Are we OK?

For those that don’t check the byline, this post is written by Pete.

I received an email today. ?Here is part of it.

Hi Pete, I must say I feel you are correct in saying the conflict in the Middle East is alienating some readers. Most visitors come for the politics I would guess. And while I admire the zest of some of the commentators in regards to the conflict, their voices have taken over the show. The debate section is now dedicated to the situation as well. I know the site posts certain snippets to garner page visits, but the way this is going one could make the assumption the site is becoming a dedicated Hamas V Israel blog. To see Mods disagreeing on site is NOT a good look. To me you have always been the grown up in the room, the voice of calm and reason. Make no mistake about it, this business of the Middle East conflict is going to cost Cam readers of a slightly gentler nature.

This email refers to a few comments earlier in the day where I took the position that the Israel v Hamas issue has taken on a larger role on this blog than is healthy for “it”. ?Travis, a fellow staff member and the author of most of the articles on that topic wasn’t happy that I had taken this issue to ‘front of house’ and said so.

Just because we disagree doesn’t mean there is a problem

First things first: ?There is no tension between Travis and I. ?I had someone say the other day that readers, when they see blogs staff publicly disagreeing with each other is a little like “mum and dad fighting”. ?(I’ll be the dad in this instance Travis). ?Cam did growl at us because “it’s not a good look”, and so on. ?I took the blame, because Travis was keen for it to disappear from public view, whereas I wanted it to stay.

When I joined Whaleoil as a volunteer in late 2012, I asked Cam what I should focus on. ?”Growth” he said. ?And without having to say it, I’ve always assumed “sustainable growth”. ?And funnily enough, that is still my only objective.

It makes me take a bit of a back seat on hot issues like Israel v Hamas, and I observe what it is doing to our numbers. ?And I see how people react, and I decide whether it is a good thing or a bad thing for sustainable growth.

One of the skills I bring to Whaleoil, and one I am being paid for, is to “understand” my audience. ?Kind of like a virtual amorphous organism. ?You, the reader are like one ‘cell’ in this creature. ?And my job is to make sure this organism grows and continues to grow.

Where do I stand on this issue?

Cam and Travis are passionate about how Israel is being misrepresented?on TV and in the newspapers. ?And they have a good reason for this too. ?I don’t disagree with a single point they have made to date.

So what’s the problem? ?There are two.

Balance and Tribalism.

Tribalism

Let’s address the latter first. ?A commenter, probably feeling safe in the position that Cam and Travis would have his back, attacked me personally for wanting to talk about this issue. ?In short, I should just be quiet, and go away. ?Perhaps even leave Whaleoil.

The salient point? ?If I wasn’t with them, I was against them.

I have watched the blog commenters divide over the last few weeks into two factions. ?Those who changed their avatars to pro-Israeli imagery and/or added “friend of Israel” to their names, and those that did not.

Which brings me to balance

There’s just too much of this Israel v Hamas. ?It overflows into every possible gap. ? As observed, even the General Debates are taken over by Israel v Hamas and related discussions.

The “friends of Israel” people are clearly backed by Cam and Travis, and are acting like a “patched gang”, bolstered by their obvious support from ‘above’ and the feeling they belong to a group.

I realise many of you may not see this, but I -as the observer, caretaker and nurturer of the ‘organism’ – see it clearly.

It needs to stop

Stories on Israel won’t go away. ? But the behaviour that is splitting our community into the “Pro” and “not Pro” people has to disappear.

As New Zealanders and as a community we’ve had issues that are much closer to our hearts and much closer to home, such as Marriage Equality, and that has not split us.

Calm down Pete, you’re overreacting

Perhaps. ?I’ll allow for it. ?But as the same guy that’s had the ‘pulse’ of our audience for some time now, I don’t think I’m wrong. ?And I wanted to speak up before the real damage gets done.

Whaleoil will always be a place where nobody is afraid to speak their mind on any topic. ?We go where others fear to tread. ? But we have always done so as a group. ? A group that might disagree on how to solve certain problems, but when all is said and done, we remain the same “Ground Crew”. ?I’d like it to stay that way.

What next?

That’s up to you. ?I think that if we can lose the pro-Israel avatars and user names, that will go a long way towards removing the ?wedge that can split things apart.

I don’t want you to change anything else. ?Keep debating. ?And, while the topic is at the front of everyone’s minds, it will take over the General Debate posts for a while too. ?That’s simply an organic outcome of what people like to talk about.

But to see the Israeli flag and [ friend of Israel ] on every post because commenters are augmenting their on-line appearance that way is making our community look like something we’re not. ?It is intimidating to those that prefer to be quiet contemplators instead of out on the hustings, and it will remove the very clear “us and them” deliniation that has inadvertently started.

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