User:Blue/RWW/Trial of Human

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The Trial of Human was an event that occurred on RationalWiki in early May of 2011. A Chicken Coop complaint about Human threw the Wiki into a particularly violent spate of Headless Chicken Mode, complete with trolling, name-calling, and shouting matches, and eventually led to a call for the Wiki to be placed under emergency administration while new site rules were formulated.


At the time, the rules at RationalWiki were in some degree of flux. The presence and editing habits of JimJast had led to controversy over the purpose of the "Essay" namespace, with proposals made for a new deletion policy that would permit the deletion of his essays.[1] MarcusCicero cashed in on the conflict by socking up, pretending to be a neo-Nazi, and starting a "debate" founded on racist premises; the deletion of this debate led to a proposal for changes in the Community Standards, which despite some heated dispute passed unanimously.

Controversies over demotion and promotion[edit]

On May 6, Human demoted Sterile, a long-time editor and a member of the RationalWiki Cabal, to the rank of bureaucrat.[2] This was done unilaterally and without any nomination or discussion, which while not against Wiki policy was not in line with the usual custom.[3]

The unilaterality of the action bothered Blue and ListenerX, who both criticized Human for his actions.[4] ListenerX responded by proposing another change to the Community Standards to put a stop to such unilateral demotions, obtaining a large majority in favor. Blue, on the other hand, wheel-warred with Human over the demotion, Blue taking away Sterile's new rights, Human re-instating them.

In the midst of the dispute over this chain of events, Human unilaterally promoted Blue to sysop, citing as the reason "Accusing long time user of being a troll, complete lack of judgement."[5] The Wiki's guide for bureaucrats contained an explicit prohibition against this,[6] so Blue promptly took Human to the Chicken Coop for abuse of bureaucrat powers; her rights were soon restored by ListenerX.

The trial[edit]

After a short and furious period of debate at the Chicken Coop, SuspectedReplicant started a vote for the removal of Human's bureaucrat rights.[7] ListenerX fixed the duration of the poll at three days and sent out a notice over the site intercom.[8]

The vote turned into a regular free-for-all, with some commentators likening it unto a popularity contest. Several voters openly cast capricious votes; for example, RobSmith tried to get his sysop rights back by promising to vote in Human's favor if Human demoted him,[9] but when Human did not deliver, Rob voted against him.[10] However, Rob later changed his vote on the grounds that "Human pays the goddamn bills."[11] Users' staked positions ran the spectrum from "Human is above punishment" to "Run this bastard out of here on a rail!" However, many of those who voted to remove his rights did so hesitantly, insisting that if he were stripped of his rights he would not be made ineligible to have them restored in the future.

A large number of users expressed complete indifference to the entire affair, voting "Goat" in the poll. Human himself was one of these; he did very little to defend himself, stating that since he had unilaterally demoted Blue some time before, he now had the right to promote her unilaterally.[12] This attitude caused Nx to change his vote.[13] Doggedpersistence and P-Foster gave up all their user rights in protest of the entire affair. Before dropping all his user rights, P-Foster unilaterally demoted Eira to a crat, and if anyone particularly noticed, no one really seemed to care.

There were calls for the re-convention of the Loya Jirga, which had lain dormant since the resolution of the single case brought before it, and to which everyone forgot to hold elections in February of 2011.

Eleventh-minute hour defense[edit]

Eleven minutes before the poll closed, Human posted a lengthy defense, explaining himself and moving to dismiss. ListenerX voiced concerns about some discrepancies between what Human stated in his defense and the timing and comment of Blue's promotion[14]. Nutty Roux responded, but the vote came in Human's favor, thus mooting the motion.


The vote's final outcome was 31 in favor, 32 opposed, and 13 casting the omnipresent "Goat" ticket.[15]

Other effects[edit]

ListenerX, who had been on wikibreak during the Loya Jirga's first case, was unaware of the change made by that body to RationalWiki's policy on user talk-pages, and reverted Human when he removed a critical comment by SuspectedReplicant from his talk-page.[16] Being informed of the change in policy, ListenerX changed the Community Standards page to reflect it,[17] which re-ignited controversy about the Loya Jirga's ruling and caused Nx and Nutty Roux to get in an edit war in the middle of Human's promotion vote.

Voting on the proposal to forbid unilateral demotion was still in progress. Several users, including Human himself, latched onto this debate with more radical proposals, such as a purge of sysops and bureaucrats, making only members of the Board of Trustees eligible to be bureaucrats, or upgrading the Community Standards from "guidelines" to full-blown "rules." These escalated into a call for a "Constitutional Convention" to deal with the situation.[18]

The Saloon Bar Putsch[edit]

Main article: Saloon Bar Putsch

The intense debate over the nature of user rights policy sparked by the Trial led to a small group of dissatisfied users collaborating to initiate a much more radical solution. Armondikov promoted every bureaucrat on the wiki to sysop except one, and Nx followed by using his server access to promote every sysop. Any shred of normality remaining at RationalWiki dissolved.


  3. In a previous case, Human unilaterally made David Gerard a bureaucrat, leading Bob M to similarly undo the demotion.
  6. "As a ‘crat, you will likely demote several users, but there is the possibility that you may have to 'promote' a user, from sysop to editor, or bureaucrat to sysop ... The user should only be promoted following the results of an Administrative Abuse hearing ... no matter how annoyed you are at someone, you are not allowed to just promote them out of rage or spite." [1]