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Pax skepticana

So what do you know – Amy and Harriet Hall have made peace and gone back to being friends.

 But as the months went past since TAM I had noticed that people dedicated to cyber stalking and harassing me and my peers were continuing to use the shirt and its message to attack us unfairly, but Harriet was not. She responded when it was brought to her attention, but she was not the one constantly bringing it up. I realized at this point that Harriet Hall’s intentions may not have been to attack me or this blog but instead she was indeed trying to send a message that spoke from her own experiences as a feminist.

I decided to do what I could to help end this controversy and to hopefully stop some of misinformation surrounding the incident. I realized that there was a lot of emotion involved, particularly on my side because that shirt has been waved like a flag in an attempt to belittle and drive a wedge between Skepchick and some other members of organized skepticism and of course the harassers displayed it like a prize. As you can imagine, that was upsetting to me. I realized Harriet had been constantly questioned about her actions as well. She may not want to to talk to me. I knew Harriet identified as a feminist and odds were we had more in common than not ideologically and so there was hope to find common ground. Steve assured us we could start a dialog.

And so they did, and you can read their email exchange on Amy’s post.

Steve Novella also posted about it.

I have not been a direct participant in the recent drama over sexism in the movement, but I have had a front row seat. It has struck me throughout that many of the people involved, steeped in critical thinking, firmly believe they are correct and are being reasonable and yet are in such heated conflict with other critical thinkers who also believe they are correct and being reasonable.

There are, it seems to me, three general sources of this conflict. One is sincere and real ideological differences. If you read the recent exchange between Harriet Hall on SBM and Will on Skepchick, and a sample of the comments to each, these differences become apparent. Where exactly to draw the line between free speech and the avoidance of offense is one recurrent theme. Still, this by itself should not be enough to cause such a rift, for our common ground dwarfs these differences.

A second source of conflict are those who have chosen cyberstalking and daily harassment as their chosen mechanism of activism. Rape threats, threats of violence, sexually charged and grossly offensive language have no place in this discussion, but have infiltrated our community. The result has been to raise the level of emotion and defensiveness and pushing all sides toward the more radical extreme. This is, unfortunately, part of the new social media world we have created. We have to find ways to marginalize and ignore these elements, and not confuse them for those who have reasonable and friendly disagreements.

That is very, very, very true. (That’s not good skeptic of me. True is like unique; intensifiers are silly. If it’s true it’s true, there is no “very.” But I don’t care.) I can’t begin to tell you how true it is. The cyberstalking daily harassers have scraped our nerves raw, those of us who are their targets, and raw nerves are an obstacle to cool reason. Raw nerves get in the way of slow thinking. Steve Novella (and Harriet Hall) probably saw that happen when Hall’s threads filled with comments by the cyberstalking daily harassers.

So huge props to Amy and Harriet for working it out and leaving the cyberstalking daily harassers coughing in their dust.

Comments

  1. says

    Well, I’m glad for this. I hope people get a little needed peace, and the sadists driving the surrounding campaign focus on something else, hopefully looking inward for a change.

  2. noxiousnan says

    I’m so pleased to hear this! (and only a little curious to see how the haters will spin it – has Harriet Hall joined the FTB hive mind?)

  3. says

    I did notice the #bravehero felt very safe commenting at much more length than usual in Harriet’s comment threads… Maybe he should stick to the usual line… “Harriet is a brave hero” …. and piss off. It seems to have back fired in this case.

  4. says

    I’m very glad Harriet Hall realized the problems with the “skepchick” line on her shirt; still don’t agree that there’s anything wrong with being a woman skeptic, nor that there are some huge biological differences in higher brain functions between men and women, but whatever. I’m just happy that I was wrong in thinking she was another Paula Kirby.

  5. says

    I’m so pleased to hear this! (and only a little curious to see how the haters will spin it – has Harriet Hall joined the FTB hive mind?)

    not joined, “bullied” into admitting fault where there is none; or, they’ll ignore HH’s apology, and focus on Amy’s admission that she reacted very emotionally.

  6. says

    So huge props to Amy and Harriet for working it out and leaving the cyberstalking daily harassers coughing in their dust.

    Seconded. It’s nice to have some good news on this front once in a while. :)

  7. clamboy says

    Dr. Novella is, thus far, handling with aplomb some of the predictable comments being left on his blog. Much of the usual manure is being spread, but he is not letting it build to the level found in those stables Kevin Sorbo had to clean out.

  8. Amphigorey says

    I’d be interested in hearing Hall’s explanation for the front of the shirt (“I feel safe and welcome at TAM”), which I’m having trouble reading as anything but a dig at Rebecca Watson.

  9. jackiepaper says

    It isn’t a spat. It isn’t drama. It will not blow over.
    It disturbs me how much people want to minimize this situation.
    Also, both sides became radical and extreme? Really? That’s not what I observed.

  10. jenniferphillips says

    Wow, I’m impressed and heartened by this development. True compromise and bridge building by prominent skeptics, PLUS whinging haters outing themselves as part of the problem = WIN!

  11. says

    I think the best thing about Hall’s post was its sincere and unequivocal condemnation of the haters. Such criticism (when it is made at all) is usually sullied with supercilious “bad behaviour on both sides” rhetoric, complaints about being supposedly lumped together with the haters, and victim blaming.

    I think much of the tension would ease if moderates on the other side would loudly and unconditionally denounce the hatred.

  12. carlie says

    That is all quite lovely.

    Just…don’t read the comment section on Novella’s article, if you don’t want your blood pressure raised.

  13. screechymonkey says

    Amphigory@12:

    I’d be interested in hearing Hall’s explanation for the front of the shirt (“I feel safe and welcome at TAM”), which I’m having trouble reading as anything but a dig at Rebecca Watson.

    Well, it’s clearly a reference to the Grothe-Watson dispute.

    It’s possible (being as charitable to Hall as possible) that she simply got a one-sided account of that controversy: perhaps Grothe or someone else from the JREF said, “oh, we’re so glad you’re still coming — some of those ‘controversialist bloggers’ have been saying that women don’t feel safe or welcome at TAM.”

    I admit that’s a lot of coincidences: ignorance of the full context of the back-and-forth, the coincidence that “skepchick” wasn’t a reference to the organization led by the same person whose comments were being mocked on the front of the shirt, obliviousness to why all these people were so quick to compliment her shirt, lack of curiosity to learn more about the situation after Amy yelled at her, etc…. but again, this is being charitable. It’s possible for Hall to have remained largely ignorant of the controversy.

  14. jackiepaper says

    #18
    Carlie, I actually felt better about this once I’d read Steve’s replies in the comments.

  15. Bjarte Foshaug says

    @jackiepaper #14

    Also, both sides became radical and extreme? Really? That’s not what I observed.

    My thoughts exactly.

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    The headline of this piece strikes me as a bit, um, premature.

    When we consider the previous great “Pax ___a”s (Pax Romana, ~ Mongolica, ~ Britannica, ~ Americana…), the common thread involves conquering a major chunk of the world, then building prosperity by enforcing a consistent and workable set of laws across said domain – specifically including bans on internal violence.

    The skeptics haven’t gotten that far yet (Hall & Roth seem to have overlooked the first step entirely).

    Mount your horses, draw your swords!

  17. says

    the spin on this from the pit is that the only reason Harriet Hall apologized is because she’s the “adult” in the conversationand if she can make a “whining child” like Amy stop whining with an apology, even if it’s unwarranted, then she’ll do it.

    Figures. Can’t handle reality, always need to spin it somehow.

  18. jose says

    Whoa, some deep-rifts-related good news and all it took was some emails. If this created some sort of snowball effect it’d be great.

  19. hjhornbeck says

    I’ve got two minor quibbles:

    1. People with poor social skills usually learn to quiet down and listen, instead of striking back. Not all of them do, but Hall’s a sharp cookie and should have picked up on that by now.

    2. This is over a six-month-old controversy that most of us have long since shelved. I’m far more concerned about Hall’s reaction to Will, which hasn’t been on the radar yet.

    Those are, however, minor. Novella has proven himself to be a very skilled mediator. Hall has delivered a sincere apology, and seems willing to move forward. My opinion of her has gone up a few notches. Amy has refused to dig in, and deserves big kudos for extending an olive branch while being under fire. It’s more than I hoped for, even factoring in my wee quibbles, and sets an excellent template for the resolution of other spats within the skeptic/atheist community.

  20. A Hermit says

    Of course someone turns up in the comments at NeuroLogica with the “we can’t know with 100% forensic certainty that most of the worst of the harassment is coming from actual skeptics and not trolls (as if the two categories are mutually exclusive), therefore it’s all Rebecca Watson’s fault for talking about it…” o_O

    Nice to see Novella putting the Mewling Idle-headed Mumble-news in his place…

  21. coelsblog says

    Well done to both Amy and Harriet, their reconciliation is a credit to them both. It also points to the possible benefits of talking to a (perceived) opponent with some assumption of charity and good faith.

  22. evilDoug says

    …those who have … infiltrated our community.

    I don’t buy the notion of infiltration. It looks to me like a Pox skepticana that has been there for a long time and has recently suppurated.

  23. kaboobie says

    I’d say this is a promising development, but the usual suspects are turning up in the comments at Steve’s blog, and I fear he is being too charitable to one of them.

    Over the past year or more we’ve seen evidence of blatant misogyny directed toward female writers/bloggers in dozens of different fields. Why is it so hard for some to admit that it’s a problem within our community, and that even if less than 100% of the vitriol comes from within our community it’s still an effing problem!?

  24. patterson says

    @Bjarte Foshaug #21

    I’m so freakin sick of that crap, and am pleasantly surprised to find that it’s an actual fallacy, the middle ground fallacy.

  25. says

    y’all seen Vacula’s “suggestions” for what RW should do to make others stop harassing her? About half of it amounts to STFU, either literally or consequentially (if everything you say can be will lead to being criticized, then avoiding saying things that will get you criticized = not saying anything)

  26. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    I expect that the Slymepit will be going for Karl Rove levels of spin to try and milk something out of this one.

  27. Sastra says

    Harriet wrote:

    I apologize for putting the word skepchick on my shirt. I honestly did not intend to target the organization, but rather the concept of chick in general. I did not foresee the reaction, and I should have.

    Way, way back on the B&W thread which first dealt with the whole t-shirt thing, I wrote in comments that Harriet had explained to me at the convention that the reference to ‘Skepchick’ wasn’t a reference to the organization. She liked the Skepchicks, read the website, etc. etc. She was making a different point related to the term. And there was certainly no animosity on her part towards Amy. She was dumbfounded when Amy confronted her, as was I when she told me. From what we could tell Amy was popular, happy, and surrounded by admirers — we knew none of the background drama going on around her. When I read about it later, though, I got it.

    As I recall, Ophelia and most of the readers here took my report into consideration and tempered their criticisms of Harriet. The t-shirt was still a bad idea, but not as bad as it could have been. No spite intended.

    And Harriet really didn’t foresee the reaction because she thought my warning that no, she would be misunderstood an over-reaction on my part. She’s usually so right so often that I thought well .. maybe.

    I’m so glad it now looks like there’s some peacemaking going on. I have never really gotten over my original assumption that Ophelia and Harriet were going to like each other.

  28. jackiepaper says

    Well, cancel my optimism. Steve doesn’t get it. Reading his “both sides” crap just pisses me off.

  29. says

    Well, cancel my optimism. Steve doesn’t get it. Reading his “both sides” crap just pisses me off.

    eh. in that instance, it was actually true. and i even agree that the attitude he noted will mean things won’t get resolved and the skeptic community won’t ever be one happy family again.

    Difference is, I don’t mind deep rifts between me and haters. It’s only when decent people get caught in the middle of this fight that reconciliation matters, as in this case between Harriet and Amy

  30. jackiepaper says

    Jadehawk, I disagree that pretending “both sides” are at fault will lead to a resolution. There are better and more honest ways to resolve this issue. I do agree, though, that the rifts need to stay in place and maybe be filled with flaming pitch.

  31. says

    I was going to post this on Steve’s thread, but I noticed the clusterfuck going on there, so I’m not even going to bother. I do want to voice my concern with his framing, though, because I think it’s important.

    First, I do appreciate Steve acting as an intermediary between Amy and Harriet. It is good to see that incident worked out and put behind them. However, Steve’s framing of the larger problems is unsettling.

    The first source of conflict he cites is “sincere and real ideological differences.” While I do not dispute that this is certainly a source of conflict amongst skeptics and atheists, I’m perturbed that he slotted my criticisms of Harriet’s post under this rubric. The criticisms I made of her posts were not ideological, they were criticisms of factual errors. I have a big problem with the things that she wrote being posted on a science/medicine blog because they’re not based in an understanding of the literature on the topic. Would Steve accept if someone wrote about, say, evolutionary theory with understandings from the 1970s? Why would it be acceptable for this topic? I also find it somewhat ironic that he’s used ideology (“skeptics should argue in this manner”) to dismiss my evidence-based criticisms of Hall’s posts.

    There is also the problem that, in the practice of medicine, heteronormative and cisnormative biases about sex and gender run rampant, and these have been demonstrated to have negative affects on queer health (for example, see Institute of Medicine report from 2011 on LGBT health disparities). Hall’s posts have the effect of reinforcing the normalization of these cultural biases, which have real effects on people’s lives. This is not a mere “ideological” difference in conceptual definitions—it’s pointing out a very serious problem in the principles underlying what should be the scientific basis for medical practice. To say that my criticisms are ideological is quite dismissive of the factual and scientific problems I brought to light with her posts.

    Also, I have asked what was so offensive about my posts, and the only responses I’ve gotten have been “your tone was mean/cranky.” I shouldn’t have to point out how this argument is often a silencing tactic used against social minorities to avoid addressing the criticisms they are voicing, but that’s exactly what’s happened here. No one has attempted to refute or seriously engage my criticisms in any meaningful way; instead, this has become an exercise in lecturing people about charitable readings and saying things in a nice way. So, once again, the valid criticisms coming from the voice of a social minority have been ignored and the focus has instead, once again, been shifted back to the feelings of those in the majority as the most important point in the conversation. Nevermind the comfort of those in the minority who are actually affected by the sorts of things Hall tries to pass as science—what’s more important is that you’re nice when you criticize someone!

    With regards to Steve’s second point, I totally agree that we must marginalize these kinds of people. But I do not agree that they should be ignored. Telling people to ignore them is asking the people they are attacking to suffer in silence because ignoring them doesn’t make them stop. Pretty much anyone who has been bullied can tell you in no uncertain terms that ignoring it makes it worse because you suffer in silence. Certainly Steve would not advocate Rebecca suffer in silence, right?

    I have other “ideological” issues with the principle of charitability that Steve keeps bringing up. I will leave that for a more detailed blog post at some point in the future. Needless to say, I agree that it is a great idea in theory but that often, in practice, it is used as a weapon to silence people. But that’s another discussion for another time.

  32. says

    Jadehawk, I disagree that pretending “both sides” are at fault will lead to a resolution

    but he didn’t say that, he said that “both sides” had made a particular claim that he disagrees with; which is true, “both sides” said that there will only be peace if the other side gives up

  33. notsont says

    the spin on this from the pit is that the only reason Harriet Hall apologized is because she’s the “adult” in the conversationand if she can make a “whining child” like Amy stop whining with an apology, even if it’s unwarranted, then she’ll do it.

    It is my understanding that Amy was the one who initiated the conversation, so she would be the adult.

  34. Stacy says

    Kudos to Amy and Harriet Hall.

    This is a good thing, but it’s just a beginning. And there are a lot of things that Steve Novella doesn’t get. Maybe dealing with the likes of decius and Vacula will learn ‘im.

    Will at #37–yes and yes.

    (Will, I would love to see you chime in on NeuroLogica. But I understand if you’d prefer not to. I can’t comment there myself–WordPress doesn’t like me, long story–but that decius guy is really a jackass. Steve Novella recognizes it, but I’m still gritting my teeth reading the bullshit the guy’s posting. erikthebassist–Pharyngula regular–is doing a good job engaging him.

    The pitsters are flailing, trying to defend themselves. I suppose I should just enjoy the spectacle.)

  35. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    notsont wrote:

    It is my understanding that Amy was the one who initiated the conversation, so she would be the adult.

    Which would be fine if we were dealing with people less demonstrably dishonest as the mildew mob; they certainly aren’t going to let anything bothersome as ‘facts’ and ‘reality’ get in the way of their hate crusade.

  36. says

    I might post it later when things are not as crappy in that thread. I just really don’t feel like having to monitor that thread for obvious reasons. Or I might just e-mail my comment to Steve.

  37. athyco says

    Jadehawk @31:

    y’all seen Vacula’s “suggestions” for what RW should do to make others stop harassing her? About half of it amounts to STFU, either literally or consequentially (if everything you say can be will lead to being criticized, then avoiding saying things that will get you criticized = not saying anything)

    Yep, he copy/pasted them directly from his blog post “Negative criticism and the internet,” in which he referenced a single tweet from Amanda Marcotte about Storify. They wouldn’t sound terribly bad if he meant them for everyone, but he still hasn’t taken them all in for himself. He certainly didn’t mean it as general advice as originally posted. He’s finally acknowledged that Amy has taken multiple positive steps after their mutual DMCA/dox episode, but he simply can’t stop himself from here focusing on Rebecca Watson, making Amy an aside while commenting on a post about her and Harriet Hall.

    I hope that he’ll consider watching out for that self-unaware combination of scattershot and point-missing in his “worthwhile discussions” at WiS2.

    If I could afford to go to WiS2 and wanted to do other things than talk to Justin Vacula, I’d make a button saying “Something seems awry.” It’s from one of Vacula’s comments in his blog post “Microaggressions atheists experience” that he’s rarely angry with microaggressions because in his definition, “Skepticism is not defensiveness, but rather a questioning attitude someone has when something seems awry.”

  38. Stacy says

    @notsont 41:

    the spin on this from the pit is that the only reason Harriet Hall apologized is because she’s the “adult” in the conversationand if she can make a “whining child” like Amy stop whining with an apology, even if it’s unwarranted, then she’ll do it

    It is my understanding that Amy was the one who initiated the conversation, so she would be the adult

    As evidenced by the very first line of Dr. Hall’s email to Amy:

    I am so happy you have reached out

    But hey, it’s the ‘pit. ‘Nuff said.

  39. Stacy says

    decius: “good people do not associate with rabid ideologues and hate-mongers like Amanda Marcotte.”

  40. says

    Jadehawk, six of one, half a dozen of the other.

    I fail to see how that could be true, given that one version is true, and the other wouldn’t be.

  41. jackiepaper says

    No Jadehawk, that’s not actually right. He does not say “until one side gives up”. I just do not feel like quibbling with you. But, fine, let’s unpack this. Steve has suggested there is blame on both sides, while also saying that there are no real sides. I disagree with him on both counts. Here is what he has said today on the subject.

    It has struck me throughout that many of the people involved, steeped in critical thinking, firmly believe they are correct and are being reasonable and yet are in such heated conflict with other critical thinkers who also believe they are correct and being reasonable.

    The third source of conflict seems to be avoidable misunderstandings on all sides.

    This sounds like a good first step in moving forward toward a movement where we celebrate our common goals, while politely debating, yet tolerating, our differences.

    I agree that the principle of charity needs to be spread to all sides.

    There have been many mistakes all around.

    They all are sincere and well-meaning. This does not mean they haven’t made mistakes, or that perhaps they are operating from a certain perspective or set of assumptions.

    I have heard from “both sides” now (there aren’t really two sides) something to the effect that – “we will never make progress until the other side changes its ways or realizes that we are right and they are wrong.”

    I think you are only refering to the last quote. I’m referring to more than that. If you still disagree, I accept that and am happy to move on.

  42. says

    “sincere and real ideological differences”

    I dunno I can buy that. It just sounds really uncharitable when I try to write out what those underlying ideological differences are.

  43. says

    “sincere and real ideological differences”

    i can buy that just fine. libertarianism, protection of one’s own privilege/status are ideologies and can be held quite sincerely; sincerity after all doesn’t mean reasonableness or correctness, or ability to perceive the harm one contributes to. Plenty of theists are sincere in their false, harmful beliefs, too

  44. says

    I wonder if people really think being married to/partnered with a woman makes one non-sexist, and being married to/partnered with a person of a different ethnicity/race makes one non-racist.

    Because if so, I’d like to inflict my bf’s brother on all of the buffoons who think that: he’s one of the biggest racists/sexists and all-around bigots I’ve ever personally known, yet his wife and children are tribal members.

  45. kellym says

    Dr. Hall has provided some brand new evidence. So I have changed my mind about her actions. Because I am a skeptic. Even though she recently accused her critics of “misinterpret[ing] my explanation and put[ting] it in the worst possible light.” In her email to Amy, Dr. Hall finally wrote:

    I apologize for putting the word skepchick on my shirt. I honestly did not intend to target the organization, but rather the concept of chick in general. I did not foresee the reaction, and I should have…I sincerely regret that I inadvertently contributed to inflaming the harassment that was directed at you. I was truly appalled by some of the venomous over-reactions and egregious abuse that you were subjected to online. I felt very sorry for you and what you were forced to endure. There is no excuse for the behavior of your persecutors.

    That, finally, makes her claim that the “skepchick” on her t-shirt did not intentionally target the Skepchick organization believable to me. If Hall had offered that apology last July, I would have believed her. Prior to that email, Dr. Hall had gone out of her way not to denounce the harassment of the Skepchicks, and seemed to give her tacit approval. The most charitable reading of her actions that I could reasonably allow was that Hall felt justified in her 3-day protest against the Skepchicks. Her explanation that she was referring to a 1999-era use of the term seemed clearly ridiculous, given the fact that she was well aware of the misogynistic attacks and threats of physical violence that the Skepchicks were under. She seemed like an unpleasant and dishonest person. But now I think that I may have been mistaken due to Hall’s poor communication on this matter. I wonder if Dr. Hall realizes even now that many of those who praised her t-shirt meant “I hate the Skepchicks, too,” and were not “read[ing] it exactly as I had intended it to be read.”

  46. A Hermit says

    For some reason I can’t login at Meuologica…but there was one comment there I have to respond to somewhere…

    erroll at 2:44 pm

    I don’t think all the threats are from non-skeptics/atheists but I also don’t think they represent RAMPANT sexism and misogyny in the community.

    I always wonder why people think the problem has to be “RAMPANT” before we object to it…isn’t one rape threat too many? Why is it so hard for some people to just have a little empathy and agree that harassment and threats are bad and not something we should put up with instead of looking for reasons to dismiss it?

  47. says

    @51: I’ve often encountered internet dust-ups where I didn’t really have the time to read everything carefully and unpack it all, so I would just skim it and come away with an impression that one party was an asshat, but not with a lot of confidence in that conclusion (not strong enough to argue the point, anyway). But very often, said party will eventually say something that instantly removes all doubts. And that comment from decius was one of those moments. (I mean, instant segue from feminism to Marxism? WTF?)

    It’s really very thoughtful of the asshats to provide these heuristic shortcuts.

  48. jenniferphillips says

    A Hermit–I tried to log in with wordpress (unsuccessfully as well) to respond to that exact comment by Erroll. I really want to know how much sexism and misogyny he thinks is acceptable.

  49. notsont says

    Logins here and at other FTB blogs don;t seem to work at neurologica.

    Dr. Novella tends to ignore some of the worst posters on his site, I’m guessing he feels it unnecessary to address people who are obviously not reasonable adults. Quite often he will correct something minor someone says while ignoring the 600lb gorilla posting the most horrendously wrong things, maybe he considers them “low hanging fruit” and leaves em for others to tackle.

  50. says

    Jadehawk #51:

    decius is accusing erikthebassist of being victim of “neo-marxian rhetoric”

    libertarians. lol.

    Why is it always libertarians at the heart of our problems with privilege? And why are we still tolerating libertarians if they’re seemingly the reason why the skeptical movement is uncomfortable for people who aren’t rich white cis guys?

  51. Bjarte Foshaug says

    I stopped paying attention to Novella and unsubscribed from the SGU (I had then been a regular listener since episode 24, but my enthusiasm had already been dwindling for several years) after they did that awful interview with Jamy Ian Swiss from the last TAM. If you know why Hall’s t-shirt was so offensive in that context, you also know why that whole interview came through as “Get the f**k out”, so I did.

    Back in autumn I signed a petition that urged the guys on the show to keep Rebecca. After that episode, I’m can’t imagine why on earth she would want to keep them.

  52. 'dirigible says

    “Why is it always libertarians at the heart of our problems with privilege?”

    Because libertarianism is at heart privilege fetishism.

  53. says

    In all of these instances I try to temper my burning rage at these privileged asshats with the knowledge that from their perspective my anger is completely unjustified, and indeed appears as an irrational response which actually justifies their own positions.

    It is terribly hard work doing this, but I am heartened by the overwhelming evidence of both history and cognitive science, which tells us that forceful pushback by ideological opponents in almost every case serves to harden the resolve of those who have decided they are right. Does it, after all, not have that effect on us?

    Yes, they are vile, vile, vile, a million times. Yes, we WANT to ram that fact down their throats. But what do we achieve if doing so makes them stronger?

  54. says

    Fair point, though one might say that, in the medium of relentless pointless internet argument, the one with the stronger convictions is the stronger, as being more likely to put up with being continuously metaphorically punched in the face, in order to avail themself of the opportunity to keep delivering metaphorical punches right back in the face of those they hate so much…

    But you tell me, what’s the constructive function of anger directed towards opponents who will interpret it as a sign that they are getting to you?

  55. A. Noyd says

    Dave (#66)

    but I am heartened by the overwhelming evidence of both history and cognitive science, which tells us that forceful pushback by ideological opponents in almost every case serves to harden the resolve of those who have decided they are right. Does it, after all, not have that effect on us?

    As an initial response, yes. But I actually work to overcome the hardening of my resolve by constantly checking to see if my arguments or those of people on my side still hold up. (I’m not going to claim to be 100% succesful, but I don’t take it for granted that my arguments still stand, especially if new information or a new counterargument comes along.) And I try to see whether the anger of my ideological opponent is for themselves or for an idea they hold. (For instance, I would care about the anger of a Muslim who was confronting me for doing something that hurts her as a person, such as, say, excluding her from a physics study group on the basis of her religion. I wouldn’t care about a Muslim who was angry for god’s sake if I said something offensive about god.)

    (#68)

    But you tell me, what’s the constructive function of anger directed towards opponents who will interpret it as a sign that they are getting to you?

    So that any opponents who aren’t just after a reaction will take it as a sign that they’re fucking up. So that people on the sidelines know it’s an issue that matters, and isn’t a “pointless internet argument.” So that other people afflicted with the same shit know that it’s okay to be angry with what’s done to them.

    Also? Do you really think that trolls are so stupid as to play their game in a way that they could possibly lose in their own eyes? No. Any reaction is a win. No reaction is a win. So it’s not about winning against them; it’s about changing the world so that trolling and bullying and harassing and hating cost the troll too much to make their petty thrills worth it.

  56. says

    So it’s not about winning against them; it’s about changing the world so that trolling and bullying and harassing and hating cost the troll too much to make their petty thrills worth it.

    Indeed, precisely none of which will be achieved by expending so much as an iota of mental or emotional energy on those trolls. Which was my point.

  57. athyco says

    But you’ve quoted from #70 the outcome A. Noyd works toward, Dave, not the method and the reasons for it.

    ♦ Check, recheck, and update our own argument.
    ♦ Evaluate the basis of the anger from the ideological opponent v the ideological troll.
    ♦ Demonstrate that the troll response is different from the opponent’s response.
    ♦ Convince onlookers that the issue matters.
    ♦ Provide numerical strength for justified anger (in arguments that we check, recheck, and update).
    ♦ Reveal the tactics of the trolls’ game so that fewer are taken in or encouraged to join them.

    Not one of those methods expends mental or emotional energy solely on trolls.

  58. A. Noyd says

    Dave (#71)

    Indeed, precisely none of which will be achieved by expending so much as an iota of mental or emotional energy on those trolls. Which was my point.

    You know that’s just an unevidenced assertion, right?

    But go on, prove that ignoring works better. Prove how ignoring will achieve things like showing that the issues being argued over matter. Demonstrate how ignoring will help other victims understand that their anger at being targeted is legitimate. Show how ignoring is the best strategy for convincing ignorant but not malicious people who take up the trolls’ arguments that those arguments are wrong.

    Do something besides simply announcing your personal conviction to explain how ignoring trolls ends up costing them enough to stop their game. (And when you do, keep in mind what it costs their targets to appear to ignore them.) Explain how inaction effects change.

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