I love how

Meta meta meta. Discussion of discussion of discussion.

Discussion of discussion of Tim Farley’s post on oolon’s block bot.


The stupid burns, says Travis Roy. Tim Farley comments:

I love how the follow-on blogs are all entirely focused on one section, about 10% of the 4,300 word post. Principle of Charity? What’s a principle of charity?

That’s annoying. That’s very annoying.

There is no rule that says you’re not allowed to disagree with one part of an essay or blog post. That rule does not exist. Now if an essay or blog post is one argument and nothing else, such that it’s not possible to address only a part of it, then fine. But that was far from the case with Farley’s post. The part about the list of credentialed people who, in his view, should not be on the block bot list, is separable from the rest of the post, which is much more technical. And people have told Farley that – I’ve told him that, and I’ve seen other people tell him that. It’s not hard to figure out, in any case. The principle of charity has nothing to do with not disputing one part of a long piece of writing unless you address all of it.

He could have used the time he spent complaining that people were focusing on part of the post, to reply to what people said about that part of the post, instead of just repeating that people were focusing on part of the post. I don’t know what the name of that principle is, but it’s a good one.


  1. says

    It’s particularly annoying because I agreed with a good chunk of his analysis — the block bot is not a satisfactory solution — but found parts of his discussion weird and wrong. Apparently we’re in a black & white world where we must agree 100% or disagree 100%.

    Which sounds like a highly irrational and unproductive attitude to take.

  2. Al Dente says

    Farley spent considerable time and effort to write his post but people are not appreciating all of his wisdom. How gauche of the hoi polloi!

  3. Stacy says

    What’s also not very skeptic: being unable to admit you made a ridiculously fallacious argument.

    The Principle of Charity isn’t a Get Out of Criticism Free card, Tim. It doesn’t mean you get to weasel out of admitting you made a bad argument.

  4. says

    I love how his response has focused on the fact that people are attacking only one part of his article. As if that’s somehow relevant to the critique. The other 90% of the article does not make the fallacious 10% less fallacious, or wouldn’t if it weren’t also based on a false premise.

    As I said in the comments on my blog: “Where was the principle of charity when Farley based his article on the fallacious assumption that Ool0n was promoting the Block Bot, in its current form, as the actual solution to everyone’s harassment problems on Twitter” and not promoting the “shared block list strategy,” of which the Atheism+ Block Bot is one model? Wouldn’t that be the more charitable interpretation? Isn’t thinking that the “Atheism+ Block Bot” was promoted for use by all communities outside of Atheism+, and that Ool0n was suggesting making himself the moderator of all Twitter, so uncharitable as to be absurd?

    Funny how that principle of charity only seems to work one way.”

    This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a skeptic pull out the “principle of charity” nonsense in disagreements with other skeptics, as though we’re under some obligation to give them so much benefit of the doubt that we assume they must not be as bad at communicating and thinking as their writing makes them out to be. I don’t buy it, and I certainly don’t buy it from a guy who apparently wrote over 4,000 words without contacting Ool0n to find out that at least one of his facts (that there’s no audit trail) was out of date, or that his entire premise was faulty. This cry of “principle of charity” is a deflection (like “you’re anonymous” and “you write too much” and “you don’t address the rest of my piece”), and sounds like it’s some kind of reverse strawman–“you’re being unfair by arguing against what I wrote and not the much better, not at all fallacious version I intended!” It’d be funny if it weren’t so goddamn pathetic.

  5. says

    Funny that Tim Farley both has a problem with criticism of a part of what he wrote in a post *and* with the thorough fisking of everything he wrote in a comment. A little or a lot, you just can’t win with the guy.

  6. says

    To be frank, I love the Block Bot. I use it and I’m quite glad I do.


    Because I use Twitter for friendly stuff. I don’t need or want to see the trolls. And I really, honestly, truly can’t understand why that bothers people. If I decide to block you, why am I suddenly not allowed to do that?

    If you so choose to employ the Block Bot, that’s your decision. I know those people it’s blocked for me don’t miss me, and I certainly don’t miss them, so isn’t it a win-win? What’s to complain about?


    It’s almost as if… you know… they’re just finding things to complain about because it’s all they know how to do… complain about their Freeze Peach n’ shit…

    But no… they’re certainly more mature than that…


  7. says

    I don’t use the block-bot – which is probably why I went onto twitter after being off for a few days due to moving to “cunning punt” calling me a cunt.

    I’m pretty sure that account is on the block bot.

    I don’t get a lot of nasty stuff though, so I don’t feel the need. That’s up to me right?

    Until somehow one is required to use block bot in order to use twitter; the whole thing is moot. Oolon has addressed the issue of account suspension; but that’s really THE only valid beef that I see at all.

    Nothing else is close – because people get to block whomever they want however they want. Nobody gets to decide that for someone else.

    That shouldn’t be so difficult to understand.

  8. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    Why is it that people who agree that Jerusalem exists and that the name/s Yeshua/Yesu/Jesu were in common usage in the eastern Med 2000 years ago have to go and focus on that part with the Jesu character leads a parade of zombies through that same city on what would become Easter Sunday.

    Great Gods of Persnickety Pedants! Y’all agree with unnumbered facts in the bible, and let a myriad more slide. So look, you **agree** with Christianity.

    This quibbling with the last, oh, maybe 10% of what’s in the bible is simply uncharitable.

    How dare you.

    I told you that atheists were morally inferior, and here’s the proof.

  9. says

    He tried the same thing on Twitter with me. I told him flat out, “maybe because that 10% is what we disagree with?”

    If he would be so kind as to slice out that 10% — which if his estimate holds is 400 words — into its own post, we would all move to arguing on that point on that post.

  10. Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty says

    Calls for charity from people telling you you owe certain people your time and attention, no matter how obnoxious they are? Where have I heard that before?

  11. says

    Ibis @9

    That stuck out to me as well. He’s moved the goal posts to-and-from complete opposite sides.

    That’s hardly a rational response to criticism.

  12. Steve Sirhan says

    I doubt that Tim slicing out that 10 percent would satisfy most people who don’t want to engage with his other points in the first place.

  13. says

    @Steve Sirhan: What’s to engage with? His other points are uncontroversial and generally agreeable. The only problem is that he thinks he’s responding to someone by making them. The whole post is built on a false premise; understanding that solves all the things he thinks are “problems.”


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