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Jun 07 2012

The Non-Existent Freethought Blogs Mission Statement

John Loftus, who briefly had a blog here at FTB before leaving and then commencing a series of whiny and passive aggressive attacks on those of us who blog here, has gone from complaining about the mythical hive mind among the bloggers here to complaining that we disagree too much. Yes, I’m serious.

I’m not picking a fight with the FtB but I would really like to know what the mission statement of the mammoth skeptical Freethought Blog is. What unites them? What is it? Most organizations have a mission statement. I think the FtB’s should come together to produce one. I would really be interested beyond the fact that they are non-believers. I’m not talking about what they agree about, since they are united about non-belief and the need for diversity, but rather what their agendas are, their goals for being there. However, my guess is that if they produced one it would be so broad of a statement that it would end up being equivalent to something like this:

We at FtB have come together as a diverse group of atheists who have a diverse set of atheist agendas in order to have a bigger voice than we would normally have if we were not here.

As the founder and owner of this network, I suppose I’m the right person to answer his question. And the answer is simple: Freethought Blogs does not have a mission statement. It will never have a mission statement. We simply aren’t that kind of “organization” (and please note the use of this incredibly vague word, as though all “organizations” were of the same type and should all have mission statements). And we do not have a collective goal or agenda in writing our own blogs or in joining this particular group of bloggers. Each of us has our own motivations, goals and reasons for both of those things. In fact, John seems to understand that:

Now that’s okay if so, and if the people there are happy with having a bigger voice. But if this is what it amounts to then even though they have a bigger voice for being at FtB they are drowning out each other’s voice when they disagree. Some say they are against prostitution and pornography while others are for them both. Some call for the resignation of DJ Grothe while others support him. Some are against the hiring of an ex-Bush White House adviser as an Executive Director for the Secular Coalition of America while others disagree. Some want more activists invited to the FtB while others like Richard Carrier want credentialed women philosophers (and he’s proven that they exist). So individual FtB’s should consider how their goals are being achieved by being there, when their voices are being drowned out by other FtB’s. Why are they there? It’s a simple question, a respectful one. Some of the bloggers don’t even blog much at all in their area of expertise, like my good friend Mano Singham who is a theoretical physicist (sorry Mano). One of them characterized a different blogger by saying: “We even have a drunken chef.” Why is he there at all then? If so, that’s wasted space.

So what is the mission statement of the Freethought Blog? For all many of us can tell, it looks like it only highlights that atheists cannot agree on much more than non-belief, and that seems counter-productive to atheist causes. My opinion is that because the FtB does not have a mission statement it’s becoming more and more like a loose cannon on deck, at least on some issues. Because they lack one they invite diverse voices who drown each other out. All other people have to do is sit back and let them self-destruct. And it also gives some FtB’s a bigger voice among atheist circles than they would otherwise have had, who in turn use that bigger voice to blast other atheists who don’t have such a big voice.

First of all, let me note that it isn’t even a requirement that one be an atheist to blog here. If the late Martin Gardner, who was a deist, were still alive and interested in blogging here, do you think we would turn him down? Not a chance. Few people have contributed as much to the cause of skepticism as Gardner did for decades and we would be foolish to not welcome him to the fold. There are others that I imagine would be welcomed here as well who are believers, like Barry Lynn of Americans United for Separation of Church and State or Ken Miller.

What binds us together, it seems to me, is that we are all proponents of reason and science and we all want a more rational and just world to live in. Each individual person has their own priorities, where they choose to focus their attention. And yes, we have disagreements on many subjects, though I have a difficult time imagining why anyone would think this is a problem. Smart, rational people of good will can and do disagree on many things. It’s a bit odd that someone would find that the least bit unusual.

And I’m a bit baffled by this idea that those disagreements result in us “drown(ing) each other out.” Hell, I don’t even know what that phrase means. When Taslima Nasrin wrote that pornography and prostitution were inherently anti-feminist and Greta Christina, Jen McCreight and Richard Carrier disagreed with her, which of them was “drowned out”? And since Loftus is suggesting that we only have people at FTB who agree with one another, it seems to me that having a set of positions that one must agree with and removing anyone who doesn’t agree with them from the network is the very definition of drowning out their voices.

Perhaps I should explain something very important about the network. I decided to leave Science Blogs and launch this site after National Geographic took it over because they said they were going to impose “standards and practices” restrictions on us. They were very concerned about their public image, which is understandable for a very old and venerable (and non-profit) institution, and they were promising to enforce some rules on what we could say and how we could say it. But under Seed for more than 5 years, we had been left almost entirely alone. Indeed, when I was first asked to join Science Blogs, I was promised complete autonomy and that is exactly what they gave me. Not once was I told I couldn’t write something or that I had to delete something I’d written. I liked it that way and I decided that I wasn’t going to accept it any other way.

At that point, I approached PZ and asked him if he would like to join me, since I figured he wasn’t too keen on such restrictions either (let’s face it, he’s even more “in your face” than I am). We got on the phone and talked about it and we immediately agreed on a couple of important things. First, that there would be no restrictions on content (after all, that was the whole purpose of the idea). Second, that we should try to find diverse voices, not just a bunch of middle-aged white guys like us.

Loftus seems particularly focused on the idea of a “bigger voice,” whatever that means.

So Greg (and JT since you liked what Greg wrote), you want a bigger voice than you would otherwise have had even though when it comes to your own specific agendas as atheists (or unique views) they usually get drowned out by others there?

And there again is this idea that our own views get “drowned out” at FTB. What on earth could that even mean? Does someone else disagreeing with us and saying so “drown out” our “voice”? I don’t see how or why it would. We disagree, we talk about it, we write in public about it and it offers a chance to air our positions and have a dialogue about it. What exactly is being “drowned out”?

As for the fixation on a “bigger voice,” I’m sure some people jumped at the chance to join FTB at least in part because, by joining a larger group that included many prominent and well-established bloggers, they would get more attention and boost their blog views. Indeed, that is one of the advantages that I have often pitched to prospective bloggers and it works quite well. Over time, everyone has seen their hits and pageviews go up. And this is a good thing.

But there are lots of possible motivations besides that one. The reaction I have gotten most often when I’ve invited new people to join the network is one of excitement to be invited to join a group with so many people they already read and admire. Many have been shocked and thrilled that we wanted them, reacting with some variation of “You like me, you really like me! Squee!” But we invited them, invariably, because we think they are smart and interesting and have something to add to the conversation (that goes for Loftus when we invited him too). He doesn’t seem to get that:

You are excluding some atheist voices and you know it. What are the criteria for atheists to be included at FtB? That could be a place to start.

Well of course we’re excluding some atheist voices; how could we not, short of having every atheist who wants to blog in the entire world join the network? And the answer is that there are no criteria. We decide as a group which bloggers to add to the network. We have a whole long list of potential invitees and even an official subcommittee to sort through them and make suggestions. But we makes those decisions based on consensus. Sometimes there is disagreement about a particular blogger — it would be an enormous shock if there wasn’t — but in every case when someone votes no but the group agrees to add them, the person who disagrees has welcomed them with open arms, as they should.

Yes, it can be a bit like herding really opinionated cats; I’m okay with that. In fact, I like it that way. As the owner of the network, I could just decide to add anyone I like and ignore the rest, but in the very first conversation with PZ about joining FTB, I told him that I wanted to make decisions by consensus whenever possible. I wanted it to be a community, with all that entails — including inevitable disagreements. And I very much like the community that we’ve formed, even when I disagree with what someone else has written.

There is a good deal else that Loftus seems confused about in his post and his comments. For instance:

I’m still trying to get a handle on it, and I suspect my prompting could help you get a handle on it as well.

I don’t see what there is to get a handle on. We have a lot of different people with different opinions. What is so hard to understand about that? He also says that FTB “puts people into leadership positions who don’t think very critically.” We do not have leadership positions here. We’re not a military unit with ranks. I’m sure John disagrees with many things said by people here. So do I. But so what? When you disagree, say so. No one has a problem with that.

In the end, Loftus really does seem to think that we should be imposing a single viewpoint on every issue on our bloggers, or that any blogger who gets disagreed with by another on the network should follow his lead and take their ball and go home:

GregFromCos, let’s say they all shared an agenda. Then they would have a much greater impact, agreed? But when one says one thing and another disputes it and the same readers are there, then the impact of their voices gets muffled or muted. I don’t see why the person who vehemently argued against prostitution and pornography stays there. What holds her there? That’s my question. Her distinct voice was drowned out. It’s up to her to decide for herself, but it was an important issue to her and she was shouted down.

No, she was disagreed with. It’s not the same thing. Why is Loftus so averse to disagreement? It baffles me. Her “distinct voice” wasn’t “drowned out,” it was given a platform on which to assert itself even in the face of disagreement. How is that a bad thing for anyone involved?

What really makes this all the more amusing is how utterly contradictory it is. Indeed, in the very post that prompted the one linked to above, he criticizes FTB bloggers for thinking too much alike:

Greg Laden, a Freethought Blogger, is calling for the resignation of DJ Grothe who is the President of the James Randi Foundation (JREF) which hosts The Amazing Meeting (TAM) every year. A few other Freethought Bloggers have cooperatively written posts that criticize him. Do you ever wonder why several Freethought Bloggers write on the same topic from time to time? It’s because they all share an email where they talk among themselves and ask other Bloggers to chime in.

Why would anyone wonder why our bloggers write on the same topics from time to time? There just seems to be a major disconnect from reality here and Loftus seems terribly confused. On the one hand, if several FTBers agree on a subject and each write about it expressing a similar perspective, that’s bad and it’s obviously all orchestrated behind the scenes; on the other hand, when we disagree we’re drowning each other out and undermining atheism in the process.

And many of his commenters have joined in to declare the exact opposite of John’s argument, as he has clearly implied before as well. This was addressed by Mikhail to Justin Griffith:

Justin, you’re too good a guy for free thought blogs. I’m serious about this, and this is obviously a compliment. It’s too bad a decent guy like you has to be associated with the cultists at free thought blogs who demand absolute conformity and insult those who think outside of the box.

Yes, sometimes many of our bloggers agree. When a controversy comes up, like the current arguments over sexism in the atheist community and DJ Grothe’s response to it, it should hardly be a surprise, or be viewed as a negative, that several people with similar interests and ideas on how to deal with it all write about it around the same time. It also shouldn’t be a surprise, or viewed as a negative, that others on the network may well disagree and say so as well. Which is it, are we a hive mind that is undermining the cause by gang-style attacks on other atheists? Or are we a highly fractured bunch who is undermining the cause by disagreeing with one another? Jesus, folks, pick a horse and ride it. We’re either a bunch of people who disagree with one another too often and therefore undermine atheism and “drown out” one another, or we’re a cult that destroys anyone who disagrees with us; we can’t be both, for crying out loud.

We invited John Loftus to join FTB last year because, as a group, we have genuine respect for his work debunking Christianity. And we still do. But let me just say this: I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone with as fragile an ego or as strong a persecution complex as John. He is forever demanding “respect,” by which he seems to mean that everyone must bow to his greatness. I think the reason why he seems so baffled by the idea that a group of 40 people would disagree on some things (not to mention the hypocrisy of his criticism of the exact opposite when it suits him) is because he simply cannot fathom the idea that anyone would disagree with him.

From the moment he joined FTB to the moment he left to his most recent postings, he has displayed consistently diva-like behavior. And frankly, I am relieved that he decided to leave the network. I don’t mind herding opinionated cats at all, but I have little patience for those who have displayed a level of pettiness and narcissism that would make Bill O’Reilly envious. When he says things like this:

They need me and don’t realize it. Someday they will.

You get a mere glimpse of it. Yes, John, we’ll rue the day you left (/sarcasm)

144 comments

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  1. 1
    d cwilson

    If everyone blogger agreed on every issue, what would be the point of having separate blogs? Maybe Loftus would rather you formed a collective Borg-like consciousness that roamed the intertubes assimilating atheists everywhere.

  2. 2
    Modusoperandi

    Darn you and your mandated conformity and also disagreement!

  3. 3
    Crommunist

    John seems to have an axe to grind about the “unqualified” bloggers on this network (by which I assume he means me, perhaps among others). Because you see, Ed, you took us out of the obscurity we belonged in and put us into the spotlight. Now everyone listens to everything I say and obeys it unquestioningly, even though I haven’t written a library of books and taken a bunch of philosophy/theology courses. How dare you sully the good name of atheism by permitting us to opine on matters for which we lack the necessary ‘credentials’.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, my readers are building me an altar and a throne from which I can announce my various proclamations that they will follow unquestioningly. Not because I’m any good, mind you, but because I am on FTB and that’s all it takes to gain universal adulation.

  4. 4
    Sastra

    Maybe the hivemind mentality of freethoughtblogs is that everyone in the hivemind thinks that it’s okay to disagree with even the majority of people in the hivemind.

    Sort of works on the same principle as saying people against unfair discrimination are bigoted against bigots, or science is a dogma because it dogmatically refuses to stay the same in the face of new evidence.

    I think it would be funny if freethoughtblogs put out a signed mission statement to the effect that all members disagree with John Loftus on the need for a mission statement. But then, I’m easily amused.

  5. 5
    Jasper of Maine

    And there again is this idea that our own views get “drowned out” at FTB.

    You have no idea how many times when I’m trying to read one of the blogs, and then all of a sudden, all this text from the other blogs starts pouring into the page and I can’t read anything anymore.

  6. 6
    Jasper of Maine

    There are some topics that everyone should agree on – like that slavery is bad. The fact we all agree on that subject doesn’t make us a “hive mind”. I just means we all agree.

  7. 7
    dalemacdougall

    When Loftus wrote on DC that he was leaving freethought blogs to go back on his own I commented that it was no surprise as his ego couldn’t handle sharing the limelight with others. Needless to say that comment didn’t get published there.

    @Crommunist Here you go – http://www.bornrich.com/30000-game-thrones-replica-iron-throne.html

  8. 8
    Randomfactor

    I just last night finished the book “Sway” about the manner in which fallible human beings are led to make stupid, irrational choices.

    One of the points made is the importance of including at least one person in any forum/committee/etc. (the example given was the US Supreme Court) who WILL disagree on a given issue. It provides both a valuable brake on groupthink and helps to modify the final consensus–if any is actually reached–often making it better.

    Citizens United notwithstanding.

  9. 9
    Robert B.

    We’re obviously a hivemind. You can tell because of how we’re always talking about how we disagree with each other.

    (No, really. When commenters or bloggers openly disagree with each other around here, it’s taken as proof of forced consensus. Because obviously the only reason to discuss a dispute is to whip the dissenters back in line. We’d never be trying to, say, debate and convince each other like rational human beings.)

  10. 10
    jba55

    If everyone agreed on everything this would be an awfully boring site. Disagreement breeds discussion like conflict breeds drama. I was under the impression this was a feature not a bug.

    “They need me and don’t realize it. Someday they will.”

    Wow. This guy is so full of himself I’m surprised he doesn’t explode.

  11. 11
    michaeld

    While I do find it incredibly draining sometimes I’d say the disagreements are mostly educational and enlightening. A little debate on an issue never hurt anyone. Then again its not to late to create some form of secular papal authority.

    Ed, Crommie et al how should I feel about moment of silence in schools? Should I start drinking or continue to abstain? Which are better Otters or Cats? Please we need your unquestionable proclamations to tell us how to be proper freethinkers! (tongue in cheek ;p)

  12. 12
    jaketoadie

    Clearly the answer to this conundrum is to always make sure that 50% of you agree on any issue, and 50% disagree, that way everything is fair and balanced (since of course all issues only have 2 possible sides).

    If on the odd case you want to make it so that one side of any given issue is right then one of the 50% who oppose needs to just say that they are abstaining from the discussion on this particular issue.

  13. 13
    Crommunist

    michaeld #11

    Which are better Otters or Cats?

    Otters. Some things are just a question of scientific fact. Disagreement is a sign of delusional insanity (or perhaps infection with mind-controlling parasites).

  14. 14
    Ophelia Benson

    John Loftus, who briefly had a blog here at FTB before leaving and then commencing a series of whiny and passive aggressive attacks on those of us who blog here, has gone from complaining about the mythical hive mind among the bloggers here to complaining that we disagree too much. Yes, I’m serious.

    Hahahahahaha I know, I know, I see it all the time. I’ve just seen a little groupuscule at Twitter agreeing with each other that we speak with one voice and we’re anarchic.

  15. 15
    chriskg

    I think I understand where John is coming from on this issue. I do not think it’s about ego as some have suggested here, but instead it’s about acceptance. If atheists are a fringe movement, John is at the fringe of that movement. Think about this way, his audience is Christians or people doubting their current faith (see John’s OTF) not atheists per se. Atheists have already passed John in their belief system, although I think we can still learn a great deal from him. He is at the forefront of anti-apologetics.

    Yes, he is an atheist. Yes, he “preaches” to Christians, but how many Christians come here to read FTB let alone John’s site? Save for the occasional trool. He gets little or no traffic from his desired audience and shallow support from atheists. For example, how many times has he been invited to an atheist conference or convention? He’s a great asset to the atheist community. If we want to address Christians with their own book and theology, John is our secret weapon. He knows their book better than they do. The smarmy William Lane Craig taught the guy so it’s no wonder Craig won’t debate him. So, from John’s point of view, atheists ignore him and Christians dump on him. What he needs is support, not more name calling. As I read his posts, I see frustration, not attacks. As long as he’s been at it, I think most people would be burned out. Cut the guy some slack and welcome him. We need more John Loftus’ out there.

  16. 16
    bubba707

    The only conclusion I can reach is John is crazier than a soup sandwich.

  17. 17
    sisu

    I really don’t understand the “drowning each other out” argument. I have found the disagreements between bloggers to be some of the more interesting and enlightening blog posts. By and large, the bloggers here are excellent writers and clear thinkers; I quite like reading the posts where people are coming down on separate sides of an issue, both giving good arguments for their positions.

    More than the demands for respect, what really rankles for me with Loftus’ posts is the way he instantaneously challenges dissenting views with “what are your credentials?” I think the hallmark of a truly critical thinker is one who will examine the argument on its own merits. If you jump right to “you don’t have a degree, therefore nothing you say can be worth my time” you’re heading straight into ad hominem territory and revealing yourself to be a classist a-hole, to boot.

  18. 18
    Jasper of Maine

    Cut the guy some slack and welcome him.

    We did. He left on his own accord.

    We need more John Loftus’ out there.

    In a general sense, we need more counter apologists.

  19. 19
    Raging Bee

    Yes, as brave free-thinkers we must all strive to agree more. But not too much more.

    We are the chorus and we agree!
    We agree! We agree! We agree!

    –Ed Bee

  20. 20
    Ed Brayton

    chriskg wrote:

    I think I understand where John is coming from on this issue. I do not think it’s about ego as some have suggested here, but instead it’s about acceptance. If atheists are a fringe movement, John is at the fringe of that movement. Think about this way, his audience is Christians or people doubting their current faith (see John’s OTF) not atheists per se. Atheists have already passed John in their belief system, although I think we can still learn a great deal from him. He is at the forefront of anti-apologetics.

    Except he recently declared that he no longer wants to engage with Christians at all. Look, I fully agree that John Loftus does great work on counter-apologetics. I said so when I invited him to join FTB, I said so when he chose to leave FTB and I’ve said so many times since. I don’t know anyone here at FTB who doesn’t agree with that. But I don’t see what that has to do with his incoherent and passive aggressive attacks on everyone here. None of us have any problem with criticism, proven by the fact that we so often criticize each other. But his attacks are simply bizarre. He wants to simultaneously claim that we are a hive mind that attacks anyone who criticizes us AND that we are “drowning out” one another by disagreeing too much with one another. It’s completely irrational, and the reason it’s irrational is because it isn’t really about any of those things. It’s all about John’s obsessive need for praise and his incredibly thin skin.

  21. 21
    baal

    commencing a series of whiny and passive aggressive attacks

    ^that

    People write for a number of reasons but ‘psychic pressure’ to express what’s in their head is chief among them. I saw the weird trolling from a Loftus supporter (I’d not admit to having one of those in public) on Crommunist’s Blog and went over to Loftus’s to read the foo-fer-ah.

    The entire time I was there, I was thinking, why would JL bother to post an attack?

    I come to FTB specifically since I like having the opportunity to read excellent writers that I’d likely never otherwise see. I don’t think I’d have found Crom or Natale (and several more) but for them being here.

  22. 22
    ottod

    Nowadays a kid can’t set up a lemonade stand without having a mission statement — and posting it. I’ve gotten business cards from lawn care services that have mission statements printed on them. Sometimes there is no mission and sometimes the mission is so obvious only a idiot would need to see the statement — and then have it explained. Sometimes there are organizations [!] like FTB where lots of the organists have their own missions and just find the company congenial.

    I like the arrangement here now. Sometimes I miss a post on one spot and find a link to it on another. When that happens, I usually go looking for the different viewpoints.

    When I was reading this, I kept thinking of a shopping mall where all the stores sold the same crap. Yeah! I’d spend a lot of time there!

  23. 23
    Moggie

    They need me and don’t realize it. Someday they will.

    Seriously? Was he wearing a Nehru jacket and sitting in his lair when he wrote that?

  24. 24
    Stephanie Zvan

    Ed, I completely agree with you except where the back channel has dictated that I must drown you out.

    Mostly, though, I just want to hear you squee in person someday.

  25. 25
    Raging Bee

    They need me and don’t realize it. Someday they will.

    He actually said that? Wow, that’s just…silly.

  26. 26
    Weedless Monkey

    During the time Loftus spent at FtB he must have been privy to backchannel discussions between bloggers, yet he writes like a total outsider. I’m not sure what to make of it, but it is rather curious.

  27. 27
    abb3w

    @6, Jasper of Maine:

    There are some topics that everyone should agree on – like that slavery is bad.

    Playing devil’s advocate…

    I’d disagree, since “bad” is only meaningful as a comparative, which thus requires something to compare to. Without specifying what reference choice is compared to as being “worse than”, the concept of bad is meaningless. And, trivially, slavery is not worse than slavery.

    Slightly less trivially, when two tribes had wars, slavery of the defeated army (and possibly the rest of the tribe) was probably “better” for both victors and conquered, compared to genocidal extermination of the defeated. As such, the institution of slavery at one point represented an improvement in human cultures.

    Of course, it eventually became a liability, relative to newer cultural developments still. As such, it’s often thought of as a bad thing… but that’s only valid in relative comparison to more modern practices. Saying it “is bad” is a moral oversimplification.

    Nyah.

    @20, Ed Brayton:

    It’s all about John’s obsessive need for praise and his incredibly thin skin.

    Whereas your skin so thick it explains why your enemies tell fat jokes about you?

  28. 28
    Sili

    Seems pretty obvious to me.

    You agreed that John Loftus was drowning in his own ego: HIVEMIND!

    You disagreed with the objective fact that John Loftus is the centre of the Universe: DROWNING OUT THE VOICE OF THE BLESSED JOHN LOFTUS!

  29. 29
    zmidponk

    One part of that which leaped out at me is this:

    For all many of us can tell, it looks like it only highlights that atheists cannot agree on much more than non-belief, and that seems counter-productive to atheist causes.

    Is it just me, or is that a complete non sequitur? The only real ‘atheist cause’, per se, that exists is the idea that there are no god or gods of any kind, so, even if every single atheist that there is, was or ever will be could not agree on a single thing except for this lack of belief, it would not harm ‘atheist causes’ at all. If anything, this central non-belief is strengthened by this variety and disagreement, as this means the idea of gods existing has been examined, and rejected, from multiple different viewpoints.

  30. 30
    George W.

    I didn’t even know who Talisma was until the prostitution and pornography issue came up here. I didn’t agree with her point of view, but I think FtB gave her a platform to discuss an important issue. Far from being “drowned out”, her opinion was brought to my attention and though I didn’t change my opinion on the matter- I was forced to revisit my reasons for having that opinion and I feel it is better informed than before.

    What JWL is saying, for those who can read between the lines, is that a “hive mind” is a good thing if it thinks the way he does, and bad if it disagrees with him. Dissent is bad only in as much as it implies that there is more than one valid way of interpreting the world- again- so long as that infallible prism is his own.

    My opinion has been changed by posts on FtB- but it has also been cemented at times too. The idea of a community of freethinkers is not to agree- or to be reactively hyper-skeptical (as others have opined)- it is to discuss issues, argue opinions and refine arguments through open conversation.

    To this end, I think FtB lives up to its promise.

  31. 31
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    while others like Richard Carrier want credentialed women philosophers (and he’s proven that they exist)

    What the hell? Is there some background to this remark that gives it sense?

  32. 32
    eric

    I was reading a few of the FtB sites before FtB. Because of it, I now read blogs by people I might never have otherwise read – and I like it when they disagree, because it stops and makes me think. When I think they will disagree on something, I actively seek out the differing blogs, to see what they have to say on an issue.

    So, IMO, that ‘drowning’ metaphor is complete bullflop. If anything, the reverse is true – the presence of different voices and opinions under this one umbrella amplifies their individual messages. Its like having BBC and NYT coverage of the same event linked together with a single button; having that linkage makes me more likely to read both and contrast – and, frankly, reading both and contrasting is probably better than reading either one alone, even when they disagree. Heck, reading both is at its most valuable when they disagree. Some with FtB.

  33. 33
    kacyray

    I find the blogging here to be first-class.

    The commenters in the comments section under each post, however, are like the sewer underneath the theme park.

    And I’m talking about the “Professional Commenters”, not the occasional guy who reads an interesting article and decides to chime in to the conversation now and then. I’m talking about the tribal herd here (and on many other of the FtB blogs) that apparently doesn’t have much else to do with their time than to spend hours on end either stroking the blogger, stroking the other “professionals”, or flaming outsiders.

    It isn’t hivemindedness that I’m talking about. It’s basic tribalism… the kind that permits honest, cordial disagreements within the tribe and flames all outsiders away.

    And don’t even TRY to tell me that shit doesn’t happen here.

  34. 34
    Tom Foss

    I think the bit about “leadership positions” might be that, by virtue of being hosted on FtB, a blogger becomes a “leader” in the online atheist community/movement/whatever. I don’t know how much truth there is to that, but it does provide people with a larger platform from which to speak, as others have attested in the comments here.

    That said, it sounds like Loftus thinks that in order to be a viable force against religion, we need to provide a united front. And that unity needs to come from the top down. A set of rules, or at least a purpose, brought down from on high to unify the group under a single banner. In order to fight against religion, apparently, it’s best if we’re more like a religion.

    Instead, I think it’s best that we provide an alternative. And that’s the nice thing about all the disagreements. For one thing, it shows that atheists don’t need to agree on everything, that there’s no party line to tow. But moreover, I think the reason we have the disagreements is often because there’s no easy answer source to turn to. Once you leave behind a religion with a book of phrases that you can interpret to give moral guidelines, all those morals and ethics and quandaries and mores and assumptions are suddenly up for debate, and need to stand or fall on their own merits. And we examine those merits by questioning the assumptions drummed into us by culture and religion, and arguing their real-world pros and cons.

    That’s not just valuable; it’s necessary as we move beyond religion, and absolutely vital if we hope to move the larger culture beyond religion as well.

  35. 35
    aaronbaker

    I may not be ideally suited to accuse someone else of having a thin skin–on the other hand, my opinion may be taken as an expert testimonial . . .

    so,

    get over it already, John Loftus. Put a salve on the butt-hurt, contribute or not, but leave the incoherent arguments to our pious opponents.

  36. 36
    chriskg

    @Ed,

    You said,

    But I don’t see what that has to do with his incoherent and passive aggressive attacks on everyone here. None of us have any problem with criticism, proven by the fact that we so often criticize each other. But his attacks are simply bizarre. He wants to simultaneously claim that we are a hive mind that attacks anyone who criticizes us AND that we are “drowning out” one another by disagreeing too much with one another. It’s completely irrational, and the reason it’s irrational is because it isn’t really about any of those things. It’s all about John’s obsessive need for praise and his incredibly thin skin.

    Well, I won’t defend John’s actions here at FTB or on his blog since I am not in his shoes (nor yours for that matter) but I do think The “hive” is forming against him here. (My irony meter is tipping on that point) John’s a big boy who can handle himself. However, to answer the above and from what I’ve read, I would go back to my original statement, John seems frustrated. I like his books which, aside from John, include some fine scholars including Richard Carrier, Valerie Tarico and Hector Avalos. I am not ready to dismiss him over something so transient as a rant.

    I can’t dismiss him and his years of blogging (not to mention books) because he’s upset with FTBs. Anthony Flew turned his back (or was coerced more likely) into disowning the atheist position he held for years, so should I throw out my Anthony Flew books? I know, that’s not what your suggesting, but the affect is the same. The whole thing is rather childish on both sides–and “I don’t care who started it!” (in angry parent voice) I just think there’s better things to blog about than this. It makes me want to scream, “Can’t we all just get along?” But, alas. I know better. I’m sure the Christian trolls are whetting their chops at this infighting. I await the angry throngs to dismiss me as a heretic.

  37. 37
    slc1

    Re kacyray @ #34

    I would take some exception to Ms. kacyray’s characterization of the commentors on this blog. She apparently doesn’t read comments by Michael Heath or James Hanley (although to be fair, the latter hasn’t shown up much lately).

  38. 38
    Jasper of Maine

    chriskg, who said anything about dismissing anyone (other than you)?

  39. 39
    chriskg

    @ Jasper,

    Read a little further down and I followed that with, “I know, that’s not what your suggesting [dismissing him], but the affect is the same.”

    So, I said it, “yes”, but there is some context.

    Does that help?

  40. 40
    heddle

    craigkg,

    Yes, he is an atheist. Yes, he “preaches” to Christians, but how many Christians come here to read FTB let alone John’s site? Save for the occasional troll.

    Um, some of us have been coming here since day one, and were long term guests (not trolls) on the precursor blogs.

    If we want to address Christians with their own book and theology, John is our secret weapon.

    Well he certainly is secret, since not many Christians have heard of him.

    He knows their book better than they do.

    So everyone says, but I’ve never seen it from his writing, which is somewhat superficial (not surprising given he was Craig’s student.) I have actually seen a better grasp of Christianity and scripture from some of the regular FtB commenters, such as owlmirror.

  41. 41
    Crommunist

    I know, that’s not what your suggesting, but the affect (sic) is the same. The whole thing is rather childish on both sides–and “I don’t care who started it!” (in angry parent voice) I just think there’s better things to blog about than this.

    When Sam Harris posted his thing about how racial profiling was okay as long as it’s against super-Muslimy people in airports, there was blowback. When Lawrence Krauss said that philosophy was dead, there was blowback. When Richard Dawkins started in with his “Dear Muslima” nonsense, there was blowback.

    Are you suggesting that this blowback was inappropriate or childish? I’d argue the contrary – that pointing out the unacceptable behaviour in even those we otherwise admire is a sign of a healthily skeptical community. As you note, exactly nobody is dismissing John’s excellent scholarship – they are just calling attention to his bizarre behaviour because it is unacceptable.

    The whole “there are better things to blog about” is a massive derail that is almost never a legitimate response to anything. Ed does blog about other stuff. He blogged about this too. That’s how this game works, and nobody besides the author really has a say in what topics are worth discussing.

  42. 42
    Ed Brayton

    chriskg:

    I certainly do not dismiss John’s scholarly work. It is excellent and deserves wider recognition. That was the whole reason I invited him to join FTB, because we liked his work very much and wanted to give it a platform. I still think he does great work, when he’s not engaging in these bizarre, incoherent criticisms.

  43. 43
    Michael Heath

    John Loftus:

    I’m not picking a fight with the FtB but I would really like to know what the mission statement of the mammoth skeptical Freethought Blog is.
    [emphasis mine - MH]

    I hope ‘mammoth’ is in reference to Ed’s long-term profit potential.

  44. 44
    Crommunist

    @Michael Heath #44

    Actually, it’s a reference to Jason Thibeault’s super-hairy back and shoulders.

  45. 45
    'Tis Himself

    The Hive Mind is causing Deep Rifts.

  46. 46
    John Horstman

    I’m not picking a fight with the FtB but I would really like to know what the mission statement of the mammoth skeptical Freethought Blog is.

    Well, there’s your problem, buddy. It’s Freethought Blogs, in the plural, as in a number of different blogs with their own aims and approaches. Reading comprehension fail.

  47. 47
    kacyray

    @38

    I would take some exception to Ms. kacyray’s characterization of the commentors on this blog.

    Of course you would, brother. Who among the tribe wouldn’t?

    She apparently doesn’t read comments by Michael Heath or James Hanley (although to be fair, the latter hasn’t shown up much lately).

    I’m a male, by the way. And my mothers unfortunate selection of name-spelling hasn’t escaped my attention. All love and respect to her, but she was far from perfect.

    I have read comments from Heath and Hanley, and it doesn’t surprise me that you would single them out as they are probably less guilty of what I’m talking about than the rest of the professionals. It doesn’t change the reality, and the fact that when I’ve brought this issue up in the past neither has ever acknowledged the reality of the situation (as you seem fully prepared not to as well) doesn’t lend itself to my excepting them from the overall assessment.

    I have particularly thick skin, which is one reason I even bring this up at this point. But I can’t only imagine the dozens, maybe hundreds of well-intended people – many who probably have interesting ideas of their own to contribute – who come by and deign to cast a dissenting opinion (without having first been vetted and approved by the tribe) only to be flamed out instantaneously, never to return because they probably figure that blogger’s entouage is a reflection on the blogger.

    I don’t necessarily think it is, which is why I’ve been reading Ed for years and will probably continue to do so. But I can tell you that the only thing the tribe accomplishes with this behavior is an incestuous intellectual atmosphere with the complete removal of any fresh air that might come in.

  48. 48
    Michael Heath

    I’m flabbergasted Mr. Loftus criticizes dissent. From my perspective the world suffers from a lack of disagreement with cogent voices in opposition. Instead we get disagreements where one or more of groups of proponents are capable of only piss-poor arguments. So who wins when it comes to the influence on public policy has too little correlation with meritorious policy prescriptions.

    I was fortunate enough to work in a couple of world-class companies where debates about certain topics sharpened everyone’s perspective. In fact an environment which allowed the best arguments to disproportionately win helped them achieve world-class status. Comparing those debates to other topics reminds me of Jefferson searching for diamonds in dung. In fact it was Ed’s ability to debate which attracted me to his blog since I missed that part of my corporate America experience after starting to go it alone.

    If this larger forum was to put an operation statement together I would hope it would commit itself to enthusiastically seek out the best arguments for a position rather than hope to arrive a preconceived fantasy. That they would celebrate high-quality dissent.

  49. 49
    Crommunist

    It doesn’t change the reality, and the fact that when I’ve brought this issue up in the past neither has ever acknowledged the reality of the situation (as you seem fully prepared not to as well) doesn’t lend itself to my excepting them from the overall assessment.

    Nice non-falsifiable hypothesis there, bro. If you disagree with the “reality” of your characterization, it’s because they’re PART OF TEH TRYBEZ LOL. When people point out counterfactuals, it’s UH ACCEPTIONZ LOL. No matter what happens, you’re right because you say you are.

    The thing you’re describing is a facet of all human communication – it’s no different here than it is anywhere else on the internet. That doesn’t make anyone a “professional commenter” (I can’t believe you take yourself seriously using a phrase like that), it makes them human. It happens in person too, but in those situations there are a number of other non-verbal cues in play. If you’re serious about nursing that beef of yours, I suggest you start hanging out with a different species.

  50. 50
    Chris from Europe

    @kacyray
    Why don’t you bring a concrete example?

    I assume you don’t think the homophobes and other nuts who recently dropped by had interesting ideas for us.

  51. 51
    kacyray

    @51
    This is the part where you decide you have a hoop for me to jump through, then I tell you to go pound sand because I have other thing to do with my time than run searches on threads that took place years ago (in some cases), then you smugly hold my refusal to comply with your wishes up as proof that I have no case and that I, apparently, like to make shit like this out of thin air (because I presumably have something to gain by doing that), then other tribe members – smelling blood in the air – jump in with the predictable “Yeah, he’s an asshole!!!” battle cry after which someone is going to congratulate you for how skillfully and expertly you skinned the troll.

    No, I never saw that coming.

    And I don’t know anything about homophobes and nuts stomping through your sacred cow pasture. I rarely read the comments, even more rarely do I comment myself, and when I do it’s usualy because I have time to kill – not because I expect any sort of fruitful conversation. Thanks for reaffirming my expectations.

  52. 52
    Chris from Europe

    @kacyray
    I doesn’t have to be a link, a description from your mind would have been enough.

    Do I think you are trolling here? You obviously are. You seem to have a clear focus on insulting people here, without any reason.

    And I don’t have to skin you, Crommunist already did that.

  53. 53
    John Horstman

    Okay, I’m through both Ed’s and John’s posts now: what the what?

    Here’s a shocking bit: these are two consecutive comments Loftus made on his post, in their entirety (emphasis mine).

    Crommunist, yours is a public blog that takes other atheists to task publicly. Why is it you can do this but I cannot?

    Russell, unfortunately you just confirmed my suspicions. I don’t see why you cannot understand what I have said, and yet you have been given a bigger audience by being at FtB. I asked for a mission statement. I was told you don’t want one. Then I asked what the criteria are for being there. I said nothing about what you should personally do differently. What you do based on my inquiries is left up to you. I offered no advice on that at all.

    Moreover, I never said I felt like I couldn’t offer any criticisms of other atheists. Where did you get that? I was merely asking Crommunist about the consistency of doing that and then complaining when I did it.

    Sheesh.

    You do understand my frustration when FtB puts people into leadership positions who don’t think very critically, don’t you?

    Um, he got it from your immediately-previous statement, dude.

    Ian nails it in Loftus’s comments.

    This one is gold:

    *Sigh* I have other things to do today. I just hope my point(s) weren’t missed by more thoughtful people.

    It doesn’t seem like anyone knows WTF you’re talking about, except maybe that you think disagreement is bad, a position I find truly terrifying.

  54. 54
    kacyray

    after which someone is going to congratulate you for how skillfully and expertly you skinned the troll.

    then

    And I don’t have to skin you, Crommunist already did that.

    hehe… you fuckers are nothing if not predictable.

    @50

    Nice non-falsifiable hypothesis there, bro. If you disagree with the “reality” of your characterization, it’s because they’re PART OF TEH TRYBEZ LOL. When people point out counterfactuals, it’s UH ACCEPTIONZ LOL.

    Oh, it’s falsifyable bro! When someone not associated with your bovine herd tells me I’m completely off-base, I’ll consider that to be pretty damning testimony.

    Do you realize how adolescent and dorkish your little all-caps esoteric misspelling intellectual-wannabe cool guy attention-grabber actually seems to someone who lives in the real world? You sound like a true America Online MySpace teenage grab-ass public school 8th grader with that.

    The funny thing is, all your little friends are probably going to think it’s totally awesome, bro!!!

  55. 55
    AJ Milne

    (Blinks…)

    It’s funny. At the same time as I find this complaint just bizarrely, blitheringly confused, I don’t really find it particularly surprising, either. It’s somehow of a piece with a certain kind of thinking.

    It’s some kinda confused, latent authoritarianism at bottom, methinks. It’s like it just sprains and strains a certain kinda brain to have to cope with anyone who doesn’t set themselves up as a Duly Constituted Authority™, and/or set themselves properly neatly under one, nor lay out a nice hierarchy and proper corporate mission statement, so they know who’s in charge, what they should be doing, how to whine about it properly if they’re not, of course.

    Oh, and there’s a form, right? If so and so steps out of line, I get to fill that out in box 40, right? Help me out here… It’s how it’s supposed to work: I want to be able to engage with FtB as I do with a corporate entity, and if you don’t toe the corporate line, I need to know who your manager is so I may write them a stern but understanding email about the perfidy of their subordinates…

    And note also the whinging about the ‘unqualified’ having blogs. How dare they! It’s just confusing, dammit? Won’t you people please wear proper badges and sign a nice little mission statement so I know how to deal with you? Otherwise you’re like…

    Dammit, well, then, just what are you, otherwise? I just don’t get it. But it will all come to no good, I tells you. There’ll be anarchy and cannibalism next, you just watch. It’s what you get for neglecting these absolutely critical governance structures.

    (/Oh, also, a loyalty oath. That’d be just capital. Can we have one of those, too?)

  56. 56
    John Horstman

    @52: Oh, awesome! *Ahem* “Yeah, he’s an asshole!!!”

    And I don’t know anything about homophobes and nuts stomping through your sacred cow pasture. I rarely read the comments, even more rarely do I comment myself, and when I do it’s usualy because I have time to kill – not because I expect any sort of fruitful conversation.

    All emphasis mine, all typos yours.

    To the bold point: how can you possibly be commenting on the tribal nature the comments when you don’t read them? You’re admitting selection bias that could be skewing your results, demonstrating confirmation bias in only paying attention to or selectively remembering the data that fit your preconceived notions, and/or straight-up lying.

    To the italic point: you reap what you sew. It’s hard to engage in a productive conversation with someone who refuses to be self-reflexive nor is open to being wrong, and it’s impossible with a troll. I’m not entirely sure which you are.

  57. 57
    tomh

    @ 34
    the kind that permits honest, cordial disagreements within the tribe and flames all outsiders away. And don’t even TRY to tell me that shit doesn’t happen here.

    Really? I’ve never seen it. And how do you send someone away? As far as I can tell, people just keep posting.

  58. 58
    mithrandir

    kacyray: I must say I sincerely do not know what you are talking about.

    Virtually every long-running online community I have ever been a part of, going all the way back to Usenet, has had a cadre of “regulars”, people who post multiple times a day and who have gotten to know each other. All such communities have had a diverse set of personalities, and there have always been a non-trivial number of people who will respond to newcomers with hostility. Heck, there’s a series of cartoons satirizing the phenomenon.

    And of all the communities I’ve been a part of, the FtB communities have been some of the most welcoming of outsiders that I’ve seen (with the possible exception of Pharyngula’s, which can end up drowning out outsiders by sheer volume).

    That’s not to say there’s no room for improvement. Far from it. But if you can’t give enough specifics for people to re-evaluate their behavior and that of their fellow regulars, then you are not contributing anything useful to the discussion, and I think we could be excused for suspecting your posts are merely to assert your personal sense of moral superiority.

  59. 59
    Cuttlefish

    Some of the bloggers don’t even blog much at all in their area of expertise

    What is my area of expertise, again?

    I do that for a living. I do this for fun.

  60. 60
    kacyray

    @57

    how can you possibly be commenting on the tribal nature the comments when you don’t read them?

    Damn, you caught me!!! I really should’ve said “I rarely read the comments anymore”. God, it sucks to be called out way. Nothing gets by you, man. Nothing.

    It’s hard to engage in a productive conversation with someone who refuses to be self-reflexive nor is open to being wrong, and it’s impossible with a troll. I’m not entirely sure which you are.

    Neither. I’m routinely wrong. Hell, one of my main hobbies is chess, and nowhere can one’s idiocy be more fabulously put on display than on chessboard. I suffer that indignity on a daily basis.

    And neither am I a troll, assuming you define “troll” as a person whose only purpose in conversing is not to engage in an honest exchange of ideas.

    With that said, you could make a good case that I am engaging in trolling on this particular thread, considering that my purpose here was really to “say” something rather than to “discuss” something. For this thread and this thread only I’d say “mea culpa”, but I’d also point out that it was the treatment I received in the past when I actually attempted to engage in a discussion of ideas – back when I naively thought such a thing possible in here – that led to the comtempt in which I hold this sewer these days.

    Put simply – I no longer feel this room merits my actualy intellectual energy. Which is unfortuante because, as I said, I do feel the blogging here is first-rate.

    Even Disney World has a sewer underneath. And what do you do when you realize you’ve walked into a sewer? You can either turn around and walk out of it… or you can piss on the wall!

    @58

    Really? I’ve never seen it. And how do you send someone away? As far as I can tell, people just keep posting.

    You can’t make someone go away, and you don’t need to. All you have to do to get rid of outsiders is to be distasteful enough and they’ll leave on their own.

  61. 61
    kacyray

    @59 kacyray: I must say I sincerely do not know what you are talking about.

    Fair enough. I believe you.

    All I ask is that you believe me when I tell you that things I’m saying here aren’t just made up from thin air.

  62. 62
    The Laughing Coyote (Canis Sativa)

    My, Kacyray, you are a special little snowflake, aren’t you?

    Put simply – I no longer feel this room merits my actualy intellectual energy. Which is unfortuante because, as I said, I do feel the blogging here is first-rate.

    Awww, that’s too bad. Well, I’m sure we’ll all get by somehow without your ‘intellectual energy.’

    For this thread and this thread only I’d say “mea culpa”, but I’d also point out that it was the treatment I received in the past when I actually attempted to engage in a discussion of ideas – back when I naively thought such a thing possible in here – that led to the comtempt in which I hold this sewer these days.

    Maybe it’s because your ideas are irredeemably stupid? I dunno, having never seen you show any of your original insights on anything.

    Anyways, I’m sure we’ll all go on, somehow, knowing you hold us in contempt. Because your dumbassed opinions totally, like, MATTER, man!

  63. 63
    tomh

    All you have to do to get rid of outsiders is to be distasteful enough and they’ll leave on their own.

    According to you. Yet you claim to have received this treatment and you’re still here. I’m an outsider and I’m still here. Good for us.

  64. 64
    Enkidum

    DEEEEEEPPP RIIIFFFTSSSS!

  65. 65
    Michael Heath

    kacyray,

    It would be helpful if you were to provide two links to past threads where you argued on the merits and conclude the response was less than stellar and is illustrative of your criticism here.

    I do think this forum could use more dissent myself, particularly from moderates and the remaining sane few on the right wing, whom I can’t refer to as conservatives since they don’t share the insane mindset that now dominates at least the U.S. conservative movement (e.g., Andrew Sullivan, Bruce Bartlett, Barack Obama, types would be nice).

    Unfortunately increased dissent doesn’t necessarily increase the quality of the debate. The trend I’ve seen in this forum is an increase in populist liberalism as opposed to the more academia-biased liberalism that predominated at ScienceBlogs.com. I highly respect the latter and find the former even more embarrassing than the wingnut Tea Partiers, partly because I think these populist liberals should know better.

  66. 66
    Michael Heath

    mirthandir:

    Heck, there’s a series of cartoons satirizing the phenomenon.

    It’d be fun to get each of us to assign ourselves to one more more of the characters and then watch the response.

  67. 67
    Marcus Ranum

    Wow. Navel-gazing!
    I must dig deep into mine
    to get the lint out.

  68. 68
    Gretchen

    For all many of us can tell, it looks like it only highlights that atheists cannot agree on much more than non-belief, and that seems counter-productive to atheist causes.

    That sounds incredibly productive for “atheist causes,” actually. Both atheists and non-atheists could stand to be reminded regularly of the fact that atheists are just people. They are not necessarily any more rational, intelligent, worthy, or moral than anyone else, nor are they necessarily less so. “Atheists cannot agree on much more than non-belief” is such an obvious and unremarkable statement that you may as well reflect on the fact that gays cannot agree on much more than an attraction to people of the same sex, and ponder whether that’s “counter-productive” to their cause. To which the answer, again, is no. It’s simply a statement of what it means to be an atheist/homosexual.

    And as Ed points out, this is not a blog community specifically for or composed of atheists. It would be closer to say it’s for skeptics and secularists, which are not the same thing but their interests overlap significantly. Also present are humanism, feminism, and rationalism, again which overlap but are not identical. And then all of the political viewpoints…wow. Yes, this is a diverse group of not-completely-atheists, and that’s a good thing. An echo chamber would be not only be tedious and redundant but contrary to the interests of those who want to show how important it is to be a skeptic/secularist.

    Yes, sometimes the comment threads are sewer-like. But often they are warm and illuminating, more like a salon. From what I’ve seen of kacyray’s posts, he contributes far more to the former atmosphere than the latter.

  69. 69
    echidna

    kacyray:

    All I ask is that you believe me when I tell you that things I’m saying here aren’t just made up from thin air.

    Sorry, I don’t believe anybody who won’t explain what they mean.

  70. 70
    Homo Straminus

    I can’t help but picture Mr. kacyray as the evil Queen Bavmorda from Willow: “Pigs! You’re all pigs!”

    And no, I can’t off the top of my head name any regular sycophants here. On the contrary, this is one of the extremely few blogs that I bother with comments, because I think they tend to add substantially to Ed’s content. PZ’s comment horde, on the other hand…

  71. 71
    kacyray

    @63

    Maybe it’s because your ideas are irredeemably stupid? I dunno, having never seen you show any of your original insights on anything.

    Yet you’ll assume they’re stupid, right?

    And this is intersting, because I’d estimate that 95% of my ideas and beliefs happen to be congruous with Mr Braytons (and PZ, and many of the others). The only divergence I see between myself and most of the bloggers on this site would be regarding views on Libertarianism and Feminism (capitalization intended). Without getting into what those divergences are (for the moment), my beef with the comment section has never been the *content* of the ideas expressed, but pretty much exclusively about the manner and tone in which those ideas are communicated.

    As I’ve said, the few times I’ve even attempted to interject a dissenting viewpoint in this (and a couple other) forums, I’ve been immediately flamed. When I reflexively defend myself (which I will never apologize for doing), I soon find a bullseye on my back. That kind of shit is unforgivable in a place where ideas are supposed to be flowing back and forth.

    Your comment here actually provides a perfect example of this. Assuming my ideas are stupid because I’ve complained about the tone of the room??? What the fuck kind of idiocy is that??? Yet there you are – a blazing example of a shining turd, and you notice not ONE of the tribe bothers to point out that you’ve done exactly that? Of course not. You’re the good guy, you see? So you get a pass.

    Don’t believe me? Let’s test my theory. Fire back at me full guns, with anything you want. Nothing you say has to be true or justified. In fact, just make some facts up about me. Tell me how I’m a theist or an MRA or a Republican. Just make shit up as you go along. No one will mind, I guarantee it.

    @66

    It would be helpful if you were to provide two links to past threads where you argued on the merits and conclude the response was less than stellar and is illustrative of your criticism here.

    Great idea, Michael! And when it becomes the word of the tribe against mine that my arguments were in fact merit-based, what means would I have at my disposal to prove that they are, and the tribe is simply demanding that they aren’t? Who would be the final arbiter? You? Do you have a “reason algorhythm” we can run my argument through to see if it holds up? Or are you, as the clear intellectual leader of the tribe, going to pronounce the verdict from your laptop of power and watch as they all fall in line? Sorry brother… seeing as how you’ve been pretty silent regarding the reprehensible behavior of others in the past, I don’t have that confidence you would be any other way now.

    I’m not going to do any searching, but I’ll give you one example. Going back to a thread over at SB – my first interaction with the tribe – I had the unmitigated audacity to suggest that Hugh Hefner is not a misogynist.

    Now again, I’d point out that the problems arose NOT because of philosophical disagreements, they arose because the sitation I described earlier happened. I was immediately labeled some sort of MRA (before I even knew what this acronym meant) and flamed to the point where none of my efforts to discuss the issue reasonably mattered. Of course, when I defended myself, that only angered the tribe.

    You see, this is a genuine disagreement. But I was told my arguments weren’t honest, I was a troll, etc… basic tribalistic bullshit.

    Anyway, I’m reading back over this comment and I’m realizing that my tone indicates a a higher level of investment in this conversation on my part that there actually is. I’ve said my piece. It is what it is. I’m out.

  72. 72
    krc106

    @Kacyray- Count me as one of the “outsiders” who has no idea what you’re talking about. I followed Ed’s blog here from Scienceblogs because it’s one of the few places on the internet where the comments section is usually respectful, intelligent, and logical. If your tone in the past threads was anything like your current one I think I might have a clue as to why you weren’t well received.

    As for the subject of the post, it’s been the disagreements between the bloggers that lead me to read and appreciate the work of bloggers on both sides of the issue, some of which I might never have stumbled upon on my own as I mainly came here for Ed and PZ originally. Healthy internal debate is important. The alternative is echo chambers like Fox News and Worldnetdaily.

  73. 73
    Gretchen

    kacyray said:

    I’m not going to do any searching, but I’ll give you one example. Going back to a thread over at SB – my first interaction with the tribe – I had the unmitigated audacity to suggest that Hugh Hefner is not a misogynist.

    What you actually did that bothered people so much was to assert that not only is Playboy not porn, but it’s some kind of monument to female beauty (which is, of course, an entirely objective matter) which all women should want to appear in, and if they don’t they’re fat ugly bitches. Or feminists, which you maintained are basically the same thing. Here’s the original post, but the entire comment thread was apparently deleted except for two. As I recall, you even supposedly got your “wife” to chime in supporting you, which a) was convincing to nobody, and b) wouldn’t matter in the slightest even if that was, actually, your wife.

  74. 74
    John Pieret

    But when one says one thing and another disputes it and the same readers are there, then the impact of their voices gets muffled or muted. …

    Why is Loftus so averse to disagreement? It baffles me.

    What part of “lockstep” don’t you understand … or, for that matter, the mindset that thinks it is a good thing? Last time I looked, that was what your blog is about!

    I know it’s hard to grok that people on “our side” are susceptible to the same disease, but they are.

  75. 75
    left0ver1under

    “I’M LEAVING!” said the attention hound for a third time as he stood in the doorway.

  76. 76
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    FWIW, IMHON, the whole FTB web complex or whatever you call it is something that I think works well and is something I check pretty much every day and enjoy greatly. (All too addictive really!)

    I like scanning through and browsing the various blogs on offer here and seeing what the different bloggers have to say – even if I don’t always comment and can’t always keep up with the endless threads. (Including *the* Endless threads.)

    I don’t always agree with everything folks say or hold the positions that most here hold myself either. When I disagree I’ll sometimes say so, vehemently. Naught wrong with that.

    So many thanks from me to Ed Brayton, PZ Myers, Greg laden, Natalie Reed, Taslima Nasrin, Crommunist, Great Christina, Blag Hag, Dana Hunter, Biodork, Hank Fox and everyone else for blogging here sharing your thoughts and online finds and news and more – including John Loftus whose contributions here I enjoyed although to be honest I never read quite as much of his blog as some of the others I’ve mentioned.

    John Loftus if you’re reading this then my advice (FWIW) is pretty simple and blunt : Yes, you made some good contributions in your time here but No the FTB site doesn’t need you, you’ve got your own blog and voice, just move on – and as we Aussies say get over yourself!

  77. 77
    dingojack

    To summarise:

    Kacyray sez: You said [insert bald-assertion here] you idiot!
    others say: You can link to someone actually saying that?
    Kacyray sez: listen, I’m too busy and important to find the evidence for my claim, you’ll have to prove (or disprove) my argument for me. Oh BTW did I happen to mention you’re a idiot? Anyway, WaAaAa you’re picking on me – GROUPTHINK!! I’m just producing counter-argument (even thought I’ve done nothing but provide a bald assertion), you idiot…
    (& etc.)

    Yep over active hivemind/dissension in operation on FtB.

    :/ Dingo

  78. 78
    mithrandir

    kacyray says:

    I’m not going to do any searching, but I’ll give you one example. Going back to a thread over at SB – my first interaction with the tribe – I had the unmitigated audacity to suggest that Hugh Hefner is not a misogynist.

    Now again, I’d point out that the problems arose NOT because of philosophical disagreements, they arose because the sitation I described earlier happened. I was immediately labeled some sort of MRA (before I even knew what this acronym meant) and flamed to the point where none of my efforts to discuss the issue reasonably mattered. Of course, when I defended myself, that only angered the tribe.

    Ah, I think I see the problem, and it has nothing to do with “the tribe”, except inasmuch as most of the regulars tend to have similar opinions on a particular subject.

    You see, you have just now stated a position that, to me, is not only wrong, but so completely devoid of merit that I do not deem it worthy of respect. If I were to have seen and responded to your post in the original thread, I would have been quite unlikely to do so respectfully.

    In short, what you took for a “tribal” response was, in fact, most likely a series of independent expressions of hostility, given by people who found your opinion as ludicrous as I do. Had you expressed the opinion that vaccines cause autism, that global warming is a hoax, or that schools should give equal time to intelligent design, you would have received a similar response.

  79. 79
    mithrandir

    In addition, this is not a matter of newcomers vs. regulars. This can most easily be seen on subjects where the regulars are not of a common mind, such as the Israel vs. Palestine conflict. When this subject comes up, you will find that there are several regulars who have very strong and diametrically opposed opinions on the subject, and that these regulars will lay into each other with every bit as much vitriol as you experienced.

  80. 80
    dingojack

    Or on the merits (or otherwise) of St. Ronnie of Altzheimers…
    Dingo
    ——–
    But not on St. Ronnie’s attitude to Israel – alas! ;)

  81. 81
    valhar2000

    I agree with Kacyray, and I’m surprised to find that this is considered controversial: after all, the majority of people are idiots (even so, commenters here are quite a bit above average).

  82. 82
    democommie

    I remember reading “The Belarus Secret” back in the early 80′s and thinking that it was interesting but seemed a bit over the top. Subsequently I read a few other things about Loftus and a few of his own writing samples. I think he’s smart; I also think he’s nuts. When nutty people say shit, I tend to take it with a grain of salt.

    BTW, I think I’m pretty sure who that fucking asshole Kacyray is talking about when he speaks of “professional commenters” who, “are like the sewer underneath the theme park.”.

    Well, gollywhillikers, Kacydude, there be sewers–runnin’ brimful with shit, used condoms and hypodermic needles, flushed crocodilians and all manner of noisome effluvia. Shit is the natural product of biological process.

    “All you have to do to get rid of outsiders is to be distasteful enough and they’ll leave on their own.”

    Oh, would that it were true! If being distasteful was all that it took to get you to cease trolling, you would have long ago left–and not returned.

    You silly boy; you conflate people thinking you’re a dickhead with people KNOWING that your arguments, in the main, are unadulterated shit. It is possible to be right about something and to be a complete fuckwad. It is possible to be wrong about something and be a decent human being. It is also possible to be wrong and to be a complete fuckwad. You seem to be an adept at assuming the third of those three positions.

    ““I’M LEAVING!” said the attention hound for a third time as he stood in the doorway.”

    I’m sorry but I don’t know whether that was intended for Mr. Loftus or Mr. KacyRay; in either case, we really can’t miss them, if they won’t leave.

  83. 83
    frankboyd

    Oh come now, come now. Please be serious. The mission statement may be summarised quite simply:

    1. Adhere to reason
    2. Advance atheism
    3. Always an invariably override #1 and #2 when they conflict with that pseudophilosophy you yanks have the nerve to call liberalism.

    Or, alternatively: “Mission statement: To return reason to her rightful place as the handmaiden of liberalism”.

  84. 84
    harold

    Mithrandir said –

    You see, you have just now stated a position that, to me, is not only wrong, but so completely devoid of merit that I do not deem it worthy of respect.

    First of all, this conflates “worthy of respect” with “worthy of a reasoned reply”. It is a fine line between “civility” and obsequious at times, but excessively emotional attacks are often a method of alienating others and enforcing clique conformity. It’s fine to do that if that is your goal. On the other hand, it’s hypocritical to claim to seek to advance your ideas with more of the public, while simultaneously behaving in a way that reinforces narrow group identity and hostility toward outsiders.

    Second of all, the proposition you scorn here, that Hugh Hefner might not be a misogynist, is clearly worthy of more than scorn. Obviously Hugh Hefner promotes softcore pornography that fetishizes certain ideals of physical appearance, and has relationships with the models he uses. He’s tacky, and not someone most of us feel like “defending”, but he isn’t a classic misogynist, as I understand the word. Hugh Hefner also strongly supports reproductive rights and women’s professional accomplishments. His company is run by a woman, albeit his daughter. He was a major supporter of representative Loretta Sanchez when she first won her seat from a right wing male Republican incumbent. He has historically been an advocate of free speech and opposed by innumerable unequivocal misogynists of the religious right. Much of the “men’s rights” crap is grounded in the fundamentalist religious right, so labeling someone who defends Hefner from a charge of misogyny is silly.

    The claim that he is a misogynist is ALSO probably defensible, of course, and to some degree it may boil down to the semantics of the threshold for labeling someone a “misogynist”. The problem here isn’t that the “other side” didn’t have an argument, it’s that flaming was chosen over insults.

    Hefner is tacky. Probably what happened is that the mention of his name triggered emotional responses. Therefore, a tactic of group exclusion via verbal aggression and isolation of the outsider was engaged. If that isn’t “hive mind” I don’t know what is.

    For the record, I don’t particularly care if a given blog comments section behaves as a “hive mind”. It obviously renders the comments section of such a blog of zero interest to me, and decreases my respect for a blog administrator who runs such a blog, especially if he encourages it, but this is a somewhat free country.

    If I were to have seen and responded to your post in the original thread, I would have been quite unlikely to do so respectfully.

    In my view, a strong, rigorous logical argument against a comment one disagrees with is the strongest possible rebuttal.

    When it’s a question of subjective, ethical values, a strong, calm explanation of one’s own values, and where one sees another comment as advocating the unethical, is usually the strongest possible rebuttal.

    I’m not perfect, but I will note that the weakness of resorting to insults is that anyone can do it. It doesn’t make your argument any worse than that other person’s to insult them, but it doesn’t differentiate it from what the other person’s, either.

    Clearly, some people come to certain blogs, including at least one FTB blog, to let off steam by mocking and insulting. There is nothing terribly wrong with that, but there is something wrong with mislabeling that as “rational argumentation”.

  85. 85
    Michael Heath

    KacyRay:

    Great idea, Michael! And when it becomes the word of the tribe against mine that my arguments were in fact merit-based, what means would I have at my disposal to prove that they are, and the tribe is simply demanding that they aren’t? Who would be the final arbiter? You? Do you have a “reason algorhythm” we can run my argument through to see if it holds up? Or are you, as the clear intellectual leader of the tribe, going to pronounce the verdict from your laptop of power and watch as they all fall in line? Sorry brother… seeing as how you’ve been pretty silent regarding the reprehensible behavior of others in the past, I don’t have that confidence you would be any other way now.

    Well, only if you ignore the fact I’m:

    1) Constantly rebutting some liberals in this forum who deny the Reagan Adminstration’s actual behavior and performance and instead have concoted a false history no better than what Christianists assert about our founding.

    2) Constantly pointing out the dependence of logical fallacies while denying history in support of populist liberal policies which differ from non-populist policies, including competing liberal policies.

    3) Refuting the denialism of liberal complicity for the weakened state of our economy.

    4) Regularly asserting the responsibility teacher unions share for the horrid state of education.

    5) Constantly pointing out otherwise un-refuted arguments by liberals regarding domestic policy that avoids the fact we’re competing in a global economy.

    6) And challenging this blogger and other liberals who argue that the Obama Administration is a “disaster” based on the Administration’s failures in some areas, e.g., lack of due process in the so-called War on Terror, unchecked power of the Executive on due process matters.

    None of these rebuttals are politically popular in this venue to the point I rarely remember other commenters in support of my arguments on these matters.

    I also reject your assertion I’m a “clear intellectual leader of the tribe”, and if it was meant as sarcasm I think that fails as well.

    First because I abhor tribalism to the point I’m constantly denigrating other commenters here when they rely on it rather than a sound argument (see above). Second because I’m in no way qualified to be considered an intellectual leader of any group with whom I associate. Third the forum itself doesn’t even seek leadership by a person, but instead is predominately a forum for arguments to be thrashed around or as a place to vent about the absurdities of those incapable of making coherent arguments or demonstrate and promote policies abhorrent to anyone committed to liberal democracy and scientific thinking.

    I do think this last context has been weakened over the past several months though not enough to define the forum, primarily by a more populist liberal element whose arguments are little better than what YECS depend upon coupled to Ed’s being too busy now to jump into the comment threads at the same rate he used to when bad arguments were advocated in his forum. But that isn’t the element that chaps your ass is it?

  86. 86
    democommie

    Harold:

    You’re pretty much correct in your last comment (imo). I don’t consider what I do with asshats like KacyRay and Frank Boyd or other trolls to be reasoned argument. I leave that to others. It is obvious, from the number of comments made in a lot of threads, that some people that come here only want to be contrarians or soothe their own egos. Fuck ‘em.

  87. 87
    chriskg

    @ Crommunist

    When Sam Harris posted his thing about how racial profiling was okay as long as it’s against super-Muslimy people in airports, there was blowback. When Lawrence Krauss said that philosophy was dead, there was blowback. When Richard Dawkins started in with his “Dear Muslima” nonsense, there was blowback.

    First, I need not point out that Dawkins, Harris and Krauss’ comments were addressed to the general public or in regard to public policy, therefore, the audience is/was much wider than this issue. Krauss, a scientist, dismissed an entire field of study. Dawkins, well, was simply being Dawkins who is automatically in the larger spotlight couldn’t sneeze without notice. Sam Harris issues what are essentially press releases. These cases were directed outward, while John and Ed’s attacks were directed inward within the community. I see a significant difference and that’s why I don’t think your examples apply.

    Are you suggesting that this blowback was inappropriate or childish?

    Nice strawman. Since I did not bring these issues up (Dawkins et al), I need not defend them.

    I’d argue the contrary – that pointing out the unacceptable behaviour in even those we otherwise admire is a sign of a healthily skeptical community. As you note, exactly nobody is dismissing John’s excellent scholarship – they are just calling attention to his bizarre behaviour because it is unacceptable.

    First, let me state that in this I completely agree with you. By all means, address John, even on his blog. I suppose I was amazed to read about it here. Ed’s blog is typically about politics, public policy and Church & State issues. Ed rarely, if ever, dives into this sort of debate. You said, “Ed blogs about other stuff”, well, yes, he does, and it is rarely addressed to individuals who have slighted FtBs. That aspect makes this more personal I suppose.

    The whole “there are better things to blog about” is a massive derail that is almost never a legitimate response to anything.

    I disagree. There are indeed better things to blog about and reading through Ed’s blog I would point out that every other post in the recent months is much more worthy than this. I also understand why he did so—he stated as much in his reply—but that does not mean I need to agree with him on this issue. However, I do understand that this view is subjective and I stating this clearly so no one can misunderstand—I am stating my opinion.

    That’s how this game works, and nobody besides the author really has a say in what topics are worth discussing.

    True. Anyone could start a blog and publish whatever they want and I can disagree when I want. That, as you so eloquently put it, “is how this game works.”

  88. 88
    Raging Bee

    It’s basic tribalism… the kind that permits honest, cordial disagreements within the tribe and flames all outsiders away.

    First, when people come together in one place over a long period of time based on shared values and experiences, that’s not “basic tribalism,” that is, at worst, rather sophisticated tribalism. And when certain people come together as a response to the more primitive (and destructive) tribalism of others, then accusing those people of “tribalism” kinda misses the larger picture.

    And second, as someone who has been a daily reader here since about 2005, I can say with confidence that: a) we’ve been honest and cordial with outsiders as well as with each other; and b) the outsiders we’ve “flamed away” are generally the ones who came in flaming in the first place — and that has sometimes included kacyray, so his/her bias here is understandable.

  89. 89
    Michael Heath

    Crommunist:

    When Sam Harris posted his thing about how racial profiling was okay as long as it’s against super-Muslimy people in airports, there was blowback.

    chriskg:

    Sam Harris issues what are essentially press releases.

    This is demonstrably false. Here’s a recent debate between Harris and Bruce Schneier on profiling at airport security checkpoints. Mr. Schneier is a security expert popular for his arguments against the types of profiling Harris advocates in certain circumstances.

  90. 90
    slc1

    Re kacyray @ #

    As I’ve said, the few times I’ve even attempted to interject a dissenting viewpoint in this (and a couple other) forums, I’ve been immediately flamed. When I reflexively defend myself (which I will never apologize for doing), I soon find a bullseye on my back. That kind of shit is unforgivable in a place where ideas are supposed to be flowing back and forth.

    I have a flash for Mr. kacyray. The internet is a tough place where no quarter is asked or given. If he can’t take the heat, maybe he should get out of the kitchen. By the way, I suspect that I am the victim of more flames here then most of the commentors, especially then the subject of Israel or Iran comes up. That’s part of the game and it bothers me not at all.

  91. 91
    Raging Bee

    …my beef with the comment section has never been the *content* of the ideas expressed, but pretty much exclusively about the manner and tone in which those ideas are communicated.

    People are being mean to you without disagreeing with you on content? I find that hard to believe. The more plausible explanation is that you’re bitching about tone when you can’t handle the content and need a distraction.

    As I’ve said, the few times I’ve even attempted to interject a dissenting viewpoint in this (and a couple other) forums, I’ve been immediately flamed.

    Flamed, or refuted? There is a difference, though some people have a hard time seeing it.

    When I reflexively defend myself…

    WHY do you have to “reflexively” defend yourself? It’s not like your life is in immediate danger and you have no time to think. Have you ever tried SENSIBLY defending yourself?

  92. 92
    slc1

    Re kacyray @ #72

    Just as an example, Heath and I have engaged in vociferous disagreement as to whether Thomas Jefferson was a believing Christian. There is not the slightest possibility that either of us will convince the other of his position but that’s okay. Hopefully, lurkers with learn something from the disagreements.

  93. 93
    Homo Straminus

    frankboyd@84: Poe?

    Seriously, that was a Poe, right?

    Right?

  94. 94
    Homo Straminus

    And kacyray and friends: you made a tactical error when you attacked a community for tribalism and groupthink…in exactly the community best suited to refute everything you said about it.

    Whether it’s (regular commenter!) slc1 pointing out how much opposition he gets on Iran, or Mr. Heath trying to wrangle fact-laden discourse from you, or Gretchen going to the trouble to find the root of your problem, or the many others who present arguments (as opposed to unsupported statements) why your characterization is so wrong, the shining underlying message is YOU’RE WRONG.

    Here’s the thing: while my first impulse was to say, “please go back to not commenting!” I realized that’s the wrong advice. Please, continue commenting. If there is any community which is willing to listen to arguments based on merit – and not past fuckups like this one – you’ve found it. So by all means, keep engaged. Show us how much you have to contribute. Call people out for specifics when they’re being tribalistic.

    But whatever you do, don’t self-identify as someone who can’t be bothered to get to know us and then have the gall to try to call us out over our imagined failings. That just makes you look like a tool.

  95. 95
    dingojack

    Homo Straminus (#93) – Nope, Cranky Franky is just a plain, unvarnished, old-fashioned mirco-tool (and not a particularly interesting one at that).
    Dingo

  96. 96
    dingojack

    Sorry, I meant #94 in the post above, apols to Homo Straminus and SLC.
    Dingo

  97. 97
    Homo Straminus

    dingo–srsly? I would have thought it required some warm up stretches before contorting yourself into saying you have to abandon atheism to advocate for liberal ideas. Score another one for the tribe, I guess!

  98. 98
    Ed Brayton

    Having skimmed over this little flame war with kacyray, let me add a few things. First of all, he is absolutely right that there is often tribalism being displayed in the comment threads here. It bothers me sometimes too, though I often don’t even read the comments on many of the posts. But it’s also wrong to interpret every instance where one takes a dissenting opinion and gets hammered for it as tribalism. As I often use that word in this context, tribalistic thinking is essentially a logical fallacy (or several of them, more accurately), wherein one bases their conclusions on the basis of in-group and out-group assumptions. And hell yes, this goes on all the time here, as it goes on all the time everywhere.

    We see it perfectly in the reflexive rejection by many of the regular commenters of anything that even suggests that a libertarian may be right about something. That is tribalism at work; they interpret everything through the simple dichotomy of left vs right and they place libertarians definitively on the right and then presume that everything they argue for must be wrong, and even if it coincides with their views on a particular subject (as if often does on a long range of issues), it can only be for the wrong reasons. There must be some nefarious motive, some evil plan that only makes it appear that a libertarian might give a damn about criminal justice reform or limiting executive power or reducing defense spending or any of the dozen other areas where there is actually common ground between them and the people they’ve deemed as their enemies. This is what I often refer to as sports fan politics, but tribalism is another excellent word for it.

    But again, let’s not make the mistake of thinking that it is tribalism at work every time someone takes a dissenting view and gets blasted for it. Sometimes that person is just plain wrong and that’s why virtually everyone else is saying that the person is full of shit. Sometimes they’re just full of shit. A sizable contingent of the larger group shouting down one or two members for taking a position can be tribalistic behavior, but it doesn’t have to be. And of course, the person on the receiving end of a torrent of criticism is almost always going to believe it is tribalism at work because they think they’re right. But that doesn’t mean they are.

  99. 99
    Homo Straminus

    Morning, Ed!

    Your comments on libertarianism are worth noting, as I on occasion try to remind people about Balko. But I see that as more thoughtless knee-jerking on behalf of individuals than a community (tribal) response. I guess you see it differently? As I said before, if this were PZ’s comment section, I’d agree wholeheartedly.

    But I think dismissing the commenters here as overall tribalistic reflects a pretty poor reading of the threads. I wonder if there’s a chance readers are confusing consistency (of individual commenters) with tribal mentality?

    Whatever the case, thanks for having us, Ed! I for one greatly appreciate the space.

  100. 100
    Homo Straminus

    (To be clear: it’s morning where I am. I’m not suggesting Ed is some sort of get-out-of-bed-at-noon layabout.)

  101. 101
    Modusoperandi

    Ed Brayton “First of all, he is absolutely right that there is often tribalism being displayed in the comment threads here.”
    He is not right, and everyone agrees with me!

  102. 102
    rork

    On topic: Let a thousand flowers bloom. It’s less boring.

    Not so much:
    I know what kacyray is talking about. I’ve taken to not saying a particular detail is wrong on blogs with too many commenters unless it is very important to me. The detail will get drowned out, and if very many people are reading, the probability approaches 1 that someone misinterprets, flames you for things you didn’t even write, and the chances of settling the matter like adults approaches 0. It doesn’t make me scared to speak my mind, it’s just not very fun. I don’t comment on NYT articles with flaws and 600 comments either. I actually think the pit-bull behaviors have decreased since the move.

    Sometimes I’m wrong too (*gasp*). In such cases, thankyou for the beatings. Be nicer to the newbies maybe. Just cause mean is permitted, doesn’t make it good.

  103. 103
    Homo Straminus

    ::golf clap::

  104. 104
    Homo Straminus

    Oops, claps were for MO. No offense, rork.

  105. 105
    democommie

    rork:

    “Be nicer to the newbies maybe. Just cause mean is permitted, doesn’t make it good.”

    KacyRay is a long way down the road from a newbie. He spouts nonsense (lots of examples are in the archives) and gets a bit KOIish when he’s taken to task for his nonsense. Very few commenters here are what I would characterize as “mean”*, just disdainful, mocking and jeering towards those whose comments deserve such a reaction.

    * No kittehs nor any BABY JESI(JESUSES?) were injured or killed in the writing of this or any other comment by me, too, also.

  106. 106
    doktorzoom

    They need me and don’t realize it. Someday they will.

    And did the fools at The Academy say you were mad, MAD?

  107. 107
    Homo Straminus

    doktorzoom: WHAT IS THAT FROM? I have been trying to track down “they laughed at me at the Sorbonne!” ever since I first read John Varley. Maybe this is a crumb along the trail.

  108. 108
    doktorzoom

    Homo Straminus:

    Oh, golly–I have a feeling it’s one of those things that every mad scientist said in every bad movie. I couldn’t immediately think of examples, but then it occurred to me that TV Tropes would surely have an article on it. Yep, they did.

    (Warning–HUGELY enjoyable time-wasting possible at that site!)

  109. 109
    Captain Mike

    So now welcome our keynote speaker, Professor Melvin Fenwick — the man who, back in 1952, first coined the now-famous phrase: “Fools! I’ll destroy them all!” ~ The Mad Scientists Convention, “The Far Side”

  110. 110
    rork

    democommie:
    Thanks for making one of my points. I didn’t say kacyray was a newbie, or that we should be nice to him.

  111. 111
    Chris from Europe

    If kacyray wanted to have a reasonable discussion, he could have had that. But his comments yesterday clearly show a different intent.

    By the way, Balko is a great example why liberals distrust libertarians. He is great on his main subject, his work, but look at the rest, some of his views.

    Oh, and it’s probably very easy to dismiss liberal views when you are only arguing against caricatures of the positions and ignore important details and counterarguments, relying on false dilemma, rationalization and historical revisionism.

  112. 112
    Ichthyic

    No, I never saw that coming.

    evidently you didn’t, or you would have both expected the obvious question, and have some examples to hand.

    *shrug*

    still, I know what you’re talking about. I think you overstate your case, but you do have one.

  113. 113
    Ichthyic

    …that said, EVERY blog gets that way, and quickly.

    if you rely on the commentary areas to debate ideas in, then you either just deal with it, or find somewhere else to hang your hat.

    it’s the “way of the web”, AFAICT, and that’s coming from someone who used to debate on usenet when the web was a glimmer in “Al Gore’s” eye.

  114. 114
    dingojack

    Chris from Europe (#112) –
    see my summary of Special K’s ‘arguments’ @ #78.
    Dingo

  115. 115
    chrisho-stuart

    I lost a lot of respect for John some years ago, in a rather seedy instance of dishonesty over creating a website and pretending to be uninvolved with it; and I lost even more respect for him with the way he managed the “apology” and aftermath when he was found out. It’s old news, but the impact was long lasting. To be blunt, IMO John has some issues with character and integrity that are a significant impediment to his effectiveness.

    The fallout from his sojourn with FtB suggests to me that this remains the case. As before, the person who suffers most in this is John himself. Unfortunate, but that’s life.

  116. 116
    xtog42

    While having a mission statement is here nor there one thing that Ed and PZ might come up with are guidelines for including and excluding blogs.

    As a newcomer to blog posting it has been incredibly disappointing to see a number of blogs on FTB that either hardly ever post, or regularly post on things that have no real relevance to free-thought, or have comment moderators and blog authors who do nothing more than censor valid free-thinking and flame/verbally harass anyone who disagrees with them and their sycophants, particularly new commentators who are just now engaging with the free-thought movement.

    I’d be very curious to know,…what criteria is used to include a blog on FTB?

    Is there a review process to evaluate whether the activity of a blog is of the type of quality and quantity that the owners of FTB expect?

    And what guidelines are used to possibly end FTB’s association with a blog.

  117. 117
    tomh

    xtog42 wrote:
    And what guidelines are used to possibly end FTB’s association with a blog.

    Interesting. Which blogs would you like to see FTB get rid of?

  118. 118
    xtog42

    My point is that since FTB is essentially a group blog, there must be some criteria at work that was involved in the adding of blogs to the current line-up and also a criteria that would be used in subtracting a blog from the site — and that criteria is de facto the mission statement.

    If this were my responsibility I would look at,…

    1- Relevance: Are they posting articles about or associated with free-thought occasionally/regularly. If the blogs do not have to have anything to do with what we know of as the free-thought movement, then why even use the term?

    2- Quantity: How much are they posting. I have seen sites on here go a week without a new post, not sure how that can be acceptable if it happens often unless it is some incredibly talented contributor who does longer posts like Richard Carrier.

    3- Quality: How well done is the blog (topics chosen, writing, educational, entertaining, unique, etc) I agree with Ed that this does not preclude a religious author (I know if Bishop Shelby Spong had a website, this would be a terrific place for it.)

    4- Discussion Moderation: If a blog cannot keep a civil discussion together, meaning attempting to control the threats and personal attacks in the discussion section, like when blog authors flame and threaten to ban posters for making respectful and non-repetitious posts by blogging standards they should be cut loose.

    For all of the discussion about sexual harassment policies lately, one might consider FTB discussion section harassment policies (that include blog authors) as well since how we treat newcomers in the free-thought movement should be taken as seriously on the blogs as it is at the conventions.

    5- Popularity: Of course a blog should meet some threshold of sustained popularity as well.

    I am sure I could add more but those would stand out to me at first thought.

    If you are wondering which blogs I would dump right now, I would just say that while I am way too new to reading these blogs outside of Ed’s and PZ’s, there are at least 2 current blogs that make me wonder how free-thought is supported by having them on the FTB site — maybe I will find out why they have been included here as I read them more in the future.

  119. 119
    dingojack

    xtog42 – I can’t speak for Ed, but I think he mentioned that blogs/bloggers are asked to contribute by concensus of those already on the network.
    Hope that helps.
    Dingo
    —–
    PS: Ed moved from the previous network because the National Geographic Society took over the site. They wanted to impose limits on the language and content of the blogs (understandably since they have a brand name to protect) and Ed felt that such limits would stifle his ability to communicate with his audience, so he moved here. (Or that’s how I understand it anyway).

  120. 120
    tomh

    like when blog authors flame and threaten to ban posters for making respectful and non-repetitious posts by blogging standards they should be cut loose.

    Which ones have done that?

    there are at least 2 current blogs that make me wonder how free-thought is supported by having them on the FTB site

    Which ones?

  121. 121
    Raging Bee

    Is this the same xtog42 who recently posted so much BS on another FtB thread about Rebecca Watson and other women in the skeptic/atheist movement?

    And why does a group of free-thought blogs need rules stating what are or are not appropriate subjects for free-thinking people to write about? Doesn’t that kinda contradict the basic idea of free thought?

  122. 122
    xtog42

    @tomh,…I am way too new to reading these blogs to suggest that any be taken out off of the team.

    It is my hope that the two or three that I have some serious concerns about will prove to me that they are something more than 7th grade romper rooms in the future as I continue to learn about the environment — suffice it to say I would cut out the blogs that will not allow dissent, by flaming their own blog, allowing regulars to make personally directed harassing comments to others and threatening moderation or bans to those who criticize their opinions no matter how respectfully and seriously they are presented.

    Would you say that all of the blogs on the FTB site are using their time/space optimally and being fair to those with opposing views especially newcomers?

  123. 123
    Raging Bee

    We see it perfectly in the reflexive rejection by many of the regular commenters of anything that even suggests that a libertarian may be right about something.

    What about the times when regular commenters have actually shown where the libertarians really were wrong? I’ve been reading here for years, and it seems to me those instances far outnumber those of “reflexive rejection.” In fact, your accusation of “reflexive rejection” is itself the most blatant example of the “tribalism” you’re complaining about here.

    But then, this is a libertarian schtick dating back to the ’80s: accusing everyone else of “tribalism” and “partisan blinders” while pretending they’re the only clearheaded out-of-box thinkers in the room.

  124. 124
    tomh

    the two or three that I have some serious concerns about

    Which ones?

  125. 125
    xtog42

    @ dingojack, Thanks for replying and responding to my points kindly rather than making a personal attack at me like Raging Bee always does.

    I had wondered whether there was any criteria for inclusion and exclusion of a blog and you said that there essentially was none other than consensus of those already there.

    If all that is asked is a consensus of those who are already on the site, then I am not sure the title of the blog is a good one,…maybe it should include the word Democracy or Hodge-Podge-Lodge or something, since the phrase “free-thought’ implies much more than just “say anything that comes to mind, post anything you feel like posting” and anyone is welcome that the majority wants.

    @raging bee,

    You have misread my comment and then snarked at your own misreading. I never said that FTB “need(s) rules stating what are or are not appropriate subjects for free-thinking people to write about?”

    I just made the calm rational point that the blogs that have already been chosen to be here were done so under SOME criteria — were they not? And that that criteria would be the basis for a de facto mission statement. I never said one was necessary, just suggested that there already was one, that is in use informally.

    And, if a blog were added for whatever reason, and after being here for a while their topic selections became much different than they were before being added such that the consensus of FTB bloggers thought they were getting A and instead were getting B, that would be the sort of thing that might get the blog pulled from the site.

    Let’s face it if FTB blogs have literally no connective tissue, then why use the term free-thought anyway? Since that term has actual meaning far beyond, “say anything you want to say” and we will re-publish it idea.

    http://encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com/Freethought

    @raging bee,…you said “Is this the same xtog42 who recently posted so much BS on another FtB thread about Rebecca Watson and other women in the skeptic/atheist movement?”

    I never posted anything “about the WOMEN in the skeptic/atheist movement” I’ll wait for you to find such statement.

    While I would love to pull up much of what you have written to expose how your comments could fit the description you just made of mine, I would prefer to talk about the issue rather than engage in drama and it appears that other blogs on FTB recently have also made this very point so you may want to catch up with them and try to begin to direct your comments to the issues and stop making generalized unsupportable personal attacks — that is if you actually want to have a dialogue as opposed to simply trying to insult someone away from this site.

    Call me a cupcake all you want, but let’s face it there is a tremendous amount of cowardice that gets displayed on here in the way people will make aggressive personal comments to other people they would not dare to voice to their face and it is evidenced by your past personal attacks at me, when you know me only through a few dozen blog posts — the mind reading I have witnessed here used to insult someone against not just me but many others has been phenomenal.

    I respect your right to call my questions/statements BS, but since I never swore, never repeatedly posted the same stuff over and over, never attacked anyone aggressively and personally and made essentially calm rational points (except maybe one post where I got incredibly fed up with the childish personal attacks and responded with more negativity than I would normally), why was I and others who did the same particularly over the DJ Grothe issue put into moderation (others banned) for exercising our free thinking if this site is about FREE-THOUGHT.

    For a site with FREE-THOUGHT in the title some of the discussion moderators sure wield the hammer of censorship through moderation and banning very casually.

    If this site is not about free-thought, skepticism, and against religious privilege, etc. then why should people who care about those issues make this their regular blog spot?

    There are many others out there that will stay on point with those issues and there is a point to the term — free thought is not just intellectual anarchy.

    In fact the term was originally intimately connected to deism which is why a religious contributor like a Bishop Shelby Spong would be a welcome addition to this site, if he ever blogs,…but my guess is that a consensus of the blog authors would not approve.

    Essentially if this site is not about free-thought, then it is just usurping the term for its own benefit and is essentially misleading the audience.

    In my opinion the blogs that treated newcomers with personal attacks, harassment and threats of moderation/bans simply for defending DJ are just the kind that do not fit here under the title FREE-THOUGHT BLOGS. So they should either be more tolerant of opposing views or find somewhere else to bully allies in the larger picture of our culture wars.

  126. 126
    xtog42

    @tomh,…I am way too new to reading these blogs to suggest that any be taken out off of the team at this moment.

    Would you say that all of the blogs on the FTB site are using their time/space optimally and being fair to those with opposing views especially newcomers?

  127. 127
    tomh

    In my opinion the blogs that treated newcomers with personal attacks, harassment and threats of moderation/bans simply for defending DJ are just the kind that do not fit here under the title FREE-THOUGHT BLOGS.

    You keep making these remarks and you have such “serious” concerns. Why won’t you name the blogs you are so seriously concerned with and link to some of these horrors that you have endured?

  128. 128
    Raging Bee

    I never said that FTB “need(s) rules stating what are or are not appropriate subjects for free-thinking people to write about?”

    Yes, you did. Here’s what you said:

    If this were my responsibility I would look at,… 1- Relevance: Are they posting articles about or associated with free-thought occasionally/regularly. If the blogs do not have to have anything to do with what we know of as the free-thought movement, then why even use the term?

    And since you’re not even willing to own up to your own words, there’s no point in arguing with those words any further.

    …let’s face it there is a tremendous amount of cowardice that gets displayed on here in the way people will make aggressive personal comments to other people they would not dare to voice to their face…

    That tired old tone argument again? So what? The world is full of oh-so-polite liars, bigots and con-artists, who make a big deal out of complaining about how rude it is to debunk them. Anyone who writes anything can be just as credibly accused of the same thing, and it’s nothing but a diversion. What are you trying to do, make yourself look more manly because you can’t address us any other way?

  129. 129
    dingojack

    I think you missed the point. ‘Free thought’ implies to me that no rules about what is or is not ‘allowed’ should be ‘imposed from above’.
    If one can’t defend the idiotic stuff one spouts then one should take one’s lumps and move on.
    Show me the creditable evidence and I will (generally) concede, don’t on the other hand…
    Don’t worry about Raging Bee he’s always like that (he has a low threshold for tone trolling and idiocy) just part of the charm. Formulate an actual argument and support it, that usually works. (I’m no expert on the last point however).
    Dingo

  130. 130
    Raging Bee

    …I am way too new to reading these blogs to suggest that any be taken out off of the team.

    Riiight…you know there’s blogs that aren’t up to snuff, but you’re too new here to be able to tell us which ones aren’t up to snuff.

    Who do you think you’re fooling here? Or are you new to these blogs to answer that question too?

  131. 131
    Raging Bee

    Essentially if this site is not about free-thought, then it is just usurping the term for its own benefit and is essentially misleading the audience.

    Yeah, because people who think freely about subjects other than free thought can’t call themselves free thinkers.

  132. 132
    dontpanic

    xtog42 says:

    My point is that since FTB is essentially a group blog

    .

    Well, there’s your problem. I thought Ed made it quite clear that FTB is not a “group blog”, but a group of blogs. The two concepts are quite different. Yes, the former might need a “mission statement” and a coherent, consistent theme. The later can be as contentious and argumentative as individuals desire. Just like all the blogs on blogger aren’t a “group blog” — it’s on a spectrum between completely unconstrained (blogger) and tightly tied to some organization (e.g. say scienceblogs.com or discovermagazine.com).

    I’m still not getting the point of whining about frequency of posting. If a certain blog fails to post with your target frequency why does it matter. The intertubes aren’t like newspapers that have to have X amount of content to fill Y pages. The marginal costs for having a blog that posts only infrequently is essentially zero. And users are free to ignore such blogs. So why the burning desire to cut them loose?

    I have to say this concern about using “time/space optimally and being fair to those with opposing views” sounds awfully like trolling. Especially since you simultaneously claim that you’re too new to the site to name names, but not so new that you think you haven’t identified trends. Hmmm, perhaps you’re not helping (yes, for those who’ve been around for a while that was a deliberate word choice).

  133. 133
    Ed Brayton

    xtog42 wrote:

    While having a mission statement is here nor there one thing that Ed and PZ might come up with are guidelines for including and excluding blogs.

    PZ is no more involved in the running of the site than any other blogger. I own the network, all on my own, but as I thought I made pretty clear, we make most decisions by consensus. And yes, that includes deciding which bloggers to invite to join. There are no hard and fast rules for who may be invited, but we do have a few things we look for. The most obvious is good writing. We also prefer that they have a track record of consistent blogging, though we have made exceptions for that (Taslima Nasrin did not have a blog when she asked about joining the network, but we made an exception because of her rather amazing personal journey and standing in the international atheist community — and because she promised to blog regularly, which she has). Diversity is another big factor, especially as we begin to come close to the limit of how big I want the network to be. We do not want to be a network just for straight white men from the United States, we want people who can speak to the variety of experiences and perspectives under this very broad umbrella.

    I have to confess to being baffled by why anyone would care about this subject at all. We invite the people we want to invite. If you like them, keep reading them. If you don’t, then don’t read them and stick with the ones you like. If you don’t like any of them, go read blogs you do like. Even if we decided who to add by flipping coins or throwing darts at a board, that reality would not change.

  134. 134
    tomh

    If you like them, keep reading them. If you don’t, then don’t read them

    And there it is in a nutshell. The only answer necessary to anyone who complains about what’s written on a blog, the tone, the commenters, or anything else. You’d think most people could figure that one out for themselves.

  135. 135
    xtog42

    @Ed: “I have to confess to being baffled by why anyone would care about this subject at all.”

    Maybe because people who might want their blog to be included or who might want to start a blog that could get included would want to know how to make that happen?

    Or some readers might wonder how some of these blogs attained such a cool place to reside?

    Also, because being new to blogs and being a lifelong supporter of the atheism movement I would like to find out where I might best spend my precious amount of free time.

    If this site is just a free-for-all sort of thing with no connecting tissue and no terms for eliminating blogs that suppress free-thought then that would be less appealing to me as opposed to a site that actually has the purpose of promoting free-thinking/skepticism/atheism/etc. of which there are many others out there that do have a such a focus.

    Please be patient with me I am just surfing around trying to find out where I might spend what little free time I have, and this idea of not having any sort of direction/purpose is not a good selling point especially when you are using the term Free-Thought in your title which definitely does have specific connotations of which you are well aware.

    Not to be silly, but why not just call the site “Ed’s blogs” and not conflate what you are doing here with the Free-Thought movement so that people like me will understand why bloggers at a Free-Thought site are so quick to moderate and ban people who do are trying to express an opposite position.

    Look, it’s your site, you are going to do what you want and that’s fine, but from what you have said so far INHO calling this place FREETHOUGHT BLOGS is false advertising, especially given the treatment of supporters of DJ Grothe that I have witnessed.

  136. 136
    Drolfe

    You hear that, Ed? You just got schooled on what freethought is! You’re false advertising by adhering to um, some dogmas and traditions and authorities that no one seems to be able to name!

    (I expect no complaints after the prior argument by dictionary in this very thread.)

  137. 137
    Raging Bee

    Not to be silly, but why not just call the site “Ed’s blogs” and not conflate what you are doing here with the Free-Thought movement…

    Um…sorry, that was silly.

  138. 138
    Ed Brayton

    Maybe because people who might want their blog to be included or who might want to start a blog that could get included would want to know how to make that happen?

    I’ve had requests from dozens of people to be considered. I’ve explained to each of them what the process is. Some of them have been accepted, some have not. I can’t imagine what the alternative might be.

    Or some readers might wonder how some of these blogs attained such a cool place to reside?

    I’ve explained it twice now. I suggest you accept it, since you have zero say in how it works.

    Also, because being new to blogs and being a lifelong supporter of the atheism movement I would like to find out where I might best spend my precious amount of free time.

    Silly me, I thought you might make that decision by reading the blogs and deciding whether you want to continue reading them. That would work perfectly not only for this network but for every other blog in the world. Doesn’t seem like a terribly difficult concept.

    If this site is just a free-for-all sort of thing with no connecting tissue and no terms for eliminating blogs that suppress free-thought then that would be less appealing to me as opposed to a site that actually has the purpose of promoting free-thinking/skepticism/atheism/etc. of which there are many others out there that do have a such a focus.

    I think it’s pretty obvious that the bloggers on this network generally do promote skepticism, atheism and freethought. I imagine you might like some better than others, so read the ones you like and don’t read the ones you don’t. But you don’t get to decide which ones should be here and which ones should not. And you really should get over it.

    Not to be silly, but why not just call the site “Ed’s blogs” and not conflate what you are doing here with the Free-Thought movement so that people like me will understand why bloggers at a Free-Thought site are so quick to moderate and ban people who do are trying to express an opposite position.

    Saying “not to be silly” when you are, in fact, going to be silly is a lot like saying “I don’t mean to be rude” — it’s almost inevitably followed by someone being rude. Everyone on this site promotes one or more aspects of atheism, skepticism and freethought. I’ll call the site whatever I want. Don’t like it? Go somewhere else and whine to your heart’s content.

    Look, it’s your site, you are going to do what you want and that’s fine, but from what you have said so far INHO calling this place FREETHOUGHT BLOGS is false advertising, especially given the treatment of supporters of DJ Grothe that I have witnessed.

    That’s even sillier. DJ is getting a good deal of criticism; I think he’s earned a lot of it. Some of the people supporting him are being complete assholes and some of those people have been shut down. I do not impose any restrictions on any of our bloggers’ comment policies. They are free to ban anyone they want for any reason. They’re free to say nasty things to them if they’d like. None of that has anything to do with whether the bloggers here advocate for atheism, skepticism or freethought (and no, calling it “freethought” does not mean that no one is ever going to get shouted down if they’re being assholes; that’s simply idiotic).

  139. 139
    dingojack

    xtog42 (#136) – “Maybe because people who might want their blog to be included or who might want to start a blog that could get included would want to know how to make that happen”?

    Ask and ye shall receive (a reply).

    “…people like me will understand why bloggers at a Free-Thought site are so quick to moderate and ban people who do are trying to express an opposite position“.

    I was going to ask for a citation, but I won’t since we can expect the usual: ‘I’m too much of a noob to be able to give examples of what I claim, I just know it to be true somehow (trust me)‘.

    Look, this is a marketplace of ideas if you don’t have any wares, or you have such shoddy wares that you can’t sell them, then tough cookies (as Americans like to say).
    Your whining about ‘how unfair it is that some else has a better ad campaign and better goods to sell and how *unfair* it all is and WaaAAH!’, doesn’t hide the fact that you can’t compete in this corner of the free market.
    The free-thought position is evolving and adapting, that requires that differing ideas compete and the ones that are most apt win.
    Can’t take the heat? Get outta the kitchen!

    Dingo

  140. 140
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Ophelia:

    I’ve just seen a little groupuscule at Twitter agreeing with each other that we speak with one voice and we’re anarchic.

    That is ridiculous.
    Where is this one voice?
    Even when some of the bloggers choose to write about the same topics-sexism in the atheist movement, I’m looking at you-the approaches are not the same.
    More importantly, even when some of the bloggers write about the same topic there are many that don’t say anything and others that blog about the topic at a different time.
    When I see comments about hive like minds (criticisms of PZ’s Horde spring immediately to mind)or sycophants (some critics of Greta seem to like this term), I don’t think the commenters consulted a dictionary for the proper use of the word.

    Ed:
    Do some people think that you’re the “Hive leader” simply because you got this all started?

  141. 141
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Raging Bee:

    They need me and don’t realize it. Someday they will.

    He actually said that? Wow, that’s just…silly.

    Silly with a side dish of arrogant.

  142. 142
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Ugh, brain fart. That was in response to Moggie @24, not Raging Bee. Oops.

  143. 143
    Raging Bee

    Actually, it was me who said that @26; but Moggie’s Nehru jacket reference was pretty spot-on too.

  144. 144
    chriskg

    Looks like John W. Loftus has started skepticblogs.com! I think we should wish him luck and check out the new site. What’s the worst that could happen? You’d have two great sites to read in the morning? He posted an announcement over at Debunking Christianity.

  1. 145
    Stalinist anarchist fascist chaotic organized hive scattering in all directions | Butterflies and Wheels

    [...] has a great post replying to a hilariously absurd one by John Loftus wondering what the Freethought blogs [...]

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