… You know, I’ve never actually done one? They feel a bit self-indulgent, but having looked at the data I think there’s an interesting pattern here. Tell me if you can spot it, based on the eleven posts that earned the most traffic in 2018:
Sam Harris “Corrects” the Record
Sam Harris, Hypocritical Coward. Allegedly.
Holy Fuck, Carol Tavris: Sexual Assault Apologetics
Out Of Control
Don’t Do This, Skeptics
Steven Pinker, “Historian”
Three Feminist Myths
The Feminist Mein Kampf
One Hundred Prisoners
Steven Pinker and Feminist Glaciology
Holy Fuck, Carol Tavris: Manufacturing Dissonance
There isn’t a traditional “bloggy” post in there, with the possible exception of ‘Steven Pinker, “Historian”.’ All the rest are deep-dives, and most of them are on skeptic/atheist controversies. Those two Sam Harris posts were over 6,000 words when combined; if you include the missing third post, my Carol Tavris trilogy was an obscure joke about a meme. Long-form posts like that are a pain to research and write, but the effort definitely paid off.
It’s tempting to link this to “controversialism,” the idea that blogging about intra-community controversies is a major driver of traffic. I don’t think that fits, for a few reasons. One is the appearance of “One Hundred Prisoners,” which is an image-heavy discussion of graph theory and how it applies to a specific riddle. “Out of Control” is ostensibly about that “Grievance Studies” bullshit, but you can also read it as a discussion of the nature of science, and therefore the demarcation problem, via a case study and some swearing.
And yeah, if this was all about controversies, I’d just be swearing at people. It’s easy to call someone a clueless poser with their head so far up their ass that they can’t realize they’re encouraging white supremacists; it’s a lot harder to transcribe nearly eight minutes of audio, dive into cross-border defamation law, cross-reference one set of claims with another, and tack on a few signposts to cover tangents. The fact that my long-reads are sitting at the top, while posts like these are well down the list, should signal that it’s more about the analysis than the controversy.
Even if we sweep all that off the table, I fail to see why blogging about controversies is a bad thing. I like the atheist/skeptic movement, a lot. I want us to be awesome, I want people to be proud to call themselves atheists or skeptics, and that’s not going to happen if I turn a blind eye to our faults. Instead, I’ve got to help hold us to a higher standard, and if that means airing some dirty laundry then let’s make every day a laundry day.
Happy 2019. I took advantage of a Boxing Day sale to stock up on detergent.
2019-01-03 HJH: “I just be swearing” was a cute turn of phrase, but not what I was going for there. “Every day” also needed some emphasis.