No Hate.

I feel a lot of pressure from all sides of the atheist community to denounce the specific behaviors of this or that specific person or group of people.

But I really do not want to. I don’t want to make fights about ideas and values within our community any more personal than they have to be. I think all the personalization and individual recriminations have nearly completely stalled any constructive dialogue in the community. My only interest is in saying the following three things:

1. I disapprove of anyone using insults (including allegedly benign ones like “asshole”, “stupid”, or “douchebag”) or slurs against any one else (and I include words like “cunt” and “bitch” in that category).

2. I don’t hate or think monstrous the people I disagree with, and I will not abandon my friendships with people over their resorting to insults, even though I think that’s wrong.

3. What I am against is hatefulness in all its forms. I think that interpersonal and inter-tribal abusiveness is fundamentally what is destroying the solidarity in our movement. Misogyny is a terrible species of this poison, but the the poison is deadly in all its forms. The only true, honest, and rationalistic solution is for there to be a unilateral ceasefire from abusiveness.

For a lengthier articulation of my position, which I know is depressingly likely to go largely unheeded, see below:

Since January of 2011, I think I have made my official stance pretty clear and unequivocal. I am against abusive language, including insulting epithets, having any part in public discourse. I do not think I am merely expressing my personal opinion on this issue, but a rationally defensible moral judgment.

Though I am fairly conscientious (and increasingly so in recent months) about not personally sinking to engage in the abusive behavior I outspokenly denounce, I of course am not a perfect human being. If you would like to comb my blog’s archives for times when I crossed the line from harsh, civil, moral and intellectual criticism into treating other people abusively and with insults or gratuitous cruelty, feel free to point them out to me and, assuming I agree with your assessment, I will apologize. I don’t expect people to be perfect–especially on the internet!–but I do expect them to listen to reason and apologize for their acts of cruelty and unnecessary divisiveness. I am happy to lead by example in this regard.

There are a lot of people who think that it’s okay to abuse other people as long as they are bad people. The astonishing and repulsive self-righteous and often self-serving judgmentalism of this irks me to no end. While I study moral philosophy, vigorously propound my own ethical theory, and offer moral judgments on any number of abstract topics or stories in the news, I am deeply suspicious of moralism. I do moral philosophy because we must do moral philosophy but not because I like what a sense of moral superiority does to corrupt a person’s character.

We will do moral philosophy, whether explicitly or only implicitly, whatever we do because we are human beings and all human beings make judgments about better and worse behaviors and inevitably enforce them on themselves and each other.

The way I see it, we have an inescapable choice.

On the one hand, we can be scrupulously conscientious about our moral judgments. We can rigorously examinethe rational worth of our every moral belief and of every action which has any consequences that affect other people. And beyond that, we can be sufficiently thorough and introspectively and unsparingly interrogate every one of our own personal motives and methods of judging and punishing other people.

Or we can be unscrupulous and unconscientious. We can let our moral laziness lead us to haphazard moral judgments. Or worse, we can allow our malice, cruelty, vindictiveness, jealousy, bitterness, and self-righteousness to perpetually corrupt our moral judgment such that we only ever see ourselves and our cause and whatever pain we cause to others as just. We can alternate between heroizing and pitying ourselves and pitilessly demonizing those who are against us.

So I see all of moral philosophy–from the most highly technical and abstract kinds that specialists engage in to the most urgently pressing everyday kind of moral reasoning that all humans engage in–as being vital. And I think it is vital that it be done scrupulously and conscientiously.

And, being highly influenced by Nietzsche, I am dubious of all the temptations to immoral behavior that arise when we anoint ourselves the moral judges of other people or, even, of whole systems of human interaction. While I think that it is possible to overcome the situation where our moral judgments are mere expressions of our feelings or of our cultures and actually be able to assure ourselves that they are rationally defensible too (or instead), nonetheless there is a great temptation to have our value judgments determined by self-serving feelings or by the interests of larger systems that have us in their thrall.

And when we think we are in the moral right, we are oh so tempted to start venting all the darkest, nastiest, and cruelest parts of ourselves with a good conscience. And this is why moralistic people are scary. Because too often the only thing separating them from their enemies is their drug like feeling of being the righteous ones. Their hatred can be just as strong. And if they stop being restrained by deference to abstract forms of justice that keep them in check, their actions can be just as harmful to those they hate.

This is why my moral stand in the controversies that embroil this atheist blogosphere is against hatred. This is why I fight myself daily to avoid demonizing my enemies or denouncing my friends when they make errors. I don’t think all the personal acrimony is worth it honestly. I feel all those frustrations and angers of course. I am a people person by nature. I can’t tune out the emotions people send my way as though they weren’t coming from real live human beings.

I am heartened though in that every time in my comments section that I calmly, cooly, and clearly reply to someone losing their temper that they seem to relax and engage me rationally. It’s this way in real life too. Responding to hate with peaceful reason is powerful. Responding to hate with more hate is explosively destructive.

Some good people are getting death threats, rape threats, and a wide range of almost unimaginable abuse for expressing their opinions. The hate is unbearable for them. People judging them cruelly and calling them bullies when they are lashing out in return need to stop. Escalating is not helping.

And those lashing out need to be more compassionate too. I don’t know what to do about the seething misogyny that many people in our movement feel. I don’t know what to do about the callousness that makes others seem incapable of feeling. But I do know that self-righteous abusive language that calls people names or threatens them with expulsion from the movement has done nothing to quell the hatred of the most venomous among us and it has alienated people of good faith who feel terrified that a single verbal miscue will lead to torrents of abuse from people with high profile blogs.

A lot of rational people who ostensibly share the same values in theory are tense, are on edge, and are spoiling for a fight. On both sides, they feel bullied and threatened and imposed upon. Perpetually responding with bellicosity is not helping. The animosity only grows. Whether or not the abuses of the one side are genuinely worse than the other is not really relevant.

What’s relevant is a community that trumpets reason is failing to show any skills at reasoning through disagreements together. It’s an appalling embarrassment for all of us. And it will not end with more rounds of accusations. It will only end with mutual uncoerced apologies from everyone. Only when we are really willing to look at ourselves and really ask, “Am I being hateful and defensive?” “Are any of the criticisms of me well-meaning and based in some kind of reality?” “Are there any places where I can at least say, ‘I didn’t mean to hurt anyone but I acknowledge I did and would like to take responsibility so we can move past this constructively?’”

Everyone could defend themselves and say, “These are the values I stand for and here are the reasons I will continue to stand for them” as long as they were also willing to say “And here are the ways that my emotions or my commitment to principles over people have let me become abusive or combative in divisive ways” or “Here are how even my best intentioned deeds hurt people in ways that I had might as well say I am sorry for.”

Then all sides could forgive each other for being human and impetuous and self-righteous in whatever ways they have been. And then we could look at each other’s statements of our values and have some good faith discussions about why our interpretations of them and of how to implement them are so different and how exactly to get them to align. And maybe we could do this without every discussion shifting to insults and accusations and endless hypocrisies.

And if that were happening around the blogosphere on all sides, we would see who the hold outs were who kept hurling abuse even when a truce was called and we would know who should be ignored as people more committed to hating than to solving disagreements using reason.

I am so used to chronicling the abuses of religious people and institutions and thinking on such a daily basis that I almost have to do a double take when I see that they actually did something genuinely self-sacrificial. In their own minds most religious people think their religions simply stand for love and justice and peace and truth and the good. And yet we adamant atheists see all the hate they propagate in spite of that, so often while being so blinkered by their own self-righteousness. And we also miss all the daily good bound up with their religious lives in that same process.

We are no less capable of enormous hate no matter how convinced we are that we do only enormous good. Our enemies will surely attest to our capacities for hate, if we are not ourselves convinced. And on both sides of the aisle, most of us are also well-intentioned people who do a greater preponderance of good than evil.

Some people, some with a genuine commitment to justice and others with an equal or greater attachment to their hatreds, will only focus on the equivalences here and be enraged. “Their abuses are far greater than ours!” is all they probably thought as they read this whole thing (if they even read this whole thing).

To them all I have to say is this, even if it will never be enough for them: Depending on which side you are on, I might agree with you in principle. And insofar as your abstract moral and political beliefs are vitally important, I encourage you to speak out for them as effectively as you can. And if I agree with them, I will join you as passionately as I can. There are great injustices, many of them literally lethal, many of them profoundly violating, and many of them systemically administered so that those who passively perpetuate them don’t even know or care about their roles in hurting others. It makes my heart sick as a wide range of types of oppressed, victimized, alienated, abused, starving, dying, and dehumanized people race through my mind.

All I am saying is this. Fight for them with peaceful, persistent, steel-trap logic. And direct all your hatred towards injustice rather than towards other people. Don’t let your hate turn you into an abusive person who refuses to ever introspect for as long as someone else out there has done a worse deed. That’s a recipe to never say you’re sorry about anything. Instead I implore you to do as I do and always remember Nietzsche’s warning that “he who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster”.

As someone else (I’m told Kant, but I’m not sure) said, we should aim first and foremost to make each other happy and ourselves good, rather than the other way around. I personally think that that mindset is the only way to even make ourselves truly happy or truly good.

And in the context of acrimonious interpersonal conflicts, that means admitting to our own wrongdoings in a spirit of reconciliation and then ceasing them so that our enemies have no legitimate case against us. In which case they will either stop being our enemies or become irrelevant to all the decent people who think good faith apologies and attempts to reform should be welcomed.

Your Thoughts?

 

 

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Caias Ward

    A very logical and reasonable response.

    I fear it will be lost on some people, but the best we can do is rise above and not be dragged into childish behaviors.

    • John Morales

      I might follow the rules here, but be assured I exclude no technique from my (rhetorical) armamentarium — and I think that thereby I do better than your best.

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Caias, entirely aside from any opinion I might have on Dan’s post, you seem to me to be getting perilously close to sounding passive-aggressively and condescendingly self-righteous here. Maybe that’s not how you meant to be sound, but it’s exactly that kind of presentation that many of the proponents of a more aggressive approach find hypocritical about this “no insults” stance — you managed to be (intentionally or no) fairly offensive without saying a single naughty word.

      I myself go back and forth on how I feel about using a harsh tone, but one thing is for damn sure — when I want to snipe at somebody, I don’t pretend that not using specific taboo words makes what I said any less snipish.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I don’t see what is passive aggressive about what he said. All you have to do to evade his preemptive criticism is lay down non-childish reasons for disagreeing. Such reasons exist.

      In either case, I don’t think an open door to abusive words (which I think you trivialize by calling them “naughty” as though it was just convention that makes trying to hurt someone with a word wrong and not a legitimate moral complaint) solves the problem of passive aggressiveness.

      My problem is not words that little children are not allowed to use. You can say “fuck” here. You can say a lot of things. My problem is words meant to hurt and belittle people. They’re wrong, not because they’re “dirty” but because they maliciously hurt and belittle people. And maliciously hurting and belittling people is wrong.

    • John Morales

      [meta]

      Dan,

      And maliciously hurting and belittling people is wrong.

      Interesting qualification, since malice refers specifically to intent rather than outcomes; do you mean to imply that there are cases where hurting and belittling people can be non-malicious (but still be wrong), or are you using rhetorical redundancy, or what?

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      I fear it will be lost on some people

      Passive-aggressive. Which people are these, exactly?

      the best we can do is rise above

      Self-righteous. Caias is apparently a better person than those peons who are so crass and inferior as to allow themselves to actually be provoked to anger.

      childish behavior

      Condescending. People who allow themselves to be provoked and respond in kind are like children.

      The kind of stuff Caias says is the kind of thing you can only say if you haven’t been targeted in the way the angry, incivil people are being targeted. Maybe ze didn’t mean it that way, but that’s how it sounds from the perspective of someone who *has* occasionally been provoked to anger by harassment and belligerent idiocy.

      It’s one thing to call for civility as a pragmatic approach. It’s another thing *entirely* to insult people who have very good justification for being inclined towards incivility. And that’s what Caias did here, whether ze meant to or not.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      John, you can hurt and belittle people unintentionally because you don’t realize what you’re doing or are thoughtless. Insult words have hostility built into them and so there’s a degree of malice, desire to hurt, loaded in. At least when their targets are present and expected to get hit by them.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I fear it will be lost on some people

      Passive-aggressive. Which people are these, exactly?

      the best we can do is rise above

      Self-righteous. Caias is apparently a better person than those peons who are so crass and inferior as to allow themselves to actually be provoked to anger.

      childish behavior

      Condescending. People who allow themselves to be provoked and respond in kind are like children.

      The kind of stuff Caias says is the kind of thing you can only say if you haven’t been targeted in the way the angry, incivil people are being targeted. Maybe ze didn’t mean it that way, but that’s how it sounds from the perspective of someone who *has* occasionally been provoked to anger by harassment and belligerent idiocy.

      It’s one thing to call for civility as a pragmatic approach. It’s another thing *entirely* to insult people who have very good justification for being inclined towards incivility. And that’s what Caias did here, whether ze meant to or not.

      Anna, the post was not about Caias and neither was Caias’s comment about himself. So, please do not personalize this argument against your fellow commenter but deal with the substance of what he said.

      The moderation rules of this blog require that you make personal attacks as a last resort. If you would like to discuss the substance of the charges or ask Caias for clarification, I would appreciate that rather than that you read the worst motives into the brief sentences you have to work with here.

      I get the impression that you are trying to make some meta-point about how terrible language that I permit is even while I ban insults instead of addressing any of the substance of the post at hand. I take this to be derailing and hostile behavior, and I don’t like you attacking another commenter as a means of engaging in it.

      Please take issue with any of the ideas under discussion that you disagree with me about. But don’t attack your fellow commenters as a matter of first resort or derail this into a discussion of my moderation policy. If you would like to talk about my moderation policy against insults and hastily personal attacks, you can do it here http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2012/07/27/making-my-comments-rules-explicit-dont-bully-people-with-insulting-names-and-make-personal-charges-against-others-only-in-egregious-cases/ and/or http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2012/08/03/on-dealing-with-trolling-banning-and-uncomfortable-disagreements/

      In the meantime, for derailing the thread and hastily attacking a fellow commenter rather than ideas or generalities of behavior, etc., I am placing your remarks in moderation.

    • dysomniak, darwinian socialist

      And you’re demonstrating exactly why your policy of civility doesn’t work. You are too arrogant and blinkered to see what’s obvious, so passive aggressive shit flies, and the people hit by it have to hold their tongues. Nice job, Dan.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      And you’re demonstrating exactly why your policy of civility doesn’t work. You are too arrogant and blinkered to see what’s obvious, so passive aggressive shit flies, and the people hit by it have to hold their tongues. Nice job, Dan.

      I’m sorry you feel that way. But again, this post is not about my moderation policy. You understand what the policy is. Yet you come here personally attacking me and derailing this thread. This does not convince me that you are interested in a civil discussion aimed at changing my mind or addressing the substance of my post.

      The only problems I’m having with this policy so far are people so angry that they can’t insult each other coming in and complaining.

      If those are the commenters I am going to lose, those who feel utterly helpless in an argument if they cannot have recourse to invectives, then sobeit.

    • dysomniak, darwinian socialist

      Actually your moderation policy is very much part of the conversation here. Your OP is yet another defense of it. And of course even when I phrase my criticism as politely as I can you still interpret it as a “personal attack”, and characterize everyone who disagrees with you as being angry and unreasonable. Thanks for proving my point.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Actually your moderation policy is very much part of the conversation here. Your OP is yet another defense of it. And of course even when I phrase my criticism as politely as I can you still interpret it as a “personal attack”, and characterize everyone who disagrees with you as being angry and unreasonable. Thanks for proving my point.

      No, this is not another defense of the moderation policy. I will return to defending it in other posts. As clearly stated in the post, this is a response to the larger issues in the community. This post makes no reference to my rules for my blog.

      And your criticism is personal, you called me arrogant and blinkered. Of course that is personal.

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Anna, the post was not about Caias and neither was Caias’s comment about himself. So, please do not personalize this argument against your fellow commenter but deal with the substance of what he said.

      I was trying to be *very* careful to make the argument about what he said, and not about him. I repeatedly said that I understood that the way his words sounded to me might not be what he meant. As a person who has frequently (including just now) said things that were not understood in the way I meant them, I was trying to give him as much of the benefit of the doubt as possible. I’ll grant that I was a little telegraphic in my second post in my summary of exactly where in his comments I found offense, but even then I noted that he might have not meant these comments the way they came across to me. I’m sorry if I did not convey my intentions clearly enough.

      The moderation rules of this blog require that you make personal attacks as a last resort. If you would like to discuss the substance of the charges or ask Caias for clarification, I would appreciate that rather than that you read the worst motives into the brief sentences you have to work with here.

      It would help a great deal if you could explain how I was making a personal attack on Caias. What I *thought* I was doing was explaining what I didn’t like about his wording while granting that he might not have meant it the way I heard it. How could I have made this clearer to you?

      I get the impression that you are trying to make some meta-point about how terrible language that I permit is even while I ban insults instead of addressing any of the substance of the post at hand. I take this to be derailing and hostile behavior, and I don’t like you attacking another commenter as a means of engaging in it.

      Okay. I said something that I didn’t mean to have be offensive and hostile and which you found offensive and hostile. This is exactly what just happened between me and Caias, in reverse. I actually am *somewhat* supportive of calls for civility, but only to the degree that they are not also criticisms of people who have been essentially the victims in this whole mess, and I think that the somewhat negative reception you’ve been receiving on this issue is primarily related to fears that you’re engaging in the latter and not just the former. I was somewhat relieved to see that you *mostly* seemed to be walking that line pretty well in this post, so it was a little disconcerting to see the very first commenter (apparently) obliviously gliding right over that line. I was simply trying to steer him back onto the nobler side of things, because I would like to see this conversation remain mostly productive. Apparently I failed, and I’m sorry for that, but I would appreciate more guidance in regard to the precise nature of my failure.

      Please take issue with any of the ideas under discussion that you disagree with me about. But don’t attack your fellow commenters as a matter of first resort or derail this into a discussion of my moderation policy. If you would like to talk about my moderation policy against insults and hastily personal attacks, you can do it here http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2012/07/27/making-my-comments-rules-explicit-dont-bully-people-with-insulting-names-and-make-personal-charges-against-others-only-in-egregious-cases/ and/or http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2012/08/03/on-dealing-with-trolling-banning-and-uncomfortable-disagreements/

      I’ve got nothing against your policy as stated, and I was trying very hard to abide by it.

      In the meantime, for derailing the thread and hastily attacking a fellow commenter rather than ideas or generalities of behavior, etc., I am placing your remarks in moderation.

      I am trying very hard to remain controlled in my responses here, but given that I thought I was working very hard to not do any of the things that you don’t want people to do here, I need to tell you that this response makes me very angry, because even though I know this is only a bunch of freakin’ blog comments, I feel unfairly singled out. I will continue to do my best to abide by your policies no matter what — your blog, your rules — but I would very much appreciate if we can straighten this out right quick.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Anne, the post was not about Caias and neither was Caias’s comment about himself. So, please do not personalize this argument against your fellow commenter but deal with the substance of what he said.

      I was trying to be *very* careful to make the argument about what he said, and not about him. I repeatedly said that I understood that the way his words sounded to me might not be what he meant. As a person who has frequently (including just now) said things that were not understood in the way I meant them, I was trying to give him as much of the benefit of the doubt as possible. I’ll grant that I was a little telegraphic in my second post in my summary of exactly where in his comments I found offense, but even then I noted that he might have not meant these comments the way they came across to me. I’m sorry if I did not convey my intentions clearly enough.

      The moderation rules of this blog require that you make personal attacks as a last resort. If you would like to discuss the substance of the charges or ask Caias for clarification, I would appreciate that rather than that you read the worst motives into the brief sentences you have to work with here.

      It would help a great deal if you could explain how I was making a personal attack on Caias. What I *thought* I was doing was explaining what I didn’t like about his wording while granting that he might not have meant it the way I heard it. How could I have made this clearer to you?

      I get the impression that you are trying to make some meta-point about how terrible language that I permit is even while I ban insults instead of addressing any of the substance of the post at hand. I take this to be derailing and hostile behavior, and I don’t like you attacking another commenter as a means of engaging in it.

      Okay. I said something that I didn’t mean to have be offensive and hostile and which you found offensive and hostile. This is exactly what just happened between me and Caias, in reverse. I actually am *somewhat* supportive of calls for civility, but only to the degree that they are not also criticisms of people who have been essentially the victims in this whole mess, and I think that the somewhat negative reception you’ve been receiving on this issue is primarily related to fears that you’re engaging in the latter and not just the former. I was somewhat relieved to see that you *mostly* seemed to be walking that line pretty well in this post, so it was a little disconcerting to see the very first commenter (apparently) obliviously gliding right over that line. I was simply trying to steer him back onto the nobler side of things, because I would like to see this conversation remain mostly productive. Apparently I failed, and I’m sorry for that, but I would appreciate more guidance in regard to the precise nature of my failure.

      Please take issue with any of the ideas under discussion that you disagree with me about. But don’t attack your fellow commenters as a matter of first resort or derail this into a discussion of my moderation policy. If you would like to talk about my moderation policy against insults and hastily personal attacks, you can do it here http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2012/07/27/making-my-comments-rules-explicit-dont-bully-people-with-insulting-names-and-make-personal-charges-against-others-only-in-egregious-cases/ and/or http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2012/08/03/on-dealing-with-trolling-banning-and-uncomfortable-disagreements/

      I’ve got nothing against your policy as stated, and I was trying very hard to abide by it.

      In the meantime, for derailing the thread and hastily attacking a fellow commenter rather than ideas or generalities of behavior, etc., I am placing your remarks in moderation.

      I am trying very hard to remain controlled in my responses here, but given that I thought I was working very hard to not do any of the things that you don’t want people to do here, I need to tell you that this response makes me very angry, because even though I know this is only a bunch of freakin’ blog comments, I feel unfairly singled out. I will continue to do my best to abide by your policies no matter what — your blog, your rules — but I would very much appreciate if we can straighten this out right quick.

      Thank you Anne for trying to work with me. I addressed the issue because I had gotten a complaint. I didn’t mean to single you out. You were just the first person to be addressing someone else and their motives and to be changing the topic of the thread from the issues in the community and how to resolve them to my moderation policy. I took you to be taking a very broad charge, not even clearly leveled only at people on your side of the issues (Caias could have equally or even mostly been lamenting the childishness of people you disagree with) unnecessarily personally.

      Instead of saying, this phrase you used bothered me for the various reasons, you were chopping up what he said and just declaring: “Passive aggressive. Which people are these, exactly?” and then after the next phrase you wrote “Self-righteous. Caias is apparently a better person than those peons who are so crass and inferior as to allow themselves to actually be provoked to anger.” That is putting a whole lot of assumptions into Caias’s mindset. Not everyone who expresses a generalized worry that generally people will respond childishly is self-righteous. It’s a pretty standard lament about human nature. I mean, what if Caias had said, “Great job, but misogynists never listen.” Would that have been passive aggressive? Or if he’d said, “Great job, but people get too attached to their grudges, your efforts will be futile.” These are all standard, defensible views of human nature. I don’t see the passive aggressiveness in that I don’t see them targeted at individuals or even specific groups. That’s part of the point, he’s just worrying about human nature in general. As I said, you can prove him wrong by simply not engaging in childish behavior.

      But again, back to the comments policy infringements. You just declared his actions passive aggressive and self-righteous without even investigating, “do you mean to imply x?” “What motivates you to say that?” “Are you saying you have observed the people who disagree with Dan to act childishly? Can you give me examples of what those are so I can understand why you’re expecting it?” Instead you told us that Caias “apparently” saw himself as a better person than crass peons. You assumed that by childish behavior he meant the deeds of everyone who is “provoked to anger”. That’s not a charitable reading of his words at all. They were likely about some strategies for coping with anger rather than others. I would be surprised if Caias was so extreme as to condemn all feelings or expressions of anger whatsoever. I mean, maybe he might, but that is the sort of thing that should be clarified before declared as self-righteously in his words.

      Then you called him condescending, another personal character charge without asking him first what he meant. Then you, barely knowing this person at all, declared that he could only have said what he said if he hasn’t “been targeted in the way the angry, incivil people are being targeted”. How do you know that? How do you know he has never been targeted in upsetting ways? Maybe he has. Or maybe, even if he hasn’t, he is nonetheless committed to a Stoic moral standard (as I am). You read into his mind a whole thought process and callousness rather than asked him specifically what he meant to criticize or challenge with counter-arguments the notion that one should “rise above” attacks. You made it about him, picking apart just a few words and assuming their worst implications, rather than about discussing ideas about how best to respond to attacks, or even before querying his actual positions.

      Also there are angry, incivil people on both sides of this debate. So, does that make everyone justified in their return fire incivility? If that’s the case, then it’s never going to end. Ever. There’s just going to be seething feuds as each side decides that they were treated with incivility so the other side never deserves any respect. It will be an eye for an eye for an eye for an eye until everyone is blind.

      Finally, again, there is a difference between being angry and expressing your anger in a constructive way and doing so in a destructive way. Do you agree? I also think that when we are aggrieved we are tempted to cross lines moral lines with a feeling of impunity because of our (sometimes questionable) feeling that we are in the right and that we let ourselves vent hatred more than moral people should in some of those cases. Do you agree? Do people ever allow their feeling of righteous approval to let them think and act in immoral ways? An example of this that burns me up is when people learn of a child molester going to jail and express rape fantasies that the molester be sodomized unwillingly. To me that is people getting to vent the fantasy of cruelly having another person violated while feeling themselves especially moral. That troubles me. I am not saying that that’s the kind of anger you have or behavior you express when you are angry but it was one of the unhealthy patterns of thought that led me to my mistrust of the hatred of moralists. Do you agree with my mistrust of moralism as potentially cruel or stemming from cruelty?

      Do you think there are any moral constraints on people who have been genuinely aggrieved? Do you think that there are any ways that genuinely aggrieved people can act “childishly”?

      I do agree with Caias on those points. It is possible to have responses that are more than simply angry but childish. This does not invalidate a huge spectrum of angry responses that are not childish but mature and morally consistent. But it strikes me as unfair to equate a critique of childish anger with a critique of all anger or to assume that Caias had you and your anger’s expressions in mind when making a generalized lament that he expected people in general to respond childishly.

      Even if he was wrong or my reading of him is too charitable, there were ways to suss out his meaning and clarify helpful distinctions without flying straight into accusations of moral failures on his part and giving pretensions to read his intentions by presuming to translate what he said to mean the worst possible things and reflect the worst possible temperament. That’s not in keeping with the spirit of civility or the principle of charity in arguments.

      Even though I have given a lengthy reply, I only did so at your request. I harbor no ill will towards you and very much hope we can have constructive debates, whether about the proper and improper uses of anger or about other topics as they arise in this thread or in others.

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Oh, and one more thing: I want to make it crystal clear that when I addressed my original comment to Caias and not to you, I *meant* it that way, Dan. If I had been calling you out, I would have done so by addressing you by name, not by ragging on some third party. You don’t know me, so I can understand why this might not have been clear, but I just want to make sure that you know that now.

      The reason that I was talking to Caias was to point out to him the way in which the thing he said seemed to legitimize some criticisms that have been made of the thing he claimed to be approving of when he said it. I was doing this in order to encourage him to be a little more judicious in the way he handles this issue, because I didn’t want responses like his to contribute to the communications difficulties that you seem to have been experiencing on this subject. I am perfectly willing to believe that what you’ve been saying on this subject is well-meaning, but there is a lot of sensitivity about these issues, for good reason. I would like to *not* see those sensitivities be repeatedly inflamed, as unfortunately seems to have been happening to date.

      I’m not *exactly* on your side, but I *am* on the side of you succeeding in navigating this particular minefield without getting blown up too many times, on accounta I like FTB as an entity and I appreciate many of your contributions here. This makes it all the more baffling (and, I’m not gonna lie to you, angering) to have been hit with such an abrupt dump into moderation. I really hope we can sort this out.

    • John Morales

      [meta]

      It’s Anne, not Anna.

      (And I’m sure she noticed, but was politely letting it go by :) )

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Whoops, thank you John for yet another proofreading save!

      My apologies Anne! I’m pretty sure your last name affected how my brain processed your first name.

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Dan, I appreciate you trying to work with me as well, but I’m afraid I still find your evaluation of my comments to be unbalanced and uncharitable. And, although I would normally expect this to go without massively redundant emphasis, given the current context I want to be clear that I am not saying that *you* are unbalanced or uncharitable, I am just telling you that this is how *I* experience what you are saying. I am sure you do not intend to be either, but I want to make it clear to you that there is a wide gulf here between what you intend and how it is coming across to me.

      With that said, but continuing on the subject of addressing people’s motives, can you quote any place in my earlier comments where I addressed Caias’s motives without explicit clarification that I was talking about how his comments *sounded to me* regardless of what he meant? Indeed, right before I discovered that I’d been rather unceremoniously dumped into moderation, I was in the process of writing my response to his comment 20, in which I acknowledged his clarification of his motives and again made the point that my complaint wasn’t about what he meant, it was about how he sounded.

      It’s curious to me that you attribute a “side” to me after I already stated that I go back and forth on the civility issue. In point of fact, the only reason I was commenting here at all was that I wanted to help you out. It seems that you have had a lot of difficulty convincing people that your mission is only to make the discourse slightly less acrimonious and *not* to go after the people who are basically the victims in this whole sexual harassment/Elevatorgate/etc. clusterfuck. So when I saw Caias’s comments I said to myself, “Goddammit, Dan managed to get through a whole post without seeming (to me) like he was directly calling any of those people out, and here comes Caias to fuck that all up in the very first comment. Let me nip that in the bud.”

      And then, despite how hard I worked to make it clear that this was about what Caias said and not what he meant or what he was, *I* was the one who was accused of making personal attacks, apparently because I actually addressed one particular person who said one particular thing that sounded bad to me, rather than making a vague and generalized swipe at “some people”, as Caias did. So then I tried to clarify point by point exactly why his comment sounded to me the way it did. I’ll grant that my phrasing was a bit abrupt, but I still did try to make it clear at the end that I was addressing his words and not his intentions. And suddenly I was in moderation. So let me repeat: I *never* called him condescending. I said he *sounded* condescending. I never attacked *him*, I attacked the *way he sounded to me*, and I tried to be incredibly polite and inoffensive about it and give him a ton of “I didn’t mean it like that” escape hatches, and yet *you* (note, not so much he) still found significant reasons in what I said to take offense.

      And, let me be clear, the reason I found Caias’s comments problematic (note, not offensive to me, but potentially offensive to other people who are not me), is because this discussion of civility is not happening in a vacuum. There are real people, some of whose words are stored within a few bits of this very comment, who have chosen to be incivil in response to the rather nasty treatment they’ve received recently at the hands of others who claim to be members of our community. In this context, it’s hard to make general statements like the one Caias made and *not* have those statements be perceived as an attack on these people, regardless of how the statements might have been intended. And this keeps happening over and over and fanning the flames of the pushback you’ve been getting. I was trying to avert just one tiny example of that in a reasonably polite way (entirely aside from the question of whether I should have been even more deferential and cautious than I was).

      I understand that the pushback you’ve been getting on all of this has sensitized you to anything that seems to you to be an attack on your comments policy, and I’m sorry if I inadvertently tweaked those sensitivities. But you’ve got to understand that by letting comments like Caias’s go by without complaint, even though they sound extremely offensive to many people who are not you, while treating reasonably-but-perhaps-imperfectly polite challenges to those comments like mine with a dose of the moderation hammer, you’re providing fodder for that pushback. I want to see you succeed in this civility endeavor, because I think it’s at least worth attempting, regardless of whether it works out. But it’s only going to receive broad support if you can convince the marginalized people in this conversation that you are indeed very sensitive to what offends them, and not just to the things they say that offend other people. Unfortunately, incidents like this one tend to create the exact opposite perception.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Thank you for explaining what you were thinking Anne. It’s very helpful. My problem is that it is going to be standard practice in any blog comments section for people to make remarks about the general strengths or weaknesses of various factions. I took Caias’s remark to be formally equivalent to saying, “I hope FTB’s enemies hear your message and take it to heart, but I think they’re too attached to their misogyny.” That’s as standard a critical ethical remark about the behavior of a group as you can get. When Caias talked about the group (opponents of civility) in a similar way it was fair game to me because it didn’t single anyone out or provoke anyone in the comments section already, etc. It seems to me too burdensome to say all generalized remarks about factions’ relative ethical merits are off limits.

      Finally, if you go back to the post I was quoting, when you laid out the various vices you read Caias as exhibiting they were flatly stated and explicated as though factual. They were not posed as questions. There was a qualification about not knowing motives late in the post, but for most of it it sounded to me accusatory. I’m sorry you disagree with my judgment and I appreciate that you at least understand I am trying to be fair, even if you do not think I am succeeding.

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Dan, those comments of mine you were calling out as flat statements were also bracketed above by my *previous comment*, in which I said several times that this was about how he sounded, not what he meant. I am not sure how much clearer I could possibly have made it that this was about seeming, rather than being. Caias, on the other hand, made a comment with no such caveats and with such an unclear subject that it could easily be construed as hostile towards people not deserving of hostility (as so many similar comments in this whole mess have indeed been), yet you not only let his remarks pass unchallenged, you are continuing to defend them.

      Moreover, please note that you are doing to me essentially the same thing I did to Caias, in that you are critiquing how what I said *sounded to you*, yet you are giving me even less of an, “I didn’t mean it that way,” out than I gave Caias, and you are also holding over me the added bludgeon of moderation hell if you judge my replies to be even slightly intemperate, thus putting me in a fairly powerless role relative to yourself. I am sure you don’t mean it this way, but let me tell you that it makes this feel like an extremely hostile environment to me, and I suspect that others feel this even more strongly. I am already straining my stores of patience and charity to keep following your rules rather than simply cursing you out and abandoning you as a lost cause, as many others have already done.

      Again, I need to remind you that the problem here is that we are not having this discussion in a vacuum. Instead, we are doing this in the middle of a larger ongoing conversation about how some people who have been treated very badly ought to respond to that ill-treatment. Given the experience they have had to date with *many, many people* telling them that they deserve it, or that even if they don’t deserve it they should shut up about it, or that the continuation of the mistreatement is their own fault for not responding with perfect philosophical abstractedness, you *cannot reasonably expect* to just say, “Oh, don’t worry, ladies, I’m on your side,” and have them believe you. You need to prove it by learning to be exceptionally alert to the things that people do here which, intentionally or unintentionally, perpetuate the incredibly negative experiences they’ve been having. And again, this particular incident suggests that you haven’t completely figured out how to do that yet. I believe that you’re trying, but I think you have a long way to go yet to convince people that you actually want to do this right and aren’t just letting your privilege do the talking.

    • F

      Frankly, I’m astonished. Anne was very clear. And it doesn’t matter to whom Caias’ comment was directed or about. It sounded exactly as Anne described, whether it was intended that way or not. (I assume it was not, without further context.) So I’m a bit baffled when “childish” is defended whereas “passive-aggressive” is not. I would take comments from both people as posted in good faith.

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Thanks, F. I was beginning to think I’d somehow ended up in Opposite World.

    • F

      Sometimes, Anne, I think we do. Occasionally I notice complete communications failures between various parties where I cannot figure out where the failure is from reading the communications. I’ve seen people who are actually in agreement come to verbal blows because they are at cross purposes or similar.

      As I said, I was rather surprised in this instance, as everything seemed to be routed via planet weird, where signal and noise are inverted. I’m still baffled. Especially because Daniel is so intelligent and meticulous. You were clear and meticulous and explicated your points intelligently (which seems to be your habit from what I’ve read of yours in the past), so in the end I’m left with a bit of, “lolwut, how is this still happening?”

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Yeah. I worry that this may be a fundamental problem with the whole “civility” endeavor. Caias (apparently) thought that he was being civil. I thought that he wasn’t being civil and I was. Dan thought that I wasn’t being civil and Caias was. You appear to mostly agree with my judgment on this, which is reassuring to me in re my own sanity, but I’ve got no idea what kind of results we’d get if we polled everybody who read this. Maybe the majority opinion would actually be that we were both wrong and were just acting like a beautifully-matched pair of jackasses.

      So who decides? Obviously, Dan gets to decide what’s actually permitted here, on accounta it’s his blog, but there’s the whole court of public opinion thing beyond that. And right now the court of public opinion, even within the narrow realms of FTB/Atheism+, doesn’t seem to be able to assemble a consensus on whether perfect civility at all times on the part of the “good guys” is a desideratum, much less on what it would look like if we had it.

      I don’t know if I really have a good answer to this. But I did run into something interesting today that made me wonder a bit. By happenstance I happened to have occasion to consult Greta Christina’s comment policy, and it seems that she’s got a pretty strong stance on civility over at her blog too. Yet as far as I can tell she hasn’t had nearly the same difficulty getting that policy accepted by commenters and onlookers as Dan has. It seems to me like it might be interesting and worthwhile to try to understand the difference.

  • http://heartheretic.blogspot.com/ Lance Armstrong

    Exactly this. Thank you for this excellent and timely post.

  • http://AgnostiChicagOkie.blogspot.com D4M10N

    Everyone should read and try to follow. I’ve failed so often myself, but cannot help but admire this bold stand.

  • John Morales

    [meta]

    Though I am fairly conscientious (and increasingly so in recent months) about not personally not sinking to engage in the abusive behavior I outspokenly denounce [...]

    I think your double negative is unintended.

    What’s relevant is a community that trumpets reason is failing to show any skills at reasoning through disagreements together.

    Community is a polysemous term; in the sense you mean, I don’t consider myself a member of your community.

    (I am a community of one)

  • http://contraryneal.blogspot.com Neal

    YES.

  • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

    My problem is that trying to make a new movement that’s like the old one minus the people with abhorrent views or who aren’t committed to social justice is that the agreement on who these people are isn’t as broad as we might like to think. Look at any fight in the Pharyngula comments that doesn’t involve an outright troll. I’ve heard variations on the following arguments:

    * Anyone who makes dubious claims of bullying is trying to hijack LGBT issues for their own purposes and anyone who says they aren’t is an apologist for homophobia.
    * JT is a homophobe/misogynist for an ill-considered suggestion on how to avoid harassment at conferences.
    * Anyone who supports eating meat does not support animal welfare and therefore fails one of the planks of A+.
    * Anyone who votes Democratic is selling out gay rights.
    * Anyone who doesn’t vote Democratic in a close election si selling out social justice in general.

    These are perhaps a bit hyperbolic, but my point is organizations need to exclude people to stay focused on their goals and keep the members who want to accomplish stuff safe and on task, but at a movement level, a movement based on excluding people quickly turns into purity one-upsmanship. Look at all the socialist groups who will tell you the other social groups aren’t really socialist.

    • Neal

      Related funny story: really hardcore libertarians considered Milton Friedman a collectivist. Once Ludwig von Mises got fed up with the discussion and stormed out of a Mont Pelerin Society meeting, saying, “You’re all socialists!”

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

      I know you hate me, but this is an excellent point.

  • Deo Vacuus

    Well said, sir.

  • artharjar

    I hope your approaches catches fire here. Its been a nightmare wading through all the in-fighting.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    “I disapprove of anyone using insults (including allegedly benign ones like “asshole”, “stupid”, or “douchebag”) or slurs against any one else (and I include words like “cunt” and “bitch” in that category).”

    I think I’ll have to add your statement onto my blog post concerning Mr Carrier.

    Nice job.

    • John Morales

      [OT]

      Insults are of course relative; would you fancy being called a Tea Partier? ;)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Insults are of course relative; would you fancy being called a Tea Partier?

      Hahaha Touché, John.

      Yes, it takes more than just paying attention to epithets but to other forms of unfair provocation when being morally sensitive.

  • http://alephsquared.wordpress.com aleph squared

    Dan -

    If this is how you choose to engage with people, if this is how you want your blog run, that’s fine. That’s more than fine: that’s awesome. We need people in this* movement who use differing strategies, who have differing views on how best to engage other people. That’s fine.

    But you aren’t talking in a vacuum. You are calling for “no hate” in a situation where people have been doing truly hateful things. I hate people who try to trigger rape survivors, I hate people who send deluges of rape threats to women bloggers just because they dared to ask not to be hit on or sexually harassed. I hate people who spend months intentionally trolling and misrepresenting and lying about people, who reveal people’s real-life addresses, who try to destroy people’s businesses, who do everything they can to denigrate other people who did them no wrong. Does this mean I deny their basic humanity and basic human rights? Of course not. Does this mean I deny that they could change? Of course not. But they are hateful people.

    So maybe I’m just one of those people who you say won’t be able to see past the equivalences. Maybe so. But I don’t think I should try: you are writing in a context where a group of people has done truly hateful things, despicable things. And you are asking everyone to not hate.

    I’m more than willing to acknowledge my biases, and to acknowledge that I get very emotional about some of these issues and occasionally speak quite harshly (though I really am generally civil.) But, the thing is, the next step that you cite, where everyone forgives each other and does a happy dance? That doesn’t happen. Particularly in debates surrounding feminism and misogyny, where the women participating are doing so in a culture which typically assumes emotional and angry women are irrational, in which admitting what you want people to admit harms the women doing so more than it would harm the misogynists, if they ever did.

    So engage in these debates the way you think is best. That’s awesome. I’m a pretty naturally civil person myself. But the people in this situation who have to apologize for hateful things? Not the victims of the abuse and bullying that has run rampant in the online (and maybe offline) atheist community.

    *Whatever movement we’re talking about. I honestly don’t give much of a **** right now.

    • John Morales

      [meta]

      *Whatever movement we’re talking about.

      Obviously, the social movement (is that Movement+?).

      (Not a bowel movement, I presume)

    • http://alephsquared.wordpress.com aleph squared

      Ha – more like a symphonic movement. From Mahler.

      Naw, I just mean that, for the purpose of my point, I don’t care if we’re talking about the atheist movement or the skeptic movement or the atheist+ movement or humanism or some other combination of the above.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Aleph, I get your anger and I feel it too every time I learn of another abusive e-mail or tweet or personal remark or action perpetrated against one of the women in the movement. I would just rather we all hate the deeds and the systems and the human weakness that lead to them, but hope for the people. And I would rather we not add to the abusive words flying in the discourse.

      As for what I’m asking any one to apologize for? I don’t know. I just asked people to search their own consciences honestly. I’m not going to run around with a bunch of stones. I just know that the easiest way I’ve ever found to get someone else to apologize is to go first.

      I fear there will always be a foul and terrible quarter that will never relent with abusiveness even should my dream scenario be accomplished and all the leading parties to recant their abusiveness. But I hope that if all reasonable people were cooling their heads instead of drawing abusive battle lines that the genuinely hostile and stubbornly misogynistic types who send rape and death threats and other hate mail could be much more easily isolated.

      That’s my hope. That’s my dream. It’s by no means the silencing of anyone who has been abused or who fears abuse.

    • AKAHorace

      Hi Aleph,

      I suspect that you and I are on opposite sides or recent quarrels (I am a slime pitter). What you are saying is partly true but there as been bad behaviour on both sides.

      I would say that there are good people who believe bad things and bad people who believe good things. This is the most important reason for remaining civil.

    • http://alephsquared.wordpress.com aleph squared

      Dan-

      all the leading parties to recant their abusiveness

      I guess what it comes down to — as it did a while ago in your comment policy post — is that I reject your idea that responding to rape and death threats with insults is abusive. Or that responding to apologia for rape and death threats with insults is abusive. And what leading parties among the atheist+/pro-policy/pro-feminist group do you think have been abusive? Rebecca Watson? Ophelia Benson? Stephanie Zvan? (Or is it just PZ Myers and Pharyngula commenters?) If you don’t even know, as you say, what these people should be apologizing for, then how on earth do you get off calling them abusive?

      AKAHorace –

      I don’t honestly care if you’re a slimepitter or whatever. Yeah, maybe we’ve been on opposite sides. I don’t recognize your username, so I can’t really say. I do, though, recognize that good people can believe bad things. Goodness knows I’ve changed my mind about a lot of stuff, particularly social justice stuff, over the last several years. But I never made rape threats or death threats against anyone, I’ve never trolled someone just for the schadenfreude, I’ve never tried to mess with someone’s reputation or business or whatever, I’ve never intentionally tried to cause someone harm. The people who’ve done this are people that I don’t want to make nice with, that I don’t think their victims should be asked to make nice with.

    • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

      If someone’s issuing rape and death threats, that’s one thing, but in practice people get overzealous. “I don’t understand how that’s a threat” or “I don’t understand the problem” get taken as making excuses for the threats. “I don’t see how A+ is useful” gets taken as a rejection of A+ values or tone-trolling. Pretty soon, everyone is policing each other to keep the movement pure and you get this:

      http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2011/10/17/call-out-culture-and-blogging-as-performance/

    • http://alephsquared.wordpress.com aleph squared

      Ace of Sevens -

      Yes. But if Dan wants to issue unilateral calls for apologies for abuse from everyone involved, he has to accept that he has called on people who have merely responded with insults to a barrage of rape threats and misogynist slurs to apologize for doing so, and characterized their response as abusive.

      If he wanted to make a nuanced critique of call-out culture and too-intense responses to hesitancy about A+ he could have written that post.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Ace of Sevens -

      Yes. But if Dan wants to issue unilateral calls for apologies for abuse from everyone involved, he has to accept that he has called on people who have merely responded with insults to a barrage of rape threats and misogynist slurs to apologize for doing so, and characterized their response as abusive.

      If he wanted to make a nuanced critique of call-out culture and too-intense responses to hesitancy about A+ he could have written that post.

      No, there’s not much point in apologizing to those offering rape and death threats for insulting them. I’m talking about patterns of abusive language or whatever other hostile argumentative tactics that make non-death-threaters needlessly on edge and defensive, etc.

    • AKAHorace

      Hi Aleph,

      I agree with you about rape threats, interfering with people’s work life etc. This is a problem for both sides of the debate and I admit that there are some real idiots on my side. I have not had to face this myself, so I may be underrating it’s seriousness.

      Part of the problem with the A+/Ftb side who oppose us though is that you think that we are facists. We will say things that are opposed to your ideas, and even if we do so very politely (and yes, not everyone does, see previous para) people assume that we see women/non whites/gays as less than human and so we deserve to be shouted down.

      I think that this is often a miss understanding. Many of those who disagree with the modern “progressive” movement do so not because they want a society that is very different from your ideals, but because they think that the measures that you propose will have unintended effects or try to do too much too quickly. Doing too much too quickly and being too idealistic can turn out badly (see Kerensky).

      Two examples of this:

      -see the post on Pussy Riot on this site. Most of you are concerned about the rights of Pussy Rioters. I am more concerned about how their actions will make problems for other ant-Putiners. Interference by outside forces (e.g. aging rock stars, Amnesty International) may make the situation worse for democracy in Russia.

      -Immigration. I would like to live in a Social Democratic state where there are not too large differences in wealth, natives can live on the land in a traditional (ish) manner, we can stay an English/French speaking country and our population is neither increasing or decreasing. Most of the left and much of the right in Canada is in favour of mass immigration that will make all of the above impossible in my opinion.

      I could be wrong on both of the above issues, but don’t assume that I hold either of them because I am a sexist/racist.

  • http://www.alstefanelli.com Al Stefanelli

    Lifting a glass of Guinness Stout to you, my friend. Kudos, props and Kewpie Dolls on the way…

  • http://anythingbuttheist.blogspot.com Bret

    When a monster gazes into the abyss, the abyss gazes at the floor nervously.

    • John Morales

      [OT]

      You write this word salad as if it were an allegory.

      (The floor would gaze at the nervous abyss, too, if it could but see it from its unplumbed abyssal depths)

  • Biohazard

    Indeed, well said sir!

  • http://raisinghellions.wordpress.com/ Lou Doench

    You give good advice as always Dan. I can’t say I’m always going to live up to those lofty standards. I don’t know Nietzche from Nitschke and I’ve more pointy words in my arsenal than I know what to do with… I think there is value in giving as good as you are getting at times. Knowing when you are in one of those times is not as easy as we would like it to be I suppose.

    I think Ace makes a good point above, and so does aleph.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com Quine

    I very much support your position, Dan. Now I will watch to see how much flack you receive from the intemperant on both sides.

  • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius

    As for what I’m asking any one to apologize for? I don’t know. I just asked people to search their own consciences honestly. I’m not going to run around with a bunch of stones. I just know that the easiest way I’ve ever found to get someone else to apologize is to go first.

    I don’t care if I never get an apology for anything from anyone.

    I would be perfectly content with a mere cessation of the rape threats, the sexualized abusive language, the gendered slurs, and the incessant lies. (Members of the Slymepit are propagating the meme that I faked a rape threat against myself.)

    I don’t feel I have anything to apologize for.

    You don’t sound particularly rational when you call for apologies, without know what the apologies should be for, just based on a general principle of your own personal experience, which, I will note, does not include the experience of being a woman who is targeted by misogynists.

    If I voiced my feeling sincerely right now you’d ban me.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I don’t condone any abuse you’ve suffered, Sally. I am not saying you should not speak up for yourself. I am only saying that there are ways to do so that are not abusive in kind and that those are more likely to be more productive than those that are.

      I am sorry if this position offends you. But I just am opposed to hate on principle and do not think that any experience warrants changing that principle. Terrible experiences warrant a lot of anger and you have every right to express that anger. But morally interpersonal hate for one’s interlocutors is where the line should be drawn in public discussions.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

      If you don’t think you have anything to apologize for, that’s truly sad. You have been one of the worst at hurling verbal abuse at people who disagree with you on minor issues, and personally, I’ve never seen you contribute anything else in any thread I’ve participated in. Since you don’t like being called words that hurt you, you can start by apologizing for doing the same thing to others.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      bluharmony, please do not level personal attacks and personal accusations here. This is not going to be productive but only incendiary. I’m not going to let my comments section just be another arena for litigation of everyone’s charges against everyone else or the reopening of whatever ongoing feuds you have.

      The point of my post was that unless people examine their own consciences instead of attacking others’ then this will never end.

      So, it’s likely this will never end.

      But I don’t want it to continue here on my blog.

      You’ve been warned.

    • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius

      I don’t condone any abuse you’ve suffered, Sally. I am not saying you should not speak up for yourself. I am only saying that there are ways to do so that are not abusive in kind and that those are more likely to be more productive than those that are.

      I’m sure you would not be so condescending as to assume that the reason I, or any other person who’s the target of bigotry and hate, is simply unaware of the possibility of responding to any particular stimulus without insults and invective.

      It’s really not a revelation, you know. By framing it as such, you appear to be chalking up to ignorance what is really the product of long experience.

      Your use of “productive” begs the question of what is supposed to be produced. I would like to produce an environment in which I don’t have to deal with misogynist hatred. You, apparently, prioritize producing converted misogynists.

      Please go ahead and do your thing. But stop assuming that we share these goals, and stop acting as if the things that are helpful for YOUR goals are going to be helpful for mine.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Your use of “productive” begs the question of what is supposed to be produced. I would like to produce an environment in which I don’t have to deal with misogynist hatred. You, apparently, prioritize producing converted misogynists.

      I fail to see other ways to root out misogynistic hatred than to change the minds and hearts of misogynists. If all you want is to carve out a safe space to avoid them, I don’t see what that does for the larger cultural war. I am not saying you don’t deserve some safe spaces to avoid them while that war is going on. By all means you do. But in the long run, as far as I’m concerned, the goal is make it so there are less misogynists. And the only peaceable way that respects people’s moral and intellectual consciences is to vigorously, rationally, emotionally but not abusively discuss with them.

      I understand though that not all misogynists are willing to abide by even the most minimal standards of decency in debate and will passive aggressively troll women or otherwise create environments that are hostile and unwelcoming to women. That’s why I chided Reddit’s atheism forum over its anarchic conception of free speech that allowed the 15 year old girl with the Carl Sagan book to be objectified so shamefully.

      That said, in whatever spaces we may inhabit, we should not give ourselves, no matter who we are, permission to become hateful people on account of others being hateful people, however difficult that may be.

  • elainec

    It’s been fourteen years since I became an atheist. Up until now, the insults were restricted to theists and folks I’d had to say something to in my capacity as a forum moderator. That is until I started commenting on Atheism + on FTB. Because I didn’t immediately sign on the dotted line, I was called irrational. Others were called worse. This has left a very sour taste in my mouth regarding this supposedly enlightened form of atheism. I’ll pass, thank you.

    Oh, by the way, this is not the user name I used to comment in other places. I no longer felt safe using that one on FTB.

    • John Morales

      [meta]

      That is until I started commenting on Atheism + on FTB.

      The name for the concept has been around for almost a week, now.

      (You must have been an early dissenter!)

    • aspidoscelis

      John – Yes, the name is new. I would assume elainec is referring to the phenomenon, which is not new. “Atheism +” is arguably just a label for what several of those on FTB (and presumably a few I’m not aware of elsewhere) have already been doing for months or years…

    • John Morales

      [meta]

      aspidoscelis, elainec responded (a couple of days ago) @17 and I in turn responded to her response.

    • John Morales

      [erratum]

      @27, not @17.

      (Fallible and careless, I can be, and duly embarrassed by it I am)

  • http://overthinkingmusic.wordpress.com Jennifer, Uppity Bitch and General Malcontent

    Martin Luther King, Jr. got to call for people to love their oppressors. Frederick Douglass got to call for people to love their oppressors. I cannot tell you whether they were right or wrong, but they were speaking from the perspective of marginalized people.

    You are not. You do not get to tell people that they have to love and apologize to and cease to “abuse” their oppressors. I’m a straight cis middle-class white woman, and I absolutely do not appreciate being told that it’s just flat mean for me to use every tool in my rhetorical arsenal against people who wish rape and death on myself and my daughter. I cannot imagine how it feels to have even more intersections of oppression and to look at you and see you writing these things without considering that not all “abuse” is equal.

    MLK gets to. Douglass gets to. You, sir, are neither, and you have the perspective of neither. Please to kindly listen to people who have it worse than you rather than high-mindedly address those who, like it or not, have to muck through the gutter every day.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Martin Luther King, Jr. got to call for people to love their oppressors. Frederick Douglass got to call for people to love their oppressors. I cannot tell you whether they were right or wrong, but they were speaking from the perspective of marginalized people.

      You are not. You do not get to tell people that they have to love and apologize to and cease to “abuse” their oppressors. I’m a straight cis middle-class white woman, and I absolutely do not appreciate being told that it’s just flat mean for me to use every tool in my rhetorical arsenal against people who wish rape and death on myself and my daughter. I cannot imagine how it feels to have even more intersections of oppression and to look at you and see you writing these things without considering that not all “abuse” is equal.

      MLK gets to. Douglass gets to. You, sir, are neither, and you have the perspective of neither. Please to kindly listen to people who have it worse than you rather than high-mindedly address those who, like it or not, have to muck through the gutter every day.

      I am a human being. I am entitled to argue that no human beings should treat any other human beings hatefully and abusively. I do not have to be Martin Luther King, Jr. to do that. I do not have to be a member of a marginalized group to do that.

    • http://overthinkingmusic.wordpress.com Jennifer, Uppity Bitch and General Malcontent

      Dan, this boils down to you attempting to police the conduct of marginalized people. While you are also trying to police the conduct of those who do the marginalizing, I still find it deeply troubling that you think there is any equivalent need for apologies from “both sides.” You do not have the experience of being marginalized. While it is true that you have the freedom to attempt to police the language and conduct of those whose life experiences you simply cannot identify with, you can also expect to be called out every time you behave as if the beaten child is just as wrong for hitting their parents as their parents were for hitting them. The power differential renders the point moot. I am not apologizing to rapists, racists, misogynists, transphobes, homophobes, or any other manner of bigot. You do not understand what it is like to have people in the world who simply hate you because of what you are, and then you try to police the people who live with that hate. That is shameful.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Dan, this boils down to you attempting to police the conduct of marginalized people. While you are also trying to police the conduct of those who do the marginalizing, I still find it deeply troubling that you think there is any equivalent need for apologies from “both sides.” You do not have the experience of being marginalized. While it is true that you have the freedom to attempt to police the language and conduct of those whose life experiences you simply cannot identify with, you can also expect to be called out every time you behave as if the beaten child is just as wrong for hitting their parents as their parents were for hitting them. The power differential renders the point moot. I am not apologizing to rapists, racists, misogynists, transphobes, homophobes, or any other manner of bigot. You do not understand what it is like to have people in the world who simply hate you because of what you are, and then you try to police the people who live with that hate. That is shameful.

      No, this does not boil down to me trying to police the conduct of marginalized people. I want marginalized people to thrive and no longer be marginalized.

      I am sincerely convinced that hate is not the answer to making that happen. I am sorry that we disagree on this moral and tactical point. But the implication that my focus is on singling out the marginalized and trying to stifle them is unfair. The marginalized have many non-hateful means at their disposal to be heard and to speak with moral conviction. I fully support them in their taking recourse to such means and write numerous blog posts supporting them however I can.

      You do not need to resort to abusiveness and hate in order to get social change. I am tired of having my motives and character and my concern for oppressed groups called into question simply because I think they can fight for their rights without crossing the line into abusiveness.

    • http://alephsquared.wordpress.com aleph squared

      You do not need to resort to abusiveness and hate in order to get social change. I am tired of having my motives and character and my concern for oppressed groups called into question simply because I think they can fight for their rights without crossing the line into abusiveness.

      No; the problem is that we don’t agree with your definition of abusive.

      By your account, if I respond to someone calling for me to be gay-bashed or using homophobic slurs against me with insult and invective I am abusive. I disagree.

      By your account, if a woman (or anyone really) responds to rape threats or misogynist slurs with insult and invective that woman (or anyone) is being abusive. I disagree

      These are not abusive acts.

      (I will note that this is also not an issue restricted to the relative safety of the internet for me; nor, I believe, is it for most women.)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Aleph, to use a physical analogy—physical violence is inherently abusive to the body. If you are being presently physically attacked and you have no other recourse, then you have a right to return physical violence. But if you can avoid it, that’s preferable.

      I do not think violence should be met with more violence than is minimally necessary. And I think that when it comes to verbal violence there is no need to respond to it with more verbal violence. I humanly understand it in the case of the most extreme kinds (like the rape and death threats). And I don’t think that that’s what’s exacerbating the acrimony in the community. It’s much more generalized, much more casual hostile treatment of arguments and uses of language.

    • Birdterrifier

      Telling people what they can and cannot say or comment on is hardly ever constructive. As a philosopher, Dan is required to comment on subjects that he has not personally encountered and that position can sometimes lead to edifying statements for those that are indeed trudging through that mire of hostility. Sometimes, we are not able to see all sides to an issue or see a clear consequence and an onlooker can be helpful. It doesn’t mean that that person is always right but their view can help us find a new and better path.

      Also, you make a generalization and assume that Dan has never experienced hatred that is beyond his control. This is not helpful.

    • Pen

      All three of you and others are expressing these opinions quite strongly, but I hope you remember that you don’t speak for all marginalised people, nor do I think you should you try to silence Dan for not having sufficient marginality credentials. When you use this argument on someone you should be able to show why it’s relevant. Sometimes personal experiences ARE relevant but in this case the strength of our feelings and the degree of oppression we experience don’t give us any particular insight into whether a proposed reaction is justified / necessary / effective. We may well have strong desires for re-empowerment or revenge that Dan has never experienced and which motivate us towards those actions, but they are just as likely to cloud our judgement about matters of justice, necessity and effectiveness as otherwise.

    • Orion3T

      Quote

      Dan, this boils down to you attempting to police the conduct of marginalized people.

      He’s not policing anything. He’s offering an opinion, supported by reason, which you can heed or ignore as you decide. But if you really want to prevent the oppression you feel, and foster a society in which men do not see women as objects but as equals, isn’t any reasonable suggestion which might help at least worthy of serious consideration?

      The fact such people as MLK and Douglass held to this should be an inspiration to us all.

      Then there are also examples like this, of situations most of us can scarcely even begin to imagine:

      ***trigger warning – the story is about a murder victim’s parents and contains emotionally charged content but no extreme images***

      http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2190943/Chris-Donovan-killed-Parents-teenage-boy-beaten-death-thugs-come-face-face-offenders.html

      The point being that if the families of murder victims can overcome their grief and anger, and try to not only understand, but forgive and even help their ‘enemy’ we all can (not that I’m claiming I could, but I honestly think that if it came to it I would try).

      The question is whether we should, and I’m most inclined to think the answer is yes – for our own sake, and the sake of future generations who learn by our example.

      It’s my belief that simply ‘returning fire’ in an open forum nearly always results in escalation, but that striving for understanding, from the outset, nips problems in the bud and subsequently builds bridges. That’s my belief, but it would certainly change if I saw good arguments or evidence to the contrary.

    • http://overthinkingmusic.wordpress.com Jennifer, Uppity Bitch and General Malcontent

      I am tired of having my motives and character and my concern for oppressed groups called into question simply because I think they can fight for their rights without crossing the line into abusiveness.

      Dan, you are telling me how best to address my rapists. You are telling POC how best to address racists. You are telling LGBT folk how best to address their oppressors. I could go on. The thing is, you haven’t spent any time on the receiving end of that vitriol. To presume that you, who have been aware of these issues for some piddling amount of time compared to the people who have lived with it since birth, know best how not only the movement, but how individuals should address oppressors, is extremely arrogant and condescending. When I read this, I see that you are equally concerned with what invective I may hurl at the men who have invaded my body without my consent as you are with said invasion. If you weren’t, then you would have a sense of proportion and would comprehend that to call out rape victims (to work from my demographic) for calling people who rape them mean names is to demonstrate incredibly fucked up priorities.

      Your commenting space is your commenting space, although I notice that my comments are in moderation despite my having not violated your commenting policy. However, for you to believe yourself to be qualified to comment on the low-minded state of discourse on the part of victims outside of your blogging comments section demonstrates a deeply flawed concept of what it is to be an ally to oppressed people.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Dan, you are telling me how best to address my rapists.

      No, I am extremely sorry for giving this impression but that is not what I at all intended. I am talking about the generalized discourse, not how you address a specific person or group of people that has personally abused you.

      There are few if any cases of conflict in the community that have boiled down to a post in which someone called someone who raped them something insulting.

      Problematic on either side is any routine generally abusive language, personalization of debates, hostile attempts to shut down discourse, campaigns against individuals, etc.

      The problem is the general climate of hate. It is not how those who were raped feel about those who raped them or how they work through those emotions personally. Rape survivors need to do whatever it takes to thrive and need to find their own way there individually.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      although I notice that my comments are in moderation despite my having not violated your commenting policy.

      It was nothing personal. Sometimes comments get temporarily trapped because of trigger words or shared IP addresses or the use of anonymizing IP addresses that spammers and shape shifting trolls use. Sometimes I can’t even figure out why they get trapped.

      Last night everyone got trapped in moderation while I went to bed because I did not want to make sure that any unmoderated flame wars broke out while I was asleep which I would be blamed for upon waking.

      In general, while this tense subject is under discussion, I think I will keep comments temporarily moderated.

      Rest assured, since implementing my new comments policy I have not actually refused or deleted any comments. Thus far a great deal of dissent is all being approved. Some people have been put into moderation because I sensed an intent to troll or they started making things personal, but few have been banned.

    • Orion3T

      No, I am extremely sorry for giving this impression but that is not what I at all intended. I am talking about the generalized discourse, not how you address a specific person or group of people that has personally abused you.

      To be clear in advance, this comment applies to my post also. I used victim-offender reconciliation as an extreme example of how discourse (as opposed to punishment and directed anger) can ultimately aid both rehabilitation and healing, sometimes in even the most extreme cases. Such programmes seem to be quite successful.

      I did not mean to tell any victim of crime how they ought to feel or act. I would hope that such people are receiving counselling from far more qualified sources than internet blogs and discussion. If it could be interpreted that way, that’s my bad communication and I apologise in advance.

    • consciousness razor

      But the implication that my focus is on singling out the marginalized and trying to stifle them is unfair.

      Was she implying that when she said this?

      While you are also trying to police the conduct of those who do the marginalizing,

      I don’t think so. Maybe you don’t realize it, and maybe it’s not your focus or intention, but that’s beside the point.

      The marginalized have many non-hateful means at their disposal to be heard and to speak with moral conviction.

      Some do have that, but that is not all they have, nor does merely having it imply they should only have that.

      You do not need to resort to abusiveness and hate in order to get social change.

      Has anyone said otherwise?

      I am tired of having my motives and character and my concern for oppressed groups called into question simply because I think they can fight for their rights without crossing the line into abusiveness.

      It’s not about your motives or character, and it’s not because you’re making that claim either. You seem to be the only one who thinks it’s relevant whether anyone can or needs to, as if there were any doubt about the possibility or necessity of it. We’re not ignorant of the fact that it can be done without crossing the line you’ve drawn, so it doesn’t lead anywhere to point it out again and again, and it’s not enough to make your point that crossing it isn’t justified.

      (And I still don’t whether you mean it’s never justified, or only on this blog or while having a certain kind of discussion.)

  • Kilane

    This post, along with the others like it, are extremely refreshing. I would have probably left this blog site a while ago if you didn’t post here.

    I am astounded daily by the amount of hatred and bullying that goes on at ftb in the name of equality. It is a huge turnoff, I’m not talking about merely comments but a huge amount of articles too.

    That and the fact that you have original content. I cannot fathom the amount of time you must dedicate to a single post like this one.

    Yours is a refreshing voice and ftb is lucky to have you.

  • Caias Ward

    Anna,

    I feel you are attributing malicious behaviors to a generic statement I made; if what I wrote seemed that way, it does seem an uncharitable reading of what I wrote but I will be more mindful of it in the future.

    Some background:

    My most active posting is in a roleplaying game forum which has very harsh moderation for personal attacks. The focus is ‘attack ideas, not people’. Thus, I am very careful in posting in that regard. I also try to be incredibly polite in real life.

    My intent was not to be condescending, insulting or self-righteous. Rather, to reinforce the concept that ideas, not people, are to be attacked and even if someone else is hostile, making personal attacks against them is something I personally do not support and try not to engage in. That would be my choice, however.

    And for the record, ‘he’ is an appropriate pronoun for me.

    • John Morales

      [meta]

      Caias, first, let me note you should be responding in the appropriate sub-thread, not as a new-level comment — this place employs level-1 nesting.

      That noted, re:

      My intent was not to be condescending, insulting or self-righteous. Rather, to reinforce the concept that ideas, not people, are to be attacked and even if someone else is hostile, making personal attacks against them is something I personally do not support and try not to engage in. That would be my choice, however.

      First, it’s quite possible to be condescending, insulting or self-righteous without intent; conversely, claiming lack of intent is not a denial that such may have occurred, and therefore employing it in that fashion would be* disingenuous.

      Second, you cannot avoid ‘attacking’ people by attacking their ideas; for example, to claim any particular idea is unsupported by reality is to claim its proponent holds ideas unsupported by reality (is not the corollary obvious?).

      Third, your last sentence is (at best) redundant and its phrasing in the subjunctive mood has not gone unnoticed* (I graciously grant you probably intended to express that it in fact is your choice).

      * See what I did there?

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Caias, I appreciate the pronoun clarification, since I’m not familiar with the gender connotations of your first name.

      I accept that you weren’t trying to be offensive. Unfortunately, the particular context of this whole discussion is rather fraught. There’s nothing wrong with the general concept of civility, but there *can* be problems with who one chooses to call out for incivility and when and how one chooses to call them out.

      In this particular case, you seemed to be calling out “some people” as “childish”, without saying who they are or what *specifically* they had done that was “childish”. Particularly with the use of the word “childish”, this sounded an awful lot like a rather scattershot personal attack on a whole large class of people. Maybe you didn’t mean it that way, but if we’re playing “civil”, we *all* have to be careful about how our words might sound to people who aren’t us, and try not to use insulting adjectives to describe our opponents, especially when we want to take up the mantle of champions of civility.

    • http://heartheretic.blogspot.com/ Lance Armstrong

      John Morales:

      “Second, you cannot avoid ‘attacking’ people by attacking their ideas; for example, to claim any particular idea is unsupported by reality is to claim its proponent holds ideas unsupported by reality (is not the corollary obvious?).”

      Yes, but whether the person or the idea is the actual subject of your sentence makes an enormous difference to the tone and productivity of the conversation.

      Saying “You have incorrectly claimed A and stated B as your reason, but that does not follow because… …additionally, that position causes actual harm to group X in these ways…”

      and saying “You’re an irrational fool spewing vile screed” are not the same thing, even if they are both true. This is the difference being discussed. One of these is discussing the incorrectness and consequences of an idea, and the other is calling a person names. One of these might result in a conversation, and the other almost assuredly creates a flame war, shuts conversation down, and diminishes the strength of your point.

      Communication is a tricky thing, and ignorance is more likely than malice to be the cause of a problem. A little benefit of the doubt goes a very long ways. Sometimes applying a (literally true) label to someone is appropriate. Sometimes a rant is appropriate, or cathartic. Being too quick with the personal attacks just poisons the conversation.

    • Still me

      “The kind of stuff Caias says is the kind of thing you can only say if you haven’t been targeted in the way the angry, incivil people are being targeted.”

      Not that it is the case this time, or that it will ever be the case, but hypothetically: what would you think and do if a basically equivalent statement of yours about another’s experience were shown to be false?

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Still me,

      Who the hell knows what I’d do? It probably depends a great deal on the details of the circumstances. I know for sure I’ve said privileged stuff in the past and will probably do so in the future, and I’ve also probably said stuff that people thought sounded privileged but maybe I didn’t mean it that way, and who knows what else. I’ve reacted different ways in different cases, and I will probably continue to do so, on accounta I’m a human being and we’re nothing if not inconsistent.

      So, did you have a specific case in mind that you were trying to trick me into incriminating myself on by pronouncing determinedly on your hypothetical (a suspicion I can’t quite shake, but which I’d be happy to have you disabuse me of), or were you asking this seemingly incredibly vague question for some other reason? And if so, what was that reason? If you can clarify, maybe I can give you a more useful answer.

    • Still me

      “did you have a specific case in mind”

      No. The statement of yours has two aspects I found notable.

      The first is that it was a falsifiable prediction. An important test of ideas is their predictive power. This is the sort of thing conspiracy theories completely avoid having, and unfortunately all people try to minimize this to the extent they don’t want their beliefs challenged. For example, a news report on a study showing that something is harmful is interpreted as evidence a shadowy entity trying to hurt people/ignoring human cost of their business, whereas a news report showing no such harm is interpreted as simply being evidence that the news reporters and/or scientists behind the study are in on the conspiracy.

      The more times a worldview honestly sticks its neck out and doesn’t get its head chopped off, the better. So the best answer would have been focused on revising your worldview rather than context, as an ahead-of-time commitment that any surprise would not have been rationalized, but your answer wasn’t terrible or a commitment to not do that.

      The second is that the literal 100% confidence denoted by “can only say” would be overconfidence. It’s fine to speak that way, just like it’s fine to say you cut something in “half” when one bit is 51% as big as the original and the other is 49%. But in internet debates, people can latch onto small mistakes someone else makes. Your statement was stronger than needed for your argument, and people seem to argue to “win,” and to do that they often avoid exposing themselves that way.

      Maybe this counts as trying to trick you?

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Yeah, um, I’ve gotta say that the point you’re making here seems to be completely tangential to point that I was originally trying to make with my statement, and in a way that is approximately as interesting to me as you conscientiously correcting my typos.

      Yes, “only” was probably not the right word to use here, and technically I shouldn’t have used it, but it doesn’t seem terribly worth discussing either. If you’re trying to make a more interesting point and I’m missing it, please let me know, but otherwise I’m not sure the level of the mistake warranted the cryptic and sidewise way you addressed it.

      Next time, unless I’ve specifically requested proofing, please just ask, “Did you really mean only?”, or, better yet, leave it alone unless it actually substantially impacts the larger point of my comment.

    • Still me

      “the point you’re making here”

      I made two points. The first is much more interesting to me than the second, so I’m surprised you only addressed the second one.

      “seems to be completely tangential to point that I was originally trying to make”

      That’s right. I don’t really find this subject matter interesting, so I was talking about falsifiability of worldviews in general, of which your or any other individual statement on a topic would only be a specific case, and that statement would always be about some subject itself.

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Still me,

      Your first point is only interesting if I care about the second one, which I don’t. If you’re just wandering off on some wildly abstract philosophical tangent that’s completely irrelevant to what I was trying to express in my original comment, count me out.

      I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with tangents or abstract philosophy in general, but it’s not what I’m in this comments section for. I have to admit that it kind of feels like you’ve decided that because you don’t have any substantive critique of what I wrote you’re trying to delegitimize my argument by nitpicking something irrelevant. But even if that’s not what you’re trying to do (and I sincerely hope it’s not), the point I was trying to make in that comment was important to me, and I find it irritating that you’re distracting attention from that point by trying to turn the conversation off into this side issue.

      In summary, I would very much appreciate it if you would cease to try to recruit me into this tangent of yours, if that is indeed all this is about.

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Oh, and don’t *even* try to start anything about how I used the word “only” again and I shouldn’t have. I *really* *really* *really* don’t care.

    • Still me

      “Your first point is only interesting if I care about the second one, which I don’t.”

      I’m pretty sure you don’t understand it if you think that.

      “I have to admit that it kind of feels like you’ve decided that because you don’t have any substantive critique of what I wrote you’re trying to delegitimize my argument by nitpicking something irrelevant.”

      The reason that’s wrong is that a question can’t exist that provides reason to think less of a person’s opinion if they give an answer without simultaneously providing the opportunity to think better of the opinion if they give different answers.

      http://lesswrong.com/lw/ii/conservation_of_expected_evidence/

      An answer such as “I try to make substantive predictions to test my worldview, and get them in writing so I don’t fool myself with hindsight bias, and to note that I should revise my worldview when the predictions were wrong” would have been the amazing answer that I was hoping to get. Not everyone means that, but those who do say things like “The kind of stuff Caias says is the kind of thing you can only say if,” so I plan on continuing to ask people what they meant in hopes of finding people who meant that.

      An answer such as “I am never wrong” would have revealed someone with a broken world outlook.

      Many other answers wouldn’t provide much information.

      But concomitant with a possible answer reflecting negatively on someone is that others would reflect positively on them.

      I hope you can see now how the first question lives on its own, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to think about philosophy in a non-philosophy thread, so I’m glad you don’t.

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Still me, you are providing a beautiful example of the entire problem with discussions like this. You are focusing entirely on what the literal logical consequences of your argument should be or shouldn’t be, while completely ignoring how people, who are sensitive to multiple conversational factors beyond just the pure logic of an argument, will *actually* respond to those arguments.

      Now, I can’t tell whether you’re doing this because you are genuinely oblivious to the effects of your absurd nitpickery, because you get off on being more-logical-than-thou, or because you’re using this as a deliberate tactic of time-wasting distraction, but regardless of your intent, it’s a time-wasting distraction. Please stop, like I asked you to four comments ago.

      To be clear, I am now done responding to you unless you have something to say that is actually relevant to the point of this thread.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      Blimey Anna, you’re as sharp as a knife aren’t you !? So impressed, I’ve forgotten what the argument is about !

      Could do with you sorting us out over the pond here at GCI.

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Richard, once upon a time, the argument (from my perspective) was about why Dan is getting so much pushback from marginalized people and their allies in regard to his “civility” drive. (Interesting point of comparison that occurred to me yesterday, by the by: Greta Christina has a very similar civility code on her blog, yet she doesn’t have nearly as much difficulty getting people to accept it — it might be worth trying to understand what that’s the case.)

      The fact that this got eclipsed by Still me’s rhetorical games is *precisely* why I’m annoyed with hir.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      Thanks for that Anne (apologies for “Anna”).

      If that’s the case, is there a more “civil” way of expressing such annoyance?

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Richard, I honestly have *no* idea. I think I’m just really not cut out for this civility thing. I can generally fake it for maybe about two posts tops before I’m right back to being an impatient asshole. So what about us impatient assholes? Don’t we deserve the right to be heard too? :D

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      So what about us impatient assholes? Don’t we deserve the right to be heard too?

      The entire rest of the internet isn’t enough for you?

    • http://poundhillnorthindependentcrawley.freeforums.org Richard W. Symonds

      Indeed, “impatient ass-holes” (& “uppity bitches”) do have a right to be heard, Anne C…just so long as this selfish bastard across the pond has the same ;)

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Hahaha, awesome. It looks like the moderation on me (or this thread, or something) has been loosened up for a bit, but I just made a comment in which I described myself as an a**hole and it went right back into mod. :P

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Hahaha, awesome. It looks like the moderation on me (or this thread, or something) has been loosened up for a bit,

      Yes, I took you off probation this morning.

      but I just made a comment in which I described myself as an a**hole and it went right back into mod.

      That word is in permanent moderation.

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Okay, I can’t focus on my work until I respond to this…

      The entire rest of the internet isn’t enough for you?

      I just have to make it clear (in case it wasn’t already) that I was kidding about the importance of a**hole [censored to save Dan from having to mess around with modding it] rights. I don’t really mean that I think you’ve got an obligation to cater to hostile people. Other than self-mockery, my point, to the degree that there even was one, was more closely related what I’ve been saying all along.

      There’s a certain amount of subjectivity to deciding what makes someone an impatient a**hole (or some other form of hostile interlocutor) vs. them just having an abrupt or telegraphic but not actually hostile communication style (or being inadvertently hostile in some other way). A lot of that is going to be dependent on things like how well you know them, who they’re talking to, what the larger context of the conversation is, and so forth. Other than weeding out obvious and direct personal insults (“You’re an expletiving expletive!”), seeking a reasonably harmonious conversational environment also means dealing with a lot of mushy middle stuff like passive aggression, getting on a “more-logical-than-thou” high horse, deliberately choosing the most uncharitable possible interpretation of what someone says, mistaking something that’s well-meaning as hostile due to other context or one’s own warped perspective, saying stuff that’s well-meaning but harmful due to privilege discrepancies, expressing legitimate frustration, inadvertently failing to supply sufficient caveats, being rushed and messing up, and on and on and on.

      In other words, I suspect that most of us are impatient or other kinds of a**holes, or will find ourselves being perceived that way by others (reasonably or otherwise), a non-negligible percentage of the time. And the question is, how do you account for all that, keep discourse from spiraling off into hyperbolic interpersonal aggression, and yet still allow people to be humans who experience frustration, impatience, anger, hurt, and so forth, without requiring them to respond to those emotions in a perfectly Vulcan fashion, and without seeming heavy-handed about applying moderation?

      I think it’s a very non-trivial task, which requires a *lot* of sensitivity to where people are coming from, and a very light touch in guiding conversations away from unproductive spirals, especially in a situation where there are a lot of people who have a lot of experience being condescended to or unfairly dictated to by people in positions of privilege. There’s probably not one single right way to handle this in all situations, or one uniform definition of what is and isn’t okay always no matter what. IMO, it’s situational and individual, which makes it hard to make uniform pronouncements on. And it seems to me that that’s probably why trying to have this conversation on a very abstract level makes it extremely difficult for everyone to find common ground — we can all cite our own little examples of situations where things were made better or worse (from our own perspective) by allowing or banning any one particular thing, and the proportions of different kinds of examples in our own experience are what shape our views on the abstract principle, so the results are going to be different for everyone.

    • http://poundhillnorthindependentcrawley.freeforums.org Richard W. Symonds

      Reading what Anne has just said makes me even more convinced of a “no constraints” policy. That takes a huge weight of responsibility (& time + work)off the shoulders of the likes of Dan.

      It seems to me there is a good core of decent people here who can informally agree (have a general consensus) what morally ‘crosses the line’, and what does not. So it becomes – for want of a better word – morally self-regulating. There is no need to ‘police proceedings from above’ – except in very rare, obvious-to-all cases.

      If someone comes along and ‘effs this & effs that’ (eg “a troll” – but I don’t like the term), let them ‘let off steam’.
      You don’t have to react/reply to their nonsense – often if you do, that just gives them an excuse to ‘eff this & eff that’ all the more. Usually that “troll” just diasappears and – like a leech – finds another home for their hate & hang-ups….BUT SOMETIMES those who start out as a “troll” settle down & become a valued contributor.

      Just throwing that into the ‘melting-pot’ of ideas – I don’t think it’s a ‘grenad…..booom !

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      It seems to me there is a good core of decent people here who can informally agree (have a general consensus) what morally ‘crosses the line’, and what does not.

      That’s partly a matter of self-selection–not only due to the tone I set from the top but also because my explicit moderation policy has itself determined who is here and commenting and who is not, to some extent.

      But I became finally convinced that it was time to set up moderation rules when I had a commenter so unfairly insult a very reasonable and respectful academic whose work I made a post about that the guy himself objected about what I was tolerating and said privately to me that it discouraged him from commenting on my blog.

      I also was turned off by constant haranguing and derailing by commenters last winter when a guest poster here dared to talk about subject matters they didn’t like. Finally, the same day as the uncalled for venom for that academic, I received threats that I would be reported to my employer for wholly imagined anti-semitism that a commenter had allegedly posted. I was accused of “trading in filth” because of the commenter’s remark. The post I had put up was as academic and respectful a discussion of male circumcision as you could see and the offending remark was critical (and possibly unfair) but in no way anti-semitic in nature and did not imply any of the awful things imputed to it. So I immediately banned the woman who was trying to destroy my career for even daring to broach a controversial topic. Now, there is probably no more historically marginalized and abused group in the world than the Jews and I have no interest whatsoever in giving anti-semitism any hearing whatsoever on my blog. But that does not mean that, in the name of the marginalized, people worried about anti-semitism can try to shut down measured philosophical analysis of the ethics of circumcision with threats and incendiary charges.

      So, all these factors together made me realize it is important to lay out official rules. How many thoughtful people, including any number of philosophers who should feel comfortable here, were being disgusted by even the occasionally acrimonious tone of my comments section. Was I signaling that this was a serious place for serious minded academic discussion by allowing venomous vitriolic venting that shed no light on any truth? Was it consistent with my own convictions against abusive dialogue? I thought of all my friends who have one time or another disdained the entire enterprise of blogging as involving oneself in the lowest quality and least civil medium for discussion of ideas.

      I was also bothered by the ways that the occasional Christian visitors were getting savaged in a post that had major crossover appeal to Christians early in the summer. The increased traffic meant it was less my regulars here interacting with these newcomers and I didn’t like them importing the disrespectful tone of other atheist communities into mine and squandering a possibility for productive engagement.

      So, all of this together indicated to me that if I wanted to maintain the blog’s character as a philosophy blog while it was now getting heavily trafficked and while it was sharing a network with high profile blogs which were much more about activism on behalf of fundamental value commitments than abstract debate about them, I needed to start to deliberately cultivate the comments atmosphere, starting with rules for civility and philosophical charitability. Prior to FtB this was never a problem since the only people who were really finding me and interested in commenting were people who resonated with me and my tone to begin with.

      But when I unveiled the new moderation policy, I included a statement of my broader stance against abusive language. And unfortunately, a handful of activist oriented readers, who were for the most part not really my regular readers to begin with (not that I wouldn’t want them to be interested–but their priorities and attitudes were already manifestly different than mine), took all this emphasis on civility as a threat to disempower, neutralize, and marginalize them. But that was not my intent and I think my explicit rules against obviously micro-aggressive, hostile-environment-creating behavior and against slurs, and my openness to hearing out their complaints about Othering comments, should all be adequate to keep civility demands from excluding them in any substantive way. I also have explicitly permitted harsh moral charges that others’ ideas are racist or sexist or homophobic, so long as they first give people ample opportunities to either be taught or to correct their initial poor wording choices, etc. This is actually formally similar even to PZ’s 3 strikes rule about new commenters! Even PZ has a norm (if not an ironclad rule) that people allow newcomers who say unfortunate things to have a couple chances to prove they’re not terrible before being personally attacked. I just ask that when making harsh moral judgments, commenters still maintain a civil tone and use civil language. They can explain their emotions, firmly assert their personal dignity, etc., but just not resort to abusiveness.

      All this has been controversial. I am half way through an 8 part series answering all the challenges to and the misunderstandings of my policy because I am very interested in the subject of moral treatment of those one disagrees with.

      But all of this discussion about my moderation policy is still a total derail of my original post here–which was about incivility in the movement and moral themes in general and not my moderation policy. But all the discussion Anne has been engaged in has been a lot of endless challenging of my moderation ruling in one case, rather than accepting it. I think I’ve been gracious in letting her write comment after comment on the subject of a moderation ruling rather than respecting my right to make it and simply living by it.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      Thank you for such a detailed explanation Daniel.

      There are certain aspects of what you’ve just said, which I more than understand.

      Have you thought of having people registering, so that only those who register contribute?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I was kidding

      So was I

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Okay, I wanna be clear again: my interest in this discussion is *not* about whether your moderation policy is good or bad. I don’t see anything wrong with general rules favoring civility, at least in principle, and I have zero interest in impeding your attempts to impose whatever rules you want on your own blog. Instead, my interest is in why you have had so much pushback against your moderation policy, and how that can be resolved. Like I said, I like FTB, and I think you’re a valuable member of the team here, but a lot of other people I have some respect for seem to be rather annoyed with you.

      So the acrimony has been bugging me, and I’m not really finding your explanations for its origin entirely convincing. Moreover, I can definitely see why they don’t convince people who were somewhat suspicious of the endeavor to begin with. And *that* is where *everything* I’ve been saying has been flowing from. As for the policy itself, as far as I’m concerned, go nuts.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Okay, I wanna be clear again: my interest in this discussion is *not* about whether your moderation policy is good or bad.

      I know. You’re irked about one ruling that you couldn’t just accept and let go.

      I don’t see anything wrong with general rules favoring civility, at least in principle, and I have zero interest in impeding your attempts to impose whatever rules you want on your own blog. Instead, my interest is in why you have had so much pushback against your moderation policy, and how that can be resolved.

      There is no mystery. It’s not going to be resolved unless people who are committed to their own rights to verbally abuse who they will with impunity are philosophically, morally, or strategically persuaded that I am right. It’s that simple. I disagree with them in a way that is an implicit moral indictment of their behavior. They have a choice, either admit I am right and change or dig in their heels about how wrong I am. That’s between them and their own autonomous minds and consciences. All I can do is hear out what reasons they offer, investigate the issue as honestly as I can, and write posts that thoroughly make my reasoning clear.

      Like I said, I like FTB, and I think you’re a valuable member of the team here,

      Thank you.

      but a lot of other people I have some respect for seem to be rather annoyed with you.

      Most of them never liked me in the first place and were never disposed to like me in the first place. I am a philosopher and as important as issues of social justice are to me, I am leery of partisanship and am concerned with metaethics and matters of personal ethical character as paramount, even above politics. They are typically activists first and those so absolutely and unshakeably certain of their rightness and morally superior politics that they feel themselves entitled to abuse others with impunity whenever they perceive those others to be obstacles to justice or truth.

      We simply do not have the same temperaments or fundamental personal ethics, whatever our agreements about atheism or politics or any number of points about social justice. I am happy to make arguments to persuade them to my ethical views and I have listened for a month to their attempts to do the same in the cases in which they have been very civil and thought provoking. But our disagreement is no great mystery.

      So the acrimony has been bugging me,

      The acrimony bugs me. But then I accept that people with different values don’t always enjoy each other’s company. That’s a sad inevitability but not something to get too distraught over. I could get along with them despite differing personal values (and in some cases I have quite well–just look at my friendship with JT or PZ or my mutually admiring exchanges with MRoyalT or Momo Elektra in my post about my moderation policy and in follow up comments sections in my follow up posts). But many of the defenders of incivility do not want to get along with me. They mark me clearly in the enemy camp and treat me with accordant suspicion and hostility. They are committed even in principle to treating those they disagree with with unmitigated contempt and so make themselves unpleasant to have around. So I don’t miss them when they are gone. They have no use for good will among people with differences. Even people whose differences are only over the effectiveness and morality of tactics for accomplishing otherwise shared goals. So, they don’t want to be here and I am not going to exercise myself over that fact. I don’t hate them. I don’t miss them. I focus on writing about what I think and why I think it and I focus on writing about the true and the good as honestly and constructively as I can. There are plenty who resonate with what I have to say and I am happy to provide a voice for them, to dialogue with them, and to create a place they will be happy being.

      If those who presently disagree with me would come around to my way of thinking that would be spectacular. If they could come here and treat me like a fellow atheist, human being, and someone who cares as much about various social issues as they do, even though as we still disagree about tactics, that would be great in its own way. But I get a great deal of moral judgment and (I think) wholly unwarranted distrust and contempt for this disagreement about values and tactics. I get where it comes from. They don’t like being morally judged and they don’t hide it. So, it’s better for their and my peace of mind that they stay where they’re comfortable instead of coming here, for all our sanities.

      and I’m not really finding your explanations for its origin entirely convincing.

      They’re true. And they’re good enough for me. Again, you can talk about this in the post about my moderation policy instead of in this thread where it’s a massive derail already.

      Moreover, I can definitely see why they don’t convince people who were somewhat suspicious of the endeavor to begin with. And *that* is where *everything* I’ve been saying has been flowing from. As for the policy itself, as far as I’m concerned, go nuts.

      Nothing will convince them for as long as my views create a moral judgment of their behavior that requires them to change in order to be in accord with what I say about ethics. Nothing.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      “It’s not going to be resolved unless people…. are philosophically, morally, or strategically persuaded that I am right. It’s that simple.”

      There’s the rub for me Dan. It’s that simple.

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      I was about to come over here and say that if you really don’t have any interest in what I’m saying, then I’ll stop saying it and leave you be. If it’s not making any impact other than to make you wonder why I keep going on and on about it, then I have better ways to spend my time.

      But now that I’ve read this last reply of yours, I do have one more thing to say before I go, which is that this:

      I know. You’re irked about one ruling that you couldn’t just accept and let go.

      is *incredibly* offensive and completely misdirected. The *whole reason I said anything in this thread the first place* is because I was bothered by the acrimony over this issue on accounta I value your contributions here, and I was trying to be helpful by putting the brakes one tiny little thing that seemed to me to be likely to contribute to it. That’s what’s been motivating me from the beginning, and what has continued to motivate me even through my annoyance at what felt like a rather uncharitable reaction from you. This is the whole reason I bothered to comment here after being automodded, *despite* how I felt about it. And even in regard to my annoyance about your reaction, I had, before I read this little snipe of yours, long since “let it go”, figuring that it was just a misunderstanding and that we were square now. The fact that you are projecting your own poor reaction onto me and using it as an excuse to dismiss everything I’ve said since then makes me regret that I have spent as much time as I have trying to communicate with you in good faith on this, because it seems to prove that that time has been completely wasted.

      I’m really sorry that we can’t see eye-to-eye on this, and I’ll leave you alone about it henceforth, because you’ve made it clear that it’s pointless to discuss it with you. I’m not going to be your enemy or nuthin’, because I’m not that type of person, but I’m certainly left with a bad taste in my mouth. Goodbye, Dan, and good luck.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      Anne, your contributions sharp, perceptive contributions have not been “completely wasted” on me -.thank you.

      I also will bid you farewell – thank you for a very enlightening time – which has motivated me to set up a Theist, Atheisf & Agnostic section on my website. “Goodnight and good luck” – as Ed Murrow would say.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      If you had been interested in the comments section having no acrimony, you could have not taken a general critique of uncivil people personally in the first place and driven away one of my commenters for a perfectly normal kind of moral criticism of a group’s behavior (even if it wasn’t the kind I would have made). You could have not seized on a minor remark and made it a point to have a conflict and to pick over all your projections of that poster’s character. Then you could have left the issue alone after I considered your case and made a moderation judgment.

      At every stage you could have avoided this being a critique of my moderation policies and my judgment over such a minor disagreement.

      So, no, Anne, I do not believe you are as purely motivated or friendly at all to me as you think you are.

      So it is probably best you’re deciding to leave. May you be happier at other blogs.

    • John Morales

      [meta]

      Clearly, civility doesn’t preclude acrimony and its resultant mutual frustration.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I don’t count Anne’s 4 days of personal attacks and condescending repeated uncharitable judgments of me, her constant voicing of her suspicions about me, her derailing the thread, or her continuing to bang on about my moderation ruling after I explained it and made it clear it was final, as “civil”. Neither was this extraordinarily unfair characterization of me that I tried to let slide in hopes she would simply stop already:

      you *cannot reasonably expect* to just say, “Oh, don’t worry, ladies, I’m on your side,” and have them believe you. You need to prove it by learning to be exceptionally alert to the things that people do here which, intentionally or unintentionally, perpetuate the incredibly negative experiences they’ve been having. And again, this particular incident suggests that you haven’t completely figured out how to do that yet. I believe that you’re trying, but I think you have a long way to go yet to convince people that you actually want to do this right and aren’t just letting your privilege do the talking.”

      No, she wasn’t a model of civility. She drove away a commenter and had she been treating anyone else besides me with so much personal judgment and contempt as she treated me, I would have banned her for personal attacks sooner than I finally did.

      She was a classic troll.

    • andreschuiteman

      Although I’m in favour of banning insults, at least in comment sections of blog posts, this will not guarantee a civil discourse. Maybe I’m too pessimistic, but I fear that a no-insults policy will only stimulate certain people to be more creative in their ways to be uncivil. This can take many forms:

      adopting a condescending tone;
      assuming bad intentions without evidence;
      ridicule without demonstrating that something is actually ridiculous;
      making pedantic remarks on irrelevant mistakes (or perceived mistakes);
      deliberately misrepresenting comments;
      knowingly employing fallacious reasoning; etc., etc.

      Examples abound throughout the internet. An enterprising author could easily produce a massive Handbook of Obnoxious Debating Techniques after following a few well-chosen blogs for a few months.

    • andreschuiteman

      She was a classic troll.

      Or at least an avid reader of the Handbook of Obnoxious Debating Techniques :)

      (I had written my previous comment before I read your troll verdict.)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Or at least an avid reader of the Handbook of Obnoxious Debating Techniques :)

      (I had written my previous comment before I read your troll verdict.)

      Uncanny. I had literally thought you had gotten half of them from observing her and my recap.

    • andreschuiteman

      I admit that she was one of the people I had in mind (but didn’t want to turn my comment in a personal attack). I had honestely not seen your comment 33!

      An example of the ‘ewige Wiederkunft des Gleichen‘?

    • John Morales

      andreschuiteman:

      An example of the ‘ewige Wiederkunft des Gleichen‘?

      I don’t see the relevance of this speculative claim in regards to the current discussion.

      (Care to elaborate?)

    • andreschuiteman

      Just a little joke, as Dan is a Nietzsche expert. Don’t waste your time trying to read more in it than this.

    • Still me

      What if people registered names along with a self-rating in categories of their choice? These ratings could appear as mouseover text.

      For example, a person could rate themselves in “care about grammar” at a one out of ten, or a ten out of ten, or anything in between. Then, before someone responded to a comment in which someone else said “you’r are,” they could mouse over that person’s name and see if and how they rated the importance of grammar, and respond accordingly.

      As another example, people could rate themselves on “gives disclaimers.” If someone said “killing hobos and burying them in the garden is good for vegetable growth,” someone giving themselves a ten out of ten in “gives disclaimers” would be best interpreted as advocating for the murder of hobos to use them as fertilizer. Someone giving themselves a one out of ten would be best interpreted as stating a bare fact about plants and nutrients, denoting a fact and connoting nothing.

      Something along these lines would function similarly to the clues people give each other when conversing in person, clues that reduce miscommunication relative to online discussion.

  • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

    I agree with this 100%. But when I suggested something similar over a year ago, I was just called a bunch of names.

  • openlyatheist

    You know what’s great about your post, Dan? Even the people who disagree with you (and me) in this thread have made me think. That shows me how powerful your approach can be.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      You know what’s great about your post, Dan? Even the people who disagree with you (and me) in this thread have made me think. That shows me how powerful your approach can be.

      Thank you openly atheist, I appreciate that and can only hope your experience is common.

    • Orion3T

      @openlyatheist

      I agree.

  • IBTP

    The suffragette movement

    The Stonewall riots

    The civil rights movement

    The first wave of feminism

    They all have one thing in common. They marked turning points for marginalised groups who had tried, and failod, to make an impact on their oppressors. They were seminal events that followed decades of trying to win respect, freedom, and recognition, by playing nice and trying (and failing) to make a difference using positive methods.

    I find it interesting that someone has linked to Feministe upthread. Feministe is the social justice version of the RDF fora. White, cis, middle class, straight, able-bodied, neurotypical, American women overwhelmingly own, write for, and form the commentariat for the site. The main difference is that the majority are christian.

    Racism runs unchecked there*. If a writer makes a racist post, it’s the WOC objecting to it who are banned. Commenters who bristle at the main writer’s ableism and classism are openly mocked.

    In one notorious post WOC were blamed for the writers’ racism, trans women for the transphobia, gay women for heterosexism, PWD for the appalling ableism, and people of low socioeconomic status were told that they could not call out classism as long as they could access the internet, because that would make them hypocrites.

    The writers and commentariat are a homogenous group not by accident, but by design. It’s set up in such a way that those who have the most to gain from the social justice movement, are those who are denied access.

    When such a high-profile site is run by someone who feels no shame in blaming minority women for their own oppression, and allows others to do likewise**, then there’s a problem. When those marginalised women react with pain, and anger, after unmoderated discriminatory blows, and they’re told they’re in the wrong for getting upset? You can see where I’m going.

    Microaggressions lead to death by a thousand cuts. Why is the onus always on the marginalised to “Be the better person”? Why should learned helplessness and passivity be pushed onto minority groups as the answer to stopping oppression, like the tone argument writ large? Maybe we’re tired of turning the other cheek to a slap, only to be slashed across the face.

    I’m using a different name so as not to out myself. As a blogger who went through rape and death threats because of Feministe, I’m scared of it happening again.

    *In the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing, WOC were told that their children were inherently more criminal, and bore the blame for violence against them.

    **A Native woman was told she should be grateful to white Europeans for civilising her people. She was told that NAs had no claim to any land, as they were backward primitives who could never have brought America to ‘greatness’. She was told repeatedly that claims of genocide against Natives were malicious exaggerations, and hurtful to white Europeans. In a stunning twist she was told that objecting to white colonisers made her racist against black people whose ancestors were taken to America as slaves.

    That’s what playing nice leads to.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Thank you for your comment. I understand your position. I am not saying that people need to “play nice” or never express anger. I am also not advocating implicitly hostile environments where microaggressions go unchecked or uncriticized. I am saying only that there is a line between emotionally forceful and factual and logical argumentation and explanations of terrible experiences on the one hand and abusive language and hasty or unrelenting personalizations of disputes on the other.

      Yes, there were signal moments in some civil rights movements where violence was a part. But the civil rights movement was largely successful through a staggering moral discipline. And gay rights are ultimately on their way to being achieved far more through the patient loving ways that gays have come out to their friends and families than through rhetoric that denigrates straights as “breeders”.

      There may be moments in which a group has to have a moment of violence. But the problem in the whole blogosphere (well beyond the atheist community) is that our discourse is constant abusiveness from all sides. We have few worthwhile public debates. Our presidential candidates barely touch the substance of any issue. It is all out war for sentiments by whatever means possible. It is demonizations and epistemic closure everywhere. It’s just entrenched interest against entrenched interest. It’s extremely frustrating.

      While there surely should be some safe spaces designated where those who agree can agree and do constructive work without going back to square one all the time.

      I do not think that regularized abusive language and hostile spirits and clamp downs on differing opinions in debates and discussion threads in nearly every forum are going to solve the problem.

      I think abusive language and insults, just like physical violence, should be a method of true last resort and not a regularized means of intellectual and social conflict.

      Again though, I feel the weight of your examples you raise emotionally. I just think that they were tremendously well expressed without any invective that changed the subject here to what a terrible person I am or others are.

      Last week I read several accounts from rape survivors in the wake of Todd Akin’s despicable remarks. They were utterly heartbreaking and emotionally and morally educative. Not a single word of invective was necessary. There was moral outrage, there were emotions, there were tons of honest thoughts and reflections, and passionate calls for change. It all worked without invective.

      Yes, we need to prevent implicitly hostile environments. Yes, the oppressed need to do more than “play nice” but speak up. But no I do not think that regularized patterns of abusiveness in language or interpersonal hostility are either tactically necessary or morally approvable.

    • AKAHorace

      IBTP,

      You are not fighting racism or sexism, you are sitting in front of your computer making posts on the internet. Nothing that you can say will help victims of oppression. Hurling abuse at people you cannot see does not hurt them, at most it angers them and makes them more extreme in their views. I suspect that it damages you as well; although this is intuition, I have no proof of this.
      If internet forums reward you for making rage filled posts, with time rage filled posts may become your default method of expressing you self.

      What you can do on the internet is hear opinions that are contrary to your own and try to reason with them. Because we rarely meet people whose opinions are very different from our own this is both useful and important.

      There is a lot of talk of tolerance of race, gender and sexual identity on atheist forums. In the last century arguably more people were killed over questions of political opinion. Learning to be tolerant of people with political opinions that differ from your own is necessary for a democratic society to function.

    • IBTP

      AKAHorace, you know nothing about me.

      You are not fighting racism or sexism, you are sitting in front of your computer making posts on the internet.

      Thanks to a hate-crime perpetrated against me, by someone whipped up into a frenzy by the lies of the UK government*, I’m no longer physically able to leave this room. “Making posts on the internet” is my only method of communication, I only exist online.

      Nothing that you can say will help victims of oppression

      Incorrect. I am a founding member of a group that brings awareness of disability-related hate-crimes. Thanks to our online activities we’ve been involved with charities, law enforcement, and local government.

      The internet is much more than blogs and shopping, it’s a tool for change, and for huge numbers of marginalised people it is a powerful networking tool.

      I belong to multiple minority groups. I’ll describe this using pretend minority groups, so as not to out myself, ok? I’m a stripy, tailless, Brazilian lizard who lives with a frog. I live in a world of spotted Japanese lizards, with their tails intact, who live with geckos. In addition to that, they worship a giant rock, whereas I can’t see why that rock is so great. In real-life I’ve never met anyone like me, but online there are at least 1500 in just one group I’m a member of. This allows us to discuss, en masse, how to ensure official protection of our overlapping differences, while ensuring that we’re still seen as worthwhile lizards despite those differences.

      Despite your assertions to the contrary I don’t lash out wildly, I’m not hateful, and rules I’ve set state that every newcomer gets three ‘strikes’. There’s an almost militarily strong code of conduct in our forum, to ensure that conversation is calm. However, we will not tolerate people using privilege as a weapon, or using the tone argument to say “If you’re not nice to me then I won’t support your cause any more”. Allies must offer their opinions on our work by invite only, and they cannot ever expect ‘cookies’.

      Despite all of that, majority-group members and ‘allies’ seem almost compelled to tell us we’re wrong, that we should kowtow to our oppressors, that we should expect society to treat us badly because [groundless evo-psych theory] or “That’s just how it is”. Anything less than bowing and scraping, by us hapless cripples, is seen as being uppity or bitter. We’re told that we’re demanding “special treatment” when we say that ramps =/= equality.

      Three strikes and then the warning is issued, the thread is frozen, and the offender can only comment in the space reserved for them to discuss what has happened, the “Why was I warned?” sub-forum.

      Certain offenders have expressed, afterwards, that pushback helped. That they saw us as pathetic pushovers, desperate for their approval, and that the shock of being called out sparked a realisation of how they would feel in our shoes.

      Not being able to criticise a bad attitude or harmful ideas silences us, it reinforces our subhuman status. and revictimises us. It gives the oppressor the upper hand when pushback is equated with hatred.

      *The government blamed the economic crisis on disabled people. They released reports falsely stating that 75% of people who’re claiming state benefits due to disability/chronic illness, are faking. The fraud rate is actually 0.5%, as per their own official statistics. They stated that we were stealing from taxpayers (apparently disabled people never pay tax!), crippling the economy, and sitting on piles of money.

      Thanks to that, disability-related hate-crimes have more than doubled in the last two years. People have been tipped from wheelchairs, spat at, and been forced from their homes. In high-profile cases people have been driven to suicide, tortured to death, and had their homes burned down, because they were perceived to be “scroungers”.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Thanks for your reply, IBTP. For the record, I see the immense value and importance of safe spaces run in the manner you describe. My only problem is with abusive language, not in forums designated for constructive discussion in an environment kept specifically safe for a marginalized group.

    • smhll

      Three strikes and then the warning is issued, the thread is frozen, and the offender can only comment in the space reserved for them to discuss what has happened, the “Why was I warned?” sub-forum.

      IBTP, that kind of sub-forum seems like a really cool idea. There are definitely places that I participate in discussions that would benefit from having some alternative in between ignoring/banning vs. stopping the whole conversation and backing up to slowly go over the more elementary points of the discussion.

      Thank you for taking the time to post. I am a currently able-bodied person who only dimly grasps some of the issues from having family members have both short and long-term disabilities.

      It sounds to me like the most annoying people in your forum are coming in and saying “Here is my (able bodied) point of view. Let me explain everything from my (superior) point of view.” And then they make some obnoxious claims or support harmful political ideas? (I knowing I am not getting this fully, but I am seeing a parallel that extends to other interactions between people with differing privileges.)

  • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

    Just saying sorry goes a long way to heal – and remembering when we point a finger – as sometimes we must – three are always pointing back.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      I’m very much an outsider here – and I have no idea what has caused all this ‘toxic waste’ (and don’t want to know), but I find some comments/commentators incredibly self-righteous – so much so they are being extremely offensive & insulting without realising it.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I’m very much an outsider here – and I have no idea what has caused all this ‘toxic waste’ (and don’t want to know), but I find some comments/commentators incredibly self-righteous – so much so they are being extremely offensive & insulting without realising it.

      Please refrain from inciting my commenters by personally attacking an undefined number collectively. If you want to take particular issue with particular ideas they express, please focus on the content of their specific arguments and draw your focus away from them themselves.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      OK Dan, I find you very self-righteous. Sorry.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      OK Dan, I find you very self-righteous. Sorry.

      I am sorry you feel that way. As I see it I am doing my best to make a tense situation as productive for everyone as possible.

    • http://overthinkingmusic.wordpress.com Jennifer, Uppity Bitch and General Malcontent

      If the three fingers pointing back at me are all from the men who have raped me, I am little interested in the content of their accusation. “You said mean things about me when you said that I raped you,” to rational people, isn’t even in the same moral ballpark as, “You raped me.” Dan, no longer being a fundamentalist, hopefully does not believe all “sins” to be equal, even if he continually acts as though he does.

      Broad platitudes are not of any value when addressing specific situations and, like it or not, this ideal of “apologize to your oppressors” is going to lead to very uncomfortably specific situations. This sickeningly condescending platitude in particular is ridiculous on its face when addressing victims of bigotry. No, I am not interested in apologizing to my rapists. Yes, I would have three fingers pointing back at me and saying that I am a cunt and a whore and that I’m lying. I am disinterested in what accusations they may level against me.

      Thank y’all for outright stating that I should apologize to my rapists, though, since I have said some mean and hurtful things about them. Perhaps I should find the other people whom they have undoubtedly victimized since me and let them know that they should apologize to the rapists, too. That will surely cause the rapists to realize that they are wrong and to recant their raping ways. I mean, that’s the argument here. If I stop saying mean things about my rapists, then I will finally have the moral high ground, which I lost by saying mean things while talking about how they raped me. And the misogynists of the world will throw up their hands and say, “Well, I guess I was wrong! Women are rational! Come on in, ladies! We’ll stop rapin’ you now!”

      And, if they don’t, at least we’ll have the moral high ground. Because that’s what allies are interested in: making sure that the marginalized groups with whom they have allied themselves are morally pure.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      If the three fingers pointing back at me are all from the men who have raped me, I am little interested in the content of their accusation. “You said mean things about me when you said that I raped you,” to rational people, isn’t even in the same moral ballpark as, “You raped me.” Dan, no longer being a fundamentalist, hopefully does not believe all “sins” to be equal, even if he continually acts as though he does.

      Broad platitudes are not of any value when addressing specific situations and, like it or not, this ideal of “apologize to your oppressors” is going to lead to very uncomfortably specific situations. This sickeningly condescending platitude in particular is ridiculous on its face when addressing victims of bigotry. No, I am not interested in apologizing to my rapists. Yes, I would have three fingers pointing back at me and saying that I am a cunt and a whore and that I’m lying. I am disinterested in what accusations they may level against me.

      Thank y’all for outright stating that I should apologize to my rapists, though, since I have said some mean and hurtful things about them. Perhaps I should find the other people whom they have undoubtedly victimized since me and let them know that they should apologize to the rapists, too. That will surely cause the rapists to realize that they are wrong and to recant their raping ways. I mean, that’s the argument here. If I stop saying mean things about my rapists, then I will finally have the moral high ground, which I lost by saying mean things while talking about how they raped me. And the misogynists of the world will throw up their hands and say, “Well, I guess I was wrong! Women are rational! Come on in, ladies! We’ll stop rapin’ you now!”

      And, if they don’t, at least we’ll have the moral high ground. Because that’s what allies are interested in: making sure that the marginalized groups with whom they have allied themselves are morally pure.

      No, I am emphatically not saying anything remotely like that you should apologize to your rapists. Symonds’s extremely generic cliché was just about a problem with judgmental spirits. My own more nuanced position on how and when to judge people is in the post Why Bother Blaming People At All? Isn’t That Just Judgmental?

      He did not say that you should apologize to your rapists.

      The point is that not everyone who disagrees with you on every issue is a rapist, and so a general practice of abusive language and hostile shutdowns of discussions does not punish your rapists but punishes other people and alienates otherwise good people who need to hear about your experience empathetically from listening.

      Nowhere did I say anyone should apologize for being raped or apologize to their rapists.

      This is a discussion about how to treat the people one disagrees with in public debates. It is an uncharitable and I believe deeply unfair reading of either my words or Symonds’s choice to use a broad platitude here to accuse us of saying you should apologize to your rapists.

      No, as you say, I am not a fundamentalist. I understand not all sins are equal. Rape is incalculably worse an evil than abusive language.

      My point here is to say that when engaging in the public square we must hold interpersonal civility with our interlocutors to be an ideal, even as we rightly condemn heinous acts of violation with unqualified moral fervor. Good people, in anger, can cross lines into generalized hate or patterns of regular abusiveness and it’s just not healthy or constructive to the discourse.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      Jennifer “UBAGM”, I’m sorry to have caused you offence by my three-fingered “platitude – it was never meant – and I take your point.

      I was speaking in general terms about blog writing, opinions & comments – not specific actions.

      Even so, I consider words “speech acts” – so thank you for your criticism of my inappropriate use of “platitudes”.

    • http://overthinkingmusic.wordpress.com Jennifer, Uppity Bitch and General Malcontent

      I’m bowing out of this conversation because I haven’t got the spoons today, but I wanted to thank you, Richard, for thinking.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      And thank you, Jennifer, for making me think.

  • http://www.ateismo-pt.com Dehumanizer

    “he who fights with monsters should be careful lest he thereby become a monster”

    True. But that’s very different from saying one shouldn’t fight monsters at all.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      True. But that’s very different from saying one shouldn’t fight monsters at all.

      I never said not to fight the monsters. I said don’t fight them hatefully. There are plenty of other ways to fight.

  • maureen.brian

    I’ll tell you what I am ashamed of, Daniel Fincke. Though I have played only a tiny part in recent events, I am ashamed that I did not do it 50 years ago.

    I am ashamed that of the three times I was sexually assaulted – always by a friend or neighbour – I told the police only once. I am ashamed of the number of times I stepped into a job previously done by a man, stepped in at a lower salary because I was interested in doing the work. The thick skin I developed, the capacity for sarcasm and the ability to write were all fined-tuned as defences against the permanent white-noise background of low-level condescension and harassment which, for many of us, have been what “real life” means as long as we can remember. I wonder now if I would not have been better just using my fists.

    A year or so ago – and not for the first time – some of us said to leaders of various groups, “Dear comrades and brothers, we appreciate your many fine qualities and the good work you do for X, Y and Z but we worry that, as many of you rejected notions of gods and supernatural creations, you didn’t take that one step further in your rationality and leave behind some of religion’s baggage – the hierarchical power structure, the infallible priesthood, the shunning of people who are different, the taking for granted of a distinct and subservient role for women.”

    Then we said, “We have no wish to oust you or to embarrass you but can we please work together quietly to make some of these things a bit less of a grind for those who do get involved anyway and a bit less of a deterrent for those who are put off by them?” Some of them happily took up the offer but ………

    If you are honest with yourself, Daniel, you know that some of what happened in response was not proportionate and it was not civil. Unless, of course, you know of somewhere that a death threat – many death threats – is the accepted response to a little polite anonymous advice on manners. I have seen more trenchant advice in the columns of the newspapers but no matter.

    It is perfectly possible to be abusive, patronising, condescending, just plain rude and to tell people what has happened to them and how they should understand it, all without having any knowledge of the person you are “kindly advising” beyond a two sentence introduction by a third party or the colour of their skin. The rudeness of a communication is not determined by any choice of vocabulary or any emotion expressed.

    Examples of this abound. It would be more constructive to acknowledge the harm this does than to try to stamp it out by fiat.

    When all parties are equally able to recognise when they are arguing in good faith and when they are not then your plea for calm would be supported by me.

    Until then, sir, your call is premature.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Thank you Maureen for your comment. What you have suffered is so awful to read about and I fully support you speaking up. Yes, I know that there has been disproportionate abuse leveled at women (and others) who have complaints that needed to be heard. I tried to acknowledge as much in the original post and I am genuinely sorry if I did not do it well enough.

      I don’t want to silence one word of worthwhile moral criticism. I am only saying that even if the abusiveness were at a ratio of 20 prominent parts on the other side to every 1 prominent part on the other side, the 1 part abusiveness of the latter side is still abusiveness too and problematic as such, gets picked up by onlookers and hurts the cause of the latter side, and just feeds unnecessarily the former side’s feeling that they are up against bad people out to do them harm. In a dispute, both sides are likely to feel right and to feel mostly misunderstood and mischaracterized by the other side. One must be vigilant not to give other people the legitimate cause to feel aggrieved when that is all they need to fulfill their desire to feel like the aggrieved ones.

      I am so glad that women like you are coming out and speaking up about the injustices you have suffered. I am on your side completely in that. Just when people on either side are saying hateful things, I cannot side with the hate, no matter how much I may side with the moral conclusion it is being enlisted in support of. There are countless ways you can articulate your anger and hate injustice without it turning into interpersonal abusiveness and insults, etc.

    • B-Lar

      Until then, sir, your call is premature

      Timing is of the utmost importance in strategy. The call will be most effective when more people are capable of hearing it, but this method is timeless. We can all benefit from being more willing to understand and be compassionate because I think that is how we make the best decisions as a species. On balance though, we should not refrain from searing critique, but it should be tempered to be effective.

      The time for this call is always now.

    • Still me

      “the hierarchical power structure, the infallible priesthood, the shunning of people who are different, the taking for granted of a distinct and subservient role for women.”

      Has there been much A+ discussion of this issue? Is this an issue where A+ people have systematically different thoughts and perceptions than A people? How bad do you think this problem is (or was a year ago)?

    • smhll

      I don’t want to silence one word of worthwhile moral criticism. I am only saying that even if the abusiveness were at a ratio of 20 prominent parts on the other side to every 1 prominent part on the other side, the 1 part abusiveness of the latter side is still abusiveness too and problematic as such, gets picked up by onlookers and hurts the cause of the latter side… [emphasis mine]

      What about encouraging the onlookers to be more charitable and to follow links that spell out the background of the situation? Surely if we encourage people making comments to behave better it is also reasonable to ask readers who are not commenting to also behaving using their highest natures?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      What about encouraging the onlookers to be more charitable and to follow links that spell out the background of the situation? Surely if we encourage people making comments to behave better it is also reasonable to ask readers who are not commenting to also behaving using their highest natures?

      That is indeed a great idea. As is recommending that we do not take our allies’ word about the natures of controversial situations but always investigate the blogs or other comments from the people they are demonizing independently of our friends’ opinions.

      But as I said in the post, we can only control ourselves and not others.

  • elainec

    @John Morales – No, not a dissenter, just someone who doesn’t take much of anything at face value, so I asked questions. I wasn’t the only one asking questions, but those who didn’t jump right on the bandwagon were insulted and told we were either with the Atheism + folks or we were against them. Given that and the sermon-like rant of one FT blogger in particular, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll give this a pass – which of course will brand me as something subhuman according to him.

    • John Morales

      I stand corrected: not dissenting, but questioning.

      I think it’s fair enough you avoid blogs you dislike, but to group a site with over 30 blogs as a monolithic entity (“I no longer felt safe using that one [user name] on FTB”) seems rather hasty and indeed unfair to me.

      Finally, I draw your attention to this specific blog’s commenting policy (linked above in comment 1.7) which should preclude the problems you encountered elsewhere on FTB from being an issue to you here.

  • julian

    Really can’t win, can you? Bacardi and coke for night. Hopefully this whole community will just implode by the time I wake.

  • Michael R

    Left-liberal politics/philosophy is ambitious, idealistic, they set the bar high for society, they take the risky option, they like the possible over the probable, they want to overcome human nature. Conservatives are more realistic, practical, they accept human nature, and the odds of their success are better than liberals. Consequently left-liberals have to try harder to enforce their vision on society. So don’t be surprised if the hatred and censorship coming from them is greater than from conservative or central viewpoints. It comes with the territory.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      don’t be surprised if the hatred and censorship coming from them is greater than from conservative or central viewpoints.

      I would hardly say that’s the case at all. There is plenty of hate and plenty of censorship out of conservative quarters. Unbelievably more even. Probably largely due to the leftward general tilt of the internet, a number of conservative YouTube videos close comments, there are Christian sites where an atheist has no chance of speaking, there are politicians who wipe all dissent from their Facebook pages, you had Bush prescreening all questions and all participants at his political rallies, you have Romney doing interviews during his presidential campaign where abortion is off the table for discussion. On and on.

      The problem is not, as I see it, that liberals are trying to overcome human nature whereas conservatives accept it. They both have conceptions of human nature that both accept parts of it and want to improve others and they both think they know the general kinds of best mechanisms for making the necessary changes. The problem is that conservatives have the advantage that the existing language, institutions, habits, mores, assumptions of the culture are rigged against newer ideas and against marginalized groups. Liberals are trying to work against the grains of habits and linguistically biased concepts of the world that did not just get there by “nature” but by previous social changes that were so effective that people look at them and say “Nature”, not even seeing the influence of all that culture that went into creating them.

    • http://heartheretic.blogspot.com Lance Armstrong

      Michael R:

      Conservatives are more realistic, practical, they accept human nature, and the odds of their success are better than liberals. Consequently left-liberals have to try harder to enforce their vision on society.

      I think the area of sexuality is a particularly blatant contradiction of the dichotomy you’ve laid out. Conservative forces (I will be speaking about American political factions) advocate abstinence only education, and use shaming and obstruction of preventative measures to enforce their values of sexual purity. Critically, they believe that everyone should live according to the strictures of their viewpoint, and do not even want their children exposed to the opposing view.

      Liberals advocate educating people about the risks and preventative measures associated with sexual activity, including the validity of abstinence, and letting people choose how to handle their own sex lives.

      In a world where Conservatives win, teens are not educated about the risks and preventative measures associated with sex, and teens who follow their human nature and have sex are placed at greater risk of harm because of the ignorance that has been thrust, intentionally, upon them in attempt to enforce a Conservative worldview.

      In a world where liberals win, teens are educated and preventative measures are made available. People with Conservative values are free to abstain. Everyone gets to live the way they want to. This is what acceptance looks like.

      Conservatives advocate a strict denial of homosexual rights, and a cultural negation of the legitimacy of homosexual relationships. Liberals advocate equal rights and the freedom to make personal relationship choices for everyone. One of these is an enforcement, and the other is an acceptance.

      There is an oft heard cry that this sort of thing is an imposition onto the dearly held values of Conservatives, that their rights are being violated, that someone else’s worldview is being “enforced’ upon them. This is an incorrect perception. What is actually happening is that the enforcement of your view is being removed so that people with differing views can all live in the same society and make their own personal choice without impairment from someone who disagrees.

      This false sense of persecution crops up whenever an entrenched position is challenged. The campaign to remove “In God We Trust” from U.S. currency is often characterized as an attack on religion. It isn’t. It’s the removal of an attack on non-religion. A legitimate attack on religion would be to replace the phrase with “There are no gods.” The absence of a statement attacks no one.

      I invite you to take a harder look at what “acceptance” and “enforcement” of an idea would entail.

      I think you’re also taking traditions that are long-standing because they were socially enforced, and assuming that they must therefore be descriptive of human nature. A look at the variations seen across other human cultures tears this apart pretty quickly.

    • Erista (aka Eris)

      I used to believe that the liberals were more of the ideological dreamers and conservatives were more of the real world pragmatists.

      Then I looked at actual conservative policies and the incredible lack of evidence that they worked in any way at all, and I realized the conservatives don’t actually operated based on reality.

      Example: Would privatizing everything make everything both cheaper and better? Conservatives say yes, but they can’t point me to even one real life example of how this is true.

  • Orion3T

    Great post Dan.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Thank you, Orion 3T.

  • andreschuiteman

    This is a sensible post. Insults are rarely effective (in that they change people’s positions) and are therefore usually incompatible with rational behaviour. They end the conversation and leave the insulted party under the illusion that they had the moral high ground.

    I can’t escape the impression that many people commenting on blogs are just lying in wait to find an excuse to be morally outraged and to retaliate by insulting the offenders as deeply as they can. You will be taking away their favourite toy by insisting on civility even against the uncivil. I predict that those professional commenters, who must be leading depressingly empty lives, will never give in.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      This is a sensible post. Insults are rarely effective (in that they change people’s positions) and are therefore usually incompatible with rational behaviour. They end the conversation and leave the insulted party under the illusion that they had the moral high ground.

      I can’t escape the impression that many people commenting on blogs are just lying in wait to find an excuse to be morally outraged and to retaliate by insulting the offenders as deeply as they can. You will be taking away their favourite toy by insisting on civility even against the uncivil. I predict that those professional commenters, who must be leading depressingly empty lives, will never give in.

      Be careful of the potential for passive aggressive interpretations of comments like these. Other commenters here may assume you are indirectly addressing them while trying to evade accountablity. The general point that often people seem to use comments threads as places to vent and seem to come ready to vent is a broader one about the state and plausible psychological causes of our incivil discourse. Be careful in phrasing it though to keep it an abstract point.

    • andreschuiteman

      I will be happy to clarify that I hadn’t any of the above comments in mind.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Thanks.

    • Brownian

      who must be leading depressingly empty lives

      Nothing says ‘civilised discourse’ like completely unfounded assertions about about other people, their lives, and the values thereof, phrased without specifically identified insult words, and therefore acceptable.

      Have fun with your no hate space, Dan.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Nothing says ‘civilised discourse’ like completely unfounded assertions about about other people, their lives, and the values thereof, phrased without specifically identified insult words, and therefore acceptable.

      Have fun with your no hate space, Dan.

      I can’t police every critical thought. I can only ask that people are not abusing each other when dealing with each other. I sought to clarify that the remark above was not an attack on those present. If people want to speculate about the motives of those who spend lots of time online, then that’s a valid psychological question, even if someone has an uncharitable interpretation. I live on the internet, I’m worse than a “profesional commenter”, I’m a blogger, but I wasn’t offended myself.

    • Brownian

      The general point that often people seem to use comments threads as places to vent and seem to come ready to vent is a broader one about the state and plausible psychological causes of our incivil discourse.

      Thanks for dropping by to vent, andreschuiteman. I enjoy doing so very much myself.

    • Brownian

      If people want to speculate about the motives of those who spend lots of time online, then that’s a valid psychological question, even if someone has an uncharitable interpretation.

      Ignorant speculation for the purpose of insulting an unspecified group is not in any way answering, or even approaching, a valid psychological question.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Ignorant speculation for the purpose of insulting an unspecified group is not in any way answering, or even approaching, a valid psychological question.

      The question is valid. If you want to say the answer offered is false, misguided, prejudicial, biased, etc., then by all means be my guest. That’s what discussion is for. You’re allowed to say you think someone else’s generalization is too broad and unfair to a set of people.

      There’s no way I could possibly have a blog comments section if I were just going to delete everyone I thought was wrong or unfair about a group of people. I just can police for remarks that use standard tropes for disparaging marginalized groups. Those create a hostile environment. A dig at blog commenters? From someone commenting on a blog? I think any regular commenter worth his or her salt can take care of that irony without the heavy hand of moderation being involved. I just clarified that the initial remark wasn’t aimed at the commenters here. And there’s no reason to assume that it was. The internet’s a big place.

    • Brownian

      So then, just so we’re clear, this statement is not true:

      What I am against is hatefulness in all its forms.

      As you say, “I can’t police every critical thought.”

      What you actually mean is that you’re against hatefulness when it’s not disingenuously couched as psychological musings about motives and values.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      As you say, “I can’t police every critical thought.”

      What you actually mean is that you’re against hatefulness when it’s not disingenuously couched as psychological musings about motives and values.

      Commenters are free to disagree with me. Personally, no, I think I would never disparage all people who regularly comment online as having empty lives. I also wouldn’t say a lot of things that I think are excessive or unfair to others that nonetheless people want to say on my blog. But there has to be a line drawn before the only people who post here are ones who share my every view of what’s fair and true. I draw the line at remarks that personalize debates between specific people as a matter of first resort. I draw the line at abusive names. I draw the line at remarks which create hostile environments for marginalized groups. I draw the line at attempts to troll me or other commenters with an antagonism that is not about what is true or what is good or sometimes even about the post but which are instead just attempts to get under others’ skins.

      But, a generic dig that the internet is a vice that people waste their lives on is not attacking specific people, personalizing a dispute, etc., so yes, it’s permissible.

      I hardly think that makes me a hypocrite to anyone who is not looking for any faint trace of hypocrisy they can find.

    • http://poundhillnorthindependentcrawley.freeforums.org Richard W. Symonds

      Dan, I honestly think you are ‘chasing rainbows’.

      Debate about highly-controversial issues will inevitably provoke much thought & much emotion. We are all fallible human beings – thus it is easy to ‘cross the line’ from the rational argument to personal abuse. People have killed, and died, for such controversial issues in which there is strong disagreement – so
      should it be any surprise that things get a little over-heated on online blogs, to which people give of their precious time voluntarily.

      Prime Minister’s Question Time, here in England, is one prime example – as is any discussion in a pub which turns nasty.

      There is no point in controlling it, except by appealing to people’s better nature. Most of us are decent, law-abiding people – those who are not wouldn’t be on a blog like this.

      Making rules, banning people etc just creates more problems than solves them. We are not children – and most of us try to treat others how we would like to be treated.

      “Sit lightly on the saddle” – sorry, another platitude !

    • andreschuiteman

      Let me expand a bit on my ignorant speculation.

      It is fairly obvious that the comment sections of the blogosphere are in part inhabited by people who evidently spend most of their waking life writing comments without any originality or substance, often laden with invectives and obscenities. In my view such obsessive commenters are wasting their lives. Some are probably genuinely addicted. I find that sad and depressing.

      Maybe it’s time to establish an organisation called BCA — Blog Commenters Anonymous. Most already are anonymous, so that’s a good start. The next step, admitting the addiction, may be more difficult.

      By the way, there is nothing ironic in it when someone who occasionally drinks a glass of wine points out the dangers of alcoholism. A blog commenter can comment on the mental health risks of blog commenting without being a candidate member of BCA.

      I don’t see why any of this is even slightly controversial. If you feel that I’m holding up a mirror then that is, literally, your problem.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Maybe it’s time to establish an organisation called BCA — Blog Commenters Anonymous. Most already are anonymous, so that’s a good start.

      This made me chuckle.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      But for the record, andreschuiteman, as a long time denizen of the internet, I do not think it’s a wasted life at all. People grow and develop through conversations about ideas, politics, art, and a number of other things they discuss online. Comments sections around the internet are places where people find more community with more interesting people than they ever could if they were dependent wholly on real life interactions. They probably influence the thinking of more people too.

      And then when you factor in the incalculable psychological and socio-political benefits to members of marginalized groups who can hardly find anyone like them in real life but who can find thousands of such people online, the internet is an invaluable resource to many of the people you have such contempt for.

    • John Morales

      [meta + OT]

      andreschuiteman:

      It is fairly obvious that the comment sections of the blogosphere are in part inhabited by people who evidently spend most of their waking life writing comments without any originality or substance, often laden with invectives and obscenities.

      I can think of only one reason why this claim would seem obvious to you.

      I find that sad and depressing.

      Hm. You know, there are worse ways certain people (cough) could be spending their time, so it could be even more sad and depressing.

      (So you can take some comfort from that, no?)

      By the way, there is nothing ironic in it when someone who occasionally drinks a glass of wine points out the dangers of alcoholism.

      Mmm-hm.

      I don’t see why any of this is even slightly controversial.

      Well, you did characterise your comment as “ignorant speculation”, so it can hardly be controversial, can it? :)

      If you feel that I’m holding up a mirror then that is, literally, your problem.

      No worries, since I feel you’re looking into a mirror and that it’s your problem.

      (Hey, at least you still have your toy!)

    • andreschuiteman

      Comments sections around the internet are places where people find more community with more interesting people than they ever could if they were dependent wholly on real life interactions. They probably influence the thinking of more people too.

      And then when you factor in the incalculable psychological and socio-political benefits to members of marginalized groups who can hardly find anyone like them in real life but who can find thousands of such people online, the internet is an invaluable resource to many of the people you have such contempt for.

      I have never disputed this. What would I be doing here if I didn’t agree with these observations? I reserve my contempt for a subclass of commenters who never rise much above the level of abuse and feigned outrage. And contempt is not even the right word, as I sincerely believe that some of them have mental problems.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

      Though this response is probably neither adequate nor complete, I’d like to suggest “pity and compassion” rather than “contempt,” and I would also like to point out that comments of this nature, though unintentionally, do the mentally ill a disservice. Better not to make any assumptions at all, ignore (or block), and move on.

    • http://poundhillnorthindependentcrawley.freeforums.org Richard W. Symonds

      Are you saying I’ve got ####### “mental problems” if I’ve got ####### online Tourette’s;)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I have never disputed this.

      Okay, but you never clarified you grasped it either and you framed some of your critiques of regular commenting too broadly such that John and I thought it netted more than just the subset that acts persistently belligerently online

      What would I be doing here if I didn’t agree with these observations?

      I have no idea. People visit for lots of reasons.

      I reserve my contempt for a subclass of commenters who never rise much above the level of abuse and feigned outrage.

      Me too.

      And contempt is not even the right word, as I sincerely believe that some of them have mental problems.

      Hopefully then the word you want, in those cases, is compassion.

    • andreschuiteman

      @John Morales,

      Obscure insinuations, quote mining, tu quoque: an incoherent mess vaguely resembling a personal attack.

      You should hang around here longer; eventually you may even learn from our host how to make a decent argument.

    • andreschuiteman

      @Bluharmony,

      I’d like to suggest “pity and compassion” rather than “contempt,” and I would also like to point out that comments of this nature, though unintentionally, do the mentally ill a disservice. Better not to make any assumptions at all, ignore (or block), and move on.

      Yes, ‘pity and compassion’ are good. Sure, I ignore those commenters, but I can’t help stumbling upon their comments, so it’s natural to speculate on the mindset of the people involved.

      @Richard W. Symonds,

      I’ve got ####### online Tourette’s

      Sorry, but that’s no excuse. :)

      @ Daniel Fincke,

      Hopefully then the word you want, in those cases, is compassion.

      I’m fine with that.

    • http://poundhillnorthindependentcrawley.freeforums.org Richard W. Symonds

      @ andreschuiteman

      #######

    • smhll

      I think there is a lot of outrage on the internet that isn’t feigned. And I’ll offer this challenge, how long can one actually surf the internet without stumbling across something outrageous?

      I think it is a very common error to think that if you do not have a particular emotional response to a particular opinion, comment or “joke” that someone else having that response is likely invalid. I do hear that a lot here on the internet, particularly in conflicts between men and women. It’s not easy to set aside one’s inherent POV and imagine a different one. But, I think in this space Dan is going to be asking us to do so.

    • John Morales

      [meta]

      andreschuiteman:

      Obscure insinuations, quote mining, tu quoque: an incoherent mess vaguely resembling a personal attack.

      I note you seek no clarification for that which you find obscure, nor indicate how I quoted you such that I distorted your meaning, nor indicate in what sense I am employing a tu quoque such that I hold such claims as you make as wrong on the basis that you indulge in that which you decry, nor how it is incoherent such that my statements are nonsensical or unclear or that they contradict each other or that they include non sequiturs.

      (Shiny, shiny mirror!)

      You should hang around here longer; eventually you may even learn from our host how to make a decent argument.

      You thought my response to you was an argument?

      (Nay; it was an opinion piece in response to your own, and no less justified)

  • inersphobia

    “I do moral philosophy because we must do moral philosophy but not because I like what a sense of moral superiority does to corrupt a person’s character.”

    Well put. The corruptibility of character is pretty interesting. One thing I’ve always found irksome is how quickly we will defend someone in the minority who is being extremely abusive, because they are a result of the injustice they have suffered throughout their lives, but are much more hesitant to do that for someone who is over-privileged. “Patriarchy hurts men, too,” and all that.

    Obviously it’s easier to sympathize w/ someone who is disadvantaged and who daily faces the virtually insurmountable obstacles of cultural prejudice, in all its covert and Purloined Letter manifestations, but we are humans, and most of us are not curious or self-motivated enough to struggle to look outside of our frame of reference and see how we are oppressing other people by our mere existence. Being socioeconomically privileged doesn’t magically make you self-aware. Ironically, it is the reality of the gender-dysphoric, or trans, or conspicuously educated minority, to have this advantage of perspective, this broader view, and so I think it is particularly unfortunate when they refuse to stoop to the level of at least (as my friend Damion recently mentioned) mentioning a reading list when some hapless fuck wanders into a discussion and starts asking elementary questions. While it is certainly the case that a lifetime of being shit on makes it unpalatable to polite explain your case to some cis white dude, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to. If taking the cool-kid approach and snarking and ridiculing is in some way helpful to the cause(s), it isn’t obviously so. That doesn’t mean mean hand-holding, but something. Especially considering the frequency w/ which a privileged person is attacked if they attempt to make arguments on behalf of a minority. I wonder if there is a list somewhat like talkorigins.org for equality issues.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I’m very happy that Jen is going to have a 101 forum on her website for “Atheism Plus”.

      I haven’t used the blog much but there is also already a blog called “Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog”.

    • http://heartheretic.blogspot.com Lance Armstrong

      I haven’t used the blog much but there is also already a blog called “Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog”.

      Sweet! I have been that hapless fuck. Sometimes I still am.

    • Orion3T

      Great comment.

      I think this relates to I was getting at in my post above.

      If those who post threats of violence were more vividly aware of the consequences of their actions, a lot of them just wouldn’t do it. Those who would, quite possibly need help of some sort. Perhaps they have gone through some sort of abuse or traumatic experience themselves. Perhaps they are genuinely scared that women will take over the world and think hurling abuse is the best way to prevent it. Perhaps they actually have a disorder of some sort.

      You can’t find identify the issues by insulting and alienating people though. They will either escalate, or shut down, and perhaps find another target. And you can only address the issues once they are identified.

  • Erista (aka Eris)

    Some good people are getting death threats, rape threats, and a wide range of almost unimaginable abuse for expressing their opinions. The hate is unbearable for them. People judging them cruelly and calling them bullies when they are lashing out in return need to stop. Escalating is not helping.

    And those lashing out need to be more compassionate too.

    I have a policy, a policy that has generally served me well. This policy is that when an unprivileged, oppressed group of people lash out against being oppressed and mistreated (say, being sent rape threats and death threats for merely speaking incredibly benign comments), I try very, very hard not to tell people what they should be doing and how they should be reacting. This is especially true when I am not a part of the oppressed and mistreated group. I think that when the privileged, unoppressed majority starts telling the unprivileged, oppressed minority what to do, it is not only unbelievably patronizing (“you may be the ones experiencing oppression, but I, who am not being oppressed, know better than you do how you should handle the oppression), but it is harmful a significant portion of the time (See Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail). I try to recognize that I am not being forced to endure what they are being forced to endure, and that I cannot possibly even see their point of view because I have no reference point.

    Thus, when a minority group does something that I think is not helpful or may even harmful to their* cause, I work very hard to STFU.

    Make of that what you will.

    Note: This policy does not apply to situations involving physical violence.

    *I stress “their” because even if I support their cause, it is not my cause; it belongs to them.

  • http://strangesally.wordpress.com/ SallyStrange: Elite Femi-Fascist Genius

    I hope that next time you call for apologies, you have something more specific than “Y’all just search your consciences” in mind. Otherwise it comes off as a passive-aggressive suggestion that people who’ve done nothing wrong have, in fact, done something wrong.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I hope that next time you call for apologies, you have something more specific than “Y’all just search your consciences” in mind. Otherwise it comes off as a passive-aggressive suggestion that people who’ve done nothing wrong have, in fact, done something wrong.

      I don’t mean to imply any particular person has done any particular thing wrong. My point is simply that every single one of us can be introspective about any possible ways to own any possible wrongdoing. There is no way that I could presume to figure out everyone’s wrongs. If I started listing things I saw as wrong, I would hear about 20 others I overlooked from those people’s enemies that somehow exonerated them to other people. It’s just a mess. This is just a plea for introspection and against hate. That’s all.

    • http://alephsquared.wordpress.com aleph squared

      I don’t mean to imply any particular person has done any particular thing wrong.

      You’re talking about specific debate in a specific community, one with lots of regular bloggers and commenters. If you don’t think someone in particular has done something wrong (that is, if there is no one you can say has in fact done something wrong), then your post serves no purpose.

      If you do think someone in particular has done something wrong, you can either call that to their attention and ask them to correct it, or you can write vague posts referring to no one in particular in order to protect you from having to actually defend a specific claim.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      You’re talking about specific debate in a specific community, one with lots of regular bloggers and commenters. If you don’t think someone in particular has done something wrong (that is, if there is no one you can say has in fact done something wrong), then your post serves no purpose.

      Of course I see a lot of people do a lot of things I think are wrong. Hence the post.

      If you do think someone in particular has done something wrong, you can either call that to their attention and ask them to correct it,

      I have in some cases. Some publicly, some privately. That’s not the purpose of this post.

      or you can write vague posts referring to no one in particular in order to protect you from having to actually defend a specific claim.

      Everyone knows there are problems in the community. I am simply asking people to examine their own behaviors instead of their enemies’. I am not playing prosecutor here. It wouldn’t do any good and it’s not where I want to put my energies. i want to stop this whole thing being personal. Not put any more people on the defensive. Not have people draw sides for me and against me. It’s a call for personal introspection by all involved in order that acrimony and interpersonal hostilities stop obscuring all the many areas of real agreement and stop making fruitful debate utterly impossible in numerous instances.

    • consciousness razor

      If I started listing things I saw as wrong, I would hear about 20 others I overlooked from those people’s enemies that somehow exonerated them to other people. It’s just a mess. This is just a plea for introspection and against hate. That’s all.

      If you starting listing things, or otherwise started giving any evidence at all, people might cite more things you overlooked (thus agreeing with you in principle), but at least they’d know what you’re on about. Whether something is or is not abuse, for example, needs to be understood in context as a specific incident which can be analyzed, so that we’d be able to discuss it rather than merely our definitions or concepts (and generalize from it, not from our preconceptions). But pointing a finger in the vague direction of marginalized people and saying “maybe you did something wrong too, though I don’t know what” is not even remotely conducive to a rational dialogue. That is, a dialogue about what’s actually happening on this planet to real people, not simply one about your ideas.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      But pointing a finger in the vague direction of marginalized people and saying “maybe you did something wrong too, though I don’t know what” is not even remotely conducive to a rational dialogue. That is, a dialogue about what’s actually happening on this planet to real people, not simply one about your ideas.

      I’m not pointing at marginalized people. I’m talking to the whole contentious atheist blogosphere, which is filled with all sorts of people and with all sorts of people on every side of every issue dividing us.

      People know what the controversies are. They know the players. They can assess for themselves what those people with prominence and influence have done in any number of occasions. For my part, I’m saying that wherever there’s been hatefulness, I wish there wasn’t. Wherever people are resorting to insults and unnecessary demonization, I don’t approve. And I am saying that if people introspect about how to have that hatefulness stop becoming wedges that stop debates and create avoidable divides between people then that’s the way to stop the acrimony.

      That’s all.

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Dan, maybe you’re not trying to point at marginalized people, but you’re not being very specific about who you *are* pointing at, and plenty of other people have said very similar things to what you’re saying in a very similar “I’m not naming any names” fashion while they *were* actually intending to point at marginalized people. So if you want the marginalized people to believe that you’re on their side, you need to work harder to convince them of that.

      Working to develop the skill of recognizing comments that may be or may easily be perceived as attacks on marginalized people, in order to moderate more equitably, would be a good start. But, look at the responses even your posts are getting — this should tell you that you’re not just failing to moderate comments in a way that makes marginalized people feel welcome, you failing to even consistently make *posts* that are clearly not intended to attack marginalized people, no matter how much you protest that you intend no such attacks. I know you mean well, but I really think it would be helpful for to approach this issue a little more humbly and try to learn why people are angry at you, rather than just telling them over and over again that they must not listening right because you mean really really well and (you think) you’re being very impartial.

      I know I mean well all the goddamn time, and I try to be unbiased and clear-thinking all the time too. I like to think that I’m pretty good at both of those things. But I also know that when I get a huge amount of pushback sometimes it means that I’ve failed at one or the other of these and it’s time to re-evaluate to figure out where the pushback is coming from. I would really encourage you to think about this a bit.

    • consciousness razor

      I’m not pointing at marginalized people. I’m talking to the whole contentious atheist blogosphere, which is filled with all sorts of people and with all sorts of people on every side of every issue dividing us.

      Ah, so everyone then. That’s much more specific. But did you notice that I said “too”? I’m sure you can read that any way you like, but what I meant was that you are doing to them what I said you’re doing, as well as doing it to other people. So unless you think “pointing” and “talking” are different in some relevant way, it seems like you agree but want to make it sound like you disagree.

      People know what the controversies are. They know the players.

      Except you, or do you not want to say anything substantive about any of them specifically?

      For my part, I’m saying that wherever there’s been hatefulness, I wish there wasn’t. Wherever people are resorting to insults and unnecessary demonization, I don’t approve.

      So when exactly has that happened? What in particular does “hatefulness” and “unnecessary demonization” look like? How are people (other than you) supposed to know what you’re talking about if you won’t go into any detail?

      If you want to find an easy example of someone engaging in “unnecessary demonization,” I’m sure you could find one; but if you could find one close to the border of “necessary” and “unnecessary,” I might start to think you’re trying to reasonably and fairly understand the opposing arguments. Or you can keep making a lot of sweeping generalizations about principles and your definitions of things, with no clear way to put any of it into practice. Some may like that, but even if I basically agreed with you, I wouldn’t see the point.

      And I am saying that if people introspect about how to have that hatefulness stop becoming wedges that stop debates and create avoidable divides between people then that’s the way to stop the acrimony.

      Well, I’ve introspected and decided that what I think is “unnecessary” and “avoidable” (and what ought to be avoided) probably isn’t the same as what you think.

    • smhll

      So if you want the marginalized people to believe that you’re on their side, you need to work harder to convince them of that.

      Hi, Anne -

      Shortening Dan’s comments a great deal, I think he is saying he is against systematic oppression of marginalized people as a moral point. Beyond that he is not taking a side, in advance, in future discussion, except that he is taking a stand against invective (with perhaps an exception for extreme provocation).

      I think he believes that the more we exchange words without attacking personalities, the more we will understand each other (and ourselves) which is probably a good thing.

      Am I getting this right? Are others seeing it differently?

    • Sally Strange

      I don’t mean to imply any particular person has done any particular thing wrong.

      Then your communication skills are in need of improvement. You need to consider the implications of what you are saying. You didn’t. You inadvertently accused me and everyone else who’s involved in this discussion on social justice, feminism, racism, etc., who are trying to do the right thing, of having done something wrong, for which we should apologize.

      If that never occurred to you when you wrote that we should all search our consciences, well. I don’t know what to say to you, because, again, it would be against your comment policy.

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      smhll, I agree that Dan’s trying to say that he’s one of the good guys, but I don’t agree that he’s successfully conveying that message to the marginalized people he wants to convince. My point is that he needs to work harder on getting that message across, and showing a little more humility in communicating with said marginalized people and listening to their concerns would be a major step in that direction.

    • Jennifer, Uppity Bitch and General Malcontent

      SallyStrage @9: Agreed completely.

  • jim

    +1 to your post, and many of your follow-up comments. One concern I have in particular is that if the strategic approach to Atheism+ is “agree on our timeline or GTFO”, then those who are searching for online community that will influence their atheism will find and be welcomed in other communities that do not have the kind of shared values that form the bedrock of Atheism+. I have been pleased that in the wake of Carrier’s post that this concern seems to have at least a toehold in the minds of some of the movement leaders.

    I think it will be interesting to see, in the evolution of Atheism+, how your vision of interaction is accommodated, as so far it seems among FtB bloggers to be the minority. I had not followed your blog previously but will likely do so now.

  • benitofranqui

    Dan: you said

    “I don’t expect people to be perfect–especially on the internet!”

    While I don’t expect people to behave impeccably anywhere, I expect rational people to behave more ethically online than offline. My reasoning is as follows: online communication is carried on via the medium of intrinsically harmless, meaningless, powerless pixel patterns(PP) (words, pictures, symbols, etc) and sound bites (SB)(audio data). What I mean by that is that, strictly by themselves, these patterns have absolutely no power to either benefit or harm us until we choose to assign a particular interpretation to those PPs or SBs. To my knowledge, there have never been any instances in which a PP or SB has jumped from some screen or loudspeaker and physically assaulted a human being. Thus, when sitting in front of a computer, there is absolutely no reason for us not to feel perfectly safe as far as those PPs or SBs is concerned. We can take as much time as we want to to decide how to respond (if we decide to respond at all) to those PPs & SBs. How much more freedom could we ask for? Where else would we be less justified in responding rudely to a post because we have not taken enough time to weigh the probable consequences of a rude response?

    Contrast this to real-life face-to-face communications, where we’re always faced with making some urgent choice related to the age-old dilemma of flight, fight, or playing dead, since our personal safety could very well be at stake.

    For example, suppose I read at some message board: “Ben Franqui is an idiot”. How should I respond to that?

    Most people apparently think that Ben Franqui(BF) should think that that pixel pattern “is” an insult. They would immediately jump to the same conclusion that they would jump to if the subject of that sentence had been themselves instead of BF. They would probably be amazed to learn that to BF that pixel pattern “is” not an insult. To BF, that PP “is” a PP.

    BF, of course, knows the conventional interpretations of the individual words of which that PP is composed. BF knows that a reasonable interpretation of that PP is that that PP encodes a logical proposition. In ordinary logic, propositions are deemed to be “true” or “false”. BF then tries to ascertain if that proposition is true or false. If the author of that PP has elsewhere provided sound evidence that BF is indeed an idiot, then the proper, rational response for BF would be to thank the author of the PP for educating BF about something of which BF was previously ignorant, apologizing for behaving like an idiot, and promising to behave more rationally in the future. If, on the the other hand, the author of the PP has failed to provide sound evidence that BF is indeed an idiot, then BF has a choice of either not responding at all to the “offending” PP, or thanking the author of the PP for the amusing revelation that he/she is the real idiot.

    For many years I have tried to make precisely this point at numerous message boards. I have yet to find even one person who has demonstrated that he/she has fully grokked my point — in spite of the popular adage which goes something like “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words never hurt anyone”. I attribute this failure to the relative novelty of virtual reality in mankind’s experience. Our minds are still programmed to quickly respond to immediate threats, so it’s not surprising that our frontal cortices have not yet learned how to override the “danger” signals coming from our amygdalas, even when no danger is actually present.

    BF

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      People are worse online, I think, because it’s easier to treat the people they are talking to as abstractions. They are also given the chance to write out thoughts at length in a way that the pressures of immediate back and forths don’t allow. They are also dealing with strangers often and so they have far less personal investment in the people they are tempted to attack, far less concern about hurting meaningful relationships. The internet also brings together diverse people who might otherwise never talk and have little in common. The internet also (and this can be a wonderfully good thing) permits people to speak pent up ideas and thoughts that they are risk being penalized for in normal life. So people are more candid. It’s great that this enables marginalized groups in particular to finally have forums to get their feelings out without cost to their real world occupations/family relationships, etc. Another cause of conflict is that tone is hard to read and people can sound more hostile than they intend. Plus, dealing with strangers, it’s hard to peg who you are talking to and contextualize their remarks within their larger personality.

  • Steve Schuler

    Dan,

    Reading through this comment thread (97 comments at present) and seeing how thoughtfully and patiently you have engaged your interlocuters is really inspiring. You are certainly putting into practice the admonition to ‘lead by example’ which I’m sure is taking an incredible amount of work on your part. I have certainly benefited from these conversations and just want to thank you.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Dan,

      Reading through this comment thread (97 comments at present) and seeing how thoughtfully and patiently you have engaged your interlocuters is really inspiring. You are certainly putting into practice the admonition to ‘lead by example’ which I’m sure is taking an incredible amount of work on your part. I have certainly benefited from these conversations and just want to thank you.

      Thank you, Steve. I have no choice now–I’m going to be held to this standard I’ve set out now by my enemies, as is fair. I had might as well be scrupulous about living up to it in either case.

  • Tristan

    To be honest, it’s not so much the invective/hate that gets to me in all of this (although there’s certainly plenty of that) – it’s the oh-so-common conflation of niceness with honesty. What I see again and again is examples of what might at first glance appear to be simply spectacularly bad reading comprehension, if it weren’t for the fact that the misinterpretations are always extremely uncharitable.

    I spoke up in a handful of what I saw as more egregious cases, only to be shouted down as “supporting the misogynist” and “blaming the victim”. The dominant mindset really appeared to be that the “bad guy” really didn’t deserve to be treated fairly. This is obviously a very dangerous mindset to be in: where it becomes all about winning at any cost rather than reaching the best possible outcome. It’s just like doping in sport: if you resort to strawman arguments and similar dishonest tactics you might “win” – but your victory is ultimately meaningless.

    Anyway, this is all a roundabout way of saying: very well said. I really hope you have some impact.

    • http://alephsquared.wordpress.com aleph squared

      It isn’t the Pharyngula or Atheism+ or feminist or suchlike crowd who confuses niceness with honesty.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I am assuming Tristan meant confusing niceness with dishonesty.

    • Tristan

      No, I meant confusing niceness with honesty – as in, the idea that treating someone’s argument honestly is being nice to them, and if you don’t feel like being nice then you can dispense with honesty.

      And aleph: if you don’t see it happening amongst the FTB regulars, I don’t know what to say. From my perspective it’s endemic, and is in fact the number one concern amongst most of your detractors.

    • http://alephsquared.wordpress.com aleph squared

      If it is indeed endemic, I assume it would be fairly easy for you to provide an example.

    • Tristan

      While I’m somewhat loath to do do (since providing specific examples tends to just lead to defensiveness in those singled out, and “phew, it’s not me!” in everyone else), I’ll bite. This thread will do as an example:

      http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/01/10/d-j-grothe-replies-and-i-reply-back/

    • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

      PZ recently ended the endless thread, banned negativity in the new lounge thread and re-iterated three strikes and said no grudges where you dig up old posts to discredit people. Did he do these things as a pre-emptive measure or was he dealing with an actual problem that had developed in his commentariat culture?

    • http://alephsquared.wordpress.com aleph squared

      I haven’t reread all 301 comments, but I recall the thread and have skimmed it, and I don’t see anyone confusing niceness with honesty. Perhaps that’s just me.

    • http://alephsquared.wordpress.com aleph squared

      Ace of Sevens -

      Endemic is a word with a specific meaning. I am merely asking that that claim be justified.

      PZ’s actions could quite easily (probably, I think) have nothing to do with people confusing niceness for honesty, so I don’t see how your post is particularly relevant here.

  • Achrachno

    Excellent post. I’m mostly just a lurker here, so my views probably don’t count for much, but I hope you sway many of the regulars to your position on this. I’m in strong agreement of almost all of what you say.

    ” I think that interpersonal and inter-tribal abusiveness is fundamentally what is destroying the solidarity in our movement. ”

    That especially. I’m actually beginning to wonder if we ever really had a movement, or just thought we did. It’s shocking to see supposed rationalists choosing up sides and behaving like competing schoolyard gangs. Nothing “those other guys” say can possibly be right and deserves only abuse, usually without even reading what was said or attempting to understand what was intended.

    It’s appalling that there are people attacking you for advocating civility and rational discourse.

    • http://alephsquared.wordpress.com aleph squared

      It’s appalling that there are people attacking you for advocating civility and rational discourse.

      If you think that is what’s happening, you haven’t read very closely.

      We are criticizing him — not attacking him — for treating situations which are ethically distinct as equivalent. We are rejecting his claim that all invective is abusive and unethical. We are rejecting his ability to instruct marginalized people on how best to respond to hateful and bigoted comments and actions.

      The fact that you think that’s “attacking” him for advocating civility and rational discourse is surprising.

      (Incidentally, please reread my comments: where did I attack Dan? Where was I uncivil? Or Jennifer? Or Sally? Or anyone else who has been critical of Dan here? Please, try and justify your claims.)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I would rather not have a debate over whether I have been “attacked” or not. In the intellectual, argumentative sense people have attacked my ideas. A few people have levied some harsh moral charges or attacked the legitimacy of my speaking at all about these topics. Only ones that called me “arrogant” and “blinkered” and such crossed the line into personal, that I remember.

      That’s about it. It’s not been fun and I have not agreed with most of it, but it’s par for the course and all within people’s rights to disagree.

    • http://alephsquared.wordpress.com aleph squared

      A few people have levied some harsh moral charges or attacked the legitimacy of my speaking at all about these topics.

      No; people have questioned the legitimacy of you lecturing marginalized people on how they should respond to hateful and bigoted attacks on them.

      That’s not the same as attacking the legitimacy of you speaking on these subjects at all.

    • Tristan

      The only thing I have left to say here, I think, is that an overly charitable reading of those on “your” side is the flip side of the same coin. If you’re trying to lay claim to the moral high ground, you need to be constantly vigilant to ensure you’re actually standing on it.

    • Tristan

      Oops – replied to the wrong post. I’ll trust people to work out where the above should go.

  • Beth

    I like what you said in this post. I think you are right. Interestingly, I interpret your injunction against insults, even in retaliation to be essentially the same way I interpret Jesus’s instruction to ‘turn the other cheek’. It is a moral precept I try to live by and balance with withdrawal when I no longer care to expose myself to such hurts.

    I understand that many on ftb have been subject to much abuse and have cause for anger and need for a safe space. That’s understandable, but their “safe spaces” are not safe spaces for me when I disagree with a point. I can listen, but I don’t feel comfortable commenting on the other blogs because disagreement or even questioning on certain issues is likely to result in insults regarding my character and intelligence.

    I like your comment policy and approach. It’s currently the only blog at ftb where I feel comfortable expressing disagreement because I am quite sensitive to insult. Ironically I find little to disagree with here.

    • John Morales

      Interestingly, I interpret your injunction against insults, even in retaliation to be essentially the same way I interpret Jesus’s instruction to ‘turn the other cheek’.

      Huh.

      I see it as nothing like that at all; using that metaphor, Dan’s advice would be more like telling them it’s not on and charging them with assault.

      I find this moral precept of passively (or even joyfully) putting up with abuse rather offensive, and it’s clearly one which the vast majority of Christians never practice — rather, the opposite.

      (And it’s most certainly not what I see Dan as promoting)

      It is a moral precept I try to live by and balance with withdrawal when I no longer care to expose myself to such hurts.

      See what I mean?

      Withdrawing is not turning the other cheek; that would entail remaining there and copping more insults or abuse.

      (In short, I think it is a bad moral precept that would turn people into willing victims if followed)

    • beth

      I see it as nothing like that at all; using that metaphor, Dan’s advice would be more like telling them it’s not on and charging them with assault.

      I don’t follow this analogy at all. Could you explain what you are equating in this metaphor?

      I find this moral precept of passively (or even joyfully) putting up with abuse rather offensive, and it’s clearly one which the vast majority of Christians never practice — rather, the opposite.

      I agree that it is practiced all too rarely. However, few of us humans are able to manage perfection of whatever ideals we advocate, whether it be tolerance and love or reason and rationality.

      The idea that the moral precept of turning the other cheek is the same as being passive or joyful in tolerating abuse is right up there with the idea that the moral precept of using reason and rationality to settle disputes is the same as being unemotional and vulcanlike. They are distortions of the ideals, not accurate descriptions of the moral precepts being advocated.

      It is a moral precept I try to live by and balance with withdrawal when I no longer care to expose myself to such hurts.

      See what I mean?
      Withdrawing is not turning the other cheek; that would entail remaining there and copping more insults or abuse.

      I agree that withdrawal is not the same as turning the other cheek. My point was that I consider withdrawal better than returning abuse. I do not always succeed. I am not without sin in regards to returning verbal fire. I can only say that I try not to do so and I manage more successfully now than I did five and ten years ago.

      (In short, I think it is a bad moral precept that would turn people into willing victims if followed)

      I disagree. I don’t think either Jesus or Dan advocated becoming a willing victim. My interpretation is that they are recommending the moral choice to not to respond to abuse with futher abuse. This is difficult and that fact is recognized. While being a victim of abuse is not necessarily a choice we make for ourselves, whether we choose to abuse our abusers in return is always our choice.

  • Brownian

    But, a generic dig that the internet is a vice that people waste their lives on is not attacking specific people, personalizing a dispute, etc., so yes, it’s permissible.

    That’s what you think andreschuiteman’s comment is? It isn’t.

    It’s specific dig against the ‘uncivil’, with a generous dollop of moral superiority, and a side of aspersions against the values of their lives.

    Here, read it again:

    I can’t escape the impression that many people commenting on blogs are just lying in wait to find an excuse to be morally outraged and to retaliate by insulting the offenders as deeply as they can. You will be taking away their favourite toy by insisting on civility even against the uncivil. I predict that those professional commenters, who must be leading depressingly empty lives, will never give in.

    Perhaps your misreading is why this response makes no sense:

    If people want to speculate about the motives of those who spend lots of time online, then that’s a valid psychological question, even if someone has an uncharitable interpretation.

    I made this clear in a preceding comment still stuck in moderation:

    Ignorant speculation for the purpose of insulting an unspecified group is not in any way answering, or even approaching, a valid psychological question.

    As for this:

    I hardly think that makes me a hypocrite to anyone who is not looking for any faint trace of hypocrisy they can find.

    There’s nothing faint about it, but I’ll leave your appeal to motive as it stands.

  • http://twitter.com/magicthighs magicthighs

    Agreed. Due to developments since Paula Kirby published her Sisterhood of the Oppressed I’ve recently decided not to use invectives in my online communications anymore, for basically the same reasons you give here. It didn’t help me reach the people I disagree with, and I think it contributes to an (already) toxic atmosphere.

  • http://heartheretic.blogspot.com Lance Armstrong

    Ok, so, good faith question here. I agree with virtually everything Dan has said here, and try to apply these principles in my own writings. I don’t think that actual hate speech needs to be dealt with gracefully, nor death or rape threats or the like. I do think that a lot of bigotry is founded in ignorance rather than malice, and that civil discourse is a much more effective means of addressing that. I also acknowledge that sometimes, when things have struck very personal chords, it can be hard to respond respectfully to someone who has disrespected us. I try to imagine that I am writing my response for other readers, in that case, and it seems to help.

    I think that engaging in name calling is the end of discussion in most cases. Partly because of human emotional responses to it, and partly because simply calling someone a name (without elaboration) doesn’t communicate much information. A reader either already agrees that their understanding of that name (whether correct or not) applies to your target, or they don’t. People start lining up on sides, based on whether they already agree with their interpretation of the sentiment expressed.

    I see a lot of people posting the sentiment that Dan is preaching inappropriately to marginalized groups that he is not a part of.

    This gives me pause, because I am not part of those marginalized groups, either. I’m a straight, white, cis, able, etc. male. I have no idea what it is like to receive rape or death threats, because I am not in any marginalized groups that regularly receive these cuts, and others.

    If you are in such a group (so if you’re as privileged as I am this question is not for you), I would like to know what your thoughts are on the boundaries of civility, and which of these standards are just for yourself and which you would feel comfortable with as a standard to apply to others. I feel like we have to do something to improve the quality of communication on these issues. Do you? And if so, what?

  • didgen

    I am vrery much a lurker here on ftb, from my point of view you seem to be taking the position of not caring who started the fight, and that all actions have been reasonable from the point of view of that person. So now if everyone would just come together at the table and talk, magical deep understanding will occur. Unfortunately I think everyone must actually take a side when intentional efforts to hold down entire groups of people. It would be nice if there had actually been prolonged misunderstandings but covering this up with an unbelievably thick layer of polite verbiage does not change the blatant hatred shown to the bloggers here. I have hope that time and life will help some of the people who have espoused those views to empathise with others.
    But for now, I’m going to side with A+ and in a way that allows me to consider that the ones that I have clearly seen be abused be able to defend their positions without having to parse every word and sentence for all possible interpretations of impropriety.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I have also endorsed A+. That is compatible with my position here that acrimony is a serious problem in the movement.

    • didgen

      I understood that you endorsed Atheism+, maybe I was unclear in my last sentence. I have been both assaulted and draped in my lifetime, it seems that many here both bloggers and commenters have they’re own events and it makes it nearly if not always impossible to discuss this rationally. It just seems that you have quite a large amount of difficulty hearing them say it here. Even though they are presenting their arguments well in my opinion. I meant that I would read the blots that looked at the history of events here, and could listen to people and actually hear what they say.

    • didgen

      That should have read as raped, being draped would have been less life altering.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      That might depend on what you are being “draped” with?

    • John Morales

      didgen,

      I have been both assaulted and draped in my lifetime, it seems that many here both bloggers and commenters have they’re own events and it makes it nearly if not always impossible to discuss this rationally. It just seems that you have quite a large amount of difficulty hearing them say it here. Even though they are presenting their arguments well in my opinion.

      I suspect Dan will respond to your concern, but for immediacy I refer you to Dan’s response to Maureen above, at 26.1, in case you’ve missed it:

      I am so glad that women like you are coming out and speaking up about the injustices you have suffered. I am on your side completely in that. Just when people on either side are saying hateful things, I cannot side with the hate, no matter how much I may side with the moral conclusion it is being enlisted in support of. There are countless ways you can articulate your anger and hate injustice without it turning into interpersonal abusiveness and insults, etc.

      In short, it’s not emotionally-based lack of rationality which he decries, rather it’s personal abuse and unwarranted personal charges. He wants you to speak out.

  • insipidmoniker

    I’m not particularly interested in the moral argument about personal insults and acrimony. I do, however, question the statement that meeting hatred with hatred leads only to explosive destruction. Is there any evidence for this statement?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      world history.

    • insipidmoniker

      Not really an annswer, is it? I had many, many reasoned debates about feminism with people who were quite well educated on the subject. I stll hand-waved much of it away because, after all, I had external genitalia and therefore knew better. It took direct, invective, even hateful confrontation for me to realize that my attitude was part of a system that was demonstrably harming women. People like I was, and still am far too often, may well require a short, sharp shock to the system before they realize the stakes. Doesn’t apply in all circumstances, but it certainly does in a few.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      Hiroshima – August 6 1945

      Nagasaki – August 9 1945

      250,000 men, women and children killed – nearly half of them incinerated instantly – the other half a slow death of agony.

      There are countless other examples.

    • insipidmoniker

      Incidents that are truly tragic, but do nothing to prove a statement that hate leads only to explosive destruction, no more than my experience would show that it leads only to realizations about patriarchy.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      So, 250,000 innocent people killed by two atomic bombs “does not prove a statement that hate leads only to explosive destruction”?

      Ummmmmm…my reply to you might lead to a lifetime ban on this forum.

    • http://heartheretic.blogspot.com Lance Armstrong

      Not really an annswer, is it? I had many, many reasoned debates about feminism with people who were quite well educated on the subject. I stll hand-waved much of it away because, after all, I had external genitalia and therefore knew better. It took direct, invective, even hateful confrontation for me to realize that my attitude was part of a system that was demonstrably harming women. People like I was, and still am far too often, may well require a short, sharp shock to the system before they realize the stakes. Doesn’t apply in all circumstances, but it certainly does in a few.

      I think there is legitimacy to what you’re saying here. However, I think there’s such a thing as a culture of being to prone to harshness without regard to whether it is effective. My own experience is a counter-example to yours. (And it may be that different strategies are required to reach different people.)

      I’ve always understood that all humans deserve equality, freedom, self-determination, etc. I used to have some misconceptions about feminism, and about what gender equality looked like, and whether we had achieved it already. My encounters with feminism left me feeling that the movement really had a lot of hostility towards men, that many of the sentiments were unfair, and just reverse sexism, and so on. Essentially, I felt like feminists had been assholes to me, that I was unwelcome in their movement. Because of my hurt feelings, because of differences of perspective and vocabulary, I was unable to really get on board. I would say things like “I’m for equality but I don’t really call myself a feminist” and “I’m on board with feminism as long as we’re talking about a male-positive version” and “I’m feminist light”.

      When someone doesn’t agree with your worldview, it is easy to dismiss them if they appear to be unfair, or attack a mis-interpretation of what you said, and so on. A number of factors led to my turnaround on this, but one of them was my partner, another was Greta Christina, and yet another was Ian Cromwell (because his gentle way of drawing my attention to my latent racist beliefs helped me accept that I could also have latent sexist beliefs). These people are certainly capable of being blunt, but I have not seen them be unfair or unnecessarily nasty when making a point. Suddenly I was capable of picking up what they were putting down.

      I think – and this isn’t a “should” statement to people whose experiences I don’t understand – but I think I could have been fully on board with feminism 10 or 15 years ago if I hadn’t consistently encountered attacks against my character and my gender while exploring it. I realize that people of privilege are exceptionally sensitive about things because they are unaccustomed to having their beliefs challenged in those areas. This is just what the experience felt like to me. I tried repeatedly over years to resolve my on-paper commitment to equality with my frustration with actual feminists. I’ve been reduced to tears by people whose rights I was trying to support. Of what use is that?

      I want to use my own voice to proselytize for social equality. I feel like my experiences equip me to talk compassionately to people with bigoted ideas, and to anticipate their sensitivities. I don’t know how that will go. So far, so frustrating, but I do think that they are as deserving of compassion as the rest of us, with whatever our own unresolved flaws may be. I’m not talking about making room for hate, or assault, or threats. I don’t expect everyone to be patient with stupid. I’m just talking about having compassion for people who are advocating ignorant positions in good faith. If I can be forgiven a religious expression, there but for the grace of God go I.

      I have no reservations about dismantling their position. I will not attack their person unless they demonstrate bad faith, genuine hatred, a resort to intimidation, or some other characteristic that has already rendered the conversation unfruitful. That’s my approach, and I find myself most comfortable in a conversation where others share that commitment to civility. When I read people being nasty to each other… it just disengages me from what they’re actually trying to convey. I think the atheism movement fell in love with snark, and I’m really questioning the wisdom of that now that I see all of this inter-movement acrimony. I certainly no longer believe that atheists are somehow intrinsically more reasonable than other people – we just got the god question right.

      Assuming good faith is a strong foundation for communication, in my opinion.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      Lance, do you have the same “compassion” for those with a theistic faith ?

    • John Morales

      Lance:

      When I read people being nasty to each other… it just disengages me from what they’re actually trying to convey.

      I can see how that character trait would be a problem, but don’t assume it’s universal, because it isn’t.

    • insipidmoniker

      Lance Armstrong,

      I really tend to agree with you. I think your method of communication is valid and desirable. I also think acrimonious, angry personal attacks and accusations have their place. Does the atheist community overuse them? Quite possibly, but I don’t think they should be dismissed as ineffective. Basically, as you said, different approaches for different people. Those that think like you and Daniel Fincke can definitely make a big difference, but I think PZ Myers makes a huge difference as well. I don’t at all mind the comment policy on this blog, I mind blanket statements about tactics being unhelpful or destructive without hard evidence to prove that they are.

    • John Morales

      Lance:

      Assuming good faith is a strong foundation for communication, in my opinion.

      I put it to you than an open stance without preconception regarding good faith ab initio is an even stronger foundation.

    • ‘Tis Himself

      Richard W. Symonds

      Hiroshima – August 6 1945

      Nagasaki – August 9 1945

      This response is a classic example of a non sequitur. inspidmoniker wrote:

      I do, however, question the statement that meeting hatred with hatred leads only to explosive destruction. Is there any evidence for this statement? [emphasis added]

      We’re all aware that hatred meeting hatred can lead to explosive destruction. But the question is must it lead to explosive destruction. The answer is quite obviously NO!

      There have been several instances at Pharyngula where people made silly or insulting comments and were met with invective. Later those people returned to admit they were wrong to make their original statements. So “hatred” did not result in destruction.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      I accept ‘Moniker’s use of the word “only” gets him out of logical trouble, but he’s still dangerously playing with words. We are not only logical beings – there’s more to us than that – and the danger lies in assuming that meeting hatred with hatred is somehow a morally good, justifiable quality. I would seriously question that assumption.

    • http://heartheretic.blogspot.com Lance Armstrong

      John Morales:

      I put it to you than an open stance without preconception regarding good faith ab initio is an even stronger foundation.

      I would respond that misunderstandings happen easily, and that reserving hostility and maintaining an assumption of good faith helps keep emotion out of the conversation, which helps people think and respond more reasonably.

      Related to that:

      I can see how that character trait would be a problem, but don’t assume it’s universal, because it isn’t.

      No, I don’t suppose it would be. My impression, just based on my own experiences with interacting with my fellow humans, is that it is a common enough character trait to be worth taking into consideration.

      As an example, Wikipedia uses an explicit assume good faith policy as well as a no personal attacks policy to help keep disagreements productive and focused on substance. My experience was that this works pretty well, and that it was particularly necessary in the editing of politically contentious articles.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Assume_good_faith
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:No_personal_attacks
      Obviously a social equality movement is not a wiki project, but I’ve seen how important these policies can be in facilitating an environment where people with strong feelings about contentious topics can work together to find common ground, understanding, and even consensus with their ideological opponents. In my limited experience with moderating edit wars, these are the first 2 things that need to be enforced to get the situation back on track towards something productive. I think those dynamics parallel ideological conflict in other areas where the interaction takes place via written word exchange, and that those experiences are at least partially relevant to what we’re discussing here. Notably, the lack of body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and other social cues in written exchanges makes it particularly easy for misunderstandings to take place. Hurt feeling can spiral out of control quickly, and I think it’s far easier to keep a discussion on respectful ground than it is to return it there. Ounce of prevention, etc.

      The 3-comment “rule” (it’s optional) over at FF101 is similar in spirit, and apparently adopted from something that PZ does or did. (I don’t frequent his blog.)
      http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/05/25/friday-feminism-blogging-while-feminist-a-3-comment-rule/

      I don’t have data to say that this is more effective than what you propose, it’s just been the case in my own limited experience.

    • John Morales

      Lance, good response, but I’ll only respond to this bit:

      Notably, the lack of body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, and other social cues in written exchanges makes it particularly easy for misunderstandings to take place.

      But equally notably, all these things can make it easier to focus on the content rather than the delivery and allow for a measured response.

      There are advantages to written exchanges that don’t accrue to face-to-face interactions, such as being able to calm down before retorting, being able to review or research material, and of course being exempt from physical intimidation.

      So, there are advantages and disadvantages to both media, and I think that to only make a case based on the disadvantages rather than the net of the aggregate of the two is less compelling.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      But equally notably, all these things can make it easier to focus on the content rather than the delivery and allow for a measured response.

      There are advantages to written exchanges that don’t accrue to face-to-face interactions, such as being able to calm down before retorting, being able to review or research material, and of course being exempt from physical intimidation.

      So, there are advantages and disadvantages to both media, and I think that to only make a case based on the disadvantages rather than the net of the aggregate of the two is less compelling.

      Yes, of course. In my own remark yesterday about why posting online involves a lot of bad behavior, I didn’t shouldn’t have made it sound like I thought the internet only came with disadvantages. I was just explaining why I’m understanding of how people wind up being incivil online. But of course I hope people can rise above it and as you note there are advantages for those willing to do so.

    • insipidmoniker

      Richard W. Symonds,

      Actually, I’m not making any argument about the morality of meeting hate with hate. I’m pointing out that arguing it has only one conclusion is fallacious. If anything, I’m discussing utility, not morality. I’m also not making any assumptions that we are a logical species.

      Honestly, I’m not quite clear on what you mean by playing with words. In what sense am I doing that?

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      To my mind ‘Moniker, you’ve just done it – by ‘playing’ with the words “moral” & “utilitarian”.

      As someone who believes we humans are uniquely moral beings – atheist, theist or agnostic – the two terms are not mutually exclusive. Your position seems to be a form of moral utilitarianism.

    • http://heartheretic.blogspot.com Lance Armstrong

      Lance, do you have the same “compassion” for those with a theistic faith ?

      I do, though I have also been prone to engage in snark and to express a thorough disregard that I knew would be taken as insulting. When I think about where I most need to calibrate my tone in discussions, that is precisely where I think I need work. I’m still struggling with how to handle that conversation well.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I too have compassion for those with theistic faith. And I think we all should try to for moral reasons. I think we should pay attention to what they really think without imputing worse motives to them than they have. I think we should recognize that their erroneous tendencies towards religious belief do not make them “stupid”. I think we should avoid demonizing them.

      I even think we should love them.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

      Yes, their errors are based on emotional needs, not a lack of intelligence. If those needs can be met in other ways, they are more likely to give up the fantasies and fallacies they cling to.

    • http://poundhillnorthindependentcrawley.freeforums.org Richard W. Symonds

      Well Dan, at the moment, my reason says I’m a Questioning Agnostic; my faith says I’m a Theist…and I don’t have enough faith, or reason, to be a Convinced Atheist

    • http://poundhillnorthindependentcrawley.freeforums.org Richard W. Symonds

      Sorry Dan, could you delete my Comment 21 (I can’t find any edit button). Cocked up by pressing the “submit” button instead of “delete” when cpoy pasting. Apologies all round.

    • http://heartheretic.blogspot.com Lance Armstrong

      John Morales:

      There are advantages to written exchanges that don’t accrue to face-to-face interactions, such as being able to calm down before retorting, being able to review or research material, and of course being exempt from physical intimidation.

      So, there are advantages and disadvantages to both media, and I think that to only make a case based on the disadvantages rather than the net of the aggregate of the two is less compelling.

      A fair point. Would you agree that the short history of the internet has provided clear indication that written, online communications are more likely to become nasty than face-to-face interaction? I’ve never encountered an in-person disagreement that descended into wishing torture, death, and more on each other, but these incidents are notoriously ubiquitous online. There’s more at play there than simple misunderstanding of course, but I do think that an additional call for civility is warranted online.

    • http://poundhillnorthindependentcrawley.freeforums.org Richard W. Symonds

      Not wishing to be flippant, but could it be that the types who used to write “filth” in public toilets have simply changed to a more comfortable location?

    • insipidmoniker

      Richard W. Symonds,

      I can see your point there. Let me amend my argument a bit. Stating that insults are immoral is, I think, a rationally defensible position. I may not agree with it, but I don’t have any particular issues with the reasoning. Stating that insults are, by their nature, irrational or ineffective is a whole different argument and one that I think has many flaws. That’s the argument that I’m taking particular exception to.

    • smhll

      I’ve never encountered an in-person disagreement that descended into wishing torture, death, and more on each other, but these incidents are notoriously ubiquitous online.

      Lance, I’m tempted to ask facetiously whether you have siblings, but I mean that just in the spirit of gentle teasing.

      I do agree that it’s easier online to run amok free of social consequence. And it’s easier to think of the other person as a spirit animating a bunch of text, rather than put a human face on them.

      An additional drawback of the medium is the time lag that often exists for responses. I think this causes people to get into the habit of leaping to the conclusion in preference to asking the other person for clarification and waiting for that additional data before going further.

  • insipidmoniker

    Key word is ONLY. As I said, they are horrific tragedies, but I could just as easily say that getting rejected from art school leads to concentration camps if we’re using single, oversimplified examples. I’ve just given you a situation where meeting hatred (my institutionalized hatred) with hatred (their very personalized hatred) did not lead to explosive destruction. It, in fact, lead to me thinking long and hard about the concept of privilege and making some rational decisions about my attitudes and behaviors.

    • http://heartheretic.blogspot.com Lance Armstrong

      I do, however, question the statement that meeting hatred with hatred leads only to explosive destruction. Is there any evidence for this statement?

      I think the question to ask is whether meeting hatred with hatred is, on average, more or less effective than another method or mix of methods. I can offer no answer without a resort to intuition and personal anecdote. It’s an interesting question, and I wonder if it has been subjected to any serious study.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      ‘Moniker, stop wasting my precious time – and possibly others – playing with words.

      You wanted an example, I gave you an example.

    • insipidmoniker

      That’s pretty much what I’m getting at. I’ve personally encountered people that have changed position when faced with patient, rational argument and those who’ve done the same when confronted with venomous invective. I’ve also seen people double down in both situations and refuse to engage. I don’t think there’s a simple answer here and, while not insulting people is fine, there are some rhetorical battles that I’d rather not enter with one hand tied behind my back.

    • insipidmoniker

      Richard W. Symonds,

      No, I didn’t ask for an example, I asked for evidence. There’s a world of difference between the two. If you take the statement “responding to hate with more hate is explosively destructive” it is a definitive statement, not just on the morality of invective, but on how the effects play out. I have prima facie evidence that it’s simply untrue. Your example is emotionally loaded and horrific, but it’s not evidence for that blanket statement. Many posts here assert that insults and invective aren’t just morally wrong, but that they are ineffective. I don’t think it’s a waste of time to look at wether or not that’s true.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      Fair point ‘Moniker, which is accepted – thanks – but I still feel uneasy with the word-play, which can create serious misunderstandings.

  • Jennifer

    Not enough time to discuss all the reasons I think your position on this matter is sound, Dan, and even less time to explain how I’ve tried to carefully ponder (and have sometimes learned from) the criticisms, but still find each one lacking. That said I offer two points.

    I disagree with this notion that you’re trying to police the behavior of marginalized people, insofar as it reflects an implicit assumption that marginalized people only aim their abusive or insulting language against non-marginalized people. It is a big blind spot of that objection to fail to see that the targets of the insults are sometimes, maybe often, aimed at other marginalized people, marginalized either for the same or for different reasons.

    An implicit assumption that annoys the hell out of me for related reasons is the notion that words like “stupid,” which are used to denigrate one’s intelligence, are equally harmful regardless at whom they are aimed. I think of “stupid” as a word that acts on other multipliers. Certainly I think a transgender or black person (e.g.) is overall far more marginalized in society than I am as a hispanic female. Yet that is not the end of the story. I have no reason to think that being called stupid is particularly, specifically, harmful to a transgendered person, who I suspect is statistically unlikely to have suffered gender+ethnicity+class-based assumptions of lower intelligence. Call me stupid, and I am sick to my stomach because it has pulled on a personal fear and insecurity with roots in my experience as a differently marginalized person.

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Jennifer, assuming that Dan really is not trying to police the behavior of marginalized people, the problem is that he hasn’t done a very good job of figuring out how to convey that in a way they find convincing. Consequently, his current approach is contributing to their ongoing experience of marginalization in this community.

      Your discussion of your experience of being called “stupid” is something that it’s worthwhile for those of us who might carelessly use the word to listen to and humbly consider. I’ve never seriously been called stupid, so I don’t have personal experience of what it feels like, and I have to learn how to handle that word, and general intelligence-related discourse, by listening to people like you, who *have* been marginalized due to (mis)perceptions about their intelligence. Dan is in a similar position with regard to racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and just about every other form of discrimination except possibly for anti-nerd discrimination, and the problem is that many of the people who *are* subjected to all of those different forms of discrimination are not getting the feeling that he’s listening to them in the way that you would like people like me to listen to you.

      A lot of the stuff he’s saying sounds very nice in the abstract, but the practical implementation in this particular context still has a lot of kinks that need working out.

  • Makoto

    I can understand people getting angry at others – we’re all human, after all. But I still firmly believe that if we can’t make arguments logically and without hate, we don’t have good arguments. Whenever I see someone insulting Ann Coulter for her looks instead of what she said, I try to tell them to attack her arguments. Whenever I see someone going off on a swearing rampage instead of saying why their opponent was incorrect, I feel the same. And so on, and so on.

    These may seem like small things, but I think they’re important ‘tells’ about the person making the argument. Too often, one side is demonized by the other. Rather than demonizing, I say destroy with logic and reason. It may not make for good soundbytes, but I think it’s more effective in the long run anyway.

    • John Morales

      Makoto:

      But I still firmly believe that if we can’t make arguments logically and without hate, we don’t have good arguments.
      [...]
      Whenever I see someone going off on a swearing rampage instead of saying why their opponent was incorrect, I feel the same. And so on, and so on.
      [...]
      Rather than demonizing, I say destroy with logic and reason.

      You state that in terms of a dichotomy, and it’s a false one, since it’s possible to do both simultaneously.

      (In particular, a sound and valid argument remains sound and valid argument regardless of how much hatefulness it’s packed with)

    • ‘Tis Himself

      “You’re wrong because of fact A” is just as logical and valid an argument as “you’re wrong because of fact A, you jerk.”

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      “You’re wrong because of fact A” is just as logical and valid an argument as “you’re wrong because of fact A, you jerk.”

      Indeed. So it’s superfluous rationally to add the insult. So you can make whatever important rational points you need to without insulting anyone.

    • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

      But, Tis Himself, the argument’s logic and validity is likely to suffer from the insult.

    • John Morales

      Dan:

      So it’s superfluous rationally to add the insult.

      Indeed. But it’s worse than superfluous to irrationally dismiss the argument because of the insult.

      (Which is why I think it better to ignore such insults than to take umbrage at them)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      (Which is why I think it better to ignore such insults than to take umbrage at them)

      I do understand that of course. I am willing to tune out excess negativity for an argument if one is there. But I still don’t think it’s to be encouraged. And some people are worth freezing out altogether for an overall negative effect on the dialogue. I would rather just find someone who will make the same points without the abusiveness.

    • insipidmoniker

      And if you’ve brought up fact A repeatedly and they’ve repeatedly ignored it, adding loud invective could be a rationally valid tactic to get them to address fact A.

    • Makoto

      Sure, it’s perfectly possible to demonize/insult and destroy arguments at the same time. I just don’t see the need, which is why my examples were focused on the far more frequent use of insults in place of arguments.

      But I just don’t see what using insults adds to the discussion, rather than just making the argument. Adding insults often just means the other side can focus on the insult, rather than the argument.

    • John Morales

      Makoto:

      But I just don’t see what using insults adds to the discussion, rather than just making the argument. Adding insults often just means the other side can focus on the insult, rather than the argument.

      But you’ve just noted something it adds: that very possibility, wherein the argument stands unrefuted and one can note that fact.

    • Bluharmony

      Right, and that’s how bad arguments remain unaddressed and Internet wars begin. Because once someone has already told you that you’re a useless human being with invalid opinions, there’s no incentive to reason, compromise, or reconcile. So you are right in that insults add something, but you’re wrong as to what it is. Insults add hate. Instead of persuading your opponent, you hurt them and give them reason to retaliate. Do this enough times and you end up with the climate we have right now. It’s not possible to stop hate by being hateful.

  • Anne Marie

    “Some good people are getting death threats, rape threats, and a wide range of almost unimaginable abuse for expressing their opinions. The hate is unbearable for them. People judging them cruelly and calling them bullies when they are lashing out in return need to stop. Escalating is not helping.
    And those lashing out need to be more compassionate too.”

    People getting death and rape threats need to be more compassionate? Are you serious?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      People getting death and rape threats need to be more compassionate? Are you serious?

      Not to those giving them death threats. I was saying that everyone, no matter who they are is part of a larger discourse in which they can make mistakes. Being wronged in one way does not mean you are immune to wronging others in other ways. That is all.

  • artharjar

    There has been a lot of substantive discussion in this thread about some of the ways in which an argument can be crafted to convey a message without unnecessarily abusing the listener. What I think is missing is a little bit of discussion about why this is important. I’ve seen a couple people hint at things like the effectiveness of the message and the greater good of the atheist movement but I’d like to be more specific.

    As has been stated, attacking individuals rather than ideas is a quick way to shut down an argument. There is a reason for this. There seems to be a strong push from the feminist side of this debate towards the idea that only an abused women can really understand what women are going through and thus that the rest of us should shut up and let them yell (for the record, I’m over-simplifying a bit to save space).

    I don’t think that position is correct or particularly helpful. I’m not an abused women but that doesn’t at all mean that I don’t have life experiences from which I can effectively empathize with abused women (or minorities, etc, etc). Sure, I’m personally a cis, able bodied, healthy, white male. However, my dad physically abused me when I was little, I’m married to a bi-sexual women who was sexually abused by another girl in grade school, two of her three sisters were sexually molested, one of my best friends is a lesbian, and so on. The point is not that my experiences compare to those of a women who has endured rape, but that I do have enough baggage in my life to be able to imagine something about what that rape victim’s life must be like. Perhaps more importantly, I can ask such a person what their life is like and I’m intelligent enough to understand her responses.

    The point is, just because I’m not a rape survivor does not mean that my point of view on how to carry out an effective debate does not have merit. And when that suggestion is made, as it has been above in different ways, I feel like walking away from the conversation. Some might say, “fine, GTFO” but therein lies the tragedy of the take no prisoners approach.

    This is the point that I think is being missed by the elements in this discussion (the A+ debate that is) who keep arguing that its ok to treat dissenters with abuse. Not everyone who raises their hand to ask a question is out to get women.

    Some of us have very legitimate concerns about what the creation of a sub movement within the atheist community is going to mean for the movement at large. Some of us legitimately think that reacting to every comment here on the blogs with personal aggression is not overall a productive approach.

    I am afraid to express some of these concerns on other blogs because the environment has become so hostile. I tried and nearly got my head chopped off. I (meaning people like me) are not the enemy. We have real questions that warrant calm answers. For example, its not so simple as “join us or GTFO”. Of course I’m 100% on board with the premise of Richard’s points about A+. What I’m not so sure about is the details.

    Where exactly are we going to draw the new lines. What specific behaviors fall into the acceptable category? I’m a photographer by night (meaning as a professional hobby). If I shoot art nudes with a female model am I objectifying her or am I empowering her? If I enjoy girl-on-girl porn am I taking advantage of the actors? If I allow my little girl to wear a bow in her hair am I merely a misogynistic patriarch?

    This is not a complete list by any means and some may sound somewhat flippant but the point is; what exactly does this new atheism look like? I’d like to make sure that what we create isn’t going to turn into some kind of false Utopian colony on the moon where a couple of self-declared dictators instruct us on just what it means to be a proper A+’er. I’m not suggesting that we’ve come any where close to that yet. I just want to be able to ask fair questions without getting lynched as a misogynistic douchebag.

    When all we do is fling hate words at each other, however vindicated they may seem, we miss this kind of nuance and thus we miss the people that A+ will need if it is to be successful. People like me who make up the rank and file. Allies who want to see women succeed and who can be a force of good in that direction. People who are currently being pushed out, perhaps unintentionally, by all the vitriol.

  • Captain Sneer

    “Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was nice?”

    Meanwhile, back on planet Reality . . .

  • B-Lar

    Dan, your post and your comments have given me several mind boners.

    Thanks.

  • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

    What exactly are you “warning” me about? I thought this was a good post and an attempt to open lines of communication. There is no one in this debacle who has nothing to apologize for because we have all taken sides and made mistakes. I was wrong to comment here, and I will never do so after this post. But I suggest you recognize the fact that all women have to deal with sexism and misogyny and that I’m certainly not an exception to the rule, and definitely not an exception in this ridiculous atheist “war.” Further, men have to deal with painful experiences too. None of this is an excuse for abusing others or trying to destroy their lives and careers as the FTBers have done and continue to do on a regular basis. I thought you were a reasonable person, but I was mistaken. I most certainly don’t hate you, but I sincerely hope this will be the last interaction between us.

    • John Morales

      I was wrong to comment here, and I will never do so after this post.

      I cannot gainsay you regarding your wrongness, but we’ll see whether your second clause is truthful, shan’t we?

      I most certainly don’t hate you, but I sincerely hope this will be the last interaction between us.

      Your hope rests entirely in your hands: you need only restrain yourself from coming here again.

      (Bye!)

    • Sally Strange

      None of this is an excuse for abusing others or trying to destroy their lives and careers as the FTBers have done and continue to do on a regular basis.

      Use of the overbroad label “FTBers” which includes all FTB bloggers and commenters as well makes this an untrue statement.

    • http://poundhillnorthindependentcrawley.freeforums.org Richard W. Symonds

      But it’s a true statement if “some of” is inserted between “as” and “the” ?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Use of the overbroad label “FTBers” which includes all FTB bloggers and commenters as well makes this an untrue statement.

      Indeed.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

      Clearly I did not mean “all” FTBers, as I am friends with and have nothing but respect for some of them/you. Generalities do not apply to diverse groups. That should always be a given. Again I apologize for judging Dan’s response too quickly. He wrote a constructive blog post that I would like to see people, myself included, take to heart.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      What exactly are you “warning” me about? I thought this was a good post and an attempt to open lines of communication. There is no one in this debacle who has nothing to apologize for because we have all taken sides and made mistakes. I was wrong to comment here, and I will never do so after this post. But I suggest you recognize the fact that all women have to deal with sexism and misogyny and that I’m certainly not an exception to the rule, and definitely not an exception in this ridiculous atheist “war.” Further, men have to deal with painful experiences too. None of this is an excuse for abusing others or trying to destroy their lives and careers as the FTBers have done and continue to do on a regular basis. I thought you were a reasonable person, but I was mistaken. I most certainly don’t hate you, but I sincerely hope this will be the last interaction between us.

      I was simply warning you and Sally not to get into a back and forth about a dispute you have elsewhere. Personal fights are not what this blog is for. Discussions of the true and the good are. This post does discuss the issue of personal fights in the blogosphere but its call is for introspection about one’s own ways one can do better. Insofar as you and Sally would only like to have another round of recriminations, the post has failed to reach you both. This was expected, I guess.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

      No, you are right, Dan, and I was wrong. That is all.

    • http://poundhillnorthindependentcrawley.freeforums.org Richard W. Symonds

      Dan, I agree with you – but only up to a point.

      Sometimes it can be highly creative – and often very entertaining – if contributors go ‘off-topic’ (eg have a ‘linguistic punch-up.

      This ‘wandering off’ in a seemingly different, unproductive direction is often not so in retrospect – often related (perhaps tenuously) to the main topic of discussion – but usually if the contributors ‘get things off their chest’ (for want of a better expression), things get ‘back on track’ – or a new topic is created from it.

      ‘Early intervention’, although tempting, can be damaging to creative self-expression, rather like trying to help the butterfly out of its pupa.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Clearly I did not mean “all” FTBers, as I am friends with and have nothing but respect for some of them/you. Generalities do not apply to diverse groups. That should always be a given. Again I apologize for judging Dan’s response too quickly. He wrote a constructive blog post that I would like to see people, myself included, take to heart.

      Thank you, bluharmony.

  • Dantalion

    Thank you Daniel.

    Still pondering whether I agree with all your points. But your general point is a really good one that someone needed to make. At this stage in the discussion, a call to civility is a call to improving the discussion.

    I mostly favor and practice civility. But I don’t know that I can personally agree with completely ruling out insults (out of respect to you and your wishes, I will of course make a point to refrain from ever using them at CWH). Some tasks call for a scalpel, and some for a hammer. When selected consciously and deployed wisely, abusive insults can be a valuable tool. The problem is that abusiveness (and tribalism) are far too easy to just fall into as a default response to anyone who disagrees. When people feel like they are being attacked, the most basic response is to attack. This being the most basic response, it is also the most common response. Unchecked and taken to its logical conclusion, this creates a situation where everyone is attacking everyone over perceived slights.

    Actually, I suspect that the problem is not primarily one of a lack or abundance of civility. But is a problem of people not being willing to listen to each other. Of course I don’t mean that we should automatically agree with what the other person says. Just that we should try to understand what the other person is actually saying, and respond to that.

    We talk a lot in the atheosphere about the common logical fallacies that unintelligent people commonly throw around. But there is one that intelligent people are all too prone to. Not only have I seen this make some appearances here on FTB, but it has been a major negative factor in our national discourse in recent years (well, not just recent years, but it’s gotten worse since 2001).

    It goes like this:
    1) I think X
    2) I have logical, principled, well thought out reasons for thinking X.
    3) Person B disagrees with X.
    4) Ergo Person B is lying/stupid.

    This is a fallacy. But it’s a difficult one to spot.

    It may be worth remembering, that we do not exactly know each other. All you really know about the other person is what they have told you, and what you extrapolate from what they have told you. In that extrapolation, it is necessary to jump to some conclusions. Unfortunately it is far too easy to get stuck on those conclusions.

    It may be even harder in cases where we have previously talked to people who disagreed with X and stated invalid reasons for doing so. But unless they actually say so, we don’t always know that these reasons apply to Person B.

    So to Daniel’s plea for civility, I will add this plea to my atheist pals. If Person B seems to be saying something so astoundingly stupid and untrue that you can’t conceive of any intelligent human ever having such a thought, take a moment to consider whether that is actually what they are saying. Maybe they are saying something completely different. It never hurts to clarify. And maybe the discussion can be a better one.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

      Because we don’t all know each other, perhaps it is a good idea to apply the principle of charity to people’s arguments until they provide a good reason not to. As an example, I was wrong not to do so in respect to Dan’s first comment directed at me. And I was wrong about him. As soon as I took the time to look at things from his point of view, our disagreement vanished.

      Maybe there is room for personal attacks on blogs, but personally I don’t think so. I think that collectively, we should restrain our attacks to ideas and arguments. Doing so doesn’t make us accommodationists; it makes us tolerant and respectful.

      Nothing good comes from constantly poisoning the well with ad hominems.

  • alonzoskelton

    I partly agree, but I “hate the sin, not the sinner.” I am comfortable with calling out hateful comments with unpleasant terms. Here in uber-right wing Texas, I am assaulted daily with endless repetitions of Fox News lies and pearls of wisdom from right-wing haters echoing Limbaugh, Fisher, Barton, Robertson, and all the rest of the “Lying for Jesus” crowd. I argue rationally with the mouthpieces of those haters, but I will not hesitate to call the leaders who spout nonsense the most despicable names I can find in my fevered imagination. They are, after all, public figures who I feel morally obligated to call out at every opportunity. It is my duty to call them “batshit crazy.”

    • http://poundhillnorthindependentcrawley.freeforums.org Richard W. Symonds

      Or “Bushit Crazy” ;)

      My suggestion would be to do something really subversive – turn the TV off, and lock it away for a month.

      You’ll get ‘cold turkey’ withdrawal symptoms only for a few days; the rest of the family will hate you; and probably the ‘thought police’ media will come knocking on your door – but it can be a wonderfully liberating experience of escaping the propaganda matrix.

    • Sheesh

      No, Richard, you don’t understand. When you live in a “red state” and you aren’t fabulously wealthy, you don’t have the option of just ‘not going to work for a month’. And even if you could, when your sabbatical from propaganda is over and you return to public life all the same people are still there repeating the same shit to you and each other.

      Here in uber-right wing Texas, I am assaulted daily with endless repetitions of Fox News lies and pearls of wisdom from right-wing haters echoing Limbaugh, Fisher, Barton, Robertson, and all the rest of the “Lying for Jesus” crowd.

      This is a statement about living among such people not tuning in on TV for the purposes of being outraged.

      As an atheist and “filthy miscegenist” living in north Florida, I commiserate with Alonzo and others, but I can’t risk my wife’s or my jobs or my son’s safety arguing with these people about their delusions. No, it’s safer for me to keep my head down.

      At least I can sometimes yell at racists online in other fora! (A moral failing I’m not alone in.)

    • http://poundhillnorthindependentcrawley.freeforums.org Richard W. Symonds

      Sheesh, sorry I didn’t make myself clear.

      I was suggesting turning the TV off for a month; I wasn’t suggesting not going to work for a month.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      As an atheist and “filthy miscegenist” living in north Florida, I commiserate with Alonzo and others, but I can’t risk my wife’s or my jobs or my son’s safety arguing with these people about their delusions. No, it’s safer for me to keep my head down.

      You have my sincerest best wishes with that, my friend.

    • Sheesh

      Hey Dan,

      Thanks! We’ve had some good talks in here, so being among “friends” pseudonymously helps.

       

      Hey Richard,

      So your comment was just a non sequitor? Because Alonzo wasn’t talking about the TV (except maybe to the extent that the people he/she has to deal with in public life watch a particular kind of TV and repeat what they see and hear).

  • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

    @Dan: I have immense respect for everything you’ve said here, including your criticism of me, and the way you’ve handled comments and disagreement.

    This is one of the best, most reasonable, most compassionate posts I’ve read in a long time. Whatever differences we may have about issues and goals, I am certain that they are not fundamental, and that we can hopefully all work together to make the secular community a better, safer, and more welcoming place for everyone with a desire to learn and contribute positively.

    I was delighted when I saw this post, then disappointed for a New York minute, and now I find myself delighted once again.

  • haggard

    Nicely put.

    Skeptics of all people should know that Ad Hominem is not a valid discussion tactic. Honestly if I’m in a fairly big debate with someone, I might put a bit of a jab here and there, but never does that take place of actual reasoned discussion.

    Personal attacks, especially when a post is just a naked personal attack, are just dumb, counter productive, they prove no point except perhaps that the poster him/herself is a hostile/generally not nice person.

    • Bluharmony

      Exactly! Actually, they may very well be nice, but bitter, hurt, or any number of other possibilities. All that we can conclude is that they prefer hurting someone to reasoned discussion or debate. This becomeseven more problematic when a blogger writes personal attack posts or engages in attacking commenters. This sets the tone for the discussion and encourages pile-on behavior.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com Quine

    Dan, I would like to ask you about this re the atheist billboard issue that has been in the news this week. Perhaps you could do a piece about it in terms of what does or does not amount to “hate speech.” I have been exchanging comments with some folks on general news threads who do consider what AA put up on the billboards to be hate speech, and I have been trying to distinguish the ridicule that is reasonable to direct at religion, from speech that advocates bad things happening to people who hold religious beliefs (speech which I do consider to be over the line). What do you think?

    • Sheesh

      Quine,

      Perhaps Dan has addressed some of these points generally in this piece, without getting into the specifics of whether their god is real, or their “savior useless.” I don’t really see how that could be “hate speech” so I don’t see what there is to say, reality being real and all.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Thanks Sheesh. I will have to revisit that piece soon and see if I still support all it said. This other piece I wrote on Blasphemy Day should also be helpful http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2011/09/30/my-thoughts-on-blasphemy-day/ If anyone spots a contradiction between my stances articulated back in 2009 in those two posts and my current anti-insult stance, let me know.

    • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com Quine

      Thanks Sheesh and Dan; I have reviewed those links and take much the same position re the material on the billboards. I was trying, though, to get to a bit deeper issue that also applies to Dan’s original post on this thread. Do you (and if so, how do you) differentiate between insulting someone and insulting someone’s beliefs? An added part is if you do think there is a difference, how do you get that across to someone who sincerely believes that just having insulted his or her beliefs, you have insulted him or her?

      This kind of thing comes up often. I may write that only an idiot would believe, let alone defend, the teachings of Scientology, which translates to being called an “idiot” in the mind of a receiving Scientologist. Whereas, if I write “The teachings of Scientology are idiotic.” I have not insulted the believer, directly, and there is the opening for that person to present a chain of reason as to why the teachings are not idiotic.

      I do see a brighter line drawn when it comes to advocating hate, violence or other mistreatment towards a person or group. I don’t think religious persons should be hated, or persecuted, although I do think their unjustified beliefs should be publicly ridiculed (and I part from Dan in that I don’t recognize ecclesiastical titles).

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I think we need to take a stand that some things that the religious take as insults are not, in fact, insults and they do not have a moral right to be offended that we need to recognize.

      Here are two posts where I delve into this a bit: No, Not Everyone Has A Moral Right To Be Offended and How Atheists Treat Religious Dictates as Holy.

      As I wrote in the latter post:

      The key problem to me with deferring to religious sensibilities when you don’t share them is that you wind up treating as holy (i.e., separate, special, inviolable) what they want to be holy. Their religion says, “no one may ever draw this or say that or take a position like that” and then when you go out of your way to not draw this, say that, or take a position like that, you are in practice acknowledging and deferring to that religion’s ability to dictate what you do and what thoughts you will express. You then are effectively treating and thinking of what they call “holy” as, well, holy—things which it would be wrong of you to ever challenge or treat with anything less than utter respect and deference.

      Religions should not be able to dictate this much from people who aren’t their adherents.

      This is not to say that I agree with every American Atheist billboard. They, as all things, need to be assessed on a case by case basis.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      This kind of thing comes up often. I may write that only an idiot would believe, let alone defend, the teachings of Scientology, which translates to being called an “idiot” in the mind of a receiving Scientologist. Whereas, if I write “The teachings of Scientology are idiotic.” I have not insulted the believer, directly, and there is the opening for that person to present a chain of reason as to why the teachings are not idiotic.

      I’m sorry, I misread this the first time, Quine. Yes, you shouldn’t say that some religious teachings are “what only an idiot would believe” or that “the teachings of Scientology are idiotic.” Just use more factual words like absurd, utterly fantastic, irrational, implausible, baseless, etc., etc. If they mistake that for being called an idiot, it’s their problem.

  • http://sinmantyx.wordpress.com M. A. Melby

    Linked is how not to be called a “bigot” – by ZJ.

    I understand and acknowledge the OP, but when you are dealing with cultural movements we need to talk psychology and sociology.

    A multi-pronged approach seems to be the best tactic to date.

    However, absolutely do I agree that those who feel they are on the “right” side can more easily psychologically cross moral lines because they believe themselves “right”. There are lines, that even in our “righteous” anger we should not cross.

    We need the cool calm and collected, but we need the angry screaming rioters as well.

    As far as lines that NOBODY should cross? I think those lines exists, absolutely, but calling someone a “bigot” or even an “asshole” is not even close.

    Unfortunately, calls for “civility” are many times calls for the uppity to quiet themselves and to express their angry in inoffensive, non-threatening ways — ways that are easily and summarily ignored by the majority.

    Ultra-civil rules of engagement ALWAYS benefit those who are already in power.

    I think some tactics are simply bad tactics, such as some of the rhetorical tactics that Greg Laden employs (ex: men are broken women).

    However, movements have figured out a while ago, that attempting to shame others into sharing one specific set of tactics is a one-way ticket to in-fighting, and that includes those who call for civility (ironically).

    For example, I do not like the abstraction that is insisted upon by the OP when having these discussions. I would rather be specific to the actions or words of individuals, taken as a case and discussed as a case.

    Abstraction has the problem of seeming passive-aggressive (as others have pointed out). Abstraction works when there isn’t actually a context – when the discussion is actually academic. This isn’t.

    However, this mode of approaching topics is what the OP seems most comfortable with.

    I understand, in abstraction, the goal of not essentially becoming what you hate. Lashing out, however understandably, can have self-perpetuating ill effects.

    However, what I find to be one of the many psychologically damaging teachings of my religious upbringing is the concept of “Turning the Other Cheek”. The idea behind this is similar to the OP – that if you do not hate, that hate will not be perpetuated. There is a great deal of truth to this in many circumstances. However, in my zeal I took this very far. I was treated terribly by my school mates, I was routinely beaten by my foster brother, and essentially nobody stood up for me, least of all myself.

    This is NOT what the OP wants, I know. He made it clear that there SHOULD be a response, but is placing very strict limits on what that response should be. Those who are victims should become the *perfect victim* – the faultless ones that “our enemies have no legitimate case against us.”

    That just doesn’t work in reality. We can at least attempt to take out the larger planks in our own eyes (to borrow from the Bible again), but even if we get them squeaky clean, it is never clean enough. Our skirts are never long enough. Our necklines are never high enough.

    This is a trapping of pacifism, that somehow if we perfect ourselves nobody can deny our moral superiority. I’m sorry, but I am unwilling to walk into a group of armed guards and be clubbed to death – line by line, being murdered to make my case. And WHO am I making my case to?

    I am not on board with all tactics, but I’m unclear what tactics the OP is willing and unwilling to employ.

  • Orion3T

    I may write that only an idiot would believe, let alone defend, the teachings of Scientology, which translates to being called an “idiot” in the mind of a receiving Scientologist. Whereas, if I write “The teachings of Scientology are idiotic.” I have not insulted the believer, directly, and there is the opening for that person to present a chain of reason as to why the teachings are not idiotic.

    I think it’s enough of an insult, and far more defensible and constructive, to use words like ‘irrational’, ‘delusional’, ‘fallacious’, ‘vacuous’ and so on. Words that don’t just say ‘that’s an idea only an idiot would believe in’* but rather say something positive about why you disagree with an idea or person, and which might lead to a constructive discussion of why.

    For example, if you say ‘that idea is irrational’ that is a clear and defensible claim – you can justify it by showing it has no rational basis. Similarly you could tell someone ‘I think you are being irrational with regards to this idea’ and they would have to go on to explain their reasoning. But if you just say ‘That idea’s idiotic’ you’re insulting the intelligence of the people behind it, something which is much less likely to be defensible because a lot of well-educated, well-informed, otherwise rational people have beliefs which other well-informed, well-educated otherwise rational people may completely and utterly disagree with.

    *I think it’s also worth noting at this point that using words like ‘stupid’, ‘dumb’ etc have ableist connotations and should be avoided for this reason also. For all you know there are people reading/hearing your work who either would have historically been slotted into one of these categories and disgustingly mistreated because of it, or who have been directly bullied by use of these words. I don’t want to derail this thread but Richard Carrier has started a discussion of this topic on his blog if you want to know more.

  • andreschuiteman

    You thought my response to you was an argument?

    Okay, so it was just a personal attack. Fine. I have no time to engage your BS. Bye.

    • andreschuiteman

      This was in response to 31.24.

    • John Morales

      Okay, so it was just a personal attack.

      It was?

      How so?

    • andreschuiteman

      Maybe Dan cares to spell it out for you; he appears to have the patience of a saint. Otherwise, look up the word ‘disingenuous’ in a dictionary.

    • John Morales

      I notice that you make many assertions, but cavil at attempting to justify them.

      (In passing, I note that you claim that you have no time to engage me, but nonetheless (obviously) have found time enough to retort)

      Maybe Dan cares to spell it out for you; he appears to have the patience of a saint.

      Maybe so, but then, I too have the capacity to be very patient.

      (Why is it that you put the onus for justifying your personal contention on a third party?)

      Otherwise, look up the word ‘disingenuous’ in a dictionary.

      But I don’t think you disingenuous — your allusions are clear enough — rather, I find you opinionated, blusterous and evasive.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      It’s probably time to pack in this exchange as it’s not going anywhere insightful anymore but establishing only that there is an increasingly disagreement.

    • John Morales

      :)

    • andreschuiteman

      It’s probably time to pack in this exchange as it’s not going anywhere insightful anymore but establishing only that there is an increasingly disagreement.

      I agree. Thanks for the hospitality.

    • Marta

      I will tell you straight up that there are few things more frustrating in a discussion that needs some time and many comments exchanged to get at a truth than having someone put an end to it because they don’t think agreement is going to be produced.

      AGREEMENT is not the point. It should never be the point. Understanding, clarity, a full and proper airing of another’s point-of-view–these are worthy goals.

      The argument you wanted “packed-in” was, indeed, going somewhere, and I found it insightful.

      Your blog, your rules, but prematurely ending arguments because they’re boring you is just about as frustrating as having someone switch the programming over to the movie “Heidi” in the last few minutes of an NFL game. And yeah, that really happened.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      You’re more than welcome to resume it on its merits, as are the participants. I just was referring to the two of them having turned more interested in each other than the ideas that was all. By all means reopen the topic for abstract discussion. You are right I shouldn’t declare it over for good. Thanks for pointing that out.

  • corey

    Bravo. I’ve been very disappointed in many of the bloggers at FTB. Some creepy totalitarian instincts flying around here lately. Character assassination, straw man arguments, and emotive accusations seem to have taken over lately. You just gave me a reason to come back. Thanks.

  • http://skeptifem.blogspot.com skeptifem

    I am heartened though in that every time in my comments section that I calmly, cooly, and clearly reply to someone losing their temper that they seem to relax and engage me rationally. It’s this way in real life too. Responding to hate with peaceful reason is powerful. Responding to hate with more hate is explosively destructive.

    That must be really nice, to have people react to you that way. It isn’t the reaction I get at all. It isn’t the reaction women get in general. Why do you think that is? Could it have something to do with our relative social standing? I don’t get the luxury of being taken seriously because I made a really well reasoned point. I will never be taken as seriously as you are by the vast majority of people. Men are not nicer to me when I am nicer to them, they just use a different set of sexist insults or dismissals. I will be seen as hysterical regardless of what I have actually said. Anti-sexist suggestions will be seen as self serving and insulting no matter how mild they actually are. This is my lived experience talking sexism with men. The payoff you talk about from a polite approach just isn’t there for people who are subject to social injustice. I tried your way for years, it simply doesn’t work. Maybe it works for men. Either way, most of the people I know who are rude are made that way by years of having their polite reasoned objections go absolutely no where (or worse: invite more abuse). The crux of this post is about what works and what doesn’t, but the only proof is essentially an anecdote, one that doesn’t really address other possible causes for the favorable outcome.

    • http://heartheretic.blogspot.com Lance Armstrong

      This gives me pause. Thank you for sharing it.

    • http://sinmantyx.wordpress.com M. A. Melby

      Thanks for that post.

      I think discussion is definitely an art. This idea that there are hard and fast rules that always work for everyone just doesn’t pan out in reality.

      Eventually, my credibility is established, but it is NEVER assumed. There is probably more than one reason for this, but my gender is one of those reasons.

      When I present myself in a gender-neutral way on-line (and am almost always assumed male) I am perceived MUCH differently than when I present myself as female. I use different tactics in discussions when I am assumed male and when I present myself as female.

    • http://poundhillnorthindependentcrawley.freeforums.org Richard W. Symonds

      And thanks for that post M.A. Melby – and to the rest of you.

      I have found almost-all of your posts valuable & thought-provoking – some posts requiring me to do considerable ‘soul-searching’- an endless quest.

      I have considered myself very much an outsider in this FTB (even a ‘troll’), especially as I’ve already said – somewhere in these 300+ posts) – “my reason says I’m an Agnostic; my faith says I’m a Theist; and my reason & faith says I’m not an Atheist” – but you have made me feel welcomed and valued – for which I appreciate, and thank you all.

      As regards ‘rules’ etc, I still hold the view – perhaps more strongly now – that the best policy for a voluntary online discussion forum is a “No Constraints” policy – where people can freely expressive their views – whether perceived destructive or constructive.

      In my view – and I sense many of you will disagree with me (some very strongly) – I would encourage “trolls”, especially those who seem to ‘cross a moral line’.

      The reason I say this is because their extreme views ‘shine an immediate light of increased intensity’ on those who discuss – or try to discuss – sensitive, controversial, highly-charged issues with rationality and humanity – it’s an “art”, as MA Melby says, an art which most of us try to perfect, but will never achieve 100%.

      Of course, when we strongly disagree with each other – which is inevitable – things are often said which shouldn’t have been said. The pathological “troll” won’t apologise or forgive – but they usually disappear pretty quickly from the discussion when they are quickly identified – but for those of us who remain, we CAN say sorry & forgive – thus finding a bridge to heal.

      Shit, I’m sounding like a vicar. Sorry all.

      Just wanted to share those thoughts – thanks.

  • http://wicknight.wordpress.com Wicknight

    Cannot express how much of a breath of fresh air your post is Daniel.

    Hopefully this attitude will be adopted going forward and we can get back to what scepticism is supposed to be about, the rational discussion of ideas (good or bad), not the endless tit for tat abuse and cynicism that seems to be infesting the community at the moment.

  • Deepak Shetty

    And when we think we are in the moral right, we are oh so tempted to start venting all the darkest, nastiest, and cruelest parts of ourselves with a good conscience.
    Yikes. Guilty as charged.
    Here’s my problem (as in my problem – not a problem with your post)
    If I do get angry(usually when I see something that I believe is morally wrong) I lose some sense of judgement and proportion. That’s a long standing issue (probably quite common too) – and it wont be rectified soon.

    In the short term(because improvement for the above is gradual) however I’m faced with two choices – not get angry or live with my behavior. When I look at some of the things that get said or done I cannot quite convince myself that anger isn’t the right response.

    The only true, honest, and rationalistic solution is for there to be a unilateral ceasefire from abusiveness
    This will be quite hard I guess. I’m sure a lot of people will sign up to wont cast the first stone but when things get personal its pretty difficult to not respond in kind. Im curious will other FTB bloggers sign up for the unilateral ceasefire even if provoked?

  • artnut

    I found long ago, that I can write a blog…or write a reply…and don’t have to read or visit it again. I know, it’s CRAZY!!! I’ve been called “rude” that I do not spend hours/days/years of my over half gone life reading what people think about a blog I have written or a reply I have made. I’ve said my bit. If I have time I do like to reply to a question, but if I don’t, I don’t. The joke that went around for a long time was “well, you know she’s (or he) living in her parent’s basement and has been job hunting, this blog is all she/he has. I have a job and am in graduate school, plus I have this thing called a relationship.”

    I also hear, “You shouldn’t blog if you don’t have time for it.” I have time to write my blog, I don’t have time for endless battles. I also will read other blogs, and I might reply, but that’s usually it unless I have more free time.

    There is freedom of speech and there is also freedom not to say a darn thing.

    I was once mentioned in a very well read blog (over 50,000 readers a day). I was warned before it was published (and asked if my name could be included) to expect a blacklash. When I ran into this blogger later (and indeed many friends that had read all the commentary) they seemed worried about how I had taken it. The other woman mentioned had also taken a “beating”. I smiled and said “I just read the article, and it was wonderful. You actually don’t HAVE to read the commentary!” My ego and feelings were fine, and I was able to enjoy a lovely CSI event without fear of who was “after me” or “who can I trust”.

    Write more blogs, read more blogs, reply…but don’t get caught up in the wasteful drama, unless that is your thing. It gets lonely in the basement (which you can mentally occupy as much as physically occupy).

  • haggard

    @Orion3T, You make a good point, one that reminds me of Dave Silverman’s appearance on Bill O’reilly’s show.

    Bill was constantly trying to strawman dave by saying “you are calling us idiots?” or something to that effect. Dave was very emphatic that this is not what he was saying, the descriptor was scam, and you don’t have to be an idiot to be scammed.

    Had he on national/international TV straight out said in FTB fashion “you are all idiots”, ears around the nation would have curled up and closed.

  • baal

    I’ll admit I had to stop reading comments about half way through the list (time constraints)

    I’d like to echo #19, 30 and 37 (amongst many) who are supportive of your efforts Dan. You’ve really given yourself a Herculean task.

    I came here after reading the comments at pharyngula. Despite the new comments policy there, they are back to marginalizing anyone who is not part of the in-crowd. The reason I came here was that your posts are articulate and really excellent at getting semantics right and logically parsing your position. It confirms for me that I’m not having trouble thinking and that I can expect comments with occasional charity or rebukes stated mildly (or passionately but lacking hate) . When I read the comments there, I’m continuously struck how ideologically driven, disproportionate or uncharitable the commentators are.

    For the folks here who are consistently negative toward Dan (self select as you will), do you think it’s possible that the lashing out of oppressed groups is sometimes not ok and if so, how do you tell when?

    • http://sinmantyx.wordpress.com M. A. Melby

      I really have to know if you are “baal” that has a noise project. It’s driving me crazy.

      Anyway, that’s a great question. I’ve been thinking of making a blog post about it and most likely will soon.

      The short answer is, that my view of this is a combination of “informed consent” and “reciprocal response”.

      In other words – there should either be consent to the type of interaction that is going to take place OR the interaction represents a measured response. It is not reasonable to expect the oppressed to be civil when the oppression is not – sometimes it’s justified to put on ski masks and have a punk concert in a church without a permit (just sayin).

      As I said before – all else is art.

  • garyfletcher

    Thank you!!! Thank you!!! A thousand thanks!

  • http://crissa.twu.net/ Crissa

    I don’t see the point of denouncing slurs and threats when you’re also unwilling to penalize someone for doing so?

  • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

    Whew, that was a quick moderation release. I guess Dan is paying attention or something.

    • http://icarusswims.blogspot.com Anne C. Hanna

      Argh, reply depth fail, argh argh argh. I guess that’s my karmic retribution for messing around here instead of working. Logging out now.

  • JP

    Dan, if I may, I’d like humbly and respectfully to offer my thoughts on your policy and position.

    My perspective is that of a trans* person who deals with multiple debilitating diagnoses of mental illness, including severe depression, schizoaffective disorder, and anxiety; and as an atheist who is personally invested in establishing dialogue with others who have shared experiences that, in extra-atheist circles, would invariably be classified as ‘spiritual’. Your blog, while perhaps not wholly unique in addressing such issues, has nevertheless carved out a niche for itself in terms of providing a venue for a fairly specific subset of the atheist community to discuss subjects that are not always popular elsewhere. I’m grateful for that; but not only for that.

    I’m also grateful that you provide a forum in which it is possible for those of us who are triggered by rage—even when moral, even when in defense of positions we find politically personal and relevant—to participate. I am not the only one who feels generally vulnerable in discussions that hit too close to home, or who is discouraged from participating when rhetoric runs too high, and for many like me, established rules of discourse are reassuring and empowering. I absolutely respect the arguments of those who assert that rage is their right and their duty when confronting those who work with deliberate insistence to maintain the systems that oppress them; they have my full support and admiration. But they are stronger than I am, and our needs are different. Unlike them, I find that repeated exposure to rage debilitates me to the point where I genuinely cannot function, where it impedes my ability in my offline duties to act as an advocate in defense of those who are yet voiceless. It’s easy simply to say, “Well, don’t read the comments, then!” But I have no analog atheist community to support me, no venue in which to discuss matters which are of profound importance to my personal well-being. And my well-being, while statistically insignificant, is important to me, to those who care for me, and to those for whom I care. I don’t rely solely on your blog or its comments policy for that; but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that they help.

    I understand what people mean by saying they feeling stifled or silenced. Believe me, I do. I have experienced that in other areas of my life, and it is devastating. I believe those voices and the passion they embody are crucial to the general conversation, and I support them unequivocally. But I am grateful for small oases where I can be relatively certain I will not experience panic attacks or crushing episodes of depression on a regular basis, and where I can practice self-care by deliberately and methodically engaging in measured, thoughtful dialogue on subjects that are important to me. These aren’t things that are necessary for everyone, by any means. But there are those of us for whom they are indispensible, and on behalf of us all, I’d like to thank you for creating a place where we feel invited to participate and contribute.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

      What an excellent post. For what it’s worth, due to prior emotional abuse I can’t handle the kind of attacks that go on in other blogs either. You are not alone; there are many of us in this boat. Civility solves the problem easily, yet so few are willing to engage in it.

  • http://Templeofthefuture.net James Croft

    I just want to express my support for your moderation policy and your general stance on this issue. It has been my observation over the last few months that a number of FTB bloggers are taking a more active role in moderating their comment threads in order to ensure a certain baseline of civility, and I have found it extremely positive in terms of my ability and willingness to contribute in valuable discussions.

  • John Moriarty

    Dan, there have been far too many words, so let me be brief, your policy is a no-brainer for those with more brains than raw emotion in controlling their words.

    Given the ease with which things turn into chaos on many internet issues, I suggest those dissenters to your policy consider this a social experiment. Its not like the entire internet has clamped down.

    Time will settle much of the argument.

    I am 100% behind you!

  • qbsmd

    I like this post, and I hope I live up to this standard. If anyone feels I’ve personally attacked you, please let me know.

    Is it your goal to try to reunify the atheist-skeptic movement from the current division; do you believe it is possible or desirable? And either way, what do you see as the next step?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Is it your goal to try to reunify the atheist-skeptic movement from the current division; do you believe it is possible or desirable? And either way, what do you see as the next step?

      As others have noted in this comments thread, in their own domains a lot of bloggers enforce civility standards and recently FtB made clear that among us bloggers in our backchannel discussions that we must be civil with each other. My only recommendation is that the whole movement take this to heart when dealing with each other across each other’s blogs and across Twitter and Facebook and everywhere else. My recommendation is that posts criticizing other people avoid infighting by acknowledging the common ground with those who disagree with us, charitably summarizing their arguments against us by showing how they are reasonable and interpretable as coming from a morally justifiable place (if necessary), before offering reasoned critiques.

      Bloggers and tweeters should scrupulously swear off feuds, dogmatism, strawmen, insults, and, basically, abandon this whole approach to debate as one of gladiatorial contests rather than debates among people each committed in principle to rationalism and other Enlightenment values.

      And I recommend bloggers and tweeters from all over the atheist blogosphere take my advice and, even if they do not apologize to particular people, at least make clear that they want to avoid these corrosive behaviors as matters of new policy.

  • MroyalT

    You know.. I read this post twice now. All I see is a giant waste of time. I was hoping that you would have something more substantial to say, something that I have not heard before, something refreshing, something worth that fancy education you got.. but all I got was someone who is so wrapped up in their privilege that they have not the faintest understanding of what they are doing wrong. This is not to say I disagree with everything in this post, I agree with a lot of it, it is to say though that this post is riddled, riddled with micro-aggression, riddled with privileged rhetoric, and riddled with someone not trying to listen but too engage in motivated reasoning in an effort to deny parts of their own privilege.

    It is gross, and it is gross to see others here, even fellow minorities fall hook line and sinker to this sort of rhetoric. Crommunist just made a post about this sort of thing you just did here.. I recommend you read “the eye of the beholder”…. cause that is the exact description of what certain parts of your posts contain, and that makes me very angry, very frustrated, and think that all the previous things I wrote on here, and the messages others have given you on this thread, are nothing but a waste.

    You say no hate, but I think that this post kills my hope for true change. Change does not come without those who have privilege… owning it. You have clearly taken some steps in the right direction, but here you take two steps back. It is shameful.

    I will read your blog and stuff, just cause you have an education that may serve me well in philosophical maters… but god damn it will take too much effort to post here about social justice issues with someone that posts things like this. Then to have others in a circle jerk of sorts falling all over themselves thinking they solved the issues.

    It is just so hard to articulate why you are so damn wrong, and it takes to much effort – so I am just exhausted by the efforts in this thread not having any impact on you whatsoever. Here I will just bow out… but I am just sending you the message..

    “You are doing it wrong, and you just don’t get it”

    The primary mechanism for this, is in fact, the way your privilege has blinded you, and I know this can not be helped, after all this is the result of your life experiences. Yet, this is is why this post kills my hope. If even you can succumb to such inane commentary about social issues… then what hope do I have for other privileged people?

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

      So to sum up, your argument is “You don’t get it because of your privilege.” And my argument is that statements such as yours don’t help anyone gain understanding into the real nature of the problems, whatever they may be.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      MRoyalT, do you even know all the details and ins and outs of the proximate infighting issues in the atheist blogosphere that I am actually indirectly addressing?

    • MroyalT

      @ bluharmony

      Oh I understand that there is no utility in my comments for Dan. That would require more personal effort on my part, and I am not willing to do this in particular because..

      1) It has already been said a dozen times
      2) Dan just seems intent on not looking at why his position is in fact are a reflection of privileged thinking.
      3) I have tailored the message in a way, that it does not require me to make a huge emotional investment required to smash down the psychological barrier he is putting up at the moment.

      @ Daniel Fincke

      I could make some assumptions sure.. but that does not give any real credence to what is wrong with your position – though I want to emphasize that most of it is pretty good. Yet there are many parts which you also in part knew would piss people off, that are in fact a reflection of certain privileged experiences. This judgement could well be wrong of course, I don’t have a minds eye into your brain.. but like many talks about social issues, this is often not necessary once you understand certain patterns of behavior – which you have eloquently shown with certain rhetorical flare that would be admirable if it did not disguise rather significant problems. I am just not certain it is worth grueling over….. but I did want to post my frustrations with this post – for some reason or other I am having difficulty verbalizing.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      MRoyalT, I feel like you are psychologizing me and dismissing the seriousness of my intellectual, moral, and psychological efforts in a fairly condescending, presumptuous, and judgmental way. This is a shame, as I explicitly counted you as someone capable of having intense values and intellectual disagreements with people of good will without becoming personally acrimonious. I would still hope you are capable of that and that this was just a frustration you needed to get off your chest before resuming our dialogue at some future point. If it’s not and you’re going to write me off as “too privileged to waste time on”, then that’s unfortunate.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      For the record though, the actual situation I address is one in which many of the worst aggressors on all sides are some of the most privileged people and in some cases the abuses being thrown at each other are between fellow marginalized people. The notion that this is one gigantic attempt to silence marginalized people in general or in specific is grossly false and unfair.

    • dysomniak, darwinian socialist

      Dan, are you really so incapable of seeing the other side of this that anyone who disagrees with you is automatically “condescending, presumptuous, and judgmental”? You obviously aren’t a stupid person, and I don’t believe you to be malicious, but you are utterly in the wrong here.

      You don’t have to let this comment out of moderation if you don’t want to, I don’t really care and I won’t repost it elsewhere. I guess my only hope is that if enough people say this to you politely enough you might reevaluate your position.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Dan, are you really so incapable of seeing the other side of this that anyone who disagrees with you is automatically “condescending, presumptuous, and judgmental”? You obviously aren’t a stupid person, and I don’t believe you to be malicious, but you are utterly in the wrong here.

      You don’t have to let this comment out of moderation if you don’t want to, I don’t really care and I won’t repost it elsewhere. I guess my only hope is that if enough people say this to you politely enough you might reevaluate your position.

      Really? Remarks about how thickheaded I am and blinded by privilege and having psychological walls up and committing “microaggressions” is not psychologizing me in a presumptuous and judgmental way?

      He didn’t address my arguments or my wording, he attacked my psychology personally and talked about how futile it was to address me. That’s oversensitive of me to assert that I am being attacked in a psychologically condescending way, rather than being addressed as an intellectual and moral equal? I have patiently replied to dozens of such replies the last month. I am not allowed to object to people constantly making this about my personal character and implying all sorts of bigotries on my part because I oppose interpersonal abuse? It’s impossible for me to argue that people shouldn’t call each other assholes and stupid and make strawman arguments and demonize their opponents and engage in feuds—without secretly being a bigot blinded by privilege engaged in micro-oppression against the oppressed? I deserve to be psychologized for this?

      I am sorry, but I disagree and am tired of being treated like a moral child for it.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I have been reeeeeeaally indulgent of personal attacks on me and people making these discussions about me instead of the rectitude of my ideas and the other commenters’ ideas. I’ve been more indulgent of it than attacks on other people, which I have policed more carefully.

      New rule: no personal attacks on me either. Address my arguments and treat me respectfully in the process, like an intellectual and moral equal, or go away.

    • MroyalT

      @ Daniel Fincke

      Everything in your replies are laced in sheer irony. Your casual attempts to victimize yourself is a behavior pattern that is very natural to people who have no real grasps of how deeply embedded their privileged experiences effect their ideals. Do I really need to lay out all the predictable patterns of behavior that are a mark of a privileged person? Cause you got them all.

      You don’t want to be dismissed but that is what you are doing to others in a passive aggressive way. The difference between you and others is that some of them just say it straight.

      You feel as if your intellectual character is under question… but what have you done by accusing others who take the aggressive route of not knowing how they effect the ones they combat with fury?

      You expect me to be a saint on this subject… how many times have I heard this from people of privilege? Do I need to go to the rape analogy again? Do I need to detail to you why, at this moment of time, I can not, and why at this moment in time your post is laced with triggers to those familiar with talking to the white folk?

      I counted on you sir.. I counted on you to not say silly privileged things.. I suppose we both failed to live up to each others expectations.

      Here is what is unfortunate… there is a world of difference between us. Do not speak to me of unfairness, do not speak to me of arbitrary societal rules of engagement.. not when society is deeply unfair. Such trivialities are warped by the fact that the main reason I can not reach you here, and perhaps you can not I, is because society is fashioned in such a way that our experiences make us live on alien planets. There are light years of space time between minorities and the privileged.. and minorities have been screaming for a while to be heard. Yet those things go wasted when someone makes little attempt at self reflection, so see how easily their behavior patterns match up to those of the past who have made bad efforts in good faith.

      I know your hearts in the right place… but this is not the time, to speak of hearts.. but it is to speak of functions. The way you function betrays your intentions. That is what I am calling out here. Just like the way american society functions betrays its intentions… america hates racism but it functions as if it loves it.

      This is not about character assassinations.. it is about assessment of ones behavior, or in this case thoughts, to see if such things easily reflect patterns of marginalization. If so, then one needs to tread lightly, however victimized they may feel at this demand.

      If not, than this is an indication of someone, who despite their best efforts are not in a place to understand what their actions mean in the greater scheme of things, and why not just individual assessments matter, but the bigger picture matters. Each tiny micro aggression in your points paints a familiar picture of privilege – despite some of the better messages contained within it… and this is not an unfair point to make.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      @ Daniel Fincke

      Everything in your replies are laced in sheer irony. Your casual attempts to victimize yourself is a behavior pattern that is very natural to people who have no real grasps of how deeply embedded their privileged experiences effect their ideals. Do I really need to lay out all the predictable patterns of behavior that are a mark of a privileged person? Cause you got them all.

      You don’t want to be dismissed but that is what you are doing to others in a passive aggressive way. The difference between you and others is that some of them just say it straight.

      You feel as if your intellectual character is under question… but what have you done by accusing others who take the aggressive route of not knowing how they effect the ones they combat with fury?

      You expect me to be a saint on this subject… how many times have I heard this from people of privilege? Do I need to go to the rape analogy again? Do I need to detail to you why, at this moment of time, I can not, and why at this moment in time your post is laced with triggers to those familiar with talking to the white folk?

      I counted on you sir.. I counted on you to not say silly privileged things.. I suppose we both failed to live up to each others expectations.

      Here is what is unfortunate… there is a world of difference between us. Do not speak to me of unfairness, do not speak to me of arbitrary societal rules of engagement.. not when society is deeply unfair. Such trivialities are warped by the fact that the main reason I can not reach you here, and perhaps you can not I, is because society is fashioned in such a way that our experiences make us live on alien planets. There are light years of space time between minorities and the privileged.. and minorities have been screaming for a while to be heard. Yet those things go wasted when someone makes little attempt at self reflection, so see how easily their behavior patterns match up to those of the past who have made bad efforts in good faith.

      I know your hearts in the right place… but this is not the time, to speak of hearts.. but it is to speak of functions. The way you function betrays your intentions. That is what I am calling out here. Just like the way american society functions betrays its intentions… america hates racism but it functions as if it loves it.

      This is not about character assassinations.. it is about assessment of ones behavior, or in this case thoughts, to see if such things easily reflect patterns of marginalization. If so, then one needs to tread lightly, however victimized they may feel at this demand.

      If not, than this is an indication of someone, who despite their best efforts are not in a place to understand what their actions mean in the greater scheme of things, and why not just individual assessments matter, but the bigger picture matters. Each tiny micro aggression in your points paints a familiar picture of privilege – despite some of the better messages contained within it… and this is not an unfair point to make.

      No, this is character assassination. I am passive aggressive and “victimizing” and committing microaggressions for taking a stand against personal abuse and demonizations?

      NO. I am sorry, I am not going to be manipulated by this. I have a mind and a conscience of my own. I am entitled to disagree with people when their reasons are unpersuasive to me. I am listening to their experiences and learning whatever there is to learn and nuancing my positions as necessary. But the rest is ad hominem and attempted emotional blackmail and this strange attempt to end arguments with the word “privilege” instead of persuasive arguments.

      I am sorry, MRoyalT, but I have treated you like an equal and listened to you at length and offered you the (untaken) opportunity to guest post on my blog even.

      I just disagree. If there is no room for that, then I am sorry, but I think your conception of discourse where anyone ever disagrees with members of marginalized groups for any other reasons than due to blind privilege, then I think you are flat out wrong.

      This post was about incivility in the atheist blogosophere. That was it. It had next to nothing to do with racial issues. It was not about silencing anyone, it was about the ways people’s moral stands made them into self-righteous fundamentalists who took license to personally abuse each other and only escalate feuds instead of nip them in the bud rationally.

    • MroyalT

      @ Daniel Fincke

      OMG… Did you really just write all that nonsense about the person in this thread that you implied that have been victimized the most… is you? Did you just seriously do that?

      Here is the news flash, the fact that you are privileged does in fact effect your behavior. No one here is trying to accuse you or being a moral fool.. they are trying, and failing, to tell you that your behavior patterns match up to people of privileged that do not understand the issues. This behavior pattern, is also usually, but not always, a reflection of some misinterpretations of social justice issues.

      I am glad you can mount up this.. “You treated me wrong.. now go away.” And “Speak to me on my privileged terms or begone”.. I had a deep suspicion this was at work. Dear lord almighty… Don’t worry man. I will save you the trouble and be out.

      I will say one more thing.. the last thing you did was treat me as an equal here. Despite your attempts. What you have done is the usual thing that a lot of privileged folks do… they use you up just as long as you make hand holding comments about how good they are at this, and approach them in a certain fashion, and then spit you out as soon as you make any attempt to call out foul privileged behavior. Responding with this lame “you are trying to blackmail me!” is so damn predictable that it is sad.. no.. no.. I am trying to make you see. Yet that is not going to happen if you don’t want to see, and if you are too in love with your philosophical positions to see… so… yeah..

      I am out, for good. I am sure this means nothing to you. I will say what I told you before.. the privileged don’t understand the investment minorities take when speaking to them, they get too caught up in their personal offenses to get to the real point, any conversation that revolves around like this… it is always the minority that loses in the end. I am sure you can just brush this off. I am sure you are adept at lots of motivated reasoning to just flat out state with foolishness that “I am wrong.” Keep that confidence. Good for you. Good for you.

      In the mean time, this events just cements for me, and perhaps unjustly, that very few if any are capable escaping societal norms.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      OMG… Did you really just write all that nonsense about the person in this thread that you implied that have been victimized the most… is you? Did you just seriously do that?

      Yes, MRoyalT, as the blogger here, more harsh criticisms were leveled at me, quantitatively than anyone else and I allowed it because my argument about ethics in the main post elicits this kind of response.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I am sure this means nothing to you.

      And this is your problem. You know nothing about me or the emotional investment I put into this. Because I am privileged. Therefore, this must be easy for me and my conscience rests unperturbed.

      This is your presumptuousness. This is your disrespect. I don’t make these personal attacks on your character. You show nothing but contempt and condescension for mine.

      Rules about not insulting and personally attacking people are not just arbitrary rules of societal engagement. They are moral precepts. I am sorry we cannot agree on that. I am sorry I think you’re wrong.

      But I am entitled to my opinions and to stand by them until I am convinced otherwise.

    • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

      comment deleted at Ace of Sevens’s request.

    • Still me

      “Yet those things go wasted when someone makes little attempt at self reflection, so see how easily their behavior patterns match up to those of the past who have made bad efforts in good faith.”

      “…[a minds eye into your brain] is often not necessary once you understand certain patterns of behavior…”

      “they are trying, and failing, to tell you that your behavior patterns match up to people of privileged that do not understand the issues.”

      In context of the rest of the comments, do these criticisms avoid the fallacy of affirming the consequent?

    • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

      You seem to be condemning our host here based on speculation about how he will apply these principles. That’s never cool because you aren’t criticizing him, you’re criticizing your ideas about him. When he posts something about how George Zimmerman shouldn’t have shot Trayvon Martin but Jesse Jackson shouldn’t have said blacks are under attack, so both sides are wrong, you may have a point, but right now you’re reaching.

    • andreschuiteman

      All this talk about privilege with respect to discussions between anonymous people on a blog is tiresome. In most cases the participants know almost nothing about each other. There is every opportunity for an exchange of ideas on equal terms; more so than in the real world. A strict requirement for civility* in such discussions, with proper enforcement, seems to me the most reasonable way to enable all parties to express themselves and to be heard.

      From what I have seen so far, the host of this particular blog goes out of his way to create an environment where such a discourse is possible. I am baffled by the hostility Dan has to endure for these efforts. Apart from amorphous accusations and appeals to privilege, privilege and again privilege I hardly see any proper arguments presented for this hostility. It’s all a fog of discontent; lots of words, little substance. People just seem to be mightily frustrated that they are not allowed to call other people names. Meanwhile, the value of proper reasoning appears grossly underrated.

      *Civility of course entails much more than just curtailing insults.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

      Excellent comment. In fact, I can’t believe that someone would be dragged through the mud and called “privileged” because of a simple request for civility and “no hate.” My abuse as a child doesn’t give me the right to abuse others. It may give me the right to hate my abuser, but that’s pointless, so I don’t.

      Since when is “no hate” a controversial request? I guess I missed that memo, too.

      And if you want the right to call people names that hurt them, then you have to realize that those people have the right to respond with names that hurt you.

      The first step to ending hate is to stop hating.

    • qbsmd

      “I just disagree. If there is no room for that, then I am sorry, but I think your conception of discourse where anyone ever disagrees with members of marginalized groups for any other reasons than due to blind privilege, then I think you are flat out wrong.”

      I’ve noticed this before too: commenters that disagree on some point are told they are wrong and privileged, and when they repeat or support their point they are accused of something else, like misogyny or JAQing off or arguing in bad faith. “Privilege” looks like it’s mostly an ad-hominem argument: you’re wrong because of who you are so nothing you say matters. I’m ready to conclude that if someone can’t make an argument without using the word “privilege”, they don’t have an argument to make.

    • John Morales

      qbsmd, privilege is a sociological term that is indeed sometimes misapplied (and even abused), but nonetheless it refers to a valid (and empirically verifiable) concept.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

      Aside from the concept of privilege being abused and used ad hominem, I have a few fundamental problems with it. First, it addresses perceived rather than actual privilege. What you see isn’t always what you get (and even more so, online). Second, as already mentioned, it is almost always used to evade rather than refute an argument. Third, for any person there are many different privileges and disadvantages at play, so it’s impossible to determine if one person is truly privileged over another merely by means of minority status or gender. Finally, the idea of privilege downplays human ability to empathize, which I think is one of mankind’s best, most noble characteristics. And as we extend that empathy outside our social circles, outside our gender, race, and economic status, we become a more tolerant and accepting society. I question whether constantly pointing out the differences between us helps anyone in the end. I would love to discuss these topics without animosity or accusations, as I would like to learn where I am wrong, if, indeed, I am. I’m often wrong, and I admit that.

      Also, it’s disheartening to see the term privilege lobbed at me by someone who is of the same gender and knows nothing about my life experiences (or discounts them as irrelevant). Because of this I too have come to interpret “privilege” as a way of saying “I have no argument to make.” In fact, that’s how I interpret name-calling in general.

      Setting aside whether or not “privilege” is sociologically and empirically valid, I think there are less abrasive ways to say, “Hey, you may not be able to understand what it feels like to be a woman/minority under these circumstances because [insert reasons here].” This approach enables further discussion rather than shutting it down completely.

      And as an example, I fail to see how Dan hurt anyone with this thread, other than that certain people felt like he should be siding with them against enemies like me. Which I assume he is, but he is doing it with civility and tolerance, so he has my utmost respect.

    • qbsmd

      I accept that privilege is probably a real thing; I would argue that the most significant contributors are probably social skillscharisma, physical attractiveness, presenceabsence of mental illness, intelligence, economic status, and then racegenderreligion, in about that order. I am of course open to empirical evidence for reordering those.

      I assume many of the people here have at some point talked to a religious person, who was absolutely certain that their god is real, yet completely unable to provide publicly available evidence. I’ve talked to people that even knew they were unable to provide evidence to another person, but felt they internally had absolute proof. As a skeptic, I reject any epistemology that allows objective facts without evidence that anyone can investigate. The way people talk about privilege reminds me of those religious people in that they’re convinced they’re right, but can’t make an argument to persuade someone else.

      Many people seem to use privilege as the faith, or maybe the sensus divinatus of social justice. I’ve seen bloggers and commenters here accused of dogmatism; if this is why, I can respect that opinion.

      I’m not saying there isn’t evidence or a good argument somewhere; I just haven’t seen it. If Richard Dawkins and other evolutionary biologists always responded to creationists with “evolution is a fact; it was proven decades ago. Check your faith and get with the science or you’re not welcome in the scientific community. Take biology 101.” rather than patiently explaining how natural selection works and the lines of evidence from fossils and genetics, I would probably be a creationist today.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

      I’m not sure about your order. I think money, health, and power, in combination, are the ultimate privilege. All the other things you mention are just different ways that we can get those things, except in the case of illness (mental or otherwise), which is still easier to handle with money and power.

      For an example, let’s take President Obama. Do I have white privilege over him? Technically yes, but in comparison to me, he is privileged in every real-life way. Would a white President not get the racist comments that an African American President does? Of course not, but I doubt race will stop any liberal from voting for him. So the only way someone could be privileged over President Obama, as I’ve heard privilege described, is if they were President, male, heterosexual, and white. But, in reality, that’s impossible, since there’s only one American President, and that’s Obama. What about my white privilege — the suggestion that I’m privileged just because I haven’t heard the same racist comments or suffered discrimination like he has? Technically, that’s true again, but it doesn’t take into account that I was seriously discriminated against and despised for being Jewish while living in Russia, and then discriminated against again for being “a commie” when I immigrated to America. Then, of course, there’s the issue of my gender, looks, age, intelligence, emotional sensitivity, family/community support, socio-economic status, and other relevant factors that I’ve lad little-to-no control over (presuming free will even exists). So given the above example, my white privilege is completely meaningless. Individual circumstances matter.

      Or, to put it another way, privilege is just a way of judging someone on group membership rather than personal characteristics, which can give you only a very rough estimate of an individual’s circumstances. This is fine if you don’t have the actual data, but why not use the actual data when it’s available? Why stereotype?

      The above is not meant to dismiss the usefulness of diversity/affirmative action programs to help provide better representation and opportunities to disadvantaged people. But it does mean that I’m not going to make any assumptions about a person merely because of their race, gender, or sexuality. And it does mean that I’m not going to take unfair advantage of any power I may have over others. This is what social justice looks like from an egalitarian, as opposed to a third-wave feminist, point of view. And it requires neither guilt nor name-calling, just an earnest attempt to make the world better and more equal for all.

  • gouchout

    Excellent post – I admire your stance. I’ve been following some of the “elevatorgate” & A+ controversy as a complete outsider, & this is the first article I have read that seems unimpeachable.I found it quite moving.

    I’m from the UK & the US-centric nature of so much of the recent controversy is very marked. I mean, WTF is a “douchebag” anyway(in the insulting sense)? Surely its a term that insults women, like so many insults that assume anything associated with the female is of lower worth, & that anything associated with women’s reproductive system is inherently revolting.

    (I had the impression that “douching” is something that is a US thing(practically non-existent in the UK AFAIK), done by women who are a bit neurotic about hygiene, a bit like circumcision(also rare in the UK) – I was shocked to find out that a large majority of US males have been damaged/abused in this way).

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

      I think that “douchebag” is one of many insults rubber-stamped by third wave feminists, so it gets thrown around a lot. “Asshole” is another one. Frankly, I was shocked when I discovered that this is how a group of educated adults refers to each other online (and off?)

    • John Morales

      bluharmony, those particular insults are rubber-stamped permissible by (some) feminists on the basis that they’re not gendered — but yes, the implicit assumption is that insults are at times an appropriate way to express one’s animus.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

      I think that’s a better way to phrase what I said John, so thank you. I’m not sure if the first of the two is completely non-gendered. But since the contraption harms women (as well as gay men), it’s permitted by some feminists. At least that’s largely how Rebecca Watson explains it in her video. Can we agree on that?

    • John Morales

      [OT]

      Regarding ‘douchebag’, I raised the issue back when (on Pharyngula in October 25, 2008, 1:11 am and was duly corrected by SC and others — not a bad beginning to my education in these matters).

  • navigator

    OK, response thread was TLDNR. The responses that I did read were full of vitriol. The comments made me uncomfortable so I stopped reading. And there is the truth of your original post.
    I do admire and fully endorse your post. Let’s build bridges, not burn them down. I work with Fundamentalist Chrstians, and we disagree on so much, but we have a common goal, taking the best possible care of our clients. And we work it out.
    Yes, it’s easy on the anonynous internet to post things that we would never say to someone face-to-face. Not say to someone you talk to every day, have met their significacnt other, their parents, gone to a cook-out on their deck.
    Let’s bring civility back to the conversation, after all, isn’t that the rational thing to do?

  • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

    Yes, but sadly it’s impossible to use reason to get people to stop hating. Logic and emotion don’t walk hand-in-hand. That’s why this rift occurred, largely.

    • John Morales

      Disdain and derision are often interpreted as hate, but that is a misperception.

    • John Morales

      [OT]

      BTW, aesthetics is a form of emotional logic.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

      Disdain is a synonym for hate, and derision is what occurs as a result. There’s no doubt that I *feel* hated when I post on some blogs. But if a woman’s feelings are what’s most important as a matter of policy, there’s no need to differentiate, even if there were a difference. Right?

      OT: Aesthetics as emotional logic is an interesting concept. I’ve never thought of it that way, but I think I like the idea. Do you have any reading suggestions on this?

    • John Morales

      [OT]

      bluharmony, right were the ‘if’ to apply, which I think it doesn’t.

      I am a bit of an outsider (i.e. I don’t identify as a feminist, because I see that as an ideology, and I’m very antipathetic to deontological thinking), but I’m pretty sure feminism is an egalitarian ideology, such that its very point is that a woman’s feelings are no lesser in any way than a man’s (or, for that matter, an agendered person’s) but not any better, either — but because historically the prevailing view has been otherwise, it’s a pushback towards equality and it therefore sometimes requires remedial action (i.e. ‘affirmative action’ a.k.a. meritorious counter-discrimination).

      (As they say, patriarchy also harms men)

      As for aesthetics, I’m a bit of a Philistine in that regard and consider it arbitrary (other than on a neurological basis), but I understand it to be the critical study of that which is emotionally pleasing. So, no, I can’t offer meritworthy suggestions.

      (I’m not sure if Dan has expounded on it, he’s probably much more authoritative on the matter than I)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      (I’m not sure if Dan has expounded on it, he’s probably much more authoritative on the matter than I)

      I have never studied aesthetics very formally. I have a lot of thoughts on the subject but they’re not very authoritative.

    • http://www.skepticblogs.com/musingsfromtheskepticalleft/ bluharmony

      I agree with everything you say about feminism. I’m a bit of a “closet feminist,” as I despise the term, but I support affirmative action and proportionality of representation as long as certain baselines for competence are met. Also, generally speaking, as a mixed economy socialist, I think it may be easier to start the path to equality though economic action. But that will never happen in the US, I fear.

      I have tons to say about art and aesthetics, but we have gone way OT, and I don’t want to derail Dan’s thread, which I truly appreciate.

      Thank you for your perspective.

  • http://aceofsevens.wordpress.com Ace of Sevens

    I think the issue is people are reading what Dan says and coming away with the impression that he would read an article like this one and come away saying that David Futrelle shouldn’t have called Roosh a total asshole because that makes it difficult to have a productive conversation with rape apologists. I think he’s saying that because someone asks a stupid question like “what’s wrong with pick-up artistry,” you shouldn’t assume them to be on Roosh’s level and treat them accordingly.

    • insipidmoniker

      Unless I’m badly misunderstanding Mr. Fincke’s position he is saying exactly that Mr. Futrelle should not have called anyone an asshole as the act itself is immoral. I would agree that he’s also asking for a more charitable interoperation of, and response to, questions like the one you used as an example, but he certainly seems to say that insulting someone is, by it’s nature, an immoral act.

      Personally, my ethics are fairly situational, so I’m pretty much fine with personal attacks on rape apologists.

  • http://GatwickCityofIdeas Richard W. Symonds

    The Guardian – UK

    viewtopic.php?f=20&t=712 (Hat-Tip : Paul)

    A new movement, Atheism+, has prompted non-believers to spit venom at one another rather than at true believers, writes Peter McGrath:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree … spit-venom

    In the passionate world of American atheism, the venom usually directed at believers has now been turned against the wrong kind of atheists.

    The cause of this freethinking furore? A new movement called Atheism+. According to its website, “Atheism+ is a safe space for people to discuss how religion affects everyone and to apply skepticism and critical thinking to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, GLBT issues, politics, poverty, and crime.”

    A+ was born when Freethought blogger Jen McCreight (the mind behind Boobquake) made a passionate call for a “third wave” of atheism, one that extends atheist activism into progressive politics and calls for a part of the movement to be one where women can exist free from the harassment that has plagued women publicly involved in the atheist movement.

    The founders of Atheism+ say clearly that “divisiveness” is not their aim, but looking through the blogs and voluminous comments in the two weeks since A+ was mooted, trenches have been dug, beliefs stated, positions staked out and abuse thrown. A dissenting tweeter is “full of shit”, while, according to one supporter, daring to disagree with Atheism+’s definition of progressive issues and not picking their side makes you an “asshole and a douchebag”.

    It took 700 years from Constantine renaming Byzantium in his own honour to papal legates circulating letters of anathema that split the Roman and Orthodox churches. Atheism, in its public, online life, has started exchanging internet anathemas – perhaps we should call them inathemas – in little more than a decade.

    People are being told to wipe the spittle off their chins, take their heads out of their asses. The Life of Brian’s lines about the various fronts for the liberation of Judea are being oft-recycled. 140 character brickbats are being thrown on Twitter under #atheismplus.

    PZ Myers, soft-spoken in person but trenchant in print, said of A+ critics:

    “It really isn’t a movement about exclusion, but about recognising the impact of the real nature of the universe on human affairs. And if you don’t agree with any of that – and this is the only ‘divisive’ part – then you’re an asshole. I suggest you form your own label, ‘Asshole Atheists”, and own it, proudly. I promise not to resent it or cry about joining it. I just had a thought: maybe the anti-Atheist+ people are sad because they don’t have a cool logo. So I made one for the Asshole Atheists:
    A*”

    Fellow Freethought blogger Richard Carrier goes further. When one commentator suggests “atheism does not have the luxury of kicking people out of its movement”, Carrier gives him a rare old quilting in most splendid prose:

    “Yes, it does. Atheism+ is our movement. We will not consider you a part of it, we will not work with you, we will not befriend you. We will heretofore denounce you as the irrational or immoral scum you are (if such you are). If you reject these values, then you are no longer one of us. And we will now say so, publicly and repeatedly. You are hereby disowned.”

    How like Pope Leo’s letter to the patriarch of Constaninople in 1053 accusing him of “many and intolerable presumptions, in which if – as heaven forbid – he persist, he will in no way retain our peaceful regard”. Even at this most serious moment for the future of Christianity, the pope managed to resist the urge to call the patriarch immoral scum, an asshole and a douchebag.

    One of the joys of atheism’s outlets on the internet was that they were clever, deft, funny, tolerant and irreverent. It was certainly robust and not for the faint-hearted.

    Those of us who do not wish to extend our atheism into someone else’s definition of progressive politics may take rather unkindly to being described as immoral scum, useful but unsavoury body parts, and outdated contraceptive devices. In the week when American atheism made its appearance in the Economist’s editorial pages, it seems to have been sowing the seeds of that most religious of events – a schism.

    St Paul would be laughing his head off, had a Roman soldier not already deprived him of it. “See,” he might now write after reading those modern epistles, the blogs, comments and tweets around the birth of Atheism+, “how these atheists love one another.”

  • http://www.thegoodatheist.net The Good Atheist

    Dan, you’ve written a fantastic article (although the length might bite you in the ass a bit),and I find it shocking how difficult of a concept this is to grasp. I think the problem is that people feel legitimized in their hatred, and this allows uncivil behavior to spread. I’ve heard what I thought were rational people argue themselves into the worse positions and defending it by accusing others of positions that represent the extreme of what they try to argue.

    Trying to defend a person who may have said misogynistic things paints you in the same category, and this is how I know that these people are in the wrong: the speed at which you get labelled in this scene now is getting scary. Sexism is a contentious issue in all of society, and yet we see it bring out the worst in us.

    If people don’t know how they can respond to hate without echoing that same emotion, I suggest they do a little bit of research on Martin Luther King jr. Would be a great place to start.


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