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Yesterday, I changed my username and avatar picture to reflect something I find cool and interesting, combat ready rotary-winged aircraft (who didn't love the show Airwolf!).

For clarity the username was "Attack Helicopter" with an avatar of same.

Today, I find that change has been removed and my profile is a generic number and default avatar.

I tried to change it back to previous username and avatar I had (the one I had prior to yesterday), but received the following error:

Oops! There was a problem updating your profile: Display name may only be changed once every 30 days; you may change again on Nov 14 at 20:59

Now I understand this is normal operating procedure when a user changes their name. However, my change was undone, I assume by a mod or CM. I was under the impression that users would be notified of these changes either in an on-site message or an email. So I have a few questions...

  1. Why was the profile changed without notification?
  2. Am I forced to have this generic profile now?
  3. Can I request it be reverted to the original?

Status Completed

82

Unless I'm mistaken, this is still the current guidance on what's allowed in user profiles.

And while I find myself struggling slightly to suppress my skepticism, I'm willing to assume good faith anyway. So I'll take you at your word that you were not being deliberately provocative and offensive in your choices, and not being deliberately disingenuous in your question here.

Given that, it's just a misunderstanding that can be quickly clarified, and I'm sure you'll understand once it is:

It seems you accidentally referenced this meme. The meme is highly offensive to members of the non-binary and trans communities, as it implies that asking folks not to misgender them is like asking folks to call you something completely foreign, like say, a rotary aircraft. The original post it references also dehumanizes "foreigners" and contains a term that is highly offensive to individuals with disabilities.

The good news is that all of us sometimes accidentally say or post things we don't know are hurtful. All we can expect of each other is that once we learn, we adjust our actions going forward.

I'd be fine with reverting this profile back to the pre-meme user name and image.

Note, this has now been completed:

Thanks so much for shedding light on this situation, Jaydles! <3 I've gone ahead and reset the OP's username to what it was previously as @Skooba has requested in comments here since that seems like the best solution from everyone's PoV. – Catija♦

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    Ah, so that means he can revert his profile to the previous one, without waiting 30 days. Right? – Robert Harvey Oct 16 at 16:39
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    @RobertHarvey, I'd personally be fine with that. – Jaydles Oct 16 at 16:40
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    This is a perfect way to address a question like this. However, I was under the impression (source: years of memes) that the attack helicopter more referred to those who identify as “non human” (eg wolfkin, aliens, etc), not (seriously lacking better terms please help me on this one) basic? Trans people? I’m sorry if that’s completely wrong terminology – Sterling Archer Oct 16 at 16:42
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    @SterlingArcher honestly, does it matter? SE should be as much inclusive of otherkin than any kind of non-mainstream parts of society. The whole point should be to be nice to everyone. However the "attack helicopter" is blatantly not an example of this. There's too much baggage to take this seriously. What if someone claims that they identify as a swastika? Some line has to be drawn, and that line is whether good faith can be assumed in context (i.e. is the person honest, or just trolling?). Given current context, reverting an "attack helicopter" profile is merited I think. – Andras Deak Oct 16 at 16:46
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    I read "All we can expect of each other is that once we learn, we adjust our actions going forward." as "now that you know what baggage Attack Helicopter comes with, if this was a honest mistake you'll surely not want to revert to that handle anymore". If it's used knowing what dog whistle it is, can someone explain to me how that could possibly be good faith? Nobody noted that the name/avatar edit was made without an accompanying mod message and/or suspension, so the involved moderator was assuming good faith (mod message would have been a good idea though). – Mathieu Guindon Oct 16 at 16:57
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    @MathieuGuindon All moderator actions (especially when affecting a user profile) should come with some kind of message. A comment on a post, a ping in chat, an in-site mod message, an email, something. – Skooba Oct 16 at 17:02
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    I don't see how this is an attack on anyone Jaydles. I understand the meme, and it's in poor taste, but this is like asking Pastafarian to not wear a strainer. And I would be very very upset if that happened. Censoring people disagreeing with neopronouns is not protecting anyone, but it's (a) hiding the problem and (b) taking sides in a specific diatribe which we should really avoid if we want to have any actual authority beyond going around with a metaphorical baseball bat. – Sklivvz Oct 16 at 17:34
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    This kind of behavior is well intentioned but I am really struggling at this point to see who is more childish: the guy who makes fun of neopronouns with "attack helicopter" or the people that censor them just in case it offends anyone. – Sklivvz Oct 16 at 17:36
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    @Sklivvz This is not a "just in case it offends anyone". It is offensive - as explained in the answer you are commenting on. It has offended people. If you want to argue that it's okay to be offensive... well, at least you'd be owning up to it. – Em C Oct 16 at 19:34
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    @Sklivvz Er, last I heard, intending to offend people was bad too? If the OP was intending to offend, then the reset was justified. If the OP wasn't intending to offend, now they know it's considered offensive, and since they don't want to offend people they won't want to reset it. So... not really seeing the problem. – Em C Oct 16 at 19:47
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    @Sklivvz You're talking about someone referencing a meme that mocks and belittles gender identities in the middle of a dumpster fire about precisely that... don't act like it's unreasonable to connect the dots and take offense to an offensive meme. – Em C Oct 16 at 20:01
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    @EmC I'll disengage because I'm struggling to see any intention on your side to listen. Let me just say again that your reasoning is circular: you are affirming what you need to prove. – Sklivvz Oct 16 at 21:35
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    I'm personally against any policy that requires that we have the ability to read people's minds. – Robert Harvey Oct 16 at 22:17
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    Thanks so much for shedding light on this situation, Jaydles! <3 I've gone ahead and reset the OP's username to what it was previously as @Skooba has requested in comments here since that seems like the best solution from everyone's PoV. – Catija Oct 17 at 3:06
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    @Rubiksmoose: Ergo, it is entirely about actions, not thoughts. Your task is to determine whether the content is allowed or not, not ascertain the attitude of the poster. – Robert Harvey Oct 17 at 18:14
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Until today, the policy was that (within reason) we could put anything we want in our profiles.

Has that position changed? Because if it has, I guess we must finally sanitize Welbog's profile. It's clearly offensive to some.

For the record, I find Welbog's profile hilarious.

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I used to view freedom as a license to do pretty much anything that wasn't illegal or unethical. If someone else was bothered by it, it was their freedom to be bothered or not bothered by whatever they chose. They could choose to react differently to it; there was no requirement for them to react by taking offense. Until the shoe was on the other foot. That's actually how I came to the Stack Exchange.

I had spent a lot of time at one of the big computer forums. One day, not that long after the 9/11 attacks, I noticed the avatar of a new member. That member was from a country that actively supports terrorism, and where people grow up marinated in an ideology of hate. The user's avatar was the slogan of a particular terrorist organization, preaching extinction of another culture.

I had a pretty visceral negative reaction to it and complained that it was hate speech, and that the forum was providing a free platform for dissemination of that message. The site owners decided that it was free speech. The new member claimed I was a nut case for being offended by a harmless slogan they saw everywhere, every day, espousing an idea everyone they knew agreed with. I quit the site.

Freedom of expression isn't a simple concept. There are words and language that everyone recognizes as offensive. There are other words and language that offend some people and not others. The people who aren't offended often view the people who are as being unreasonably sensitive. I learned first-hand that what's reasonable or unreasonable is very much in the eye of the beholder, and others may not understand that from their own perspective.

With that context, let me address this question. Does the desired username and avatar violate the site rules? Is it offensive to some users but not prohibited if there is an assumption of good intent? People can argue all that, and someone with authority can rule on it. But let me appeal to the user temporarily known as "user310650".

Jaydles's answer explains why this particular username is offensive to a portion of the community. Now you know, and the ball is in your court. You may have the right to use that username, it is obviously important to you and you have nothing but good intentions. But it is also your choice whether to exercise that right.

It doesn't need to be a zero-sum game where one side wins and the other loses. Please consider voluntarily looking for a compromise username that's close enough to satisfy your own needs without being offensive to a segment of the community. Thanks.

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    This is beautiful answer and I agree wholeheartedly with it. I am not asking to have the "problematic" user name back. I just want my original user name back that I had for 3 years prior to that. – Skooba Oct 17 at 1:58
  • @Skooba Changing to an old username is more difficult, as it requires an employee to manually edit the database. On the other hand, there is a tool moderators can use that resets a username back to the default "user[ID]" name. – Sonic the Reinstate Monica-hog Oct 17 at 2:44
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    No tool required, @Sonic. Moderators can set a user's display name to anything we want. We, um, typically stick with the boring default names, but not because the system doesn't give us the ability to have some fun. It's just a textbox. (Is that a tool?) Similarly, I don't know what you mean about reverting to an old display name requiring an employee to manually edit the database. I'm pretty sure that's not true, either. You'd need a database edit to erase history (like removing the user name that created this discussion), but not to just change back to a user name that once existed. – Cody Gray Oct 17 at 4:58
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    +1. Really well said. – Jaydles Oct 17 at 12:53
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    @fixer1234 I do not wish to engage in a discussion whether a specific user name is deemed sufficiently offensive to avoid in the first place. Instead in view of the background information provided by Jaydles I'd like to point out that the consequence of your recommendation is being forced to change a user name as soon as some moron on the net turns it into a token of his hate meme and finds adoption. Imho that is rather absurd. – collapsar Oct 17 at 13:55
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    @collapsar, my suggestion wasn't about anyone being forced to do anything. Just a request to listen and apply one's own judgement. People can decide whether they believe other people are being sincere, and how far they want to go in accommodating requests. It's easy enough to be considerate when doing so costs you nothing at all. It becomes a tougher personal choice when you weigh your own self-interest against the needs of others. And yes, jerks can ruin things for other people. – fixer1234 Oct 17 at 14:45
  • @collapsar As someone who endured years of suggestions that I change my name after some major organisation decided to use it as the default email address in their email client, such is life. The suggestions ranged from helpful FAQ type postings to abuse of my intellect and skills. It was easier to change my name/email than endure the abuse. But I use it again now, a decade or so later. I'm sure you can guess which company... – Móż Oct 29 at 4:56
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I originally wrote this as a comment, but think that it might be worth extending it to an answer. Not being a native English speaker, I write this at the risk of having missed a nuance of the language, but ... the votes will show.

Several comments and answers referred to the point of "assuming good faith", which once was part of the CoC.

And I wondered: What is the opposite of "assuming good faith"?

As far as I can tell, there are at least two possibilities:

  • not assuming good faith
  • assuming bad faith

I assume that the username was chosen intentionally in view of the current CoC debate. Iff this is the case, I'd say that the relevant distinction lies in whether the intention was to really hurt people, or whether it was an attempt to point out the shortcomings of the CoC and related policies that have been established.

As such, even though I do assume that the name was chosen intentionally in view of the CoC, I also assume that it was chosen "in good faith" in so far that it was only sarcasm to point out what is wrong with the CoC, and not plain hostility towards minorities.

Sarcasm and satire are a common (and in many cases, unfortunately, the only) way to express disagreement with the decisions that have been made by an authority. People who use sarcasm or satire on the internet are often hastily accused of being trolls (which is the assumption of bad faith). But my impression is that this is often only used to invalidate and not have to be concerned with a flaw or shortcoming that has been brought up. People can find the chosen name "inappropriate", "inconsiderate", or "provocative" - everybody has the right to have an opinion on that. But the fact that it was changed without notice and without a reason (beyond the "assumption of bad faith") is a bit concerning.

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    The user could've chosen any name / avatar to protest the new CoC... He chose the "Attack Helicopter" troll name. There's no "good faith" explanation for that. – Cerbrus Oct 17 at 13:20
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    @Cerbrus I'm aware how problematic this name is right now (although I wonder which other names for protesting you'd have in mind). Harmonizing the CoC with rules for user names is difficult. If he had chosen this name 3 months ago, it would have been fine. I mean, we're not talking about a user named "nagger" who changed the "a" to an "i" here. There are many problematic names/profiles (see the Q/A linked in the top answer). But I still think that the name was only sarcasm, targeted at SE, and not hostility targeted at minorities (as I said in the A, roughly: ~"inconsiderate, but not evil") – Marco13 Oct 17 at 13:31
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    Well, that specific name has been around in this manner since early 2015... :P – Cerbrus Oct 17 at 13:32
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    Towards an assumption of good faith: OP’s username has been reverted to their original name without having to wait the normal 30-day period. So, I think, that does reflect a willingness to accept a good faith explanation for OP’s actions and forgive instead of punish. – divibisan Oct 17 at 13:34
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    @Cerbrus You start off with bad faith by assuming it was a protest. – Carpe CM Oct 17 at 13:36
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    @SlacklordtheTerrible: "Protest" is something Marco brought up: "to point out what is wrong with the CoC". My comment explains that that specific name is a known "troll" name. – Cerbrus Oct 17 at 13:39
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    @Cerbrus A search reveals other users with this name. The main point was that I "assume good faith" in that choosing this name now was intentional, but the assumption is that the intention was to satirically point out the problems that SE has created, and not to hurt minorities. At Slacklord : Whether "protest" is good or bad faith depends on whether you're the one who is protested against ;-) As such, I assume that it was a "protest" against SE, and not a hostile attack (sic) towards the minorities addressed in the meme. (My assumption may be wrong, I only try to not assume bad faith) – Marco13 Oct 17 at 13:42
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    @Cerbrus Satire is meant to be shocking. Communities regularly take slurs against them as endonyms. There are so many levels at which responding to this with vitriol is just denying a person's rights based on bad faith. – Carpe CM Oct 17 at 13:42
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    @SlacklordtheTerrible: That name isn't satire, it isn't funny, it's not even clever. Reporting a troll isn't vitriol. Having a troll name isn't a "right". Basically, you're wrong in every aspect of that comment. – Cerbrus Oct 17 at 13:44
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    @Cerbrus I could now ask about a dozen names: "Would that be OK? What about that?...", but that wouldn't lead anywhere: User names are largely handled at the discretion of the mods. That's inevitable: There is no algorithm that decides which name is OK. But even if a user name is deemed inappropriate (and even though considering something a "troll name" IMHO is a too low bar here), one should be careful with "assuming bad faith" (as in: aimed at hurting people) vs. assuming good faith (as in: trying to be sarcastic and unintentionally crossing a line). I assume the latter here. – Marco13 Oct 17 at 13:54
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    @Cebrus Eating babies isn't funny or clever. A Modest Proposal is a masterpiece of satire. You need to take a break and consider that you have assumed malfeasance at every point in this. – Carpe CM Oct 17 at 14:36
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    @Cerbrus And here? I changed my username to highlight that this fixation on pronouns on SE sites is not relevant to anything the SE sites try to do. That was rolled back. And I made this change on MSE only, to make my point on MSE, where we talk about how to run the network. – user212646 Oct 17 at 22:35
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I guess it means that your values and the values propagated by the new CoC are not consistent.

If we would assume good faith, we would let you have your name because there are probably people out there just liking this name and meaning no ill will.

If we do not assume good faith, then we would think that you did it because of the current turmoil in an attempt to increase the emotional stress. That may be the reason why your attempted name change was rejected and the only way to get it through would be to convince the platform owner.

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