher wrote:
I really can't believe it's not possible to express the same meanings about questions without justifying sexually abusive language. I don't see what the problem is with having a bit of respect for people's sexuality.

You're assuming the conclusion here, and as a result you're strawmanning the positions of people who disagree with your stance on the word.
I don't think that saying someone is JAQing off is sexually abusive or disrespectful to people's sexuality. I don't think that case has been adequately made.

Same here. I don't see what's disrespectful about telling someone "hey, um, not everyone here wants to see that" in a public space. There's a massive difference between masturbating in private (with or without company) and reaching into one's pants while standing at Speakers' Corner. There are, believe it or not, people who don't want to see others masturbating for various reasons (from pure squickiness to potential triggers); since you have no more right to a public space than they, you are obliged to respect them by finding a different space to masturbate in. There are also contexts in which masturbation is downright awful and creepy, and in those it's certainly not wrong to yell at someone or call the authorities on them.

In a public space, one does not have the right to make others feel uncomfortable. In a private space, people who are uncomfortable are free to leave, but everyone has equal rights to public space.

JAQing off is an attempt to silence discussions. It makes the people who want to hold those discussions feel uncomfortable, in the same way that displays of public masturbation can make people feel uncomfortable; furthermore, this is a space that has been created specifically to hold these discussions without having to give silencing assholes the time of day.

...

Yeah, I really don't see where the counterargument holds water.
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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby Cipher » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:19 pm

Are you not willing to consider that it is, or that a better term could be used?

I have considered that it is, I continue to think that it is not, and so far the suggestions given for "better terms" have not addressed the reason for the term existing in the first place. (See Kristjan's post for my view on that.)
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Re: Problems with sexually abusive language

Postby Robert_S » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:23 pm

Exi5tentialist wrote:I confirm I agree. I think this matter is becoming quite urgent now. This thread is making the forum feel like an unsafe and very bullying place. I really hate this sort of thing. I really can't believe it's not possible to express the same meanings about questions without justifying sexually abusive language. I don't see what the problem is with having a bit of respect for people's sexuality. I've had quite enough of this kind of vile rubbish on other atheist forums, I really wasn't expecting to have to put up with it here.


You never really explained how you think that's abusive, Robby B sorta did:

Robby B wrote:Third, the origin of the term is very simple to explain. Some people started asking bad-faith questions, and others wanted a way to dismiss this tactic, so they started dismissing it as 'Just Asking Questions,' or 'JAQ' / 'JAQing' for short. Someone wanted to make this acronym more insulting, so they extended 'JAQing' to 'JAQing Off,' knowing that most people in our culture find masturbation sick, disgusting, and selfish rather than a natural and healthy mode of sexual expression, and familiar with the derogatory character of saying that someone 'is just jacking off.' (Note that this derogatory connotation in no way depends on whether the person in question is jacking off in private or in public.) So one exploits this sex-negative assumption to make 'jacking off' a clever insult. But I'm not disputing the cleverness; I'm disputing whether this is a good misunderstanding to perpetuate. Whether or not we intend to convey the evils of masturbation in doing this, that's indeed part of what gets conveyed; surely as feminists we should be aware of the potential harm that comes from using language in a way that unconsciously perpetuates a harmful social norm.

My bold above.

You think so? If by "our culture" you mean The West then I'd have to disagree. I've never even heard of it being thought of as shameful or disgusting since at least the 1980s except for some hardcore religious types.

And even if there are some people who think that way, are they coming here to an atheist feminist oriented website?

When "jacking off" doesn't mean masturbation, it means wasting time, messing around while you're supposed to be doing something constructive. Kinda like "fool around" used to be a popular euphemism for sex with a partner.

Whether or not you're going to get a false positive on trollery with that meme around is a separate matter though.
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Re: Problems with sexually abusive language

Postby Exi5tentialist » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:27 pm

Setar wrote:
Cipher wrote:
I really can't believe it's not possible to express the same meanings about questions without justifying sexually abusive language. I don't see what the problem is with having a bit of respect for people's sexuality.

You're assuming the conclusion here, and as a result you're strawmanning the positions of people who disagree with your stance on the word.
I don't think that saying someone is JAQing off is sexually abusive or disrespectful to people's sexuality. I don't think that case has been adequately made.

Same here. I don't see what's disrespectful about telling someone "hey, um, not everyone here wants to see that" in a public space. There's a massive difference between masturbating in private (with or without company) and reaching into one's pants while standing at Speakers' Corner. There are, believe it or not, people who don't want to see others masturbating for various reasons (from pure squickiness to potential triggers); since you have no more right to a public space than they, you are obliged to respect them by finding a different space to masturbate in. There are also contexts in which masturbation is downright awful and creepy, and in those it's certainly not wrong to yell at someone or call the authorities on them.

In a public space, one does not have the right to make others feel uncomfortable. In a private space, people who are uncomfortable are free to leave, but everyone has equal rights to public space.

JAQing off is an attempt to silence discussions. It makes the people who want to hold those discussions feel uncomfortable, in the same way that displays of public masturbation can make people feel uncomfortable; furthermore, this is a space that has been created specifically to hold these discussions without having to give silencing assholes the time of day.

...

Yeah, I really don't see where the counterargument holds water.


I think you need to think carefully about what you are doing when you are the one who is responsible for introducing images of sexual activity in a previously non-sexual situation. Do you really think you have the right to introduce such a subject as a way of denigrating a person, and not expect a response that you yourself might find distressing?
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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby Cipher » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:31 pm

Actually, that is something we can do.

People who are uncomfortable with the meme, I prefer that you not continue to assume the conclusion or strawman the people who disagree with you about its implications. (Please stop.)

But to take this conversation to a more constructive place, what do you suggest as alternate terms that adequately convey the salient aspects of what the other term does?

Just Asking Questions, perhaps capitalized and with a (TM) after it, might work, in the same way that Nice Guy(TM) works. What do you think?
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Re: Problems with sexually abusive language

Postby Setar » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:37 pm

Exi5tentialist wrote:I think you need to think carefully about what you are doing when you are the one who is responsible for introducing images of sexual activity in a previously non-sexual situation. Do you really think you have the right to introduce such a subject as a way of denigrating a person, and not expect a response that you yourself might find distressing?


I think you've just ignored the context surrounding the meme because it suits your argument. You're complaining that I'm going to get a hostile response by directly calling out someone who has established a pattern of dishonestly asking questions in a way that shames their actions. Because, you know, that's totally a new thing that we haven't been dealing with for the past year. Which is why we're discussing this here and not on the JREF forums.
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Re: Problems with sexually abusive language

Postby Exi5tentialist » Tue Sep 04, 2012 8:52 pm

Setar wrote:You're complaining that I'm going to get a hostile response by directly calling out someone who has established a pattern of dishonestly asking questions in a way that shames their actions.

By all means call them out. I don't doubt it's an established pattern of dishonestly asking questions. I've got no problem with shaming them. None of this is a problem.

I've asked you not to use a sexually abusive expression. Find another way of doing it. I'm just saying, you can't abuse others and then cry foul when they complain.
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Re: Problems with sexually abusive language

Postby kbonn » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:08 pm

Setar wrote:
Exi5tentialist wrote:I think you need to think carefully about what you are doing when you are the one who is responsible for introducing images of sexual activity in a previously non-sexual situation. Do you really think you have the right to introduce such a subject as a way of denigrating a person, and not expect a response that you yourself might find distressing?


I think you've just ignored the context surrounding the meme because it suits your argument. You're complaining that I'm going to get a hostile response by directly calling out someone who has established a pattern of dishonestly asking questions in a way that shames their actions.


Except that it is not only used that way. Calling out known trolls for trolling is one thing, calling out an unknown person/not known troll because you think they are trolling you is something else. As other people have said, being more specific, or trying to direct them to other threads that would be helpful for them to read is much more constructive/useful than just saying "Quit JAQing off", at which point they very possibly don't understand what you mean, and could very well be insulted and respond in a hostile manner or just leave.
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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby Cipher » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:22 pm

As other people have said, being more specific, or trying to direct them to other threads that would be helpful for them to read is much more constructive/useful

To whom? For what purpose?
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Re: Problems with sexually abusive language

Postby Kristjan Wager » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:26 pm

kbonn wrote:Except that it is not only used that way. Calling out known trolls for trolling is one thing, calling out an unknown person/not known troll because you think they are trolling you is something else. As other people have said, being more specific, or trying to direct them to other threads that would be helpful for them to read is much more constructive/useful than just saying "Quit JAQing off", at which point they very possibly don't understand what you mean, and could very well be insulted and respond in a hostile manner or just leave.


I'm sorry, but I really don't get this. It looks like you are saying that we have to be extra careful to not somehow step on the toes of people we don't know for sure are trolls. Why would I want to give anyone I think is trolling the benefit of the doubt? That is, in my opinion, the exact wrong reaction to trolls. Getting people to give them the benefit of the doubt is a mechanism they use for disrupting/derailing.

That being said, I agree that short description of the behavior they are engaging in, is probably more useful if you want to give them the benefit of the doubt. That doesn't, however, mean that the term JAQing Off isn't a useful shorthand when talking about the behavior.
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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby Setar » Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:36 pm

Is it just me, or has the anti-'JAQing Off' side spent this entire thread removing context from the meme until it has become completely unrecognizable?

As other people have said, being more specific, or trying to direct them to other threads that would be helpful for them to read is much more constructive/useful than just saying "Quit JAQing off"...

Yeah, this is the point where I'm just going to have to ask for evidence of this happening. That's not at all the way 'JAQing off' is supposed to be applied -- it's supposed to be applied either when someone engages in a line of questioning that's dishonest on its face, or when someone engages in questioning and then ignores or unreasonably dismisses the answers given. This is wrong no matter what you substitute for 'JAQing off', because it's an erroneous dismissal.

It should also be mentioned that your hyperbolic mischaracterization of how 'JAQing off' is used is eerily similar to when people come in here complaining about "indoctrination" and "groupthink", as though we're just blindly pushing away anyone who happens to disagree. The nature of this dismissal, as with any calling out of trolling or dishonesty, is a judgment call. You are as prone, with any such judgment call, to make this error as anyone else.

But, I guess we feminists just can't have proper judgment, now can we...
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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby Hershele Ostropoler » Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:11 pm

This discussion brings up a larger point. There are spaces (I'm thinking of a couple of major feminist blogs and a LJ community, and I'm sure there are others) where monitoring language happens to such an extent that it becomes difficult for people -- or, more cynically, people outside the clique -- to participate in discussion, or at least discussion that's not about details of language.

At the same time, of course, I support the stated intentions behind avoiding oppressive language. How can a balance be struck? Am I in the numerical minority for thinking that being 100% certain of offending no one, or even just no one on our side, is not feasible?
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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby Setar » Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:27 pm

Hershele Ostropoler wrote:This discussion brings up a larger point. There are spaces (I'm thinking of a couple of major feminist blogs and a LJ community, and I'm sure there are others) where monitoring language happens to such an extent that it becomes difficult for people -- or, more cynically, people outside the clique -- to participate in discussion, or at least discussion that's not about details of language.

Thing is, we have an educational forum here, so in the main forum such language is completely permissible if someone ignores a request to go to the educational forum.
"...authoritarian followers feel empowered to isolate and segregate, to humiliate, to persecute, to beat, and to kill in the middle of the night, because in their heads they can almost hear the loudspeakers announcing, “Now batting for God’s team, his designated hitter, (their name).”" -Bob Altemeyer, The Authoritarians
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Re: Problems with the "JAQing Off" meme

Postby Cipher » Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:30 pm

Am I in the numerical minority for thinking that being 100% certain of offending no one, or even just no one on our side, is not feasible?

Offense isn't an appropriate criterion. Harm is.
Oh, I may be on the side of the angels - but don't think for one second that I am one of them.
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