Civil but not sedate


More on this issue about how to discuss things without everyone getting out the flamethrowers, and do we even want to discuss things that way, and is it the right thing to do even if we don’t want to.

I do think it’s better to err on the side of avoiding calling people names, but I have to add that I don’t actually want a Fully Sedate™ discussion. Chris Hallquist explains one reason today.

Furthermore, most of Dan’s suggested alternatives are to a degree academic and there’s a risk of classism in demanding people put their criticisms of others in academic terms. Robin Hanson makes a good point about this:

Lower “working” class cultures tend to talk more overtly. Insults are more direct and cutting, friends and co-workers often tease each other about their weaknesses. Nicknames often express weakness – a fat man might be nicknamed “slim.”

Upper class culture, in contrast, tends more to emphasize politeness and indirect communication. This helps to signal intelligence and social awareness, and distinguishes upper from lower classes.

I hadn’t thought of that. I don’t think cutting insults are a good thing even if they are part of working class culture, but I think there is something to the idea. I know that I don’t want this place to be academic-like.

I’ve read a couple of Fully Sedate™ threads on distant sites lately, and while it’s good that there’s no “hey you’re stupid and ugly,” the trouble is that they were also quite lifeless and boring – even stilted. I don’t want that.

This is no doubt because I’m shallow and lazy and frivolous. I don’t like dryness in writing. Then again I also don’t like too much poppyness – I’m a good deal too fussy.

But there it is. I don’t want ponderousness. Maybe I should, but I don’t. I want lively writing. That doesn’t mean rude or flamey or permananently hostile – but it does mean leaving room for irritation and frustration and exasperation, along with humor.

So not flamethrowers – how about those party favor things that unfurl and toot when you blow on them?

Comments

  1. says

    I find it interesting how even here, even on FtB where we talk about the issues of privilege pretty much constantly, various types of privilege fall through the cracks on a regular basis. Being one of the previously mentioned “lower” people, it can actually be pretty jarring to come across some of the obliviousness to class that happens on occasion.

  2. Pteryxx says

    Joe, I for one would appreciate it if you can point out when classist crap happens. It’s not called out nearly enough IMHO – if it *were*, I wouldn’t be so darned surprised and embarrassed on the few occasions someone *does*.

  3. says

    Pteryxx,

    It isn’t just when someone describes people like me as “lower”, although that’s certainly part of it. It is also in the topics and the way those topics are discussed. For instance, there was a thread about “helping the lower class out of poverty” that focused on education and loans for business and ways for poor people to leave behind poverty and join the middle class by getting higher paying jobs. Nowhere in that conversation was there any mention of across-the-board wage increases for dishwashers and burger-flippers and the majority of people who work damn hard for a living for not much money. The hidden assumption was that ultimately, there are people who DESERVE to make less than a living wage or who should have to work two jobs, and our mission as a society is to do a better job of not letting more deserving people fall through the cracks.

  4. Pteryxx says

    *wince* I didn’t see that one, but it’s a pet peeve of mine that decent, hardworking restaurant servers get paid three bucks an hour because they’re “supposed” to make sooooo much money in tips. I’ll try to step up my pushing that point. Thanks.

  5. says

    I think “lower” working class was being used in a technical sense there, rather than descriptively. Sociologically.

    The thing about wages for workers is a huge bugbear of mine. It drives me nuts the way poverty is treated like some kind of accident while pundits never shut up about “decreasing labor costs” and having a more “flexible work force.”

  6. Pteryxx says

    Ugh… what on earth *should* the term be? Are “working-class” or “blue-collar” any better?

  7. says

    One of the best moments of my day walking all over Washington DC in May was seeing some murals through a window and taking a closer look and seeing that they were of and about workers, and looking to see what the building was – it was AFL-CIO headquarters. I went inside to get a better look. Union.

  8. says

    I’m happy with working class… when I’m able, I certainly do work. And by comparison with most extremely rich people who do little or no work, it can be a point of pride.

    And yes Ophelia, calling me “lower” is the academic term… doesn’t that tell you something?

  9. Pteryxx says

    Okay… I twitch a bit because “working class” seems to leave out people who can’t or don’t work but still don’t have much money: folks on welfare, students, homeless, marginalized and so on. I’m ignorant of the field though.

  10. says

    I don’t know… I’m not an academic. :)

    What I do know is that if by intent or accident people avoid dealing with the majority of people, including understanding and accepting the way they speak and embracing the validity of their perspective, there’s something that’s lost.

    On thing I meant to say and didn’t get around to with that Ernest guy and his message for gamers is that a lot of the criticism against him was misplaced. Not because he wasn’t technically wrong, but because people were ignoring the context of his audience. If you’re talking to gamers about not being sexist towards women, you’re probably not going to be able to educate them to even a “feminism 101″ level, but you still want their behavior to stop. Phrasing the reasons for them to stop in ways that they can understand is maybe more important than using more correct language that they won’t hear or listen to.

  11. nohellbelowus says

    I want lively writing. That doesn’t mean rude or flamey or permananently hostile – but it does mean leaving room for irritation and frustration and exasperation, along with humor.

    Hmmm…

    So when I posted the following bit of good-natured humor just a wee hour ago, or something very close to it, because I don’t remember the exact wording, in an adjacent B&W thread:

    Mumble, mumble… twilight rates at the local Par 3 municipal… gotta go… mumble, mumble…

    Erm… why did you delete it? Not funny enough for you? Are there published guidelines available on what constitutes appropriate humor on Butterflies & Wheels?

    Believe me Ophelia, I’m not baiting you. I was just very surprised at the blatant censorship, especially when others claimed you weren’t prone to such tactics. My post was an effort to tone things down, not to draw your censorship battleaxe.

  12. Pteryxx says

    Phrasing the reasons for them to stop in ways that they can understand is maybe more important than using more correct language that they won’t hear or listen to.

    If you mean all the “make the boys act like men” rhetoric, I’d have been fine if he prefaced it with “Tell them this” or some such, instead of as a universal. *shrug* I’d like to assume that the really decent people will see through it, but eww… assuming good faith and sensitivity doesn’t have a great track record.

  13. says

    Okay… I twitch a bit because “working class” seems to leave out people who can’t or don’t work but still don’t have much money: folks on welfare, students, homeless, marginalized and so on. I’m ignorant of the field though.

    Well, there are the “poor” and the “working poor”.

    I’m poor. I don’t care about being called poor. There’s nothing insulting about that, because it’s a description of my financial state and nothing more.

  14. says

    Sigh…I feel my efforts to be slightly more civil slipping away…

    nohell, because it was random and non-responsive and you’d already taken up a lot of oxygen and I simply had no clue what it was supposed to mean. I’d replied to you and asked a question, and your whatever that was just looked like a rude non-answer. You’d already been repeatedly rude to me, and that comment was unintelligible. Erasing it wasn’t a “tactic,” it was just grooming. There are lots of readers here and I don’t like to inflict too much random dreck on them.

  15. says

    If you mean all the “make the boys act like men” rhetoric, I’d have been fine if he prefaced it with “Tell them this” or some such, instead of as a universal. *shrug* I’d like to assume that the really decent people will see through it, but eww… assuming good faith and sensitivity doesn’t have a great track record.

    It wasn’t “universal” I don’t think, as much as for gamers to deal with other gamers. Sort of a different angle towards a similar goal, and talking to a whole different audience. Remember, that wasn’t written to or for us. And I had issues with it, and with him… but I also understand the idea that if your audience is teen-to-young-adult men at a gaming site, you have to speak in ways they’ll understand.

  16. hotshoe says

    Ophelia, feel free to ban nohellbelowus any time soon. Zhe shows no sign of acting in good faith here – in other words, trolling your blog merely for hir own amusement.

    That crack about “surprised at the blatant censorship” is a classic troll maneuver.

    Won’t be missed.

  17. 'Tis Himself says

    This is no doubt because I’m shallow and lazy and frivolous.

    You can’t say that about my friend Ophelia. Take it back and apologize to her!

  18. Stacy says

    Believe me Ophelia, I’m not baiting you.

    It’s lying; it is baiting. And that remark about serial rapists on the other thread was downright creepy.

  19. Marta says

    @18/’Tis:

    Thank you. She’s completely lovely, and no one shall talk about her this way.

  20. nohellbelowus says

    You’d already been repeatedly rude to me, and that comment was unintelligible.

    The context for my attempt at humor was in my previous post, that you apparently didn’t read:

    Alrighty then, let’s just take the idea to another level, and train men how to better resist their sexual impulses, or perhaps how to handle rejection more gracefully, since the research indicates that they already know everything they need to know about recognizing when it’s time to look down at their watches, and mumble something under their their breath about being late for an appointment.

    It was another attempt to tone things down with humor. Perhaps it failed. I don’t see how the follow-up comment was worthy of censorship, but it’s your party.

  21. says

    As I said, it’s not censorship. It’s grooming. It wasn’t an immortal piece of literature. You’ve now added a great many more words to argue about it.

    You do seem to be trolling. Go away now please.

  22. karmakin says

    Re: Class (sorry if this is further derailing, but I think it should be clarified a bit). This is actually a REALLY big problem for progressives in general. It’s irrational victim blaming, more or less. It’s the concept that you can fix macro-economic issues via just educating everybody. It’s an off-shoot of pro-academic privilege/bias, but I’m more concerned with the policy implications here than anything else.

    Here’s the deal. If you could magically educate everybody overnight, the end result isn’t everybody being better off, economically, the end result is that people go to the LCD (probably near minimum wage). Wages are based upon skill scarcity more than value add.

    Which is why I always say, we need to figure out how to make the economy work for the cook, the secretary and the janitor, because the engineer, the programmer and the accountant will be in the same boat in 5/10 years.

    Actually, long-term, if we ever fix the problem of access to education, I could really see a world where the janitor, as an example makes more than “skilled” jobs, as more people want to do the interesting skilled work than want to do the boring janitorial labor.

  23. says

    My question is the same as always: if you educate everyone out of low-paying jobs, are the shitters going to clean themselves? Are the roads going to pave themselves, and the lawns and grounds do their own landscaping?

  24. says

    Hold on, I feel like I’ve done a terrible derail, so let me drag the whole thing back on topic:

    We’ve got to do something to raise the standard of living for everyone. It is a fact that the lowest wages go to jobs that are mostly held by women. The next tier of jobs are largely held by men, but require long hours of heavy labor and often large amounts of risk to life and limb with little in the way of health insurance. So it should be obvious that social justice should be at least partially focused on bringing up the fortunes of the majority of people who are struggling.

    Instead, we see a huge focus on creating space for women and minorities in science and engineering… which is of course a valid goal in and of itself. On the other hand, it is a little galling to hear people who are academically and financially able to attend the graduate school of their choice complaining of not feeling as welcome as they would like, when the majority of us don’t have anything like their opportunities. I’ve always felt offended and insulted by the whole “glass ceiling” idea when applied in the world of executives and politicians. Boo-effing-hoo if you only make it to the top 0.9% of wages, instead of the top 0.5%. Boo-hoo Hillary Clinton, you’re “only” Secretary of State.

    A whole bunch of the focus and language we see displayed is in reference to what is jokingly referred to as “First World problems” but the reality it that you leave that privileged bubble when you drive a few miles outside of the comfortable neighborhoods. And if you can’t have conversations that can speak to the people outside of your privileged bubble, you can really forget about making any real change to the society at large. It isn’t just about using the rougher language that most people outside of academia use, it is also about making the conversation about things that regular people can relate to.

  25. says

    RE class, I don’t see why we don’t just institute a guaranteed minimum income for everyone. Why should people have to worry about food, shelter and transportation in addition to having to get a job, or get education — much less when they actually have a job?

    (Gee, we’re certainly forwarding a lot of progressive ideas here. Seems like applying skepticism to economic policy leads towards progressive political views.)

  26. reneerp says

    Some of the effort for getting women and minorities into SETM careers is toward graduate work, but some is to get people into entry-level tech positions.

    I don’t know, does this have to be a zero-sum game? People like me came from outside academia (my mom was a nurse, my dad was a technician at Bell Labs), but went into it (as a woman and minority), (I ended up coming out the other end, but that’s a separate issue.)

    Making lives better for all people has to pay attention to both getting better pay and protections for all working people and better safety nets for people who don’t or can’t work. This seems fundamental to social justice thinking.

  27. says

    reneerp,

    I’m not saying that we need to ignore anyone on any rung of the ladder, I’m saying that we not ignore the people who need to most help in favor of the maybe more obvious folks nearer to our own rung. Your parents were both professionals, if not academics. I’m glad that you were able to follow a path that best suited you, but what I’m saying is that there shouldn’t be a path that leads to poverty no matter how hard you work.

  28. reneerp says

    Improbably Joe,

    We’re in agreement, I think. My ideal is that people should be able to have a decent life no matter what they do and that people can go as far as they want in what they want.

  29. says

    Err. Relevant to the actual thread title, PZ has as of today stopped moderating comments on Pharyngula, and unbanned all banned commenters. Including pitizens.

    I think these two issues are related. Fincke has gone to one extreme by turning his blog into an ivory tower with an overly strict filter that will weed out anyone without the fortitude and privilege to constantly maintain a Straw Vulcan there. PZ has gone to the other extreme of a no-holds-barred deathmatch where anyone can do anything.

    Neither of these approaches are correct. But it does stand to reason: at what point does ignoring one’s own tone become abusive to the people that one is speaking to?

  30. reneerp says

    (sorry for the derail)

    Disastrous response on PZ’z part, imo, But his blog, his rules.

    I have some sympathy for Fincke and think he raises some good points, but jeez.

  31. says

    @Setár

    At what point does ignoring one’s own tone become abusive to the people that one is speaking to?

    At the point where one’s tone is not a fair response to the person one is talking to? And who says anyone is ignoring their own tone?

    I care about Ophelia’s feelings WRT my own behavior, because this is her place and I think she’s a decent person(even though there are places where we disagree strongly). I will use a respectful tone with reneerp who I do not know but who has never to my knowledge behaved in a way that requires me to react in kind. I’m familiar with most of the names here, and most of those people I see are people who I have seen comment in good faith, and who I will not automatically assume are trolls.

    There are also people posting who I have seen post before, and who have appeared to post from less-than-honest positions. For those people, a less-than-polite response isn’t unreasonable or unexpected. It doesn’t mean that I am not aware of my tone, because I may in fact believe that the person in question deserves an even harsher tone than I’m using. After all, for me it is well within my wheelhouse to say that I would inflict violence on a person… so when I am really angry and have been simply rude and not threatening to a person, that means I’ve put a whole lot of thought into my language.

  32. says

    reneerp,

    We may not agree as much as you think, but I think you’re arguing in good faith. I question this specific bolded language:

    My ideal is that people should be able to have a decent life no matter what they do and that people can go as far as they want in what they want.

    It is more correct to say that people should be able to go as far as their abilities can take them, and that everyone should be able to make a living from that. After all, I wanted to be at least a national class runner, and I wasn’t even faster than some of the lazier people on my high school track team who had more natural talent. We can’t put the burden on desire or effort without taking natural ability into account.

  33. reneerp says

    @Improbably Joe,

    I don’t think people should be propped up through unrealistic desires or senses of entitlement. But I have seen a lot of unused talent in people who didn’t have a chance to really go as far as they could. Sometimes the block has been class/money, sometimes it’s been lack of opportunity, sometimes it’s been race, sometimes it’s been gender. Usually it’s some combination thereof.

  34. says

    @reneerp:

    Sure, but ultimately we’re going to hit a level of “least skilled people” no matter what. If everyone was an Olympian, there’s still only 3 medals in each event. If everyone had the grades to get into Harvard, they only have the same number of slots open for freshman admissions. We need to focus at least as much on raising the lowest rung on that ladder as we do on helping people climb.

  35. hotshoe says

    Joe, it looks to me like you and raneerp are probably in agreement with that basic idea of “raising the lowest rung” to help people who – in the current system – can’t even afford to live much less strive for something more.

    I’m pretty sure that’s what “people should be able to have a decent life no matter what” means to both of you.

    Do you suppose that raneerp is so confident that (given how wealthy the US is overall) it would be so-o-o easy to solve the minimum-decent life for all ? And therefore we can move directly towards looking at which underachieving children we can boost up ? Not to leave their bathroom-scrubbing parent behind in barely-survivable poverty, but to leave their parent in socially-supported decent life while they get the leg up to make their best possible contribution to all.

    Seems utopian to me, but if it’s okay to dream big, what are the first little steps we need to take to get moving in that direction ?

    1) Kill all the Republicans.

    2) There is no 2. Utopia achieved as soon as the thieving Thugs are no longer a drain on the world. Plenty left over for everyone else.

    Oh, I suppose I don’t completely mean it – but – I can’t think of a real answer for #1 right now.

  36. says

    Do you suppose that raneerp is so confident that (given how wealthy the US is overall) it would be so-o-o easy to solve the minimum-decent life for all ? And therefore we can move directly towards looking at which underachieving children we can boost up ? Not to leave their bathroom-scrubbing parent behind in barely-survivable poverty, but to leave their parent in socially-supported decent life while they get the leg up to make their best possible contribution to all.

    Three words: guaranteed minimum income.

  37. reneerp says

    Three words: guaranteed minimum income.

    Yep, that’s it. Add in national healthcare and tuition relief and I’m good.

  38. says

    renerp, I pointed out earlier that we’re bandying about lots of progressive ideas and wondered if this might mean that applying skepticism leads to progressive political views.

    I saw conservatives in the comments at Greta’s complaining about us damn progressives and our assumptions that conservatives are awful and full of shit (and there was another complaining about how we don’t kowtow to the assumptions of anti-choicers).

    There was also a libertarian in Stephanie’s elisions thread going on about how libertarianism really isn’t right wing despite all those, y’know, NO GOVERNMENT NO TAXES (RON PAUL) libertarians who have taken the title of libertarian as their own.

    But when it comes to the actual policy discussions where these valid points — if any — would come up, the conservatives are decidedly silent. It’s only when we speculate that they might be objectively wrong that they pop up and start wailing about how we’re all just being mean and tribalistic.

  39. Pen says

    Lower “working” class cultures tend to talk more overtly. Insults are more direct and cutting, friends and co-workers often tease each other about their weaknesses. Nicknames often express weakness – a fat man might be nicknamed “slim.”

    In Britain there is currently a bit of a national debate going on over whether that bit of working class culture that consists of teasing or insulting your friends and co-workers with any characteristic that springs to mind is OK or not. There’s a definite school of thought that says it’s not OK where race is involved. Admittedly, there’s another school of thought that says all physical characteristics should get the same treatment: skin and hair colour, sexual characteristics, degree of corpulence, whatever…

    And the moral is…? Since I imagine some FtB readers may have strong opinions on the question of what the British working classes should be doing in this case, it might bring home the idea that just because the working class are doing it doesn’t mean that it’s not subject to question, criticism or change, or that the people doing it have no responsibility for their choices, or that it doesn’t affect anyone else*.

    * spoken from a British working class background, btw

  40. reneerp says

    @Setar, I don’t think that skepticism necessarily leads to progressivism. It’s probably a chicken/egg thing, depending on people’s specific experiences and histories. I was definitely a progressive before I was a sceptic, for example.

    People come to skepticism for all sorts to reasons. I was at a talk this weekend and many people there wanted to discuss theists’ inability to use evidence correctly. (It was only fair as that was the focus of the talk.) But I find that one of the least interesting skeptical positions. I suspect that skepticism is better thought of as a tool rather than an identity, though it’s clear that people do base some substantial part of how they think about themselves on being a skeptic. But that identity doesn’t seem to be predictive about much else about them

  41. says

    @Setár

    …applying skepticism leads to progressive political views.

    This is pretty much the case. In addition to often being utterly morally reprehensible, right wing* policies simply don’t work. Just to pick a few random examples, single payer healthcare systems consistently beat other systems in outcome per dollar spent, economic levelling reduces crime and increases average lifespans, and the environmental movement has been responsible for stupendous improvements in air and water quality. That’s not really germane to the post topic, though.
    On topic, I pretty much agree with Improbable Joe on this. I myself come from a middle-class academic** background, although I’m presently economically towards the poorer end of working class, and I’m very comfortable with a dry academic tone. I realize that that’s entirely due to my background, though. I am often slightly to significantly uncomfortable in the type of working-class culture that he comes from, but that does not mean that his perspective is invalid, or that he’s wrong to act that way. It means that I’m not socialized the way his culture does things. Also, I’m really pretty classist, although I’m working on that.

    *This explicitly and especially includes right-libertarians. Left-libertarians vary from progressives in all but name to pie-in-the sky Utopians with a bushel of untried ideas and half-baked logic

    **My father is a professor, and my mother a librarian.

  42. Pen says

    Err. Relevant to the actual thread title, PZ has as of today stopped moderating comments on Pharyngula, and unbanned all banned commenters. Including pitizens.

    As someone else said, his blog, his rules. I don’t want to bother with his comment threads because too often they degenerate into something I find them nauseating. I don’t learn anything useful from them except a few insults I hadn’t previously thought of, even when the posts are on interesting subjects. I’m certainly not going to try to participate in them. I feel about it the way some people are saying they feel about TAM – not safe and welcome, going elsewhere.

    Fincke has gone to one extreme by turning his blog into an ivory tower with an overly strict filter that will weed out anyone without the fortitude and privilege to constantly maintain a Straw Vulcan there.

    Access to opportunities to speak is a privilege that isn’t always available to the working classes. I object to the idea that the ability to moderate one’s own speech for insults goes with being privileged. Also, I have actually always felt safe, welcome and respected at Dan’s blog, despite the fact that I’m not a philosopher and sometimes feel I’m in over my head on subjects that otherwise interest me.

  43. Pen says

    RE class, I don’t see why we don’t just institute a guaranteed minimum income for everyone.

    Class is a culture, the fact of belonging to particular communities, and a line of descent from a particular family history that carries with it certain values and perspectives. It isn’t just a standard of living or an income. That’s also why we still say ‘working class’ when there’s no work or when the kinds of work the working classes traditionally did no longer exist. For the moment anyway…

  44. says

    reneerp #43:

    @Setar, I don’t think that skepticism necessarily leads to progressivism. It’s probably a chicken/egg thing, depending on people’s specific experiences and histories. I was definitely a progressive before I was a sceptic, for example.

    Non-response. My contention is that applying skepticism to policy leads to progressive political views. You don’t have to necessarily be a skeptic in order to apply skepticism. And then, of course, there’s Dalillama’s comment right below, which makes a stronger case for “skepticism -> progressivism”.

    Please stop falling into the “both sides” trap. It’s not helping either skepticism or progressivism when you do that.

    Dalillama #44:

    *This explicitly and especially includes right-libertarians. Left-libertarians vary from progressives in all but name to pie-in-the sky Utopians with a bushel of untried ideas and half-baked logic

    In my experience, left-libertarians only exist in the long-winded posts of closeted right-libertarians who are just so mad at all the people who assume that libertarianism is right-libertarianism from seeing nothing but right-libertarians under the libertarian banner, and possibly in academic circles. The right-libertarians have polluted the term “libertarian” too thoroughly, at least in North America.

  45. Tony •King of the Hellmouth• says

    Disastrous response on PZ’z part, imo, But his blog, his rules.

    Oh dear FSM, it is not good.
    Pharyngula hasn’t turned into a Pit O’ Slyme yet, but without him moderating *anything*, it’s likely to happen any moment now.

    Come to think of it, is it me or is there something in the FtB water? Why did these discussions of civility (or is *tone* more appropos) come about all of a sudden?

  46. smrnda says

    I’d also like to add that not only do members of the ‘lower classes’ make less money AND work harder, they are also treated like dirt, by customers and by their supervisors.

    I’m a software engineer. I’ve never had to piss in my pants because my boss thought I should be writing code instead of programming, but this happens to working class people all the time. ALL THE TIME. Their supervisors demand that they be WORKING every single instant, at a pace that’s unreasonable and often unsafe and that can frequently cause permanent injuries and stress related harm.

    A friend of mine worked in a factory. The management – who got paid to wear polo shirts and sit around, demanded that they work faster. The management pointed out that they were able to ‘hit’ the new rate.

    A worker pointed out “well, you don’t have to do it 12 hours a day.” The worthless, piece of shit management guy smirked and said ‘Well, then you should be even better than us!’

    Blue collar work supervisors and the people who exploit them are ******, and until they get called out on that bullshit we’ll have no progress. Plus, middle class people need to quit whining and realize that we’re all complicit in the crimes against the worker, both here in the states and elsewhere.

    And yeah, I had some harsh words for the supervisors, o well.

    Also, I wonder how much ‘working class culture’ is really what it’s like and how much is just some projection of middle class people. I know plenty of people from working class backgrounds who don’t typically use as many insults as a lot of educated people I know. I think middle class people invent this ‘blue collar person’ who’s a little more crass, rough, and rowdy so they can feel better about them being shit on sometimes. If working class people were seen as the same, then middle class people might feel guilty about them working in slaughterhouses and shoveling shit.

  47. says

    Regarding PZ opening the dungeon, it’s happened before. On moving to FTB, he unbanned everyone apart from Mabus, Kwok and several other obsessives. A few slowly returned to be banned once more, but the vast majority stayed away.

    I don’t think that this latest decision will have much of an immediate effect. Furthermore, PZ implied that the break from moderation was temporary. The dungeon will probably return eventually.

  48. says

    reneerp:

    I have some sympathy for Fincke and think he raises some good points, but jeez.

    I lost sympathy after seeing his interaction with Natalie. It ended up exactly as I worried it might: the person in a privileged position uses “civility” to shut down a member of an oppressed class of people. I’d been hoping it would go otherwise, but such is life.

    I’m not as worried about the free-for-all on Pharyngula as a lot of other people are, but I’m also not as emotionally invested in the place because I’ve only been commenting for a short while here. Killfiling people or just walking away is mighty easy for me, while that’s not necessarily the case for people who have been there for years.

    Personally, I say go for the most trollish of all possible moderation methods: use heavy-handed tactics to ban people for short periods of times, for any absurd thing that momentarily raises your ire. HOW DARE YOU MENTION HEDGEHOGS. Eventually, Stockholm Syndrome will keep everyone in line and everyone would know better than to ever question a decision.

    This is why I don’t run a popular blog, though.

  49. Lyanna says

    Left-libertarians are usually either anarchists, or they are liberals who are somewhat more skeptical of some liberal economic interventions than the average liberal. Mostly they are the latter, but in that case they often favor other economic interventions, like a guaranteed income.

  50. karmakin says

    @smrnda: Yeah. Often white collar jobs are treated as “professional” jobs where people are paid to complete certain tasks, and as long as those tasks are completed, who cares? As opposed to blue collar jobs where people are paid to basically work like dogs every second they are on the clock.

    One thing people don’t talk about is the wide-spread impact this has actually had on the economy. The attack on worker dignity and safety has had the result of lowering the amount of workers needed to perform the same amount of labor. It’s a pretty big increase in productivity, which has resulted in lower wages.

  51. patterson says

    Speaking as a member of the great unwashed, the idea that the phrase lower class refers only to income level is absurd. Funnily enough I love the phrases middle class and upper class. The first as it has a taint of dullness, and the second of absurdity.

    It’s true that we are more overt, perhaps even ruder, more open with insults, but I think this is much more preferable to the middle class habit of using “polite” passive aggression to put someone down much dirtier. Passive aggression is much harder to defend against or argue with while being just as hurtful as an open insult.

    As far as us “lower class” people being responsible for flamethrowers, I think it’s more likely to be due to the participation of adolescent males, whatever their actual age or class.

    However, I have found my ability to be creatively impolite to be of great help when dealing with misogynist trolls on Friendly Atheist. Especially when they troll all the reasonable and rational comments in an effort to shut the discussion down.

    Sorry for the length of this post but I’m a bit late to the game.

    As far as justice for low income people, I think its important to point out that our economy is structured to depend on a 4-6% unemployment rate. I think the point is to keep wages and interest and rates of inflation low. I think there’s an economic term for this but I can’t remember. The point is that a certain percentage of the population is deliberately sacrificed in order to maintain the present economy. I often point this out to people who complain about welfare bums, and it usually shuts them up.

    This talk of academic language being more polite reminds me of university sitting with some students studying genetics, who were discussing the coming extinction of the working class and how great that would be. “Wonderful” I said, “planet of the Brady Bunch”. They thought that was in bad taste.

  52. smrnda says

    I’m well aware of speedups and other means of ‘increasing productivity’ – meaning squeezing more out of fewer and fewer workers, with negative consequences for the workers, plenty of negative externalities, but a great deal for the shareholders and the CEO. To me, this is an act of deliberate violence, it’s an assault on workers all for the benefit of people who pretty much do nothing as they use the gains to increase their share of ownership until you can’t find anywhere else to work.

    Widespread revolt seems unlikely, as too many workers are brainwashed to be subservient to the people who screw them over. I’ve run into working class folks (mostly white ones – I never hear this from Black working class people) that it’s just ‘bad’ to ‘tax people more’ just since they ‘earn more.’ (Earn?) FOX news has got them scared of some awful boogeyman who makes less than them who has a slightly lower marginal tax rate, and they’ve decided to get all outraged at that rather than their employers. It’s like the outrage is being directed at the people who pay no income tax (but who still get hit with all the regressive ‘flat taxes’) rather than people paying less on investment than on work. I mean, we need work, not shuffling shares.

    I do recall Marx writing about how the unemployed exist basically to drive down wages, and are a kind of necessary part of making sure there’s less (if any) pressure to increase wages.

    Overall though, I find middle class people shockingly ignorant about what life is like for the rest of the world, though I can’t imagine that they don’t encounter people who must be working for minimum wage every day. It’s just that the workers has become invisible, or at least not someone who you actually think about what their life is like beyond waiting the table or scanning your groceries.

    Anybody who doesn’t support raising minimum wage should live on it for ten years and then get back on whether they think the same way…

  53. says

    On reflection, Joe and Setar, your talk of economic progressivism is not at all off topic to Ophelia’s post. Historically in the U.S. poverty alleviation projects have been heavily based on the idea that if poor people would just act like upper middle class people they’d stop being so poor all the time (plus, it means no one ever has to talk about wages, right Joe?). This is based heavily on the prosperity gospel idea that your economic station is determined by your moral purity, and of course that the middle and upper classes get to decide what constitutes moral purity (and yes, this does extend to ‘civility’ to a great extent). The downside of the idea that acting middle class is the ticket out of poverty, of course, is that it patently doesn’t work, while wage rises and social safety nets do work.

  54. karmakin says

    @Patterson: 4-6% is actually fine, for a level to maintain unemployment at. You’re never going to get it to 0%, due to what they call “frictional” unemployment, that is, people leaving jobs to go for other ones, businesses shutting down and new businesses starting up, etc. 4-6% is fine and it encourages truly competitive wage growth for workers.

    @Dalillama: The big thing here is the Just World Fallacy. But if you combine the Just World Fallacy and combine it with interventionistic theistic belief (I.E. There’s a deity that can and does intervene in the world as he sees fit), it becomes a REALLY toxic brew. In fact, I’d argue that the Tea Party has really been a coming out party for this sort of thing.

  55. reneerp says

    @Setar,

    Non-response. My contention is that applying skepticism to policy leads to progressive political views. You don’t have to necessarily be a skeptic in order to apply skepticism. And then, of course, there’s Dalillama’s comment right below, which makes a stronger case for “skepticism -> progressivism”.

    Please stop falling into the “both sides” trap. It’s not helping either skepticism or progressivism when you do that.

    I’m new here as a commenter and maybe I didn’t make myself clear, but I was not trying to make a both sides argument. I was saying that people get to skepticism and progressism through different pathways.

    Whether skepticism -> progressivism in policy, I’m not sure. It does for some values, say more efficient provision of health care, increased variation in skills and knowledge (i.e. diversity) in the workplace and culture, but I can imagine that there could be skeptical approaches to policy, based on different values that would come up with different policy outcomes. That’s certainly true with your garden-variety Libertarian skeptic.

  56. says

    … skeptical approaches to policy, based on different values that would come up with different policy outcomes.

    What do you mean by values? Average lifespan is measurable, as are morbidity and annual mortality statistics. Rates of theft and violence are measurable, and so are workplace health hazards. Economic wellbeing is measurable and so is quality of life. All of these do better under progressive policies. Libertarian policies fail miserably on all of these points whenever they are enacted. These are facts, and noone’s ‘values’ make those facts different.

  57. says

    @Dalillama in #63:

    These are facts, and noone’s ‘values’ make those facts different.

    Yes, those things are facts. It’s also a fact that those laws require a certain amount of bureaucracy to enforce them, for example. Or that we pay for this by taxation. The values come into play when you decide which facts you care about more.

  58. karmakin says

    On a very base level, most right-wing, Movement Conservative and Libertarian alike economics come from a supply-side point of view, that is, if you free up “job creators” they will then create jobs.

    Which is so far away from the current reality…at the very best micro supply-side economies are EXTREMELY uncommon…that it’s irrational. 1st world economies are generally almost entirely demand generated. That is, employers employ based around how much labor they need to fulfill known and expected demand.

    That’s why generally a rationalistic look at the world will lead you to a progressive political outlook, at least in terms of economics.

  59. ischemgeek says

    I kind of agree with you here. As I said over there, his blog = his rules. I have my reservations, but I’m willing to reserve judgement until I see how it plays out… Frankly, if I dislike the feel of the new community, I’ll just stop commenting there.

    I definitely get those here who’ve said that often ‘civility’ is used as an excuse to shut down the less priviledged. That’s the issue with tone-trolling, IMO: the very entitled attitude of “I’m not going to listen to you until you express yourself in terms agreeable to me.”

    Finally, I notice that a lot of people seem to conflate a Vulcan-like supression of emotion with civility. There is a difference. It’s entirely possible for one to be civilly impassioned, and for one to be dispassionately uncivil. Case in point: an sexist teacher I had once very camly informed the class that he didn’t think that girls should even be in gym class, that the girls were only there because the province forced him to accept us and that he’d rather see gender segregation where the girls could do girl things, and because of the fact that girls shouldn’t be in a gym class in the first place, he would never have a girl demonstrate something because boys could always do it better. I would argue that he was being very uncivil toward the girls in the class (what with all the talk of gym not being our place and it being a waste of time to teach us how to throw balls through hoops but somehow not a waste of time to teach the same impractical skills to boys) but he was doing so very calmly and dispassionately. By contrast, many of the articles here, at Natalie Reed’s blog, and at the Crommunist Manifesto are very passionate, while remaining quite civil in their tone.

  60. Godless Heathen says

    My question is the same as always: if you educate everyone out of low-paying jobs, are the shitters going to clean themselves? Are the roads going to pave themselves, and the lawns and grounds do their own landscaping?

    Agreed. I’m from a privileged class background, but I’ve never understood this.

    So, we educate people so that they don’t have to do those types of jobs, but then those jobs don’t get done.

    Although, I’ve heard of workplaces where everyone chips in and takes turn cleaning office areas and restrooms and the like.

  61. Brian M says

    Slightly off-topic w/r/t the main thread, but can we really assume that “everybody” will be able to live middle class (i.e., all the consumer goodies) lifestyles in a world with serious resource limitations, pollution, global warming, and all that?

  62. says

    Briam M #70:

    …can we really assume that “everybody” will be able to live middle class (i.e., all the consumer goodies)…

    When did anyone here say that they thought that the consumer-capitalist image of “middle class” was sustainable, much less an ideal?

    Oh, wait, that’s right, no one did, meaning that you’ve entirely succeeded at being condescending: “look at me, I can dance around talking about how this society is going to be massively changing while you’re all assuming this society” — when all we’re talking about is a workable economic system, with shit all to do with actual lifestyle.

  63. says

    Deen #66:

    Yes, those things are facts. It’s also a fact that those laws require a certain amount of bureaucracy to enforce them, for example. Or that we pay for this by taxation. The values come into play when you decide which facts you care about more.

    Okay? And? What’s your point, other than a very strongly implied BAWWWWWW TAXES and BIG GUBMINT BUREAUCRACY? Do you even have a point, or are you just trying to scare us?

  64. smrnda says

    On taxes and government, I see no example of any society which existed without these which wasn’t relatively primitive.

    The resentment against taxes and government comes from people who, after benefiting from running both, now want to scrap the program now that they’ve come to control enough resources to no longer need them.

    Plus, if taxes are confiscation of property, where does this right to property come from initially if not from violent seizure and occupancy? How do white people control most of the wealth in the USA – they showed up, took it by force, then went on about how private property was something sacred and violence was wrong… at least wrong now.

    I really don’t see us in the USA being overtaxed. Check what the tax rates were like under Eisenhower and compare that to today.

  65. Stacy says

    Yes, those things are facts. It’s also a fact that those laws require a certain amount of bureaucracy to enforce them, for example. Or that we pay for this by taxation. The values come into play when you decide which facts you care about more

    What’s your point, other than a very strongly implied BAWWWWWW TAXES and BIG GUBMINT BUREAUCRACY?

    I do not see that implication. Instead, I see a perfectly reasonable statement that clarifies a point of contention between reneerp @#62 and Dalillama @#63.

  66. says

    Deen, #63

    The correct level of taxation is that which produces the best outcomes. Bureaucracy is an inevitable side effect of complex enterprises, and the more complex the enterprise the more is needed. Keeping a country running is a massively complex operation which requires a very large bureaucracy. Without taxes and bureaucracy, you have the choice of living in a hunter-gatherer tribe or a subsistence farming village, and nothing else. If you want the benefits of technology (modern medicine, roads, the internet on which you are posting, etc.) then you need a dense, complex, populous society with a robust infrastructure, which means taxes and bureaucracy. If you want to whine about how evil they are , you’re entirely welcome to do so from the comfort of a mud hut in the Amazon rainforest while you shiver with malaria, but I won’t be able to hear it, because there’s no government provided infrastructure out there.

    @Stacy
    The reason Setar reacted that way is that the style of argumentation Deen is using is characteristic of disingenuous libertarian trolls who have no point to make other than “WAAAAHHHH!!! TAXES ARE EVILL!!!!!!!”

  67. carlie says

    Would it be possible to confine discussion of PZ’s blog to PZ’s blog?

    On class: we need to have a floor of income and assistance that is enough to live on. You know, like civilized countries do. That would take out an awful lot of the problem.

    Half of the jobs in the US pay less than 34k per year. 20 million people earn less than half the poverty line. Six million people in the US have no income other than food stamps.

  68. says

    @Setár in #72 and Dalillama in #76: I was making no point about correct levels of taxation at all, let alone “whine” about it. No idea why you jumped to that conclusion. Stacy in #74 is right about the purpose of my post in #66. I guess I could and should have been clearer. For the record (which you could have known from my commenting record here and elsewhere on FtB): I’m not a libertarian (big L or small), have been voting for socialist, labor or other left-leaning parties in pretty much every election I voted in, and I value the stuff my taxes pay for over a higher after-tax income. The point is that some people don’t, and that’s not necessarily because their facts are different from mine, but because we care about different things. Happy now?

  69. patterson says

    @GH-69

    You can’t “educate people out of those jobs” for the simple reason that creating more degree graduates does not automatically create jobs for those degrees. Except in a bizarre retrograde kind of way in that if a high percentage of people applying for a Walmart greeter job have degrees, Walmart will make a degree a prerequisite for a greeter. All you end up with is people in low income jobs with the added stress of having to pay off their student loans.

    What we should really be do is ensure that he people in these jobs are properly valued, not just in terms of pay but also recognition for the service they provide.

  70. Godless Heathen says

    @patterson,

    I know… I wasn’t saying that’s how it is, I’m saying that in general that’s how people who push education as the main way to end poverty view it.

    I completely agree with you. In fact, it’s already happening. Lots of jobs require degrees that didn’t used to require degrees and a lot of people with degrees are getting jobs that don’t allow them to pay off student loans.

  71. Godless Heathen says

    A shorter version of my post at 80 (and Patterson’s point):

    Supply doesn’t increase demand.
    (Where supply = degreed people who need jobs and demand = jobs that require a college degree and pay well enough to make college worth it).

  72. says

    @Deen:
    I’m not great with names, and I didn’t connect your post here to elsewhere; sorry about that. You triggered my libertarian apologetic kneejerk. Nevertheless, any values that say that everyone should have a lower standard of living, shorter lifespans, and poorer health because ‘waaaah taxes’ are entirely incompatible with any type of humanism, and also with maintaining a high-tech industrial society. Therefore, I have zero patience with people trying to push those ‘values’, and the advice I give above holds true as far as anyone pushing them goes.

  73. RuQu says

    Gonna chime in here in support of Improbable Joe and the fact that class gets discussed far to rarely.

    I’m a member of America’s military class. Perhaps not on the official academic list of classes in America, but it exists nonetheless. We serve, generation after generation, and you will find that there are quite a few of us. It does lead to its own culture, and you will often see people say “I was a military brat” as a means of introduction, followed by an exchange of places they were stationed as kids.

    It’s a good life, for those it works for. It also raises its own social justice concerns as the odds of dying violently are considerably higher than your average citizens. Currently the suicide rate is also disconcertingly high.

    Military culture, particularly multi-generational military culture, gives a bit of a different perspective on things. Depending on the rank of your background, your social privilege will vary, but the strata are clear, methods of mobility are known and generally available, especially from one generation to the next.

    It’s a system that provides health care for everyone. I have never been without coverage since the day I was born, for any medical problem.

    There is a “guaranteed minimum salary,” which is a term I’m first encountering in this thread. Everyone contributes to the mission, so everyone at a certain level receives the same pay. If I told you my rank and time in service, you could look up exactly how much I make right now, plus or minus a few small variables like sea pay, dive pay, flight pay, or hazardous duty pay.

    If you view it as a service monopoly with one customer, we provide security to the US taxpayer, in exchange for tax revenues to fund our operations, paychecks, and benefits.

    It is a system that works quite well. Perfect? No, but what is?

    Watching the rest of the nation from within the communist paradise (heh) of the military is a bit odd, like looking through a warped mirror.

    Why do we not have universal health care? Are reduced costs, a healthier populace, an emphasis on prevention, reduced mental health crisis among the homeless, and higher quality of life not things worth having? Healthy children become stronger, healthier adults, able to work harder and with reduced lifetime medical expenses.

    Why do we not encourage a reasonable minimum income? How does language persist that calls people who work two jobs but are still poor “lazy?” If a worker is not vital to the success of your enterprise, why are they employed? That is inefficient and a waste of resource. If they are, why are they not compensated for that vital service? Clean bathrooms are mission critical!

    And, while it likely doesn’t matter to this audience, if you are Christian, how do you reconcile Jesus’ teachings on helping the poor and criticism of wealth with opposition to decreasing wealth disparity? (Note that I’m an atheist, but helping the poor is a good message regardless of the source.)

    I’m stationed down in Louisiana right now, and there is a huge gap in compensation to effort ratio in the people that I know down here. Most are educated civilians working for the Navy, sitting in cubicles. The rest are laborers, one of my best friends here lacks a high school diploma, working 12 hours a day installing insulation or plumbing. One of those is a lot harder work, and it is the one that gets paid far less.

    I’m not an economist, but considering they can never agree on anything (stimulus will kill the economy! stimulus will save the economy! No you!) I don’t how much their expertise counts for. I don’t claim to know all the answers to the problem, but helping people satisfy their basic needs sure sounds like a good place to start to me.

    (My apologies for length, brevity is not my forte.)

  74. RuQu says

    Whew. *Wipes brow.*

    First post on FTB that didn’t lead to nearly instantaneous personal attacks and insults.

    A friend told me that they aren’t all like that and I just chose poorly for my first attempts.

    I was hoping that a topic with this title might actually be more open to welcoming new people into a community that was seemingly bizarrely opposed to spreading its message to new members.

    My apologies for the OT post.

  75. Hot Mess says

    I work in a textile factory, there is no such thing as class disparity, It’s only fair that stacking over five tons of rolls by hand as a minimum daily requirement earns me ~$15/hr, while the health & safety rep ignores monitors the health risks for $65K/yr, and it’s only fair they come and go as they please, get longer breaks, and push off most of their work to us peons. After all they work sooooo much harder, otherwise they wouldn’t be in their office. /sarcasm

    the worst part is, it’s not enough that you get paid less, it’s not enough that you get no recognition, it’s not enough that you are treated like shit, but you spend 8-12 hrs standing on a concrete floor and you better not sit, that’s for the guys in polo shirts who have never had to worry about life threatening/disfiguring injuries on the job.

    The way we treat the working class in this country is disgusting, if you work really hard you might get a 10 cent raise this year, meanwhile the CEO gets a 60% raise based on your hard work, good luck going to school if you want out, even if your employer offers some tuition reimbursement or other benefit, they won’t give you the time to take any classes, and do everything they can to avoid paying.

    The kicker is that for the most part, these are also the same people that will go out and vote for some tea party nutjob who wants to cut taxes on the rich and pay for it by screwing the poor, It won’t get better unless we start educating people and getting them to realize why progressive ideas will help them, and why passionate assertions with no grounding in reality won’t, you can’t educate away the working class, but you can educate away the working poor by getting them to stop voting against their best interests. labor doesn’t have to be degrading and can pay a living wage.

    wow that was a little more bitter rant than I intended at first

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