The darkness before dawn


It is more or less inevitable that, in any discussion of turmoil within a social movement, there will be those who archly perch atop some combination of a high horse and a fence, raining down tongue-clucking pronouncements about how the mere existence of dissent is the reason why they will never get involved. I suppose if one was being charitable, one could interpret this as an impulse to avoid conflict. After all, not everyone wants to jump into the midst of a fight, and I can certainly sympathize with that impulse. Some people simply want to exist and be at peace without having to ‘pick a side’ between factions that should be united in purpose.

Of course, the question becomes why those who wish to avoid conflict so ostentatiously announce themselves to be above it rather than just butting out the way they claim to want to do. Standing up on a soapbox and doing the whole ‘plague on both your houses’ lecture is not a statement of non-involvement; it’s a statement of philosophical purity and superiority. “I would never lower myself to so crass a level as to care about something and fight for it. How vulgar!” It is the same spirit of false equivalence we are so often ‘treated’ to from faitheists who would hush Gnu atheists for being ‘too strident’ and ‘attacking’ religious folks instead of engaging in a sort of faux-ecumenical hand-holding exercise where we hold our noses and pretend each other’s shit doesn’t stink.

So no, as much as I would like to grant the benefit of the doubt to the Chris Mooneys of the world, I will not pretend not to notice the contempt with which the tone trolls hover disapprovingly around any internal debate within the freethinking community. You’ve probably guessed at this point that I’m talking specifically about the latest round in a long-line of dust-ups over the treatment of female skeptics and the subsequent dismissal of their concerns. It seems like every time anyone mentions anything to do (even obliquely) with Rebecca Watson, a chorus of idiotic voices arise. To be sure, the worst offenders are those who decide to use the opportunity to showcase their ridiculous retrograde stupidity, but there is always a depressing number of people who decide instead to accuse both sides of needing to ‘take it down a notch’ or wonder why we can’t just be ‘on the same side’ or that they have ‘better things to do’.

First of all, this fight is fundamentally a fight about how we address sloppy and uninformed thought processes, not just about sex and gender, but about how we respond to pseudoscientific claims. The comments section of pretty much any open thread about feminism will be replete with phony ‘explanations’ for why women are just not cut out for scientific thinking, or how assault victims are just in it for the attention, or how ‘uppity cunt’ or ‘bitch’ are just value-neutral generic insults that have nothing to do with gender. These are the ‘why are there still monkeys’ retorts of an unthinking mind presented with a reality that does not conform to their worldview laden with stereotypes and mental shortcuts.

This movement is deeply interested in these lazy thought processes, because they are the exact same type of heuristics that give us pretty much everything that makes religion so appealing and dangerous. It is unbelievably foolish of us to pretend that we can use our skeptical toolbox to decry (often derisively) the intellect of those who would devote their lives to Christian apologetics, but then not fight over the exact same lazy approach that gives us “Men’s Rights Activists”, “Race Realists”, Randian Libertarians, and any other group that wishes to avail itself of the fruits of rational inquiry without subjecting their own ideas to its critical gaze.

So no, we don’t have something ‘better to do’ than fight about feminism – it’s the exact same fight we’re having against religion.

The second thing that I think gets overlooked by the denizens of the fence is the fact that internal struggle is a good thing. The freethinking community is full of people who clearly feel not only comfortable enough to raise these issues, but expect to receive some kind of audience. I saw a lot of this during the Occupy movement, where minority groups were (sometimes) being listened to in a serious way, often for the first time. Yes, there were a lot of folks clamouring that Occupy was supposed to be about income inequality and nothing else, and that getting side-tracked on issues of systemic racism, sexism, and social policy that was anything besides ‘regulate the banks, tax the rich’ was just a “distraction” from the “real issues”. However, those ‘side issues’ were an integral part of the overall problem, and Occupy was (and is) the appropriate venue to begin tackling them.

In the same way, the freethinking community prides itself on using rational, evidence-based inquiry to address problems. We are a group of people who, far more than the general population, know how to spot logical fallacies and work through dubious claims. It is perhaps principally for that very reason that we are having this fight – not because it’s a ‘distraction’, but because it’s at the core of who we are. And yes, we are going to keep having this fight over and over, because it is one of several topics on which the self-contradiction of our own beliefs often makes us lead with our chins.

So while I sympathize with those who would rather not have to keep dealing with these issues, I have no comforting words for you. Because we are thinkers, and noticers, and arguers, we will continue to think about, notice, and argue about feminist issues. As we become more vocal and effective at discussing the flaws of religion, I imagine that there are fewer and fewer people who are walking around completely oblivious to the flaws in theist arguments. In the same way, the more we discuss feminism, anti-racism, gender and other social issues, the fewer people there will be who find it easy to retreat into the same tired arguments that excused their ignorance in the past.

Yes, we are having this fight. Yes, we are having it again, and yes we will likely keep having it. And that’s a good thing, because as the adage says, it’s always darkest before dawn.

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Comments

  1. speedwell says

    When the movement has absorbed all of the sympathizers who care more for the success of the movement’s goals than for avoiding argument, the only sympathizers left are those who care more about argument avoidance than about furthering the goals of the movement. Yeah, I guess they’re still sympathizers, but they belong to the “peace at any price” movement rather than the “suck up a little discomfort in a necessary cause” movement. That doesn’t mean I advocate conflict, to make it crystal clear… it means I advocate the demise of religion FIRST and I don’t care if I make people uncomfortable in a debate.

  2. LeftSidePositive says

    Beautifully said, sir, beautifully said!

    On that tone trolling argument…I had a doozy of those over on Lousy Canuck. Some guy made some sage remarks about how there was too much “shouting down” of those who just disagreed (and why can’t we all get along…). So I said, WHERE did one of the feminists “shout down” an opposing view? How do you know that? What differentiates “shouting down” from disagreeing? He kept posting on that thread, so he must have read it (I asked him twice!)…crickets!!

    I’ve come to intensely distrust “both sides are getting too argumentative/overheated/overemotional/etc.” as just a way to say “shut up, that’s why!”

  3. says

    Heh, coincidentally, I just did a post where I come dangerously close to the type of “tone police” you are criticizing (although I think I avoided it — I’ll let others be the judge), which also happens to praise you very highly. (I would have done a trackback on your “white wine” post, actually, but Blogger doesn’t support trackback I guess…)

    We do have to be careful. I am equally contemptuous of the “I’ve found a way to feel superior” false middle people, but on the other hand it is true that even the “good guys” aren’t perfect, and we shouldn’t be afraid to examine that.

    I admit I’ve been a little put off lately with some (by no means all) of the people who are on the right side of this issue, and the way they go full-on guns-blazing when someone is the least bit slow to fall into line on this issue. OTOH, it is hard to blame them given the unapologetically clueless bullshit (not to mention the rape threats) they have had to deal with in regards to this issue. So I dunno… I don’t want to complain too much.

  4. says

    The best way that I can explain why people go in with guns blazing on seemingly clueless people is to give you one of two scenarios:

    In the best case, it is usually a person with privilege who couldn’t be bothered to educate themselves on it. Oftentimes, they feel as though they are entitled to ask and to be educated by marginalized people. I’ll be the first to say that education is important, and I certainly don’t always come in guns blazing, but oftentimes it is incredibly frustrating to have to explain what amounts to basic human decency to people who couldn’t be bothered to learn it themselves without obtaining their very own personal Patient Marginalized Person to explain it. I would categorize these people as well-meaning, generally, but after living with these things and how blindingly obvious they are, it can be extremely frustrating to have someone plop down without so much using Google for their 101 and ask, “But WHY do you care so much about X?”

    In the worst case, it’s usually someone who is trying to divert the conversation to 101 in order to take up the time and energy of marginalized people so that they can continually shoot down their arguments using their s00per rational skillz (you know, “common sense” privilege). They don’t want the conversation to get more advanced than that because they think that marginalized people should just shut up about it in the first place, so they make a point of behaving as if whatever marginalized group should have to justify every single point of contention that they have with society, even if they have done so countless other times. They get into it so that they can gradually become more and more demeaning of marginalized voices under the guise of “just asking questions,” and they often remain unfailingly civil while maintaining a tone of mild derision, as if they are talking to a hostile child, and then, when the patient explainer finally cracks and calls them out for what they are, they can play victim; after all, they were just politely asking questions, right?

    I don’t get angry at people for going in with guns blazing, because usually both are problems with privileged. I don’t always do that because I’ve been that privileged person who was genuinely asking questions, but I also tend to come to things through the hard way, and it’s been through a combination of patience and through having feminists and atheists scream at my head that I need to just pay the fuck attention that I got to where I am. There is room for both. In any given conversation, though, I am not worried about alienating privileged people, because that should be a secondary concern.

  5. says

    In any given conversation, though, I am not worried about alienating privileged people, because that should be a secondary concern.

    Totally agree with that, and that’s why I’m a little hesitant to say anything. The only reason I do is because I know for sure that it can be done better, because (IMO, at least) Crommie already does it.

    I don’t think anybody is going to accuse Crommunist of being soft on privilege… but I also feel like I can be “that privileged person who was genuinely asking questions” here and get a straight and patient answer. Ian seems to have a talent for telling the trolls apart from the genuinely uninformed.

    As I said in the post I linked to, it feels safe to be wrong here. There are other places on FtB where I don’t feel that way… and I frankly am more guarded about what I say, am more likely to just not participate in the conversation at all, etc.

    As you say, though, there is “room for both”. Those other bloggers do what they do, and I read their blogs regularly and won’t stop. I think there’s room to do better without compromising on principle, but then again not everybody is perfect at everything. :)

    To flip it away from feminism and back into atheism: There were recently a couple of posts back and forth between Jerry Coyne and Jason Rosenhouse — a couple of guys who seem to agree on almost everything, midn you — about whether theistic evolution should be lumped into with intelligent design, Coyne saying yes and Rosenhouse saying no. I absolutely understand where Coyne is coming from, but I agree with Rosenhouse: While it is true that from a philosophical perspective TE has basically all of the same problems as ID, from a practical perspective, and from a tactical/political perspective, they are quite different.

    I won’t shy away from saying that those who ascribe to TE are wrong, and that they are not allowing themselves to accept the full implications of evolution properly understood. But I also recognize that they straddle the line between friend and foe in many ways, and as such I am going to interact with them quite differently than a straight up IDiot. TE-ers are on the right track, with the right intentions, but they just don’t “get it” entirely. On the other hand, ID-ers are motoring the wrong way on a one-way street, and the idea of a subtle course correction is absurd.

    I think there’s a rich analogy here for people who are at different stages of “getting it” on matters of privilege. And I don’t think we do anybody any favors when we fail to distinguish, for example, between people who (a) acknowledge that privilege is a thing and that it can have pernicious hidden effects, but who are being a little clueless on a particular manner in which it operates; vs. (b) completely deny that anything other than overt sexism is a problem, and that if only everybody could stop talking about gender, race, etc., then all of the problems would go away. By all means, blaze away at group (b). And if you really can’t distinguish, then it’s not the end of the world if you blaze away at group (a) too, as many FtB bloggers do. But there are more effective approaches for group (a).

  6. says

    Let me try and put the whole thing much more pithily:

    To those tone police who say we should always be polite and measured, and never bust out with passion and righteous vitriol, I say: Suck a lemon. But I do think we can at times be more judicious in regards to who gets the double-barreled righteous vitriol. A friend-who-is-wrong doesn’t always deserve to be treated like a foe.

  7. says

    But that should be tempered by the fact that, as you say, it’s a secondary concern. I’m a lot less worried about a friend-who-is-wrong being treated a little less kindly than she deserves, than I am about the pernicious, stealthy, and destructive effects of privilege.

  8. says

    Fantastic post, Crommunist. Yer damn right this is a fight worth having. And if we’re not making people uncomfortable with their received dogmas, how the hell can we call ourselves freethinkers?

  9. says

    Most “both sides are getting too X” arguments are really about one side getting too X, and the other side reacting in kind. They’re never equivalent. There’s almost always escalation purely on one side. That kind of false equivalency sticks in my craw too.

  10. LeftSidePositive says

    James, the thing is, your feeling upset that you were given a guns-blazing treatment is not as important as the frustration of the person who has to give the guns-blazing treatment. And if you get it, just apologize for where you were clueless, thank the person for their time, and (this is a good one) ask if they know background reading that you can do to get up to speed–this is better if you say, “I’ve looked at X and I’m still confused…” to show you’re making an independent effort.

  11. says

    I think I already said that more than once, i.e. that privileged people’s hurt feelings are at best a secondary concern here… and also I think I was pretty clear that I wasn’t talking about me — even though I’ve experienced it and didn’t like it, I have enough practice with this kind of stuff to keep my ears open and learn anyway. But a) that something is a secondary or even teritary concern doesn’t mean it’s not a concern (it just means that if there is a conflict, the primary concern trumps it; but I don’t believe there’s always a conflict), and b) not everyone has the practice to keep their ears open even when their being torn a new one.

    Hey, ignore it if you want, really, it’s not a big deal. As I said both in my blog post and here, the carpet bombing approach does work in the long term, I just think it’s somewhat less effective. If you don’t have the talent for distinguishing friend from foe and tailoring your approach accordingly, it’s not a big deal. Not everybody does. But I know at least some people can do it, and do it damn well — I know for sure because Crommie does it extremely well. He’s got just as much fire as anybody for the irredeemable assholes, but he’s also got a good eye for spotting when somebody needs more of a nudge than a cockpunch.

  12. says

    And actually, LeftSidePositive, you’ve inadvertantly touched on another thing that I think the “good guys” are losing track of here and there (and let me take this opportunity to reiterate once again: There is no false equivalence here. The people who are being all reactionary about this are wrong three ways from Sunday, while the people like Watson, Zvan, Thibeault, etc. who are keeping this issue alive are totally in the right, and the worst I can say about them is that I only usually agree with their approach).

    There is a difference between the right solution from an individual level and the right solution collectively. Let me quote your advice to me:

    And if you get it, just apologize for where you were clueless, thank the person for their time, and (this is a good one) ask if they know background reading that you can do to get up to speed..

    Indeed, and actually, I already do this. On an individual level, you are exactly right! This is the right way for someone who has been called out on their privilege to respond.

    So in answer to the question, “How can I be aware of my own privilege and be more sensitive to how it influences my and others behaviors?”, you are spot on.

    But there’s a separate question: “How can we, collectively, get people to be more aware of their own privileges and be more sensitive to how that influence their and others behaviors?” You don’t answer that question by just repeating the answer to the first one over and over. Not that I necessarily have the answer to the second question, but the fact that it is a separate question is an important thing to recognize.

    Or perhaps we should just eliminate all taxpayer-financed social programs, and just depend on voluntary charity donations instead? Because, you know, if everyone did the right thing on an individual level, then we wouldn’t need that collective response, right? Except that that’s silly, because sometimes the right solution on a collective level looks very different from the right solution on an individual level.

    I also see this operating when people completely dismiss any discussion of the fact that men are under a perception that persistence in the face of “playing hard to get” is a desirable trait. Now, I get why that grates: How dare we talk about these poor menz not getting laid as much as they want, when on the other side of the scale we are talking about people having triggering experiences, being constantly demeaned, feeling unsafe and harassed, etc. Indeed… except, as long as that perverse incentive exists, a non-trivial number of people will respond to it.

    On an individual level, obviously, the right response is “You getting laid slightly less is not the issue here, so please just stop whining.” On a collective level, however, if we don’t eliminate the perception, then many men will continue to persist in the face of what they assume is “playing hard to get”. So yeah, even though it’s painful to discuss what seems like such a trivial issue in the face of people’s real pain and fear, it may be necessary to do so in the course of addressing the collective problem.

    I hope that all makes sense. Again, I don’t want to draw a false equivalence… nor do I want to pretend like this is some fatal issue. There’s a reason I ended my critical blog post with “Keep up the good work, FTBers”. Hopefully it’s okay for me to talk about how we can do better, though…

  13. says

    That’s one of the things which really bothers me: I provide ridiculous amounts pf evidence (studies), and these same whiny, lazy thinkers over and over refuse to read them, cherry pick, argue that they studies mean the opposite of what the studies mean, lie outright and refuse to acknowledge rebuttal.

    It’s fucking lazy as shit. I HATE that kind of laziness. And when they find out I’m female, they start being really dismissive. All that fucking education, all that research and it can be dismissed off-hand by trolls with the accusation that the research studies provided make me an extremist (because, of course, all sides of the same but feminists are worse.)

    /rant

    Good post, I mean.

  14. says

    I’m sorry, were you saying something?

    Thought I heard a female speaking.

    /sarcasm

    On a more serious note, this drives me up that metaphoric wall. I can show people studies and numbers, and talk until I’m light headed, but until that Christian white male agrees with me, I’m totally biased and able to be dismissed.

    Even the statement, “I have morals and I don’t cheat on my husband” sounds better being echoed by a Christian than it does coming from me, apparently.

  15. says

    Ah, dark humor. I see we meet again. :D

    And yes, I’ve noticed that. I have two degrees, I’m working on two more, including a doctorate, and apparently I need to be ‘splained to be people whose qualifications for proof are chiefly the existence of their penis.

    It’s a great feeling, I tell you. *grumble*

  16. A nym too says

    Well said.

    There’s also the fact that marginalised people don’t get to walk away. Sexism/racism/ableism/homophobia/transphobia/classism etc. aren’t masturbatory exercises in theoretical debate, for those who are oppressed. It’s real, it fucking hurts, and it kills some of us.

    We’ve heard every question, asked by every JAQoff, over and over again.

    Microaggressions, when experienced individually, are like papercuts. In ‘debates’ like those happening here at the moment, these papercuts become so numerous and frequent, that people metaphorically bleed out. We haemorrhage. while the disingenuous JAQoffs stroll off without a scratch.

    That James, is why we get angry. These issues affect us every minute of every day. We don’t get to walk away, while discrimination and inequality still exist.

  17. Lotharloo says

    Of course, the question becomes why those who wish to avoid conflict so ostentatiously announce themselves to be above it rather than just butting out the way they claim to want to do. Standing up on a soapbox and doing the whole ‘plague on both your houses’ lecture is not a statement of non-involvement; it’s a statement of philosophical purity and superiority.

    Yes, it is a statement of superiority but it does not feel good. I lost lots of respect for many people during the EG (including a prominent one) and now I lost lots of respect for everyone else. This is no longer my movement. These are not reasoned arguments. These are childish fits. This is not how adults behave and I am sorry but I feel superior and it feels like shit.

    There are a lot that I feel I want to say but I suspect no one cares so I guess I’ll just go to sleep. But before that, watch “Collision: Christopher Hitchens vs. Douglas Wilson” and see how two adults with world views that are polar opposites can behave.

  18. says

    This is not how adults behave

    When you say “this”, you are referring to what exactly?

    I’ve seen Collision before. Douglas Wilson is a friendly guy who is incredibly dishonest and disrespectful to the arguments being put forth in opposition. If that is the model of behaviour you’d like us to emulate, then you’ll find little support from me.

    You seem to be labouring under the illusion that because there are opposing sides, there is merit to both arguments. It is entirely possible for one side to simply be wrong and stupid. When that wrongness and stupidity is destructive (as in, for example, the case of people who think that not being allowed to bully gay people is ‘religious persecution’), then being super-nice and friendly is no virtue. All it does is serve the oppressor’s agenda.

  19. Lotharloo says

    By ‘this’ I don’t mean this blog. Or the comments here. I mean the overall arguments surrounding the DJ issue, including hundreds of comments made by various commenters. Parts of the arguments against DJ was about the climate and my complaint is similar, that I feel the climate is too negative and people instead of responding with reason they rather use hyperboles, random accusations and strawmans. It is too difficult to tie my feeling to a specific comment or action or blog post and trying to do misses the point.

    I’ve seen Collision before. Douglas Wilson is a friendly guy who is incredibly dishonest and disrespectful to the arguments being put forth in opposition.

    I’ll watch it one more time but I was impressed by the fact that they both pretty much stuck to addressing the points rather than throwing accusations. Christopher Hitchens could have labeled Douglas Wilson immoral many times but he did not do it. He was not nice, but he was also professional. He knew that his opponent was not a man but a bunch of ideas. He behaved much better than I would have behaved and I really learned a lot watching that documentary.

    But anyways, I know that very likely I am in the minority here but it is all right. I hope something good comes out of it.

  20. julian says

    Lotharloo, how do you want people to respond when told it isn’t the sexism they’ve faced or any of the harassment that drove women away from TAM but them having spoken out? What do you want them to say when they’ve put themselves out on a limb sharing a hurtful moment of their life only to be told the problem wasn’t the system it was them for not reporting?

    You value calm, point and counter point arguments. That’s what more or less built skepticism (I guess, I really wouldn’t know). Calm detached men talking about topics with no real impact on their lives going back and forth. If that’s what you want to see, I can sympathize. I enjoy that too.

    But I value honesty and directness more than I value calm or professional words. I will not assign fault based on the lack of them.

    Why is this person hostile? Do they deserve to be? Can I point to what prompted this anger?

    Those questions are almost always a better way to approach an argument or fight than telling everyone to tone down the rhetoric. Because you can’t tone down the rhetoric for most people. You can’t tell them not to feel and not be passionate. You can correct them. You can point out flaws. But you can’t see someone in tears or choking back anger and just decide “they know less than I do. They can’t judge this situation as well as I can.”

    Any that’s my ignorable contribution to this thread. And it’s a great one, Crommunist. Thank you for the read.

  21. says

    What is it with people saying “I know I’m in the minority here”? I’ve never found cause to say that even on blogs and in real-life spaces where I don’t share the majority opinion. This just seems like passive-aggressive whining every time I read it, and makes me question the motives of the commenter.

  22. says

    @James Sweet: I actually went and read your post, and I think you make reasonable points in it. I find it much easier to read comments in spaces where people are expected to be allies, and are at least pointed to resources or given keywords when they ask questions; in those spaces, I find not much derailing happens. I don’t entirely agree, but others (Jennifer in particular) have said why.

    That said, since you seem to be trying: please give consideration to how you might edit your comments and make them a lot shorter before you post them, and try to say only the original contributions you have rather than rehash “I said this” and go over already-stated ideas. When your comments are this long, rather than have readers benefit from your nuanced opinion, we are instead tired of having to read too much familiar stuff.

  23. LeftSidePositive says

    Having fun with sixto??

    Man, he was doing everything he could to get juuuuust as close to the banning line but not quite!! Really masterful trolling, I have to admit.

    And then he went and screwed it up with a stupid slur!

    But the thing is with people like that they’ll insist they’re thoughtful, and that you and your advanced degrees haven’t thought about it enough and look-I’m-totally-so-open-minded-and-reasonable-and-if-only-you-had-a-little-more-research-you-could-convince-me-but-right-now-I-think-your-conclusion-is-still-wrong-just-like-I-did-thirty-journal-articles-ago-and-what?-my-citations?-why-no-I’m-just-going-to-nitpick-yours!!!

    But I think it’s super important (at least every once in a while!) to really show those assholes the goods, so you can stand proud in “I CAN demolish all of your cliche claptrap, no I’m not going to do it AGAIN! So when we tell you to sod off know beyond any possible doubt it’s not because we can’t ‘handle’ your brilliant insights!”

    So thanks for holding it down on that thread!

  24. LeftSidePositive says

    I can’t tell you how much respect I’ve lost for people who stand outside of important issues and call them “childish fits.” I can’t tell you how much respect I’ve lost for that whole contingent who decides they just can’t understand basic argumentative structure just because it says the word “fuck” in it, and then proceeds to fucking preach at us about “reasoned argument” when they offer NOT ONE DAMN REASON in the argument at hand, and overwhelmingly fail at even presenting a rational defense of why politeness is inherently better.

    Here is some remedial training on what makes an argument reasonable:

    Arguments stand on their merits, not the number of words, or which words were used to make it. “All men are mortal; Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal” is no more or less valid than “Socrates is a fucking asshole of a man; all fucking shitbag men are mortal, therefore Socrates is mortal, asshat.” That one is not to your taste is irrelevant.

    h/t Tom Foss

  25. says

    ‘Tom Foss’ doesn’t seem to have actually said what makes an argument reasonable. Rather he just seems to have denied that one particular characteristic is a problem for the reasonableness of an argument.

    Also, his example is wrong. The second argument is logically invalid, since the listener being an ‘asshat’ is not logically entailed by either of the two premises. Furthermore, it relies on an identity relation between ‘asshole’ and ‘shitbag’ which isn’t explicit, and so at best the argument is enthymematic. Given that the first argument is logically valid without assuming any hidden premises, I’d say it makes sense to say that the second argument is ‘less valid’ than the first.

  26. smhll says

    …oftentimes it is incredibly frustrating to have to explain what amounts to basic human decency to people who couldn’t be bothered to learn it themselves without obtaining their very own personal Patient Marginalized Person to explain it.

    I love the way you expressed this.

    I think people who don’t have the lived experience of marginalization aren’t going to “get” it until someone close to them, someone they care about, feels harsh consequences of marginalization. (Like their sister is harassed or their daughter is discriminated against or their less privileged co-worker who they have lunch with a lot faces some shit that never comes near them.) However, the hypothetical person I’m characterizing tends to imply in his comments in these discussions that even if you are as Patient as you can be, you aren’t a person he cares about enough to listen to and believe. For me that’s can be the most antagonizing factor in these discussions. The way that my hypothetical composite poster casts aside your (and my) personal experience and opinions and feeling suggests an impenetrable density of non-concern. Resembling a wall. Against which one might want to smack one’s head if one’s first five arguments moved it not at all.

  27. smhll says

    @JamesSweet

    I really liked your example (sincerely) about the debate between Jerry and some other guy. The reason I felt it was an excellent point/parable/story is that it was about something I’m not interested in. (Diclaimer: I am an atheist feminist and not a scientist.) Because I was not interested in it, I skimmed it and I didn’t understand much of it. If I tried to reply to your point about the two sides of that argument, I’d look pretty stupid. (And if you had a link back to the argument you summarized, I’d probably only understand the person using simpler language, and might be inclined to agree with him. Or I’d judge the debate by who was yelling more. With yelling causing me to deduct points.)

    So my meta-takeaway is that there are people (in the skeptic community) who might be disinterested in feminism, have trouble with the concepts and the longer words and might experience eyes glazing over when it is talked about. So it kind of works for me as an empathy exercise.

  28. says

    ‘Tom Foss’ doesn’t seem to have actually said what makes an argument reasonable. Rather he just seems to have denied that one particular characteristic is a problem for the reasonableness of an argument.

    What makes an argument reasonable is whether or not the conclusions follow from the premises. That’s kind of the point of reason.

    Also, his example is wrong. The second argument is logically invalid, since the listener being an ‘asshat’ is not logically entailed by either of the two premises.

    The listener is not part of the argument.

    Furthermore, it relies on an identity relation between ‘asshole’ and ‘shitbag’ which isn’t explicit, and so at best the argument is enthymematic. Given that the first argument is logically valid without assuming any hidden premises, I’d say it makes sense to say that the second argument is ‘less valid’ than the first.

    1. All pedants are obnoxious.
    2. Notung is a pedant.

    Then again, the original argument relies on an identity relation between “man” and “men” that isn’t explicit too. And boy howdy, what the heck is the meaning of “,”? That could invalidate the whole thing.

    How about this: the style over substance fallacy is a fallacy. Taking issue with the language used to make an argument, or the language used within the same word-space as an argument but actually unnecessary to the structure of the argument or its meaning, as an attempt to either refute the argument or dismiss it, is arguing against a red herring.

  29. smhll says

    Yes, there were a lot of folks clamouring that Occupy was supposed to be about income inequality and nothing else, and that getting side-tracked on issues of systemic racism, sexism, and social policy that was anything besides ‘regulate the banks, tax the rich’ was just a “distraction” from the “real issues”.

    Ah, yes, the old “why should I care?” argument.

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