Saturday, July 19, 2008

Why I Supported Mormon Archipelago . . . Sort Of

Over at Sixteen Small Stones there has been a discussion of what is wrong with Mormon Archipelago that has a few people upset. It made some upset enough to excommunicate the blogger from participation. Frankly, much of what was said by the blogger I have always wanted to say. That isn't to say there aren't things I disagree with or that I couldn't say more.

One of the biggest problems with MA is the leadership. J. Max W. puts it this way:

According to one source, the issue of whether my blog should be de-listed was not discussed by the group of bloggers who are supposedly in charge of the portal. It wasn’t even presented for discussion. He found out that it had been removed from me. Apparently blogs are often added and removed without consulting the founders of the portal. As far as I can gather, additions and removals are made nearly unilaterally by two or three individuals with very little oversight.

The leadership is often to be commended. Like any group effort, there are choices that must be made that aren't easy. Over the few years there have been contentions and scandals that created more than minor changes to the portal. Despite the often good job, the most visible bad note is the lack of transparency. There are questions I doubt very few people can answer. Who is in charge of the MA portal? How are decisions made? What is the mission and the rules? What recourse exists if someone feels discriminated?

Questions like the above might explain some of the acrimony that can exist between its own members. I constantly worried, although far less now that there are more Mormon themed portals, that my own blog would be de-listed. Of course, if I don't post then I de-list myself. There are so many good blogs that simply fell off the radar because of the choice made by those who maintained them.

Probably the criticism made by J. Max W. that I most disagree with is the idea that MA, "Behind the stated purpose of the portal, to create a convenient LDS Blog portal, was the motivating purpose of driving traffic toward their own specific blogs. So while convenient general promotion was a partial motivation, the site was essentially a vehicle for self promotion." It isn't that I don't agree with him, but that it isn’t necessarily negative. From the very first when I "petitioned" to have "Straight and Narrow" listed it was for promotional purposes. My stated goal was to counter some of what I saw as non-orthodox blogs, but my purpose to be listed was to get readers. I understood completely what would happen if I was placed within a group that already existed. Not that I have been that popular, but I have been read. To be honest, I was stunned that I did get listed - particularly when my stated reasoning for writing was orthodox antagonist.

Because I was added to the MA portal I can't agree that there is a particular anti-authoritarian or anti-orthodox Mormon slant to the portal. In fact, over the few years I have been witness to an increased acceptance of pro-authoritarian orthodox Mormon blogs. If there is anything to the idea that Pro-AO Mormon blogs don't have as much prestige it is because they tend to live and die quickly. Why that is I don't understand. Perhaps it is because Pro-AO Mormons are more engaged in living than discussion. It could also be because remaining an active Pro-AO Mormon in the Internet jungle is harder. I know there are times, such as recently, when I started re-evaluating the purpose and price for continuation. (My answer now is the same as always; I am a writer and therefore I must.)

There is, however, part of J. Max W.'s argument that has partial truth. It is one voiced by many an orthodox blogger that time and again gets ignored or rejected. The majority of the MA participants (leading figures included) and powerhouse blogs stifle free expression by the Pro-AO Mormons. Oh, they might not be banned per-say, but they are mocked and castigated on a regular basis. Do that enough and there is a self-selecting process. You don't need to be kicked out to be out. On the other hand, Pro-AO Mormons often are banned by individual powerhouse blogs. Now the MA shouldn't force the individual and collective blogs to allow anyone to post. I am not shy to click the garbage can (I like to think I do so when the comments are personal attacks, too far off subject, or completely negative criticism). However, they should be aware of the message sent by its members and participants. Just because you say you are or are not something, doesn't mean actions don’t create stereotypes.

It is for my uncomfortable relationship with the MA that I am glad that NothingWavering exists. My hope is that I can finally feel accepted rather than tolerated by getting included. As for those who question what J. Max W. means by "mainstream and orthodox LDS," your sincerity is thin. Too many know exactly what that means. Whole blogs have been dedicated to the negative reaction to the group the designation implies. Blog comments are constantly about the "Us vs. the rest of the Church leadership/membership" battles. Then to suddenly claim not to know what "mainstream and orthodox LDS" defines is disingenuous. On the other hand, I don't blame the MA as much as individuals for creating such a climate; although there are far too many.

Finally out of the blue, I miss The Blogger of Jared as a place to hang out with like-minded people. Too many contributors had a life at the same time.