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Jan 27, 1998 07:28 PM
by JRC

A thought occured to me as I thought about the exchange between doss and
Bart - doss saying Wheaton was remiss in never having spoken or explained
itself on these lists, and Bart saying they probably didn't even look at
the lists because of the extent of time it takes and the extent of the
negativity aginst them.

If this is indeed *true* it would be extremely unusual. I can't think of
*any* leader of any organization I've ever known ... public sector,
private sector, or non-profit, holding a position appointed or elected,
that did *not* pay attention to the sentiment about them ... many will
*say* they don't, either personally or through agency of their supporters,
but this is generally a way of trying to minimize or invalidate their
critics (its why incumbants in offices almost never want to debate, and
those trying to unseat them almost always do ... regardless of what the
specific points of the criticism are, the incumbant will always want to
seem "above" any debates). There *is*, though, a fairly fundamental fact
of human nature ... and that is that people almost can't *help* but want
to pay attention to what others say about them. If John Algeo and others
at Wheaton do not have at least someone monitoring the theos lists it
would really be an extremely unusual event, almost unprecedented in 20th
public life.

And the idea that it was *because* of the volume of criticism that Wheaton
remains silent, or doesn't even pay attention to the lists, just doesn't
wash. I've been on a couple of the lists almost from the very beginning,
and at first any criticism (and it was relatively rare) was if anything
quite mild ... though now and then someone *would* inquire about why
Wheaton was or was not doing something. But Wheaton *NEVER*, in my
experience, has responded to a single request, even for information (and
this was even in the days when it didn't mask its email addresses, and
simply appeared directly on the list review command).

My own opinion is that the silence is probably due to one remarkable
difference between this forum and all other arenas in which the Wheaton
leadership can exist: *It cannot control communications*. In its
publications, for instance, it can report membership numbers, but needn't
point anything out, needn't mention trends (curious how the numbers that
*join* are reported, but not those that *lapse*), and can simply not print
any letter to the editor that tries to bring it up. The *minute* it
commented on even *one* issue ... it would be at risk ... it would mean
that refusing to answer any other questions was an act of *a leadership
delibrately ignoring its dues-paying members* - and much that is brought
up here *couldn't* be answered - not because of innocence that has a hard
time explaining itself, but because of those curious bleating noises heard
around the Wheaton grounds (-:). How *could* membership be explained?
Wheaton would either have to say it was deeply worried about the
membership decline, and had *failed* in its efforts (which know ones seems
to be aware of) to solve the retention problem, or it would have to say
that it simply *didn't care*. It could only be one or the other.

However, I'm not sure which is more disturbing ... the thought that
Wheaton *does* pay attention to the lists and delibrately ignores all
requests for participation, or the (highly unlikely) thought that it
*doesn't* have any awareness of these lists ... which would mean that the
leadership of an (alledgedly) *democratic* non-profit society believed it
not only had no responsibility to answer the thoughts and feelings of the
members that elected them and pay *dues* to them, but indeed felt as
though it had no responsibility to even be *aware* of them - and in fact
*delibrately avoided* awareness.

Ah well, its close to being a moot point. This is the last generation that
will even have the possibility of controlling communication, of trying to
ignore, or pretend to ignore, the Internet. Curious fact - while the TS
membership has declined dramatically - by close to a third of its
membership in less than a decade - I notice that *this list* is now over
150 ... still small in absolute numbers, but nonetheless an *increase* of
just short of *50%* in less than a couple of years.

Lux et Veritas, -JRC

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