Since everyone who has ever had anything to do with Ravelry is resurrecting blogs or putting out Tweets, posts, vlogs, or for all I know, posting signs on the telephone poles in their neighborhoods, I figured I should go ahead and say my piece.
First, my disclaimer: I am a loud and proud Libertarian. I voted for Gary Johnson (weed for everyone!) and did not actively support Trump prior to his election. However, as a member of the military, I do support my presidents while they are in office, regardless of whether I voted for them or not.
The thing that has me most distressed about the responses to the Ravelry policy change is the rampant ignorance on all sides. People will make judgment calls based on little or no actual evidence – NOT FEELINGS – and then call out people who disagree with them in a horrendously offensive way. That is, effectively, what Ravelry did with their policy, and that is the response that has been elicited from both supporters and detractors.
I am a college English professor. I am frequently confronted with these kinds of “arguments” from my students when we are discussing texts. I say, “what did you think about the text you read for today?” and I get responses like, “I hated it! It was boring!” Or “I liked it! It was funny!” and my response to both the positive and the negative is always “Ok, WHY do you think that?”
An answer to that question that does not include direct evidence from the text is NOT A VALID ANSWER. As heartless as it sounds, I don’t care about my students’ feelings about a text unless they can validate them with evidence from the text. This proves not only that they read the text, but that they understood what it was about and can place the text within the larger context of their own experiences.
This is the type of answer I love to hear: “I disliked the second text because on page 2, in paragraph 5, the author directly contradicts a statement than he made on page 1, in paragraph 4, and that leads me to question the honesty of the entire text.” That is a negative opinion that is clearly based on solid evidence rather than just feelings or ungrounded impressions.
I recently saw this comment in response to one of the many blog posts about the Ravelry policy change:
“I agree with Ravelry. Trump needs to see that his actions affect all kinds of people. He believes that he has the right to say whatever he wants without considering the result. We should all be able to take a stand for our beliefs without backlash from those who do not agree. This is called freedom of speech. It scares me that we are starting to lose this valuable right.”
Let me dissect this comment as an example of faulty argument.
First sentence – ok, good lead-off. I appreciate you stating your opinion up front. Second sentence – I’m not sure how a policy on a fiberarts website shows Trump anything; I wasn’t aware that he was an active Ravelry user. Third sentence – again, I don’t recall Trump being an active user of Ravelry, but I would be happy to see proof to the contrary, so this policy is NOT directed at Trump. Sentence four – here is when the author of this comment becomes self-contradictory; if we should all be able to take a stand for our beliefs without backlash from those who do not agree, then HOW does the Ravelry policy banning open support for Trump PROTECT this? It actively goes AGAINST this statement the author of this comment has made. Sentence five and six – this author further discredits their own argument by pointing out that they are frightened at the loss of freedom of speech, and yet they support/agree with Ravelry’s policy, which is blatant censorship.
This opinion is self-contradictory. It has no direct factual support. I have seen other comments that say that they support Ravelry because “Trump is a nasty person” – ok, what exactly does that MEAN in practice? What specifically has Trump done TO YOU that you disagree with? I have seen claims of attacks on women’s rights that are not backed with any sort of proof or evidence, and even the Ravelry claim that Trump openly supports white supremacy cannot be directly supported with solid evidence. It is all hearsay.
Because I want to show both sides, here is another comment:
“I will no longer be using Ravelry based on their decision! I am an avid knitter but they have no business in politics. I find the liberal left in this country to be the largest group of hypocrites and the most inhumane group ever! They are constantly undermining everything good thing that this administration tries to do. Bye Bye Ravelry”
First sentence – again, glad to see the initial viewpoint up front. Second sentence – there have always been political posts, discussions, and patterns on Ravelry. Stating that politics does not belong in [insert forum, hobby, group here] is an opinion, not a fact. Third sentence – this is just as big of a sweeping group defamation as the Ravelry claim that all support for Trump is direct support for white supremacy. Fourth sentence – again, show me the evidence. What good things specifically? How did the liberal left undermine them specifically? I’m not saying the evidence doesn’t exist – I’m saying it doesn’t exist in this comment, which leaves the opinions of the comment unsupported.
Ultimately, I have chosen to close my own ten-year-old account on Ravelry because I cannot support blatant censorship of those with whom you disagree. I understand that they have the right to make that call and I respect that right; I also understand that I, as a consumer, have the right to take my business elsewhere if I disagree with how they exercise their rights.
I also spent considerable time looking for evidence to support their claim that Trump is a white supremacist, and I did the same with the claim that Obama was a Muslim. Both times I came up empty. These are – to use one of my students’ vocabulary words – attempts to VILIFY those with whom you disagree or those whom you do not support.
People need to be aware, now more than ever, that if something is not supportable by actual evidence, it is NOT TRUE. It does not matter how often news outlets report on it, nor how many news outlets report on it, nor what side those news outlets are on, nor how much money they bring in each fiscal quarter. If the statement cannot be supported by facts, it is NOT TRUE. Do not look for the statements – look for the supporting evidence.
Here is an example that I use in all of my classes on validating sources: How many of you have heard the “statistic” that your mattress “doubles in weight” after 7 years, due to mites, sweat, dead skin cells, and other nasty-nasty things? Do you know where that “statistic” came from? A young “journalist” wrote that into an opinion piece because she thought it sounded good. It was not based on any sort of scientific study. The original author literally MADE IT UP. And yet, because people blindly trust anyone who publishes articles under the header of a news outlet, it was believed. And it was not only believed, it was assumed that it was backed up by scientific fact. From there, mattress and furniture companies began incorporating the “statistic” into their advertising materials, again without validating the claim and looking for supporting evidence. So a claim is now viewed as fact because enough people have repeated it without checking to see if it is actually supported by verifiable scientific evidence.
That is frightening.
What I want people to know about the Great Ravelry Spin-Up is not anything about tolerance, free speech, hate speech (which, I would like to point out, comes from both Trump supporters AND Trump vilifiers, as well as people who don’t give a damn about Trump either way), or censorship. I want people to understand that just because someone – even someone you think you trust as an authority – makes a claim, that does NOT MAKE IT TRUE. It must be supported by evidence, regardless of whether the person making the claim is the most trustworthy person you know. If a claim cannot be supported by evidence and fact, it is groundless.
And making important decisions based on groundless claims is a dangerous thing to do, no matter the context.