Great Circle Associates List-Managers
(May 1996)

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Subject: Off list spats
From: Nigel Whitfield <nigel @ diversity . org . uk>
Date: Sat, 25 May 1996 16:19:07 BST
To: list-managers @ diversity . org . uk
Reply-to: nigel @ diversity . org . uk

I know this has come up recently here, but I don't have the mail to

We've just had a very acrimonious dispute on uk-motss (one party has
actually left the list and created a web page to tell the world how
evil I am). It appears to have its roots in a discussion that got out
of hand. One member sent a private, not terribly polite message to
another. The recipient posted it to the list.

Things, as I'm sure people can imagine, have gone downhill from there.
There is wrong on both sides, and I can see the argument for 'exposing
hypocrisy' if someone presents one persona on the list, but a
different one in private mail. But even so, posting private messages
to the list always, without fail, results in the usual round of
comments and escalation, so I'm not prepared to allow it. I think this
is reasonable - there are other ways to expose someone as a hypocrite,
if you really must.

I've been accused, however, of allowing people to 'hide behind
netiquette' and abuse the list, by keeping their strong words in
private e-mail, and of sheltering people (on the basis of race and
sexual favours, apparently!) by not taking action against them for
their private e-mail to other list members.

What's the best solution here? I've taken the stand that I don't
condone people sending abusive mail in any circumstances. But if
people are going to post gross generalisations or material that may be
offensive, they may well receive private mail - many people on the
list have spend years fighting prejudice, and will challenge it if
it's posted in public. I utterly condemn people sending offensive mail
just because of who people are - for instance, one list member was
sent abuse because he revealed he was in the military as a gay man.

I don't feel that I can do more than that. I try very hard to remain
impartial, and though I can see why some people want me to take up
issues where I know one list member is sending another rude messages
in private, I don't see how I can evaluate it on any basis other than
the word of one against another. I've said as much in public, and told
people that if they do send me tales of this sort of thing happening,
I might note it, but I certainly won't be getting involved. As far as
I know, all the subscribers are adults, and they should be able to
conduct their disputes without my involvement.

Can I do any more? One suggestion is that I make it clear in the
guidelines that sending abusive private messages to other people is
out of order, but to me that seems like saying "If you join uk-motss,
you have to accept some jurisdiction of the list manager over your
private actions" which looks pretty unacceptable to me.

If things are off-list, I'd like to keep them out of my hair too, but
my attempts to do that so far have resulted in a web page that's
frankly libellous.


Nigel Whitfield                                     
nigel @
 diversity .
 org .
 uk                                      Digital Diversity
nigel @
 stonewall .
 demon .
 co .
 uk                                      and uk-motss
*****     All sites are independently run internet hosts    *****

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