Why I don't write callouts

Published on 2024-04-07

Okay, that's not entirely true. I've definitely written callouts. And I'll even qualify that a bit further to say that I don't, or at least try my best not to, write callouts of individual, non-corporate persons. I just wanted a title that'd serve as a natural successor to "Why I don't write arguments"

Why I don't write arguments

This isn't exactly a response to the following article, but definitely inspired by it:

An avalanche of dogs (idiomdrottning.org)

Sandra notes that calling people out can legitimately be dangerous, particularly if you have an audience:

It’s easy to get fooled into thinking that “my particular personal take is reasonable, nuanced, restrained, logical, correct, emotional, insightful, informative, personal”, and all of that might be true. I know and I can honestly tell myself that I don’t want an avalanche of stones to be thrown, just one li’l reasonable and commensurate pebble. But that’s what everyone else in the stone- throwing mob is also kidding themselves. Each of their own li’l rocks on their own is “well, we’ve got to be able to criticize wrong things and stand up for what’s good and right” but the internet has made that not possible anymore. We’re not raindrops anymore, we’re a tsunami. We’re not snowflakes, we’re an avalanche.

I like to think I'm not a very angry person, but when someone says something that bothers me to the point of feeling compelled to write about it, it may be that the person matters—that they ought to know they're the person receiving my digital wrath, or they don't really matter at all—the much more common case.

If the person doesn't matter, I usually won't mention them. If I can't help myself, I might give the context in which I encountered the problem, and make it explicit that I don't want to name drop the person in question, because it's not really all that relevant. I think this is what normal people call subposting, and apparently lots of people consider it passive-aggressive. I suppose it kind of is, but people say things that inspire me to write all the time. I try my best to be respectful of their place in the story, and I'm not sure why I should show them less respect by dragging their name through the mud just because I'm upset in the moment.

If someone's done something that deserves particular attention from me, I imagine the right thing would be to try and call them in and talk it out privately¹. I don't exactly have the relationship with most of the people I encounter online where it'd make sense to try and personally confront them about what I've deemed to be their problems, so I usually just leave them be, but I like to think if I knew them that would be what I'd try first.

Does it ever really make sense to broadcast your distaste of a person? I'm not really sure. I don't think I find it distasteful, per se, but I do often find it unnecessary. I always find myself asking, "what end does this serve?" Individual behaviour is usually a symptom of much larger patterns. Does the person in question really matter in the grand scheme of things?

I can think of at least one case where it's merited, and it's for things like communicating the presence of bad actors in the fediverse. It's in everyone's best interests to know of dangerous people trying to sneak into our spaces. Of course, there's some questions like, "who gets to decide what it means to be dangerous?"

Shoot first, ask questions later

But I don't know… My experience with the big names in community moderation on the fediverse has been that while they don't always get it right, they're right often enough to be useful. I'd prefer a whitelist instance, anyway, and if I ever do get around to setting up my own instance that's how I plan on running it.

Specifically, I think one of the perhaps unintentional beauties of TheBad.space is that it enables people to communicate the presence of bad actors without having to do a public callout. A few select instances just voluntarily choose to block them on their own and their choices get aggregated into a score.

Of course, the people running those instances in question often do make callout posts as well, and they often do get shared way beyond the administrative bounds of their communities, but they wouldn't need to, necessarily. It just works.

There might be a better way of communicating criticism publicly without triggering the avalanche. I sure as hell don't know what it is, and I'm a little too afraid to try.


¹ But like, there's so many ways this could go wrong. This is something to be handled very delicately. Getting an avalanche of uninformed call-ins is not that unlike getting an avalanche of hot takes, I imagine.

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