This question of credentials, accomplishments, fame, status, titles, and what it has to do with whether or not someone can behave badly. As I discussed yesterday, Tim Farley seems to be claiming that fame and titles in the skeptic/atheist world are incompatible with acting like a shit. I say “seems to be” because it’s not clear exactly what he’s claiming. I’ve asked him to clarify but so far he’s said only that that’s a small part of the post, which doesn’t help and is frankly beside the point.
the list of Level 2 and Level 3 blocks reveals people, many of whom I know personally, who are deeply involved in the atheism, skepticism, secularism and humanism movements all around the world.
He lists 10 examples of such involvement; he says
These are not anonymous trolls. They are not likely to be arrested anytime soon. Most of these people regularly speak at national conferences to audiences from several hundred to over a thousand people.
And that a quick scan of their Twitter feeds turns up little in the way of “attacking, threatening or spamming”; and that
these well-respected people are being listed right alongside some vicious troll accounts, and not being clearly distinguished from them.
He does not say “these people are important and famous, therefore they can’t possibly be intermittently or steadily unpleasant on Twitter.” But he hints at it. That seems to be what he wants us to conclude, even though he doesn’t spell it out. (If he had, he probably would have noticed how silly it is, and either deleted it or done a better job of arguing it.)
What’s the hidden premise here?
I suppose it’s one that I share, in a way. It’s something like people who do good thoughtful work are thoughtful people, and thoughtful people don’t harass or pester or jeer at other people on Twitter.
I do think that, up to a point. It’s why I keep being surprised by people who are thoughtful in other contexts, being astonishingly childish or malicious or brutal on Twitter or blogs. But at the same time I also know better – I know that if only because I’ve had so much experience of it over the past couple of years. But it’s not only that; I do know it from other sources. Doesn’t everyone?
Isn’t it notorious that fame and status can make people feel entitled and reckless? Hello? Bill Clinton and Air Fuck One? Every rock star ever? Bernie Madoff? Dominique Strauss-Kahn?
And no, intellectuals and academics are not immune. Far from it. There is no preener like an academic preener.
So no. It’s sad, but no, being a star in the (tiny) atheist/skeptic movement is not a guarantor of always-thoughtful-behavior.