[Milton-L] NO posts per day (in certain circumstances)

Gregory Machacek Gregory.Machacek at marist.edu
Mon Dec 20 14:53:26 EST 2010

I second Alan's suggestion that if we find exchanges like the one with
Nairba Sirrah futile and exasperating, longtime members of the list might
be able to do something to shorten such fruitless conversations:  bite our
electronic tongues and not reply.

In my time on this list, the Nairba Sirrah case is the third such instance
I can remember.  There was a "jonny angel" and a "shrike."  They all ran in
much the same way.  In each case the person was new to the list.  In each
case, the offensive poster was not a professional scholar of Milton, but an
amateur enthusiast.  In each case, the newcomer hadn't spent any time
observing the protocols of this discussion list, but immediately started
conducting himself along the lines of participants in some political blogs,
where every post emerges out of the poster's absolute certainty about the
way things are, and alternate viewpoints (let alone corrections of any
sort) prompt indignant, vehement, acerbic retaliations.

In each case, members of this list assumed the interloper could be
persuaded to be properly respectful of the scholarly credentials of
longtime members of the list.  They never were.  In each case, the newcomer
had what I find a odd combination of traits:  on the one hand, a tendency
to get insulted easily, to regard fairly neutral or even polite responses
to his posts as personal attacks; but on the other hand, absolute
self-confidence when it came to the accuracy of his own viewpoint.  The two
traits resulted in the posters adopting an I-can-give-as-good-as-I-get
stance.  They all defiantly refused to back down from the attacks they felt
they were receiving for merely expressing their own views.  The all prided
themselves on their tell-it-like-it-is candor.

Longtime listmembers sometimes responded in ways that were themselves snide
or dismissive, but even neutral or polite responses were miscast as
insults.  My point is this:  there is NO way of responding to such a person
that won't cause the vehemence and hostility (and number of posts) to
escalate.  Except (perhaps) NOT RESPONDING.  It takes two to tango.

I sketched the above portrait in some detail because I think that part of
our challenge involves recognizing such cases as quickly as we can.  That
and being willing to fight our knee-jerk reaction to correct
confidently-asserted inaccuracies.

Ye have what I advise.

Greg Machacek
Professor of English
Marist College

  From:       alan horn <alanshorn at gmail.com>                                                                           
  To:         John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>                                                 
  Date:       12/20/2010 12:57 PM                                                                                       
  Subject:    Re: [Milton-L] One post per day?                                                                          
  Sent by:    milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu                                                                       

I do not believe this is a case of someone being ignorant of basic
social and scholarly norms. It is clear to me that the individual in
question is in great pain and deserves our sympathy and respect.

Once it became evident that patient factual corrections were being
perceived as personal attacks, it would have been better if others had
recognized the nature of the exchange and resisted the temptation to
respond IN ANY WAY. But that may be too much to ask.

The moderators’ actions were necessary and appear to have been handled
in a sensitive way. If this happens again I hope list members will
realize what is going on and deal with it in the way I have suggested.


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