I'm sorry to revive this thread so late, and I hope my contribution will not restart a heated controversial debate (in which case I let Penguinboy delete this post), but the reason for my delay is that I've been thinking about my opinion for the past few days weeks and I'm a bit concerned by what I'm reading.
AJ's claim that Freedom of Speech is often misinterpreted looks like a play on words to me. Terms can be defined in many ways but it was pretty clear from the beginning that what the uneducated such as myself mean when they say Freedom of Speech is being given the ability to express and discuss their opinion, without serious consequences, even if contrary to what the majority thinks (within some limits, of course). For this reason, I don't see the point of giving it a legalese definition halfway through the debate.
I also find meaningless the claim that Freedom of Speech does not mean speech is consequence-free. Censorship or harrassment are possible consequences that seem to fit within your definition of Freedom of Speech, as long as the government is not directly responsible for these.
And yes, as you said, TWHL is free to set its own rules because it's a private community. Which is exactly what it is doing, based on the suggestions of its members, so I'm not sure what you're trying to say...
I'm also a bit concerned about what Jessie is saying. You used the words intolerance, offensive shit and shitheads to qualify what Potatis was referring to as conservative Christians against gay marriage, or to the topic of gay men's blood donations. I'm not necessarily defending them but that seems like derogatory insults to me, which furthermore seems to imply that anybody against gay marriage or gay men's blood donation is an offensive shithead defending offensive shit. Unless you were referring only to people who reject tolerance and inclusion, in which case this language still seems unneeded to me.
And also I don't like the example Potatis gives for people who reject tolerance and inclusion. I completely agree with the message: people who reject tolerance and inclusion because of their religious beliefs or ideologies do not have their place on TWHL or in any Free country. But let's not forget prejudice and violence can be found in all opinions and groups, people against gay marriage are not necessarily disrepectful and not inclusive, much like people on the other side can lack any respect for people with different opinions. Similarly, not only gay and atheists are being persecuted in the world, but religious people as well. (which includes Christians) So, we should remain careful with the preconceptions we naturally tend to develop as human beings (and social animals) about people of a certain group, religion, or opinion and remember this doesn't give us the right to qualify the opinion they are defending with the flaws of some of their supporters, and even less censor the opinion altogether.
I'd also like to say I don't know exactly why TWHL needs a more formal code of conduct, though I can imagine there is a reason. I believe I took part in the beginning of the Discord (a rather fitting name) debate that was mentionned, if we are talking about the same, but I do not know of anything else that happened afterwards. (I don't think there was anything controversial with anything I said or anything that came before.) Not knowing this makes it a bit difficult to know why exactly we need a more formal code of conduct for such a small community, and what needs to be made more obvious. So, the draft copy of the new detailled TWHL rules seem good to me, but I do not know exactly what they're trying to address. I'll come back to that later in my post, I have a suggestion.
In an ideal world, everybody should be able to express their opinion, live in accordance with it, and discuss it, without fearing for their lives or facing judgement, prejudice, social exclusion, insults, harrassment, etc. Of course, opinions that contradict freedom of speech or any other fundamental right should be banned. The problem is that it can be difficult to determine what opinion is incompatible with the fundamental rights, because even this is an opinion... Add to that the misconceptions we all have about certain groups, the limited or biased informations we get about certain events, and it quickly becomes a mess... Some people might abuse of Freedom of Speech because they are simply be ill-motivated or misguided, without necessarily being aware of it. The context also plays a significant role, and for practicality this ideal world cannot be possible in our current society.
Currently in the West many new ideas are being accepted as self-evident by society and they that are becoming increasibly hard to challenge, with their opponents either facing some sort of censorship, social exclusion, or any other sort of judgement by the majority. Some of it is justified, because we do not live in an ideal world and there are indeed many dangerous people with dangerous ideas. But I also believe a lot of it is unjustified and unfair, caused by some people's urge for a meaning for their lives, or their impossibility to emotionally process certain opinions. It would be best if it was possible to live in that ideal Free country that I described above, but the current context might make it partly impossible. (Still, we can do much much better.)
The reason I'm saying that is because I've always considered TWHL to be a safe heaven for Free Speech. Some people put forward the fact it's a community centered aroung gaming, and not around political debates. That's true, but the very fact it is before anything else a community, rather small, centered around similar passions, with people knowing others relatively well, makes it in some respects a better fit for political and other kinds of debates than the comments section of a newspaper or a political forum, where people don't know other people (and don't care about respecting them or not), have misconceptions about them, and only participate to defend their political convictions. Comparatively, the very nature of TWHL coerces people to be more listening, polite and respectful. It did allow me to challenge my opinions much more than in any other place, either physical or online. We all love Half-Life, so for all of us there's at least one part of our brain that's functionning normally. This assumption is not one many people make about their opponent when they debate online or elsewhere. We all want this community to continue to exist, and I believe we kind of all like each other as well? All of these things make it a better fit for debates, and I second Dimbeak's request for a separate space for discussions and debates. Saying TWHL is not a place for debating is a bit like barring friends in a Pub from talking about politics or Football (*). For that reason, I think very clear rules for debating would be very welcomed on TWHL, such as: always back up your claims, don't just say "your opinion is stupid"... This sort of things. After all, all the problems the new rules seek to address stem from debates and political discussions, don't they?
Obviously, some subjects should be treated with more care than others, because some people might take it personally, such as the trans issue (assuming people want to debate this at all), but I believe discussions about this should still be allowed. Even if the majority takes something for self-evident, discussing it in a friendly atmosphere and with rules allows them to better understand what they are thinking and to what their opponent is thinking, to make sure they are not deviating from their original opinion, and maybe to make the opponent more informed and maybe convince them.
To conclude this record-breaking lengthy message, here's an extract from the book: Letters from my Windmill (Alphonse Daudet):
"Despite being neighbours, our keeper and he don't see each other. They actually avoid each other. One day when I asked the stalker the reason for this, he replied in a serious manner:
--It's because of a difference of opinion.... He is a red; I am a white.
Well, even in this wilderness, where solitude ought to have brought them close together, these two unsociable people, as ignorant and naïve as each other, these two cowherds of Theocritus, who barely go to town once a year, and the small cafés of Arles must seem like the Palace of Ptolemy to them, have managed to fall out about politics of all things."
(Not sure how good the translation is)
*: Disclaimer: I don't like Football.