Responding to violence with compassion

A very good comment at The Standard on their Nice attack thread in response to this from Psycho Milt:

Compassion isn’t an appropriate feeling for someone who’d deliberately drive a truck into a crowd of random strangers.


Actually, it’s almost certainly a very appropriate response to someone who ends up in that mindspace.

Because the absence of compassion for those who inflict pain simply puts us into the same mindspace that they were in: anger focussed at people who we no longer fully regard as human.

It’s incredibly difficult to respond to violence with compassion, few of us can really do it, but it’s something to aspire to. The alternative is to just continue the cycle of violence and injustice.


Standard of sick parrots

I posted yesterday about a sensible and thoughtful post at The Standard in which Incognito suggested…

…try a different viewpoint, look at things from a different angle, literally and figuratively. It doesn’t mean you must or will give up your perspective or your opinions even but I reckon you just might do that occasionally – would that be such a bad thing?

I don’t know if it was deliberate attempt at derailment but One Anonymous Bloke obliged with some typical irony.

My point is that if we do choose a point of view and get it out there the resulting discussion is a good way to inform our own opinions, given confirmation bias’ tendency to obscure.

So I’m not talking about science, you wanker. Nor do I live or work in an “ivory tower”, shit for brains. Now fuck off.

Weka said it was a “very good post” but she seems very confused. She claims to value diversity.

I wonder if the whole unity thing is part of an outdated dichotomy. Calls for unity seem to go hand in hand with accusations of betrayal or not behaving well enough for the cause (and thus creating disunity).

I tend to think that more than unity we need diversity, and that being able to have tolerance for diversity enables us to work together whether we all agree or are united or not. That’s one of the things you post speaks to for me, because that degree of tolerance, and respect, is dependent on us being willing and able to see other people’s point of views and value them even if we disagree.

But with Weka diversity and being willing and able to see other people’s points of views only goes so far (as far as people whose points of views she finds acceptable).

It bothers me because a big chunk of NZ people are conservatives and how can we have a progressive society if we perceive them as being evil? It also bothers me because it frames the problem as a progressive/conservative conflict and that’s not NZ’s problem (it probably is the US’s). NZ’s problem is that the conservatives have been hijacked by the neoliberals and National has been turned into a proto-fascist party.

So she wants diversity as long as it doesn’t include anyone deemed to be a neoliberal or associated with a proto-fascist National party.

I think we should be building relationships with conservatives, not the likes of Hooton or BM…

…or anyone else judged to be a neofascist or neoliberal (a label applied very liberally).

Alongside this at the Standard yesterday was another post that had a very different approach to incognito and was more along Weka’s lines – it was a guest post by McFlock, about identifying, labelling and repelling anyone judged to be promoting Dead Cats and Sick Parrots.

Tory spinners have a tactic called “the dead cat (h/t for the link to RedLogix). It’s a monumental derail of the nation-wide conversation as soon as your opponent shows signs of gaining momentum, especially if that momentum is largely on the back of a single issue.

The dead cat is, in its essence, a bullshit argument: the user doesn’t care whether the argument is true, false, or even relevant to the argument. The objective is to get people arguing about the cat, and if someone accuses the cat-thrower of being disingenuous then the next move is to complain about personal abuse.

A problem is that Standard regulars apply ‘Tory spinner’ labels very liberally and often inaccurately. People simply with different points of view or who challenge ‘acceptable’ opinions are often ostracised and accused. For example I’ve been accused of being a Crosby Textor agent.

Sick parrots are more subtle than dead cats. Passers-by might not know that this is the fiftieth variation on the same bullshit this week, so can’t understand why the recipient is getting shirty.

“More subtle” means that the Tory/RWNJ/Crosby Textor/Natzi labels can be applied to just about anyone deemed to be some sort of enemy to the cause.

So does anyone have any ideas on how to deal with dead cats and sick parrots? Otherwise I fear we’ll be stuck with each bullshitter until they jump the shark and pick up a ban.

How about start by not accusing every new commenter deemed to be suspicious of not being hard left of being a dead cat or a sick parrot?

In Standard language ‘bullshitter’ could mean anyone to be targeted to harass and drive away. And this is not uncommon there.

In comments McFlock expands:

But how sick is a parrot? Is it a type of parrot, or is it another type of bird? At face value, the parrot is reasonable, plausible and maybe even relevant. It’s only after you examine it that you realise that it is none of those things, that all someone did was cut and paste some bullshit.

So even people who may appear reasonable, plausible and relevant are put under the Standard microscope (or telescopic sights). And all it takes is for one regular to yell ‘Fire!” and that’s when the bullshit actually begins.

I just wanted to know people’s thoughts on how to deal with people who “debate” in bad faith. Going to guillotines seems just a bit… much.

At The Standard I’ve seen many accusations of debating in ‘bad faith’ that seem nothing more than an excuse to drive people away who are deemed to be some sort of enemy.

These are not weapons anyone should be using. It’s a perversion of democracy.

What we need are defences against those weapons, not expertise in using them.

What they need is expertise in identifying real enemies without labelling anyone with a different opinion or idea on a topic. And less paranoia about any new or different input being that of an armed enemy.

So, basically, the relevance of your comment is thinly based solely on a subjective assertion (Labour “kowtowing”) that would require an extensive off-topic argument to resolve. That’s the “sick” bit.

Of course, the “if Labour was authentic in expressing its original values” (as you see them) it would get elected routine is a constant hypothetical assertion by yourself. That’s the “parrot” bit.

So, take your sick parrot and fuck off. You’re obviously incapable of addressing the topic of the post. Go away.

That was directed at Colonial Viper, who stood as a candidate for Labour in 2011 but is seen as an enemy within – if there are no newbies to drive away they often resort to infighting.

‘Solutions’ include dumping suspect comments into a naughty corner or labelling unwelcome commenters – they tried that with me for a while. And Weka was amongst those leading that.

And Weka continues her confusion.

My experience from here and other online spaces that have debate culture is that mostly people just like the arguing. So the energy and momentum is going to be in the conversations that have that charge to them. Plus the entertainment factor. So the problem isn’t just the trolls, it’s the troll warriors as well.

Weka has been a prominent ‘troll warrior’ (aka resident troll) at The Standard.

However I have hung out in places with better debate culture than here, and that’s largely down to different moderation policy.


In terms of online behaviour, esp here in ts, I think one useful tactic is name the behaviour (without abuse or putting in your own hooks) and then move on. Don’t engage on their terms. Learning how to name the behaviour takes time. The not engaging is the harder thing to do, because sometimes you have to keep naming the behaviour. Not engaging on its own doesn’t work, not least because other people just keep engaging.

In naming the behaviour I think it’s important to be specific, and to resist the temptation to lump all annoying behaviour under the same banner (eg calling all derailments trolling).

Except that is exactly what happens at The Standard, often to new commenters. They are either accepted, or they are lumped under the enemy banner.

Having the term Sick Parrot is going to be a boon, and we’ll need time to establish what it means esp here on ts.

Why bother establishing ‘what it means here on ts’? It’s likely to be nothing more than a general pejorative applied liberally alongside troll, Tory, RWNJ, neoliberal. Or off topic.


Not a cat. Just completely off topic.
Make your comments relevant or fuck off, fizberto.

Well down the comment thread McFlock tries to explain.

OK, just for a couple of people yet to geta handle of these things:

A “dead cat” is not necessarily irrelevant, it’s outrageous. It’s not coming to a post about debating tactics and talking about how bad Labour is – that’s just irrelevant. A dead cat is where you don’t like the way the discussion is going, so you say something like “you sucked off a horse“.

A sick parrot looks like a plausible comment that strikes a blow for the person who presented it, but upon closer inspection and unpacking its relevance is at best tangential and its truth is unimportant. The key is that any refutation or discussion of the parrot necessarily diverts the discussion from the topic at hand. It’s also generally rewalking the same tired ground from previous discussions, and is generally unimaginative or unoriginal – but it requires legwork to disprove and debate.


Good explanation.

The sad thing is that it’s not uncommon to see dead cats and sick parrots from Standard regulars, but they seem to be acceptable as a way of attacking ‘enemies’. Uneven standards are the norm there.

That The Standard has a discussion like this that promotes labelling and ostracising without it being challenged to any degree is a said reflection on debate on the flag-bearer of labour-left discussion.

It suggests a Standard of sick parrots.

McFlock’s false accusation

A lot of false accusations fly around the blogosphere, and I’ve been the recipient of many. In a discussion last night at The Standard about the accuracy of David Shearer’s homophobe faux pas McFlock at The Standard said:

So pete seems pretty accurate about the waffle. As supplied by Whaleoil.

That’s petty (not unusual) and wrong. As I can’t respond to McFlock at The Standard I’m pointing out his blatant bull here.

Whale Oil had nothing to do with it. If Whale Oil had been the source he would have posted on it himself. The fact is that Shearer’s radio interview was brought to my attention at The Standard.


David Shearer interviewed on bFM this morning …,209942,

Too many head-desk moments to cite, but probably the worst is his reply to a simple question:

“Is there room for homophobes in Labour?”

Answer: yes, no, maybe, not a majority, something, whatever …

Basically he’s asked to explain the difference betwen a party position and a conscience vote. That’s not a trick question. You could answer it in two sentences. Shearer can’t.

That was 1.30 pm on Monday. I read that in the evening, transcribed the first part of the interview and…

Published on: Feb 18, 2013 @ 19:50

The transcript was later picked up by other blogs (including The Standard). Whale Oil didn’t post on it until the following day:

Shearer on homophobes and Labour, Robertson will move soon after this balls up
by Whaleoil on February 19, 2013

McFlock, this was a pathetic and dumb accusation, a cheap shot that doesn’t make sense.

Whale Oil supplying me with material for the  post would be like TVNZ supplying D Scene with a story and then reporting on it themselves the following day.

Shearer doesn’t need a Vast Right Wing Conspiracy to discredit him (I’m not ‘right wing’ anyway), the Vast Standard Disillusionment leads the charge there – and there’s no shortage of ammunition provided by Shedarer himself.