@ jacob - I largely agree with what you wrote in your OP, in particular your stated values (favoring form over content). I'm also a little in awe at how you always seem to frame situations from one hierarchical level higher, which always brings insight and a fresh perspective. You stay out of the muck, while looking down on it and explaining it to the rest of us. Kudos!
That being said, while I agree with your ends, I disagree about where to draw the line. Over the last few years, I've started to think that "culling the herd" is the better strategy, for two main reasons:
1. Your "be the change you want to see in the forums" advice works better in closed systems with limited options, but the Internet is an open system with many options.
It's not bad advice, but it imposes a cost. Which costs less: to steadfastly build the community you want, or to find an existing community that is already acceptable? In the beginning, when there were few communities online that cared about this stuff, it clearly made sense to build. If it was to survive at all, it was because of the internal efforts of each member of the group to make it work. ERE blog comment sections and the nascent forum thrived. Now, with the dramatic growth/mainstreaming of FIRE on the internet, it is easier to find what you want by grazing among different sources without deep-diving, participating, or committing. There are other options now - good ones- which this forum is in open competition with for readers' attention and posters' ideas. Competition between groups means group-level selection
My priority is not making this forum more welcoming according to whatever lens is trending in general society. Basically, what I want to promote here is intellectual discussion with the aim of expanding the Overton window (for any and all lenses). After all, I believe such an attitude is the progenitor ingredient to puruse something as open-minded as an ERE lifestyle.
I'm going to push back a little on this. Two points. First: If the aim is "expanding the Overton window (for any and all lenses)", then expect to lose the competition (and quality forum members) to other FIRE communities. You're trying to interest people from outside the community by pushing the boundaries of what they find comfortable? [Serious] Am I interpreting that correctly? If you are going to be pushing boundaries, then tone becomes all the more important - and as such it would make more sense to take a conservative moderation stance with respect to tone. Otherwise, the whole experience is just off-putting. Second: To be honest, I don't think ERE requires that much intellectual bootstrapping. Understanding of personal finance, yes. Thinking in systems, yes. These are the core elements as I see them. Political theory, sure maybe, but on the edges of the core ERE principles and more as a hedge/anti-fragility exercise. Gender theories, hardly. Opinions about specific social commentators, nah. The fires don't typically start in topics or with members discussing bread-and-butter ERE principles. Maybe a flexible moderation approach is in order? That is, tighter standards on some topics/contexts than others?
2. Speech silences other speech, and WYSIATI.
Freedom of speech is paradoxical and can't fully exist for everyone at once. When one person speaks without censorship or restraint, it will influence, subtly or overtly, what others feel inclined to express, the so-called "chilling effect." Everyone has their own subjective line in the sand, but I draw mine a bit more conservatively for the following reason. One of our deepest, core biases is that we constantly discount/disregard what we don't know exists, what Kahneman calls "what you see is all there is", or WYSIATI. When someone makes a "borderline" post right on the edge of community standards, we see that post… but we don't see all the posts that have been stymied (which could be many), we don't hear from users who have been "chilled" (which could be many), we don't see new members sign up that were ready to chime in but reconsidered (which could be many). So, we tend to underestimate the negative effects simply because we can't see them. Now, I don't know how big a loss is incurred by allowing these borderline posts - that's the whole point of WYSIATI - but I do have my suspicions that the losses are way bigger than the gains from allowing such posts. Specifically, the people who have left the forum over the years were, in my opinion, way more insightful, diverse (demographically and in thought), helpful, and better community members than those that drove them away have been. It isn't even close. So my take on maximizing diversity of opinion sounds a little backwards: If someone's speech is going to be silenced regardless, because freedom of speech for everyone cannot exist, you might as well choose the speech that silences the least. In my opinion, because speech silences other speech and WYSIATI, that means "culling the herd".
Personally, I have been posting less here, and I have been finding other outlets for sharing information and ideas, specifically because of the current atmosphere. Anyway, to reiterate: I agree with your goals, I'm just inclined to be less lenient. That's my two cents.
Edit: Worth adding here that my concern with respect to speech is "tone", civility, etc. in forum posts. In other words, if the goal is "form over content", I think the standards on "form" should be tightened.