My Thoughts on the Civility Pledge

My Patheos colleague Dan Fincke has proposed a civility pledge for people engaged in public discussion.

I think his motivations are good, and most of the pledge is fine. I completely agree with his points about using specific charges rather than abusive epithets, about recognizing that members of marginalized groups may have experiences which I lack, and about refraining from slurs based on ethnicity, gender or sexuality. I also particularly like his point about the difference between safe spaces and debate spaces and the important functions that each kind serves, which is a valuable distinction that more people could stand to recognize.

However, I can’t sign the pledge as it’s currently written. There are three points I have serious reservations about:

3. I commit that I will always focus first on the merits of other people’s arguments and not disparage them personally for asking unpleasant questions, taking unpleasant positions, or simply disagreeing with me.

This point says that if I take this pledge, I’m committing to not disparage anyone personally, even if they say something that’s patently racist, sexist, or otherwise deeply bigoted and offensive.

I don’t know what definition of “disparage” Dan has in mind, but I won’t pretend that every debate I engage in is merely a dispassionate exchange of ideas. Some are, but not all. I’ll gladly debate any idea in the abstract with people who demonstrate their good faith and mutual respect, but I don’t tolerate serious arguments in favor of hurtful bigotry and prejudice, and I have no problem saying that people who engage in that behavior are ethically deficient.

For instance, when a convicted neo-Nazi pedophile wrote to me trying to befriend me, I had absolutely no problem calling him the worthless and wretched human being he was and is. I believe that ideas so repugnant merit such a response, in order to send a strong message that people who hold those ideas have no place in an ethical and civilized community.

9. I commit that I will apologize when I hurt others’ feelings, even when I do so unintentionally and even when I do not think their hurt feelings are justified.

I have a major problem with this point. If I read it right, it’s saying that if someone claims their feelings were hurt by something I said, I’m obligated to apologize to them, regardless of my belief as to the validity or reasonableness of my statements.

As we all know, claiming personal offense when confronted by arguments that merely attack their beliefs, not their character, is a pervasive tactic of religious believers. This part of the pledge, I believe, amounts to rewarding this behavior. It would be impossible to argue against a thin-skinned believer if they could demand a personal apology from me every time I made a statement critical of their ideas.

11. I commit that I will not make accusations of guilt by association.

I have serious objections to this. This point implies that it’s forbidden to criticize someone for their choice of commmunity, no matter how odious the behavior of that community may be. I see no reason to commit to this. What this pledge calls “guilt by association”, I call a recognition of the fact that bigotry of all kinds is heavily dependent on the perception of social sanction.

As we’ve found out over the past year, there are some members of the skeptical community who don’t post violent threats or obscene taunts themselves, but who associate with, befriend and condone those who do, and who refuse to condemn or disavow that behavior when requested. Should I draw no lessons from this? Should I treat it as revealing nothing about their character? Should I treat a person’s choice of friends and associates as sacrosanct and above criticism? That I will not do. The only effective way to stop bigotry like this is to withdraw social sanction: to send a message that it’s not welcome, not approved of, and that those who persist in this behavior, or those who condone it, should expect to be ostracized by people of conscience. Again, this stems from the fact that not every debate is a dispassionate exchange of ideas, that some arguments have serious real-world consequences, and that it’s OK to behave in a way that recognizes this.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • BethC

    This point says that if I take this pledge, I’m committing to not disparage anyone personally, even if they say something that’s patently racist, sexist, or otherwise deeply bigoted and offensive.

    As I wrote at Dan’s blog, I used to enjoy to play devil’s advocate, which was considered a perfectly acceptable, if admittedly irritating, form of argument. I’ve pretty much given up doing so on the internet as it seems impossible to do so in a safe space where only the ideas are attacked, not my motives and character.
    I’ve been called a racist for pointing out that physical differences exist between groupings of people identified as being of different races. I’ve been called a rape apologist for a suggesting that woman who has agreed to have sex with a man should be required to indicate that she has changed her mind in order for it to be considered rape.

    That’s not attacking my ideas, that’s attacking me. When people start treating me like that, I leave. I simply don’t wish to interact with others who treat me that way. If they’ve had life experiences that don’t permit them to converse without attacking people who espouse ideas they find offensive, that’s understandable. There are certain issues I avoid on the Internet for that reason. But I don’t want to converse with them on those issues. Dan’s rule is there to make a safe space for the discussion of ideas that some people may consider offensive. I appreciate him making a safe space for people who want to do that.

  • trucreep

    11. I commit that I will not make accusations of guilt by association.
    I have serious objections to this. This point implies that it’s forbidden to criticize someone for their choice of community, no matter how odious the behavior of that community may be. I see no reason to commit to this. What this pledge calls “guilt by association”, I call a recognition of the fact that bigotry of all kinds is heavily dependent on the perception of social sanction.

    It’s more of not using association as the sole reason for ridicule or what have you, as that is a logical fallacy.

  • Slane

    “I won’t pretend that every debate I engage in is merely a dispassionate exchange of ideas. Some are, but not all. I’ll gladly debate any idea in the abstract with people who demonstrate their good faith and mutual respect, but I don’t tolerate serious arguments in favor of hurtful bigotry and prejudice, and I have no problem saying that people who engage in that behavior are ethically deficient.”

    “As we all know, claiming personal offense when confronted by arguments that merely attack their beliefs, not their character, is a pervasive tactic of religious believers.”

    Do you not see a direct link between these two statements? On one hand, you are saying you won’t engage in arguments with people who espouse beliefs that you find offensive and in the next paragraph you say it’s a tactic of the religious to plead personal offense when their beliefs are attacked. You are just as guilty of this as any religious person if you refuse to engage in a dispassionate exchange of ideas about your beliefs. Just because you find the beliefs of others to be repugnant doesn’t mean they aren’t worth arguing about.

    Religious people find your arguments offensive and will not argue with you. You find the arguments of racists offensive and will not argue with them. You justify your stance because you believe that racists are horrible people. Religious people justify their stance because they believe that atheists are horrible people.

    You use the example of the pedophile neo-nazi and how you insulted and belittled him. I’m not saying he isn’t worth insulting, but surely the best way to tear people like this down is to destroy and cripple their arguments; to make them question their own beliefs, to peer into the abyss and confront the nothingness.

  • Azkyroth

    Religious people find your arguments offensive and will not argue with you. You find the arguments of racists offensive and will not argue with them. You justify your stance because you believe that racists are horrible people. Religious people justify their stance because they believe that atheists are horrible people.

    Refusing to treat racists as serious debate partners because their ideas are evidentially bankrupt and deeply harmful is rational – they are not engaging in good faith and treating them as though they were lends credibility to people who will wipe their asses with it. Refusing to have a serious debate with atheists because they keep pointing out that religious ideas are evidentially bankrupt and often deeply harmful resembles this in no relevant way and is not rational.

    Equating things based on finding traits which can be disingenuously described in a fashion which misleadingly creates the impression of a superficial similarity and ignoring absolutely everything else is fucking stupid. As are the histrionics you, based on pattern recognition, are almost certainly about to launch into based on the fact that I said “fucking,” ignoring everything else about my argument.

  • Mudd Farnkom

    Opposing racism with nothing but a few harsh words (or silence) and no serious debate gets us nowhere. As is often expressed in the secular community, slander and attacks on personal character without a rational presentation of facts to support it can often be seen as a sign of weakness of your own arguments. I don’t think it is good for the secular community to just go mouthing off ignorant people who don’t share the same opinion as us. If the facts are on our side then prove it!

  • Slane

    “As are the histrionics you, based on pattern recognition, are almost certainly about to launch into based on the fact that I said “fucking,” ignoring everything else about my argument.”

    *Yawn* I couldn’t give a rats ass if you want to swear or not. It doesn’t make your argument any more valid. I’m here to challenge beliefs and have mine challenged in return. I’m interested in respectful and rational discourse and that’s it.

    “Refusing to treat racists as serious debate partners because their ideas are evidentially bankrupt and deeply harmful is rational – they are not engaging in good faith”

    I think it’s funny to see you write about not arguing in good faith when it has been your modus operandi for as long as you have been commenting on Daylight Atheism. You are so sure that the way you see the world is the right way that you seem completely oblivious to the fact that vast majority of human beings view the world differently. Of course I’m not suggesting that the majority is infallible, but what I am saying is that ALL beliefs should be challenged all the time. Just because you believe you have the right answer does not mean that you do and that all other beliefs are inherently illogical.

    What you call “superficial similarity” I call striking resemblance. To some religious people, an atheists ideas are genuinely offensive. They cut to the core of their identities and leave the religious person feeling genuinely uncomfortable. The exact same can be said about racism. It disgusts me. I am a Paleolithic Archaeologist and I am sick to death of hearing racists make the argument that “Aboriginals are not as evolved as westerners because they still use stone tools”. Anybody who has bothered to study anthropology, biology, archaeology, medicine or any number of disciplines is easily able to spot the fallacy in the argument. But, it just so happens that the vast majority of the human race hasn’t studied any of these disciplines. If you don’t see it as your duty to argue with and then educate these ignorant people, how can you hope to defeat these ideas? The exact same goes for religious people. If you won’t engage in debate, you won’t change anything.

    No doubt pointing out the mistakes in a persons logic is a lot harder than ignoring their “bankrupt” ideas, but the world would most certainly be a better place if we all tried.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Ani J. Sharmin

    I agree with a great many of the points that Daniel Fincke makes in the pledge—like attacking ideas, arguing in good faith, being aware of the different experiences of marginalized groups, holding allies to high standards—but I have my reservations as well.

    I would add (though it is perhaps implied already) that any type of rule about civility should apply to everyone in the conversation. Things like telling people they’re going to hell are uncivil, even if they are people’s sincerely held beliefs.

    I’d also add that we shouldn’t act like we can’t come to a (tentative, pending new evidence) conclusion about anything other than evolution. One of the things that frustrates me is people who are willing to say to creationists that the “debate” between creationism vs. evolution is settled, that evolution has evidence whereas creationism doesn’t, but who them go on to act like no other issue can be settled. They’ll want to debate anything other than the “hard sciences” until the ends of the Earth (for example, not wanting to admit that people can have unconscious biases that can affect their decisions, as you brought up in earlier posts).

    In addition to your comments on point #3 in the pledge, while I agree with point #3 in general, I think there is sometimes an issue where the harmful real world implications actually are the goal, because the other person doesn’t see them as harmful. I mean, what do you say to someone who doesn’t think that women dying due to medical complications in pregnancy is enough of a harmful real world implication to change their view? What do you say to someone who dismisses any harm that happens in this life because of belief in the afterlife?

    Quote from the “Reasons for the Pledge” section of the Civility pledge:

    For truth’s sake and for freedom’s sake, I want no controversial topics to be made taboo in all discussion forums and I want no disputable propositions whatsoever to be shielded from all sincere and thorough rational interrogation.

    I think it’s relevant to point out that being open to debating “controversial” ideas or saying that “everything” is up for debate usually doesn’t actually mean everything is up for debate. Most of the “controversial” issues that get brought up are something negative about a minority group (with variability of course, depending on where you live, who’s participating in the discussion, and so on). So, there will be discussions about comparing intelligence between different races or genders where people want to debate if African Americans and women are inferior. But there won’t be discussions about white people or men being inferior in intelligence. There will be discussions about whether it’s okay to profile against certain groups of people, or torture people, or use certain types of military attacks (e.g. drone strikes) with suggestions that these may be okay for racial and religious minorities (here in the US, often African Americans, Hispanic Americans, people from the Middle East, and Muslims), but there won’t be similar discussions about whether to use these tactics to catch white supremacists, Christian terrorists, or even just white male criminals in general. There will be discussions about whether religious groups have any valid point in comparing homosexuality to sexual abuse of children, but there won’t be any such discussions about heterosexuality.

    In other words, what I’m trying to say is that some of us constantly see discussions in which it’s suggested that it’s okay to discriminate us on a regular basis, whereas those who are in the majority don’t see similar discussions about themselves nearly as much. So it’s more difficult to follow point #2 “I commit that I will tolerate the existence of people with dissenting ethical, religious, or political views” if the other person’s view is that you’re inferior and deserve to be discriminated against vs. if the other person’s view is something that doesn’t actually hurt you. (Related to this, I agree with Azkyroth above that comparing not wanting to debate with racists and not wanting to debate with atheists aren’t comparable.)

  • Bdole

    With all due respect*, fuck Fincke and his fucking pledge.

    @Slane
    Some topics are just too emotion-laden to have any meaningful discussion about, unfortunately. If ’twere not so then why is it the case that despite religious ideas being JUST AS PLAINLY absurd as racist ideas, non-engagement with racists is considered responsible while big-name atheists/biologists “give credibility” to unworthy creationist debating partners. Clearly it’s not the strength of our opponents’ ideas that are the issue.

    *about 5 drachmas worth

  • Bdole

    @Ani
    “But there won’t be discussions about white people or men being inferior in intelligence.”
    Oh, those questions impinge on my consciousness every day.

    The points you bring up argue for broadening the discussions of these hot topics more than avoiding them.

  • Azkyroth

    You are so sure that the way you see the world is the right way that you seem completely oblivious to the fact that vast majority of human beings view the world differently.

    I’m aware that the vast majority of people view the world differently. It has escaped my attention no more than the fact that “well, we’re the vast majority!” is the only argument they have.

    Of course I’m not suggesting that the majority is infallible, but what I am saying is that ALL beliefs should be challenged all the time.

    Point the first: why are you being such a crybaby about me challenging this belief, then?

    Point the second: then what are you doing here instead of, say, endlessly re-running the Michelson-Morley experiment JUST IN CASE the aether turns out to exist after all? Really, when ideas are actually dead (like the key premises of racists), it’s not just okay to bury them, it’s the most compassionate thing you can do. Yes, even if the dead ideas are still walking around groaning “brraaaaaiiiiiinnnnnssss.”

    Just because you believe you have the right answer does not mean that you do and that all other beliefs are inherently illogical.

    I understand that. Do you understandanything else?

    What you call “superficial similarity” I call striking resemblance.

    I suggest you consult a dictionary, then.

    To some religious people, an atheists ideas are genuinely offensive. They cut to the core of their identities and leave the religious person feeling genuinely uncomfortable. The exact same can be said about racism.

    You really don’t see a difference between “your ideas are wrong” and “you’re not really a full human being”? I’m quite certain that’s because you don’t actually have to live with any of the harms that come from racism. You should try listening to the people who do, and the people who’ve actually studied it.

  • Einander

    “Civility” is what exists when you are engaged with an opponent who is repulsive or an whose views you hold to be such, but with whom you are forced to engage by circumstance. Civility is respectfulness without the respect. It is a surrender to an undesirable situation, a kind of teeth-clenched armistice. And part of the point of the internet is that you don’t *have* to engage with repulsive people unless you want to.

    I may not respect your views, but I can respect you as a person. If you, however, do not display yourself as a person worthy of respect — if you are unwilling to separate your ideas from your ego, if you denigrate others for what they are instead of how they act, if you display callous disregard for the good of others, if you argue or act in bad faith — then I tell you that. If it was a mistake, or if I judged you wrongly, then no harm done, and we can begin to talk. If you don’t, then you are not going to engage with me as a reasonable human being, and it is not my job to fix you. I *cannot* fix you, because that is how human minds work. This is all the more true on the internet, where we have problems enough with getting our faulty empathy software to recognize words on a screen as people.

    Civility pledges are magical thinking. If we can recognize the worth of respectful behavior, even if we disagree, then how is the pledge going to change our behavior? After all, if the pledge changes our opinion, it’s because we disagreed with the concepts behind that very pledge! No, the idea is that the concept of respect will somehow be conveyed by osmosis, sinking in to those previously unaware of the concept. “Ah!” They will exclaim. “I see! So this is what I’ve been doing wrong! I knew there was a reason shouting ‘GOD HATES FAGS’ seemed so oddly unconvincing!”

    But if someone enters a conversation without being in a mental place to constructively engage, then they are not going to get there in the span of a single conversation, no matter how much we surround them with a semblance of respect. Let’s not be arrogant about this — we have limits.

    Some may see this as condescending, but I fail to see the problem in that. If you can’t engage with me as an adult, am I supposed to treat you as something other than a child?

  • Slane

    “I suggest you consult a dictionary, then.”
    re·sem·blance noun \ri-ˈzem-blən(t)s\
    Definition of RESEMBLANCE
    a : the quality or state of resembling; especially : correspondence in appearance or superficial qualities.
    That’s what Merriam-Webster had to say. I wasn’t even expecting the last part about it being especially superficial.

    “Really, when ideas are actually dead (like the key premises of racists), it’s not just okay to bury them, it’s the most compassionate thing you can do. Yes, even if the dead ideas are still walking around groaning “brraaaaaiiiiiinnnnnssss.””

    I like this, but the problem I have with it is that the ‘zombie’ ideas are genuinely walking around. We may have mountains of evidence of why they deserve to be in the grave, but because they are still walking around we cannot put them there.

    Since my tone is that of a cry-baby and I clearly don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll try and keep it short and sweet for you:

    Why are people racist? Most of us would agree it is because they are ignorant. But you cannot just be ‘ignorant’, you have to be ignorant OF something. These people are ignorant of the arguments against racism. I’d then argue that the best way to cure ignorance is not with insults, but with education. Furthermore, the best way to educate somebody is through a exchange of ideas and values.

    Where you seem to think people clinging to antiquated beliefs are being willfully close minded, it has been my experience that through rational discourse you CAN change peoples beliefs. If you won’t take my personal accounts as any kind of proof, you just need to look at some of Adam Lee’s early essay’s. He used to get people thanking him for ‘de-converting’ them all the time. That was when he wrote about the philosophy of atheism as opposed to the politics of atheism.

    Yes I am a white man, but I’ve lived with Indigenous Australians for about a year and a half in the Australian outback and traveled extensively through the Omo Valley in Ethiopia. I’ve experienced racism first hand(the kind with an AK47 waved in my face) and my own experience has been that words of brotherhood will do a lot more to keep the peace than ignoring the problem or insulting each other.

    Just to reiterate, I truly believe that the only people are racist is that they do not understand the arguments against racism. Just like evolution deniers don’t understand what evolution is(why aren’t chimps giving birth to humans?, etc,etc) , racists do not understand the reasons why racism is wrong. It has no place in our society, but yet it prevails everywhere.

  • Azkyroth

    I’d then argue that the best way to cure ignorance is not with insults, but with education. Furthermore, the best way to educate somebody is through a exchange of ideas and values.

    Google “good cop, bad cop.” An uncompromising and assertive denunciation can and frequently does have the effect of shaking people out of complacency and forcing them to confront the issue, to at least attempt to understand why someone considers their views to be unacceptable.

    Just to reiterate, I truly believe that the only people are racist is that they do not understand the arguments against racism.

    Well, you’re badly mistaken. See any comment about “bleeding heart liberals” and “equality fetishes” ever. A significant number of people have heard the arguments, or at least strawman versions of them, they’ve instead invented reasons to dismiss anyone who makes such arguments – reasons that don’t hold up under scrutiny. There are additionally people who may be ignorant of anti-racism arguments (although how human equality isn’t the null hypothesis is a mystery to me), to whom a serious disservice is done (along with everyone affected by racism) if they are allowed to naively assume that the first group represents one extreme of reasonable opinions, and anti-racists the other, and thus the truth must be about halfway between them.

  • Slane

    “A significant number of people have heard the arguments, or at least strawman versions of them, they’ve instead invented reasons to dismiss anyone who makes such arguments”

    I disagree whole-heartedly. Maybe you could argue that there are many westerners that have heard the arguments but even that would be a stretch. Your average person has no idea about mitochondrial DNA, they haven’t studied the brain capacity of early hominids or seen the results of the human genome project. They haven’t read Sir Michael Dummett or Xu Xing. They don’t understand that the reason minorities are over-represented in prisons is because of social inequality, they only see skin colour. They don’t seem to realize that our behaviour is shaped by genetics AND environment. They don’t learn enough history to understand that Europeans have “been on top” for a relatively short period of time(see Chinese, Arabic, Mesoamerican civilizations). We both know how easily people can be ‘tricked’ into seeing other humans as less than human(see any genocide ever). Speak to many Koreans and they will tell you that the Koreans are the most ‘pure’(whatever that means) people on the planet. The KKK/Neo-Nazis and Arian Brothers will say the same thing about white people. The Nyongatom tribe in Ethiopia espouses similar beliefs. Isn’t it strange how almost invariably the most racist people are the least educated? Sure there are some exceptions but without a doubt there is a correlation between a lack of education and racism.

    If we agree that racist people are ignorant. What are they ignorant of, if not the arguments against being racist?

  • Slane

    Blah. Didn’t mean that Koreans, KKK’s and Nyongatomi are uneducated either. Just getting tired and not paragraphing properly.

  • James

    What trucreep said.

    I read point 11 of the civility pledge as implying pledgers agree not to discount *everything* someone says just because of the company they keep in certain circles. *Yes* we can agree that the company they keep is objectionable, and that their views on subjects directly related to the views of the objectionable company are, at best, likely to be skewed and, at worst, something we can justifiably make accusations of guilt by association about.

    HOWEVER, your view point as expressed seems to be that, for the sake of argument, people who might associate with those with views on feminism that you find objectionable, unenlightened, ignorant, barbaric (whatever word you wish to employ), themselves can have nothing worthwhile to say about any topic whatsoever. That would be short-sighted for any number of reasons. By way of analogy, let’s say I have been close friends with someone for many years, and then I find out they’ve cheated on their (caring, loving, etc.) husband. I wouldn’t condone that behaviour, but nor would I necessarily immediately sever all contact with that person. One bad judgement call or bad set of views doesn’t necessarily negate the whole person. And continued association with others with different views might just gradually effect a desirable change in behaviour or viewpoint.

    Even if it doesn’t, the fact that you (in this hypothetical situation) find my friend’s behaviour beyond the pale – however justified your opinion/moral standpoint on that is – is not and should not be grounds for accusing me of guilt by association and refusing to deal with me in a civil matter, particularly on subjects unrelated to the infidelity. My association with that person is *not* (in this case definitely but in general necessarily) indicative of an agreement – tacit or otherwise – with their behaviour or views. And in fact, it might be that my association is being used to try to change that behaviour from a privileged position, something which you’d surely find a good thing.

    *That* is why you shouldn’t object to point 11.

  • Ritchie

    “I’d then argue that the best way to cure ignorance is not with insults, but with education. Furthermore, the best way to educate somebody is through a exchange of ideas and values.”

    I have to agree with Slane. No-one who is sincere in their beliefs and what they are saying is beneath argument. I might not always have the time or inclination to debate, but that does not make the other person unworthy of it. Mockery and insults do little to wear down ignorant beliefs because the other person can simply reply in kind, and even develop a persecution complex.

    Education is the only cure for ignorance.

  • plutosdad

    Google “good cop, bad cop.”
    Actually those tactics can convince people to do and say things they would otherwise not, but those are short lived successes. Look at all the false confessions that occur because of “good cop bad cop”, using emotional manipulation is not a way to educate others in the long term. And good cop bad cop is emotional manipulation.

    For point 1, I think his point is that there is a difference between calling a neo-nazi a worthless person, and telling him how horrible his ideas are. We can be as vociferous and uncompromizing without sinking to their level. As one of the privileged classes who was brought up to think all non-white and poor people were taking advantage of “my” people, and we were the real victims, such namecalling – as a response to the brainwashing I went through – did nothing to convince me I was wrong. What convinced me I was wrong was partly facts, partly expanding my universe of acquaintances and getting to know other people, and other ideas, without the acrimony. In other words, appeals based on empathy, not on how bad a person I must have been, were what worked. not right away, but in the end.

    Same goes for my religion when I finally let it go. It was not Dawkins or Hitchens that caused me to truly start questioning, they just made me want to delve further into my religion. But it was the words of Sagan that eventually got through to me.

  • Sally Strange

    I’ve been called a racist for pointing out that physical differences exist between groupings of people identified as being of different races.

    Well, that would be because pointing out difference between groupings of different people is something which, at this point in time, only racists do. Why is it something that only racists do? Because at this point in time, the scientific evidence that race is a social construct that has no precise correlation with physical characteristics associated with different human phenotypes is overwhelming.

    I’ve been called a rape apologist for a suggesting that woman who has agreed to have sex with a man should be required to indicate that she has changed her mind in order for it to be considered rape.

    Again, that is precisely what apologists for rape culture do–attempt to shift the responsibility for rape away from the rapist and onto his victims.

    That’s not attacking my ideas, that’s attacking me.

    No, actually, it’s not even “attacking.” It’s accurately labeling the content of the ideas you were putting forth. It’s only an “attack” if you accept the premise that there’s something wrong with racism or rape apologia. And even then, it’s an attack on those ideas. If you want to stop being identified as a racist or a rape apologist, all you have to do is stop promoting ideas that are consistent with racism and rape apologia.

    And this is why Fincke’s civility pledge will always fail.

  • Sally Strange

    I’d then argue that the best way to cure ignorance is not with insults

    This presumes that the goal is always to cure ignorance. There is also the goal of making ignorance more socially costly.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Ani J. Sharmin

    Related to what SallyStrange wrote above,

    No, actually, it’s not even “attacking.” It’s accurately labeling the content of the ideas you were putting forth. It’s only an “attack” if you accept the premise that there’s something wrong with racism or rape apologia. And even then, it’s an attack on those ideas. If you want to stop being identified as a racist or a rape apologist, all you have to do is stop promoting ideas that are consistent with racism and rape apologia.

    This is related to what I mean by the civility pledge applying to everyone. Too often, the person who’s making racist or sexist or rape apologist arguments claims that they should get to say whatever they want without criticism, even though their comments and proposals are actually hurting people in the real world. Meanwhile, if we say they’re being a bigot, they’ll say we’re name-calling or attacking them. But it’s the content of what they’re saying that’s actually an attack in content, even if it’s not a noun being applied to a person.

  • Slane

    @Bdole
    Thank you. A very valid point.

    @Sally Strange
    “This presumes that the goal is always to cure ignorance. There is also the goal of making ignorance more socially costly.”

    I don’t see what you are saying and what am saying as incompatible at all. Unless you are saying that a world wherein people pretend to espouse socially acceptable beliefs in order not to be ostracized is preferable to a world where everybody understands why their actions are/aren’t morally acceptable?

  • GCT

    @James
    You’re making a mistake of equivocation. Adam isn’t saying that we should disassociate ourselves from anyone who has ever come in contact with someone who has done something wrong and failed to shun them. But, he is saying that those who give comfort and aid to such places as the “Slymepit” and continue to associate with known bigots like that are fair game.

    @Slane,
    The point you missed about attacking ideas of racists and racist persons vs. attacking ideas of religionists is this: racists are, in fact, espousing hurtful views and are actually immoral people, at least in the sense that they support racism. That question has been asked and answered. Religious people are putting forth an assertion and when challenged on that assertion claim that challenges to their assertions are tantamount to challenges to their person. These are not the same and your “gotcha” attempts to make them seem so are simply wrong.

  • Beth

    Sally Strange wrote:

    I’ve been called a racist for pointing out that physical differences exist between groupings of people identified as being of different races.

    Well, that would be because pointing out difference between groupings of different people is something which, at this point in time, only racists do. Why is it something that only racists do? Because at this point in time, the scientific evidence that race is a social construct that has no precise correlation with physical characteristics associated with different human phenotypes is overwhelming.

    I don’t dispute that race is a social construct with somewhat loose correlations to physical characteristics. But unless only racists ever notice that Blacks have darker skin than Caucasians it isn’t appropriate to attach that label to expressing the opinion that differences exist. Of course, when pointing out such facts gets people labeled as racist regardless of their feelings with respect to equality, equal treatment under the law, etc., people like me stop pointing out those facts. It becomes a self-fulfilling statement.

    I’ve been called a rape apologist for a suggesting that woman who has agreed to have sex with a man should be required to indicate that she has changed her mind in order for it to be considered rape.

    Again, that is precisely what apologists for rape culture do–attempt to shift the responsibility for rape away from the rapist and onto his victims.
    And anyone who holds a different opinion on the details of such matters are rape-apologists? I don’t think so. I am, in fact, a survivor of a sexual assault. But I shut up. The tactic is effective at silencing me because I don’t choose to participate in forums where I get attacked personally.


    That’s not attacking my ideas, that’s attacking me.

    No, actually, it’s not even “attacking.” It’s accurately labeling the content of the ideas you were putting forth. It’s only an “attack” if you accept the premise that there’s something wrong with racism or rape apologia.
    I disagree. First of all, it is NOT an accurate label for those ideas. Second, racism and rape are both widely accepted as wrong in our culture. Finally, as far as it being an attack, given that the people who made those statements clearly felt that way, it was definitely meant to be an attack.
    And even then, it’s an attack on those ideas.
    No, it was an attack on me for bringing up such ideas. Calling me racist or a rape-apologist is an attack on ME, not the idea I expressed.
    If you want to stop being identified as a racist or a rape apologist, all you have to do is stop promoting ideas that are consistent with racism and rape apologia.
    I did. In fact, I’ve all but quit commenting entirely on those blogs because they allow that sort of inaccurate and inappropriate derogatory labeling of my character and/or motivation. It hasn’t changed my mind or feelings about those subjects. I don’t consider myself racist for holding the opinion that Black people generally have darker skin than white people. It has only lowered my opinion of those people and places who allow such silencing tactics when unpopular ideas are expressed.

    Personally, I think it’s important to acknowledge when those you disagree with have a valid point. For example, when someone refuses to acknowledge facts like Blacks generally having darker skin than Whites, which is a clearly heritable difference, they don’t have the credibility needed to make the argument that there is no significant genetic difference between the races with respect to intelligence.

  • Slane

    @GCT

    To a moral person, racists are immoral. To a religious person, an atheist is immoral. That is the point I was trying to make. I’m not equating the two. It has already been suggested that the morality of the Racist vs the Religious in my statement should effect my willingness to offer civil discourse. I’m willing to concede the point to a certain extent, but still believe that the best way to influence any change over an immoral person is with reason.

  • GCT

    To a moral person, racists are immoral. To a religious person, an atheist is immoral. That is the point I was trying to make. I’m not equating the two.

    Yes, you did, and Azkyroth correctly called you out on it. Should I pull up your original quotes? Even if theists think atheists are immoral, that does not give them the right to display the religiously privileged attitude that attacks on their ideas are the same as attacks on their person.

    It has already been suggested that the morality of the Racist vs the Religious in my statement should effect my willingness to offer civil discourse.

    And, here you are basically doing what you said you’re not doing.

    I’m willing to concede the point to a certain extent, but still believe that the best way to influence any change over an immoral person is with reason.

    Reason does not always work. There, I said it. Sometimes people can not be reasoned with. If reason worked, then there wouldn’t be any arguments except with people who are truly ignorant and are actually open to reason. But, to limit yourself to one tactic and one tactic only when there are other tactics that one can use is silly.

  • B-Lar

    Sally Strange,

    “This presumes that the goal is always to cure ignorance. There is also the goal of making ignorance more socially costly.”

    Surely making ignorance more socially costly is a method with curing (or properly, reducing) ignorance as the goal? If curing ignorance is not the goal, then why make ignorance more costly? I can think of retribution and amusement but maybe I am thinking too small…

  • GCT

    There’s also the goal of eradicating its negative effects from society.

  • B-Lar

    Oooh. Yeah, okay. Ignorance might be tolerable if its negative effects were felt less.

  • GCT

    Didn’t say that. What I said was that we have the goal of eradicating its negative effects from society. Racism is still intolerable. Care to try again?

  • Methos

    While there are a few things I disagree with in the article, there is one that I feel a need to address, namely the last point of the article.
    “This point implies that it’s forbidden to criticize someone for their choice of commmunity, no matter how odious the behavior of that community may be.”
    No, it implies no such thing. By saying that I/You will not make accusations of guilt by association, you are saying(to give an example), that you will not call someone a bigot, simply because people he associates with, are known bigots.
    And there is absolutely no fault in that. That a person associates with bigots, does not automatically make him a bigot, nor automatically imply that he agrees with, or condones, the bigotry of those people.
    You don’t have to agree with, or even condone, every single opinion of every person you associate yourself with. I have several religious friends for example, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think their religious beliefs are ridiculous, nor does it make me religious in any way.

    Condemning people who condone bigotry, despite not showing obvious bigotry themselves(to use the example that you make in the article), is not “criticizing people for their choice of community.”, it is criticizing them for their actions(i.e. condoning bigotry).

    What the last point(the quoted “point 11″) is talking about, is condemning people, simply for who they associate with. And the quoted article is correct about that. “Guilty by association” is not just wrong, it is stupid. And from what I’m reading in the article, you are not actually objecting to the quoted point, you have simply misunderstood it.

  • Adam Lee

    That a person associates with bigots, does not automatically make him a bigot, nor automatically imply that he agrees with, or condones, the bigotry of those people.

    It does if that person consistently fails to condemn or even acknowledge the bigotry of his associates.

  • James

    @GCT
    With respect, I don’t think I am making the mistake of equivocation. Granted Adam’s *meaning* might have been “those who give comfort and aid to such places as the “Slymepit” and continue to associate with known bigots like that are fair game” but that’s only clear from his writing if you happen to know that whole history. What he’s *written* seems to suggest he does indeed advocate disassociating ourselves from anyone who has ever come in contact with someone who has done something wrong and failed to shun them.

    And if we needed any evidence that’s a foolish suggestion, look at the thawing of relationship between Harriet Hall and Amy Roth. Indications to this point suggest this would not have happened
    had not someone been willing to associate with both parties.

  • GCT

    If you insist on making the most uncharitable interpretation you possibly can, then I can’t stop you, but you would be going against the civility pledge that you claim to be sticking up for, and not arguing in good faith.

  • Methos

    “It does if that person consistently fails to condemn or even acknowledge the bigotry of his associates.”

    Reading. It’s really an amazing skill.

    I addressed exactly what you just said, in my comment:
    “Condemning people who condone bigotry, despite not showing obvious bigotry themselves(to use the example that you make in the article), is not “criticizing people for their choice of community.”, it is criticizing them for their actions(i.e. condoning bigotry).”

    But to directly address what you said: You didn’t actually address/respond to, the part of my comment that you quoted, you simply side-stepped it, and added qualifiers.

    To repeat: That a person associates with bigots, does not automatically make him a bigot, nor automatically imply that he agrees with, or condones, the bigotry of those people.”

    Again, in shorter and simpler terms, so people with difficulties reading, won’t misinterpret it: Associating with bigots =/= being a bigot.
    Condoning bigotry is completely different, and is not an automatic part of associating with bigots. Condoning bigotry should most definitely be condemned.

    But again, Associating with bigots, does not automatically means that the person is a bigot, nor that the person condones, or agrees with, bigotry.

  • GCT

    Adam had it right in the OP, and now you’re trying to split a hair so fine that you’re negating the original meaning of the clause in the civility pledge. No one is claiming that associating with bigots is the same as being a bigot. But, that was never the original point to begin with. To quote you, “Reading. It’s really an amazing skill.”

  • Methos

    “Adam had it right in the OP, and now you’re trying to split a hair so fine that you’re negating the original meaning of the clause in the civility pledge. No one is claiming that associating with bigots is the same as being a bigot. But, that was never the original point to begin with.”

    Actually, that was in fact the original point to begin with.

    Adam disagreed with the point from the original article:
    “I commit that I will not make accusations of guilt by association.”
    Because he, correctly, thinks that people should in fact be condemned for condoning, agreeing with, or supporting, bigotry. I pointed out, that the original point in the article, does not talk about people who condone, agree with, or support bigotry. It talks purely about who people associate with.

    I further pointed out, that it is very possible to associate with people, without condoning, supporting, or agreeing with, their views and opinions, and that the original point, is thus correct.

    There is no “splitting hairs”, I simply pointing out the difference in what the original point in the article was talking about, and what Adam was talking about.

    Based on Adam’s own words, despite saying that he disagrees with the point in the article, he hasn’t actually said anything, which shows why he says he disagrees with it.

    To give an analogy: The original point says(which I pointed out) that people are not automatically killers/murderers, if they carry a gun.

    To continue the analogy, Adam then says, that he disagrees, because people are in fact killers/murderers, when they shoot people with that gun.

    Or to give another analogy:
    A: Muslims are not automatically terrorists.
    B: I disagree, they are when they fly airplanes into buildings.

    To finish, as you rightly quoted from me: “Reading, it’s really an amazing skill.”

  • GCT

    Actually, that was in fact the original point to begin with.

    Says you, but if that were the original point there would be no reason to actually include it in the civility pledge. I suppose it’s possible that the author of the pledge put in a meaningless statement, but I’m trying to give him more credit than that.

    Because he, correctly, thinks that people should in fact be condemned for condoning, agreeing with, or supporting, bigotry. I pointed out, that the original point in the article, does not talk about people who condone, agree with, or support bigotry. It talks purely about who people associate with.

    Well, you could go back and look at the OP and see how wrong you are:

    This point implies that it’s forbidden to criticize someone for their choice of commmunity, no matter how odious the behavior of that community may be.

    Don’t get cocky with your jibes about reading comprehension and then fail so badly at it.

    I further pointed out, that it is very possible to associate with people, without condoning, supporting, or agreeing with, their views and opinions, and that the original point, is thus correct.

    It is, and no one has claimed otherwise.

    There is no “splitting hairs”, I simply pointing out the difference in what the original point in the article was talking about, and what Adam was talking about.

    You were splitting hairs, and you still are.

    To give an analogy: The original point says(which I pointed out) that people are not automatically killers/murderers, if they carry a gun.

    To continue the analogy, Adam then says, that he disagrees, because people are in fact killers/murderers, when they shoot people with that gun.

    That’s great and all, but you might want to actually work on that reading comprehension skill that you keep claiming is so great. Adam gave you a pithy reply that was a supplement to the OP. You don’t get to ignore one and then the other when it suits you. If someone freely associates with a murderer, no one is claiming that it makes that person also a murderer. But, we are claiming that we can certainly criticize them for their choice of associations. Should we not criticize Rodman for his new BFF? Should we not criticize people who freely associate with hate groups? Of course we can and we should. That’s why that portion of the civility pledge is not OK. It’s not OK to claim that I can’t criticize someone for freely choosing to associate with the hate group AVFM.

  • estraven

    I’m late to this debate. Well, I’m not here to debate, actually, because I wouldn’t ever be able to sign on to the “civility” pledge. Just a few nights ago a guest in my home first asked me if Billie Holiday (whose voice was filling the room) was “colored”–when’s the last time you heard that term??– and I said “Wut?” and he repeated it, and I said “Why do you say ‘colored’? and he said “Because it’s more polite than saying ‘nigger’.” I told him he was a racist asshole that I wanted nothing to do with. I guess that makes me a bad person.

  • James

    “It’s not OK to claim that I can’t criticize someone for freely choosing to associate with the hate group AVFM.”

    - Neither is it OK to assume that someone who freely associates with people you find objectionable has nothing valid to say or that you can ignore them and their opinions on everything: you don’t know their motivations.

    Adam wrote: “As we’ve found out over the past year, there are some members of the skeptical community who don’t post violent threats or obscene taunts themselves, but who associate with, befriend and condone those who do, and who refuse to condemn or disavow that behavior when requested. Should I draw no lessons from this? [OF COURSE THERE MAY BE LESSONS TO BE DRAWN FROM THIS, BUT YOU HAVE TO BE CAREFUL MAKING ASSUMPTIONS BASED ON THIS] Should I treat it as revealing nothing about their character? [YES, THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: YOU DON'T KNOW THEIR MOTIVATIONS AND ARE TUS JUMPING TO ASSUMPTIONS] Should I treat a person’s choice of friends and associates as sacrosanct and above criticism? [NO, OF COURSE NOT, AND THE CIVILITY PLEDGE IN NO WAY SAID YOU SHOULD]“

  • GCT

    - Neither is it OK to assume that someone who freely associates with people you find objectionable has nothing valid to say or that you can ignore them and their opinions on everything: you don’t know their motivations.

    No one is claiming that (although I’ve yet to see someone from the slymepit actually have anything valid to say).

    YES, THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT YOU SHOULD DO: YOU DON’T KNOW THEIR MOTIVATIONS AND ARE TUS JUMPING TO ASSUMPTIONS

    Wrong. Their actions do reveal something about their character. You pretty much admitted so by saying, “OF COURSE THERE MAY BE LESSONS TO BE DRAWN FROM THIS…” You can’t have it both ways.

    NO, OF COURSE NOT, AND THE CIVILITY PLEDGE IN NO WAY SAID YOU SHOULD

    Although the civility pledge may not have specifically said this, it was strongly implied, which is what Adam said in the OP.

  • James

    “No one is claiming that (although I’ve yet to see someone from the slymepit actually have anything valid to say).”

    - Adam implied it by not leaving room to make precisely this point, which was the only point I’veever been trying to make. And it’s also why I then moved on to quote Adam’s original words.

    “Wrong. Their actions do reveal something about their character. You pretty much admitted so by saying, “OF COURSE THERE MAY BE LESSONS TO BE DRAWN FROM THIS…” You can’t have it both ways.”

    - First, there is quite some difference between ‘pretty much’ and actually admitting. But leaving that aside, the lessons to be drawn aren’t necessarily about character, so I’m not having it both ways, I’m making an accurate point.

    “Although the civility pledge may not have specifically said this, it was strongly implied, which is what Adam said in the OP.”

    - You also can’t have it both ways. I don’t think it was strongly or even weakly implied. However, I can accept that if you *did* see it as being strongly implied, the pledge could perhaps stand re-wording to offer greater clarity. Similarly, if I see Adam’s wording in response as implying something different from you, it is obviously not as clear as he (according to you) meant it to be. This is all I have been trying to point out.

    Finally, you don’t just get to claim ‘wrong’ as if you’re the final word on the subject. Neither do I, of course, but I’ve been offering this up for discussion as a possible way of improving the clarity of the position from (mis?)interpretation. The problem is, you seem to think I’m attacking Adam in some larger way and have appointed yourself his defender. If you would maybe review the comments we’ve exchanged here without that assumption, I hope you might see my intent was never such (though please excuse the shouty-looking ALL CAPS in my previous comment: I don’t know how otherwise to clearly delineate my commentary from quotes).

    If you can’t, I done arguing as it’s obviously completely counterproductive by this point and I suspect I’m a hair’s breadth away from being accused of trolling when what I’m doing (or trying to do) is constructively criticise. It honestly amazes me how often we (including myself) who call ourselves rational seem to refuse to discuss things productively rather than just refusing to consider any other suggestions or POVs.

  • GCT

    - Adam implied it by not leaving room to make precisely this point, which was the only point I’veever been trying to make.

    IOW, unless Adam makes every single possible qualifier for everything he says, ever, you’re justified in making the most uncharitable assumptions and claiming that it was implied by Adam simply because you want to be right? Again, this is counter to the civility pledge that you seem to be defending. When you have to violate the pledge in order to defend it, you’ve got issues.

    - First, there is quite some difference between ‘pretty much’ and actually admitting. But leaving that aside, the lessons to be drawn aren’t necessarily about character, so I’m not having it both ways, I’m making an accurate point.

    No, you’re trying to have it both ways and now talking about the lessons to be drawn that aren’t about character without actually giving any examples…because there aren’t any and you’re just trying to wriggle out of your own words.

    - You also can’t have it both ways.

    How in the world am I trying to have it both ways? Adam said this from the start and I agree with him. The pledge does imply that we can’t make judgments about people based on their choice of associations. Adam disagrees with this and so do I. How is that having it both ways, or are you simply trying to throw every piece of shit at the wall that you can and seeing what sticks?

    However, I can accept that if you *did* see it as being strongly implied, the pledge could perhaps stand re-wording to offer greater clarity. Similarly, if I see Adam’s wording in response as implying something different from you, it is obviously not as clear as he (according to you) meant it to be. This is all I have been trying to point out.

    Well, I’m not responsible for you making the most charitable interpretation of one piece while making the most uncharitable interpretation of another. It’s not equivalent. You can’t simply claim that because you are arguing that therefore you’re right.

    Finally, you don’t just get to claim ‘wrong’ as if you’re the final word on the subject.

    Actually, when you are wrong, I do get to point it out. That’s how it works.

    The problem is, you seem to think I’m attacking Adam in some larger way and have appointed yourself his defender.

    Actually, you are attacking, and I am defending, but it’s because I happen to agree with him on this. He doesn’t need my defending. You’re simply wrong and making arguments that amount to apologetics for bigots.

    If you can’t, I done arguing as it’s obviously completely counterproductive by this point and I suspect I’m a hair’s breadth away from being accused of trolling when what I’m doing (or trying to do) is constructively criticise.

    I wasn’t going to say trolling, but now that you mention it…you are obstinately choosing to make the most uncharitable interpretations of everything that Adam and I say, and for what reason? To argue? To provide cover for bigots? If it’s the former, then that’s trolling. If it’s the latter, then we have bigger issues.

    It honestly amazes me how often we (including myself) who call ourselves rational seem to refuse to discuss things productively rather than just refusing to consider any other suggestions or POVs.

    The irrational one here seems to be you, especially when you decide that you have to call into question my ability to parse statements in a rational manner simply because your tactics aren’t working, while ignoring what I’m pointing out to you. This is definite trolling behavior. I’ve considered your view and it’s simply wrong, for reasons I’ve pointed out. You’ve not considered any view but your own and are now projecting your failings onto me.

  • James

    Yeah, just like I thought. You’ll happily parse my statements and those of the pledge, but not Adam’s. My writing “I can accept that if you *did* see it as being strongly implied, the pledge could perhaps stand re-wording to offer greater clarity…” was to acknowledge that, just as I’d perhaps given Adam’s words an uncharitable reading for the reasons I stated, you might have done the same with the pledge’s words. Which would mean, with the best will in the world, that you are also making a charitable reading of one thing and an uncharitable reading of another – exactly what you accuse me of, with my acknowledgement that this might be a fair point. You, however, won’t do the same. That’s how you’re trying to have it both ways. Double standards.

    One reading might be charitable, one might be uncharitable. Doesn’t necessarily make either wrong. By all means tell me I’m wrong about factual things, but telling me I’m wrong about a valid interpretation (even if an uncharitable one) is just sloppy. And constructive criticism is not an attack.

    Accusing me of apologetics for bigots is a massive leap to make (and, for the record, not what I’m either doing or trying to do in any way, nor has anything I’ve written remotely suggested this), and it’s precisely what I was afraid Adam was advocating. The reason for pointing out my (you say) uncharitable interpretation was to help point out (if my uncharitable reading was incorrect) possible hurdles for someone reading Adam’s words as I did – so the point could be made more clearly. And you’re right: if I (or anyone else for that matter) wants to start doing that to everything Adam’s ever written, where would we stop? I don’t think that necessarily means people shouldn’t be able to point out things like this from time to time. Otherwise, why don’t we all just write whatever we want without any qualifiers whatsoever, to borrow your hyperbole? I also fail to see any way in which I’ve violated the pledge: could you draw my attention specifically to where you think I have?

    You ask if I’m trying to throw “every” piece of shit at the wall to see what sticks. I’m pretty sure I’ve thrown only one piece, arguing with only one of Adam’s objections to the pledge. It’s clearly down to a matter of interpretation: you and Adam interpreted the pledge uncharitably, which I have admitted was a valid possible interpretation. I would hope this shows I am capable of rethinking things (since I did not allow for this in my original comment) and, in giving that admission, have shown I’m not just arguing for argument’s sake but am willing to re-evaluate things. However, you allow yourself an uncharitable reading of the pledge to argue against, but not me an uncharitable reading of Adam’s words. Double standards. If Adam’s (and your?) reason for objecting to point 11 of the pledge is because you read it as ‘no judgements allowed for associations for any reason’ I would agree that is an unreasonable part of the pledge. Again, as I’ve said before, I had not apreciated that and would suggest the point needs rewording. If, however, you read it as ‘will not make judgements based *solely* on associations, that is a point I’d agree with for reasons already stated. I didn’t think Adam made clear whether he’d agree with *that* reading and this is what I was pointing out.

    I didn’t call you irrational, but I will now call you inconsistent for accusing me of reading some things charitably and others uncharitably while you fail to recognise that you have done the same thing but in reverse: I read the pledge charitably, Adam uncharitably; you read the pledge uncharitably, Adam charitably.

    I have considered your view and addressed anything you’ve pointed out to me. I’ve even amended parts of my view based on what you’ve pointed out. You, on the other hand, refuse to look at (in some cases *the same*) things pointed out to you. If you weren’t a regular commenter and on agreeing with Adam, this would be exactly the behaviour you describe as trolling. I know you’re not because you are a regular commenter and I’ve read and agreed with many of our points in the past. In my original comment I was abundantly clear that ‘I read’ the point in contention as meaning something else, so there’s no bad faith here. You’ve done nothing to show I’m wrong, only that my interpretation disagrees with yours – and interpretation is exactly what I was talking about in the first place.

    There are no ‘tactics’ I’m employing here: I made a single point/argument, to which your only real response has been I’m reading Adam wrongly (and the point I had made was that Adam’s words were open to (mis)interpretation so clarification might be in order), as well as the pledge point (uncharitably and charitably respectively). Unless your claim is that your reading of both documents is the correct and only interpretation for anyone with basic reading comprehension skills, your (and Adam’s) readings could just as easily be ‘wrong’. How, then, has what I’ve argued been ‘wrong’ or ‘not worked’?

    Now I’ve commented again after all but, well, it felt a bit personal with the suggestion I was apologising for bigots.

    I’m afraid I don’t know what IOW stands for, so if it changes the meaning of everything else you’ve said, sorry for not knowing that.

  • GCT

    Yeah, just like I thought. You’ll happily parse my statements and those of the pledge, but not Adam’s.

    Wrong again, and obviously so. But, I do so love when you complain about not having a rational discussion while insulting me and claiming how irrational I am for essentially being a dogmatist, especially in lieu of actually discussing my points. I do so love the whole, “You don’t agree with me therefore you’re incapable of rational thought,” trope. It’s so self defeating.

    Which would mean, with the best will in the world, that you are also making a charitable reading of one thing and an uncharitable reading of another – exactly what you accuse me of, with my acknowledgement that this might be a fair point.

    This is kind of like the question of when you stopped beating your wife. Either I have to agree with you, thus claiming you are right, or else I’m being unreasonable. Who cares about accuracy or what is actually true. You’ve set up the situation in order to make it appear that I’m unreasonable or else you are right. Yet, you’ve set up a false equivalence and a false dichotomy.

    That’s how you’re trying to have it both ways. Double standards.

    It’s not a double standard and it’s not me having it both ways, which you would know if you had bothered to actually read what I wrote. Duh.

    By all means tell me I’m wrong about factual things, but telling me I’m wrong about a valid interpretation (even if an uncharitable one) is just sloppy.

    Except for a couple things. 1) your interpretation was made up from whole cloth and had no relation to the very detailed explanation that Adam supplied. You basically ignored all that he said in order to erect a straw man. 2) you are making a statement about something that is either right or wrong (‘Adam meant X’) and it’s been explained to you that you are wrong and why you are wrong, not just by me but by follow up clarification by Adam himself. Yet, you persist in claiming that Adam is wrong about his own interpretation.

    And constructive criticism is not an attack.

    There is nothing constructive about what you are doing.

    Accusing me of apologetics for bigots is a massive leap to make (and, for the record, not what I’m either doing or trying to do in any way, nor has anything I’ve written remotely suggested this), and it’s precisely what I was afraid Adam was advocating.

    I didn’t. I said it was a possibility. And, it is. Adam’s point was specific to people who provide cover for bigots. You have been fighting the implication that we can make judgments about people based on their chosen association with hate groups. It is not unreasonable to infer that there may be some element of apologetics and/or providing cover for bigots in your opposition to this idea. I’m not saying it is so, but I’m not tossing out the possibility. Of course, you don’t venture to offer why you are so het up about this.

    The reason for pointing out my (you say) uncharitable interpretation was to help point out (if my uncharitable reading was incorrect) possible hurdles for someone reading Adam’s words as I did – so the point could be made more clearly.

    Um, wait…so you pointed out your admittedly uncharitable interpretation because you thought that someone else might also be incapable of good reading comprehension and might also have the same misconceptions? That makes no sense. That would be like me saying that I read your words to mean that you’re an idiot. Uncharitable? Yeah, well I meant to be, since someone else might intentionally misread your words and come to the same conclusion. (Although, the idea that you’ve put forth here really is idiotic.)

    And you’re right: if I (or anyone else for that matter) wants to start doing that to everything Adam’s ever written, where would we stop? I don’t think that necessarily means people shouldn’t be able to point out things like this from time to time.

    IOW, Adam should be required to include qualifiers whenever you or anyone else claims that he should. I sure hope Adam is taking notes from you on how to write his own blog *snicker*

    I also fail to see any way in which I’ve violated the pledge: could you draw my attention specifically to where you think I have?

    1, 3, 4, 8, 10, 13. In general, however, making an uncharitable reading of someone’s position and persisting in that reading even after being corrected is not a civil way of conducting a “discussion.”

    I didn’t call you irrational…

    Lying is not civil. You found yourself in a hole and decided to go the route of, “If you don’t agree with me it’s because you can’t be rational.” It’s a cliched tactic and really should be beneath people, but obviously it’s not, and it crops up all too often, especially among defenders of the status quo.

    I have considered your view and addressed anything you’ve pointed out to me. I’ve even amended parts of my view based on what you’ve pointed out.

    No, you haven’t. You’ve made a ploy in order to trap me into a situation where I’m either unreasonable or you’re right…heads you win, tails I lose. I refuse to play that game and I’m pointing it out as an answer to the dilemma.

    If you weren’t a regular commenter and on agreeing with Adam, this would be exactly the behaviour you describe as trolling.

    Except that I have backed up my arguments, and haven’t resorted to cheap tactics like accusing you of irrationality in lieu of actually rebutting your statements.

    In my original comment I was abundantly clear that ‘I read’ the point in contention as meaning something else, so there’s no bad faith here.

    You were corrected, but failed to actually correct. That is trolling.

    Unless your claim is that your reading of both documents is the correct and only interpretation for anyone with basic reading comprehension skills, your (and Adam’s) readings could just as easily be ‘wrong’.

    I’ve already said that I may be wrong, but I highly doubt it (as I’ve already explained). I’ll summarize again, since you don’t seem to want to actually read my arguments. If the pledge simply meant that someone who associates with a murderer is not actually guilty of murder, then so be it, but that would be an incredibly stupid thing to put in a pledge, since no one disagrees with it. It seems much more charitable to assume that the author meant something else, and taking the words of the pledge at face value (yes, words have meanings) would indicate that something else was meant. That something else was both Adam and my reading.

    How, then, has what I’ve argued been ‘wrong’ or ‘not worked’?

    Your interpretation makes no sense, both for Adam’s words and for the pledge itself, unless you are claiming that Mr Fincke wrote a completely meaningless point into his pledge.

    Now I’ve commented again after all but, well, it felt a bit personal with the suggestion I was apologising for bigots.

    As if implying that I’m irrational because I don’t agree with you wasn’t a personal argument to make? I’m still uncertain as to why this is so important to you, to make sure that we don’t make judgments about people who knowingly choose to associate with bigots.


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