WASHINGTON. Piqued by a Fox video news report concerning the banning of Trump supporters by the popular online knitting site, Ravelry, I checked things out late last week. After all, I’ve been a member of Ravelry since 2011. Obviously, I wanted to find out what was happening.
Here’s what I viewed on the main page of Ravelry:
“We are banning support of Donald Trump and his administration on Ravelry. We cannot provide a space that is inclusive of all and also allow support for open white supremacy. Support of the Trump administration is unambiguously support for white supremacy. For more details, read this document: .”
So I did.
And read a rant that starts off “New Policy: Do Not Post In Support of Trump or his Administration.” Click the link above to read more if you’re curious.
So, all Trump supporters are “white supremacists”?
In short, Ravelry trumpets a completely unsubstantiated claim that effectively, all Trump supporters are “white supremacists.” Thus, any comments that support Trump or even use his name will get those comments banned. Or worse.
Checking things out further, I discovered that this “new” policy first appeared at rpg.com, a roleplaying game site. Meaning that Ravelry did not develop its own policy. For some reason, they decided to essentially parrot the verbiage from an apparently unrelated site. Meaning that Ravelry’s congenial band of knitters were effectively ordered to follow “ethical” regulations developed by role-playing gamers. Or get banned.
The moderators of both sites appear to be engaging a bizarre effort to manage political discussion in their respective non-political websites. But above and beyond their Trump rant, rpg.net moderators are often high-handed and snarky. They even post a public shaming page of people who’ve been penalized and/or banned. This may have something to do with the notorious “Gamergate” brouhaha, but that’s neither my focus nor my area of expertise.
Ravelry’s various pits of Banning Hell
Regarding the new anti-Trump banning regime at Ravelry, there’s more. If you are permanently banned from Ravelry, “… you will receive a copy of your data including any purchased patterns.” How nice. This statement, posted on the same page as the rant borrowed from rpg.net, seems to indicate that permanent bans were previously uncommon.
Given a little power, some website moderators misunderstand the fact that balancing responsibility and authority with a little emotional restraint is more efficient, effective, and energy-saving than insulting the peasantry.
Or maybe they thrive on fake drama the way some people thrive on citing fake news and fake facts to prove pre-existing opinions. That only fortifies fake beliefs in ways that make them feel true.
Stupid is as stupid does
Rpg.net apparently believes that what moderators deem stupid is, therefore, stupid. Hence, the wildly unsupported assertion that support for President Trump is “unambiguously support for white supremacy.” Really?
Having had enough of that, I decided to depart rpg.com and return to Ravelry. Ravelry states there are no stupid questions. So I asked one in the comment area.
I had to ask…
“If there are no stupid questions here, I would like to ask why Ravelry doesn’t ban ALL political discussion? Or ALLOW all political discussion?”
“….Current Ravelry policy of banning one topic (President Trump) is not inclusionary. It also reduces diversity. And the language Ravelry uses to ban appears to flout both their community guidelines and their statements about harmful content…
“It seems to me that Ravelry has jumped the shark.
“I suspect there’s a pretty good chance of this comment not making to publication here. So just to be on the safe side, I’ll expand it as a news story and publish it elsewhere as well…”
“You may decide to throw me off the site, but no, I’m not quitting. I’m not flouncing off in a huff or even righteous rage.
“In fact, emotion may rule the moment, but reason trumps rage in the long run.”
Checking back at the site sometime later, I duly noted that the new algorithms were hard at work. My comment was gone. Vanished without a trace.
Ravelry and RPG: What’s the Connection?
What’s going on? What do these two sites have in common? Why are knitters getting their marching orders from gamers? There appears to be no connection between these sites in terms of backlinks or common ownership by a larger entity. There’s no easy way to compare membership lists to find commonalities. (Facebook could probably do that with a single line of code).
Is there a people connection? Is somebody who is both a knitter and a gamer attempting to curry favor with RPG by convincing Ravelry to adopt ill-considered policies that are essentially illogical, one-sided, and illustrative only of sloppy thinking on the part of the lobbyist? Perhaps that person even helped craft the ban-Trump-but-nobody-else RPG stand. Maybe a highly partisan investor is involved. There’s really no way to tell from the available information. But the circumstances are peculiar presenting a situation that’s ripe for speculation.
Intermission: American common sense still exists
At about the same time all this was going on, I was looking up the mailing address of the Northern Virginia Hebrew Community (NVHC). The reason why? I had just attended their annual rummage sale the previous Sunday and wanted to send them a handwritten thank-you note about the wonderful experience I had at the jewelry table.
They had teamed a high-schooler and an eighty-six-year old senior lady to work at that table. The elder lady helped customers, and the younger one took care of the transactions. Meeting them and working with them was a delightful, positive experience
Online, in addition to the NVHC mailing address, I found the headline “Rebuilding Democracy” on the main page. I took a look.
“Together, as a Jewish community, we will work to demonstrate that we can begin to overcome the polarization that has taken hold of our country.
“Click Here to Learn How.”
So I did:
Compare and contrast the Ravelry philosophy with a sensible site
“Challenged by Rabbi Holzman in his Kol Nidre sermon, over the course of the next few months, NVHC will provide a variety of ways in which we can help in rebuilding our democracy, from entering into conversation with one another, to speakers, to action.
“We will do this in covenant with one another – by asking questions, by sharing viewpoints, and by saying “shamati” – I have heard you. We will do this both as individuals and as a community.
“Together, as a Jewish community, we will work to demonstrate that we can begin to overcome the polarization that has taken hold of our country.”
We need to find the adults in the room
Regarding the NVHC, I am not Jewish, but here’s what I think. Here are good people who have collectively suffered discrimination and loss for centuries—as well as mass genocide in the last century. If they can reach out and choose to explore how to discuss issues and change without blame, accusation, or shunning, why can’t a bunch of contemplative, fun-loving, cheerful, optimistic knitters do the exact same thing?
Maybe Ravelry should have checked the NVHC site or a similar sensible site for prudent advice on how to act like adult Americans before they decided to run up the virtue-signaling flag. NVHC certainly offers a better model for problem-solving than what Ravelry thoughtlessly borrowed from the intolerant gamesters at rpg.com.
Headline image: Editor’s adaptation of Evil Trump Chewy Toy image, via Reddit thread attributed to SirPurlGrey.