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Re: Sinclair matters

Greetings from Berkeley.  Apologies for being out of touch for a few days;
I've been doing some business in Silicon Valley.

>Dear Moderator

As Gary M. Sinclair has already pointed out, and as mentioned in the
introduction to the list, there is no moderator for this list.
For those of you who are not familiar with the terminology, a moderator
is someone who reviews every submission and decides whether it should
be posted or not.  This list has no moderator.

What it does have is a very few people, currently me and Gary M., who
volunteer their time to handle the mechanics of it, and about 200 list
members who from time to time express their opinions on what should be
in the list, and much more frequently provide the content that is the
purpose of the list.

>What are Sinclair matters? They are everything that effects us, they are the
>action and passion of our times as well as our past.  We often find it
>easier to be the result of the past rather than the cause of the future.

I'm sure you know I'm in agreement with that point.

I'm not particularly concerned about *what* people discuss, although
it would be useful if posters would attempt to tie their postings in
some way to some Sinclair or other.  The farther away from anything
having to do with Sinclair history or genealogy or places or organizations
or the like that the messages get, the more people leave the list.

What I'm concerned about are discussions that turn vitriolic, specifically
in the form of name-calling, i.e., ad hominem attacks.  This is a problem

1) It drives people away from the list.

2) It costs me a lot of time to sort it out every time it happens.

3) It leaves lasting bad blood among list members.

This list doesn't have many rules.  The one against ad hominem attacks isn't
very hard to handle.  I would appreciate it if people would respect that rule
here in my electronic living room.  I may live in a mud puddle in the middle
of a cow pasture, but it's still my living room.

Now, if you're referring to the flap over Tim's postings, there is another
angle to that.  As I was discussing with some people the other evening
in San Francisco, there is a well known bent to British, or perhaps
particularly English, literary discussions towards criticising the
author *as a convention for criticising the author's work*.  This is the
opposite of the convention stateside and many other places in the world.
This may well be why Tim seems to have difficulty understanding what
people found objectionable about his posting.

I can understand that.

However, some people seem to be confusing two very different matters:
 * political correctness, which is a recent fad that has nothing to do
   with the case at hand,
 * and civil discourse, which has everything to do with it, and ad
   hominem arguments, which have been recognized since ancient times
   as interfering with civil discourse.

Without civil discourse we have no venue in which to discuss anything.

Every time ad hominem attacks occur on this list, people complain to me,
and people leave the list.  I don't know what purpose this list has if
people don't stay on it to discuss things.

There is never going to be complete consensus on what civil discourse
consists of, not on a worldwide list such as this one.  Therefore
sometimes someone has to make a decision.  I don't like making such
decisions, which is why for most discussions on this list I don't.
(And there being no moderator, nobody makes such decisions in advance.)
When I do make such a decision it is because I have concluded that I must.

I make no claim that such decisions are perfect, but I do claim sometimes
somebody has to do it.  As I've stated before, if the list members would
prefer somebody else to run the list, that's fine with me.  I've done
my part of getting the list going.  But if I'm going to run the list,
sometimes I will have to make a decision.

>Your own illustrious ancestor wrote:

Cousin, actually.

>" Life is like an artichoke; each day, week, month, year, gives you one
>little bit which you nibble off - but precious little compared with what you
>throw away."
>O.W. Holmes (17 January  1887)

John S. Quarterman <jsq@matrix.net>
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