We come back, now, to where we left off, in the spring of 2010, with the Bob Jones University survivor Facebook group. Cathy and Camille had had their little kerfuffle with Alex de Barros (see, I remembered his last name!) and both had become very silent. Camille may have actually left the group sometime soon after that thread.
Remember, Rebecca (the original owner of the group) had enlisted aid from several people in moderating the now very-active group.
A few major problems had developed, though.
One was the hijacking of the group by what we refer to now as the Disaffected. In the BJU alumni world, there are people who really liked going to school there, are happy with their educational experience and retain a firm belief in the religion. There are also people, like me, who were forced there by their parents, didn’t like a single day of it, think the place generally sucks, and may have abandoned the religion entirely. And there are a whole bunch of folks someplace in the middle.
This works out fine, this kind of diversity, as long as everyone recognizes that there are differing feelings and ideas and everyone is allowed to express themselves reasonably without infringing on everyone else’s rights.
But that’s utopia, and that’s not what existed in this group.
According to everyone I have talked with who didn’t have a major position (thus biased) in the controversy, one of the problems was that the Disaffected tended to hijack nearly every thread that started and turn it into a bash-BJU conversation.
At one point, for example, somebody connected with BJU lost his wife, leaving him with small children to parent. Someone started a thread intended to be something that this bereaved husband could read with nothing in it but encouraging remarks. It was promptly hijacked and turned into a bash-BJU thread, and when the moderator tried to correct course, those who were reminded what the thread was supposed to be about began complaining about “censorship.”
I know from my (admittedly) brief time there, the whole issue of gay rights was discussed endlessly. I remember that it sort of surprised me – I knew, of course, that there were gay students at BJU, but I didn’t realize how vocal they had become. I was glad to see it, but it did dominate the conversation frequently. It seemed like one of the “gay guys” (my expression and not a pejorative) would post something about being gay frequently, far more often than seemed fair. The problem with this was that not everyone wanted to read about being gay all the time, every day, and in every thread.
With hindsight, I think this was in part because gay former students were finally finding their voice, BJUnity didn’t exist yet, and they needed a place to vent. But at the time, it did seem like an avalanche.
In addition, awareness of sexual abuse in the church was increasing, and the very name of the group began to be greatly misunderstood, as you will see. People thought of the word “survivor” in the sense of “having survived some terrible event,” and not in the tongue-in-cheek sense Rebecca used it in the beginning.
And people like me (former Christians, agnostics, freethinkers) were also becoming much more vocal and “out,” leading to some heated discussions.
All this resulted in feelings sometimes running pretty high, and moderation became more and more necessary.
From my own experience in the group, there were really only two moderators who were active: Leah Hayes and Nancy Kepler Bean. The others were listed as moderators, but were silent, inactive, and largely invisible. Most people have very set work schedules. Leah was freer than most to keep up with the group several times a day, which meant that much of the moderation fell on her.
As we’ll see later, all of the conversations that took place in that group were deleted in the end, but a few survived. Here are two that were intertwined that occurred in August, 2011, about 18 months after the ban-Alex debate.
We begin with somebody starting a conversation which was intended to be positive:
Notice that this thread consisted of a whopping 7 comments before somebody had to say, “No comment.” If you’re going to make “no comment,” then don’t.
Then it just goes all to hell, with one person being asked why he’s even in the group since he likes BJU.
See how the narrative becomes “there are other groups where you can love BJU” – implication being that if you liked being at Bob Jones, this group is not for you.
Then Dan (of the famous “Clicks for Dicks” Storify page) enters the fray with crappy comments about a different thread entirely. So we shall have to break away here for a bit and peek over there.
Here is where the mention is first made of another Facebook group. Author? Tita Wyatt. Not Leah Hayes. Not Patti Easton. She says it in passing.
See how it has become a forum “for survivors”? With the clear intent that “survivor” means “somebody who lived through something totally horrible, like a tsunami.”
David Shaffer chimes in with how the BJU-bashers are being bashed. Poor thing. We’ll see how David deals with stuff later on.
Here, Leah, acting not as a moderator, but as a participant, provides a link to the group that Tita mentioned previously.
More of the “this group is for survivors”—with the clear implication that somehow it’s about people who have been damaged in some way.
Just a note from me. I simply get hives when somebody begins declaring how many “truly saved” people are here or there. This is called the “No True Scotsman” fallacy and it’s a very basic error in logic. Don’t do it. People either self-identify as Christian or they do not. Nobody died and left Jeri Massi in the position of Decider.
Here comes the straw man. Nobody said any other group was “better.” Go back and read it. It simply isn’t there.
Here Leah refers back to the Williamson thread where somebody said something nice about his experience at Bob Jones and was asked why he was in the group. Implication was clear: Why don’t you leave?
Notice how Dan immediately attacks Leah. This was nasty and happened frequently.
Tita reiterates that she is the person who brought up the other group, a comment which Dan completely ignores, because he’s after Leah. It isn’t about Tita, and Dan makes sure to make that clear.
suddenly, we veer off-topic to. . . Greg Easton and the Hidalgo Grain Company—his blog. Dan doesn’t like Greg and he’s going after Greg’s wife. Greg is not present. David Shaffer joins in. Everything Greg writes is Patti’s fault.
That ends that. Not too awfully bad, right? I mean, imagine you are the moderator trying to keep the peace, and this sort of thing happens. You want everyone to have freedom of speech, but at the same time, attacking Patti Easton for what her husband said seems sort of wrong, doesn’t it? Asking somebody why they are in a group just because he expressed something positive is sort of wrong, too, isn’t it?
But, if you remember, they revamped the moderation rules back 18 months earlier when the Alex/Camille/Cathy blowup happened, and moderators had their hands tied to a large extent. They couldn’t ban anyone or remove a comment without other moderators agreeing that it should be done. Practically everything required the mods to have a vote.
Problem was, of course, that almost none of the moderators were even participating to any extent, so doing anything in a hurry was nearly impossible.
Keep that in mind as you read. How was Leah supposed to handle this? How would you have handled it? And remember, this sort of thing had been going on for a long, long time.
Back to the Williamson Thread, in progress
Oh, gee, and enter stage left: St. Catherine of Victimhood herself. Whining about the whole Alex/Camille/Cathy thread from 18 months before.
She wants Leah to “resign.” She also says that she tried to join the other group (the one that Leah should resign for even mentioning), and that this group should “shut down.” If they’re supposed to shut down the group, why should anyone resign?
David is back to picking at Patti about her husband’s blog.
Leah then summarizes the situation and explains that she never said a word about “no hot heads.” The “hot head” thing is typical St. Catherine-speak. She makes up something that you supposedly did or said and then blasts you for doing so. Erect a straw man and then smash him.
Consider that this was not a single occurrence. This happened over and over again. This is what was happening, while simultaneously, these same people (mostly Cathy, Camille, Dan and David) were demanding that Leah take down this comment and ban that person, and do it now. I. mean. do. it. now.
All this was happening in an environment where there was little assistance given her from the other moderators, either due to their real-life work schedule or due to their own apathy. It was a thankless task indeed.
It all finally came to a head.