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At a site for home-based workers in a particular field, there are several forums, and one option is a forum to discuss politics. However, there is a group of 5 to 6 like-minded users who form a clique. They report other users (who have opposing political views) over minor infractions and harass them until the others either leave or blow up -- and then the user gets banned for blowing up. A ban affects the entire site, not just the political sub-forum.

This has happened to at least 18 people and has gone on for 2 years, someone even reporting them to the BBB. The members of the clique have never been banned in these 2 years. They continue to post inflammatory provocation including name-calling, derogatory attacks, and racist things, but if another user questions their posts (without being inflammatory), that other user is banned.

At first I felt sorry for the moderator, catering to the nitpickers, but after I was temporarily banned for calling the clique a bully clique (for which I received 20 "like" votes versus 5 "dislikes"), I realized I probably deserved that temp ban for personal attack, complied and went to bed.

Then overnight I received a second message citing an old comment I'd made earlier that truly was not a personal attack like the clique comment, and I was now banned permanently citing "personal vendetta".

I'd just started the forum 4 days before and I don't even know these people; how can it be a personal vendetta?

It was then that I was told the moderator has admitted belonging to the same political party and is friends with the clique. I guess I should just walk away, but this is so wrong - it's supposed to be a professional water cooler area for those of us in this field and this has happened to so many people that I know of thus far. They just want you gone if you're not like them politically, but the political forum is supposed to be for everyone in this field.

Admins do nothing; it's been tried. How should I and the other affected users respond? (I'm tempted to buy an ad.) Is it time to cut our losses and leave?

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    Welcome to the site. I'm going to attempt an edit to focus your question a little more on the key factors; I suspect the downvoting is because this reads a little like a rant. If my edit misses the mark you can edit it further (and apologies if so). I'm trying to help your question. – Monica Cellio Nov 11 '14 at 14:42
  • I would suggest you leave that site, but if you really want to do something to improve the situation, don't argue politics in that forum, and form a team with other users that are upset like you. Then work hard in all the other areas of the forum, until your name is very prominent. Once you achieve that, move into the politics forum. You need to have a name to back you up before you can fight against such thing. If then you still lose, open a separate forum, and you will have won, because others will follow you swift. – Sky Dec 1 '14 at 20:43
  • Also, you say "proven moderator preference". But you haven't really proved anything, compile posts that back you up, for future reference. – Sky Dec 1 '14 at 20:47
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As others have said, you can't get the leadership of a community to behave in a way contrary to how they feel like behaving. The most you can do is bring up the facts of what is happening to ensure they can't claim ignorance, but then it is up to them to decide how they are going to run their community (because it is their community since they are the one paying the bill.)

As long as you've talked to the one who is actually sponsoring the community and they are fine with things the way they are, then it is time to find a new community. Often, it is pretty easy to start such a community as many will leave the broken community as soon as there is a good alternative available.

Keep in mind that they will most likely try to paint you as a bad guy when you form a new community. Do your best to stay above the situation and simply have a set response as to why you felt a new community was necessary and what the concerns that were not being addressed were that made the previous community nonviable. Don't get caught up in mud slinging as that will only make you look more on their level to potential new members of your community. You may want to see this related post for more on how to deal with some of the unfounded attacks you may find yourself exposed to in forming a new community.

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Be glad that you only invested four days in that site. Unfortunately, if things are as you described, then the site (or at least that part of it) is founded on misrepresentation, willingly endorsed by the people in charge. If discussion about how discourse is conducted has gotten nowhere, then with a history of action against so many users, there is likely nothing you can do with that community. As this answer says, you might be able to start a different community given the number of users who've been affected.

I was involved (for much longer than four days) with a site on a different contentious topic -- religion. The site was supposed to be about religion but not a religious site -- more like the religious-studies department at a secular university than a church, in other words. When the site started that was the charter and minorities were encouraged to participate. Naturally, users were overwhelmingly of one religion (and many of them of one denomination); this included all of the moderators. They had blind spots and just couldn't see some of the problematic behavior on the site. When they couldn't see their own problematic behavior, and the sympathetic users didn't speak up, and the owners of the site declined to step in, it became clear that leaving was the only option, despite the injustice of being chased off after having been a top contributor. That was a hard pill to swallow, but I'm much better off not dealing with people whose treatment of minorities ranged from mildly rude to abusive personal attacks.

If you've already escalated your complaint as high as you can and gotten nowhere, and if discussion on the site won't lead to improved behavior (sounds like that's the case here), then you've done all you can. Sometimes you only learn that a community isn't for you by participating and finding out first-hand. But fortunately, there are lots of communities out there -- try to find one that interests you and values your participation.

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Why do you want to be part of this community?

It sounds to me like they (admins, the 5-6 women etc.) have their own little clique (community) and don't welcome outsiders in. Just leave the party, gather some friends and start your own :)

Seriously, this sounds like a great opportunity to bind new members to your newly formed community. Include it in your tagline for all I care "The forum for home-based workers that LIKE discussion".

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