List Policies

The following is an updated statement of the policies of the PghLibertarians and PghLibertarian Debate e-lists hosted by YahooGroups.

Questions or comments about list policy are to be directed to the moderator at and *not* to the list.

LIST OWNERSHIP:

This list is a gift by Dan Sullivan to the James McFarlane Chapter of the Libertarian Party / the Libertarian Party of Pittsburgh (The Chapter). Dan Sullivan offered the officers of the Chapter ownership and direct control over this list, and it was accepted with gratitude in June of 2000.

Structure and authority: (Moderators, Appeal Board, and Chapter board members)

The moderators run the list on a day-to-day basis. Any moderator may post warnings, either publicly or privately, as deemed appropriate, and may remove people from the list. A ruling by a moderator may not be appealed nor debated on the list. (Such debate paralyzes lists.) Nor is list policy itself debatable unless such debate is explicitly invited by the moderator. A person who disagrees with a ruling by a moderator should appeal directly to the moderator off-list.

By June 1, 2000, a list-appeal committee will have been formed. (If such is not determined by this date, the officers will serve as interim appeal board until such committee is appointed.) If, after appealing to the list moderator, a list member is strongly dissatisfied, he may post his complaint to the appeal board, which will discuss the matter and make a ruling. However, no posting to the appeal board should be made until the list moderator has had a reasonable chance to respond. (The appeal board may choose to ignore appeals that are sent to them prematurely.) All appeal correspondence must be to the board as a whole, by e-mail.

If the member is strongly dissatisfied with the ruling of the appeal board, he may post his appeal further to the members of the board of directors of the Chapter, which is authorized to make a final determination. Any correspondence pertinent to an appeal to the chapter board members should be made to all members, with a c.c. to the appeal board.

All appeals are to be conducted by e-mail, and submitted by the person making the appeal. Appeal board members are to consider appeals on merit and reason, and not to respond to political pressure. Efforts to solicit or exert pressure for or against a particular ruling are a violation of list policy.

LIST PURPOSE:

This list was created for the benefit of the Libertarian Party and its members, and, more specifically, for an exchange of views by Libertarian Party members and guests. Membership on this list is open to anyone who is generally supportive of the Libertarian Party.

SECTION ONE — POSTING POLICIES:

Generally, one should not make statements to the list that would not be proper to make at a live conference. Note that there are some differences that make the list function differently from a live conference. For one thing, people on this list are physically isolated from one another. Comments that would elicit a rumbling from the crowd at a live conference, followed by shouts of “Sit down!” and “Order!” should not be responded to on the list. A greater sense of self-restraint, and a greater reliance on the manager is therefore required on the list than at a live conference.

Also, everyone cannot speak at once at a live conference, but people can all post at once to the list. This means that the list can indulge in a level of discussion that is impossible at a live conference. While the list therefore encourages discussion in greater depth, there is still a point at which the conversation becomes uninteresting to all but the participants. At a live conference, those participants would be asked to step out into the hall and discuss the matter privately. Here they are asked to use clear subject headers, and, ultimately, to write to each other off-list.

AVOID CROSS-POSTING:

Cross-posting creates several problems. One is that non-members cannot reply to the list, and their messages therefore bounce back to them and to the list moderator. Cross-posting to multiple lists creates an especially confusing situation when replies are made. It is better to send separate but identical posts to non-members or to other lists than to cross-post a single submission.

USE CLEAR SUBJECT HEADERS:

Clear subject headers make it easier for members to sort through e-mail and focus only on topics that interest them. Headers should attempt to be clear rather than cute. If, for example, someone wants to debate an aspect of land value tax ad nauseum, the subject header should include “LVT” in it, etc.

Ad hominem subject headers are to be avoided. Opinions, actions and contentions should be defined in their own terms, and not in terms of who has taken a position regarding them.

If someone writes to you off-list, it is usually bad form to post it to the list without permission. This does not mean the person has a right to keep the post secret, but merely that the list is not a forum

for displaying unintended third-party posts. Whether you distribute the post in other ways is not the concern of the list. If the off-list post was a violation of list policy [see off-list violations, below], please forward it to the moderator.

NO VULGARITY:

In the interest of good taste, foul language and explicit sexual references are not appropriate for a political discussion list and are not welcome. An exception may be made if the post is in reference to a news event, such as when quoting a public figure. Please use good judgment, and consider utilizing asterisks to avoid offending other list members when doing so.

NO AD HOMINEMS:

This rule is most troublesome on lists that deal with political ideologies. Politicking is a frustrating business, and frustrated people are more inclined to lash out at those who disagree with them as “the enemy.” It is much easier for the list policy to entirely outlaw ad hominems and other rude behaviors than to contain or balance them, as such comments are always regarded as more harsh by the recipients than by the makers.

Also, there has been some confusion about what “ad hominem” means. It does not mean excessive or untrue, or even critical or pejorative, but rather means “at the person.” The litmus test, then, is whether a criticism is focused at an issue, statement or action, or focused at a person.

“Hitler murdered 6 million Jews” is not ad hominem if the purpose of the statement is to focus on the action. However, a litany of otherwise unrelated bad things that Hitler did implies that a focus on Hitler and not on any particular action. It then becomes ad hominem.

Similarly, “It says a lot about Hitler that he killed 6 million Jews,” is ad hominem, as it shifts the focus from what he did to a question of his personality. Saying “Hitler hated Jews” is also ad hominem, as it is not about an objectively observable behavior, but about an emotion internal to the person. Arguing that an ad hominem comment is obviously true is beside the point, and does not excuse the comment.

Also, any allusion of a person on the list or in the LP to Hitler, Stalin, Castro, Clinton, Mayor Murphy, etc., is an ad hominem in extremely poor taste (As is comparing Clinton or Murphy to Hitler or Stalin.) Again, whether the comparison is logically valid is immaterial.

It is particularly tempting for members of political-outsider organizations, and especially for libertarians, who are identified by distrust not only of politicians but also of authority in general, to engage in ad hominem attacks of political leaders and of our own leaders. Avoiding ad hominems in these cases is more difficult, especially when comparing competing candidates for office. It is asked that people at least avoid gratuitous hyperbole in those situations. A well-documented and modestly crafted statement of fact is far more compelling than a sweeping accusation full of colorful adjectives, and less destructive to list decorum.

If you feel a need to post in an ad hominem fashion, send a draft to the list moderator for feedback. He might show you a way to make your point without the ad hominem flavorings. If there is someone else on the list whose feedback you trust, by all means send it to that person first, and, if you can’t find a way to eliminate the ad hominem elements, send it to the list moderator for suggestions.

The moderator might 1) help you find a more diplomatic wording, 2) rule privately that the posting is inappropriate, and avoid causing you public discomfort, 3) approve the post as is, or 4) approve the post with a side comment about its ad hominem elements, so other list members can better understand where the boundaries lie. Often a rule is invoked more to preserve clarity of policy than because the post is offensive. In marginal cases, the rule can be noted without being invoked in a censorious fashion.

Note, however, that our primary concern is with systems of liberty, and not with personalities. Persons are relevant only to the extent that their actions or positions are relevant, and it is usually enough to point out the relevant aspects without discussing the character of the persons.

Even so-called “constructive criticism” of various people and organizations who are working to advance justice should be offered directly to the persons criticized instead of publicly criticizing them before their own supporters. Few people find public faultfinding constructive.

Lively disagreement is tonic for a list, and is encouraged, but a public attack of a person on the list invites public rebuke. It is nearly impossible for any political group to indulge in personal criticism among its own constituents without provoking defensive reactions, and without the discussion degenerating into ad hominem attacks. While such criticisms are occasionally necessary, it is appropriate to hash things out directly with the person whenever possible, before complaining at large.

TRY NOT TO BE REPITITIOUS OR QUIBBLE:

This is a difficult rule to enforce except by appeal to the judgment of the people posting, as people rarely see themselves as quibbling, and often see themselves as being quibbled with. When you find yourself wanting to contradict a point redundantly, ask whether that point is important or incidental, and whether your correction serves the general audience or just your own contentiousness.

If you find yourself restating the same correction over and over, it is likely that the conversation is in a rut, and the proper thing to do is to either take the discussion off list or just drop it. The usual pattern is for people to come to an understanding of one another’s positions once they take their discussion off list, because they then write *to* each other instead of posturing against each other to score points with other readers.

Also, if you have a minor quibble that is nonetheless noteworthy, state clearly that it is a minor quibble, and it will then appear to be less argumentative, and less likely to provoke back-and-forth faultfinding.

A PLEA FOR HUMILITY:

Do not judge your own debating success in a condescending way. “I disagree” is much more polite than “you’re wrong,” or “what you don’t understand is….” (It is technically ad hominem to state that the other person doesn’t understand, and arrogant to presume that you understand better than the other person.)

QUALITY OVER QUANTITY:

A large volume of repetitive posts strains readers who are looking for good, original material. Those who post most frequently are especially urged to write fewer messages and to spend more time crafting each one. Some lists have limits of so many posts per day, week, or month. This list has no such limit, and it is hoped that we will never resort to such limits.

Also, “congratulatory” replies like, “I agree,” or “Good post” primarily benefit the person who is being praised, and perhaps one or two others who had been exchanging posts with that person. If you have nothing to add that is of general interest, send such appreciations to the person(s) directly.

CLIP DEAD MATERIAL WHEN REPLYING:

If you cite short passages by someone against whom you are arguing, it is appropriate to *not* change the meaning of those passages by clipping out pertinent context. This is virtually impossible to moderate, but it is bad form nonetheless.

On the other hand, much old and stale material gets appended to replies, making each post longer and more cumbersome than its predecessor. Wording from older posts that is irrelevant to the reply should be weeded out, or, in many cases, the old post should be removed entirely. (If you do remove an old post entirely, do not refer to it abstrusely with comments like, “I agree with what you said about gun control.” Most people on the list probably don’t remember what he said about gun control, rendering your reply rather cryptic to your audience.

List members will especially appreciate it if you remove the old list-info footers that appear at the end of each message, as your reply will have a new list-info footer added.

NO ATTATCHMENTS, NO HTML CODE

If you see something on the net that you want to share with us, you can cut and paste the text into e-mail without picking up the HTML code. Include the URL, and people can go to it if they want to. Similarly, do not download pictures, but point us to them.

If you have a picture already downloaded, find someone who will upload it to his or her site and point to it. The moderator can do this if you can’t find anyone else.

DON’T MAKE A SCENE:

The job of the list moderators is not only to be fair, but also to keep the list from bogging down. It is analogous to the job of referee. In every sport, a player who disrupts the game by arguing at length with the referee, or who attacks the referee, even verbally, is ejected from the game. The surest way to get suspended from the list is to defiantly violate decisions of the list moderators, or make arguments or hostile replies against such decisions to the list. Angry replies made privately to the moderators are welcome, however, as they do not disrupt the list or make the task of managing overly difficult, and they give the list moderators important feedback.

SECTION 2 — OFF-LIST POLICIES:

In order to protect list members from spamming, this list does not auto subscribe people. “Spam robots” have been known to seek out lists and subscribe to them in order to collect e-mail addresses. People who want to subscribe to PghLibertarians should send a personal note to the list manager, indicating that they have at least some idea what the list is about.

Either the moderator or the board of directors of the Chapter must approve the collection of list-member addresses for any purpose.

Subscription of list-member addresses to any other list without the explicit consent of the member being subscribed is a violation of list policy.

Solicitation for or promotion of any commercial activity must be given prior approval by the list moderator, the local LP chair, or the local LP board.

The list moderator, local LP chair, or local board must approve solicitation of list members to join a rival organization or list. Such approval is routinely given for organizations and lists that are working toward libertarian goals.

Soliciting Libertarian Party (LP) members to quit the LP or list members to quit this list is a violation of list policy.

Subscribing this list to other lists without the moderator’s permission is a violation of list policy.