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 Awful vegan places

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emphryio



Posts : 71
Join date : 2009-05-11

PostSubject: Awful vegan places   Fri 22 May 2009, 9:35 am


(Before this 'rant' about discussion boards, I'd like to point out that in more than 10 years and many, many thousands of posts, I've never been banned by any discussion board.)

I think it's a potentially very negative thing to come across groups of vegans on internet discussion boards. This because the social dynamics of discussion boards can be very bizarre as this is the internet. Thousands of people can see an online group and it only takes 5, 10 people to agree with whatever social dynamics are going on for it to start looking like a thriving community of people claiming to be 'compassionate' vegans when that may not be the case at all.

Those who realize it isn't can only just leave. To a new person who stumbles upon it, they just see a whole bunch of people with bizarre ideas of the proper way to behave. If it's an openminded person such an experience can cause them to question their own behaviors. "Am I crazy or is everyone else here crazy?" they may end up wondering.

They may mistakenly think whatever discussion board site represents the mindset of vegans in general and thus feel despair when adding this on top of whatever the greater meat eating world has thrown at them.

I'd like to share a few such places I've known here because it concerns me that new vegans, people who in real life maybe don't know any other vegans at all, get online looking for people with similar ideas about compassion, etc, and instead run into some pretty nasty cliques. Unfortunately these sites will often try to get any site shut down that tells what actually goes on at their site. So, I can't idenfity the sites. I will instead just point out particulars to make people aware of the sorts of bizarre behaviors that are out there online.

I. For example there is a very prominent vegan site. A site consisting actually of a single couple but whom does organize big events, gets a lot of writers, etc to speak at events. They have a discussion board where if you link to any other vegan site they delete it. If you ask why they deleted it, they don't respond. If you post publicly any complaint, they automatically ban you.

If you mention their behavior on another discussion board they try to get that discussion board shut down. (Still without actually talking to other vegans at all. Just by talking to internet service providers, etc.)

II. Another site I know of the owner won't allow myspace links in anyone's signature because it might lead to some myspace blog, etc that he can't personally read the content of. And that blog might contain negative stuff about him, thus... anyone with a myspace signature will be banned!

I made the mistake of starting a thread there asking if anyone had experienced persecution as a result of being vegan. (I personally had recently had my scientific career destroyed maybe as a result of simply being vegan.) In my thread opening post I linked to some example of vegans being persecuted. Like how the Department of Homeland Security (BTW, my scientific funding came in part from DHS) was being sued by the ACLU for harassing some vegans who had been protesting outside of a restaurant.

This board owner went in and edited my post to make me look like a terrorist and blankly claimed that no vegans have ever been persecuted for being vegan, I was just confused about what I thought a vegan was, he didn't want any terrorist (leftist) material on his site, etc.

I suppose ultimately it's his site. But then such views are ultimately kind of pretty far gone towards the political right for a vegan. Why doesn't he mention such things during the registering process? He's got this nice little explanation of the board rules where he goes out of his way to make himself sound reasonable, then you post material straight from a national vegan magazine and he goes nuts. He's managed to get some pretty negative publicity here and there online as a result. But still, it's not that small a board. Despite such behavior it's got a sufficiently happy vibe that some people conform and take the, 'the leader can do no wrong' mindless conformity attitude.

III. There is another board that originally seemed like a great place. I personally liked it so much at first that I flew overseas to meet up with members of it. Over time though the two owners slowly started driving people away as a result of their attitudes. These attitudes unfortunately simplified to: "we actually wish that anyone who disagrees with us about much of anything would just go away"

When I met them personally, the one owner, thinking he was being funny, mentioned 5 different vegans who posted on the site that he made fun of (not in a nice way), and said of a few of them he wished they'd just go away.

1. It was a vegan sport site. The one guy he made fun of for being too puny to have any business putting up pictures of himself, having his own site, etc. He considered him an embarrassment to veganism.

2. Another person he mad fun of because her posts were too long, she posted too often. Thus she must be crazy and thus he wished she 'would just go away'.

3. Another person, this person had the original email list by which the site got going off of in the first place, he made fun of among other things for dressing funny. Again, this was an embarrassment to veganism.

4. Another person was a long time vegan activist with over 4000 posts on his site. A person who organized fairs, had many of her own vegan online sites, etc. A very serious activist. He ignored her for years and privately thought she was just crazy. Apparently because she was too much of a feminist, disliked porn, etc. Despite somehow posting 4000 times and getting along well enough with everyone but him he just utterly ignored her and would have nothing to do with her. (Eventually she caught on to the cold shoulder she was being given. She finally blew up about it and then he effectively smeared her to hell and back. She's now dropped completely out of vegan movement and hasn't been heard from in years.)

5. Another he claimed attacked him by pm, etc. "wow, it was strange' he claimed. "he must have some psychological issues...." Later I found this person elsewhere and much later I've found out just how often he uses this claim that "gee, they must just be crazy..."

Back online they didn't say such things publicly though and instead at first appearances it appears an inclusive place dedicating to spreading the vegan message. Most people just slowly figured out the truth and then leave. And that is what has slowly happened over the years. But at the same time their particular board concept has been so popular that the board has managed to survive so far.

Also they wait till threads fall off the first page and then go delete anything which places them in a bad light. The other owner for example isn't as good with how he presents himself publicly. He's the board admin and he repeatedly asks people who disagree with him about various subjects, "why don't you just go away?" And I'm not talking about huge disagreements. I'm talking even about health subjects for example. He talks like that and then deletes such threads as soon as they've fallen off the first page.

With such behavior people eventually catch on that things aren't quite right and just leave. What else can they do? The owners attitude towards disagreement is, "why don't you just go away?" And they delete threads to keep themselves looking good. I could list more than ten people off the top of my head with over 1000 posts who seem to have just mysteriously decided to not post there anymore. (The threads that caused each to leave have actually been deleted.)

Because I dared to call out the one owner on such behavior, their mutal response is that I'm crazy. I should 'get help'.

Because I try to defend new people from the bullying of the one admin he claims I'm a stalker. And that I'm full of hatred. And a liar, etc. Basically in response to my criticism they've decided to smear me with just about everything they've got.

And over the years they've managed to get over 5000 registered users. Maybe 15 have conformed to such behavior. Where the admin can do no wrong and all the people getting treated so badly deserve it. 15 regular posters combined with a heavy stream of rare posters (the site is heavily advertised) keeps it looking like a thriving community of 'compassionate' 'inclusive' vegans. But if a relatively normal person stepped into one of the threads that will soon after be deleted, they might wonder if they've gone crazy.

IV. Then I recall a site where they are at least honest about it. They straight up admit they're essentially a clique and they don't want any criticism of their prevailing social norms. Any criticism will meet with banning. What's so bizarre about that is the site I'm thinking of here is run not only by vegans but by supposedly hardcore socialists. Unlike the corporate propaganda which claims socialism equals dictatorship, most actual socialists are all about democracy and free speech, etc. The main site owner is so serious about socialism he was at one time actually trying to write a book arguing that veganism was logically consistent with socialism, yet here when he's got an actual virtual community to potentially put his ideas into use--probably the only chance he'll ever get in his life to see any semblance of his ideals potentially entering the real world--he instead prefers a straight up dictatorship.

Another one of these other sites is run primarily by a guy who likes to present himself as a hardcore anarchist. He likes to go on about protests, etc. But he also get's his little online 'community' and all such ideals of freedom of speech and discussing disagreements goes out the window. Do it their way. Don't criticize. Don't speak out when you disagree. Despite the supposed value of compassion, the one site bans people and says 'buh bye'. The other makes fun of the mental stability of whoever disagrees with them, claiming 'they need to see a psychiatrist, haha!'

It is distressing on a number of levels to me what I've found in the online world amongst vegans. I can't help but wonder about the co-option of activist movements. I recall how the US government created psuedo communist organizations to keep an eye on the socialists (figure out their identities, what they're up to, maybe try to provoke them, we recently had a suspected terrorist list of half a million people), to make them look bad (I recall there was one socialist organization that advocated pedophilia) and to ensure their movement was mired in constant infighting (I recall the infiltration of the Nation of Islam, not to mention going so far as to murder Malcom X, etc.)

I look at some of the bizarre cliques I find online and I wonder. Is this some bizarre co-option? Or is this just how people are?

...I can go far beyond vegan discussion boards. I recall 'freethought' boards (generally anti-christian boards) which consists almost solely of people spouting hate at everything. Anyone who might actually have something interesting to say just leaves in disgust and it ends up just being awful, awful little hate cliques.

My wife would say I'm thinking too much about such things. Her advice is just that people online are generally assholes and I shouldn't waste my time.

But I wonder what we can learn about sociology. With the verbal violence scaring away the decent people it's much like real life, where we've spent thousands of years evolving into violent people. Violence actually works. Physical, verbal, emotional. Force works. There are two ways to solve disagreements in this world: by force or by reason. We actually almost solely use various means of force in this world. It's what's worked. The people who've done it are in charge. Reason is paltry in comparison. I wonder if one can look at the awful reality of these discussion boards and see a sort of hyperevolution. The truth of humankind. Rule by power. Those who try to really use reason are always in the minority. And they are always defeated. We are ultimately like apes in the wild. I'm not saying that there isn't some reason and cooperation and compassion. But that ultimately you've got an alpha male who will kill you if you don't obey him. And all that reason is only allowed as long as there's no danger he'll lose his position of power.

Firebird, despite not naming these sites. I guess it's still possible some of them will try to cause trouble. So as opposed to them getting this new site taken down, you can take down the thread if you need to. And I'm sorry if anyone ever tries to make trouble. When I started the post I thought I could easily manage it with sufficient anonymity for such awful sites but in trying to explain a few things maybe one or another might claim they're identifiable.
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emphryio



Posts : 71
Join date : 2009-05-11

PostSubject: Re: Awful vegan places   Sun 20 Sep 2009, 6:02 am

"..Irvin Janis, following George Orwell, has called the tendency for the attitudes of a tightly knit group to become extreme 'Groupthink'. According to him, the members may develop an illusion of invulnerability coupled with extreme optimism; they ignore inconvenient facts; their belief in their own morality may lead them to commit immoral actions as a means to an end; they hold stereotyped views of rival or enemy groups whom they regard as evil or weak; individual members attempt to silence dissent from others in the group; each member suppresses his own doubts in order to conform; there is an illusion of unanimity resulting from this supression; and finally, they protect other members by concealing information not in line with the group's views. Two further points are worth making. First, when a leader picks an advisory committee, he is unlikely to select either people who have very different views from himself or people who are more intelligent or more powerful in discussion than himself. The point cannot be proven, but to maintain their self-esteem leaders are likely to surround themselves by acolytes, thus exacerbating the tendencies already mentioned. Second, when a committee has a leader, the members will want to please him, particularly if he can influence their careers: this can be particularly pernicious, for the more the members agree with the leader, the more extreme his own attitudes are likely to become and hence the other members make even more extreme statements. It is a characteristic vicious circle.

Stuart Sutherland, Irrationality pg 46


The part in the original post about never getting banned is no longer true. I got banned for 'bullying' at veganfitness.net.

So in ten years and probably 10,000 posts online that is the one place that has banned me. The leader claimed I was a bully and banned me finally for this:

...can't link the incredibly innocent looking thread because I guess they realized how awful it made them look and they deleted it. (They periodically delete any threads that make them look bad.) The Group was busy making fun of a raw fooder, belittling him, saying he was stupid and nuts, etc in a thread about how important potassium is, where he advocated trying to get it from bananas, etc instead of taking supplements. I dared to ask if people could just be nice to each other, not belittle people. And they banned me.

The prevailing attitude there is one of complete dismissal of anything out of the mainstream (excepting veganism). So raw fooders, people who speak of alternative medicine, anyone who isn't an atheist is treated incredibly rude. (I am by the way not so keen on alternative medicine or raw foodism (although I keep an openmind) and no fan of any organized religion. But generally I always speak up when I see people treated unfairly with no consideration at all for how I'm supposed to be conforming and kissing the leader's ass. Or at least being cowed into silence, etc.

It was not a single time that I spoke out and immediately got banned. For a few years whenever I wandered by that board and found someone being treated badly I spoke up about it. I consider it a moral duty to try to balance the hatred and indifference in this world with what compassion and understanding I can manage.
But there is of course so much hatred and indifference out there. I'm standing here with a bucket against an ocean. This particular board was so horrid that I'd only hold my nose and wander by maybe once a month on average for the last few years. (I posted there for 5 years and even met about 25 people from the board 4 years ago. Almost all of whom later left in disgust. Very few speaking out.)

Unfortunately it's still a pretty large board and sets an awful example for veganism.


Last edited by emphryio on Sun 20 Sep 2009, 6:37 am; edited 4 times in total
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emphryio



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PostSubject: Re: Awful vegan places   Sun 20 Sep 2009, 6:27 am

One final point:
First, when a leader picks an advisory committee, he is unlikely to select either people who have very different views from himself or people who are more intelligent or more powerful in discussion than himself. The point cannot be proven, but to maintain their self-esteem leaders are likely to surround themselves by acolytes, thus exacerbating the tendencies already mentioned. Second, when a committee has a leader, the members will want to please him, particularly if he can influence their careers: this can be particularly pernicious, for the more the members agree with the leader, the more extreme his own attitudes are likely to become and hence the other members make even more extreme statements.

I remember how the owner of veganfitness.net picked his advisory committee. The criteria very clearly appeared to be that you had to have never ever disagreed with him about anything.

Later when I had a disagreement with him. He said he was confident he was right because all his moderators agreed with him.

I didn't bother to point out the problem with this statement because it was very difficult to believe he wasn't being disingenous. I mean by that: Is it possible that he really didn't know that in the first place he'd made sure to pick only people who made sure to never disagree with him?

It is possible though. This is what people do all the time. They go through their lives half conscious; rarely understanding the true motivations behind their actions.

I've seen this same thing over and over again for the last decade online and of course repeated endlessly in the real world.
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