How I feel about the latest round of “civility” calls


Something like this, actually.

Panel 1: evangelist beating atheist with a cross, while calling him names. Panel 2: atheist about to break the cross, evangelist crying 'Hey! Let's have a little RESPECT here!'

Only, imagine the cry in panel 2 coming from a third party supposedly on our side. And imagine the evangelist is an antifeminist attacking women and people trying to improve women’s lot in life.

Yeah. I don’t have a lot to say about this nonsense. I agree that we shouldn’t denigrate one another’s status as full human beings, but I damn well don’t think that fighting back against someone doing exactly that is “uncivil”. And I recognize that people can be hideous hatchet-men arguing for terrible things without ever uttering anything but the most flowery and “civil” of language.

I took Chris Clarke’s pledge though. And I’d gladly further take mythbri’s addendum:

I further pledge to do my best to help make this a place where your argument is challenged, but never your humanity or status as a person. I pledge to make this a safe space for people to be insulted about the quality of what they say and how they say it, but not their gender, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, class or mental/physical health state. I pledge to refuse to give ground to anyone for the sake of unity with those who might have one thing in common with me but don’t respect me as a full human being.

That’s MY pledge. Don’t expect your assholish, bigoted or damaging ideas to escape scrutiny and critical analysis. And don’t dare call me uncivil for banning and muttering “asshole” when an antifeminist who calls women cunts regularly comes along and bloviates about how terrible we all are for drawing lines in the sand about sexism.

Comments

  1. glodson says

    I guess I don’t understand this appeal to civility that sparked this pledges.

    I like to be polite. I don’t mind answering posts. Maybe my tone can be sarcastic or condescending, and I will often apologize if I wasn’t intending to be a jackass.

    However, there’s time when a person is acting like an entitled asshole and should be called out for acting like an entitled asshole. These appeals to civility feel like tone trolling to me. Who cares what the tone is if the argument is crap? Who cares how civil a person is being when they argue about treating any person as less than human?

  2. EllenBeth Wachs says

    I signed on to Chris Clarke’s pledge but, no, I can’t pledge not to comment on the mental health of the sociopathic nutfuck that has been stalking and harassing me for 2 years.

  3. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    I think it’s fine if the topic being discussed is equally purely academic for both sides.

    But when it’s not, it’s a silencing technique. In a situation where one side wishes to maintain the status quo and can fake the appearance of civility by insisting that the topic be discussed over and over and over and over and over and over again before any action can be taken, it’s a tactic.

    And that needs to be called out, uncivilly if necessary.

  4. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    And don’t dare call me uncivil for banning and muttering “asshole” when an antifeminist who calls women cunts regularly

    Quote: The Team America Speech

  5. glodson says

    I think it’s fine if the topic being discussed is equally purely academic for both sides.

    I think that sums up my problem with the original civility pledge. It lacked this context. It is one thing to discuss something with merit on both sides, backed up by fact and evidence. It is another when one side of the conversation insists on degrading the other side.

  6. says

    Lou,

    Most of Daniel Fincke’s CWHCP I could possibly agree with — but in addition to the main dozen or so clauses, each was surrounded by a welter of minutely detailed, subordinate propositions which I would have had to go through with a fine-toothed comb to square with my own personal ethics before I could contemplate signing on to it; there is no point agreeing to a pledge which you are not prepared to comply with in full measure. However, even before considering all those sub-clauses, examples, and riders, I came to the conclusion that there were at least two of the main set of clauses which I couldn’t in all honesty subscribe to. I suspect you may not have read the CWHCP quite so carefully as you think?

    Chris Clarke’s DTWBCP isn’t too far different from the other pledge, and I could imagine someone signing both in good faith – the DTWBCP merely points out deficiencies implied by the other, with the exception of the final clause “sometimes the kindest possible contribution to a discussion with someone acting in bad faith and harmfully is to tell them to go fuck themselves sideways”. Even that isn’t really that uncivil a proposition, and plenty of commenters on Pharyngula (the ones who don’t get quotemined, curiously enough; Sastra would be the exemplar) have been known to impart such a message “calmly and politely, without using the word fuck in every sentence”.

  7. says

    Xanthe,

    By the time I had posted on my own blog about it, I had already begun having second thoughts. I have a pretty good blogging relationship with Dan. The Forward Thinking project has been a great catalyst to get me writing more extensively, and provisionally accepting his “pledge” seemed harmless at the time, a part of the same project, (in the before time, the long long ago, yesterday…). But the more I think about it and the more I read reactions to it my reservations multiply.
    I have always felt that there is a point where one forfeits one’s right to be treated civilly, I’ve been straightforward with Dan about that.

    Have you seen Libby Anne’s response? I think she does a great job elaborating on the Pledges shortcomings.

  8. says

    Adam Lee posted directly in the thread at CWH with some good objections as well. Of Libby Anne’s responses, the one which speaks to me loudest is her second point – the playing field is decidedly not level for a variety of reasons, and pretending that debate club can academically and unemotionally deal with all issues seems very much to be cloistered, ivory tower naïvete to me. Her first point, that the pledge should not be a weapon — nor should it be a legalistic tome allowing all sorts of incivility to sneak in through loop holes and rules lawyering. It’s also disappointing to see some commenters behaving with obvious incivility on Daniel’s thread and he seems powerless to call them out on it, only to sadly remark to commenter LykeX that if everyone signed the pledge, this wouldn’t be a problem. So much for the pledge.

  9. fwtbc says

    Yeah, fuck Dan’s pledge.

    My civility pledge is much simpler. Be empathetic and don’t tolerate bad faith arguments.

    This is why I also tend to roll my eyes at detailed lists of rules. I much prefer an ambiguous set of rules where the authorities are free to exercise discretion. Detailed rules just leads to obnoxious arseholes trying to push everyones buttons while staying 1mm short of crossing the line. I bet there’s no shortage of those fucks queuing up to sign Dan’s pledge.

  10. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    fwbtc wrote:

    I bet there’s no shortage of those fucks queuing up to sign Dan’s pledge.

    He doesn’t seem to be approving any further comments – which is particularly grating for me, since I’d written one replying to one of the more dishonest scum-suckers who’d lied (via omission) about me and engaged in the most common of assholes moves from the mildew mob handbook, false equivalence.

    And it was all civil and everything!

    But yeah, a few of their more rules-lawyery creeps were demonstrating exactly how Dan’s loopholes could be exploited to do exactly what people have been trying to explain to him they would do, but which he just doesn’t seem to want to deal with.

  11. smhll says

    My civility pledge is much simpler. Be empathetic and don’t tolerate bad faith arguments.

    Amen. (Or, make that a secular “amen”.)

    I think Dan Fincke believes that it is somehow possible to argue against equality as a cute, hypothetical, interesting thought exercise without doing so in bad faith. I don’t want to hear it if someone wants to toy with the notion that equality is optional, or less important than other things, or has gone too far, or should be slowed down for some damn reason — just no. Don’t spread that crap all over the internet where it will be quoted out of context for years.

    (If I took the slightly sneering word “cute” out of my text, it would be more civil, and less wounding to DF, but it would also be less memorable.)

  12. Beth says

    Don’t expect your assholish, bigoted or damaging ideas to escape scrutiny and critical analysis.

    Actually, I think the whole point of Dan’s pledge is to allow assholish, bigoted or damaging ideas to be subjected to scrutiny and critical analysis. Not to prevent it.

    And don’t dare call me uncivil for banning and muttering “asshole” when an antifeminist who calls women cunts regularly comes along and bloviates about how terrible we all are for drawing lines in the sand about sexism.

    I don’t think that would be uncivil at all or in violation of the pledge. However, I don’t consider such behavior to be exhibiting scrutiny and critical analysis of their ideas either. If you want to do the former, it’s necessary to engage with them and attack their actual ideas and opinion. Expelling them from your space because of what you feel are the implications of their ideas does not accomplish that.

    I think that when you argue for the “right to be uncivil” – which I absolutely agree that you have that right – I have to assume that the “right to be uncivil” applies to everyone, including the Westburo Baptist Church and random misogynists. I am very grateful that the Internet allows me to avoid people I have determined I don’t want to associate with for whatever reason.

    I myself choose not to associate with Westburo Baptist Church in any form, but I’m willing to tolerate discussions with misogynists on the internet as long as they remain civil to me – and by ‘civil’ I mean they don’t attack me personally, only my ideas. My assessment from reading many blog posts about civility on atheist blogs is that I don’t want to participate in discussions where people are likely to insult me as a response to what they perceive as a ‘bigoted’ statement. So I don’t participate much on blogs that allow that. Dan’s blog, on the other hand, sounds like a safe space for me to argue.

    If you don’t like Dan’s pledge, that’s cool. Your space is your space.

  13. says

    How exactly does chastising people whose rights are being trampled for using mean words achieve more scrutiny and critical analysis of a horrible idea? How exactly is complaining that someone’s bleeding all over your rug so very rudely going to better achieve a cessation of stabbings?

  14. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    Dan has to acknowledge that there’s a vast difference between something that stops being your problem once you step away from the computer and one that follows you wherever you go.

    He’s also got to acknowledge that people who want to bring ‘How do we deal with this problem?’ to the table aren’t going to get very far when the opinion of the people at the table is ‘Why do you silly things think there’s a problem?’ – particularly when the latter group benefits as much from appearing to discuss the issues as they do from not doing anything at all.

    When a game that can become never-ending draw is as good as a win for only one of the two sides you’re definitely not on a level playing field.

  15. says

    How exactly does chastising people whose rights are being trampled for using mean words achieve more scrutiny and critical analysis of a horrible idea? How exactly is complaining that someone’s bleeding all over your rug so very rudely going to better achieve a cessation of stabbings?

    As soon as I lose it on someone, they have gotten to me.
    I recently went through some harassing and insipid replies to a comment I made. It was just a request I made due to a phrase being used that made me uncomfortable.
    What ensued, immediately, was that I was called, in effect, a sexual miscreant, told to fuck off, needed castration, etc. Then someone lied about me.

    I just kept, relentlessly, pointing out the flaws and shortcomings in every single one of their immature and unprofessional replies, and I bolded and capitalized my response to the slander in which I called the person a defamatory liar, or some such. I made it as noticeable and loud as possible, while remaining true to facts, and including very little of my opinion. I did not judge or slam the other person, only what they said, and I called them a liar, and challenged them to support their contention, or STFU. That is appropriate, as far as I am concerned. Legal slander and libel are in no way going to pass me by quietly, for it is my reputation at stake.

    One or two people came along and voiced opinions along the lines of myself’s and the other objector’s opinion, and I know that I eviscerated the mob’s approach.

    I don’t care about so and so’s tawdry drama. I am not going to lower myself, or try not to. You know that I have been the first one to gladly start the swearing and debauchery, lol, so it’s plain that I LOVE arguing this way. I get immense satisfaction from creative sarcasm and subtle, but deadly, parody and irony.

    The thing is, Jason, that I am writing for the lurkers, and the ones that understand and agree with my reasoning and the observations I make. I also take responsibility for my own misunderstandings. This way, I gain, hopefully, a credibility that my opponent sorely lacks, in comparison.

    Having said that, I am allergic to pledges. I highly doubt that any set of guidelines, no matter how meticulously and specifically laid out they are, can ever cover all circumstances. They are like New Year’s resolutions. Good luck with those :)

    One more thing. It is appropriate to show anger and intolerance to unacceptable behavior, and I love to swear, so I will not pledge to, or agree to try to, avoid swearing. A little discretion is all that is called for, IMO.

  16. hoary puccoon says

    Here’s an example (no, I can’t link to it) why I don’t think this pledge will work.

    Noelplum99 claimed something-or-other (I believe it had something to do with equal pay for equal work) very politely. I politely pointed out why I thought his claim was wrong. So far, so good. We were acting exactly as Dan would like us to.

    But then Noelplum99’s rebuttal to me was– and I do remember this exactly– “Oooh, so much anger.”

    So there I was, boxed. I had not, in fact, been feeling angry. But, of course, when a complete stranger announced that he knew better than I did what emotions I was experiencing, I did feel insulted. And the topic on the table– equal pay for equal work– was completely lost. The new topic was obviously going to be “Why can’t women admit when they’re angry and get their emotions under control?”

    I thought about responding, “oooh, so much projection.” But instead I dropped out of the discussion and avoided responding ever again to Noelplum99. I later, on another blog, saw Noelplum99 use the exact same technique of accusing other people (in that case a number of posters) of being angry when they were obviously winning on the facts.

    This is just one example of how someone can appear perfectly civil and yet argue in bad faith and in hurtful ways.

  17. carlie says

    As soon as I lose it on someone, they have gotten to me.

    And don’t you think that is useful to point out sometimes? If you’re talking about someone who is arguing “in good faith” instead of someone who is trying to be obstinate, they need to understand that the ideas that they are bandying about aren’t simply a thought exercise for other people. They need to be knocked out of their cozy little cushioned bubble if you want any hope of convincing them how important this is. If someone is saying “What’s the big deal? Why do gay people need to get married? I don’t want to get married! *jovial laugh*”, which do you think would me more effective: “Well, there are certain rights that are granted to married couples that gay people would like to partake of”, or “My sister was barred from the hospital room where her partner was dying, and if you don’t think that’s a big deal you’re a heartless asshole”? Yes, some people simply do not understand that the ideas they are having fun “debating” end up causing actual demonstrated harm to other people, and expressing emotion and anger and upset over those ideas are a valid way to demonstrate to them the harm their ideas cause. I want them to know that their ideas “get to me”. I want them to understand the actual consequences of their ideas.

  18. Beth says

    How exactly does chastising people whose rights are being trampled for using mean words achieve more scrutiny and critical analysis of a horrible idea?

    It doesn’t. But I don’t relate this to Dan’s civility pledge either, which does not say anything about chastising people for using mean words. What is the connection you see between them?

    How exactly is complaining that someone’s bleeding all over your rug so very rudely going to better achieve a cessation of stabbings?

    It doesn’t. This doesn’t even work as a metaphor for me. It seems merely a hyperbolic non-sequitor designed to arouse emotion, not scrutiny or critical analysis of Dan’s suggested civility pledge.

  19. Beth says

    Oh, sorry, I just now realized you probably wanted my opinion on the link. I think both parties have been uncivil in that particular dust up.

  20. sqlrob says

    There’s three parties in that dustup, not two. There’s the direct two, and Daniel as the host. He’s allowing lies to stand unchallenged. That’s uncivil.

  21. Beth says

    I can understand that you feel that way, but I think Dan’s trying to sort out how to respond to all this. He’s not putting up any more posts until he figures that out. I’m not going to term his behavior uncivil at this point.

    Here are examples what I consider civil and uncivil statements made in another blog.

    This is an example of civil argument making a very valid point against a statement made by Michael Shermer.
    The bias is inherent in the definitions you make and the data you choose to examine from the infinite choices before you.
    This is an example of incivility despite the fact that no ‘prohibited’ words are allowed. This is a personal attack against Mr. Shermer for merely making the argument at all.
    For a supposedly scientific person, Shermer naively swallows an awful lot of garbage without critical analysis. Shermer should get horse-laughed out of the business for this boner.

  22. triamacleod says

    Well it looks like I’ve just found another problem with this civility pledge. The post by Beth showing what she considers civil and uncivil statements. I would consider merely differences in writing styles. One uses more ‘sterile’ language, the other uses more colorful terms and colloquialisms. Is there some sort of black and white rule regarding what is civil vs uncivil and if not, who gets to decide? Are they expecting an internet wide agreement on this? Or is it to be applied unevenly depending on whom the moderator is, in which case it is basically worthless.

  23. hoary puccoon says

    The more I think about Dan’s pledge, the more it looks to me like it’s one more example of unconscious male privilege. I’m not accusing Dan of deliberate sexism. But it does seem to me that his pledge is just his statement of how he prefers other people to behave. So who cares? Why should his preference become the rule for the rest of us?

    Personally, I try to avoid using what I was taught (way, way back in the previous millennium) was “uncouth language.” But when I see another woman standing up to an Internet tormentor, telling him in so many words to fuck off, I want to stand up and cheer.

    Why should my opinion, that sometimes crude and direct is the best approach, have less weight than Dan’s, anywhere except on Dan’s own blog?

  24. sqlrob says

    I can understand that you feel that way, but I think Dan’s trying to sort out how to respond to all this. He’s not putting up any more posts until he figures that out. I’m not going to term his behavior uncivil at this point.

    Intent does not impact civility. He’s still being uncivil and he’s not rectifying it.

  25. says

    @ 25 – what?? You think both parties were uncivil? How does that work? “Pitchguest” was uncivil for lying about me (while remaining immune from consequences because anonymous) and I was uncivil for saying so? How was I uncivil for saying “Pitchguest” had lied about me?

    Godalmighty; this is “civility”?

  26. atheist says

    I feel it is useful to contemplate the opposite point of view from Mr. Fincke’s regarding civility:

    “The distinction between children and adults, while probably useful for some purposes, is at bottom a specious one, I feel. There are only individual egos, crazy for love.” -Niccolo Machiavelli

    “Anger is an energy” –John Lydon

    “Secondly, a revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.” — Mao tse-tung

  27. carlie says

    #27 – both of those statements make the same claims, that the person making the argument has not done proper background research and has unexamined biases that negatively affect the quality of the argument.

  28. Beth says

    @sqlrob: I think we will simply have to disagree on this. I don’t think Dan has been uncivil and I do feel that intent does impact judgment about the civility of a particular action or statement. I think that civility is very context dependent.

    @triamacleod: I think this inability to distinguish between civil versus uncivil as Dan has defined them is a serious problem. I don’t see the difference between those quotes as stylistic or that they are essentially saying the same thing at all. Incidentally, both quotes were from the same post, one immediately following the other, which I think tends to undermine the stylistic differences argument, although that would not have been apparent from the way I set up the quotes.

    Carlie: I have to disagree that the two statements make the same claim or that either of them equate to your description.

    The rule I use to distinguish between civil and uncivil is whether the statement has attacked the opposing argument or the person making the argument. I understand that people are frequently unable to tell the difference when their own argument is being attacked. I’m sorry to discover that apparently many people are also unable to tell the difference even when they are not defending their own argument. I thought the two quotes I supplied showed a clear difference on those lines.

    @Ophelia: If you were offended by my statement, I apologize. I was referring to the feud you seem to have going with people who post at the slimepit, not simply your latest posting about their postings on the CWH’s blog. If it helps, I think you have suffered egregious assaults and you have done nothing that compares to what you have suffered. But I also think you consistently mischaracterize the arguments of those who disagree with you and then denigrate the person who made the argument based on that misunderstanding. I don’ t know if it matters to you, but I continue to read your blog semi-regularly. Aside from a brief peek at the slimepit occasionally when a thread is linked to it, I don’t read it and have no desire to participate there.

  29. says

    If by “feud” you mean “people at the slymepit make a habit of harassing and haranguing and hounding her for every word she ever says, and Ophelia points that behaviour out”, then yes, Ophelia has a “feud”.

    Don’t pretend it’s two-sided. That’s the exact reason I wrote this original post.

  30. Beth says

    @ Jason: I’m not pretending it’s two-sided. My opinion is that it IS two-sided. That is not to say the two sides are equal in any way. Ophelia’s been way nicer that those who have harassed her. I would not have ventured an opinion on it at all had I not been directly asked.

    @ sqlrob: I don’t agree that Dan has lied. I’m not at all sure what you mean by ‘lying by implied assent’. I’ve never heard that phrase before. At any rate, I don’t think he has implied assent to what was stated about Ophelia. In general, I do not assume that a blogger agrees with every comment posted at their site nor do I presume they have fact-checked all comments to determine their truth or falsity.

  31. hoary puccoon says

    Beth thinks “Ophelia’s been way nicer than those who have harassed her.”

    But let’s go right ahead and put every single thing she says or does under a microscope to see if there’s any little thing she did wrong so we have an excuse not to get involved.

    Did I get that right, Beth?

  32. sqlrob says

    @Beth:

    He has been told about the lie(the comment is in moderation). The lie is still present and not allowed to be rebutted. That’s assent in my book.

  33. Silentbob says

    … While you’re at it, you might consider apologising to Fincke for calling him a liar @35 and making factually incorrect statements about him @38.

    Or would that be too civil for you?

  34. Beth says

    Beth thinks “Ophelia’s been way nicer than those who have harassed her.”

    But let’s go right ahead and put every single thing she says or does under a microscope to see if there’s any little thing she did wrong so we have an excuse not to get involved.

    Did I get that right, Beth?

    No.

    First of all, I’m not putting everything she says or does under a microscope. I was asked for my opinion, so I gave it.

    Second of all, I don’t need an excuse not to get involved. I’m not involved nor do I want to be. No excuse is needed.

    @sqlrob: We’ll just have to disagree. What Dan did in his blog does not constitute lying IMO.

  35. sqlrob says

    I was wrong about Daniel, and I’m glad to see that. When you try to do pledges like this, people can, and IMHO, should, hold them to a higher standard. I did so prematurely.

    @Beth:
    AiG does not post any of the comments slamming their “science”. Lying or not? How is Daniel (before he let it through the moderation, this comment is not applicable now) different? I don’t, or at least try not to, hold allies to a different standard than foes.

  36. hoary puccoon says

    Beth @ 41–

    Here’s something you might think about. If you’re “not involved” it’s somewhat uncivil to jump in with your opinion, without considering that the people who are involved almost certainly know facts about the situation that you don’t. That applies even when people directly ask your opinion.

    The civil thing to do if you’re “not involved” is to listen to what other people have to say, try to understand their point of view, and be extremely reticent about giving your own opinion. Otherwise you’re very likely to do more harm than good.

    The only thing I can see that you accomplished here was giving an excellent demonstration of how following Dan’s pledge to the letter can actually cause harm to people who don’t deserve it.

  37. Beth says

    @ hoary puccoon:

    I don’t think it’s uncivil to give an opinion on something that I was directly asked to give an opinion on. Could you explain what circumstances you feel it’s ‘civil’ and when it is ‘uncivil’ to give an opinion after have been requested to give an opinion?

    Also, if this was an excellent demonstration of “actually cause harm to people who don’t deserve it”, could you explain who you think was harmed and in what way?

    I don’t care to get into the ‘deserve it’ aspect, because I don’t think anyone deserves to be harmed. Sometimes harm can be unavoidable and sometimes it is appropriate to inflict a small harm in pursuit of a ‘greater good’ sort of goal, but that is not the same as deserving it.

  38. hoary puccoon says

    Beth @ 44–

    Let me give an example that has nothing to do with Freethoughtblogs, so it doesn’t bring up other issues.

    I’m a natural born US citizen, but I’ve spent a lot of time in other countries. I’ve often heard other foreigners, including other Americans, holding forth on what their host country should or should not be doing. Generally, if I know the country well, I know the foreigner’s assessment is simplistic at best. Often it’s flat out wrong. The foreigner doesn’t know the country well enough to get the facts straight. And, of course, the foreigner will almost certainly offend the citizens who hear or overhear him.

    For this reason, I almost never comment on the internal workings of my host country– even when I have spent years in the country and am directly asked. My response is usually, “I really don’t understand the issue well enough to comment. Why don’t you tell me how you see it?” This has led to many, many fascinating discussions, in which I learned a lot. Even when I didn’t end up agreeing with the citizen, I invariably learned the issue was more complex than I had realized.

    You, in this discussion, appear to be a stranger in a strange land. (That’s not meant as an insult. When you say you’re not involved, that’s how you’re presenting yourself.) If you don’t know the situation well, there really isn’t any truly civil way to pass judgment on the people who are directly involved.

    As a result, you’ve inadvertently given a demonstration of why the poster on Freethought blogs are very, very leery of Dan’s pledge.

  39. Beth says

    @ hoary puccoon:

    I’m sorry, but I don’t find your example at all illuminating. I was asked for my opinion regarding the civility on interchanges I have read enough of to feel I could make a judgement about regarding my own standards of civility. That was what I thought the questioner was trying to understand better which was why I obliged their request. I did not made any statements regarding what the people involved should or should not be doing.

    In your example, you chose not to voice your opinion on foreign policy when in a foreign country, even after being asked. That is fine. I can well understand not wanting to offend your questioner and refusing to answer when you know your response is likely offend. But you seem to be suggesting that would be a reasonable rule for internet discussions regarding what is civil and what is not. If that is the case, I respectfully disagree. If that is not the case, you may want to expound on your point a bit more because I must have missed it.

    Further, this example does not answer my question about when it is and is not civil to provide an answer to a question that was asked. You’ve given an example about when you consider it not to be civil. Can you give an example of when it is civil? How much knowledge is required to be to voice an opinion on request without you considering it uncivil? Do you think the content of the opinion matters? If I had responded to the question saying that Ophelia had been perfectly civil and the other side not, would you still consider offering my opinion on the matter to be uncivil?

    Further, I still don’t understand what you were saying was harmful nor do I understand who you think was harmed. Are the citizens of other countries somehow harmed by ignorant Americans spouting off about what they should or should not do? Does offending someone equate to harming them?

    You said that I gave “an excellent demonstration of how following Dan’s pledge to the letter can actually cause harm to people who don’t deserve it.” Apparently, you feel that I have harmed someone by voicing my opinion about civility with respect to an internet discussion. Who was harmed and how were they harmed?

  40. hoary puccoon says

    Yes, I think you harmed people with your posts.

    When Group A is trying to correct an injustice and Group B is trying to protect their privileges in the status quo ante, Group B can derail the entire program by misunderstanding, Just Asking Questions, exaggerating any hint of a fault in members of Group A, and generally gumming up the works. If everybody stops trying to correct the original injustice and starts arguing, Group B wins. Even if they lose the argument, they win their real goal of maintaining the status quo ante.

    Since any argument prevents real action in making the skeptic movement more inclusive, Dan’s pledge is inevitably going to be used by so-called men’s rights advocates to generate more argument and to delay moves toward inclusiveness. And you, jumping in with your opinions, are creating just one more hurdle to jump over on the way to an equitable movement. It isn’t a very big hurdle, and it isn’t nearly as cruel as a lot of the other hurdles people who are trying to make the movement more inclusive have faced. But it is an unnecessary hurdle.

    I am asking you now, civilly, to take it down.

  41. smhll says

    For this reason, I almost never comment on the internal workings of my host country– even when I have spent years in the country and am directly asked. My response is usually, “I really don’t understand the issue well enough to comment. Why don’t you tell me how you see it?” This has led to many, many fascinating discussions, in which I learned a lot. Even when I didn’t end up agreeing with the citizen, I invariably learned the issue was more complex than I had realized.

    This is cool. And civil. And promotes good dialog, even though the less informed person ends up doing a fairly small amount of the total speaking. You technique seems to promote knowledge more than it promotes strife. Kudos.

  42. Beth says

    smhll: Yes, I think you harmed people with your posts.

    When Group A … you, jumping in with your opinions, are creating just one more hurdle to jump over on the way to an equitable movement. It isn’t a very big hurdle, and it isn’t nearly as cruel as a lot of the other hurdles people who are trying to make the movement more inclusive have faced. But it is an unnecessary hurdle.

    Okay. I agree that there is a small change as I add my contribution to our collective culture as it moves forward. That is, indeed, one reason I post. I am adding my small drop to the ocean of information that is the internet.

    If I understand you correctly, you are saying that you feel that my contribution is, on the whole, negative with respect to the direction you want our culture to go. Even if true, I think this is harm on the order of my driving rather than walking the 1.5 miles to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions. I’m contributing just a little more exhaust to the atmosphere, etc. justifying it solely by my own personal preference as being more important than the harm done to our collective environment. My own opinion is that the net gain, including the personal pleasure I take in posting, is sufficient to justify my continuing to do so.

    If I am misunderstanding you, please clarify what you meant.

    I am asking you now, civilly, to take it down.

    Thank you for that input. Could you be more specific about what you mean by ‘take it down’. My initial reaction is you’ve politely asked me to be quiet – i.e. sit down, shut up, and stop complaining. If that isn’t what you meant by that, please try again to communicate what you did mean.

    I very much appreciate your civil tone and explanations. If you will take the time to clarify the behavior change you are requesting, perhaps we can come to an agreement regarding what constitutes mutually acceptable behavior.

    On the other hand, if “sit down and shut up because I disagree with you” is, in fact, what you are trying to express politely, then I must politely but firmly say “no, I won’t”. Since this is a thread specifically about civility on the Internet, I don’t think I’ve written anything out of place. I am as entitled to express my opinion on these matters as anyone else.

  43. Beth says

    My apologies if this gets posted twice. I thought I posted it early this morning. This is a reconstruction.
    @ sqlrob @Beth:
    AiG does not post any of the comments slamming their “science”. Lying or not? How is Daniel (before he let it through the moderation, this comment is not applicable now) different? I don’t, or at least try not to, hold allies to a different standard than foes.

    Not lying. Lying is an action. It can only be accomplished passively through other active contradictory statements like saying: “We publish all comments.” Passive lying, IMO, only happens when the passiveness invalidates a previous statement.

    Daniel is different in many many ways. For starters, I read his blog and agree with much of what he says regarding his values. He is not different in terms of my holding him to a different standard. I think that you and I have different standards, but I don’t feel that I am applying my judgment inconsistently in this case.

  44. Amphigorey says

    Beth, you are the one who said that “both sides were uncivil” in reference to Ophelia and her slimepit harassers. When pressed, you said “she’s been much nicer,” but you didn’t acknowledge that you were wrong in the first place when you made the asinine claim that “both sides do it.” That’s why people are annoyed with you.

    Also? Saying to Ophelia that you “apologize if she was offended” is not a real apology. It’s classic bullshit.

  45. Beth says

    @sally strange:

    I agree that honest requires more than that. Simply not lying does NOT equate to honesty IMO. But a lie is a deliberate false statement knowingly made by the speaker. Not publishing contrary opinions/corrections does not qualify as a lie.

    @Amphigorey: Thank you for the input. I understand that is why people here are annoyed with me. I have expressed an unpopular opinion and many people here don’t want to hear it.

  46. Amphigorey says

    You expressed an unpopular opinion, but your opinion isn’t backed up by facts. Not only that, it’s directly insulting to Ophelia to say that she’s been uncivil to her harassers. You claimed that “both sides,” meaning including Ophelia, were uncivil, because it’s an easy position to take. You are trying to hold yourself above all this petty squabbling by saying “both sides do it.” Unfortunately for you, it’s not actually true that both sides do it, so your efforts to distinguish yourself as Above It All fail.

    This kind of thing is exactly why people have a problem with Fincke’s original pledge.

  47. Beth says

    @Amphigorey
    You expressed an unpopular opinion, but your opinion isn’t backed up by facts.
    I was asked for my opinion. I stated it. I don’t think that sort of response should be considered uncivil.

    You don’t feel Ophelia has ever been less than civil to some of the slimepitters? The disagreement has more to do with our different standards for civil behavior than any facts regarding the matter. I expect we could look at the same exchanges and we will sometimes differ on whether we consider them civil. I’d like to find out how it is our standards differ. Back at #27 I gave a couple of examples. Perhaps you could do the same?

    Why do you think my behavior is a problem for Fincke’s original pledge? What I have done or said that bothers people outside of stating an unpopular opinion? What behavior, aside from holding different opinions regarding what is civil and what is not, would you ask me to change?

  48. Feline says

    Beth, let me complete your sentence for you, for your betterment:

    You don’t feel Ophelia has ever been less than civil to some of the slimepitters?

    To the degree of civilty that they have earned.
    To the best of my knowledge she has been dismissive of them, on occasion pointed out when they have lied (given that they lie all the time she’d be hard pressed to point out all occasions) and blocked them from commenting on her blog. Possibly she’ve told them to fuck off when they harass her. Might even have named them.
    They lie about her, call her a cobweb cunt and all sorts of other delightful things. Some of them threaten her with acid attacks and call it a joke when they get called on it.
    You acting like these things are even close to equivalent is deeply disingenuous. Also meeting no standards of civility, ever.

  49. says

    I think Dan Fincke believes that it is somehow possible to argue against equality as a cute, hypothetical, interesting thought exercise without doing so in bad faith. I don’t want to hear it if someone wants to toy with the notion that equality is optional, or less important than other things, or has gone too far, or should be slowed down for some damn reason — just no. Don’t spread that crap all over the internet where it will be quoted out of context for years.

    Giliell put it more succinctly in another thread about this pledge:

    There can be no civil discourse about my status as a human being.

  50. says

    I know very little about Dan, but when he responded to my objections to his pledge by saying “Ethical behavior begins with the self,” twice, as if it was some kind of argument-winning definitive statement, it really reinforced the “privileged debating-team twit” image that others had already painted of him. Seriously, what does that prim little platitude even mean?

  51. says

    But then Noelplum99′s rebuttal to me was– and I do remember this exactly– “Oooh, so much anger.”

    Yeah, that’s a standard tactic of manipulative little shits and emotional bullies of all stripes. They use it because there’s NO good way, civil or not, to respond to it, except perhaps to ignore the barb and keep on debunking whatever BS you’re allegedly so angry about.

  52. says

    sqlbob: LYING is not civil; so if you have to correct lies, you are not bound by any code of civility when doing so. The only rules that should concern you then are those of honesty and effectiveness.

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