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Jun 24 2012

So much help, so unwanted

Meta. God this is boring. As briskly as possible -

Verbose S

to call the situations “threatening” runs a massive risk of saying that they were intentional threats, not that the person was reasonable to feel, at least, that there might be a threat.

What “massive risk”? There was nothing at stake. No one was named. What possible “massive risk” could there be? Harm to the reputation of [????????] That’s not a risk.

Verbose S again

 Thus, the “risk” I am talking about is another type of risk, the risk of using the word “threatening” to refer to the intentions of people as opposed to what people like Watson and Ophelia might feel based, which is wrong.  Thus, it opens up the risk of being wrong.

Oh that massive risk. So it’s massively risky for me to use the word “threats” to refer to threats but it’s fine for you to warn of the “massive risk” of…being wrong.

Verbose S again

If someone says that “X was threatening you”, then the implication is always that that was intentional, and not just that the person found it threatening.

But that isn’t what I said. I said I got email threats. The whole rest of your reply is subject to the same objection. Careless; points deducted.

S Beesley

your original post stated, unambiguously, that you had “got email threats about TAM”. No ifs, no buts, no nuance.

But getting threats doesn’t mean one thing and one thing only. I did get threats: threats about what was likely to happen, and how likely it was. Somebody telling me that it was very likely that I would be shot at TAM felt like a threat to me. That’s a perfectly normal use of the word. People talk about a threat of rain, for godsake.

My personal opinion is that you made a error of judgement in your original post.

By saying I got email threats when I did get email threats. That’s ridiculous.

I fear that you’re defending the indefensible

See above.

S Beesley again

The clear meaning here was that the emailer threatened her.

No. One possible meaning; not the clear meaning.

S Beesley again

My observation is that Ophelia is now complaining that reasonable people are not taking a nuanced approach which would not be possible from the original post.

Yes it would; see above.

It’s very kind of both of you to spend this much time and effort trying to show that I was wrong to say I got threats when I got threats, but really, it’s not necessary. I got this.

33 comments

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  1. 1
    Verbose Stoic

    Ophelia,

    And the fact that I was not referring to anything you said but, in fact, to something that bad Jim said, and clarified it in such a way that you saying you found the E-mail threatening would be perfectly reasonable, to the point where julian and I, at least, agreed that we weren’t disagreeing on points like that, as part of a conversation where I repeatedly expressed annoyance that people seemed to be refusing to accept that I conceded that very point somehow escaped you?

    I find it both amusing and annoying that I’m basically being called out for not only something I never said, not only about things that I never referenced, but basically am being interpreted as making a comment that I, in fact, continually denied that I was making. Sheesh.

  2. 2
    Forbidden Snowflake

    How nice of them to explain everything to you so patiently.

  3. 3
    Ophelia Benson

    I know, right?

  4. 4
    Ophelia Benson

    Verbose S – you weren’t referring to anything I said? Well what was your point then? Did you come all this way just to straighten out a commenter? In several comments? That’s taking SIWOTI a little too far.

    I find you annoying but not amusing.

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    I’ll also add that you’re lecturing someone who got threats about how to word the way she talks about said threats. That’s kind of a stupidly callous way to spend that much time. The “massive” risk of being wrong really isn’t all that massive.

  6. 6
    Bernard Hurley

    I would have posted something earlier but this sort of thing tends to get me worked up and I might end up saying something I would regret later. However I thought I ought to say that when I was a trade union rep., if a member had received emails similar the ones you received, I definitely would have assumed the member was being threatened. Moreover if the sender were employed by the same organisation, I would have insisted that he/she be disciplined.

    Whatever the rights or wrongs, of your recent posts and of your opinions and whatever anyone thinks of them, I can’t see how any sane person can fail to take these emails as either threats or as emanating from someone who was seriously disturbed. The idea that they might constitute helpful advice from a supporter is absurd.

  7. 7
    Verbose Stoic

    Ophelia,

    Um, I happened to read the post because of the reference to Russell Blackford, mainly commented to correct Greg Laden’s comment about his not including P.Z. Myers, and then added on the comment about bad Jim calling it “threatening” as part of that. What I was trying to do was indeed clarify the difference between implying the intent of the person — or any state of that person — and what the other person might feel or find threatening. I then got jumped on by latsot for what I felt was a blatant misinterpretation of what I was saying, which irritated me, so I defended myself. Julian jumped in as well, I clarified, and between at least myself and julian it was settled. And then you started it up again.

    I never thought that you were meaning, at this point, to imply anything about the intent of the person who sent you the E-mail. I presumed that you were only interested in defending your interpretation of the initial E-mail as seeming like a threat and so making a reasonable conclusion that it was a threat. I, in fact, conceded that already … a few times. I think it’s perfectly acceptable and reasonable for you to have read that E-mail and felt threatened. And yet it seems like you still think or are accusing me of not accepting that.

    And I only came back to see if Greg Laden had corrected his error …

  8. 8
    Ophelia Benson

    Verbose S – all right, but in fact your claim is highly dubious. What bad Jim said was:

    To deny that both situations were threatening, and to insist that only the most benign interpretation was ever reasonable, is patronizing in the extreme.

    I think your pouncing on “threatening” and talking about massive risk (of being wrong) was a pounce too many. And it’s part of this whole unattractive picture of men rushing up to search frantically for something they can wave around to say “It wasn’t a threat at all!!”

  9. 9
    Verbose Stoic

    Ophelia,

    And it was the risk of that impression that made me go on to say:

    I think that both Watson and Ophelia here were not being unreasonable to think that it might be a threat, and might have had reason to feel uncomfortable, but that didn’t mean that there was any intention to do so.

    In my opinion, one of the reasons these conversations go so poorly is that people don’t distinguish between saying “It is reasonable for a person to find this situation/comment threatening” and “This specific person intentionally threatened that person”. A lot of the people who get up in arms over these things take the people as talking about the latter, which in a lot of cases doesn’t make sense, while the former would be reasonable and accurate. And then I always see people taking great pains to talk past each other because of this.

  10. 10
    Ophelia Benson

    Bernard – heh – it wasn’t proofreading, just reading for meaning!

    I’ll edit.

  11. 11
    Bernard Hurley

    Verbose Stoic, the speech act of sending these emails does constitute a threat. The question of whether the threat is sincere is irrelevant.

  12. 12
    Ophelia Benson

    Verbose – well that’s all very interesting but this wasn’t “these conversations,” it was one in particular, in which I spelled all that out very clearly. I really didn’t need your help to make a distinction I’d already made in the post. I don’t really need your help with anything. You’re talking to me as if I’m an idiot.

  13. 13
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Remember (I know you already know this): you could always ban these malicious pinheads. They have zero interest in a fair exchange. I can only speak for myself, but I think you’ve gone above and beyond any responsibility to civil discourse in allowing this to go on as long as you have and in continuing to argue in good faith. They’re going to shout “Censorship!!!!” even after they’ve left 500 repetitive, nonresponsive, attacking comments, anyway.

  14. 14
    Ophelia Benson

    Oh I’m banning all the obvious just doing it for giggles-ers. But Verbose S isn’t that, he’s been around for a long time. He tends to get on my nerves because he’s patronizing and (as it says on the tin) longwinded, but he’s not a troll.

  15. 15
    Verbose Stoic

    Ophelia,

    I wasn’t talking to you at all! I was talking to bad Jim!

    As I said here, I presumed from the start that you were making that distinction. I warned against bad Jim not making the distinction clear. And got jumped on. And am still getting jumped on, by you here still interpreting me as doing something that I never did and have continually said I never did.

    You can believe me or not, but at this point I fail to see how I can say it any clearer.

  16. 16
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    But Verbose S isn’t that, he’s been around for a long time.

    I can’t remember any behavior that’s very different from this. But you probably have a better memory on this one.

  17. 17
    anthrosciguy

    So when those Mafia guys came around the neighborhood saying “nice little shop you got here; be a shame if anything happened to it” they were just being friendly and I shouldn’t be concerned that I said I wouldn’t give them an ownership stake? That sure takes a load off my mind.

  18. 18
    Ophelia Benson

    Verbose S @ 15 – does it occur to you that possibly the fault is yours rather than mine? That your verbosity impedes clarity? It certainly occurs to me.

  19. 19
    Lyanna

    I knew this kind of “helpful” comment would start to show up as soon as you posted the email you received. People can’t resist giving this type of “help” whenever someone comes forward to say they have been threatened or victimized. The urge to dismiss and minimize is just too great.

    I don’t see what Verbose Stoic’s point is, if not to dismiss and minimize. Either he is saying something stupidly offensive, or he’s saying nothing at all.

  20. 20
    Tim Harris

    Nothing at all, or so little as to be near nothing: but he seems not to have chosen his name for nothing, although it is the verbosity that seems to apply to him, the stoicism to those who make the effort to keep reading his stuff to find out a point that is less than trivial…

  21. 21
    Josh Slocum

    Do you ever shut up, VS? Has no one—no one at all—who cares about you as a friend, lover, or colleague told you that your verbosity is not, in fact, a virtue? That it makes you irritating, opaque and fabulously dull to read? If not your associates have done you a disservice.

    You picked the wrong personal quirk to elevate into an online identity. You’re not incisive, nor do you project an air of someone who thinks deeply. You read like a fucking windbag.

  22. 22
    Brian

    You read like a fucking windbag.
    Damn that’s a quality put down. Verbose S isn’t a straight troll, from what I’ve seen, which isn’t that much. Though s/he is concerned about things like erring. Something Ophelia seems oddly unappreciative of. ;)
    But certainly verbose.

  23. 23
    bad Jim

    Wow. My mild comment is still being referenced? I feel so … influential.

    All I said was that the emails Ophelia received did communicate the threat that her life would be at risk during her visit to TAM (hence the necessity for elaborate defensive measures). It’s certainly true that “I’m going to kill you” and “Somebody’s going to kill you” are distinct assertions, but they share an implication few of us have had to consider.

    It was perhaps a stretch to note in the same sentence that an unwelcome invitation by a stranger in a hotel elevator in the middle of the night might also be perceived as a threat. I tied them together not because they were especially similar events but because, when the recipients of the unwanted attention took exception, their objections were vociferously and disproportionately condemned.

    Perhaps not everyone knows someone who was raped. I’m only sure about one of my friends. Beaten up? A few. How many were discouraged, disparaged, threatened or intimidated? Pretty much any woman I’ve known well enough for the subject to surface.

    I don’t have any problem deciding which side I’m on.

  24. 24
    dirigible

    “In my opinion, one of the reasons these conversations go so poorly is that people don’t distinguish”

    Also, if people say “it’s threatening to rain”, what is this mysterious “it” that’s going to rain?

    I don’t think rain will fall, there is no “it” and people are wrong to claim that there is.

  25. 25
    Bernard Hurley

    Thank you, dirigible, for the lesson on the impersonal usage of the verb “threaten.” One wonders whether you are the type of dirigible that is full of hot air.

  26. 26
    Alan Cooper

    Obviously (to me) it is not appropriate to quibble with the wording someone uses to express fear of a perceived threat.

    But once the threat has been removed there may be some value in noting how language is often misunderstood.

    If I got a message warning me to watch my back I’d be scared and I might interpret it as a threat. And if I announced it as a threat I’d be offended if anyone quibbled with that and I’d say something like “Fuck Off! I was scared and it felt like a threat to me”

    But once I got to feeling safer I’d be disinclined to insist that it actually *was* a threat unless I believed that the sender really wanted me to think that they or their agent would do me harm. Even if I still thought it was a deliberately threatening message intended to unnerve me I wouldn’t still insist on calling it a threat. (But I would still tell anyone who said I shouldn’t have called it one to STFU)

    And, yes, I am quibbling here too. But not with your original report though, just with part of your responses to VS&SB. I would say the language quibble didn’t deserve an analytic response unless you wanted to give it one. But you did, and I think that (absent the current context) the language question is actually worth considering.

  27. 27
    Lyanna

    Alan, the problem is there is no “absent the current context.” The current context is present. We can’t wish it away.

    But once I got to feeling safer I’d be disinclined to insist that it actually *was* a threat unless I believed that the sender really wanted me to think that they or their agent would do me harm. Even if I still thought it was a deliberately threatening message intended to unnerve me I wouldn’t still insist on calling it a threat. (But I would still tell anyone who said I shouldn’t have called it one to STFU)

    Really? A deliberately threatening message intended to unnerve you isn’t a threat? That doesn’t appear to make sense.

  28. 28
    Ophelia Benson

    Bernard – I’m pretty sure dirigible was being “ironic”!

    Hall of mirrors around here, innit.

  29. 29
    Stephen Beesley

    Ophelia, I said

    your original post stated, unambiguously, that you had “got email threats about TAM”. No ifs, no buts, no nuance.

    and you replied

    But getting threats doesn’t mean one thing and one thing only. I did get threats: threats about what was likely to happen, and how likely it was. Somebody telling me that it was very likely that I would be shot at TAM felt like a threat to me. That’s a perfectly normal use of the word. People talk about a threat of rain, for godsake.

    Whatever you may have meant, the clear and obvious meaning of what you actually said was that someone directly threatened you. That is the meaning that was understood in those hundreds of comments in your original post.

    So yes, one possible meaning and yes, absolutely the clear meaning.

  30. 30
    Ophelia Benson

    I bow to your sophisticated understanding of meaning, ambiguity, and absolutes.

  31. 31
    Stephen Beesley

    I likewise bow to your sophisticated wit.

    So, are we friends now?

  32. 32
    kagerato

    Oh, not this bastard again. For those just tuning in, here’s a few things you might want to know about Verbose Stoic.

    1.) He’s a known apologist for genocide (for the right cause, of course):

    http://www.daylightatheism.org/2011/07/they-have-no-answer.html

    Check his comments #121, #123, #125 among others.

    2.) He supports slut shaming (also for the right cause):

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2012/03/05/why-misogynistic-language-matters/

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2012/03/05/no-you-cant-call-people-sluts/

    Too many comments to really just pick a few. Just search for his name.

    3.) He will not back down, retract, or apologize, because he has a serious authoritarian complex. He will quibble over the dumbest, most mundane, most pointless non-issues as though they were the actual topic of discussion. His insipid personality and vacuous character comes out in just about every last thing he’s ever said on the internet, so I won’t bother to leave a reference for these.

  33. 33
    Ophelia Benson

    Ew. I don’t think I’d seen that misogyny thread before. I don’t think I’ve seen any of those.

    Well that at least explains why he’s inserting himself into the discussion of TAM and harassment policy and who said what.

    Ugh. He’s always annoyed me, but I didn’t know he was that bad.

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