Tom and Tim

Tom Foss takes a look at Tim Farley’s long-delayed response to objections to his very long post about the Block Bot. Wait. That’s so meta it’s confusing.

Tim Farley did a long post about the block bot.

People had criticisms of it. I was one of those people. Tom was another. Tim Farley made many objections to the criticisms, none of which addressed the actual criticisms that were made. It was frustrating and irritating, especially since Farley’s objections included rebukes for addressing a small part of the post instead of the whole of it. Now he has addressed the criticisms, and Tom has addressed his response. It’s part of a video hangout, which is a very odd way to address written criticisms of a written piece. I haven’t watched it, because frankly I don’t like watching videos. But Tom has.

Farley talks repeatedly about people being rude to him. I’m sure I’m in that group, though I don’t think I displayed any “rudeness” until he came into my comment thread with tired myths (“They are simply people that (some, all?) Atheism+ people disagree with on some topics”) and deflections. But then, Farley’s idea of rudeness seems to be that peculiar one that prevails in parts of skepticism, where it only ever works one way, and mostly appears to mean “using swear words” or “not being sufficiently deferential to your betters.” Jumping to an absurd conclusion and writing 4,300 words about it without bothering to check with the people involved? Not rude. Buying into a malicious myth that certain groups just can’t brook disagreement when you can’t find immediate evidence that they acted reasonably? Not rude.

Buying into that malicious myth at all is very unskeptical.

I’m tired of that nonsense. I think it’s far worse to argue in bad faith than to use naughty words. I don’t think anyone in this movement has earned exemption from criticism or has shown that they are incapable of bad behavior. I think being dismissive can be far ruder than being aggressive. And I think yet another outsider thinking they can wander into a conflict that’s been raging for years, do a casual scan of the environment, and make authoritative pronouncements about what people’s motivations are, is pretty damn disrespectful.

And, frankly, tribal.

Getting to the meat of people’s disagreements with the post, Farley says:

And I knew that I did not want to get into, and we said this in the comments of this post, of this YouTube, I did not want to get into who’s on the Block Bot, who’s not on the Block Bot, why is this person blocked, because that is a rat hole. I just wanted to talk about how it works, how is it administrated, are there bugs in the code, does it do what it’s supposed to do. And I needed a way to bring up the issue of, “hey look, this guy’s on here, and this woman’s on here, why are they on here?”

Emphasis mine. So here, I think (being charitable), is a limitation of speech-vs.-writing. Someone who wrote those two bolded phrases so close together would, I hope, notice the obvious contradiction between them, but that’s harder to do with off-the-cuff speech. As someone who does a lot of off-the-cuff speech for a living, I understand how that can happen.

Yes but he did the same thing in the post itself and in responding to objections – although not quite as visibly as that.

He does explain his point in the end. It was that the people he listed were not obviously harassers so evidence should be added, so that users will see why they’re blocked.

I don’t see why he couldn’t have just said that. It’s one sentence. It would have been easy to say it. No need for all this “I’ll write a post next week” – just give the explanation, instead.



  1. says

    Well, to be fair, that’s not his point anymore. Somehow, the point he was trying to make in that section of the post changed between him leaving a comment on my blog on August 2nd, and participating in this video chat five days later. Now his point is that the administrators should make evidence available for people on the block list so a user can see why they made the cut & judge for themselves.

    I don’t know why making that point required a digression about people that disagree with Atheism+ and all the important tweets you might miss out on if you sign up for protection against the Level 3 people. I don’t know why an attempt to make that point left out anything about making the evidence of transgressions publicly available, and instead gave the impression that the evidence didn’t exist. I don’t know why he didn’t say that was his point on August 2nd, and instead said that his point was that some people on the block list demonstrably don’t belong. That all seems like a funny way of making the point he now says he was trying to make.

    I guess it’s a mystery.

  2. says

    I actually think I missed the last clause in what you said. Either way, it’s nice when what you write is like a multiple choice grab bag of things you might mean, isn’t it?

  3. says

    Well, given the work I did to put together evidence on two of those people–because there was a good bit of it, I’d think folks on The Block Bot’s lists could, you know, just ask themselves and answer honestly.

  4. says

    We should probably have some more detail on the block bot FAQ as I’ve asked all the people adding to the list to try and add in tweets when necessary. To be honest it’s usually fairly obvious in level1 and to a degree level2 … The description of “annoying” in level3 makes it somewhat harder as applied with no bias pretty much everyone on Twitter would be in that list. So if anyone wants to know why people were added they need to do a twitter search for + and @the_block_bot, in theory there should be some details.

    So far no user has asked me for evidence for the transgressions for each user in the list. Only those on the list ask for evidence, so the reason I’ve asked for tweets is less for Tims reason and more to fend off the complaints of those added. I am likely not the one that added them so having some evidence handy is useful.

    As for his bit about Anonymous, I wrote a post on that as its more argument to authority. Apparently its really dumb to ridicule Anonymous. For a start the group I ridiculed were just a splinter of Anonymous. In fact there is no Anonymous to be able to ridicule. They were also the group of lulz trolls that attacked Caroline Criado-Perez so eminently worthy of ridicule/criticism for their freeze peach argument against being blocked en masse. I really see his point that this ridicule makes me a poor person to run the block list (I don’t anyway, its a community effort) as no argument at all. Being afraid to stand up to them or “celebrity” skeptics would make me and the other blockers bad people to run the list, not the other way around.

  5. says

    Frankly, I’m having a harder time taking Anonymous seriously these days. In principle, I can see electronic warfare as a form of non-violent protest or civil disobedience, but I think there are too many who are just in it for teh lulz and it seems like it’d be hard for them to police themselves, given the nature of the beast.

    The whole pro hominem approach really rubs me the wrong way. As I see it, skepticism is a mode of thought with features that inherently conflict with hierarchical notions. No one is supposed to be intimidated from questioning our “leaders.” Authority is a shortcut that’s only reliable when it meets strict criteria, and we’re supposed to point out any problems that undermine that authority. It may be a free pass when expediency is needed, but it should be revoked whenever someone wants to go to the evidence and logic.

    Naturally, Freeze Peach comes up. It’s like a TV network crying censorship if I decide to block their channel on my own TV with a device I voluntarily bought specifically to block channels I don’t want to glimpse while channel surfing. Or crying censorship specifically because I followed a trusted friend’s suggestion to block that channel instead of going through the redundant effort to make the same decision for the same reasons myself. It’s not like we’ve shot down their broadcast satellites. Neither me nor my friend have violated their freedom of speech.

  6. Aratina Cage says

    I know it’s an old post, but I did release the full list of everyone I’ve added to @The_Block_Bot. It’s on Storify if anyone is interested. I captured many of the final tweets that made me decide to add a person to the block list, which one can open the link to and read the full conversation, and I think just about all of my adds are justified once the bot went to Atheism+. Before that, it was more of a game than a useful tool, but there are plenty from even back then who are on there for a good reason, too.

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