(thanks to those who nominated and seconded this post)
Open Salon, being a quasi-social, quasi-writers site, has its own code of acceptable behaviors that seems to imply its own set of tolerable speech.
A member was tossed out recently, not for the way that he behaved towards others, but for what he wrote and thought; his behavior towards other writers here, on the other hand, was reasonably civil. His was a thought crime.
Yet we have several, if not many, other members whose behavior towards others is execrable but yet who are still let stay. (It has always seemed a bit funny to me that 'execrable' seems like a relative of 'excrement.')
There are acceptable bigotries here. That doesn't mean that everyone thinks the same ugly ways but merely that the majority of people, when seeing these bigotries practiced, turn away in an online equivalent of singing la-la-la to drown out sounds one doesn't want to hear.
The first bigotry that is obvious to me on OS is the religious intolerance; not that there is intolerance across the board. That would be just a bit understandable but intolerance only of certain religions or practices.
The Roman Catholic Church, for example; one can say anything about the Church of Rome with little fear that someone will respond in defense. Of course the Church hasn't helped matters by its horrible behaviors in many ways but condemning an entire religion, with billions of sincere and honest believers, and not focusing on the behavior of however many who have been at fault is exactly the same as hating and denouncing black people as a group for the crimes of the few.
There are other religions that come in for scorn, Mormons and fundamentalist Christians to name just two. It is not that these two groups are egregious criminal elements but merely that their practitioners and their belief set aren't in the in-group in this, our rarified population.
Wicca or any kind of spiritualism however seem to be OK, although I fail to see how those rather idiosyncratic (imo) belief structures are any less unbelievable to a rational mind than either Mormonism or born-again Christians. Jews and Judaism seem to get a pass (although circumcision seems to be a no, no); but we'll get back to that later.
Of course, misandry gets a free ride here.
In the past quarter century, we exposed biases against other races and called it racism, and we exposed biases against women and called it sexism. Biases against men we call humor.
—Warren Farrell, Women Can't Hear What Men Don't Say
Diatribes about one's male partner, often husband, draw encouraging attaboys while posts about the failings of one's female spouse, complete with ridicule, are rare and would almost certainly not draw the fandom that anti-male posts do.
A long post about the failings and the absolute uselessness of men as a group by one of this site's prominent (read 'loud') lesbians drew myriads of positive comments – presumably by those persons who wanted to make certain they weren't the target of the author's tongue. Isn't it ironic that that author's typical behavior surely reinforces the stereotype that haters promulgate of lesbians? In a very obvious way, she is her own group's worst enemy.
Ageism -Although 'ageism' should be on the list of verbotens here, calling someone old or puckered up seems to be a favorite term of some of the more attack-dog personalities here. That it doesn't draw attention or condemnation may be a tribute to the reputation that the users have gotten and their obliviousness to insults. After all, a rabid dog doesn't mind being called vicious, that's its only prized characteristic.
Racism- It may seem surprising that this most obvious of bigotries would go unremarked but this has a special twist. There are writers here on OS whose specialty seems to be the failings of the white world; virtually any notable occasion seems to incite some kind of mini-essay on how the white world not only has failed again but seems to be unregenerate, incapable ot understanding the full depth of their sin.
Like comments that are 20 lines of presumably on-point verse, I skip over these posts knowing that the author is too deeply sunk in his or her own vision to provide any viewpoint that isn't hopelessly skewed.
This behavior is a kind of Mau-Mau-ing the audience here. For explanation read this paragraph from the Wikipedia review of 'Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers' by Tom Wolfe
“Wolfe describes hapless bureaucrats (the Flak Catchers) whose function was reduced to taking abuse, or "mau-mauing" (in reference to the intimidation tactics employed in Kenya's anti-colonial Mau Mau Uprising) from intimidating young Blacks and Samoans, who are seen as reveling in the newfound vulnerability of "the Man". The flak-catchers smile pathetically, allowing their tormentors to indulge themselves in abuse; the process is seen as a farcical but useful expedient, condescending toward the resentment of these communities.”
In case that isn't clear, we are the Flak-Catchers in this case and our non-response is not silence but condescension.
Anti-Zionism paired with the bigotry of low expectations
Israel can do no right here on Open Salon. Anything that it does wrong – and there is enough of that – gets trumpeted far and wide. Anything that it does right - and there is also plenty of that - is ignored or shouted down as being not enough. At the same time, there is no critical thought about the activities of the Palestinians – or the Arab states' role in that specific part of the middle East problems.
Clear examples of both are legion. When 8 Turkish protesters were killed on a blockade busting boat that resisted being boarded, there were many articles and hundreds of comments. (The testimony of a Jordanian cameraman that nothing happened until the first four Israelis were overpowered - two being stabbed- and taken below decks as hostages was ignored.)
When Israel, which provides all the electric power to Gaza and the West Bank – its nominal enemies - signed an agreement to build four new power stations in the West Bank, no mention. When the PLA was running out of money to pay salaries because the donations from the Arab states and the rest of the world had diminished, Israel advanced the PLA 100 million dollars, again no mention.
When Syria bused hundreds of Palestinian men through the Syrian border outposts and encouraged them to run at the Israeli borders and into the guns of the border outposts, no mention. When Turkey sent jets against a Kurdish village and killed 32 men, no mention. When Palestinian leaders were tortured and then killed by Syrian mukhabarat, again no mention here. When Egypt state TV runs a serial docu-drama based on the premise that the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is true, no mention here. When Palestinian school children got books telling that that Jews are pigs and need to be killed, no mention. When a Egyptian author says that the only place that dissenting Arab writers can meet is in Israel, doesn't that absolute shouting irony require some mention amongst this colony of writers?
Interestingly, when critics of Israel are asked only that the other countries be subject to the same critical assessment of their actions as Irael, the response is silence. Somehow, these countries, or groups, are not expected to do things or behave to the same level of expectations as Israel.
Is the unwillingness to ask or expect any level of behavior from those others either condescension or the 'soft bigotry of low expectations?
And this brings back to the point about Judaism and Jews being OK here. In a sort of some-of-my-best-friends-are-black kind of thing, some of the most vociferous and vicious critics of Israel attempt to validate their criticism by touting their own relationship to Jews. So being nice to the Jew on your street or in your bed makes it OK for you to be an unthinking bigot elsewhere. And it is bigotry, if your actions or words are based on beliefs not fair and even assessment. Nope, that doesn't count.
Where is the failure in all of this? Isn't Open Salon just typical of the Internet where the loudest voice rules?
Clearly some of our members really want it to be a better place; see these clips from the comments on Jake Sugarman's last post.
I think that there is a strong issue of bullying in OS, members being insulted, called names, ridiculed, and even frightened, and the worse is that they feel that there is no one from Salon that can refer too.
Believe me, that when one artist feels that he/she can be insulted, bullied, cursed, violated, no creativity is left.. And this is a loss for all of us,
I am appalled by the invective hurled by some OS users at others. I am disgusted by the intimidation and the distortions some users have brought into their posts and comments. I am more disgusted by the spirit and tone of the accusations--even if they were founded or true.
Of course, it is not your work, but for us feeling safe in here is essential, and I think adds to the quality of Salon Media the creation of this quality and only intellectual and artistic network that they have created.
It would be nice, in the absence of an editor who will enforce the Terms of Service, if those people who feel strongly about the nastiness take a stand when it happens and expose the abusers.
As for the entire culture of acceptable bigotries, I don't think it will change much. It is the nature of true believers, whaterver their stripe, to be intolerant of those with whome they disagree.
And true believers, we are.