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Jan 24 2013

One of these days, I’m gonna say something really stupid.

We all do eventually.

When I was in Ireland, I shared a stage with Rebecca Watson and Richard Dawkins.  Later that evening, Watson stepped into what may now be the most famous of all elevators.  We all know that after that Watson said something that was blown way out of proportion.  This was largely because Dawkins said something that, well, wasn’t his most brilliant commentary. This lead to a whole bunch of other people saying a lot of shit I wish they hadn’t said, escalating a series of wholly unnecessary flame wars.

The videos of mine, Rebecca’s, and Dawkins’ participation on that panel are available on my channel.  But there was a fourth person on that stage with us, Tom Melchiorre, then editor of Secular World magazine.  His part of that speech is not available, because he said things there that were shown to be factually inaccurate.  So he asked me to take his portion down.  OK.  I understand and respect his decision, because he doesn’t have control over my video, and what he said there might mislead someone else.  We don’t want that.

If it were me who said something embarrassingly wrong, and I have control over the video, I would probably have left the up at least for posterity.  I would have posted annotations of course, admitting my error, but I don’t think I would take it down.  Personally I would rather own the mistake publicly.  In fact, I’ve already done that at least once already.

Eventually though I’m gonna say something that’s gonna piss off a buncha people.  Eventually we all have that moment where we say, “Dear Muslima, it’s more of a guy thing” or we express an unpopular opinion that results in a “clearing out of the friend cabinet”.  At every conference I’ve been to, someone said something that a lot of the audience objected to.  Myself I probably don’t agree with anyone 100% to begin with, but I think how we recover from such incidents is important.  Can we or should we defend a comment or controversial stance to the point that it divides or excludes our own resources?

In recent controversies, I have seen a couple people whom I respect admit that their first reaction was inappropriate.  Dillahunty is one such example.  He quickly corrected his behavior -on his own cognizance- and apologized accordingly.  This is why I like him so much.  However a few others haven’t been quite so self-reflective.

For example, Michael Shermer used to be a climate change denialist where he is not anymore.  Before that, he was religious.  So I know he can concede major positions, or even his whole life’s perspective when he should, but he doesn’t do that every time he should.  So he said something dumb.  The moment I read it, I realized it, and I winced.  He should have realized it the moment he said it. Once it was pointed out, (I think) he should have said, “Yeah that was dumb; let me retract or rephrase that”.  Instead what he did was to double-down his defense of an indefensible comment and start crying persecution to the point that he even evoked Nazis.  (sigh)  That was not the way to respond to what should have been a trivial human gaff, a momentary lack of eloquence.  Now he reportedly thinks he’s being ‘purged’ from the community.  If so, he’s doing that to himself, and he has the choice to stop doing that at any time.

Since then, he has only made it worse.  Most recently it seems he has decided that ‘liberals’ [me] are at war against science.  In which, -among other things- it seems we’re opposed to all forms of energy, including solar, wind, and advances in electric power.  Well, Shermer has thus far wasted only a handful of breaths speaking to me, but he should really take the time to hear me, before he pretends to speak for me, especially if he’s going to make such broad generalizations.  Remember all generalizations are wrong.  :-)

I wish he wouldn’t turn this into Libertarians versus Liberals, an argument he’s welcome to lose at another time.  I’m sick of the controversy over feminism, and all the other petty flame-wars too. What Shermer -and the rest of us- should be conscious of is that -as atheism grows as a movement- we’re only going to become more diverse.  That means much more conflicted opinions on a wider range of subjects.  But different sub-groups does not mean different groups.  We still have the same common enemy and same ultimate goal with regard to religion’s influence over science, education, politics, human rights, and so on.  That’s why there is a movement to begin with.  We’re outnumbered, out-funded, and out-gunned by a well-established and under-handed opposition.  At the risk of sounding like a hippie (which I am not), we’re not gonna make any progress with all this in-fighting and simulated persecution.  We shouldn’t be banning, blocking, trolling, or blacklisting each other either.  It would be best to talk directly to our detracting allies instead of talking about them in public posts…. like this one.  Shit, now I’m doing it too.

48 comments

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  1. 1
    Hank_Says

    I think a lot of people would be happy to talk openly to their opponents and coolly work out what differences can be worked out perhaps agree to disagree on (or leave alone entirely) others. It’s just that (similar to the avowed fundie whackjobs we all know and love – and even their meek n’ mil moderate cousins) there are some in this community whose reactions are so histrionic and whose sense of persecution is so elevated that they shriek about effing Nazis and witch-hunts after something as mild as three sentences of mild criticism from Ophelia Benson, or a very mild chide of “guys, don’t do that,” (which comprised perhaps one percent of the video that featured it). Not only do they shriek, but they do it endlessly – there’s two years’ worth of online venom, harassment, shaming, misrepresentations, bald-faced lies, borderline stalking, oft-spammed Google documents, blatantly dishonest Youtube crusading and endless stupid twitter sniping to back me up on that.

    TL;DR: if some of our ostensible allies could stop behaving like they’re the Last Mohicans and start acting like – I dunno – educated and intelligent adults who don’t agree on everything, a conversation could be possible.

  2. 2
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    Wait… Matt did apologize for what happened over at A+ concerning him? Or are you talking about something else?

    As to the rest of it… I hear what you’re saying, and you make a great point, but sometimes I think the derision becomes necessary. Shermer’s response to the whole thing is pathetic, and there’s simply no way I can take him seriously anymore.

    Dawkins is a much harder case for me, because he and “The God Delusion” played a role in my deconversion, and I still love shows like “The Root of All Evil”, “The Enemies of Reason”, “Faith School Menace”, “Sex, Death, and the Meaning of Life”, “The Genius of Charles Darwin”, and so on. I also love a lot of his early talks. To this day, the answer he gave a Virginia student, who asked him “what if you’re wrong?”, is my absolute favorite answer to that question ever. I memorized it so I could use it if I was ever asked, and have, in the time I first saw that talk (two years ago) to right now have had occasion to use it five times! And I want to use him saying “by all means let’s be open minded; just not so open minded our brains fall out!” as the ending to my song “Skepticism” (still not recorded, though). Not to mention that famous passage from “Unweaving the Rainbow” that I want read at my funeral…

    But “Dear Muslima” and his doubling-down on that, his more recent note that teaching children about Hell is somehow worse than sexually abusing them because the latter is just “yucky”, and a lot more in between has left me cold and dumbfounded. I had always assumed that Dawkins was a feminist until this, and now…

    Honestly, I’m really getting sick and tired of atheists who simply use feminism as a club to beat religious people over the head with, but when it starts to become a part of the atheist “community”, they practically turn into MRAs (some of them; and no, I’m not saying Dawkins did this… though I think we can say that Shermer is heading in that direction if he isn’t there already). Since when was atheism only about metaphorically beating up religious people, and using civil rights as the club to do it with?

    I will honestly never understand the reaction to Watson’s very simple request. I won’t talk about how she handled the criticism she got from Steph McGraw, but she did not deserve the backlash she got for The Request. And I understand even less how anyone could see Elevator Guy’s proposition to Watson as anything other than that. Context is always key, and I think the context makes it ultra clear what he really wanted… and it certainly wasn’t coffee; not at 4 am in his private hotel room. And then for DJ Grothe to snub her and Skepchicks like that, when Watson and the Skepchicks are responsible for bringing so many women to TAM… it just doesn’t make sense.

    Dawkins, Blackford, Shermer, Stefanelli, Hitchens, Harris… these are people I admired. And now… now, I just don’t know what to think or do about them. It’s fucking depressing.

  3. 3
    sofiarune

    I dunno. I gave up on championing atheism at all and moved right along to caring far more about secularism and science. I admit I may be simply fortunate and sheltered in an academic environment but I really thought movement atheism was better off playing a support role. That’s what the group I ran was about anyway; providing support for people coming out of religion and often losing their communities. We had all sorts of people, former Scientologists, Hindus, Christians and so on. Now that being an atheist doesn’t appear to be that big of a deal in my city I don’t really see the point in dragging the atheist movement thing along to champion secularism and science. Supporting disenfranchised atheists and pushing for secularism, science and education aren’t the same thing. I’d even go so far to say that the former is a subset of the latter and I get frustrated when so many people insist it’s the other way around.

    I would hope that a lot of people are finally beginning to realize that simply being an atheist doesn’t guarantee the ability to generally think critically, care about secularism or even be scientifically literate. The current nonsense between a handful of individuals in two well entrenched, dare I say dogmatic, camps is decent evidence of this I think.

    Perhaps that’s why I’m not that worried. While internet and conference heroes duke it out among themselves to gain the confidence of the already preached to choir, people like you will continue to actively and directly engage the problems with the education system etc. I don’t agree with your overall anti-theism but one of the reasons I’ve continued to have respect for you while my respect for others has eroded is because you don’t focus your efforts almost totally on the internet or on the conference scene. It’s so important to engage issues directly instead of fighting over who should be patting who on the back and in what forum.

    Wow that was a ramble. I’ll shut up now. :P

  4. 4
    Notung

    Nate:

    [Dawkins'] more recent note that teaching children about Hell is somehow worse than sexually abusing them because the latter is just “yucky”

    He was talking about particular kinds of teaching about Hell vs particular kinds of sexual abuse. That position is logically distinct from the view you’re attributing to him. ‘Yucky’ was something the person he was talking about said – he just quoted it. Did you see the interview in question (with Mehdi Hasan) or is your source that rather misleading tweet by Myriam Francois-Cerrah?

    1. 4.1
      NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

      Yes, I did see the original interview, and my problem is with the comparison itself. Both are horrible; they are not comparable. And I know it was a quote… it was a quote I would have ignored and never used.

      I think they are two very different things that result in some extremely different effects. I do not think they can be compared. I much prefer his comparisons with naming children into a particular religion, as opposed to naming them into a particular political party/ideology. That one is a much better comparison, IMO.

      I even prefer his comparison Creationists to Holocaust-deniers, as they are very much the same in the amount of evidence they deny, and how they deny it. The effects of the specific denials are different, but the denial itself is rather similar.

      I simply wish he hadn’t compared teaching children about hell and sexually abusing them on any level whatsoever.

  5. 5
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    We still have the same common enemy and same ultimate goal with regard to religion’s influence over science, education, politics, human rights, and so on.

    No, I think the problem is that we have ONE common enemy. That doesn’t necessarily make us friends.
    A world with no religion doesn’t necessarily make it a good world. Many attrocities, many human rights violations were never religiously motivated (look at Chinese foot-binding).
    In my political struggles I make many alliances and coalitions. Those are allies for ONE common goal. In Germany where I live this often means that I line up with the two big churches against conservative anti-social cuts.
    The atheist movement isn’t that much different to me: there’s a small amount of things we can all agree on and fight against. Apart from that, there’s not that much. People like Shermer stand for a world that’s fundamentally opposed to the world I want to live in. Pro-life atheists stand for a fundamentally different world. Atheist MRAs stand for a fundamentally different world. And I’m not going to compromise on that or act like it’s not all that important because hey, atheism.
    I don’t do “lie back and thik of the movement.”

  6. 6
    Hank_Says

    We shouldn’t be banning, blocking, trolling, or blacklisting each other either.

    There are more than a few individuals in this movement to whom we should not extend invitations to speak at our events or to lead our groups; to whom we should not grant the privilege of private conversation; to whom we should cease giving the benefit of the doubt. Although we should not troll as we are being trolled, and perhaps we should not blacklist, but there are indeed people in our movement that we should ban and block from our private spaces. This is not because they may disagree with us per se, but because, in service of their views, these people have exhibited certain patterns of behaviour and interaction that show with great clarity that they cannot be trusted to argue in good faith, to represent their opponents fairly, to admit any sort of error or misstatement or to behave in general with any more decency than those we would call our enemies.

    In fact, some of our alleged allies have behaved with such baffling, unapologetic viciousness and spoken with such outright bile against the mildest and/or most common-sense of statements or positions that I refuse to admit that they and I should be described as “each other”, as if we’re partners in the same struggle and share goals. We’re simply not. They have proven as much with their years of shameless public harassment and obsessive malice.

  7. 7
    Ant (@antallan)

    @ Nate #2

    I just don’t know what to think or do about them.

    They’re fallible people, just like you and me. Continue to admire them for what is admirable. Deplore them for what is deplorable.

    /@

    1. 7.1
      NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

      You’re right, of course. But the deplorable stuff is still depressing nonetheless.

  8. 8
    mikmik

    I will honestly never understand the reaction to Watson’s very simple request. I won’t talk about how she handled the criticism she got from Steph McGraw, but she did not deserve the backlash she got for The Request. And I understand even less how anyone could see Elevator Guy’s proposition to Watson as anything other than that. Context is always key, and I think the context makes it ultra clear what he really wanted… and it certainly wasn’t coffee; not at 4 am in his private hotel room. And then for DJ Grothe to snub her and Skepchicks like that, when Watson and the Skepchicks are responsible for bringing so many women to TAM… it just doesn’t make sense.

    Dawkins, Blackford, Shermer, Stefanelli, Hitchens, Harris… these are people I admired. And now… now, I just don’t know what to think or do about them. It’s fucking depressing.

    I thought I’d come here to discuss all kinds of arrogance and how there is much of that in general that we need be aware of, as it divisive, and people quickly fall into ‘all or nothing’ camps. Doesn’t take long for RW femz to start bringing her up and defending her and putting anyone that had a concern down.

    I know how long it took: first comment.
    And

    Honestly, I’m really getting sick and tired of atheists who simply use feminism as a club to beat religious people over the head with, but when it starts to become a part of the atheist “community”, they practically turn into MRAs (some of them; and no, I’m not saying Dawkins did this… though I think we can say that Shermer is heading in that direction if he isn’t there already).

    Uh, I need some numbers on this. Exactly who are the faux feminists that use women’s rights as a club to beat religion down, and the become MRA’s. Also, could you define exactly what the definition of MRA is, Please?
    But mostly, I need names and ratios for the people that use feminism as a club to beat people down with. The ones that are pro-feminism against Christianity in origin.
    I don’t understand how anyone can get so defensive over any criticism of RW’s ‘four little words’ , which is a minimization, BTW, because they are fucked right up over the 2 words ‘I’m sorry’ or the 4 words ‘What do your mean?’ or the 10 little words ‘I never considered that you have might have a concern’ and then ‘let’s work this out.’

    Seems like those are the hardest words in the world to utter, and I REALLY DON’T UNDERSTAND THAT.

    sofiarune
    I would hope that a lot of people are finally beginning to realize that simply being an atheist doesn’t guarantee the ability to generally think critically, care about secularism or even be scientifically literate. The current nonsense between a handful of individuals in two well entrenched, dare I say dogmatic, camps is decent evidence of this I think.

    I could not agree more. Atheism doesn’t have specializations. It is atheism. Setting special interest groups, and then deriding others for not agreeing with you entirely, no matter how noble the cause, hey, it’s destructive to cohesiveness, of course.
    But, some of this is almost inevitable, because since that start of blogging, people have been breaking up into camps, especially in politics, that inhibits open discussion.
    You are right, if something isn’t sound, it will become marginalized, and I notice myself, that I shouldn’t get so worked up sometimes, and just go elsewhere.

    1. 8.1
      Hank_Says

      Doesn’t take long for RW femz to start bringing her up and defending her and putting anyone that had a concern down.

      I know how long it took: first comment.

      “RW”, in response to “guys, don’t do that”, has endured two solid years of online thuggery and abuse and insults others have endured worse in response to words that they’ve written, leading them to cut back their writing (Jen McCreight) or leave the movement altogether (Natalie Reed). Rebecca herself has stated that she’s been close to pulling the plug due to the incessant torrent of hatred. That’s not “a concern”, it’s a dedicated campaign of harassment, plain and simple.

      I don’t understand how anyone can get so defensive over any criticism of RW’s ‘four little words’

      First, because the “four words” were so mild and common sense as to be unremarkable, but second and most important: instead of simple “criticism” (which I’m sure Rebecca could handle), there’s been two entire years of solid, uninterrupted harassment based on nothing but a wilfull misrepresentation of her intent, including put-downs and snark from purported “leaders” of the movement. Posts like yours, castigating those who defend Rebecca and call out her harassers and those who minimise her experience, enable the worst of the misogynists and anti-feminists and help to perpetuate the hatred.

      I find it interesting that your focus here is other peoples’ alleged overreactions to criticisms of Rebecca – not the frankly insane and obsessive ranting and misogyny in response to “please don’t proposition women in a tiny little box at dawn after they’ve said they’re calling it a night” that’s become toxic background radiation of the whole movement.

      For the record, I (a “femz” of which you speak – why the diminutive, by the way?) didn’t bring Rebecca Watson up. She’s mentioned in the original post!

  9. 9
    mikmik

    Forgot this

    I’m really getting sick and tired of atheists who simply use feminism as a club to beat religious people over the head with, but when it starts to become a part of the atheist “community”

    Don’t worry about the examples. Some of the A+ ers, would be enough examples. I see what you mean.

  10. 10
    Rick Robinson

    I’ve been pretty down on Shermer since TAM 4 when he started hitting on my wifein the conference hall. I still like his books though, he does good work. But yeah, he’s a snake.

  11. 11
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    We shouldn’t be banning, blocking, trolling, or blacklisting each other either.

    Why should we give them space, and what’s more our space?
    It’s one thing on a conference on religious freedom, where you invte a speaker with whose ideas on, say, gun rights you vehemently disagree.
    But it’s another thing to provide that person a space on your blog or elsewhere so they can talk at length about how guns are the ultimate thing when you lost a loved one due to a spree killing.

  12. 12
    Timothy

    On a larger scale, it appears the community lacks people with good diplomatic, peacemaking skills – it’s a niche role usually played by certain compassionate people of a community. These are people with emotional literacy, and a dependence on positive social energy. Where are they? I ask only because somebody has to take responsibility. When people won’t see/admit their offense, won’t concede, and continue to expand the luxury of sounding off and nitpicking, then that responsibility for community cohesion falls to someone outside the dispute to bind the community back together. Ironically, this is a meaning of “religiare” – a root of the word religion — let’s not forget entirely what the word means, where it comes from. In our case we are biding back not to “god” but to each other. No, this isn’t for hippies. We have far more in common that we think. The world will piss you off thoroughly if you’re stuck in insular, fragmentary modes of thinking. Which isn’t to say those modes don’t have value – but that communities depend on openness and mutability. With things like this people become rigid and put up defenses.

    If you know what I’m talking about – now is your time to step in. I’ve been watching this community for ages wondering where these people are.

  13. 13
    Kevin

    Every time I see a flame war start, I think to myself, “Wait. Is that an atheist saying that or someone pretending to be an atheist?”

    Now, I know I’m wrong, and that oodles and oodles of atheists do indeed say the weirdest shit. But the weird stuff just seems so anti-rational that I can’t help myself but attribute it to a religious wolf in sheep’s clothing.

    I also think there is a disturbing tendency in these things to have a black-white response. You’re either for or against someone — no middle ground allowed. And I think that’s wrong.

    For example, Dawkins said something incredibly stupid — does that mean I shouldn’t buy his books? No. It means that he’s a human being who is in the public eye and whose every eyebrow arch is parsed for meaning. And it means that he, like every other human on the planet, holds a viewpoint on some issue that does not coincide with mine. (BTW: One of my issues with Dawkins from WAY before the “Dear Muslima” episode and beyond was his disturbing tendency to insert foot in mouth and follow it up with the other foot.) But, all in all, he’s a hell of a good science communicator and effective advocate for the atheist position that there is no evidence for the existence of any god, including Heddle’s.

    But I do think less of a person like Shermer who can’t understand the difference between being told he’s being an ass and being the victim of a Nazi witch hunt (whatever the hell that is). And, truth be told, it does make me less likely to watch his videos, buy his books, attend conferences where he’s a featured speaker. (Hint, Michael: More than half your potential book-buying public was put-off by your “it’s a guy thing” remark. Just for your own economic well-being, you might want to hit the reset button.)

    But, like every human endeavor, it’s shades of gray and personal preference. I could totally forgive Hitchens his bizarre pro-Iraq war stance because of everything else he stood for. Thunderf00t’s “ankle biting”? Sorry, no. I unsubscribed from his channel almost at that instant. I do not need to follow someone whose thinking is that shallowly disordered and anti-half-the-world’s-population.

  14. 14
    David Rice

    Shermer’s complaint is that “the far left” act like “the far right,” which is true. But “the far left” in the USA make up what—- about 0.5% of the population, if even that much? “The far right” however make up around 25% of the USA population. The “far left” in the USA has no influence at all, and “the left” in general has not been heard from in USA politics for several decades. The “far right” however are hyper-influential in the USA, and that’s one of the major threats Americans face.

    1. 14.1
      cornelll

      David if the far right makes up 25% of the US population, then why did a ‘Mormon’ in Mitt Romney (who is referred to as a Moderate) get voted in for the presidential campaign representing the Republicans?

      If the far right has so much influence why couldn’t they get their guy into the campaign? Does the far right now support Mormonism? Or is Mormonism just not that big of a deal anymore? If the latter than it appears the far right is now more open-minded, which is good.

      Anyways, you need to back up your claims with some reputable sources.

  15. 15
    douglas1102

    I used to think this was a one-sided issue… turns out I was wrong. That is all =) P.S. Please make more Youtube vids “Talking to one who won’t listen” was unusually popular among my little circle of friends that really don’t even remotely care about any of this. I think you’ve the potential to be a LOT bigger name than you are right now. Forget the camps and worry about Aron and your own personal goals for a while.

  16. 16
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    @NateHevens
    As a matter of good politics and good speaking, probably a bad metaphor. His intent was probably to provoke a response, and he got one, though not the one he intended.

    Still, as a matter of facts, I know someone who has been sexually abused as kids, several in fact. They lead perfectly normal lives. AFAIK, they aren’t scarred by it. However, there are some children who went to places like Jesus Camp who probably are scarred for life.

    So, Dawkins is right, but that’s sometimes not enough as a public speaker. Kids sexual abuse is a cultural taboo he can break later if he’s so inclined, but it seems like a good plan to not piss off another segment of the population while going after religious people.

    1. 16.1
      Kevin Kirkpatrick (@kevakirk)

      You reference GIFT below. In my experience, the biggest fuckwads in life are those who assume a tone of civility, politeness, and emotional detachment while delivering the kind of ignorant, hurtful, and downright putrid pronouncements as what you have spewed forth here.

      Can you begin to fathom how it might strike a victim of childhood sexual abuse to read that, per codemonkey’s take on things, it’s basically the norm to be un-scarred by sexual abuse? Or to read how SEVERAL people codemonkey knows to have been abused went on to live “perfectly” normal lives? (As an aside: something tells me that if a victim of abuse were struggling with the emotional aftershocks of it, you just MIGHT not be the kind of person who they’d come to for emotional assistance).

      Anyway, polite tone aside, your post comes across with a implied message of “Victims of childhood sexual abuse – a mere cultural taboo, really – can basically just get over it and live happy lives if they’d only choose to do so [like all the victims I know of did].” I know, I know, you’re probable taken aback by this criticism because, dammit, your delivery was so completely not confrontational… You may even be feeling quite defensive at this moment, because after all, you’re just a friendly level-headed skeptic, not some internet fuckwad making light of the kinds of events that utterly and permanently destroy lives.

      Let me guess. In your mind, the real fuckwads are the kinds of people who call you out and try to make you look bad for being so “level-headed” and “down to earth” about things that everyone else seems to get so emotional about. Hell, I’m probably being a fuckwad right now, am I right? That said, it comes as no wonder that you’re less than comfortable around PZ’s commentariate, which must strike you as the biggest collection of fuckwaddery on the net.

  17. 17
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    @David Rice
    Let me take a moment to plug one thing. The anti-science far left do have a lot of voice in one of Shermer’s claims, energy policy. We don’t have a sane energy policy because of the far left and far right, in seemingly equal portions. The unscientific nuclear hysteria bothers me so much when it’s the correct option to anyone with half a brain. Well, that or they buy into some Malthus bullshit and think that we need to lower the human population via mass starvation, and I have met some people who claim that on FtB, but let’s discuss that at another time.

  18. 18
    savagemutt

    On a larger scale, it appears the community lacks people with good diplomatic, peacemaking skills – it’s a niche role usually played by certain compassionate people of a community. These are people with emotional literacy, and a dependence on positive social energy. Where are they?

    Online? They’re usually busy being dismissed as Concern Trolls.

    1. 18.1
      Timothy

      Online, yes. I understand that. It’s a more Socratic personality type perhaps not easily recognized in more impersonal of media – it’s more easily seen in person — I think that’s why the internet is prone to stricter competitive types of “debate.” There’s an important piece missing if this quality of discourse remains pervasive.

  19. 19
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    @savagemutt
    Agreed. I avoid PZ’s comment section like the plague. They get to be extremely rude as long as consensus is that they’re right, but as soon as the other guy gets to be rude they immediately ignore him and/or call for bans, despite whatever they may claim to say. I’ve seen it happen enough times.

    @Timothy
    The problem with online discussions is invariably the GIFT:
    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19
    GIFT = Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory

    PS: I chuckled when I heard that real psychologists and/or sociologists use the term informally and sometimes formally.

  20. 20
    cornelll

    @Aronra

    Aronra says “We all know that after that Watson said something that was blown way out of proportion. This was largely because Dawkins said something that, well, wasn’t his most brilliant commentary.”

    Yes it wasn’t brilliant, but it wasn’t as bad as many people made it out to be.

    Cf: http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2011/07/richard-dawkins-draws-feminist-wrath-over-sexual-harassment-comments/39637/

    I’ve actually stuck up for Dawkins regarding that elevator scenario, as I’ve seen people take what he said out of context as well as oversimplify his statements. (the gum chewing comment was interesting)

    Though these misunderstanding happen to many people who are well known, as once you achieve fame your can be subjected to being looked as if it is under a microscope.

    Aronra “We shouldn’t be banning, blocking, trolling, or blacklisting each other either. It would be best to talk directly to our detracting allies instead of talking about them in public posts”

    Honestly I think the same criteria here should be used for people who ‘disagree’ with you as well, hence why I hold dearly (or at least try) to the principle of charity. As far as the word ‘ally’ goes, I personally don’t find you to be an enemy of mine, but if you see this differently than me then I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on this factor of labeling. .

    ty

  21. 21
    Rob

    cornelll – If Mitt Romney is a political moderate then 98% of the new Zealand electorate are card carrying communists. Strangely we don’t have a communist Government. On social policy we tend to be somewhat more left wing than the US (OK a lot more). However, on economic policy we are in many respects more right wing. Any discussion of ‘left’ and ‘right’ in politics should really acknowledge that the spectrum is much much wider than is accepted generally in the US where your main political parties are right- and really-right.

    1. 21.1
      cornelll

      @Rob

      Rob thank you for showing us why making comparisons between New Zealand and US won’t work to well.

    2. 21.2
      cornelll

      So anyways who’s opinion do we go with here?

      The tea party who says Mitt is a moderate?

      http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2012/11/07/tea-party-slams-mitt-romney-as-weak-moderate-candidate-hand-picked-by-mushy-middle-gop

      Or do we go with the liberal Washington times who was undecided, though conceded the point that Romney was a moderate when he was in Massachusetts?

      “One thing Romney emphasized over and again was the need to hammer out his policy agenda through negotiations with Congress. And that, I think, provides the answer. If Romney is facing a Democratic Congress that demands compromise in return for votes — the same situation he faced in Massachusetts — he’ll be more like the Massachusetts moderate he presented as last night.”

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/10/04/which-romney-will-voters-get/

      Moderate Mitt was a slogan I saw constantly

      http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/23/neocon-romney-moderate-mitt-debate_n_2006254.html

      Or do we go with what Rob says?

  22. 22
    Rob

    cornelll – thank you for missing the point ;-)

  23. 23
    Cornell

    ^No I actually got the point, (though you made no sense as you kinda refuted your argument)

    Since when do you decide what’s moderate and what’s not? Perhaps this goes back to the old ‘criteria’ game in which I could easily use against anyone who tries to argue for a party.

    Person 1 makes claim about X and says he is part of this party

    Person 2 asks for a criteria for what’s makes X similar to the party

    neither one agrees one the criteria, the argument then becomes meaningless.

    hence if my next comment which is in moderation ever gets approved you’ll notice I listed democrats and right wingers who referred to Romney as a ‘moderate’.

  24. 24
    cornelll

    For some reason this link was rejected and didn’t post

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/23/neocon-romney-moderate-mitt-debate_n_2006254.html

    neither did this:

    http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2012/11/07/tea-party-slams-mitt-romney-as-weak-moderate-candidate-hand-picked-by-mushy-middle-gop

    Even the tea party didn’t approve of Romney holding to their position, so if Romney wasn’t a moderate then what in the world was he?

    1. 24.1
      NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

      The problem lies in the political spectrum. For the record, I was born and raised in the US by parents who were born and raised in the US by parents who were born and raised in the US.

      The political spectrum in the US is skewed so far to the right that I’m quite sure we haven’t seen left-wing since Abraham Lincoln… or… okay… maybe Theodore Roosevelt… maybe. Our spectrum runs the gamut from conservative anarchists to right-leaning moderates. We don’t have anybody who is <i.actually left of right-of-center. So we had to move actual center to the right to accommodate our right-wing spectrum. So the Democrats are not actually left-wing. They’re just not as far to the right as the Republicans.

      You are absolutely correct that Romney is a moderate when judging him by US politics. And you’d also be right to point out that, when judging US politicians, we should use US politics to do so.

      But I can tell you the reason you’ll never get anywhere calling Romney a “moderate” to anyone who isn’t a US citizen. The fact is, only in the US (amongst developed nations) is politics set the way it is. Literally the rest of the developed world has a political spectrum much more normalized than ours; to them, the US has no left-wing (also note my refusal to refer to those who are left-wing as “liberals”; that’s because only in the US is “liberal” left-wing). And the reason it’s their political spectrum that’s normalized and not ours is because once, a long time ago, we had the same political spectrum that everybody else had; we’re the ones who deviated to the right.

      And I can say this because Barack Obama is a Tea Party Conservative compared to me, and yet only in the US would I be called a Socialist (the proper label for what I am is a Social Libertarian, although I don’t fall neatly into that, either, as I do support Affirmative Action and absolutely believe the market should be heavily regulated, because money is not a god and should not have control). The US has been wholly conservative for years. I’m not even sure the Green party can be considered totally left wing. They are definitely the closest to left wing that we have in politics, but they still don’t make it far enough to qualify as truly left wing. That’s what you have to understand, cornell.

      So yes, Romney is a moderate, but only in the US. Elsewhere, he’s as far to the right as the rest of the US.

  25. 25
    paulbran

    Hi Aron,

    So he said something dumb.  The moment I read it, I realized it, and I winced.  He should have realized it the moment he said it. Once it was pointed out, (I think) he should have said, “Yeah that was dumb; let me retract or rephrase that”.  Instead what he did was to double-down his defense of an indefensible comment and start crying persecution to the point that he even evoked Nazis.  (sigh)

    Here’s the trigger for me. You read it. You didn’t watch it first and come to the same conclusion as OB. You most probably read it either from OB or somewhere in usual FTB shit-storm. If you had watched it, you went into it primed to see something you might not otherwise had much of a problem with.

    That was not the way to respond to what should have been a trivial human gaff, a momentary lack of eloquence.  Now he reportedly thinks he’s being ‘purged’ from the community.  If so, he’s doing that to himself, and he has the choice to stop doing that at any time.

    Really, well tell us more oh great arbiter of how to respond to people piling onto you over something you consider, at best, a trivial mistake. If you don’t consider what you did a mistake do you still apologise? Wouldn’t want to double down. If it’s quite obvious that you didn’t make a mistake and were merely trying to make a distinction before returning the question back to the host, do you then apologise? To who? A blogger who’s taken your words and tortured them into “women can’t do thinky”? Personally, i’d be inclined to give you all the finger too.

    Since then, he has only made it worse.  Most recently it seems he has decided that ‘liberals’ [me] are at war against science.  In which, -among other things- it seems we’re opposed to all forms of energy, including solar, wind, and advances in electric power.

    Yeah, and he was wrong about that, and Watson was right to call him on it. Myers, not so much (but another story). He didn’t make anything worse, he just posted a dumb-ass article that can be criticised on its own (lack of) merits.

    We’re outnumbered, out-funded, and out-gunned by a well-established and under-handed opposition.  At the risk of sounding like a hippie (which I am not), we’re not gonna make any progress with all this in-fighting and simulated persecution.  We shouldn’t be banning, blocking, trolling, or blacklisting each other either.  It would be best to talk directly to our detracting allies instead of talking about them in public posts…. like this one.  Shit, now I’m doing it too.

    Music to my ears matey. How about you give it another go at you-know-where, and this time give us something other than a quick correction over whether it was you or your wife who wrote some article. While you’re at it maybe you can also tell Dillahunty to stop making his “brain-dumps” whilst he’s in command of 2 tonnes of moving steel.

    Cheers.

    1. 25.1
      NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

      Here’s the trigger for me. You read it. You didn’t watch it first and come to the same conclusion as OB. You most probably read it either from OB or somewhere in usual FTB shit-storm. If you had watched it, you went into it primed to see something you might not otherwise had much of a problem with.

      Oh goody! I have the distinction of having actually watched the episode live. So I’m happy to say I heard/saw it long before OB even knew what happened… and I had the exact same reaction she did.

      Which, BTW, if you haven’t read Ophelia’s reaction (and I get the very distinct impression that you haven’t), you should. You’ll see it wasn’t that bad at all. In point of fact, she doesn’t call Michael Shermer a misogynist. She used that statement he made as an example of that type of thinking. She doesn’t even accuse Shermer of actually thinking that way! In point of fact, she ignores him for the rest of the article! He isn’t even the focal point! His statement was just a ready example!

      And all Shermer had to do in response was say “actually, it was kind of a stupid statement. I was trying to be funny, but I could have done better and not resort to a common stereotype. Sorry.”

      Really, well tell us more oh great arbiter of how to respond to people piling onto you over something you consider, at best, a trivial mistake. If you don’t consider what you did a mistake do you still apologise? Wouldn’t want to double down. If it’s quite obvious that you didn’t make a mistake and were merely trying to make a distinction before returning the question back to the host, do you then apologise? To who? A blogger who’s taken your words and tortured them into “women can’t do thinky”? Personally, i’d be inclined to give you all the finger too.

      There was no witch hunt, no Nazis, none of it… not until he responded by doubling-down and being an asshole. No one would have “piled on him” if not for his abysmal response.

      1. paulbran

        Hi NateHeavens,

        Good for you mate. You’re also an idiot, have you considered cramming it sideways rather than demanding an apology?

        1. NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

          That’s it? That’s all you got? An ad hom?

          that tells me all I need to know about you. Thanks.

          1. paulbran

            Thanks Nate. Bye bye now.

  26. 26
    Rob

    Cornell – we’re in danger of hijacking Aron’s thread and/or boring everyone else, so I’ll make this my last. I never made a claim as to what ‘moderate’ is. In fact you introduced the term in your comment at 14.1. The term is somewhat problematic as it assumes that there is an extreme on at least two sides for comparison. Additionally a person or group may be ‘moderate’ in one sense and ‘extreme’ or at least not-moderate in others. At 24 you (I think) are saying that the Tea Party don’t approve of Romney, so therefore he must be a moderate. No. If two right-wingers are discussing a third right-winger as being moderate, all that means is that that person is regarded as moderate in right-wing circles. Same applies in the case of left-wingers.
     
    My observation over several decades is that political discourse in the US (and several other democracies) has moved distinctly rightward. That has led to a shrinking of the ‘moderate’ base as measured objectively as opposed to in any relative sense. You might be interested to look at this if you have not seen it before.
    http://xkcd.com/1127/

    1. 26.1
      cornelll

      Rob, this is why you are actually agreeing with my first comment in 14.1 as well.

      Read my response to NateHevens:

      Your point has absolutely no bearing on my original statement as my objection was isolated to the US.

      So you and Nate are either agreeing with me here or not saying anything crucial to my first point.

      In fact you are helping my case, I wouldn’t mind playing the definition game, but this would entail David Rice to do the same. Either way his comment would be shown to be implausible or incomplete.

      ty

      1. NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

        (Your response to me hasn’t been published, yet.)

        I just want to point out that I wasn’t taking sides in your debate with Rob, just explaining why someone who’s not a US citizen would not agree that Romney’s a moderate.

        My own personal opinion is that Romney’s positions changed so damn often that there’s really no way to tell. I’m quite sure the wind doesn’t change it’s mind that often…

  27. 27
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    “it’s basically the norm to be un-scarred by sexual abuse?” — pretty sure I didn’t say that.
    “Victims of childhood sexual abuse – a mere cultural taboo, really – can basically just get over it and live happy lives if they’d only choose to do so [like all the victims I know of did].” – pretty sure I didn’t say that either.
    “PZ’s commentariate, which must strike you as the biggest collection of fuckwaddery on the net.” — please. I also regularly surf 4chan. (At least parts 4chan is amusing to make up for the total asshats.)

    Done now? Chill man.

  28. 28
    EnlightenmentLiberal

    And figures, didn’t properly reply. My previous message was directed at Kevin Kirkpatrick (@kevakirk).

  29. 29
    mechtheist

    This recent insanity over sexual abuse gives us the horrors of the McMartin Pre-School case, attempts to charge people with felony sex offenses for mooning, life sentences for child-porn possession, and even child-porn charges with significant prison time for someone cutting out pictures of kids from catalogs and the like, and then pasting them on adult-porn. Of course child sexual abuse can be horrific, even deadly, but everything with a hint of children and sex isn’t a horrific, life-scarring event. And a great deal of it is far less damaging than the truly horrific religious upbringing so many have had. How much of the damage sexual child-abuse inflicts is in part caused by the victims being made to understand how ugly sex is and how tainted they are now?

  30. 30
    Owlglass

    Aronra, I think you are a bit like a straw vulcan in this one :)

    Strong accusations demand strong apologies, further complicated when the situation is perceived as unfair. What’s more, people have to get over themselves and swallow their pride, and accept the prerogative of interpretation of the accusers. Shermer’s recent writings are pretty weird, but once I learned how extreme the accusations are and how quickly they are used, it brings his reactions a little bit more into perspective. I only recently acquainted myself with everything from Pharyngula to the Phawrongula wiki and from Benson, Watson and Christina to Slyme Pit and found that none of the sides involved come away particularly well. But where one side claims to be righteous, and fails miserably, the the other seems to be more into Lulz, and succeed.

  31. 31
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    Holy fuck! Attack of the spambots like woah!

    All right, Aron… I think maybe it’s time to start checking up on your comments?

  32. 32
    Motors

    I don`t agree with you

  33. 33
    Päivinen

    Well people have different kind of reason buy saying stupid things one day seems to be not a good thing cause you can make things cool on the day when you are not yet saying it.You know what i mean.In Helsinki i been a project manager and o manage a lot of project.Being patient is one of my key to solve every problem that we are going to take.

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