This is what I posted on Forte's blog:
Dear Maximilian (and contributors),
I’ve been trying to follow the controversy about the name of the OAC and contributed towards its resolution. I wanted to share some thought with you here.
I had a quick look and your work seems great, I’m in favour of anything that gets us out of the academe and into the real world. I think many people at the OAC feel there are bridges and not ideological divides between the two websites. This, if anything, would be a reason not to classify the whole OAC as a homogeneous entity that speaks with one voice (I keep reading people using a general ‘they’, I believe this is not helpful).
As far as I understand a lot of mistakes were made at the beginning and this has somehow brought us all here, in a not very pleasant place. The admins will propose something by next week to try and solve the issue. I agree this is not a democratic way of proceeding, in the way that I understand the concept, one based on direct democracy and consensus decision-making. However, consensus is notoriously difficult to implement when large numbers are involved, and we have (nominally) 1500+ members. In the past couple of days I’ve been taking part in the 2009 UK Climate Camp, this year held in London, where people are almost obsessed with direct democracy. But even they will hold a majority vote on which power plant to shut down in October, because of the number of people involved.
I am willing to give the admins the benefit of doubt and see what proposals they come up with. I personally would welcome your thoughts on how to consult members. I suggested in a comment on OAC that maybe we could write clearly that the network is not trying to affiliate itself with your website, how would you feel about that? Though I would feel slightly sorry about it, because as I can see it there are commonalities that such a statement would spoil. I am also in favour of changing the name. But I was puzzled to read in one of your posts that having a group on ‘what is open anthropology?’ on the OAC was somehow wrong or strange. Why so? Surely we can discuss the idea in other fora. In my opinion the major issue at stake is that there are online platforms run by different individuals and it is these that can get confused, and this is wrong. But in terms of ideas, surely I can discuss open anthropology in another website, or at the pub? What’s your opinion on this?
I personally don’t think the OAC is controlled by Keith Hart, I don’t speak for him. Isn’t it ironic that just recently someone on OAC had to write he wasn’t controlled by Max Forte? Clearly, clearly something has gone terribly wrong in the way this debate has been brought forward... I have an interest in the theory of nonviolence, and one of the principles of nonviolent communication is to try and avoid words that conflate the action with the actor (or actress), and avoid being confrontational, in the belief that the other party – except in extreme cases – always has a point too. Perhaps we should try not to pass judgement on the inherent qualities of human beings simply on the basis of the a few comments and posts.
I personally think blogs are awful means to dialogue because they reduces the entire spectrum of human communication, with all its complexities developed through hundreds of thousands of years, to written words, just that, written words. Can we really accuse people of being unethical on such shaky foundations? I hope not. I was sincerely worried reading that someone plans to put together names of people and work to ban them from their country! Surely this is not an ethical action/thought? Fortunately they can’t implement it, but the idea of one day travelling to some place and saying ‘oh yeah, I contribute to the OAC’ and being branded something, anything, is chilling. I put some of my details on the website – nothing that I would not tell anyone I met – but I think it is deeply unjust that my having done so could, potentially, harm me in any way.
This is what I wrote on the OAC: “Please, please let's avoid splitting academic hairs, putting up fences and barriers because we have nothing to protect, nor to lose, but our own fragility.”
I probably missed something, but that’s life. So you’re based in Montreal? I visited last December for the Polanyi conference, it was a bit cold though, minus 28 Celsius...