I’m going to try to keep this brief so that I can be straight to the point and not make this about myself, beyond what I can do to stop this behavior on my end and foster a better sense of community. More under the cut.
So, I messed up badly over the course of the past couple of weeks. This post is acting as an apology for the things that I have done that have harmed as other people, and then I am going to outline the major things that I will be doing to ensure that, to the best of my ability, I do not ever do something like this again. I’ll be frank about this:
I am sorry, first of all, for grossly misinterpreting what happened with Tosheroon on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning. I was so certain that a specific dynamic/narrative was unfolding that I did not read the comments, relied on a report to guide my judgment, and made a terrible call that then harmed other people and dumped fuel on a fire that was already pretty bad at that point. That is 100% my fault, and while I have apologized to some people, I am also using this post to apologize to others individually that I have missed, but if a general apology works for you: I am deeply sorry. I erased and invalidated the harm you had experienced, and I did not listen to you when I did not read ALL the comments. That is my fault, and you are right in feeling angry and disappointed in me. I will do better.
Tosheroon has been suspended for two weeks for his harmful, dismissive behavior as well.
(Edited to add two things: first, Tosheroon uses he/him pronouns, so I am sorry for misgendering him. I will do my best to make sure this does not happen again. Secondly: People have reached out to me to share their experiences with Tosheroon in past comment threads, and I have made the decision to make his ban permanent. It is clear he has made people feel unsafe and unwelcome, and that is unacceptable, so the ban stays.)
Second: I am sorry for my harmful comments (both in the review and in the comment threads last week and yesterday) regarding my complete misinterpretation of the “lioness” line that Jackrum says to Polly. I am not going to bother explaining why I reacted as I did, as that’s part of the reason I upset people in the first place, and being defensive, even in good faith, is not helpful. I spoke over women and women of color in my rush to defend myself, and was 100% out of my lane in talking about literally all of this, and I did so grossly over the course of yesterday as well. I am sorry for not listening, for dismissing you, and for being sexist in my treatment of people bringing up this issue to me.
Third: I am incredibly sorry for my harmful commentary on Tonker and Lofty. My mistaken belief that this was fair game to talk about as a queer man was deeply insensitive to the fact that queer women are held to a different standard, and by discussing their canonical representation with authority and with certainty, I upheld that same double standard against the very queer women who this couple means a lot to. I fucked this up probably the longest and most fiercely yesterday, and I am sorry for being defensive, for tone policing, and for not doing the very thing I have recommended a million times but could not do myself: just shut up and listen to other people, specifically queer women.
At this point, I am available on-and-off today (while working on reviews) to continue to apologize about this on an individual basis. The comment threads from this week are spread out and it’s been harder to track where new conversations are heading, so I felt it better to contain it to one place just for the weekend. I imagine we will be having further conversations in future Discworld reviews, and I am not discouraging them there.
I have added a footnote to one future review, for part 19 of Monstrous Regiment. I thought about combing through them to edit out the harmful things that I was called out for, but thought it would be crass to do so when the original drafts have already gone live on Patreon. There’s only one addendum that addresses my toxic and harmful interpretation of Tonker and Lofty in that review. In the review of part 23, the only parts I edited from the original review were a few lines about what rep “counts,” as it has been repeatedly pointed out to me why this language is harmful and dismissive when I am speaking outside of my lane. I added one note at the beginning and one at the end, so that’s why I am anticipating that we will have future conversations about this. I do not expect all criticism of me to only exist on this post.
An apology is not effective if it also doesn’t contain some indication of the steps that will be taken to curb this behavior in the future, so I will be doing the following things to ensure I do not behave this poorly again.
1) Reading the comments. One of the major reasons I messed this up so badly is that I did not give myself the full context of the conversation when I commented. By not understanding what had happened, I made things worse and insulted a huge swath of people. The same goes for the conversation in the comments about the lioness line; I made my comment and then never went back to see the response to it, which probably would have prevented me from making an ass of myself all day yesterday.
This is a sacrifice that I made about six months ago due to my hectic schedule; I used to read the comments in full every morning and every evening. (And I certainly participated more.) I may have stopped commenting as much, but I still devoted time to it. Even before the major call-outs started happening, y’all were communicating to me that what I was saying about multiple things was not cool, and if I had been listening to you way back then, maybe I would not have fucked up so viciously. I will be setting a reminder for myself each day to read your responses and keep up-to-date about what is happening in this community. I cannot expect myself to moderate it well if I don’t know what the hell is going on. None of this is your fault; I need to manage my time better, and this community is important to me. I don’t expect it will mean I will comment a whole lot more; I am going to practice NOT talking about things that don’t concern more in the future, as that’s also a major reason I messed up.
2) Sock accounts. Part of the reason this has been an upsetting experience is that me and the moderators have a longstanding policy of banning sock accounts, particularly during times when there is a lot of activity in the comments. We mistakenly banned someone on the assumption that they were trolling or about to troll because this happens so frequently. Regardless, it still didn’t help. I can’t change the perception overnight that no one can call me out; that’s work I have to do on my end to be accountable and resist the defensive urge I felt yesterday. If you are uncomfortable using your main account to call out myself or someone else in the comments, the moderators and I will not ban your account as long as you do what others have done and identify yourself as such. Please do not abuse this just to troll us; we will figure it out pretty quickly anyway.
3) New moderators. Another failure on my part concerns how this was elevated to me. As I mentioned yesterday, I do not get reports sent to me because they are usually full of spoilers or contain vile stuff that might be triggering to me. A moderator will usually elevate an issue to me once something has gone beyond the easier solutions. This did not happen for almost 12 HOURS, and a great deal of this problem most likely would have been solved if myself or a moderator stepped in to deal with the issue earlier. Unfortunately, we have lost about half of them over the last couple of years, and I actually sent out an email last month to figure out who was still actively moderating and who needed to retire.
We will be adding new moderators in the coming weeks for both Discworld for Mark Reads and Babylon 5 for Mark Watches. Yesterday, I did say that we never let people apply; it’s something where we more or less observe people interacting in the community and then invite people who we think have a good grasp on interacting with others. However, it is clear that we need to make an exception because there need to be moderators who are able to be online in the first few hours after a post goes up, and it is my failure that I have not ensured that. If you have participated in Mark Reads Discworld for more than 2 years and feel like you would enjoy assisting us as a moderator, please let us know in the comments. That’s all you need to do. I will email you offsite about it if we think you might be a good fit.
I should warn you that it can be an ugly job, and there is a lot that no one ever sees that you will have to deal with. I take responsibility for what’s transpired over these past two weeks, and I say that because I am very proud of all the work that my mods have done over the last eight years or so. But you will have to read some terrible things, warn or ban people who you greatly enjoy, and make very huge decisions sometimes in a very short span of time.
I’ll end this by saying that I hope my embarrassment and shame over this can be a learning opportunity for others about when to stay in your lane, how to listen to criticism, and when to stop talking. I would rather you learn from me and my fuck up than do what I did: learn about this at the expense of other people, their time, and their energy. Again: I am very sorry for how I behaved, and I hope this is the first step toward making this right again.