Death threats are bad, but

Andrew Sullivan commits a classic rhetorical error.

So let me make a few limited points. The tactics of harassment, threats of violence, foul misogyny, and stalking have absolutely no legitimate place in any discourse. Having read about what has happened to several women, who have merely dared to exercise their First Amendment rights, I can only say it’s been one of those rare stories that still has the capacity to shock me. I know it isn’t fair to tarnish an entire tendency with this kind of extremism, but the fact that this tactic seemed to be the first thing that some gamergate advocates deployed should send off some red flashing lights as to the culture it is defending.

All well and good, but…there’s a “but” coming. It doesn’t really need to be a “but”. And unfortunately, Sullivan throws out a real stinker of a “but”.

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Creationist debacle at Michigan State

It’s yet another creationist conference in which the imminent demise of evolutionary theory will be declared this weekend, and it’s being held on a university campus, which is always jarring. The university is said to be “uneasy” about it all.

The 1 November event, called the Origin Summit, is sponsored by Creation Summit, an Oklahoma-based nonprofit Christian group that believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible and was founded to “challenge evolution and all such theories predicated on chance.” The 1-day conference will include eight workshops, according the event’s website, including discussion of how evolutionary theory influenced Adolf Hitler’s worldview, why “the big bang is fake,” and why “natural selection is NOT evolution.” Another talk targets the work of MSU biologist Richard Lenski, who has conducted an influential, decades-long study of evolution in bacterial populations.

News of the event caught MSU’s scientific community largely by surprise. Creation Summit secured a room at the university’s business school through a student religious group, but the student group did not learn about the details of the program—or the sometimes provocative talk titles—until later, says MSU zoologist Fred Dyer. The talk titles led Dyer to suspect that the student group was not involved in planning the conference, he says, prompting him to look into its origins.

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Only in America

It’s almost Halloween, and people are decorating their houses and yards. One person in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, put a display up that elicited this mild reaction.

Fort Campbell Public Affairs officer Brendalyn Carpenter said that it was "her understanding that the display was not intended to be offensive, but authorities deemed it could be interpreted as such. She said the occupant did extend an apology about the decorations."

Oh, not intended to be offensive, but could be interpreted, possibly uncharitably and unfairly, as such. Where have I heard that kind of notpology before? It seems to be a fairly common sentence construction in English.

Of course, then you see a photo of the display and wonder how anyone could possibly see it as inoffensive.

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