I would like to weigh in on the recent evolution of this thread and the controversy wherein I was an interested party which triggered most of the discusion here over the past few days. Further, I would like to thank everyone who has participated in this dialectical analysis and dicussion during this period, whether you made efforts to support my position or Matt's, for more than anything else I think such dialogues are at the heart of a healthy website, and at the heart of supporting Matt's idea of spreading good quizbowl, which he defines as the central purpose of this site. And given the conflict I had with Matt recently, it may surprise some of you that I agree with Matt on this core question, with one caveat that I might as well mention here at the outset, which is this: We might all agree that spreading good quizbowl is the ultimate purpose of this site, but I can hardly agree that even if this is the goal, that we always know how to do it or to advocate it, and in fact, given the spirited nature of the members of this community, we might even sometimes engage in passionate disagreements about how to achieve good quizbowl. Some who are merely spectating at these disagreements might support one side or the other, but in many, if not not all cases, it might be impossible to say with certainty who has the better of the argument. Therefore, even if the goal or telos of this site is agreed upon, to assume that those who support this goal always use unassailable reasoning in the defense of their passion for this goal is a highly questionable assumption indeed. And since this is a thread about rules and their application, I submit that if we are going to be truly candid and as reasonable as we can about the ultimate purposes of this site and the rules which must therefore guide them, I think we must add another root goal as a co-equal goal of this site as well, one that must also be defended by the rules, in fact, one without which this site becomes a meaningless bastion of self-congratulatory orthodoxy. So what is this co-equal goal or end that must simultanelously be guarded by the rules? It is the creative principle of this site itself, which is rooted in an assumption not often made explicit, perhaps, because it is so obvious that we sometimes forget its centrality, and it is this: Goodness in quzbowl is not always self-evident, hence the give and take that goes on here all of the time. That give and take is rooted in a wonderful combination of our rationality and our individual gifts & imaginations, so, as much as possible the site should encourage and allow the free flow of ideas without an intrusive censor stifling discussion or contacts between members, the veritable citizens of this site, without having profoundly good reasons for doing so, about which more later. Further, if we are spreading quizbowl, and further, if we are endeavoring to spread good quizbowl, we will inevitably have the good fortune of attracting new members to this site. Of necessity these will come in all shapes and sizes with a broad range of raw talent, achieved knowledge and skill, a varieagated degree of spirit and passion, and a potential wide range in age and life experiences. So even if all are determined to support good quizbowl, what that means at any point in time will vary from indiviual to individual, so, the free flow of ideas among these constituents must be a co-equal goal if our other goal of achieving and expanding good quizbowl is to have a chance of being accomplished or at least improved upon on a fairly regular basis in the first place. In short, we are in fundametal ways all members of a wonderful "Republic of Learning", and the the most dynamic means we use on this site to make this Republic flourish and thrive is the means of honoring what I have called above the "creative" principle in our very beings which, in fact, makes such a republic or community possible and vital in the first place, and that is the free use of our minds and imaginations in converse, affiliation and perhaps even friendship with other members.
So, if this analysis has merit, and my guess is that most of you would agree that it does, then we run into a core dilemma: How can we allow such a vital and wide ranging freedom of expression, aimed at producing both joy for the members so involved and the larger goal of supporting and expanding good quizbowl, while at the same time recognizing that in any complex commuinty there will always be some who want to stretch the rules and in fact violate them in order to serve their own self-interested purposes, whatever they might be, often in ways that undermine the co-equal ultimate goals I have discussed above? And in this we all concede, I think, that this board must have guardians who protect the very defining purposes of the board from such persons, such "rascalians" if we prefer a humorous mode of defining them.
I certainly concede this. But by way of analogy to try to enrich this analysis, when discussing a truly more complex and actual Republic, which had to deal with political, economic, diplomatic, military, cultural, religious and social issues, all of which could lead to controversy and debate over the rules, James Madison, in Federalist 51, raised perhaps the central issue of all Republics which endeavor to create a civilized and ordered liberty for all of its citizens, and it is this: Grant that the governors must control the governed, who then will control the governors? This, I affirm, is an extraordinarily difficult, but not impossible, question to answer, and it has echoed through the centuries, and we face a variation of it here. So, if we all concede that this site must be governed & regulated, and governed by intelligent and intelligible rules, in harmony with the spirit of this community's goals in the first place, we still face a serious and even defining issue, one this thread has been addressing recently, but not exactly in the explicit form I have just articulated.
Now I have my own answer to this issue, and, as you might well imagine, it was the prinicple I employed when I challenged Matt's on the spot articulation of a new request/rule when he decided to make an "official request" which he then somehow turned by the end of his sentence into what may or may not have been the promulgation of a new rule. Before possibly discussing my overall set of actions in that unfortunate incident, allow me to make explicit the rule I employed in answering the core issue of regulation this board must face if we do concede, as I think the vast majority does in fact concede, that this board does have to have guardians to protect its noble purposes if those purpsoes come under assault by rascalians of any stripe. If we concede this, then the truly central question is "Who will guard the guardians?". Well, if the guardians are acting in harmony with the puposes of the site, there is no need to guard them. But as Matt himself might say, "Let's not play dumb". Since the Guardians of our site here are human, with skills, abilities, interests and passions, and with human frailities potentially entangled within all of these as well, some might actually annd inevitably need to be guarded from themselves and from harming the larger commuity itself. As Madison suggested for a far different Republic to be sure, none of us are angels, all are fallible, and all too often, even the best of us can act in purely self-interested ways while telling ourselves the opposite. So, in this classic case, what are we to do if it occurs here on these boards?
My answer the other night when I thought Matt had overstepped his bounds was to apply the following principle: Either other administrtors will step in and chastise Matt, or he must be challenged with a spirited argument by the person most directly involved in his new rule---I saw that as a possible obligation on my part to the larger goals of this site, and the community it serves, and, since upon reflection I thought other administrators were probably either not online, or if they were they were viewing other forums, or, if they were reading the forum where the emerging conflict with Matt and myself might soon occur they might defer to Mat's judgment, all options which meant that Matt could get away with impulsively creating a request/rule/veiled threat that nowhere deserved the august title of a rule or law to govern rational people engaged in a thoughtful give and take that, in addition, Matt was completely unaware of in the specific and ongoing give & take between Ashvin and myself. In short, I did not think he was intervening with the profoundly good reasons which alone could justify such an intervention. So, I posted what I considered a reasoned argument designed to elicit a thoughtful response from a talented & respected leader in our community. The one error I surely made was closing that argument with sarcasm about Matt's hermeneutical skills, but at that moment I thought several things about that bit of sarcasm, to whit: First, he had earned it by sarcastically holding up a post of mine that he had completely misunderstood---and if asked I can show that he completely misunderstood it--- for nationwide ridicule, as an exemplar of an unreasoning and ridiculous request of a beenefactor to our site, and he did so by using the weapon of sarcasm, so I thought he deserved a taste of his own medicine, and secondly, I reasoned that he was a big boy who could handle it. In hindsight, I regret the sarcasm, and I apologize for it, and I would bet, although I cannot prove it, that it was this, more than anything else, which led to my ban, for Matt's expressed reasons for banning me can be shown be little more than airy fantasies of a self-interested type. But I will not go into this now---perhaps at a later date I will, if it seems necessary. For now, I wonder what the rest of you think about the ideas here, especially the idea that it is incumbent upon members of this commuinty to challenge leaders when they try to pass off ill-conceived and poorly articulated "requests" as simultanelouly being rules. The merest tyro can see the difference---a request allows for optional responses, a rule is a form of a command--so how were readers that night to interpret what he said? I interpreted it as an argument needing the spirited challenge of a rational member of this community responding to a well respected and rational leader of this commuinty who in this instance did not speak or read as rationally as he could have and should have. So, given this, I thought Matt, one of our guardians, had overstepped the bounds of his authority, and that it was incumbent upon me, being the citizen of this board directly involved as I was by way of Matt's ridicule of me and his "request", to speak in defense of a reasonable interpretation of my post and in defense of the right of members of this community not to be harrassed because an administrator applied his authority carelessly. Ironically, my sarcastic comment involved a question asking him to identify the hermeneutical skills he employed to arrive at such a censorius conclusion regarding my "4 hour" comment to Ashvin. As a result, as many of you know, he then, ironically, censored/banned me for 24 hours, revealing he never even tried to parse the broader argument that acompanied my sarcasm in the first place, as he never analyzed with any care any of my previous posts before intervening between Ashvin and I, much as a metaphorical bull in a China shop might intervene. And here I do not mean to hurt feelings---I am merely expressing the shock I felt when he interpreted my innocent comment to Ashvin in this rash way, for he never understood that Ashvin and I had discussed my loooking in on his site only an hour later, but I had waited even longer than Ashvin had himself suggested, a full 4 hours. So, I think I can show, in another post perhaps, but only if others are interested and only because it can add the lamp of history to illuminate this larger issue of how to guard our guardians, that his was an imperious use of his authority which should not be allowed to become a common occurrence, for in the final analysis, the answer to the question " Who shall guard the guardians"? also has a classic answer, and it is this: We citizens and constituent members of said Republic ultimately must, else we shall lose it, and deservedly so. Any thoughts, anyone?
SJHS Academic Team