TOTD 2018-08-03: Who is Welcome Here?

I know that we have many flavors of conservative here.   Do we have any rules on who we exclude?  This is not for the sock and the scientist, this is for all of us, the people who form the Ratburger community.  It is we who decide whom to include and whom to exclude.

Now, Ratburger is a right-wing, conservative site.  I will fight tooth and nail to ensure that remains the case, to avoid invoking Conquest’s Second Law.

Any organization not explicitly and constitutionally right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing.

(I note with some irony that I linked to National Review, which seems like it is following the 2nd and 3rd laws – that post is from Derbyshire)  However, what does that mean for Ratburger?

I know several people who are not Republican or even conservative, but might enjoy this site.  Moreover, they have knowledge that might benefit Ratburghers, such as preparedness and urban architecture.  Should I invite them?   The most liberal of the group is around David Rubin level.  Should they expect a torch & pitchfork mob if they come by here?

More broadly, how do you maintain a conservative organization without being obsessed with purity tests?

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21 thoughts on “TOTD 2018-08-03: Who is Welcome Here?”

  1. We don’t have to speculate about what will happen if** we get enough people “who are not Republican or even conservative.”  We already know, from experience.

    **Edited because that shoulda been “when”, not “if”…lo, they are already amongst us.)

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  2. My humble thoughts would be to avoid purity tests, but rather the key is the management (no pressure guys!).  The other place has shown us what happens when management decides to be a certain way to the exclusion of, and in opposition to, the base.

    Don’t micromanage (but boot trolls out), keep an eye open for false ID’s, don’t go out and hire a bunch of Nevers (ugh!), and Ratburger will grow, as well as be a safe and welcome place for us for years to come.   I’m very grateful this place is here, one day when RBTV is a thriving news channel and RB reporters have bureau’s across the globe I’ll be able to say “I remember when…”

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  3. I agree that there should be no purity tests. As we rely on individual self-restraint of Ratburger members in policing their own posts, so can we handle those who prove themselves unwelcome (up to a degree). That is, individual members, sua sponte, may decide to simply not respond to those who – by their own words – put themselves beyond the ethos of this site. For example, one might respond one time only to give notice by saying: “Based on my experience with you, I will no longer have any contact with you; I will neither read what you write nor respond to you in any way.” i.e. I will shun you. Being ignored will likely eliminate the incentive to be inflammatory and/or obnoxious to the core membership.

    Of course, this suggestion does not preclude our “powers that be” from de-platforming trolls or others inclined to feed us rat poison. Although I am not knowledgeable of such things, I have heard of “reputation scores.” Is there a place for such a thing? I know nothing more than that such things exist. Could it be useful in this context?

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  4. Conquest’s Second Law is often something that happens when the original founding group of an organisation hands it over to their successors.  I believe it it closely related to Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy:

    In any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people:

    First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

    Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

    The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

    Conservatives and libertarians are mission-oriented people.  They usually view organisations as a necessary evil in order to accomplish objective goals in the real world.  Left-wingers view the organisation as an end in itself; they enjoy going to meetings.  They view “mission accomplished” as an existential crisis—what then would the organisation do?  Over time, an organisation will become dominated by these people.

    So prevalent is this problem, and so difficult to solve that when the Olin Foundation was established in 1953 its charter required it to spend all of its assets within a generation of the death of its founder.  It was believed this would avoid eventual capture by those with goals other than those of the founder.  John M. Olin, who endowed the foundation, died in 1982.  The Olin foundation respected its charter and made its last grant and disbanded in 2005.  (The Olin Foundation played a major part in the start-up funding of the Federalist Society.)

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  5. civil westman:
    Although I am not knowledgeable of such things, I have heard of “reputation scores.” Is there a place for such a thing? I know nothing more than that such things exist. Could it be useful in this context?

    Some sites have elaborate systems for rating posts and comments and assigning reputation to users.  For example, users can vote posts and comments up or down, and the author’s reputation rises or falls along with the aggregate votes on the content they have contributed.  There is usually a way for individual users to specify that they only want to see posts and comments with a given ranking or higher, or only content by authors ranked at or above a given level.  There is always the choice to see everything.

    These systems can be vulnerable to dysfunction.  A clique can gang up to vote up each other’s content and vote down that of their enemies.

    I don’t think we have anywhere near the number of members or volume of posts for such a system to be of any use here.

    The site with the most elaborate system of this kind with which I am familiar is Slashdot (although I haven’t looked at it much since around 2010), and based on the quality of the content there, I can’t say that the reputation system seems to be working impressively although of course it’s possible things might be even worse without it.

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  6. John Walker:
    Conservatives and libertarians are mission-oriented people.  They usually view organisations as a necessary evil in order to accomplish objective goals in the real world.  Left-wingers view the organisation as an end in itself; they enjoy going to meetings.  They view “mission accomplished” as an existential crisis—what then would the organisation do?  Over time, and organisation will become dominated by these people.

    Oddly, earlier today and elsewhere I posted the following Eric Hoffer quote:

    Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket. 

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  7. civil westman:
    For example, one might respond one time only to give notice by saying: “Based on my experience with you, I will no longer have any contact with you; I will neither read what you write nor respond to you in any way.” i.e. I will shun you. Being ignored will likely eliminate the incentive to be inflammatory and/or obnoxious to the core membership.

    One of the keys to survival as a system administrator is not to go looking for problems to solve before the problem becomes apparent.  Lots of hypothetical problems never happen, and the time you might have spent trying to avert them is better spent dealing with problems you didn’t anticipate which are continually popping up.

    As a flaming libertarian™, I prefer bottom-up organic solutions to problems as opposed to top-down one size fits all coercion such as bans and suspensions.  Obviously, this doesn’t apply to spammers or other purely destructive or malicious interlopers, but rather individuals which to some are an acquired taste but others consider distasteful, and topics on which people have an affinity and prefer not to be disrupted by others who disagree.

    The groups facility provides an excellent solution for the latter.  You can even create a private group where members can be invited, must be approved, and can be banned by the group’s administrators (who are regular site members, not the overall site’s administrators).  This delegates authority to those running the group who can exercise it as they wish.  If people don’t like the way a group is run or its subject material (for example, some might find the “I Hate Puppies” group offensive), they shouldn’t join it.  If it’s a private group, they’ll never see what’s going on in there.

    I wish the groups facility had the full functionality of the main site.  If I had designed it, I would have made each group its own little site with the full functionality of posts, comments on posts, rich text formatting, media inclusion, etc.  But, in fact, it’s a bag hanging on the side of WordPress called BuddyPress in which everything works in its own quirky way and much of the functionality of the main site is missing.  That’s how it works, and re-implementing it here is not in the cards.

    For the case of disruptive or annoying users, I’m attracted to the idea of a “Mute” button as a bottom-up solution.  If you mute a user, you’ll never see their posts, comments, contributions in groups, or messages; as far as you’re concerned, they’re gone.  A user would be able to see how many people had muted them (but not who).  Somebody who was muted by most other people on the site would probably spontaneously go away, because what’s the point of writing stuff nobody is going to see?

    Implementing mute would be a reasonably large project (substantially bigger than anything done so far locally for the site), so I’m certainly not going to do it until the need for it becomes apparent.

    I discussed something like the mute button back in 2005 in my “Strike Out” document, where I called it the “Banish Button”.

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  8. OmegaPaladin:
    More broadly, how do you maintain a conservative organization without being obsessed with purity tests?

    Even accepting the premise that this is a conservative organisation (I, for one, consider myself a libertarian rather than a conservative, but my libertarian views align well with those of many strands of conservative thought [although not, for example, the “invade the world; invite the world” warmongers and open borders crowd]), there are many strains of conservatism.  Consider the three legs of the Reagan coalition footstool:

    • Fiscal conservatives (deficit and spending hawks, inflation fighters, sound money advocates)
    • National security conservatives (strong military, weapons and defence technology investment, support for alliances)
    • Social conservatives (anti-abortion, support for traditional marriage, opposition to federal funding of cultural corruption)

    Now, it’s easy to see how the priorities of these three groups can conflict with one another.  For example, building a 600 ship navy and ballistic missile defence can blow out the budget and balloon the debt, which is precisely what happened during the Reagan years.  It’s also easy to identify individuals who identify strongly with one of the legs and don’t care very much about the others.  Reagan was able to persuade them to make peace with one another to get part of what they wanted, largely because it was obvious the other party was vehemently opposed to the goals of all three.

    To these three strains, I’d now add what John Derbyshire calls the “national question”: should the United States and other developed Western nations try to preserve the ethnographic and cultural makeup which characterised them during the time they became affluent and powerful, or open the doors to mass third world immigration from regions which have never indigenously produced culture, wealth, or the institutions of consensual government?

    I don’t see why a site like this can’t be like the old Reagan coalition.  We have some people who care deeply about the social issues, others who concentrate on budgets and the debt, others concerned with military strength and foreign policy, and still others who want to preserve the character of the West and build the doggone wall.  The one thing they can all agree on, however, is that if the lunatic Marxists get back into power, none of their agendas will occur and, in fact, the exact opposite will happen.

    Further, there’s a whole lot of the world that isn’t about politics.  We may have many people here who are impassioned about their professions, hobbies, or intellectual interests and don’t care very much about politics or give it much attention.  They should be able to find others here who share their passions and possibly others who discover them here for the first time.

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  9. John Walker:

    civil westman:
    Although I am not knowledgeable of such things, I have heard of “reputation scores.” Is there a place for such a thing? I know nothing more than that such things exist. Could it be useful in this context?

    Some sites have elaborate systems for rating posts and comments and assigning reputation to users.  For example, users can vote posts and comments up or down, and the author’s reputation rises or falls along with the aggregate votes on the content they have contributed.  There is usually a way for individual users to specify that they only want to see posts and comments with a given ranking or higher, or only content by authors ranked at or above a given level.  There is always the choice to see everything.

    These systems can be vulnerable to dysfunction.  A clique can gang up to vote up each other’s content and vote down that of their enemies.

    I don’t think we have anywhere near the number of members or volume of posts for such a system to be of any use here.

    The site with the most elaborate system of this kind with which I am familiar is Slashdot (although I haven’t looked at it much since around 2010), and based on the quality of the content there, I can’t say that the reputation system seems to be working impressively although of course it’s possible things might be even worse without it.

    This has been my experience with those kinds of systems.  I like the idea of them, but the implementation usually winds up with people who have more posts or higher rankings simply from longevity being taken more seriously only because they’ve been around longer. Newcomers arguments aren’t addressed and get dismissed because person X must be right because he’s so highly rated.

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  10. Hello – I’m new here and have only lurked a little bit. Ratburger is a very interesting place. This post is useful for me, as I try to figure out what exactly Ratburger is. I actually mod a social group that is a similar mix of conservatism-libertarianism, and it can be rather dicey. IMO, a long-surviving group will ultimately become a reflection of its mods’ philosophies.  May I ask how many people are on Ratburger? (Apologies if this is something I should easily be able to find out for myself; like I said: newbie.) Thank you!

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  11. Deplora Boule:
    May I ask how many people are on Ratburger?

    First of all, welcome to Ratburger!  I loved your book, which I discovered due to a review posted here by another member.

    As of this moment, there are 121 people on Ratburger.  (There are 123 active user accounts, but two of these are administrators [myself/Chef and Dime/10 Cents] who each have two accounts: one regular user account for participation and one administrator account for maintenance.)  If you go to a user’s profile by clicking their avatar image, you’ll see the user’s “Party card number” which is the order in which they joined the site.  These numbers are in many cases much higher than the actual number of users on the site (yours, for example, is 238).  This is because the numbers (in fact, WordPress user numbers) include accounts created by spammers and then automatically nuked by the anti-spam facilities we run or deleted by administrators.  These accounts are completely gone, but WordPress never re-uses user numbers, so their numbers are orphaned.

    There is a Knowledge Base article, “Avatars, Profiles, Posts, and Comments” about how to find information about a user and their contributions from the avatar.

    The core membership here were refugees from the Ricochet.com site; some kicked out and others who just walked away in disgust or just because it became uninteresting.  Since then we’ve expanded the membership, bringing in people with other interests and backgrounds.

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  12. Deplora Boule:
    Hello – I’m new here and have only lurked a little bit. Ratburger is a very interesting place. This post is useful for me, as I try to figure out what exactly Ratburger is. I actually mod a social group that is a similar mix of conservatism-libertarianism, and it can be rather dicey. IMO, a long-surviving group will ultimately become a reflection of its mods’ philosophies.  May I ask how many people are on Ratburger? (Apologies if this is something I should easily be able to find out for myself; like I said: newbie.) Thank you!

    Welcome, DB!

    This site was started 2017-12-10. We have 121 Members so far. The Admins are John Walker and myself. I couldn’t agree more that a site comes from its leadership. Since we are so new, your ideas will be helpful because of your “dicey” experiences. If you would be so kind please write a new thread expounding generally on them.

    UPDATE:I didn’t see John Walker’s comment before I posted this. Great comment, John.

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  13. @Deplora – How great that you are here! By virtue of my review, I think I can count myself the founding member of your fan club,  Ratburger branch.

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  14. John Walker:
    The core membership here were refugees from the Ricochet.com site; some kicked out and others who just walked away in disgust or just because it became uninteresting.  Since then we’ve expanded the membership, bringing in people with other interests and backgrounds.

    There are others of us who are still members of both sites.  For myself, I keep paying for my Ricochet membership in order to materially support a right-of-center forum, even though it’s not as fun over there as it once was.

    I mean, ratburger is more fun, but we don’t have much visibility.  I can dispute, say, Mona Charen’s take on something over there and there’s a chance that it’ll be read by someone in a position to influence policy.  Maybe a small chance, but a chance nonetheless.

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  15. Terry Mott:
    I mean, ratburger is more fun, but we don’t have much visibility.  I can dispute, say, Mona Charen’s take on something over there and there’s a chance that it’ll be read by someone in a position to influence policy.  Maybe a small chance, but a chance nonetheless.

    Go forth and engage with boldness.   Good luck.   Then cross-post over here for a more rewarding exchange of views.

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  16. Bring them all on. “You and me, Toad, we’ll take em all. ” (points for pop culture

    As the other site told me, I am not a conservative. My response was “Damn right. I am no debate society more education than brains citizen of the world of revered authors. I am an American who loves liberty, free enterprise and achievement and wants a government that works well at what it attempts.”

    So bring them on. If this place is officially “conservative”, it can rot. Bring in the people who have lived life and done stuff or failed and keep trying.

    Sent in from Cut Bank Montana, which has no room for a dental floss tycoon. (Bonus round)

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  17. Thanks for the welcomes! In fact, I first discovered Ratburger by finding civil westman‘s wonderful review through a vanity search. I am honored that some of the ‘burg illuminati were entertained by my humble storytelling abilities.

    I would be happy to share my insights from moderating my group. (Hans Schantz will probably figure out my real identity any minute, as he is in that group.) As per  10 Cents‘s request, I’ll put together a post on the subject of moderating social groups comprised of conservatives and libertarians, hopefully in the near future.

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  18. John Walker:
    We have some people who care deeply about the social issues, others who concentrate on budgets and the debt, others concerned with military strength and foreign policy, and still others who want to preserve the character of the West and build the doggone wall.

    I like to think of this fourth leg of the new stool as the “Barbarians at the Gate” conservatives, with a hat tip to Arnold Kling.  I’m a proud four-legged conservative, fwiw.

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