The topic under discussion is whether or not insults, mocking, jeering, and/or personal attacks are acceptable on the comm, in what context, and directed toward whom.
First: that's probably not a complete list. One of the things I'm noticing in the comments and pms is that people have different characterizations of what is in dispute here.
Second and related: not everything in the list above may be comparable to everything else in that list. We might choose to give a pass to some of the above and yet reject others.
Third: I'm expecting that there might be some context dependency in these decisions. My gut sense is that insulting an author is not the same thing as insulting another comm member. Being white and being POC is not symmetric. Being the original poster and being a non-OP commenter in an exchange may also change the context. There may be other factors.
So let me lay out some of the issues that the mod team has been discussing.
Because of the way the tone argument gets used, we have been reluctant to implement a blanket "no insulting, no jeering" rule. There are times when it is more important that something gets said than how it gets said; there are times when the clearest and most straightforward way to communicate an idea is to mock the original statement. Additionally, any given demand for politeness or patience made by this community is happening in the context of numerous asymmetric demands for politeness and patience; as mods, we strongly dislike the prospect of increasing those burdens as the price of participating in the comm.
We are trying to negotiate two conflicting chilling influences: one of them is the chilling effect of someone knowing that they might encounter insulting or jeering comments if they post; the other is the chilling effect of a "don't say it any meaner than this" rule. The latter can make people walk away from a comm just as the former can. (I personally have walked away from a comm because it wasn't worth it to me to deal with the emotional stress of trying to negotiate such a rule; I have heard more than a few similar stories from others.) What particularly worries us as mods is that who walks away because of either environment is often asymmetric along axes of privilege.
(Obviously, I would prefer a policy that doesn't have people walking away, if we can swing it.)
I additionally have concerns about how this plays into our sense of who the community is "for". There are at least three distinct ways that members use this forum. Some are using it for personal improvement, trying to correct biases or lacunae in their own personal education, environment, or knowledge. Others are using it as a tool to focus attention on authors of color, who face systemic biases in the publishing, reviewing, reading, and fan communities. Others are using this community as a social refuge, as a place where conversations about books are not forever reverting back to white authors and white norms. (Obviously, these uses are not exclusive to each other: there are many people who use this comm in two or more of the above ways.)
I am not at all sure that the comm serves the last group well. In the process of setting policy on this, I would like to avoid making this community serve those people less well. Unfortunately, it is not clear to me what would or would not do that.
So, the questions we have for you:
What constitutes a personal insult?
Are they never acceptable, sometimes acceptable? Are some more acceptable than others?
Does it make a difference if the insult is directed at an author or at another community member? Where another community member is concerned, does it make a difference as to whose post it appears in the comments to (your own, or someone else's)?
Do we want one blanket policy of acceptability for the entire comm? Should OPs moderate their own comments as they see fit? Some combination of the two?
Are we correct to be worried about an asymmetric effect on white and POC/chromatic members of the comm? And if so, what kinds of policies do you specifically see being a problem? What would be acceptable?
What are we missing?
If you wish to reply privately, you are welcome to PM me or send me an email (this username at gmail).
ETA (6/29): I've turned anonymous commenting off -- there's at least one person who is harrassing people. If you have something to say and need privacy to say it, you've got my pm and email.
ETA2 (6/30): My draft position on some of the interactions under discussion, specifically some of the earlier posts about N.K. Jemisin's books. Re everything else, I'm still reading, still digesting. I haven't begun replying to pms yet, but I'm reading those, too.
ETA3 (7/5): FYI, we're still working on the policy post; we hope to (but cannot promise!) to have it posted by Friday.
ETA4 (7/9): progress updates here.
ETA5 (7/13): Policy post is now up. Comments here are locked.