This is the question that was raised in the wake of a Science Online 2010 session on civility. I did not attend the session so I am only addressing the issues that were subsequently discussed on blog posts written in the aftermath of a now infamous conversation that appears to have been (by their own admission, I believe) between Henry Gee of Nature and Nature Blogs Network and Zuska the Magnificent of Scienceblogs Dot Com. Much of that discussion is now happening on the Nature Network on a blog post celebrating 5 X 104 comments on that network.

(As an aside, I really think it is shameful that certain bloggers and commenters have taken the opportunity of this celebration to engage in the mutual masturbation they call “incivility” rather than simply being a good blogospheric neighbor and saying “Congratulations.” Or, if this incivility in place of camaraderie is critically important, I want a list of the repressed people who have become unrepressed by this particular act of unmitigated goatfucking asshattery. But I digress.)

To put the question in a less metaphorical way: Is it reasonable that a blogger require commenters be “civil,” or is such a requirement a tool of repression of ideas one does not want to hear or be heard by others? Is this requirement for civility a classic tool of those in power to maintain the status quo? The title of this post emerges from the rumored repartee between Gee and Zuska in which Gee noted that he feels that he can choose, if he wants, to disallow visitors (commenters) to his salon (blog) to piss on his rug (the rug ties it all together, presumably).

i-b043fcc0a553431be27a95d245d31427-pissing_on_carpet.jpg

I don’t see how it is reasonable for anyone (and by anyone I mean bloggers) to have a carpet on their salon that they are required by some convention to allow visitors to piss on. It is entirely up to the person with the blog, just as what happens in a home is up to the person with a home. Indeed, being required to allow your carpet to be the target for glistening golden streams of liquid in order to obtain or maintain a specific level of feminist or anti-racist cred is beyond the pale astonishingly fucked up.

The public square (the place where the metaphorical soap boxes are kept) is different. No one person using that place should be able to easily tell any one else in that place what to say and not say or how to say it.

One could argue that such proscriptions can be asserted at the social level. The majority of denizens of the public square can decide what kind of pissing is not allowed and when. This is of course the objection that some bloggers are trying (usually not very effectively) to make. If the social proscription exists even for good reason and is worked out with impeccable logic, it will eventually be used by power brokers to silence voices that question the status quo, voices that those in power would rather not hear.

Civility is only one mode of proscription. There are as many modes of proscription as there are methods and styles of communication. Civility is a word meant to cover a lot of ground, but it is imperfect, and as such will only serve to focus the question (of who gets to tell whom to shut up) temporarily until some other method is found.

A reasonable person who blogs in controversial areas has a right to disallow any sort of conversation on one’s blog, but will more likely listen to a wider range of opinions than one might like to hear. This is often a feature that separates right from left politically among US based blogs. Right wing blogs almost never allow dissent. Left wing blogs usually tolerate a fair amount of pissing. Furthermore, a reasonable person who blogs may be fine with the idea of hearing privately from a commenter who has the urge to piss but is not being allowed to piss to find a way to relief. This is control. This is the blogger being in charge of what who can say what and when. But it is perfectly appropriate because it applies only to the person’s blog, not to the public square. A person who really needs to piss and can not find a place to do it can get their own toilet … I mean blog.

I find it interesting that some of the better known bloggers who insist on the preservation of incivility are themselves the least welcoming to anyone who may have a different view on their own blogs. This does not apply to all such bloggers, but among the pro-pissing crowd may also be found the most strident banners of commenters and those with the most ready winged monkey sock puppet brigades (designed to belittle or humiliate select commenters) and those who engage most giddily in sophomoric social network pranks.

This is why the conversation so often resembles a shouting match between middle school bullies and hapless new kids on the block. And, I say with my strongest admonishing white male privileged voice, this is why fewer people listen to them than they would like. Their incivility is not the issue. Their very poor execution of a strategy to help less privileged voices be heard is the problem. In fact, the strategy is in some cases so poorly executed that it is probably setting us back a few years in this area of social evolution.

Probably in most cases, indubitably in a few cases, the pro-incivility bloggers have not thought this through. There is some evidence that they won’t be able to think this through, or if they do, it is too late and they can’t back off from their current approach. In my view, that part of the conversation should be circumscribed and ignored. But just for the fun of it, I’m going to try to say once what I think they would have said had they been smarter or thought longer. And by my words I may repress them (oh, if only it were true):

Social discourse is a negotiated process. The negotiation is dynamic, and involves shifting power and shifting conventions of what is prescribed and proscribed. There are times when a certain set of conventions … like demanding civility when the argument gets heated and one is losing it, or speaking in ever shifting hard to decipher slang so only the in-crowd gets the nuances, or conspiring to cram the Google machine or decontextualize phrases, or selective commenting policies or use of trained sock puppets … emerges for the specific purposes of controlling other people’s voices. Sadly, sometimes such things work. Where we fall into a similar political (or other activist) framework, we should be vigilant and helpful, to facilitate rather than repress conversation, and watch each other’s backs.

That’s what I think. I welcome comments below. Please keep it interesting.

Comments

  1. #1 Stephanie Z
    January 30, 2010

    Are you suggesting that #bobchickenshit would never mistake power tools for toys?

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    Bobchickenshit is a great example of both conspiratorial obscurity and being sophomoric. There was actually a time when I thought … oh never mind, I’m trying to keep my own comments civil. For now.

  3. #3 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 30, 2010

    My impression of what is being asserted is not that Gee needs to “let people piss on his rug”, but rather that the decision not to has implications. And my impression–based, admittedly, on hearsay evidence–is that what enraged Gee at the Civility Panel was the expression of an opinion about what some of those implications might be.

    And BTW, what I don’t get is why anyone would install a fucking rug in their blog anyway. When shit gets out of hand, it’s much easier to clean a tile floor.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    A tile floor with a drain is recommended.

  5. #5 Stephanie Z
    January 30, 2010

    And something to grind up the bones.

  6. #6 horace
    January 30, 2010

    So, these are twitter hash tags? I feel like I need to learn a new code.

  7. #7 Ian Brooks
    January 30, 2010

    Nicely put Greg. This whole shenanigans is turning into urinary bukkake where the act of pissing has become the point of the argument, rather than a feature of the discussion.

    The majority of blogs are self-regulating, as are web forums etc. I honestly don’t see what all the fuss about: if you don’t like it, don’t read it. It’s a wonderfully egalitarian environment. I read some Scienceblogs, and I might not agree with everyone, or fancy reading everything written by bloggers I follow (you, Isis & PZ mostly). But just like in *gasp* real life, I might not agree with everything my friends and acquaintances say, or indeed family & loved ones.

    And if someone is being particularly egregious, or enjoys talking about things I find distasteful (for example), why then, I can simply “not be friends” with that person, or not join in their conversation.

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    But seriously, CPP, and I know communication is not your business or anything, but

    “Gee needs to let people piss on his rug” or bad things happen

    and

    “the decision not to let people piss on his rug has implications. ”

    are not substantively different. Do we really want to make this into an act of sophistry?

    As I say in my post, the purveyors of the “incivility or you are the repressorz” are very wrong, and in too deep to back out. So now we will fight over “it is bad” to “it has bad implications”?

    I don’t think so.

  9. #9 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 30, 2010

    The point is that there is definitely a big difference between saying (1) you must/must not do X, (2) if you do/do not do X, I will do Y (for values of Y that do not include merely saying something in public you don’t like), or (3) if you do/do not do X, I will say something in public you might not like.

    My impression is that Gee was enraged by an instance of (3), which I find pathetic. Other than harrassment, libel, etc, why would anyone give a flying fuck that some random douche tells them they are an idiot and suck balls?

  10. #10 Mr. Gunn
    January 30, 2010

    One could do worse than copy BoingBoing’s moderation guidelines. BoingBoing is one of the most popular sites on the internet, and has been around for ages. They know what they’re doing.

  11. #11 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    Yup, sophistry.

  12. #12 cromercrox
    January 30, 2010

    Look, for the last time, it wasn’t my rug, it was John Wilkins’.

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    But it still tied the whole room together.

  14. #14 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 30, 2010

    Dude, I am not a sophist.

  15. #15 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    I did not say you were a sophist. I said you were engaging in sophistry. I cna’t believe you don’t know the difference!!!!!

  16. #16 Stephanie Z
    January 30, 2010

    Boing Boing has had their own problems with moderation of dissent in comments. One of the reasons I don’t have a comment policy is because I’m never going to pretend my comment moderation is anything other than arbitrary.

  17. #17 Isis the Scientist
    January 30, 2010

    #bobchickenshit is not a guarded secret. There are a cache of non-SBers using the hashtag. If you want to know what it means, shoot me an email rather than assuming it’s some grand conspiracy to exclude you. I’ll happily tell you the story.

  18. #18 Rita
    January 30, 2010

    It seems utterly obvious that not only CAN a blog owner control what happens in comments, but a blog owner SHOULD control what happens in comments.

  19. #19 llewelly
    January 30, 2010

    Should just anyone be allowed to piss on Henry Gee’s rug?

    His blog is so awful I’m surprised anyone would notice.

  20. #20 Stephanie Z
    January 30, 2010

    Isis, I don’t think the word you wanted to use there was “cache”:

    1 a : a hiding place especially for concealing and preserving provisions or implements

  21. #21 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    The Boing Boing case is interesting. Some of the commentary on that claims that it would have been OK for Boing Boing to delete posts if their policy was secretive and arbitrary, but since they profess transparency they are totally evil. I suppose there is something to that, but I would think people would evaluate the act as an act of its own right.

    There is the added irony: A relatively open comment system can lead to people taking advantage of that (as has been seen on this blog with various yahoos and denialists).

  22. #22 Seth
    January 30, 2010

    Isis, I don’t think the word you wanted to use there was “cache”

    Hahahahahahahah!!!!!

  23. #23 NewEnglandBob
    January 30, 2010

    My short answer is no, pissing on a blogger’s rug does not have to be allowed.

    I don’t know who Henry Gee is nor do I care (I already follow 35 sources) but if a blog becomes a place for personal attacks or is ruined by trolls then I just leave. e.g. I just could not stomach Pharyngula if PZ did not have a list of banned psychopaths.

  24. #24 Stephanie Z
    January 30, 2010

    My concern with the Boing Boing case, and this wasn’t the only one, was the way a moderation policy turned into a “asking about the moderation policy will get your comments deleted and, possibly, you banned” policy, while the official policy didn’t change at all. I got to watch it during this incident as someone was using their own blog to document what was being deleted.

    They can do that. Anybody can do that. But then why have a policy that people will rely on to guide their behavior? I prefer none.

  25. #25 Isis the Scientist
    January 30, 2010

    That’s what you took away?

    2. In Computer Science: A fast storage buffer in the central processing unit of a computer. Also called cache memory.

  26. #26 Seth
    January 30, 2010

    In Computer Science: A fast storage buffer

    Let the cache wars commence!!!

  27. #27 Stephanie Z
    January 30, 2010

    No, I didn’t come away with that definition, but that’s probably because no processing is done in the cache. #bobchickenshit is processing.

  28. #28 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    Well, Henry has now told me in three different places that it was no this rug, but John Wilkins’s. Had I realized that, this would be all different. By all means, piss on Wilkins’ rug!!

    He likes it, he’s a gorilla.

  29. #29 chezjake
    January 30, 2010

    I’m wondering how much of the controversy here is due to people confusing “pissing on the carpet” (presumably saying/doing something that makes things awkward or difficult for *everyone* in the metaphorical blog “room” with Zuska’s famous “puking on your shoes” (presumably an act against a specific individual for a specific offense).

    If I had a blog, I think I would try to create an atmosphere where generalized pissing on the carpet would be discouraged, but I think I’d support the occasional well-deserved shoe puking (even my own shoes).

  30. #30 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    Zuska has never puked on my shoes, by the way. So I’m cool.

  31. #31 SC (Salty Current)
    January 30, 2010

    Wait…this Henry Gee?

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/06/dr_who_dr_dawkins.php#comment-958164

    I am not asking to be liked, I am not asking that people join in … I am asking to be accorded the choice that is the privilege of all civilized societies to be allowed to practice their beliefs without molestation or being vilified for what they do, irrespective of how rational they think it.

    But of course, some of you probably think I am an untermensch, as did the people who killed my grandparents and my two aunts — one a toddler, I have recently discovered, the other a babe in arms, and then recycled them as soap and lampshades, and presumably deserving of no better fate.

    …Now, back to this ‘respect’ thing. I am sometimes told by atheists that they ‘respect’ me but not my religious beliefs, and expect me to be happy with that curious point of view. My response is usually to say that if they disrespect my religion, then, surely, that disrespect must take some concrete form* – defacing stones in cemeteries, perhaps? Or torching synagogues? If not, then this disrespect is simply empty posturing. The atheist usually then gets rather cross, which suggests I have touched a nerve.

    I predict that in five or ten years time, thanks to Dawkins and others, then scientists who profess any kind of religious belief will find it hard to get tenure, and then jobs, and then papers published, and finally their employers, responding to pressure, will be forced to fire them or retire them early. It will start with the Jews, of course, because these things usually do, as they have done many times in the past.

    *Challenging and arguing with his beliefs is evidently impossible in this fantasy world.

  32. #32 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    Salty, for some reason I’m totally missing your point.

  33. #33 Josh, Offical SpokesGay
    January 30, 2010

    Yep, SC, that’s him. Thanks for reminding me. I was wracking my brain trying to remember that outburst. Gee has a talent for acting like a complete jerk – calling Richard Dawkins “Dickie D” – then affecting woundedness when people call him on it.

  34. #34 SC (Salty Current)
    January 30, 2010

    Is it civil to come to an atheist blog and accuse the commenters of being Nazi wannabes because they openly challenge religious belief? If that’s civility, I want no part of it.

  35. #35 Josh, Official SpokesGay
    January 30, 2010

    SC’s right, Greg. The name-calling from Gee was really the least of it. You might want to take time to read that thread; his behavior was appalling by any standard, whether one is predisposed to give him the benefit of the doubt or not.

  36. #36 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    OK, I wasn’t sure if your point was about the content (in which issues of civility vs. holocaust might have been being made?) or Henry on Pharyngula.

    First, let me be very clear about something: I’m not here to defend Henry in any way, and I’m not making an argument about his civility, lack of civility, or anything, so I don’t need to be tutored to read the thread to see what Henry is like as though that was a point to be made in the argument. It isn’t. Henry is a big scary gruff poweful male and I would fail as his keeper or his defender, though I do consider him a friend and colleague. (With whom I’m told I disagree on many issues, though he and I have never discussed them.)

    I guess my response here could be that even if Henry has a point that Wilkins (or Gee) could set up a blog and tell anyone who pisses on their rug to shove off, that does not mean that one follows one’s own rules on other blogs. There is no reason one should do that. It is not like there is some ideal internet wide behavior and anyone who shifts behavior while shifting focus from one location to another is a hypocrite, which I think is the implication here, and a very incorrect analysis.

    When Physiprof comes to my blog and acts like a shit, he acts like he always does, and he is pushing the edge of what I will tolerate. When he goes to Isis’ blog and acts like a shit, Isis and her sock puppets get all wet and giggly. This is why Physioprof is fucked …. he does not realize that context is a factor. He should either confine his activities to the two blogs where he is appreciated, or adapt. (Well, to be fair, he has learned to adapt over the last year. I’m really talking about the old Physiprof … before I called him out and schooled him on how to behave and shit.)

    In the cited case, Gee is blasting away at pharynguloids. That is normal for that blog. I don’t shoot paintballs in my house, but I can go down the road and shoot paintballs on any one of the twenty or so paintball places in my neighborhood. (Except I don’t, but that’s besides the point.)

    So, really, unless I’m missing the point … Henry Gee pissing all over other commenters and the blogger at Pharyngula is normal and expected and is not exceptional or relevant to this argument.

    What am I missing?

    (Oh, and Isis, no, I don’t chose the nuclear option. You have no idea what that would be.)

  37. #37 Josh Slocum
    January 30, 2010

    Greg, I think what you may be missing is the content of Gee’s criticism in that particular Pharyngula thread. It was not only intellectually untenable, it was bizarre and offensive. Offensive in the sense of making un-subtle comparisons between “new atheists” and the pogroms preceding the holocaust. You said you “don’t need to be tutored” to read the thread (gosh, Greg, I just suggested it, I wasn’t even rude. . what gives?), so, OK.

    But that was not an example of Gee just joining in Pharyngula rowdiness. It was not just a jocular tit for tat, no harm no foul. There *is* a difference. And there *is* a reason – and it’s a justified one – that some of us who’ve run into Gee online before are not kindly disposed to him. It would not be fair to write us off as a bunch of sassy loudmouth Pharyngulites who can dish it out and not take it.

    Context or not, Gee is capable of being shockingly, dishonestly unpleasant.

  38. #38 SC (Salty Current)
    January 30, 2010

    OK, I wasn’t sure if your point was about the content (in which issues of civility vs. holocaust might have been being made?) or Henry on Pharyngula.

    I guess my point was about the involved parties (you excluded, of course ;)) being (non-)experts on civility.

    First, let me be very clear about something: I’m not here to defend Henry in any way, and I’m not making an argument about his civility, lack of civility, or anything,

    I thought this was about civility.

    I guess my response here could be that even if Henry has a point that Wilkins (or Gee) could set up a blog and tell anyone who pisses on their rug to shove off, that does not mean that one follows one’s own rules on other blogs. There is no reason one should do that.

    Hmmm…

    It is not like there is some ideal internet wide behavior and anyone who shifts behavior while shifting focus from one location to another is a hypocrite, which I think is the implication here, and a very incorrect analysis.

    There is the matter of consistency, which is really what hypocrisy is about.

    In the cited case, Gee is blasting away at pharynguloids. That is normal for that blog.

    No, it isn’t normal for someone to accuse people in the course of a debate of desiring to torch synagogues and perpetrate a holocaust. It really, really isn’t. (Even among creationists, in fact.) I still haven’t gotten over it. It was a horrible thing to suggest.

    (I honestly don’t know the full history of this discussion, but it struck a chord to hear that Gee was talking about civility.)

    ***

    The public square (the place where the metaphorical soap boxes are kept) is different.

    Where is this found?

  39. #39 Onkel Bob
    January 30, 2010

    I don’t visit many of the blogs mentioned, mostly because I have enough noise in my life as it is… (I f-ing hate NYC, but that’s an another story)
    Anywho, This makes me think of the observation that the arguments in humanities are so bitter because the stakes are so small. Then there’s this: You need insurance.

  40. #40 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    OK, fair enough. Henry was being a complete ass and thus a hypocrite, perhaps. (Or I take that to be your point.)

    I was thinking that in the rowdy atmosphere of Pharyngula, somebody being offensive etc. was to be expected. It may well be that Henry’s particular comments there or elsewhere are inappropriate. And, if Henry is being over the top where he should not be, he should be called on it, and so on and so forth.

    One could argue that Henry is being asked to pipe down and be civil about this Jewish thing, and one could wonder if he should get some slack because he did have half the elder generation of his family gassed to death and so on.

    One could argue that Henry is a hypocrite, that he says “don’t piss on John’s rug” (and by implication Henry’s?) but then he goes and pisses on other people’s rugs.

    But Henry is just a metaphor. The real question being: “Is it reasonable that a blogger require commenters be “civil,” or is such a requirement a tool of repression of ideas one does not want to hear or be heard by others?”

    And the secondary point is that the focus on this one thing … civility … is under-thought. Dumb, if you will. The problem is more complex, bigger, and important and requires more attention than providing this fetish (some blogger’s concept of civility) as a stomping and spitting point.

  41. #41 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    Onkel Bob: Nice link. There are lawyers who are creaming in their metaphorical jeans over the great potential the blogosphere offers them for frivolous lawyering.

  42. #42 Abel Pharmboy
    January 30, 2010

    For the record, I don’t even know what #bobchickenshit means, although I think I do.

    Carry on.

  43. #43 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    Abel, I definitely don’t know what it means. I’m totally at sea in this twitter thing. I mean, I get the basic idea but the first or second level beyond its intended purpose defeats me.

    I may need better software.

  44. #44 SC (Salty Current)
    January 30, 2010

    One could argue that Henry is being asked to pipe down and be civil about this Jewish thing,

    If one were not reading.

    But Henry is just a metaphor. The real question being: “Is it reasonable that a blogger require commenters be “civil,” or is such a requirement a tool of repression of ideas one does not want to hear or be heard by others?”

    It’s reasonable for bloggers to set standards for their blogs, with the understanding that responsible people recognize that blogs are part of the public conversation. But there needs to be a discussion about what civility in the 21st-century public sphere means.

  45. #45 ERV
    January 30, 2010

    #26–
    In Computer Science: A fast storage buffer

    Let the cache wars commence!!!

    The word ‘cache’ makes zero sense in the original sentence, despite her attempts at defending it:

    There are a cache of non-SBers using the hashtag.

    I think the word she meant to use was ‘cadre’.

  46. #46 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    SC, I think we agree on this.

    ERV, I think you may be right. From Websters: “…A tightly knit group of zealots …”

  47. #47 Donna B.
    January 30, 2010

    I’m grateful for this entire dust-up because reading about it takes me back to junior high.

  48. #48 Isis the Scientist
    January 30, 2010

    I still fail to see why Greg Laden thinks #bobchickenshit has anything to do with him.

  49. #49 Stephanie Z
    January 30, 2010

    For those curious, it’s probably worth explaining #bobchickenshit. It is a Twitter hashtag, started by DrugMonkey, I believe. I was just chatting with him on Twitter (yes, we do that) and was reminded of the first time I saw it. He’d put a post up about some problem of inclusiveness in NIH-funded science. He got one of those “Oh, well in our lab, blah, blah, blah” comments that suggested that anyone for whom this was still a problem, well, they were the problem. Up popped a Tweet just a little bit later that said, basically, “#bobchickenshit always maintains a perfectly run lab.”

    I laughed. I understood the frustration at someone who thinks complex problems are that easily solved. I got that this was venting in the place of arguing with a commenter who wasn’t really adding anything to the discussion and probably a calculation that they wouldn’t even if the original thread was derailed long enough to argue it out. Sometimes talking it out isn’t worth it.

    That was how it was used for a while: basically a response to being told how to do…whatever. That isn’t how it stayed. The current most recent #bobchickenshit Tweet as I write this is Isis saying, “#bobchickenshit always chooses the nuclear option.” I don’t think it’s because anyone told her she was taking things too easy. It’s because #bobchickenshit has turned from resisting the pressure on us to putting pressure on others.

    I think that’s the important point here. #bobchickenshit isn’t a mark of resisting those who think you should be something other than what you are. Bora has already noted (and just about everyone has demonstrated) that avoiding proscribed language of any sort isn’t a mark of civility or using it a mark of incivility. Comment moderation policies aren’t a mark of being inclusive or exclusive.

    They’re just tools. We can use them strategically to meet our goals for blogging and other interactions online (you do think about why you spend this much time online, right?), or we can just use them whenever, for whatever. Of course, if we do that, then they’ll be nice and dull when we need them for something we do want to accomplish.

  50. #50 daedalus2u
    January 30, 2010

    let me understand this. NN is hosting a free-for-all on the issue of how civility in blogs enhances (or not) communication on blogs?

    And they are doing this on a special blog that is commemorating their 50,000th comment?

    50,000?

    What ever they are doing, they are doing it rong.

  51. #51 Greg Laden
    January 30, 2010

    Isis, I’m sure it didn’t. I just took it over and now it is mine.

    Isn’t that the whole point of twittering? To collect hash tags? I’ve got 16 so far.

    What? Am I doing this wrong?

  52. #52 SC (Salty Current)
    January 30, 2010

    SC, I think we agree on this.

    I think so, too.

    The word ‘cache’ makes zero sense in the original sentence, despite her attempts at defending it:

    Illiterate bloggers give me a pane.

    …sheet?

    …parole?

  53. #53 Stephanie Z
    January 30, 2010

    Isis, this old Tweet of yours might have something to do with it:

    bobchickenshit needs no clique. He’s a mover and a shaker. Or maybe he just has as student writing a thesis on that.

  54. #54 horace
    January 30, 2010

    @49: So you are saying that Isis broke Bobchickenshit?

    This discussion is evidence of the youth of the internet. These were all arguments worked out when instead of blogs there were caves and instead of Sb and NN there were H saps and Neanderthals and instead of carpets to piss on there were piles of unused flints or whatever.

  55. #55 Irene
    January 30, 2010

    There is nothing wrong with the idea that a blog moderator or owner has limits to what they will allow, but I agree that there is a paradox: The more thoughtful one may be of commentary and comment, the more difficult to hold to a certain standard. The internet is full of people who have little interest other than to challenge or object to whatever they run across.

  56. #56 Stephanie Z
    January 30, 2010

    No, horace. Pointing at the start and end of a period of time don’t tell you what happened in the middle. I saw a lot of it, I’m sure, but certainly not enough to say with any certainty what happened. I am saying it’s not the sharp commentary it started as.

  57. #57 horace
    January 30, 2010

    Funny. At first Stephanie I thought you were answering about the paleolithic. I was going to ask “How did you see it?”

  58. #58 Pak
    January 30, 2010

    So my professor said “I have to tell you, just like if you start a relationship with somebody you might say “I have herpes” or whatever …. but I’m a blogger!” (all laughted).

    So now I find it and think herpes might be less pain than this conversation. Not that i have herpies.

  59. #59 SC (Salty Current)
    January 30, 2010

    The internet is full of people who have little interest other than to challenge or object to whatever they run across.

    GOATS ON FIRE – that’s all anyone’s interested in these days.

  60. #60 Paul S.
    January 30, 2010

    Civility can be use to suppress dissent. So can incivility. I tend to think of them as kind of like tools or technologies that can be used for good or bad purposes.

    In regard to the rest of the argument, it just seems strange to me how people who basically agree on the majority of things end up having so many bitter arguments. I guess that’s just what happens when you get a lot of people who have strong views together.

  61. #61 ERV
    January 30, 2010

    Pak– If you take Acyclovir and wear a condom, your rates of transmission to your partner go down significantly (~80%). Not as much as antiretrovirals+condoms for HIV-1 (~95%), but much better than nothing at all.

    So, yeah, HSV-2 would be better.

  62. #62 Pierce R. Butler
    January 30, 2010

    … the old Physiprof … before I called him out and schooled him on how to behave and shit.)

    A friend of mine is having some trouble toilet-training her baby (who is probably less rowdy than PhysioProf) – could you come visit and give her a few tips?

  63. #63 yolande
    January 30, 2010

    @ Pierce

    Has she tried Toilet Training 101?

  64. #64 Comrade PhysioProf
    January 30, 2010

    When Physiprof comes to my blog and acts like a shit, he acts like he always does, and he is pushing the edge of what I will tolerate.

    Dude, you know you love it when I come to your blog. And I am always nice to you, when you don’t fuck shit up egregiously.

  65. #65 quietly watching
    January 30, 2010

    I was in the room for the famous Gee-Zuska slapdown match. I have read no fewer than a dozen descriptions of what happened there. Almost all of the descriptions can be categorized (predicted, really) by simply knowing who hands out with whom on the blawgs, who is in which camp, who likes or dislikes whom. A grand jury being shown this evidence would drop the case, a psychiatrist looking at these descriptions would be reaching for her script pad.

    No one should believe a word about this discussion having been well moderated. It may well be that it could not have been well moderated by anyone.

    It was suggested that the Jewish thing never came up, and somewhere Zuska claims that she had no idea who he was or that he was Jewish. She might have listened to him when he said “I am Jewish” to find that out. He was wearing a name tag. And he is fairly well known. I find it unsavory, but I feel that I have to question Zuska’s honest in this regard.

    There are also differences that are unacknowledged between the cultures represented – a common language/culture and a big pond and all that.

  66. #66 Wyatt
    January 30, 2010

    CPP, Laden may or may not like your style, but it is always funny to watch pure delusion passing through the neighborhood.

  67. #67 jackie
    January 31, 2010

    How much do you pay to get into this conference? I’m just asking because I want to start saving up.

  68. #68 Lisa A
    January 31, 2010

    Is it reasonable that a blogger require commenters be “civil,” or is such a requirement a tool of repression of ideas one does not want to hear or be heard by others?

    A blogger has to require some “civility” in the comment section for a blog to be a place where people will stick around at all.

  69. #69 the real foghorn
    January 31, 2010

    Why is it “Bob” chickenshit? and not “Arnie” chickenshit? or “Gladys” chickenshit?

  70. #70 SC (Salty Current)
    January 31, 2010

    It was suggested that the Jewish thing never came up,

    OK, I’ll admit again that I have no knowledge of this particular debate; I also have limited knowledge of both Zuska and Gee. But given my limited experience with him (linked to above, and IIRC I thought* he was Asian until he brought it up), I have to ask how “the Jewish thing” came up in this context. Who gives a shit if he’s Jewish? Of what possible relevance is that to this discussion?

    *in a reverse-Seinfeld twist

  71. #71 Nature Lover
    January 31, 2010

    Thank you for writing this. I was quite annoyed to see another blogger using the 50K mark for comments as a way to denigrate rather than congratulate the Nature Network.

  72. #72 Stephanie Z
    January 31, 2010

    SC, if you’re going to appoint yourself judge of what is appropriate for Henry to say, read up on the context.

  73. #73 Bryan
    January 31, 2010

    As a regular reader of (but not commenter on) Pharyngula, I did not see Henry Gee’s comments as particularly stronger or more over-the-top than 10% or even 20% of the other commenters there.

  74. #74 SC (Salty Current)
    January 31, 2010

    SC, if you’re going to appoint yourself judge of what is appropriate for Henry to say,

    When did I do that? What are you talking about?

    As a regular reader of (but not commenter on) Pharyngula, I did not see Henry Gee’s comments as particularly stronger or more over-the-top than 10% or even 20% of the other commenters there.

    Why his comments were over the top there (or anywhere) has been explained.

  75. #75 SC (Salty Current)
    January 31, 2010

    Thanks for the link, Stephanie.

    He quotes John Wilkins:

    “There are plenty of places you can accuse people of being pedophilic communist sexist pigs; don’t do it here.”

    Substitute “Nazis.”

  76. #76 david
    January 31, 2010

    Zuska has excluded my carefully wrought comment. Fine. I just don’t go there. Cotournix has objected to my being in his like “living room.” Fine, I just don’t go there. Whether they are hypocrites does not interest me. They have in mind a certain type of dialog they want. Fine, I don’t have to be part of it.

    Ironically I felt I was doing them a favor, I like ScBlgs, by adding some zip to an otherwise drab, dull post they made and they would be glad for any argument, but no.

    I can’t view them as inexperienced and having bad judgment as I am prone to do, because I don’t know what they are trying to do, and whatever it is it’s up to them. They are sculpting their audience, chiseling down, let them have at it and shape it exactly like they want, period.

    In my opinion, however, not all blogs are created equal, some are poorly written, some excellent, few in between, and that fact is missing from the discussion, and just about has to be unmentionable— oops, some do not want to hear that.

    Both Isis and Greg Laden are among blogs that I read, including the comments, doesn’t take long. I expect all will get off of this civility concern Civil War sometime. Meanwhile it’s somewhat interesting like a fight on the playground, not much real damage being done to anyone, too weak thank goodness.

  77. #77 Blake Stacey
    January 31, 2010

    In regard to the rest of the argument, it just seems strange to me how people who basically agree on the majority of things end up having so many bitter arguments. I guess that’s just what happens when you get a lot of people who have strong views together.

    As James Madison put it in the Federalist Papers:

    A zeal for different opinions concerning religion, concerning government, and many other points, as well of speculation as of practice; an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties, inflamed them with mutual animosity, and rendered them much more disposed to vex and oppress each other than to co-operate for their common good. So strong is this propensity of mankind to fall into mutual animosities, that where no substantial occasion presents itself, the most frivolous and fanciful distinctions have been sufficient to kindle their unfriendly passions and excite their most violent conflicts.

  78. #78 Stephanie Z
    January 31, 2010

    SC, I haven’t seen you do anything else in this thread, despite Greg pointing out that Henry isn’t the point and you, apparently, agreeing.

  79. #79 razib
    January 31, 2010

    i weren’t there, so i really wish it was on youtube. i’ve heard so many versions of the incident in posts and comments.

  80. #80 Ichthyic
    January 31, 2010

    Should just anyone be allowed to piss on Henry Gee’s rug? (#scio10)

    I rather think, given the exchanges I and others I’ve seen have had with him, that it’s instead Henry who presumes he can piss on everyone else’s rugs, and accuse us all of “impertinence” when we challenge him on it.

    frankly, I hope he does have some friends, ’cause I would never be interested in buying him a beer.

    Poor representative for an editor, in any case!

    …unless he’s trying to try out for the part of J Jonah Jameson in the next Spiderman movie.

  81. #81 Ichthyic
    January 31, 2010

    I think the confusion about why SC brought up the thread on pharyngula is that it happened almost 2 years ago, and so many have entirely forgotten how that exchange went.

    The idea being that Henry himself has been quite uncivil not only to other commenters, but other writes, over the time many of us have been following his internet presence to a greater or lesser extent.

    So the idea of Henry representing a charge for “civil discourse” seems almost ludicrous to those of us who have seen him at his, hopefully, “less than best”.

    so yeah, hypocrisy, etc.

    I think that’s pretty much the main reason.

  82. #82 Ichthyic
    January 31, 2010

    writes>writers

  83. #83 MadScientist
    January 31, 2010

    Some bloggers accept criticism (including a fair degree of unfair comments if only to show what idiots they have to deal with at times) while other bloggers choose to have a pretty little blog which only ever reflects their own opinion and that of like-minded people. The latter are blogs that I typically avoid nor would I ever post a comment on such blogs because I know I can’t really bring up any substantial issues. People can do whatever they want with their own blog; others can discuss the posts on yet another blog and be as “uncivil” as the other blog owner will let them be. I must complain though, some people wish to have “uncivil” redefined as “doesn’t agree with me” just as “open-minded” has been redefined as “only ever agrees 100% with me”.

  84. #84 Heather
    January 31, 2010

    Thank you, Greg, for not only a well-balanced post but for hosting the kind of comments thread that made me want to read through to the bottom.

    It is not disrespectful to disagree with people. It does not have to be uncivil, either. A few people conflate civility with complete and utter agreement, on both sides of the divide, to their loss. Meaning, some think being civil means never to disagree unseemingly in public, and seethe in private. Others think it’s perfectly acceptable to use language or hot-button discourse that they know the blog owner will take exception to, in order to make their points. Then they get pissed off and vocal elsewhere when they are redacted, and take it as a free speech issue.

    Most of us lurk, and even those who don’t are pretty reasonable overall. This thread is the perfect example, with a good mix of all the representative positions.

    I personally find Henry to have been a far more interesting personality to follow in his writing so far than most of the people who were on his case recently. I don’t have to agree with all he writes, and I don’t. But much of it is fabulous, and people who haven’t read much could reserve judgment.

    The Dude didn’t like people pissing on his carpet, either. I am surprised not to have noticed anyone bringing it up yet. I mean, that should settle the question right there.

  85. #85 SC (Salty Current)
    January 31, 2010

    [Wrote a reply to this shortly adter it was posted, but then lost my internet connection for a while.]

    SC, I haven’t seen you do anything else in this thread, despite Greg pointing out that Henry isn’t the point and you, apparently, agreeing.

    I agreed that civility was the point. I was suggesting that Gee and *ahem* others involved in this discussion are hardly ones to lecture on civil discourse (as Ichthyic has explained in the meantime).

  86. #86 Greg Laden
    January 31, 2010

    Blake[77] As James Madison put it in the Federalist Papers:

    Which was a blog.

  87. #87 Greg Laden
    January 31, 2010

    razib [79]i weren’t there, so i really wish it was on youtube. i’ve heard so many versions of the incident in posts and comments.

    That is actually starting to get more interesting than the issue itself. It’s like a big game of clue or something. If only Isis had just worn the surgical mask…

    Ichthyic[84]: So the idea of Henry representing a charge for “civil discourse” seems almost ludicrous to those of us who have seen him at his, hopefully, “less than best”.

    I’m not sure Henry is advocating for “civil discourse,” and I certainly an not myself advocating for “civil discourse.”

    I’m not against civil discourse, and this is where I seem to separate from my Sbling sister Isis (who see civil discourse itself as the problem). It has its place and the more people that can engage in it the better.

    My position is more complicated than that, and I agree with the idea that a blog owner, as annoying as it may be sometimes, can set the pissing/no-pissing rules. They can even be arbitrary and capricious about it. A blog is a storefront, not a public kiosk.

    But there are public kiosks. The blosophere itself is one.

    What I did not address in this post (though I thought about doing it) is the idea that communities of bloggers might have a responsibility, depending on what the community is about, to encourage and embrace diversity. One way to do that is to have a rich and diverse blog roll and to point to a diversity of bogs where appropriate, and to encourage and help out new bloggers who represent that diversity.

    But that is an entirely other post. Or ten.

  88. #88 Greg Laden
    January 31, 2010

    Heather, thanks for the very civil comment. Sorry it got stuck in moderation (I don’t really understand our moderation filter at this moment).

    I had brought up The Dude in the reference to the rug “tying it all together”!!!

    But there is a great photo at the end of your link that I will now add to the post…

  89. #89 Oran Kelley
    January 31, 2010

    As someone who is sometimes a bothersome commentator, I support the editorial power of the blogger, site editor, whomever.

    Sometimes that power is exercised badly, I think, but it is a good thing that it exists–it serves to promote diversity, for one thing. Without the power to edit (even when it is rarely exercised) these quasi-public spaces would become much more alike just through osmosis–like what happened to the open usenet.

    Generally speaking, I think most folks use a pretty light hand on the tiller, which I think gives us a lot of freedom and relatively few cases of just plain shutting people up.

    As to whether civility is a tool of the oppressor . . .well this is a pretty tired issue, I think. The same argument was being made about rationality back in the 1990s, and, well, I don’t think the advocates of this position were ever able to get over the self-contradictions inherent in these positions.

    If no one is required to be civil or to be rational, how can we require anyone to be fair or righteous or humane. When the oppressed cry out why is “Tough cookies, weakling! Lick my boot! I don’t need a reason.” not an appropriate response?

    Contrary to Audre Lorde, the masters’ tools will *always* be used to dismantle the master’s house. You give the masters rather too much credit if you think the process isn’t reversible, revisable and inherently unstable.

    Does “civility” reflect the master’s preferences? Sure what do you expect? So does music, literature, science . . . and we don’t feel compelled to abandon them. The constraints imposed by civility, rationality, etc. are slight in comparison to the opportunities they offer. And those constraints can be adjusted, and have been.

    Rationality and civility, however badly those concepts may have been used, still reflect good universal principles, like the findings of science, as male-dominated and otherwise blinkered as it may be sometimes, reflect a fairly good picture of the universe.

  90. #90 qbsmd
    January 31, 2010

    This is often a feature that separates right from left politically among US based blogs. Right wing blogs almost never allow dissent. Left wing blogs usually tolerate a fair amount of pissing.

    I view someone complaining about incivility or moderating comments as having a weak argument. They’ve run out of substantive things to say, so they talk about tone instead. I think we should be focused on social engineering to redefine “uncivil” to mean fallacious, a distraction from the topic of discussion, or an attempt to shut down a discussion.

    “Gee needs to let people piss on his rug” or bad things happen

    and

    “the decision not to let people piss on his rug has implications.”

    are not substantively different. Do we really want to make this into an act of sophistry?

    I don’t think that’s right. It seems obvious to me that “the decision not to let people piss on his rug has implications”. It leaves open the question of whether those implications are on balance good or bad, and to decide that, the bad implications must be discussed. The other statement concludes that those implications are on balance bad.

  91. #91 Irene
    January 31, 2010

    qbsmd: I don’t think there is any doubt that Isis and CPP and their so called “ilk” are not thinking good things when they use the word “consequences” in reference to enforced civility/lack thereof.

  92. #92 RBH
    January 31, 2010

    Ian Brooks wrote

    The majority of blogs are self-regulating, as are web forums etc.

    I don’t think that’s true. I’ve been an administrator on three secular web boards (the late lamented IIDB, TalkRational, and now Secular Cafe) and moderate comments on my posts on Panda’s Thumb, and working out how to moderate posts in a way that allows substantial freedom of expression without the ‘tone’ (for lack of a better word) of them alienating so many potential participants that the board sinks into a chorus of sycophants is a very tough job.

    IIDB in its golden days had it more or less right, TalkRational has wandered off into impenetrable thickets of navel-gazing over regulation, and Secular Cafe has it about right. But it’s no simple task to create and maintain a social context where dissent, even when expressed strongly, can be welcomed while anarchy, cyber-bullying, and just plain crap is kept under enough control to keep a range of opinions and people in the mix.

  93. #93 Oran Kelley
    January 31, 2010

    Looking over the Gee thread:

    It’s a rather weird notion of hypocrisy to claim that someone who says “there ought to be rules on a blog” is taken to be a hypocrite if he doesn’t always follow said rules.

    That just doesn’t follow. Gee may not always live up to the standards he says should exist, and he may not be a good judge of his own case, but that doesn’t go to the point or make him an unsuitable champion of his side of the argument.

    He isn’t saying “We are each of us morally bound to always be civil.” He is saying “There ought to be rules.”

  94. #94 Anne Gilbert
    January 31, 2010

    I haven’t seen this particular “pissing match”(there are only so many hours in the day when I can wander to various blogs to see what’s going on). I have my own blog, and I try, myself, to be civil, not offensive. I also try very hard to answer people who comment, civilly. I, personally, think this is the best way. But even I, on my supposedly uncontroversial blog The Writer’s Daily Grind have raised some subjects which have “pissed off” some readers. If you have a blog, this probably more or less goes with the territory. If you have a “political” blog, all the more so. I accept that. So from time to time, I get kind of “uncivil” people. What I won’t allow is expressions of things like racism, sexism, etc., or just plain badmouthing. And though some have tried to send such stuff, you won’t find any spam on my blog, either. I filter such stuff out before it even gets there. Is this censorship? I don’t see it that way. I’m just trying to exercise a minimum of control so that my blog is a nice place to visit, not a “smelly” one(which it would be if I allowed that particular kind of “pissing on my carpet”.
    Anne G

  95. #95 SC (Salty Current)
    January 31, 2010

    As someone who is sometimes a bothersome commentator, I support the editorial power of the blogger, site editor, whomever.

    I can’t imagine how this could even be an issue. Of course that’s reasonable to do. Even if people don’t think we should be able to set standards for our blogs, they can’t stop us from doing so.

    As to whether civility is a tool of the oppressor . . .well this is a pretty tired issue, I think. The same argument was being made about rationality back in the 1990s, and, well, I don’t think the advocates of this position were ever able to get over the self-contradictions inherent in these positions.

    This is annoyingly simplistic. First, bringing rationality into it is just muddying the waters – it’s completely irrelevant. Second, if people are to have a discussion about “civility,” they need to define what they mean by the term. Civility is about norms, which all communities have but which vary. Some of these may perpetuate inequalities and privilege already-privileged groups or positions; others may foster inclusion and work to break down established hierarchies. I oppose the former and promote the latter.

    Contrary to Audre Lorde, the masters’ tools will *always* be used to dismantle the master’s house. You give the masters rather too much credit if you think the process isn’t reversible, revisable and inherently unstable.

    This is confused. Examples were given on the thread Stephanie Z linked to of situations in which rules of civility (particularly concerning deference) work to keep oppressed people down and silence them. I’ve offered the example elsewhere of elite-formed standards of “civility” being used to suppress the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in the ’60s. They’re used, often to great effect, against most social movements. Currently, rules of civility that make it bad manners to openly criticize religious beliefs work to privilege religious people and give their ideas undue power in politics. These are standards of civility that need to be challenged and change.

    Does “civility” reflect the master’s preferences? Sure what do you expect? So does music, literature, science . . . and we don’t feel compelled to abandon them.

    Ridiculous.

    The constraints imposed by civility, rationality, etc. are slight in comparison to the opportunities they offer. And those constraints can be adjusted, and have been.

    Vague and simplistic.

    It’s a rather weird notion of hypocrisy to claim that someone who says “there ought to be rules on a blog” is taken to be a hypocrite if he doesn’t always follow said rules.

    Not at all. To the extent that he’s defined his notion of reasonable rules, they are those that he doesn’t himself follow. What meaning does “there ought to be rules” have if “rules” is devoid of content? Pure authoritarianism? Reasonable people need to discuss what those rules are, and we should adhere to the set of rules we’re promoting.

    Gee may not always live up to the standards he says should exist, and he may not be a good judge of his own case, but that doesn’t go to the point or make him an unsuitable champion of his side of the argument.

    Sure, it does.

    Look, in the exchanges I’ve seen him involved with, he’s:

    – attempted to be physically intimidating
    – insulted Richard Dawkins repeatedly, and when people argued with him, told them not to be “impertinent” (the individual in question is a professor older than he is, AFAIK)
    – misrepresented someone (Ichthyic), if I recall correctly (I don’t have that link right now), as having made antisemitic remarks, on another blog when Ichthyic wasn’t there to set the record straight
    – bizarrely turned disagreements into accusations of “Jew-hatred,” and in one case basically called his interlocutors Nazis

    Frankly, I don’t care what his opinions are on behavioral norms or civility. If he’s promoting rules based on his behavior, they’re rules I oppose; if he’s promoting rules that are contrary to his actions, then he’s a hypocrite.

  96. #96 Greg Laden
    January 31, 2010

    To shift the focus slightly, but drawing for this inspiration from Salty’s post …

    Structurally, the peer reviewed system of publication as it has evolved for, I think, most currently published materials is a case of “civility” (but it isn’t really civility, but really, let’s not fetishize civility) shaping what happens for the benefit of the status quo. To some extent that benefit may come in having only certain ideas progress and other stifled, but mostly I think the benefit being maintained by the widespread imposition of behavioral norms is purely financial, and the “slave owners” are the publishing companies.

    The uncivil rebel is, of course, OpenAccess publishing.

  97. #97 Oran Kelley
    January 31, 2010

    This is annoyingly simplistic. First, bringing rationality into it is just muddying the waters – it’s completely irrelevant. Second, if people are to have a discussion about “civility,” they need to define what they mean by the term.

    Well, I’d suggest you hop in your time machine, go back to the twentieth century, and tell those feminist theorists that rationality and civility are distinct in the way you mention, because a great many of them didn’t recognize the distinction and advanced arguments against standards of all kinds using precisely the same rhetoric advanced right now against civility. Are rationality and civility the same thing? No, agreed. Is it crazy to pair the two in this argument? Not for anyone with even a smidgen of familiarity with how it has been carried on for at least the last 40 years.

    This is confused. Examples were given on the thread Stephanie Z linked to of situations in which rules of civility (particularly concerning deference) work to keep oppressed people down and silence them. I’ve offered the example elsewhere of elite-formed standards of “civility” being used to suppress the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in the ’60s

    I doubt Gee intended to defend all rules of civility ever having existed any time or any place. He was saying that a common set of rules are a good thing for discourse.

    Frankly, I don’t care what his opinions are on behavioral norms or civility. If he’s promoting rules based on his behavior, they’re rules I oppose; if he’s promoting rules that are contrary to his actions, then he’s a hypocrite.

    So you are rejecting his rational argument on the basis of his incivility? What happened to the clear distinction between these two things. Seems to have gone out the window.

    And there’s nothing necessarily uncivil about Open Source Publishing. We can’t just take any dichotomy and assign one the label “civil” and the other “uncivil.”

  98. #98 SC (Salty Current)
    January 31, 2010

    Well, I’d suggest you hop in your time machine, go back to the twentieth century, and tell those feminist theorists that rationality and civility are distinct in the way you mention, because a great many of them didn’t recognize the distinction and advanced arguments against standards of all kinds using precisely the same rhetoric advanced right now against civility. Are rationality and civility the same thing? No, agreed. Is it crazy to pair the two in this argument? Not for anyone with even a smidgen of familiarity with how it has been carried on for at least the last 40 years.

    Your presentation of this history is simplistic. Even if it were more sophisticated and completely accurate, however, it would be a total red herring. Who cares what some people argued about rationality in the ’90s? It looks like you want to use an unrelated issue to smear feminists; whatever some people may have argued 15 or 20 years ago has zero bearing on the validity of positions in this discussion, which should be decided on their merits. If people are talking about rationality here, their positions can of course justifiably be analyzed and critically evaluated.

    I doubt Gee intended to defend all rules of civility ever having existed any time or any place.

    What the hell? I never said he did.

    He was saying that a common set of rules are a good thing for discourse.

    And this is a non-response to what I’ve already argued: that “a common set of rules” is simply a set of cultural norms, which exists in any ongoing social situation, whether spelled out explicitly or controlled by particular individuals or not; that speaking of the desirability of “a common set of rules for discourse” is meaningless and pointless unless some content is specified for those rules, their basis, and the manner of their enforcement; and that to the extent the Gee has expressed the sorts of rules he has in mind, they are not the ones he appears to abide by.

    So you are rejecting his rational argument on the basis of his incivility? What happened to the clear distinction between these two things. Seems to have gone out the window.

    What are you talking about? I’m calling him a hypocrite, and saying that given how he’s appeared in action, his views on civility are of about as much interest to me as those of Dr. Isis.

  99. #99 Irene
    January 31, 2010

    … and so, Henry Gee and Isis the Scientist are cast upon the same midden.

  100. #100 Oran Kelley
    January 31, 2010

    what I’ve already argued: that “a common set of rules” is simply a set of cultural norms, which exists in any ongoing social situation,

    Then your argument isn’t with me, or with Gee. All he or I are arguing for is a set of rules that apply to everyone and that can be appealed to when one feels mistreated. That’s it.

    I’m calling him a hypocrite

    Who cares whether he’s a hypocrite or not? Einstein was a hypocrite too. Big deal. No one is asking to take the word of Gee’s word as the word of God. You actually agree with him, but because you don’t like him you think you don’t.

  101. #101 Stephanie Z
    January 31, 2010

    So, SC, I’m still curious. How do you expect Henry to discuss the problems of attacks on religion being attacks on personhood in the context of being a Jew living among bad and worsening anti-Semitism without mentioning, even by implication, the Nazis?

  102. #102 SC (Salty Current)
    January 31, 2010

    Then your argument isn’t with me, or with Gee. All he or I are arguing for is a set of rules that apply to everyone and that can be appealed to when one feels mistreated. That’s it.

    Again, I can’t see how this could even be an issue.

    The important question is: what rules, specifically?

    But the fact is that I haven’t made any argument or any criticism of a substantive argument at all, and I think this is where you’re getting confused. I’m not arguing the substance. I’m saying it’s amusing that Gee would be debating issues related to civil discourse given his behavior.

    Who cares whether he’s a hypocrite or not? Einstein was a hypocrite too. Big deal.

    What? I’m saying I’m as unimpressed with his behavior related to civil discourse on blogs subject as I am that of Isis or Chris Mooney. These are all people who appear to me to have warped ideas about civility in discourse. His hypocrisy is relevant to the extent that it affects my respect for him in this area. (I care about the issue generally, so if someone could present me with links to his specific substantive argument with Zuska I would read them.)

    No one is asking to take the word of Gee’s word as the word of God.

    I’m an atheist.

    You actually agree with him, but because you don’t like him you think you don’t.

    You haven’t specified what he’s arguing precisely, and I stated last night that I know virtually nothing about this substantive discussion (I know that I’ve read related articles by Isis in the past and found them laughable, but I’ve read some good ones by Zuska, so…). It’s not a matter of agreement or disagreement.

    So, SC, I’m still curious. How do you expect Henry to discuss the problems of attacks on religion being attacks on personhood

    This is exactly what I’m talking about. Criticism of religion and religious ideas by atheists is not an “attack,” and Gee presented nothing in the way of evidence of attacks on him or his co-religionists by atheists (as atheists). Criticism of other ideas isn’t seen in this way, and the presentation of it as such is a rule of “civility” that serves to silence atheists and privilege oppressive ideas. Show me where his “personhood” was “attacked” in that discussion. (Which, it should be noted, was about him criticizing Dawkins, who focuses on Christianity.)

    in the context of being a Jew living among bad and worsening anti-Semitism without mentioning, even by implication, the Nazis?

    Oh, please. Did you read the thread I linked to? I had no idea he was Jewish, and had said many times that no one cares about whether he wanted to ponder religious ideas, and he came back with that bizarre rant about the Holocaust. The conversation had nothing to do with that; he, very uncivilly (and unsuccessfully), threw it into the mix to try to shut down criticism of his ideas after bullying had failed. As I said, [paraphrasing] “You’re criticizing/mocking religion, so you must want to kill me” was a horrible thing to suggest, and as someone who has spent years studying political violence I was particularly offended.

  103. #103 SC (Salty Current)
    January 31, 2010

    From Stephanie Z’s link:

    I make the point that civility can be encouraged by laying out ground rules – as John Wilkins says on his admirable blog, Evolving Thoughts – and I hope he won’t mind my quoting it in extenso:

    ‘This is my living room, so don’t piss on the floor. I reserve the right to block users and delete any comments that are uncivil, spam or offensive to all. I have a broad tolerance, but don’t test it, please. Try to remain coherent, polite and put forward positive arguments if engaged in debate. There are plenty of places you can accuse people of being pedophilic communist sexist pigs; don’t do it here.’

    Much to my amazement I am criticized very sharply for expressing what I thought (and still think) to be a perfectly reasonable view.

    If these are the rules he supports, and people who don’t abide by them should lose commenting privileges, then he should be banned from Pharyngula.

    It’s funny, though, how all these people stick up for every minority you can name – except Jews.

    I don’t know who “all these people” is supposed to include, but it sure as hell doesn’t include me. Another terrible accusation to avoid other discussions. (I’ve had friends who had to deal with sexism in Israeli academe and the Israeli military; I guess he wouldn’t have a dodge with them.)

    I pointed this out to a particularly patronizing member of the audience. I didn’t hang around for a response. I thought Jew-hatred was a pathology of the militant Left in UK academia but it turns out it’s rife in the U. S. and A., too.

    How did that “turn out”? It’s just an absurd accusation based on nothing, as far as I can see. But it’s clear that he’s doing precisely what he’s arguing should be a bannable offense.

  104. #104 Cath@VWXYNot?
    January 31, 2010

    “First, bringing rationality into it is just muddying the waters – it’s completely irrelevant.”

    That’s as good a synopsis of the whole affair as I’ve seen to date :)

  105. #105 Stephanie Z
    January 31, 2010

    SC did you read the comments in the thread I linked to? The degree of anti-Semitism present in the U.K. and much of the rest of Europe is not the same as general U.S. anti-Semitism or that anywhere in the Western hemisphere. It is, as Henry noted in that comment, tied deeply to the anti-Israel movement there. Given the number of atheists in the U.K., and given the tendency of atheists to be in academia, Henry quite likely has plenty of experience with anti-religion arguments being used as anti-Semitic arguments. After all, not all atheists are the philosophical sort.

    And if you read back a ways, you’ll note that you did, in fact, know he was Jewish well before the comment you linked to. You’ll even see that Henry was hardly the first person to bring up the Holocaust.

  106. #106 SC (Salty Current)
    January 31, 2010

    SC did you read the comments in the thread I linked to?

    Yes.

    The degree of anti-Semitism present in the U.K. and much of the rest of Europe is not the same as general U.S. anti-Semitism or that anywhere in the Western hemisphere.

    Unless he was talking about its implications for commenting and commenting policies on UK blogs, I don’t see the relevance. But he wasn’t. He was flinging around wild accusations about the US based on – what? – one person being patronizing? (Not to mention that he’s profoundly patronizing himself.)

    In any case, if he wants to have a discussion about it in a relevant context, he needs to be much more specific about what and which groups he’s talking about, and provide evidence for his claims. His dystopian predictions about a more atheistic future were completely off the wall.

    It is, as Henry noted in that comment, tied deeply to the anti-Israel movement there. Given the number of atheists in the U.K., and given the tendency of atheists to be in academia, Henry quite likely has plenty of experience with anti-religion arguments being used as anti-Semitic arguments.

    This is pure speculation, and confuses a number of different issues, as he tried to do on the Pharyngula thread (making some connection between “New Atheists” – academics – the (radical) Left – opposition to Israel – opposition to the war in Iraq – support for human rights in Palestine – etc.) Of course, his accusations about the atheist movement, people on that thread, people at this more recent debate, or the US left/academe, in addition to being baseless and outrageous “moral blackmail” as someone so rightly called them, were unrelated to what was being discussed. He uses this as a sleazy rhetorical dodge when he’s on thin ice in an argument, and it’s reprehensible.

    Nevertheless, there was a good bit of discussion after Gee left that thread about this, not that he could be bothered to participate in a rational exchange on the matter.

    After all, not all atheists are the philosophical sort.

    What the hell is that supposed to mean?

    And if you read back a ways, you’ll note that you did, in fact, know he was Jewish well before the comment you linked to.

    Yes, I didn’t mean to imply that that was when I learned he was Jewish, not that it mattered in the slightest. I didn’t take much note of it earlier because it had precisely nothing to do with his weak criticisms of TGD. Nor does it make any point for you here.

    You’ll even see that Henry was hardly the first person to bring up the Holocaust.

    In fact, I think I myself brought it up tangentially in response to his apparent ignorance of the history of Christianity. So? Making a historical point isn’t the same as accusing your opponents of wanting to deface graves and send you to the gas chambers because they openly criticize religious beliefs and oppose its influence. Really, this is getting stupid.

    Seriously, if you’re suggesting that his accusations about people who disagree with him and use of the Holocaust as a ploy like this are acceptable to you, I’m not sure we have anything more to discuss. If you’re just grasping for minor points while not actually thinking he was right to behave like this, then you should ask yourself why you’re doing that.

    He came to that thread and did pretty much everything he appears to be arguing should not be allowed, and it looks like he did something similar in this recent debate. I can’t imagine why any reasonable person would defend this behavior or this hypocrisy.

  107. #107 Greg Laden
    January 31, 2010

    I’m not going to jump into this argument but I want to make a couple of comments on UK antisemitism as I understand it. This will be an oversimplification, and it will be based on having worked very closely with Israelis in a British context and an American Jew (with whom I worked on race issues) who had been working in a British context until he could not take it any longer.

    New Atheism is not likely to be at the root of the added antisemitism we may see from the UK. It may be a factor and there may be individual personality issues at play, but it must be overshadowed by much bigger issues.

    The English/British (we can start a flame war later on what the correct term is) have a prior colonial history with “Semites” some of whom happen to be Jewish. There is a relationship there that has not really been resolved that involves old fashioned English racism and resentment thereof.

    In that context, both English and US interests (including all sorts of institutional entities) went along with the whole Central European anti Jewish thing that was manifest eventually as the holocaust with many helping hands. From a European Jewish perspective, if the Germans were not at war with the Brits, the Brits would have been directly involved in the holocaust. The Americans too but more indirectly. That may be an exaggeration, but not much of one.

    So there is a bit of tension left over from that second factor.

    Then, the British totally screwed the Jews in Palestine, from the Jewish Perspective. One can argue all one wants as to what could have or should have happened, or should now happen, to the way land is divided up in the Levant, but history could have actually led to a state of Israel much like what ended up occurring without several additional bad things happening to the Jews there because of specific and blatantly anti-Jewish British decisions. Just like many Jews have relatives who died in the holocaust, some Jews have relatives who died because of the British at that time. This is not a small matter.

    And of course, a perfectly appropriate British response to being guilty of oppression is to get all huffy and arrogant about it.

    Then, subsequently, yes, there have been the recent politics that have been mentioned in relation to Israel, but that is not so much something new as just more of the same.

    The British “left” is not anti-Semitic because it is atheist. The British “left” is anti-Semitic because it is British, and there is a shiny new coin or two in the anti-Semitic purse in the form of anti-Israel (as the bad guy government) sentiment.

    But beyond that, this is worth noting: Middle class educated WASP American society is plenty anti-semetic. But from what I understand, British middle class educated society is much more blatantly anti-semetic. The British PC standard line on Jews is fundamentally different from the American. I suspect this has a lot to do with the closer continental ties in Britain, immigration history differences, and a difference in the way intellectual resources were divvied up after WWII and in relation to the cold war. During the cold war, for every South Asian mathematician or physicist moved to England from the colonies to do brilliant work, there are five Jewish German “Rocket Scientists” in the US. And I pulled those numbers out of my ass, but as I sit here thinking about it it seems about right.

  108. #108 Stephanie Z
    February 1, 2010

    My point, SC, is that if you’re willing to make this discussion about Henry, which it’s been pointed out to you more than once it is not, as is very clear from the original post, I’m perfectly willing to take it very tangential too.

    This is not an argument about Henry. This is not an argument about atheism. Do you have anything to say about the topic at hand?

  109. #109 SC (Salty Current)
    February 1, 2010

    Greg,

    I can’t see what any of that has to do with Gee’s accusations, to be honest. (With the exception of your claim that “The British ‘left’ is anti-Semitic,” which would need to be made in a much more nuanced way and substantiated. As I said, there was some discussion of the matter on that thread after Gee left, involving someone who’s been active in the British Left for decades and whom I’ve never known to misinform.) His claims were, as you note, about the “New Atheists” (us, specifically) and the US “militant” Left. Bullshit in the former, and pretty much bullshit on the latter, though the claim is made so generally as to be pretty much meaningless. The leading intellectual of the “militant” US Left is Chomsky, FFS.

  110. #110 Greg Laden
    February 1, 2010

    My comments have little to do with Henry or the ongoing discussion. I simply saw British anti-Semitism being referred to, compared with US anti-Semitism, and and not especially well characterized (and some likely falsehoods possibly creeping in) so I thought it was time for a sidebar on that topic.

    I don’t feel a need to substantiate what I said more than I did, but I’ll reiterate that these are my impressions from my experience. I have worked closely with, and been close friends with, a number of Israeli Jews (i.e., my advisor at Harvard and many who worked in his lab), and US Jews (my various affinal family members and colleagues who specifically study anti-Semitism, and some of this came up in a co-taught class on race and racism) … so, I’ve just heard a lot about it. (Well that and I’m reasonably well read but not current on Middle Eastern recent history and the Jewish Diaspora etc. etc.)

    Any experts who want to come in and tear my argument apart please do but you must be civil and show your credentials.

  111. #111 Greg Laden
    February 1, 2010

    Boy, it is taking you people a awfully long time to look all that shit up in Wikipedia and identify where I’ve got it all Rong!!!

    Well, I guess it is Sunday. I’ll check back in the AM.

  112. #112 Stephanie Z
    February 1, 2010

    What does all that have to do with Henry? It has to do with his cultural expectations for running into anti-Semitism (“some of you probably think”), which is the only part in the comment that I can see as being interpretable as calling anyone in that thread “a Nazi.” It has quite a bit to do, SC, with the paragraph you felt free to cut out of your pasted quote, which specifies the reason he sees ties between atheists and anti-Semitism:

    It is not insignificant, to me, in this contxt, that Dawkins has associated himself prominently with academic movements to delegitimize the state of Israel, to further ancient myths about the Jewish lobby, and combined with what one has called here ‘a call to arms’ I can only interpret this a physical threat, whether Dawkins intended this or not.

    In other words, it has to do with what makes his statement relevant in context, not the embodiment of Godwin’s Law you’re making it out to be. Which is rather rude, by the way.

  113. #113 SC (Salty Current)
    February 1, 2010

    What does all that have to do with Henry? It has to do with his cultural expectations for running into anti-Semitism (“some of you probably think”),

    People who accuse others of sexism or racism or classism or homophobia have cultural expectations based on their experience. He’s saying that such accusations have no place in civil discourse, but those of “Jew-hatred” do.

    which is the only part in the comment that I can see as being interpretable as calling anyone in that thread “a Nazi.”

    Read the comment again, Stephanie.

    It has quite a bit to do, SC, with the paragraph you felt free to cut out of your pasted quote, which specifies the reason he sees ties between atheists and anti-Semitism:

    It is not insignificant, to me, in this contxt, that Dawkins has associated himself prominently with academic movements to delegitimize the state of Israel, to further ancient myths about the Jewish lobby, and combined with what one has called here ‘a call to arms’ I can only interpret this a physical threat, whether Dawkins intended this or not.

    He supports this statement with a couple of links to a single quotation in which Dawkins talks about “the Jewish lobby” (mistaken for “the Israel lobby”) in the context of suggesting that if atheists organized we could have much more political power. Whatever it says, it’s a terrifically insufficient basis for the accusations being made. Gee provided no evidence for his other claims, about Dawkins specifically and certainly about atheists in general. Then there was this little bit of absurdity: “I predict that in five or ten years time, thanks to Dawkins and others, then scientists who profess any kind of religious belief will find it hard to get tenure, and then jobs, and then papers published, and finally their employers, responding to pressure, will be forced to fire them or retire them early. It will start with the Jews, of course, because these things usually do, as they have done many times in the past.”

    I really have no words for this, other than to quote PZ: “That’s an extraordinarily paranoiac claim.” Seriously, he was in a conversation about Dawkins, who focuses primarily on Christianity; the conversation had dealt primarily with Christianity; several of the commenters on the blog (including, probably, some of those invoved in that discussion) are themselves ethnically Jewish; and people had made abundantly clear what we were talking about. (Of course, my linking to Constantine’s Sword which I had recently seen and mentioned on an earlier thread is clear evidence of my antisemitism. Right.) Here’s the original statement about a “call to arms”:

    To be fair to Mr Gee, The God Delusion was hardly the best defense of atheism, naturalism, etc, that has ever been written, but I hadn’t considered it be even attempting that, anyway. From the moment that I first read it I thought of it as more of a call to arms, if you will, than a scientifically and philosophically rigorous tome that would end all arguments about the existence of God.

    Following a simplistic interpretation by Gee, this was clarified further at #329:

    And while “call to arms” may have been poorly phrased (for the anally retentive amongst us), I specifically followed it by “if you will”, which clearly suggests that it was meant figuratively. What I meant by that — and I will try to be very specific for you from now on — is that it has lead to the realization in a great many people that there are things that are worth defending, and that it is folly to believe that somebody else is always going to do the dirty work for you. It further means that non-believers constitute a larger proportion of the electorate than many other minorities, and that they can have an impact in elections if they are willing to work together.

    Several other people made clear – still talking about Christianity, by the way – that not physical violence but challenging beliefs was the subject. For him to suggest that “combined with what one has called here ‘a call to arms’ I can only interpret this a physical threat” was absolutely ludicrous.

    In other words, it has to do with what makes his statement relevant in context, not the embodiment of Godwin’s Law you’re making it out to be. Which is rather rude, by the way.

    His statements were loony tunes in context, and deeply offensive, and anyone reading that thread can see why. I’ve argued that he’s playing an atrocious rhetorical game, but seeing the pattern I do have to wonder if he isn’t really that paranoid….

  114. #114 Comrade PhysioProf
    February 1, 2010

    I don’t think there is any doubt that Isis and CPP and their so called “ilk” are not thinking good things when they use the word “consequences” in reference to enforced civility/lack thereof.

    Oh, absolutely! And being called a douchebag on the Internet is the most severe and horrible and unfair consequence anyone could ever possibly experience and is so terrible and painful and grotesque, that it is exactly the same as whipping out your schlong and taking a big fucking whizz all over the fucking carpet in their real fucking house.

    In fact, the next time someone calls me a douchebag on the Internet, I’m gonna sue their fucking ass for making me mad!! And I’m a fucking jew, so don’t you be telling me about shit, cause I know some real shit!!!

  115. #115 Greg Laden
    February 1, 2010

    Douchebag.

  116. #116 Comrade PhysioProf
    February 1, 2010

    You’ll be hearing from my attorneys in due course.

  117. #117 SC (Salty Current)
    February 1, 2010

    OK, having now read Henry Gee’s post and the comments thread that followed, I’m even angrier. He ignored the cogent and more nuanced arguments of you (Greg),* Ed Yong, and (for the most part) Eric Michael Johnson concerning rules and civility. He repeatedly dismissed and disdainfully mocked any discussion of patriarchy.** He acted as though as a Jewish person he couldn’t possibly act in a way that furthers inequality or oppression (Jewish males can’t possibly be patriarchal, as everyone knows). And he claimed flat out that “the Left hates Jews.” Wow.

    I also did a search on Zuska’s blog (links would’ve been helpful), and came across a post from November – “Can we talk about science? I mean, really?” – that was so stupid it got my hackles up. Sigh.

    *We doagree!

    **The rules he quotes from Evolving Thoughts, by the way, appear to be that it’s acceptably civil to be sexist, but not to call anyone out on being sexist. No, thanks.

  118. #118 SC (Salty Current)
    February 1, 2010

    Douchebag.

    You’ll be hearing from my attorneys in due course.

    OK, this makes it all worthwhile. :)

  119. #119 Greg Laden
    February 1, 2010

    I don’t know a Yiddish equivalent of “Douchebag” or this would have gotten much, much more intense.

  120. #120 Stephanie Z
    February 1, 2010

    Yeah, SC, I’m really not interested in thoughts on civility from anyone who’s going to call someone one generation removed from Holocaust victims “paranoid” about anti-Semitism.

  121. #121 SC (Salty Current)
    February 1, 2010

    Yeah, SC, I’m really not interested in thoughts on civility from anyone who’s going to call someone one generation removed from Holocaust victims “paranoid” about anti-Semitism.

    This is not about the existence or real dangers of antisemitism. His claims about the people he was making them about, if they were honest, were absolutely paranoid, Stephanie. Being a descendent of Holocaust victims would provide part of the explanation for such paranoia. If it is paranoia, then it isn’t immoral, but needs to be pointed out as irrational and not based in evidence. Civil discourse isn’t possible with someone who repeatedly makes suck paranoid claims about his or her opponents. If it is, as some evidence suggests, a form of moral blackmail, then it’s disgusting, as Nick Gotts explains @ #428 on that thread and others as well.

  122. #122 Stephanie Z
    February 1, 2010

    No, SC, as has been repeatedly pointed out to you, this is about civility and rulemaking. The fact that you want the thread to be about Henry doesn’t change that.

  123. #123 SC (Salty Current)
    February 1, 2010

    No, SC, as has been repeatedly pointed out to you, this is about civility and rulemaking. The fact that you want the thread to be about Henry doesn’t change that.

    This is clearly going nowhere. You’re not making an argument at this point. You might want to take another look at the title of this post.

  124. #124 Stephanie Z
    February 1, 2010

    My point is that you hijacked a thread on online civility to whine about how insulted you were a year and a half ago–on Pharyngula–and kept it up even after you were told (1) that Henry wasn’t the point (comment 36) and (2) that the proposition under discussion wasn’t Henry’s (comment 28, before you even posted). And in order to do it, you’ve ignored the post and the non-Henry discussion entirely. Unless your idea was to set a bad example for online civility to be dissected later, you fucked this one up.

  125. #125 Comrade PhysioProf
    February 1, 2010

    If anyone finds out how to say “douchebag” in Yiddish, please e-mail me.

  126. #126 SC (Salty Current)
    February 1, 2010

    My point is that you hijacked a thread on online civility

    Look, Henry Gee is one of the major participants in this discussion. His arguments and his actions related to civility are well within its limits. I suspect that if the person being talked about were not someone you had an interest in defending, you would not be opposed. You expressed no opposition to Isis being discussed in the past, or to Greg talking about various people in the OP. What, if I may ask, is your relationship with Henry Gee?

    to whine about how insulted you were a year and a half ago-

    Sure, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. *eyeroll*

    -on Pharyngula–and kept it up even after you were told (1) that Henry wasn’t the point (comment 36) and (2) that the proposition under discussion wasn’t Henry’s (comment 28, before you even posted).

    The proposition under discussion was explicitly endorsed by him. He can point out that it wasn’t technically “his rug,” but it’s remarkably evasive and disingenuous for him to then pretend that this is simply about bloggers having any rules with no content or that since the argument didn’t originate with him he’s not accountable for having made it.

    And in order to do it, you’ve ignored the post and the non-Henry discussion entirely.

    No, I haven’t. I’ve said several times that what needs to be discussed is the content of rules for civility and what social forms and interactions they promote. So has Greg. Greg and others tried on Gee’s blog to have such a discussion and were ignored, while Gee made several obnoxious comments, going out of his way to dismiss concerns about sexism as when he wrote and crossed out “spokesperson” in order to substitute “spokesman”; allowed and participated in a discussion of what a great word “twat” is (no, I don’t care if it’s a running joke there); and made unevidenced accusations about the Left (and the Right, for that matter), that would appear to violate the rules of his own blog against inflammatory speech.

    I’ve also engaged with people on the general subject, while you have ignored those posts and failed to make any contributions to that discussion. If you have any to make, you should make them. Perhaps that will shift the focus of the discussion away from something you’re uncomfortable with for whtever reason. Believe it or not, I can both write critically about Henry Gee or Zuska or whomever and discuss the more general issues.

    Unless your idea was to set a bad example for online civility to be dissected later, you fucked this one up.

    Wrong.

  127. #128 Stephanie Z
    February 1, 2010

    Heh. My interest in this has nothing to do with Henry. My relationship to him is much like Greg’s, but with less contact. My interest has to do with atheists telling the religious what they think (something I’ve written about with respect to people being idiots to Isis as well), what they mean, and what they can legitimately feel about their religons.

    It’s also about people feeling the need to pull fights out of the cage match that is a Pharyngula comment thread and carry them elsewhere where people are trying to discuss other topics. For fuck’s sake, if you want to argue more with Henry, go argue with Henry. I feel no need to accommodate it, much less be polite about it.

    And no, I don’t see you engaging in the discussion. I see you saying it’s stupid to have the discussion as is, and I see you say:

    But the fact is that I haven’t made any argument or any criticism of a substantive argument at all, and I think this is where you’re getting confused. I’m not arguing the substance. I’m saying it’s amusing that Gee would be debating issues related to civil discourse given his behavior.

  128. #129 Comrade PhysioProf
    February 1, 2010

    Ferkakte shpritszak!

  129. #130 Paul W.
    February 1, 2010

    Greg, Stephanie,

    I’m sorry, but Greg Godwinned this thread in the title, and again, in comment 36—after SC’s crucial comment 31.

    Stephanie further Godwinned the thread by trying to defend Gee against the charge of paranoia.

    There is no way in hell this thread is going to stop being about Henry Gee, and all the issues that Henry’s behavior brings up. It is far too late for that. If you want a thread that’s not about him, I suggest that you start a new thread that doesn’t mention him.

    Sorry, but Henry Gee is quite clearly a bit paranoid about the Jewishness thing. He really, really is. It’s perfectly understandable why he might be paranoid about it, given the history, being in Britain etc., but that doesn’t make him not paranoid when he comes over to ScienceBlogs and pisses on PZ’s rug, clearly implying that some people there—including me, I’d guess—are really genocidal antisemitic zealots, or at least condoners and enablers of such things, who should stop being such reprehensible New Atheists because their criticisms of his particular religion (among all religions) will lead to persecution of his people.

    There are norms of civility at Pharyngula. Greg is dead wrong to imply that “anything goes” there, such that Henry can’t have done anything wrong by stooping to our utterly uncivilized level:

    In the cited case, Gee is blasting away at pharynguloids. That is normal for that blog. […]
    So, really, unless I’m missing the point … Henry Gee pissing all over other commenters and the blogger at Pharyngula is normal and expected and is not exceptional or relevant to this argument.

    Greg could not have more thoroughly missed the most fundamental point about the subject than that.

    The whole issue of online civility is what counts as civility, and which standards of civility are and defensible tenable where, vs. having no standards of civility at all.

    Greg basically used Pharyngula as an example of the latter—it’s just a troop of poo-flinging screechy monkeys anyway, so who the hell are they to complain about Henry calling them Jew-hating baby-killing Nazis, or at best hypocrites for not having the courage of their convictions, such that they wouldn’t bother to vandalize Jewish graves and actuallly burn synagogues?

    Holy crap. You think Pharnyngula’s standards are simply low, and that they’re that low?

    Let’s take what SC quoted in comment 31 paragraph by paragraph, since a lot of people seem to have missed the significance that struck many pharynguloids like myself as over-the-top to say the least:

    I am not asking to be liked, I am not asking that people join in … I am asking to be accorded the choice that is the privilege of all civilized societies to be allowed to practice their beliefs without molestation or being vilified for what they do, irrespective of how rational they think it.

    Here Henry is either arguing with a straw man—the idea that New Atheists are uncivilized because they vilify people for their religious views, rather than acceptably disagreeing with their religious views—or is begging the question of when it is acceptable to criticize someone’s beliefs bluntly, as opposed to being a demagogue who singles people out for persecution.

    If that’s not clear, read on:

    But of course, some of you probably think I am an untermensch, as did the people who killed my grandparents and my two aunts — one a toddler, I have recently discovered, the other a babe in arms, and then recycled them as soap and lampshades, and presumably deserving of no better fate.

    Wow. Henry is clearly saying that some of us at Pharyngula agree with the Nazis that Jewish babies deserved what they got when the Nazis killed them and turned their bodily tissues into household items.

    Seriously. He said that. No, he didn’t say that everybody at Pharyngula was that bad, but I think it’s clear that he was implying that Pharyngula’s moral standards are so low in that regard that such people would not be clearly unwelcome outliers in that community.

    …Now, back to this ‘respect’ thing. I am sometimes told by atheists that they ‘respect’ me but not my religious beliefs, and expect me to be happy with that curious point of view. My response is usually to say that if they disrespect my religion, then, surely, that disrespect must take some concrete form* – defacing stones in cemeteries, perhaps? Or torching synagogues? If not, then this disrespect is simply empty posturing. The atheist usually then gets rather cross, which suggests I have touched a nerve.

    Wow again. He’s saying that we New Atheists who explicitly disrespect all religion, including his, have every reason to desecrate Jewish graves and torch synagogues, and no good reason not to. And if we disagree vehemently, he must be right—he’s touched a nerve.

    Fucking right he touched a nerve. He’s hammering on pretty much every anti-New Atheist canard, making us out to be the kinds of amoral and immoral villains who perpetrated the Holocaust, or at best cowardly enablers with no moral standards.

    Then there’s this:

    I predict that in five or ten years time, thanks to Dawkins and others, then scientists who profess any kind of religious belief will find it hard to get tenure, and then jobs, and then papers published, and finally their employers, responding to pressure, will be forced to fire them or retire them early. It will start with the Jews, of course, because these things usually do, as they have done many times in the past.

    Isn’t that at least a bit paranoid? Isn’t it at least a bit simplistic, in a broad-brush way that is at least a wee bit paranoid with regard to some of the people he’s tarring with his broad brush?

    Shouldn’t he at least note that even if the situation is as bad as he paints it some places, perhaps the UK, the mostly American audience at Pharyngula might not be aware of the evil he claims they’re contributing to, and the immediacy of the threat of persecution?

    Shouldn’t he assume that we have some decency, and explain the threat clearly, and appeal to our better natures, rather than vilifying us every way he knows how, especially in the very worst possible way?

    Holy crap. Most of us regulars at Pharyngula are liberals and staunch civil libertarians, for whom the Nazis are about as morally repugnant as it is possible for something to be. Many of us are Jews and/or people who work with Jews daily and fail to notice our own alleged antisemitism, or insensitivity to the issue.

    As somebody who’s served on promotion and tenure committees in the U.S., discussiong and voting with Jews and gentiles regarding the cases of Jews and gentiles, I’m simply shocked. I really never noticed how antisemitic we are, given the disproportionate number of Jews we have in academia, and how nobody seems to mind. (Or if they do, they keep their damned mouths shut about it, apparently because they wrongly think that we’d be shocked and offended by antisemitism.)

    Come on, the guy’s fucking paranoid, however understandable that might be, and it makes him a simplistic hypocrite who thinks that free speech about religion—at least his religion—is just not worth the cost in enabling substantive persecution, even on a very short timescale.

    He is clearly implying that there ought to be norms, if not laws, that prohibit the free discussion of whether Judaism is a dopey religion like we New Atheists think that all religions are.

    And note that Henry pulls out all the stops, in that thread and elsewhere, with the usual litany of fallacies and slanders.

    He’s exactly the kind of demagogue that he’s accusing Dawkins and the New Atheists of being.

    By his own logic, the New Atheists should be shut up some means means—somehow deprived of their free speech, at least, because what they say will predictably be used to justify more persecution of the Jews and others, and apparently serves no valid purpose.

    At best, they should be vilified and marginalized by right-thinking people, but if Henry is not to be the kind of “hypocrite” he accuses us of being for not burning his synagogue down, it seems that the threat he says we pose would justify much harsher measures.

    Greg, I’d say you blew it in a big way, from the start, and repeatedly since, by not recognizing that even Pharyngulans deserve a little better treatment than such clear comparisons to Nazi psychopaths and their sociopathic enablers.

    This is very sad. One thing I’d like to point out is that Henry himself is (at least now) an atheist.

    As a Jewish atheist, his viewpoint could be very interesting in straightening many of us alleged persecution-enabling demagogues out about Judaism.

    As I understand it, most of us Pharyngulans are not racist and having nothing against Jews on racist or ethnic grounds. It’s trite and ludicrous, but some of our best friends are Jews, really—my best friend, for example.

    Some of us have even gone regularly to synagogue, at times, and socialized primarily with Jews. (Me for example.)

    Some of us think we’re able to appreciate Jewish people and culture while still being New Atheists.

    Perhaps we are just wrong, and need to have our consciousness raised.

    What we don’t need is to be painted as Nazis and sociopaths, and told that people who paint us that way are not paranoid.

  130. #131 viking
    February 1, 2010

    Greg,
    What a waste of a perfectly good Big Lebowski allusion. *yawn* “Mind if I do a J”

  131. #132 SC (Salty Current)
    February 1, 2010

    Heh. My interest in this has nothing to do with Henry…My interest has to do with atheists telling the religious what they think (something I’ve written about with respect to people being idiots to Isis as well), what they mean, and what they can legitimately feel about their religons.

    I challenge people to defend their claims if they’re putting them out there in the public sphere, and religious claims are not excluded. I’ve also seen the repression in which organized religion (Isis’s in particular) has been perpetrator or complicit, and I’m going to fight against that. You appear to be confusing holding people to evidentiary standards, evidence-based politics, and human rights with telling them what they mean or feel. (And as was pointed out to Gee on that thread, he was the one essentializing Judaism; not that the discussion had anything to do with any such thing as you suggest – if anyone was telling people what they think and feel, it was Gee.) Since my more recent comments about him had nothing to do with atheism, though, your extended concern then seems inexplicable.

    It’s also about people feeling the need to pull fights out of the cage match that is a Pharyngula comment thread and carry them elsewhere where people are trying to discuss other topics.

    We were discussing arguments about rules and civility, and Gee’s/Wilkins’ was one under discussion. His behavior on that occasion was one of the single most uncivil displays I’ve had the displeasure to see, and I’m absolutely going to bring it up when he’s publicly arguing about rules of civility. And again, you haven’t discussed the general issue of civility at all here, while I have.

    For fuck’s sake, if you want to argue more with Henry, go argue with Henry. I feel no need to accommodate it, much less be polite about it.

    This isn’t your blog, so you don’t get to decide what’s accomodated. Sorry. As for arguing with him, it appears fruitless, since people who tried to carry on a substantive argument were ignored. Further, I don’t care if you’re “polite” about it or not. Your harping on it isn’t impolite – just strange and annoying.

    And no, I don’t see you engaging in the discussion.

    See #95. I’ve asked about the specifics of rules for civility that people are talking about more than once.

    and I see you say:

    But the fact is that I haven’t made any argument or any criticism of a substantive argument at all, and I think this is where you’re getting confused. I’m not arguing the substance. I’m saying it’s amusing that Gee would be debating issues related to civil discourse given his behavior.

    Right, about/with Gee. Because at that point I hadn’t read up fully on his position yet (still haven’t read Zuska’s arguments, since I can’t find them). So I wasn’t arguing against any position he was taking because I was still unsure of what that was. Now I’m (slightly) clearer on it, and incidentally also think less of him. I’ve also taken a position on the rules as defined by Wilkins and the rules that Gee seems to appreciate at Nature: I disagree with them. I think they are unjust and do work to silence already-marginalized people, and that they’re not engaging in self-examination at all. I also think that Gee appears to follow a categorical if-I-feel-like-it.

    Again, if you don’t like the focus on him, then by all means stop arguing about it and discuss the general question of civility rules on blogs, describing what you think is appropriate and how it serves good purposes. I’m happy to explain why I think the Pharyngula rules (and those of some other blogs) are good. Has this discussion really gone on for so long without specifying any content?

  132. #133 Sven DiMilo
    February 1, 2010

    Stephanie Z, does Laden pay you to police his comment threads according to your own secret criteria for relevance, or do you do it pro bono?

  133. #134 Paul W.
    February 1, 2010

    Stephanie,

    I have a longer post in moderation, explaining why I think Greg (and you) thoroughly Godwinned this thread and can’t easily undo it—Pharyngulans have every right and every reason to respond.

    Until it comes through, or in case it doesn’t but this does, you can see a copy of here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/01/this_is_the_thread_that_youre.php#comment-2242922

  134. #135 Stephanie Z
    February 1, 2010

    Sven, I guess that all depends on what forms you think “pay” comes in.

  135. #136 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    February 1, 2010

    Re: CPP #114 – I love you, you douchebag!

    (No, really!)

  136. #137 Greg Laden
    February 1, 2010

    Ferkakte shpritszak is good. Or just Shpritszak.

  137. #138 Ichthyic
    February 1, 2010

    Simply, the whole thing about Henry was to illustrate a specific MISUSE of the term “civility” when debating what rules one should use to control posts within ones own blog.

    If it becomes clear that removing posts as “incivil” merely because they disagree vehemently with with the blog owners PoV, while using strong language, then I think this is the misuse many of us are harping on here.

    IOW, when someone complains of people “pissing on their carpet”, if it becomes clear that there is actually substance as well as volume to that “piss”, it then becomes an issue of concern that the blog owner is really just stifling debate he disagrees with, on the pretext of “civility”.

    I might be totally oversimplifying the larger issue here, but I do think this is the main reason the old thread with Henry was brought up to begin with, and cries of hypocrisy leveled.

    That said, if an owner of a blog repeatedly begins misusing civility as an excuse to quash dissent, then I do tend to agree with those who think the internet to be more self-regulating than not. The more obvious the misuse becomes, the more relegated to fringedom the blog will become.

    Hence, blogs like “Uncommon Dissent” (pun intentional), are ridiculed for their extreme use of the banhammer with the typical comment of “incivility” being applied to the comments tossed into the garbage.

    so, wrt any idea of “civil” discourse, I rather think so long as the owner is very clear about what should be considered incivil on their own blog (like no naughty language), that’s fair enough, so long as, like I said, it is not misused as an excuse to circle-file comments they just don’t like.

    Once it becomes apparent that there has become a pattern of misuse, however, critique should indeed be leveled directly at the blog owner, and backs turned, etc.

    No general rules need apply, IMO.

  138. #139 Wowbagger
    February 1, 2010

    In the Pharyngula thread, Henry first brought up his ethnicity as a response to my comment where I accused him of disliking Dawkins for being rude about religion and, in doing so, was not adhering to the standards of cultured British club society; he responded by insisting that he couldn’t ever belong to such a society because he was Jewish and the descendant of recent immigrants.

    As I had no idea who he was at the time (nor did I know – if it is indeed true – that he would be denied access to such society) I can say with 100% certainty that I wasn’t making any comment on his ethnicity.

    But that didn’t stop the thread sinking into a swamp of Godwinism because, in his mind, any argument raised against him after he made that comment became linked to his Jewishness.

  139. #140 SC (Salty Current)
    February 1, 2010

    What happened to my comment (and Paul W.’s)? Does Stephanie do the moderating?

  140. #141 Greg Laden
    February 1, 2010

    As far as I know, everything is out of moderation.

    There are certain fairly common keywords that these days put a post in moderation. This is the case because of the very nasty notes certain people leave that I just don’t want on my “carpet.” That, and multiple links tend to trap posts. I do what I can to get them out of the moderation tank quickly.

  141. #142 SC (Salty Current)
    February 1, 2010

    Huh. I’ve read through it again, and can’t think of any words that would be triggers. In the interest of honesty, I won’t change it:

    Heh. My interest in this has nothing to do with Henry…My interest has to do with atheists telling the religious what they think (something I’ve written about with respect to people being idiots to Isis as well), what they mean, and what they can legitimately feel about their religons.

    I challenge people to defend their claims if they’re putting them out there in the public sphere, and religious claims are not excluded. I’ve also seen the repression in which organized religion (Isis’s in particular) has been perpetrator or complicit, and I’m going to fight against that. You appear to be confusing holding people to evidentiary standards, evidence-based politics, and human rights with telling them what they mean or feel. (And as was pointed out to Gee on that thread, he was the one essentializing Judaism; not that the discussion had anything to do with any such thing as you suggest – if anyone was telling people what they think and feel, it was Gee.) Since my more recent comments about him had nothing to do with atheism, though, your extended concern then seems inexplicable.

    It’s also about people feeling the need to pull fights out of the cage match that is a Pharyngula comment thread and carry them elsewhere where people are trying to discuss other topics.

    We were discussing arguments about rules and civility, and Gee’s/Wilkins’ was one under discussion. His behavior on that occasion was one of the single most uncivil displays I’ve had the displeasure to see, and I’m absolutely going to bring it up when he’s publicly arguing about rules of civility. And again, you haven’t discussed the general issue of civility at all here, while I have.

    For fuck’s sake, if you want to argue more with Henry, go argue with Henry. I feel no need to accommodate it, much less be polite about it.

    This isn’t your blog, so you don’t get to decide what’s accomodated. Sorry. As for arguing with him, it appears fruitless, since people who tried to carry on a substantive argument were ignored. Further, I don’t care if you’re “polite” about it or not. Your harping on it isn’t impolite – just strange and annoying.

    And no, I don’t see you engaging in the discussion.

    See #95. I’ve asked about the specifics of rules for civility that people are talking about more than once.

    and I see you say:

    But the fact is that I haven’t made any argument or any criticism of a substantive argument at all, and I think this is where you’re getting confused. I’m not arguing the substance. I’m saying it’s amusing that Gee would be debating issues related to civil discourse given his behavior.

    Right, about/with Gee. Because at that point I hadn’t read up fully on his position yet (still haven’t read Zuska’s arguments, since I can’t find them). So I wasn’t arguing against any position he was taking because I was still unsure of what that was. Now I’m (slightly) clearer on it, and incidentally also think less of him. I’ve also taken a position on the rules as defined by Wilkins and the rules that Gee seems to appreciate at Nature: I disagree with them. I think they are unjust and do work to silence already-marginalized people, and that they’re not engaging in self-examination at all. I also think that Gee appears to follow a categorical if-I-feel-like-it.

    Again, if you don’t like the focus on him, then by all means stop arguing about it and discuss the general question of civility rules on blogs, describing what you think is appropriate and how it serves good purposes. I’m happy to explain why I think the Pharyngula rules (and those of some other blogs) are good. Has this discussion really gone on for so long without specifying any content?

  142. #143 Stephanie Z
    February 1, 2010

    As I understand it, most of us Pharyngulans are not racist and having nothing against Jews on racist or ethnic grounds.

    is not incompatible with

    But of course, some of you probably think I am an untermensch…

    Don’t do the same thing you’re trying to accuse Henry of doing. Atheists aren’t any more consistent than any other group. If you haven’t met thick-skulled atheists who at least imply that the religious are sub-human–on Pharyngula–you haven’t been paying attention. It isn’t Henry’s responsibility to sort out the ridiculously OTT (“Henry, I know you’re Jewish, but you can’t imagine what it’s like to grow up CoE”) commenters when nobody else on the thread is working to distance themselves from such comments.

    And really, mentioning Henry is like mentioning Hitler? Grow up a little and try again.

  143. #144 Stephanie Z
    February 1, 2010

    SC: “Henry, blah, blah, Henry.” Get over it. He didn’t tell you that you were a Nazi. He told you you were weak tea.

    And yes, of course, I haven’t discussed at all the question of incivility being useful as a tool but losing that usefulness when used less than strategically. I haven’t discussed some of the other problems of moderation policies. I haven’t, by implication, raised questions about marking certain subjects or words off-limits for some but not others or quoting correctly or honestly characterizing your opponent’s position–all of which are central to most discussions of the practicalities of civility online. Sorry for multitasking. I’ve been having this conversation for a while with the same group of people. I was rather hoping there would be new people and new substance here.

  144. #145 Greg Laden
    February 1, 2010

    and can’t think of any words that would be triggers.

    You would not ever be able to identify the triggers. They are not even slightly obvious.

  145. #146 SC (Salty Current)
    February 1, 2010

    Moderation again. While I’m curious as to the trigger, I’m irritated with this discussion, so this may be it for me.

    Don’t do the same thing you’re trying to accuse Henry of doing. Atheists aren’t any more consistent than any other group. If you haven’t met thick-skulled atheists who at least imply that the religious are sub-human–on Pharyngula–you haven’t been paying attention.

    Oh, give me a break. There was nothing to make him make that accusation of the group of people with whom he was conversing. And for the record, I’ve seen a total of one person make that claim on Pharyngula (about fundamentalist Christians, specifically); I think he’s mentally unbalanced, and suggested he be banned. In fact, the people I’ve called out on antisemitic (or what I saw as such) comments there have, IIRC, invariably been Christians.

  146. #147 SC (Salty Current)
    February 1, 2010

    SC: “Henry, blah, blah, Henry.” Get over it. He didn’t tell you that you were a Nazi. He told you you were weak tea.

    That’s blatantly dishonest in a number of ways. I’ll refer anyone to the thread in question.

    And yes, of course, I haven’t discussed at all the question of incivility being useful as a tool but losing that usefulness when used less than strategically. I haven’t discussed some of the other problems of moderation policies. I haven’t, by implication, raised questions about marking certain subjects or words off-limits for some but not others or quoting correctly or honestly characterizing your opponent’s position–all of which are central to most discussions of the practicalities of civility online.

    Indeed. We’re definitely done here.

  147. #148 Stephanie Z
    February 2, 2010

    Enjoy your toys. And the next time you want to bring up the Holocaust to a Jew to tell him how he should feel about a particular issue, don’t be surprised that the sword is turned against you. For that matter, the next time you want to cry about someone hitting you with a sword, don’t act surprised when you get called on it being yours. You raise the stakes, you live with the results. You scream about it where the grownups whose approval you want are talking, you get sent to your room.

    For the record, I happen to think that Henry was wrong about a number of things, particularly about Dawkins, but I don’t care at this point.

  148. #149 Paul W.
    February 2, 2010

    And really, mentioning Henry is like mentioning Hitler?

    Henry is somebody who came into our living room and pissed on our rug, basically called us Nazis, who would endorse turning children into candles and soap, or maybe just pathetic, snivelling cowards without the courage of our convictions necesary to be actual antisemitic vandals and synagogue burners. (Apparently, our convictions are so evil that if we had any guts at all, we’d be terrorists. Lovely.)

    Naturally, if this is the guy bringing up the idea that there ought to be rules of civility, and people ought not to go around pissing on other people’s rugs, we’re going to comment on the irony. Bet on it. It’s interesting, and it’s even relevant to the overall topic.

    If we can’t agree that there are some norms, even at Pharyngula, and that Henry was violating them, something is profoundly wrong with this whole discussion.

    If Greg makes it sound like there was no harm, no foul because after all there are no relevant norms at Pharyngula, to dismiss our concerns, we’re certainly going to point out that he is seriously mistaken.

    And if you say that Henry only called us “weak tea,” I say read my comment 130, carefully this time. If you still think it was nothing, well, you’re just wrong. Some of us do have standards, even if you don’t. (Except for double standards, perhaps.)

    Grow up a little and try again.

    You scream about it where the grownups whose approval you want are talking, you get sent to your room.

    Stephanie, get your condescending head examined.

  149. #150 luna1580
    February 2, 2010

    i am not familiar with henry, but i seem to be reading his old thread quote as “if an atheist really believed that religions, any and all religions, were silly/negative entities, they’d be out burning places of worship to the ground” -paraphrased.

    i don’t see how anyone could read this as anything other than an attempt to silence an atheist’s criticism of religion, by basically saying “real atheists (Tm) act on their convictions, by violence against others, and this is obviously abhorrent and immoral. any other atheist is ‘nothing but talk’ -or maybe a glass of ‘weak tea’- take your pick, and this is also abhorrent, therefore all atheists should refrain from criticizing any religion……”

    i’d say such a thing belongs in a discussion of “calls for ‘civility’ as a means to silence people”, as it is certainly an attempt to silence an entire category of opinions by saying that the holders of such opinions are either barbaric terrorists or mealy-mouthed meaningless talking heads. if those assumptions were true, and there were no other reasons anyone might voice atheist criticisms of religion, why would we give these atheist voices the time of day, or any blog space?

    i’d say labeling an entire worldview that has only a non-belief in any deities as a commonality as all either terrorists or meaningless people without conviction is not very nice (so could be painted as “uncivil”), and at the same time asks us to ignore the atheists as they are by nature “uncivil” themselves. so it seems quite fitting to discuss it in this thread, even if the person making that argument wasn’t the same person interested in raising the very idea of “civility” as a requirement/non-requirement in blog discussions….

  150. #151 John Morales
    February 2, 2010

    Stephanie Z [to SC, presumably]:

    And the next time you want to bring up the Holocaust to a Jew to tell him how he should feel about a particular issue, don’t be surprised that the sword is turned against you.

    HM. It seems otherwise to me.
    This is the linked exchange:

    [Gee] I’m Jewish. What goes on inside Norfolk churches is not mine to judge. Neither is the way that other people practice their religion,

    [SC] If you mean by this to imply that for you as a Jew the beliefs and practices of real, existing Christianity are of no real concern, well, that is just jawdroppingly naïve. Reading it, I was at first happy to see that there existed intellectual aeries somewhere in the world in which Jews could consider Christianity so abstractly. But then I remembered times in the past in which this was also the case…

    I find Stephanie’s accusation sophistic and maliciously disingenuous; clearly, SC refers to the entire history of Christendom vs. Judaism (cf. Lutherans or Catholics vs. Jews, for example) and the effect it has had on Jews, rather than to any specific event.

    I suspect that, in the quoted reference, had Gee written ‘Islamic’ instead of ‘Jewish’ and SC ‘Muslim’ instead of ‘Jew’, but the construct remaining otherwise verbatim, Stephanie would claim SC was specifically “bringing up the Crusades” by using exactly the same mode of interpretation.

  151. #152 idlemind
    February 2, 2010

    As I understand it, most of us Pharyngulans are not racist and having nothing against Jews on racist or ethnic grounds.
    is not incompatible with
    But of course, some of you probably think I am an untermensch…

    Being pretty familiar with the state of PZ’s comment section, I’ve no doubt this is true.
    I don’t think it’s particularly paranoid to expect that an observant Jew would be treated any better by the Pharyngula crowd than an observant Roman Catholic.
    Although I think Henry damaged (and eventually obliterated) his point by making it too personal, that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a valid point to begin with.

  152. #153 Stephanie Z
    February 2, 2010

    Paul, I’ll get my “condescending head examined” about the time you apologize for saying the thread was Godwined at the title and concede that there’s a difference between the Holocaust and having the person on whose head you’re stepping bite you in the ankle. Until then, until you can look at that comment thread and understand that there were plenty of assholes in it and that speaking German is not some kind of unforgivable crime against the internet, I really don’t take you seriously. That, and you’re not talking about civility. You’re only talking about Henry.

    No, John. I’m saying SC brought up the Holocaust this way because she said she did in comment 106. Keep up.

  153. #154 John Morales
    February 2, 2010

    Stephanie Z,

    Keep up.

    I quoted what you linked to, as your citation for your comment.

    I cannot go by what you intend to say (as you claim after the fact, I note) — I can only go by what you do write and the citations you quote in your comment.

    I’m saying SC brought up the Holocaust this way because she said she did in comment 106.

    And thus you link to comment 373. Right.

  154. #155 Stephanie Z
    February 2, 2010

    John, comment 106 of this thread.

  155. #156 Greg Laden
    February 2, 2010

    [149] Paul W. If Greg makes it sound like there was no harm, no foul because after all there are no relevant norms at Pharyngula, to dismiss our concerns, we’re certainly going to point out that he is seriously mistaken.< \em>

    I don’t know what “no relevant norms” are but I do know what PZ’s point of view on Henry Gee commenting on Pharyngula and I don’t think there is anything I’ve said here or elsewhere that contradicts that.

    On a more general note, it is true that this thread is not about Henry. Henry is a loss leader here. This thread is where I disagree with the idea that a handful of people on the blogosphere (and this could be any handful, not just the Kliqueons … it could be a handful of Pharynulistas or a handful of my best friends, or the College of Cardinals, or the Saint Louis Cardinals) should not take on the roll of telling other people what rules they should or should not have on their blog. Also, in the current discussion (not this Stephanie / S.C. discussion, but the “civility” discussion) I feel that a fetishized concept of “incivility” which is the obverse of equally fetishized “civility” has emerged and become some sort of standard for the proper way to communicate. But it isn’t.

    Putting this together somewhat, I feel that many of the participants in the discussion have overlooked or under analyzed the nature of human interaction and communication and have come up with a very simplistic view of it that does not serve anyone. In some cases, this simplistic view (50,000 civil comments on Nature Network is a bad thing) is almost depressingly simple.

    I think it is unfair to Henry to spend this much effort analyzing every word he ever spoke (or a selection of those words anyway) in a novel (or at least somewhat novel) context. Is Henry someone who asked for people to be nice but is not always nice himself, and is thus a hypocrite? No. I don’t think he asked anybody to be nice. He made the assertion that a blog owner could set and control and moderate standards or whatever on her or his own blog. There is nothing inherently hypocritical about saying “I want everyone to be nice on my own blog or I throw them off” and to be nasty on other blogs. There is not a universal rule, and there is not a rule demanding universal consistency in behavior. If there were, there would be no Hockey, there would be no UN, there would be no Graduate Seminar and there would be no sex.

    (Or, we would be constantly debating, hitting each other with sticks, and fucking, with no interludes of other behavior.)

    Although I get and in many cases agree with Salty Current’s comments above, I do worry that the scrappy “don’t fuck with me” European Jew of Henry’s generation (which I fully understand having been captured by a band of such Jews and kept by them for several years when I was younger) is a real and understandable trope that is being used to bludgeon an already buldgeoned-enough category of people.

    What if Henry as a diminutive heavily wrinkled tough old broad who escaped from the holocaust and now goes around to blogs and public events and tells people to go fuck themselves because they don’t get what happened in the 1930s and 1940s and they don’t believe that antisemitism is real and effective and scary today? She would be revered, even by those she told to go fuck themselves. It is possible, on the other hand, that Henry does not realize how big and scary he is in real life (or with his words, and he has words like the Jets have Knives), and could do well with a shift in tactics if he wants his points to be carried off in a tsunami of finger waggling.

    An interesting feature of the above discussion is the interesting problem of avoiding being racist/whateverist and being generally tolerant but being intolerant of religion. That turns out to be pretty tricky.

  156. #157 SC (Salty Current)
    February 2, 2010

    Stephanie, what are you blithering about? I said in #106 that I brought it up “tangentially in response to his apparent ignorance of the history of Christianity.” I linked to discussion of Constantine’s Sword, I think, which I had recently seen and which covers 2000 years, up to the present (the first scenes focus on evangelicalism and antisemitism at the Air Force Academy). I was also reading Isaacson’s biography of Einstein at the time, and very much had this issue on the brain. My point was a political one: Henry Gee appears to be blithely ignorant of the real history of Christian antisemitism and the threats it continues to pose today. That this point was lost on him made it even more ridiculous when he then turned around and presented atheists as some sort of physical threat to ethnic Jews. I accused him of nothing but ignorance (perhaps willful). (He’s also conflating belief and politics with ethnicity, but that wasn’t revealed till later.)

    That, and you’re not talking about civility. You’re only talking about Henry.

    Because he was responding to you, and Gee’s all you’re talking about, you twit.

  157. #158 SC (Salty Current)
    February 2, 2010

    Greg, I have to go to work, so I’ll respond to your comments later today. I disagree with pretty much everything you said there, so be prepared.

    :)

  158. #159 Greg Laden
    February 2, 2010

    You disagree that most of he conversation is oversimplified and highly gendered? Hmmm… I’ looking forward to seeing what you’ve got.

  159. #160 Stephanie Z
    February 2, 2010

    SC, I’m saying the same thing I’ve said since you joined and disrupted a conversation already in progress. If you want to suggest that a person has to be civil by your definition in order to be heard, I’ll do the same to you with my definition of civility. If you want to insist this thread be about one person, it will be you. If you want to insist that someone be judged by the worst possible interpretation of their words, you’ll get the same. If you want to live by “Nothing’s sacred” and dismiss a person’s feelings as irrelevant, I’ll step all over yours.

    In other words, if you claim offense in order to start rule-making in my presence, particularly over something that was finished a year and a half ago, and ignore it when you’re told it’s irrelevant, the rules will be used against you. Because if you reread the post, you might note that the point is that we need something more thoughtful than rule-making.

  160. #161 Comrade PhysioProf
    February 2, 2010

    This thread is where I disagree with the idea that a handful of people on the blogosphere (and this could be any handful, not just the Kliqueons … it could be a handful of Pharynulistas or a handful of my best friends, or the College of Cardinals, or the Saint Louis Cardinals) should not take on the roll of telling other people what rules they should or should not have on their blog.

    Dude, what’s with you and this “rules” shit? Calling someone a douchebag for doing/not doing a particular thing on their blog is not an imposition of rules; it’s an expression of an opinion about what is doing/not doing.

    Like when you totally fucked up your coverage of the Linda Buck retraction, me telling you that you had totally fucked the thing up wasn’t an attempted imposition of some kind of “rule” on your blog. It was simply the expression of my opinion (correct, as it turns out) that you had gotten the thing woefully wrong.

    Someone accusing HEE GEE of being a fucking hypocritical douchebag because of what he asserts as his approach to “civility” is not an attempted imposition of a “rule” on him. No one is fucking with his blog code, or trying to circumvent whatever mechanism HEE GEE might implement to enforce his own conception of civility on his blog. These are expressions of opinion.

    Just because some people go completely 100% apeshit when their behavior or expressions are criticized doesn’t turn that criticism into some kind of mob with flaming torches outside their door.

  161. #162 Stephanie Z
    February 2, 2010

    CPP, what makes it rule-making is the notion that whatever was done is far more important than actually working together to accomplish shared goals. If doing something puts someone beyond the pale, it’s “forbidden” whether someone expresses it as a rule or not.

  162. #163 Greg Laden
    February 2, 2010

    Well, actually, CPP, you have made a lengthy and rather sophistic argument related to an all too brief comment of mine that is not a very good representative of what this post is about. In this case your straw man is something about rules. You could consider reading the original post.

    Shall I be more clear? Your one dimensional invariant yammering is uninteresting, unhelpful and annoying. Isis has fetishized Teh Civil and created a version of rhetoric in her own mind that she has come to call “uncivil” and claims this is the way to be, and if you are not you might as well have a stadium at the Oppression Olympics named after you. She has gone so far as to identify places where this “civility” thing is done normally as bad places. She wants them to change the way they do things so it looks like her crib rather than the way it looks now, imposing her way of being and values on others with the reprimand that if you do not do it the Isis way you are repressing the little brown ones. Your hit and run appearances here and there are the same thing. You show up in people’s faces, are very rude to them, and when they respond to your rudeness instead of the content of your message, you rudely tell them that they should not do so. (That is what happened with the Linda Buck issue you refer to: I wrote you off as some kind of crazy fuckhead and ignored you even though you had a point The fact that I did not jump, step and fetch it when you ordered me rudely to do so was not because I confused your asshatery with your valid point. It was because you were being and. Consequences, CPP. Consequences are not just for those you chose to provide them for. You can haz them too. In the Buck case, I chose to not take you seriously because you were being an asshat.)

    Both of you and various others are totally ignoring the actual complexities of the process of different parties negotiating communication among themselves, or you are selectively ignoring the realities of how humans communicate with each other. And, you are labeling all those who disagree with you as people who are intentionally (or perhaps not intentionally) creating environments where underrepresented or repressed people cannot make their point because TEH Civil has silenced them.

    I don’t think of you and your buddies as a mob with flaming torches. I have an entirely different image in mind.

    Of course, it could be that I’m making these arguments for the traffic. That accusation has not been tossed my way for at least two weeks. Shall we cycle back to that one soon?

  163. #164 Comrade PhysioProf
    February 2, 2010

    VERKAKTE TRAFFICMONGER SHPRITSZAK!!!

  164. #165 Paul W.
    February 2, 2010

    Greg,

    I actually agree with a lot of the things I take you to be saying… please bear with me…

    If Greg makes it sound like there was no harm, no foul because after all there are no relevant norms at Pharyngula, to dismiss our concerns, we’re certainly going to point out that he is seriously mistaken.

    I don’t know what “no relevant norms” are but I do know what PZ’s point of view on Henry Gee commenting on Pharyngula and I don’t think there is anything I’ve said here or elsewhere that contradicts that.

    I think we need to get clearer on how the “pissing on the rug” metaphor is supposed to work. (I need to, at least.)
    I suspect it’s a disastrously ambiguous metaphor and we need a better one.

    One interpretation of “pissing on the rug” is simply violating some social norm, and being deserving of censure.

    Another is violating a social norm in a big way, and deserving censorship.

    Those are very different things.

    On Pharyngula, there are social norms; in fact, they’re stronger and I’d say more civilized than on some more overtly “civilized” blogs like the Intersection.

    PZ is relatively laissez faire, and lets many kinds of “incivility” pass. You can call somebody a goatfucker and it’s no big deal. It’s a tough room. PZ doesn’t see it as his job to micromanage, and he provides something akin to a public forum, although he does occasionally ban people in extreme cases (only), and he sets the tone to some extent, in a variety of ways.

    Most of the norm enforcement falls to the regular commenters, like me and SC.

    For example, if somebody says something racist or sexist, somebody will generally jump on them; often several people will. Those people are generally made to look stupid, and that’s generally enough to get them to go away after a while, without PZ having to do anything.

    A more interesting norm at Pharyngula—which is strikingly absent at certain blogs such as The Intersection—is the general recognition that there’s a crucial difference between sincere dissent and pure, shameless trolling.

    People who disagree with the local consensus—such as Henry Gee, or a Christian apologist, or a radical libertarian—are welcome to come and state their view, and defend it.

    They are not entitled to respect for their views, in the way many people interpret that term. They may get dogpiled with a bunch of snarky comments, even flatly called stupid sometimes, etc.

    However, if the hapless dissenter can endure that, and tries to actually make arguments and address the arguments others are making, they’re not considered trolls. They are playing the game, and they can continue to play.

    (I have been in that position, going against the local grain, several times. I often don’t bother speak up about stuff I agree with, so I’m disproportionately disagreeable, and I get dogpiled. But if I’m making a determined effort to communicate, some people will notice and say so, even if they think I’m stupidly wrong.)

    Sometimes such people get called trolls by some dismissive Pharynguloids, but if they keep making an actual effort to communicate, somebody will step up and tell the dismissive, insulting people dial it down, because they’re enjoying the argument, and the victim isn’t just trolling.

    Sometimes this is very explicit, and sometimes it’s implicit—the people actually arguing just continue arguing, and ignore the sniping.

    I’ve been on the norm-enforcing end of that many times, and once I was very much on the wrong end. I dismissed a regularly dissenting poster (a young libertarian/conservative) who I thought was just polluting Pharyngula with his ill-informed and ill-thought-out views, because I perceived him as hopeless. I told him to shut the fuck up and go away because we were sick of him, after months of his spewing drivel.

    Immediately several regulars jumped on me and said that I was wrong—that they personally disagreed with the guy’s views as much as as I did, but that he was not a hopeless troll. He was honest, and however much trouble he was having with the huge clash of worldviews, he didn’t deserve that from me.

    They were right, so I apologized humbly, butted the fuck out, and slunk away, red-faced. I hadn’t been paying enough attention, and had been just an asshole to somebody who wasn’t just an asshole. And that is not okay. Lesson learned.

    For about a year, that guy had many long arguments with many people at Pharyngula. Over and over, and largely repetitive. Ick. But he learned some things, and came to realize that liberals aren’t just stupid, and moderated some of his conservative views. He’s still a regular, and that’s cool. Good for him, and good for Pharyngula.

    During that time, especially near the beginning, that guy did things many of us considered pissing on us. (And maybe the rug, but I don’t understand that metaphor.) And I think he did, without realizing the extent to which he did, as many young men do who are smart and don’t yet realize that there are smarter people out there, or don’t know them when they see them.

    I was the same way as a young man, I confess. I was even a libertarian and thought that any who wasn’t was pretty stupid. And then one day I fell in with some folks who were willing to argue with me, and were smart and articulate, and knew what the fuck they were talking about. And they were patient with me, despite the fact that I was a cocky asshole, because they realized I was not just a cocky asshole.

    I am eternally grateful for that patient, much-needed ass-kicking from some people who liked to argue, and were good at it. (I ended up apologizing to some people I’d condescended to for years, who either weren’t articulate enough to kick my ass even when I was wrong and they were right, or had just dismissed me as too much of a cocky asshole to be worth arguing with.)

    That’s a major reason that I like Pharyngula—that sort of thing can happen there, and sometimes does—and I do not like certain other blogs, that are supposedly more “civil,” notably The Intersection.

    At those blogs, dissenters are not welcome, no matter how sincere. You get dogpiled by people who will never engage on crucial, major points, and freely sling invective, ad hominems, and arguments from authority, but dogpile you if you justifiably respond in kind. (E.g., impugning an alleged authority.) There is little respect for actual reasoned argument, and too much respect for patently invalid arguments so long as they get the “right” answer. And there’s a double standard—you’re likely to get censored or flatly banned if you keep dissenting, for things the loyalists never get banned for.

    (My experience there is mostly in threads about the New Atheism and accommodationist framing; your mileage may vary on other topics. Also, I’m a peculiar exception to the censoring/banning thing—I get dogpiled by utterly evasive shits who all stonewall eternally on the two actual bones of contention, as Mooney and Kirshenbaum systematically do, but I rarely get censored and do not get banned, despite repeatedly arguing that M&K are not only wrong, but chronically evasive and evidently dishonest. Good for them.)

    On Pharyngula, there’s a norm of substantive civility, not superficial faux civility.

    Pharyngulans think that calling somebody names isn’t the end of the world, so long as you also address their arguments, or somebody does. They think that an argument can be passionate and heated without going entirely off the rails into hateful, irrational nonsense.

    For most of us, being called a goatfucking asswipe isn’t a big deal, so long as we can ask you to explain why you call us that, and expect a sincere effort to answer intelligibly, which we can then try to criticize rationally amid the name-calling.

    But being told we don’t mind turning innocent babies into soap (because they’re Jewish?), or perhaps we’re just too cowardly to be the terrorists we unprincipled scum logically should be…

    well, that’s a whole other thing.

    But even that we can more or less accept—we get called that sort of thing by fundamentalists sometimes, and we just argue that it’s not true. (And make fun of them.) It gives us an opportunity to defend our worldview and criticize theirs, in a contentful way.

    What is really, really not okay at Pharyngula is to use such incredibly evil accusations as an ad hominem argument, and evade the issue of whether we’re right or wrong to think that your religious beliefs are false, and whether we’re reprehensibly immoral or amoral to dare to say so publicly.

    On a more general note, it is true that this thread is not about Henry. Henry is a loss leader here.

    Maybe now you can see why I think Henry is an entirely relevant example of what I’m talking about when I make the basic distinction between substantive civility and superficial faux civility.

    IMO Henry was simply horrendously, substantively uncivil in the famous thread SC quoted him from.

    He was acting a goatfucking asswipe, who doesn’t realize that it’s not nearly as bad to call somebody a goatfucking asswipe—who cares?—as it is to call them a Nazi or cowardly would-be terrorist. The former is just name-calling, and can be discounted almost entirely, but the latter is a very fucking serious, substantive accusation.

    Even at Pharyngula.

    Pharyngula may be a rough-and-tumble place, and a tough room for outsiders, but it’s a liberal blog.

    Many of the regulars are longtime advocates for social justice and human rights. (Like SC and me.) The last thing in the world we are is Nazis, at least in our own opinion. Maybe we don’t understand our own stupid reprehensibility, but if so, we need it explained to us. We don’t need somebody to come in our living room and not just piss on the carpet, but shit on us in the most vicious way he can think of.

    Several of the people dearest to me in the world are Jews, including one who’s a Holocaust survivor whose parents and siblings were killed by the Nazis. Another is the son of a concentration camp survivor. I’m a lifelong Jew-lover who almost married into a Jewish family. (And when I didn’t, it certainly wasn’t because they were Jewish; oh hell no. That was a plus, I guess, compared to the typical American family; I like the demographic.)

    Make me out to be a Nazi, or anything like a Nazi, and I will take it very, very personally—or dismiss you as a kook.

    Which is what I did with Henry. I assume that he doesn’t know who he’s talking to, and doesn’t understand the culture of the people he’s shitting on, but I do think that makes him a bit paranoid, specifically with respect to the people at Pharyngula.

    I am emphatically not saying that it’s paranoid for Henry to be worried about antisemitism in general. Far from it. It’s a serious issue, and he is right to be concerned.

    I understand what Stephanie means, up to a point, that it’s weird to call a Jew “paranoid,” after the Holocaust, and given the situation around Israel, and given antisemitism in Henry’s environment.

    Still, that just can’t imply that it’s okay for Henry to come over to Pharyngula and imply that we are Nazis or anything remotely like them, without explaining how that’s even plausible, and being willing to seriously engage with our actual views.

    It does not make it okay for you to minimize his misbehavior by saying this, either:

    So, really, unless I’m missing the point … Henry Gee pissing all over other commenters and the blogger at Pharyngula is normal and expected and is not exceptional or relevant to this argument.

    In order to move past the Henry thing, it would be helpful if you now indicated that you understand why we at Pharyngula think Henry did at least a little more than the normal, expected, unexceptional pissing.

    Do you?

    Maybe now you can also see why I object to Stephanie’s characterization of all this:

    It’s also about people feeling the need to pull fights out of the cage match that is a Pharyngula comment thread and carry them elsewhere where people are trying to discuss other topics.

    We don’t think that Pharyngula is just a “cage match” with no rules of civility, that can be so easily dismissed. (And us along with it.)

    We think it’s got a culture that’s an interesting example of several basic civility/incivility issues.

    It’s got some bad aspects, certainly. I wish Pharyngula was more “civil” in certain ways that many others do—I certainly get tired of some people there who really do act like assholes too often.

    On the other hand, it works in certain senses that most blogs don’t, and that includes having some (perhaps non-obvious) moral norms about fairness toward outsiders, honest argument, etc.

    And it only works—it only isn’t worse, at least—because there are many people at Pharyngula who oppose gratuitous incivility, if only by trying to be civil themselves and engage seriously with dissenters’ arguments amid the free-for-all.

    If you don’t make a serious argument, as Henry didn’t, of course you won’t notice that. And if you don’t accept that it’s an uphill slog, you may give up before anybody acknowledges that you’re playing the game fine.

    Is Henry someone who asked for people to be nice but is not always nice himself, and is thus a hypocrite? No. I don’t think he asked anybody to be nice. He made the assertion that a blog owner could set and control and moderate standards or whatever on her or his own blog. There is nothing inherently hypocritical about saying “I want everyone to be nice on my own blog or I throw them off” and to be nasty on other blogs.

    I entirely agree, but I think you’re still missing the real point.

    Henry isn’t a hypocrite for doing what you portray him doing—stooping to Pharyngula’s level. He’s a hypocrite for stooping well below Pharyngula’s level, at least by Pharyngula standards, and then whining about getting his ass handed to him for acting like such an asswipe in our living room.

    He does not understand the culture, doesn’t appreciate it, misrepresents it, and makes false accusations.

    We object to that, and to anybody misrepresenting what happened, using Pharyngula as a whipping boy and an illustration of what things degenerate into when “anything goes.”

    I’m not asking Henry or anyone else to like Pharyngula. I think you can make a good case that it’s a dysfunctional culture in some ways—but you can also argue that The Intersection (or Zuska’s or Isis’s place, or Henry’s) is a dysfunctional culture in different way. (As you seem to be doing. Great.)

    Pharyngula is not simply worse by every relevant standard, such that we have no grounds for complaint about incivility by our standards, which have at least some merit in some respects.

    Don’t they? Or are we just scum who should take that lying down?

    If you use us as simply a negative example, and dismiss us as a cage match of poo-flinging screechy monkeys not much better than Nazis—or at least, not so much better that our objection is valid—well, we’ll come to your blog and disagree.

    I don’t think there’s anything uncivil about that, or the least bit off-topic. It’s precisely on topic—what does civil mean, anyway?

    Although I get and in many cases agree with Salty Current’s comments above, I do worry that the scrappy “don’t fuck with me” European Jew of Henry’s generation (which I fully understand having been captured by a band of such Jews and kept by them for several years when I was younger) is a real and understandable trope that is being used to bludgeon an already bludgeoned-enough category of people.

    I worry about that, too. I’ve known Holocaust survivors who would never make the kind of argument Henry makes, so it’s all pretty weird.


    An interesting feature of the above discussion is the interesting problem of avoiding being racist/whateverist and being generally tolerant but being intolerant of religion. That turns out to be pretty tricky.

    Exactly. One of the things it seems that Henry does, and accommodationists do systematically, is to beg this question. They lump religion together with ethnicity, and equate both kinds of “intolerance.” They’re different.

    I can’t change who my parents are, but I can change my mind about religious beliefs, as I have. Henry has too, which makes it puzzling to me that he doesn’t seem to understand the New Atheist position, and insists on running things together.

  165. #166 John Morales
    February 2, 2010
    No, John. I’m saying SC brought up the Holocaust this way because she said she did in comment 106. Keep up.

    And thus you link to comment 373. Right.

    John, comment 106 of this thread.

    But you didn’t link to #106 of this thread, you linked to #373 in a different blog via the bolded words in your quote: “And the next time you want to bring up the Holocaust to a Jew to tell him how he should feel about a particular issue”.

    Perhaps I was too subtle @154. I thought it was clear I was suggesting your response to me @153 (quoted in its entirety above) seems to be an ad-hoc evasion, made to avoid a substantive response to my @151.

  166. #167 Stephanie Z
    February 2, 2010

    John, your comment 151 (in this thread) is all about what you think is/was going on in my head. What is there to say to it except that you’re wrong? If you don’t understand what I said for some reason other than not wanting to, ask a question. If you ask nicely, I may even answer it.

  167. #168 Stephanie Z
    February 2, 2010

    Oh, and comments 151 and 165 would both be great examples of that dipshit move of telling people what they think and mean.

  168. #169 Barn Owl
    February 2, 2010

    Shorter John Morales:

    “No! You linked to 2 Pharyngulonians 11:8, when you should have linked to Ladentations 1:10 instead! Blasphemy!11!!”

  169. #170 Greg Laden
    February 2, 2010

    Josh[35]: This post was not about Henry, and I have made only minimal comments about him in the comments, which I don’t think anyone has explicit disagreed with. Therefore there is no sentence that contradicts what I said in relation to what SC said about Henry that is logically valid in any way. I have not engaged in the discussion about Henry.

  170. #171 Greg Laden
    February 2, 2010

    CPP: Thanks very much for the very concise response! I like concise responses. You probably could have cut it down to one word, but that’s OK.

  171. #172 Greg Laden
    February 2, 2010

    Paul (and I suppose CPP): The pissing on the rug metaphor is perfect. A metaphor that is a perfect match is a description. A metaphor is supposed to be general and it is not supposed to match reality exactly.

    Many good points about the social issues of a forum. I don’t think anything there contradicts what I’m saying in any substantial way. My position is that determining that a blog owner is acting inappropriately because they don’t act like you (you being anybody) wants them to act is itself asshatery. If you hat Chris Mooney and want to complain about how he runs his blog, fine, but to say that he does not have the right to run his blog like he does and that running it like he does oppresses people then that is out of line.

    PZ’s blog has a low level of inforced civility. Isis should therefore like PZ’s blog. But I can tell you that there are people who do not participate in PZ’s blog’s conversations because they do not feel comfortable. Voices are being silenced by you and Salty Current and whomever. I’m sure there are also voices that are being encouraged on Pharynugla that might be silenced elsewhere.

    There is not a simple dipole of “civil” vs. “uncivil” whereby one end of that spectrum allows otherwise repressed voices to be heard and the other does not. It is simply more complicated than that.

    My blog, of course, has the perfect mix of warm welcome fuzzies and edginess.

    Unless you are a fucking home schooler.

  172. #173 SC (Salty Current)
    February 2, 2010

    Paul, I’ll get my “condescending head examined” about the time you apologize for saying the thread was Godwined at the title and concede that there’s a difference between the Holocaust and having the person on whose head you’re stepping bite you in the ankle.

    I can only assume he meant that the title (and post) led the thread to be about the Master of Godwin.

    I don’t know what “no relevant norms” are but I do know what PZ’s point of view on Henry Gee commenting on Pharyngula and I don’t think there is anything I’ve said here or elsewhere that contradicts that.

    So? The argument was about your characterization of what’s acceptable over there, which I and someone else had already told you you were wrong about.

    On a more general note, it is true that this thread is not about Henry.

    Oh? It has in fact largely been.

    Henry is a loss leader here. This thread is where I disagree with the idea

    Well, knock me down. I thought a comment thread was where people other than you expressed their views on your posts and you responded to them.

    that a handful of people on the blogosphere (and this could be any handful, not just the Kliqueons … it could be a handful of Pharynulistas or a handful of my best friends, or the College of Cardinals, or the Saint Louis Cardinals) should not take on the roll of telling other people what rules they should or should not have on their blog.

    How has this thread been about that? Your post raised numerous topics from which any number of conversations could follow.

    Also, in the current discussion (not this Stephanie / S.C. discussion, but the “civility” discussion) I feel that a fetishized concept of “incivility” which is the obverse of equally fetishized “civility” has emerged and become some sort of standard for the proper way to communicate.

    You’re quite wrong. I’ve said repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that people need to define explicitly what they mean by civility so that the implications of any standards can be debated.

    Putting this together somewhat, I feel that many of the participants in the discussion have overlooked or under analyzed the nature of human interaction and communication and have come up with a very simplistic view of it that does not serve anyone. In some cases, this simplistic view (50,000 civil comments on Nature Network is a bad thing) is almost depressingly simple.

    I don’t know who or what you’re talking about.

    I think it is unfair to Henry

    I’m tired of this. He, a major participant in this debate, has behaved badly towards people and shut down communication. He has also said things I strongly disagree with on the topic under discussion. Substantive criticism of his ideas and actions is perfectly valid. If you for whatever reason don’t want him criticized in your comment threads, that’s your right, but you should probably let people know up front that he’s off limits. It’s your blog, but I’m genuinely disappointed. That may be it for me here.

    to spend this much effort analyzing every word he ever spoke (or a selection of those words anyway) in a novel (or at least somewhat novel) context.

    I don’t know what you mean about a novel context, or anything about every word he ever spoke. I’m talking about his words and actions on relevant occasions.

    Is Henry someone who asked for people to be nice but is not always nice himself, and is thus a hypocrite? No.

    I really don’t know how much more simply I can explain the argument being made.

    I don’t think he asked anybody to be nice. He made the assertion that a blog owner could set and control and moderate standards or whatever on her or his own blog.

    And I’ve said probably six times above that this is a simplified version of his argument. He quoted Wilkins about specific rules and said he agreed with him. I don’t agree with those rules, and he follows neither them nor the rules of his own blog, on his own blog or elsewhere.

    There is nothing inherently hypocritical about saying “I want everyone to be nice on my own blog or I throw them off” and to be nasty on other blogs.

    Specific. Rules. (And as I said above, I think there is.)

    There is not a universal rule, and there is not a rule demanding universal consistency in behavior. If there were, there would be no Hockey [?], there would be no UN, there would be no Graduate Seminar and there would be no sex.

    There is a powerful argument that we adhere to rules we set for others, on the reasoning that it would be immoral to make rules for other people that we don’t follow ourselves. And your assertion is confused.

    Although I get and in many cases agree with Salty Current’s comments above, I do worry that the scrappy “don’t fuck with me” European Jew of Henry’s generation (which I fully understand having been captured by a band of such Jews and kept by them for several years when I was younger) is a real and understandable trope that is being used to bludgeon an already buldgeoned-enough category of people.

    Oh, fuck that. If that’s a trope, it isn’t specific to any ethnic or other group with a history of oppression.

    What if Henry as a diminutive heavily wrinkled tough old broad who escaped from the holocaust and now goes around to blogs and public events and tells people to go fuck themselves because they don’t get what happened in the 1930s and 1940s and they don’t believe that antisemitism is real and effective and scary today? She would be revered, even by those she told to go fuck themselves.

    You know, these “what if” scenarios only work if you hold one part constant and change the other. Here, you’ve changed not only the characteristics of the person, but the person’s behavior. That isn’t what Gee is doing. He’s flinging accusations of antisemitism at people and groups he doesn’t like or agree with politically or is losing an argument with (including people oppressed themselves) based on no evidence. And frankly, no, I don’t think your hypothetical woman would be widely revered. She may or may not be listened to, she may be pitied, but she would likely not be revered. I know a Holocaust survivor (attractive, btw) who goes around to schools and tells her story and teaches kids about that history and the present. She’s great, and I doubt they would revere her if she were telling them to go fuck themselves. She’s talking about what she personally went through. There are also aggressively-written books (Hitler’s Willing Executioners, etc.) that I might take issue with some portions of but think are important for people to read, and have assigned. I don’t revere Goldhagen, but he presents an evidence-supported argument. Also not what Gee is doing.

    And if “[telling] people…they don’t get what happened in the 1930s and 1940s and they don’t believe that antisemitism is real and effective and scary today” were the issue, I’d be berating myself. Years of studying the Holocaust, fascism, and resistance to fascism was what led me to my field of scholarship. I raise the subject so much that almost everyone (not for this reason alone) thinks I’m Jewish. I still do it now, and the only reason I don’t talk about it almost constantly now is that there are other pressing cases of oppression and violence. FFS, I was trying to get Gee to recognize some real threats. Further, even when I’m reporting on those it’s never something I leave behind.

    http://saltycurrent.blogspot.com/2009/10/honduras-update-10-9-09-continuing.html

    It is possible, on the other hand, that Henry does not realize how big and scary he is in real life (or with his words, and he has words like the Jets have Knives), and could do well with a shift in tactics if he wants his points to be carried off in a tsunami of finger waggling.

    No, it isn’t at all possible. Not only does he realize it, he uses it. He’s a bully. One thing I keep coming back to when reading these threads is that I shouldn’t know how big and scary he is in real life. He’s a scientist and a journal editor, and none of this story involves bar brawls. I know it for three reasons: he’s made reference to it himself, he’s accused others (including women) of “hiding” behind the internet or pseudonyms, and he’s been physically aggressive in a conference setting. Part of civility, and one of the things that makes the internet slightly more democratic, is that your arguments are judged and you can’t cow people into agreement no matter what your size. You’re only as big as your words. He wants to reverse that. It’s creepy, it’s wrong, and it’s the opposite of civil. And for the record, there are commenters at Pharyngula who could no doubt take him out, whatever his size. They don’t go on about their toughness, because they have reason and evidence on their side.

    An interesting feature of the above discussion is the interesting problem of avoiding being racist/whateverist and being generally tolerant but being intolerant of religion. That turns out to be pretty tricky.

    I don’t find it tricky at all.

    saying the same thing I’ve said since you joined and disrupted a conversation already in progress. If you want to suggest that a person has to be civil by your definition in order to be heard, I’ll do the same to you with my definition of civility. If you want to insist this thread be about one person, it will be you. If you want to insist that someone be judged by the worst possible interpretation of their words, you’ll get the same. If you want to live by “Nothing’s sacred” and dismiss a person’s feelings as irrelevant, I’ll step all over yours. In other words, if you claim offense in order to start rule-making in my presence, particularly over something that was finished a year and a half ago, and ignore it when you’re told it’s irrelevant, the rules will be used against you. Because if you reread the post, you might note that the point is that we need something more thoughtful than rule-making.

    You’re really mixed up. OK, make it about me. I can’t imagine how that could serve your purpose. I’m making no rules (how could I?). Step all over my feelings? Stephanie, I don’t care what you think of me. You’re not going to hurt me. Get over your arrogant self.

    CPP, what makes it rule-making is the notion that whatever was done is far more important than actually working together to accomplish shared goals. If doing something puts someone beyond the pale, it’s “forbidden” whether someone expresses it as a rule or not.

    I disagree with Gee about religion, atheism/science, politics, and civility. From what I can see, we have few shared goals. He’s expressed no interest in working together. And from what I’ve seen, I don’t like him. I’ve requested that you participate in such a conversation more than once, and you’ve declined.

    No one has been put beyond any pale other than by you and Greg. He is being criticized. You said yourself that you thought he was wrong in some ways. A better tack would have been to acknowledge that and have the argument, rather than petulantly demanding that no one speak about his arguments or behavior.

  173. #174 SC (Salty Current)
    February 2, 2010

    [I just submitted a long comment that’s in moderation. Meanwhile…]

    Voices are being silenced by…Salty Current…

    Do tell.

  174. #175 John Morales
    February 2, 2010

    Stephanie Z,

    [1] John, your comment 151 (in this thread) is all about what you think is/was going on in my head. [2] What is there to say to it except that you’re wrong?

    1. Yes, it’s my opinion, but I explicitly stated the basis on which it was formed, and I still feel it was justified. Your ongoing avoidance of it and your evasion is only strengthening said opinion.

    2. You could say why it’s wrong, other than by assertion.

    Again: did or did not SC “bring up the Holocaust” in the cited comment? You implied that she did, I consider she didn’t (and stated why), and you haven’t addressed my very specific contention.

    Barn Owl,

    “No! You linked to 2 Pharyngulonians 11:8, when you should have linked to Ladentations 1:10 instead! Blasphemy!11!!”

    Very droll, but when someone hyperlinks to something, with the claim¹ as the title² of the anchor tag, one expects the link refers to (and sustains the claim of) that title.

    ¹ The claim being “bring up the Holocaust”.

    ² By ‘title’ I refer to the technical term for the visible text of a hyperlink.

  175. #176 John Morales
    February 2, 2010

    Stephanie Z,

    Oh, and comments 151 and 165 would both be great examples of that dipshit move of telling people what they think and mean.

    As opposed to, say, your #148, where you tell SC she “want[ed] to bring up the Holocaust to a Jew to tell him how he should feel about a particular issue”.

    Right.

  176. #177 SC (Salty Current)
    February 2, 2010

    (Third post to be held?)

    The pissing on the rug metaphor is perfect. A metaphor that is a perfect match is a description.

    Yet Wilkins described specific rules – a description. And Gee quoted them approvingly. And I quoted Gee quoting Wilkins here.

    My position is that determining that a blog owner is acting inappropriately because they don’t act like you (you being anybody) wants them to act is itself asshatery.

    How ridiculous. So there’s no room for criticism at all, in your view.

    If you…want to complain about how [Chris Mooney] runs his blog, fine, but to say that he does not have the right to run his blog like he does and that running it like he does oppresses people then that is out of line.

    He runs his blog like a total assclam, because he is an assclam. He has every right to be an assclam, and I have every right to point out that he’s an assclam.

    What is so fucking complicated about this?

  177. #178 Greg Laden
    February 2, 2010

    So? The argument was about your characterization of what’s acceptable over there, which I and someone else had already told you you were wrong about.

    I’m quite sure I understand what happens on Pharyngula. I don’t recall being told I was wrong about this (perhaps it was buried in some part of this thread that I’m not following). I’ve been told a lot about what it is like over there, but my comments are in relation the point of the post (remember the post, above?) and not about the ethnography of pharyngula by Salty Current or Paul, as interesting and useful as they are. But I’m sure I’m not wrong.

    Oh? It has in fact largely been.

    You are right. What I meant to say is that this post is not about Henry. the thread seems to have taken on a couple of new directions.

    Well, knock me down. I thought a comment thread was where people other than you expressed their views on your posts and you responded to them.

    Not at all. A 9 week old infant, teaching three classes, a pile of projects in process, various talks, dinners, tapings, and so on have me a bit busy. It simply is not the case that a comment thread is where people express their views and I respond to them. I would like to respond to all the views, but I simply can’t. The present discussion between you and Stephanie about Henry is not something I’m that interested in getting too involved in.

    What is important here is that many of your comments incorrecty assume that I’m saying something about your comments (or your’s and stephanie). I’d have to have read them first to do that.

    How has this thread been about that? Your post raised numerous topics from which any number of conversations could follow.

    That’s the funniest thing I’ve seen all day! Are you actually telling me that a comment in which I clarify my post is somehow annoying or inappropriate? I love it!

    You’re quite wrong. I’ve said repeatedly and in no uncertain terms that people need to define explicitly what they mean by civility so that the implications of any standards can be debated.

    This is a response to something that is not there. Re read what I wrote. I explicitly indicate that I am not referring to anything you are talking about. It would help to read all the words and not just every other word! Jeesh…. I agree with you on this statement. I am referring in my statement to the dumb-ass shit Isis the Goddess spews.

    I don’t know who or what you’re talking about.

    Yes, I know. You don’t! This is very funny.

    I’ve read about 5% of this discussion between you and Stephanie. Just enough to see the British anti-semitism stuff come up, and a little more. I have been very busy and thinking I’d get to that discussion later on, but just have not yet.

    Before you complain about that and tell me that it is my responsibility to read what you place in comment sections on my blog let me tell you this: It was either read all that stuff or feed the infant. Had I read all that stuff the infant would have starved and died. I could not allow that atrocity to happen.

    If you for whatever reason don’t want him criticized in your comment threads, that’s your right, but you should probably let people know up front that he’s off limits. It’s your blog, but I’m genuinely disappointed. That may be it for me here.

    Oh, give me a mother fucking break! This is over the top and outrageous, and I won’t stand for it! You are telling me that I can’t make a remark related to Henry. I’m not allowed to your you storm off forever. Have I told you to stop with your comments? Have I told you to shut up? Have I told you that you need to stop saying whatever you were saying? No. So why are you being so insensitive? I am not doing anything to you. You are being an over the top ass all of the sudden. I have not been arguing with you. What the fuck do you think is going on here?

    Wow.

    Yes, I do think it may be a little unfair to Henry, and when I say it I really mean what is going on here and what is going on in about five other threads out there somewhere. Am I stopping you from doing it? Is it a requirement of yours that you say whatever you want on this blog but if i say anything that you might find objectionable that you threaten to storm off? That is not even … not even uncivil! It’s just stupid! In fact, to be honest, and I say this as a friend, you are starting to look rather like a dope here. You can do better.

    Specific. Rules. (And as I said above, I think there is.)

    I don’t think those are sentences with actual meanings, but I’ll guess. No, I don’t think those are specific rules. Maybe they are. People can have specific rules on their own blogs if they want. It is not your place to tell them otherwise. But people should not be telling other people what rules they should follow on the other people’s blog. Am I clear? Probably not, but who cares, I don’t think you are really listening.

    There is a powerful argument that we adhere to rules we set for others, on the reasoning that it would be immoral to make rules for other people that we don’t follow ourselves. And your assertion is confused.

    If I wanted Greek I’d go downtown to my Cristos.

    Oh, fuck that. If that’s a trope, it isn’t specific to any ethnic or other group with a history of oppression.

    And this makes it less relevant for some particular reason?

    I’m not going to argue with you over how Henry handles his Jewishness or how you handle Henry in this regard. I think he could do better, I think you could do better, someday I’ll have breakfast with Henry and we’ll talk about it, but I have a feeling you’re not especially interested in what I have to say. You make a lot of good points, you don’t need my advice in this regard. And, the possibility at this point of a conversation has pretty much gone out the window.

    Regarding Henry’s bigness and scaryness … I maintain that he is not necessarily the plotting nefarious cud you accuse him of being. We will simply have to have different opinions of this.

    Most people could do a better job than they do of managing their emotions and of calibrating their reactions to things they are encountering. And when I say most people I would include Henry on that list. And you, quite possibly. Trial and conviction may not be the most appropriate approach here, because if that becomes the nature of the discourse then we all are fucked. If you think you are somehow not fucked, then you are doubly fucked.

    I don’t find it tricky at all.

    Much of your commentary together with this statement could lead some people to assume that you have some serious antisemitic issues to deal with. I’m not saying that, but I just want you to know that it could look this way. (I don’t happen to think it is the case.)

    Now, following this you seem to have shifted to critiquing comments made by another commenter other than me. Which is funny because you say something about “You’re really mixed up” … it is a good idea if you are shifting from one persons comments to another to indicate that so people reading only your comment don’t mis attribute.

    A note on posts that are “held”… I get from your tone that you are offended. There is nothing offensive happening here. We’ve got some moderation issues blog wide and site wide. This is not about you, just in case you were thinking it was (which, as I say, I get from your tone, though I may be wrong).

  178. #179 Greg Laden
    February 2, 2010

    SC: Yes, there is room for criticism. But you know what? I’ve been clear in my position on this and you are trying really hard to not get it.

    I want you to start responding to commenters on your blog differently than you currently do. It is normal practice on the blogosphere to do it quite differently than you currently do it. I come to the table with expectations different than what you are doing, and I really think you should do what I think you should do.

    THAT would be asshatery. Making rules for OTHER people to follow on THEIR blog. This is not hard.

    He runs his blog like a total assclam, because he is an assclam. He has every right to be an assclam, and I have every right to point out that he’s an assclam.

    DING!!!!!

    The two key neurons have finally touched in your brain! You get it!!!!!!!!!

    We totally agree on this. Until your next comment in which you will do one of three things:

    1) Disagree with me even though we are not disagreeing on this key point because you just have to do that for some reason;

    2) Run though several thousand words of text to prove that we actually do disagree because prior I said something different (which I didn’t but you will dig around until you find something to quote mine); or

    3) You will storm off mad because you don’t the attitude of disdain and disrespect that I exude in points 1 and 2. But really, its because you can’t stand that I can read your mind.

  179. #180 Stephanie Z
    February 2, 2010

    Paul, thanks for stepping back a bit.

    I haven’t called anyone a bunch of poo-flinging screechy monkeys. I don’t think you are. Nor did I say anything about no rules. Cage matches have rules, fairly strict ones, about what can be brought into the cage. They’re brutal within that set of rules, but that doesn’t exactly sound unlike a certain blog we both know and love, does it?

    I am saying that if you maintain that nothing is sacred, that no one’s feelings are worth considering as long as you’re arguing factually, then you’re going to trigger emotional backlash. You know this. You’ve seen it happen plenty of times, have you not? And generally you just deal with it among yourselves.

    I’m also saying that going around complaining that one of these people, in whom you provoked an emotional response by treating his emotions as irrelevant (and I’ve pointed out a couple of the more tone-deaf insensitivities), landed a stinging swat in return is just advertising that he got to you badly enough that it still stings almost two years later. How is that productive? How is it doing anything other than saying that, yes, the emotions do matter?

    And how is interrupting people to tell them they need to do something about it for you going to get you a more sympathetic hearing? I mean, yes, I am sympathetic. Someone said something mean to you. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stay sympathetic if you want me to stop talking about something in which I’m very interested in order to take care of this for you.

  180. #181 Stephanie Z
    February 2, 2010

    John, you can make up anything you want to and believe in it as hard as you want. I don’t really care. Go write slash fiction about me and SC if you like. It has no bearing on reality.

    And are you asserting that SC did something unwillingly in the argument with Henry? Can you really not find a better example than that?

  181. #182 SC (Salty Current)
    February 2, 2010

    I’m quite sure I understand what happens on Pharyngula. I don’t recall being told I was wrong about this (perhaps it was buried in some part of this thread that I’m not following). I’ve been told a lot about what it is like over there, but my comments are in relation the point of the post (remember the post, above?) and not about the ethnography of pharyngula by Salty Current or Paul, as interesting and useful as they are. But I’m sure I’m not wrong.

    Way to miss the point spectacularly.

    You are right. What I meant to say is that this post is not about Henry. the thread seems to have taken on a couple of new directions.

    As they do. They are comment threads.

    Not at all. A 9 week old infant, teaching three classes, a pile of projects in process, various talks, dinners, tapings, and so on have me a bit busy. It simply is not the case that a comment thread is where people express their views and I respond to them. I would like to respond to all the views, but I simply can’t. The present discussion between you and Stephanie about Henry is not something I’m that interested in getting too involved in.

    Another acrobatic point-missing. The part about the blogger’s response was an addition. My point was that a comment thread was what commenters made it, and that it was bizarre for you to declare not only what the post was about (and to say it wasn’t about Gee is absurd) but what the comment thread was about.

    What is important here is that many of your comments incorrecty assume that I’m saying something about your comments (or your’s and stephanie). I’d have to have read them first to do that.

    I don’t care if you participate at all, to be honest. And if you’re not going to read, I’d prefer that you didn’t.

    That’s the funniest thing I’ve seen all day! Are you actually telling me that a comment in which I clarify my post is somehow annoying or inappropriate? I love it!

    No, I’m telling you that the comment in which you attempt to define what the thread is/has been about is wrong.

    I’ve read about 5% of this discussion between you and Stephanie. Just enough to see the British anti-semitism stuff come up, and a little more. I have been very busy and thinking I’d get to that discussion later on, but just have not yet.

    Before you complain about that and tell me that it is my responsibility to read what you place in comment sections on my blog let me tell you this: It was either read all that stuff or feed the infant. Had I read all that stuff the infant would have starved and died. I could not allow that atrocity to happen.

    Again, I don’t care if you read or respond, but if you’re going to you should know what you’re responding to or acknowledge as I have that you have only partial information.

    Oh, give me a mother fucking break! This is over the top and outrageous, and I won’t stand for it! You are telling me that I can’t make a remark related to Henry. I’m not allowed to your you storm off forever. Have I told you to stop with your comments? Have I told you to shut up? Have I told you that you need to stop saying whatever you were saying? No. So why are you being so insensitive? I am not doing anything to you. You are being an over the top ass all of the sudden. I have not been arguing with you. What the fuck do you think is going on here?

    I don’t know. I do know that both you and PZ have appeared resistant to having Gee discussed (or discussing him) in your comment threads. When a blogger says “This thread isn’t about ___” and ____ is what I’ve been discussing, I take that to mean comments about ____ are not acceptable. Otherwise, I have no idea what you’re fucking saying, especially since the thread has plainly been “about” Gee.

    Yes, I do think it may be a little unfair to Henry, and when I say it I really mean what is going on here and what is going on in about five other threads out there somewhere. Am I stopping you from doing it?

    Are you claiming I’m discussing him on five other threads? One.

    Is it a requirement of yours that you say whatever you want on this blog but if i say anything that you might find objectionable that you threaten to storm off? That is not even … not even uncivil! It’s just stupid! In fact, to be honest, and I say this as a friend, you are starting to look rather like a dope here. You can do better.

    I’m saying engage in the discussion about him or ignore it. “This isn’t about Henry” (repeatedly) sends a signal that you don’t want it talked about.

    I don’t think those are sentences with actual meanings,

    Yes, there is a clear meaning.

    but I’ll guess. No, I don’t think those are specific rules. Maybe they are.

    ?

    People can have specific rules on their own blogs if they want. It is not your place to tell them otherwise.

    My “place”? It sure as fuck is my “place” to state my opinion of their rules. And theirs to tell me. And of all of ours to discuss the issue. That’s a democratic public sphere.

    But people should not be telling other people what rules they should follow on the other people’s blog. Am I clear? Probably not, but who cares, I don’t think you are really listening.

    No, you’re not following.

    And this makes it less relevant for some particular reason?

    It makes you wrong.

    I’m not going to argue with you over how Henry handles his Jewishness or how you handle Henry in this regard.

    In what regard? “Handles his Jewishness”? WTF?

    I think he could do better, I think you could do better,

    Fuck your patronizing, contentless admonitions.

    someday I’ll have breakfast with Henry and we’ll talk about it, but I have a feeling you’re not especially interested in what I have to say. You make a lot of good points, you don’t need my advice in this regard. And, the possibility at this point of a conversation has pretty much gone out the window.

    This may be true.

    Regarding Henry’s bigness and scaryness … I maintain that he is not necessarily the plotting nefarious cud you accuse him of being. We will simply have to have different opinions of this.

    I accused him of being a bully, and provided evidence of his bullying behavior. It’s not a matter of opinion. I’ve made a case, and you haven’t.

    Most people could do a better job than they do of managing their emotions and of calibrating their reactions to things they are encountering. And when I say most people I would include Henry on that list.

    Not the point. And he turned his outburst into a notpology and a blaming of the victims.

    And you, quite possibly.

    No kidding. And you. But I acknowledge it and offer real apologies when they’re due. Not here.

    Trial and conviction may not be the most appropriate approach here, because if that becomes the nature of the discourse then we all are fucked. If you think you are somehow not fucked, then you are doubly fucked.

    I’m criticizing. That’s it. You and Stephanie seem completely unable to deal with it.

    Much of your commentary together with this statement [my statement was that I can easily reject beliefs without rejecting people] could lead some people to assume that you have some serious antisemitic issues to deal with. I’m not saying that, but I just want you to know that it could look this way. (I don’t happen to think it is the case.)

    THEN SHUT THE FUCK UP. THAT IS FUCKING OUTRAGEOUS, GREG. YOU EXPLAIN WHAT YOU’RE SAYING AND BACK IT UP WITH SOMETHING OR YOU RETRACT IT. IF YOU DON’T, YOU’RE A FUCKING SCUMBAG.

  182. #183 Greg Laden
    February 2, 2010

    it was bizarre for you to declare not only what the post was about (and to say it wasn’t about Gee is absurd) but what the comment thread was about.

    As I said, I mispoke when I said “thread” and meant “post.” Is there no forgiveness in this world?

    And no, the post is not about Henry. Really.

    I do know that both you and PZ have appeared resistant to having Gee discussed (or discussing him) in your comment threads. When a blogger says “This thread isn’t about ___” and ____ is what I’ve been discussing, I take that to mean comments about ____ are not acceptable.

    No, actually, this is you having a preconcieved notion executed as an unfounded statement which is then pointed out as incorrect but then being incapable of an adjustment. You are seeing things that are not there.

    Talk about Henry all you want!

    Are you claiming I’m discussing him on five other threads? One.

    No, it wasn’t a claim about you. You are starting to get a little creepy here, SC.

    I scanned the rest of your comments but don’t find anything where a reply from me would do anything other than elicit more of the same.

    I am a little embarrassed for you, frankly.

  183. #184 SC (Salty Current)
    February 2, 2010

    Fuck you, Greg.

  184. #185 Greg Laden
    February 2, 2010

    Salty, you have interesting rules of engagement.

    I hope this conversation does not interfere with our nascent friendship.

  185. #186 Spartan
    February 2, 2010

    I am a little embarrassed for you, frankly.

    Well Frank, I was with you 100% until your ‘serious antisemitic issues’ swipe. When you use phrases like, “lead some people to assume that you have some serious antisemitic issues to deal with. I’m not saying that…”, you lead a greater number of people to assume that you are indeed saying just that, that SC has antisemitic issues, in a roundabout way. And you of course know that. Which might be fine if, when confronted with it as you were, you actually backed it up. For not doing so, I am a little embarrassed for you.

    But I’ve never read a more eloquent and dead accurate summation of the turd that is CPP. Well done.

  186. #187 Greg Laden
    February 2, 2010

    Spartan, I said what I said because I meant it. Are you seriously telling me that you think I was subtly and indirectly accusing Salty Current of being anti-semetic? I wasn’t. I don’t think she is. All you have to do is read my words to get that.

  187. #188 John Morales
    February 2, 2010

    Stephanie Z,

    John, [1] you can make up anything you want to and believe in it as hard as you want. [2] I don’t really care.

    Weak-sauce.

    1. The facts are indisputable and documented — you made a claim¹ that SC had brought up the Holocaust to a Jew specifically to tell him how to feel about it; you put a link in the very words of that claim which fails to support it, then you’ve evaded responding to my opinion/accusation.

    I’ve made nothing up, and I stand by my claim in #151; the very claim you’ve assiduously avoided.

    2. Clearly not. Why would anyone care if their honesty and motive is questioned, when the evidence is damning?

    ¹ A rather abhorrent claim, BTW.

  188. #189 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    THEN SHUT THE FUCK UP. THAT IS FUCKING OUTRAGEOUS, GREG. YOU EXPLAIN WHAT YOU’RE SAYING AND BACK IT UP WITH SOMETHING OR YOU RETRACT IT. IF YOU DON’T, YOU’RE A FUCKING SCUMBAG.

    Salty current, based on this and the obnoxious email you just sent me, it is obvious that you intend to keep a fight going no matter what. What is your response to my comment agreeing with you? Nothing. No response. In this comment above, you have twisted what I have said (as did Spartan) in a way that allows you to be a rather extraordinary victim. Sorry, I don’t collect self-created victims. Not even a little interested.

    This is no longer embarrassing. This is you being a psycho. This is you being asked by me to leave this blog and not come back for a while, until you’ve come down from this rage. Wipe the range from your eyes and read this paragraph a couple of times so that you understand it. This is the “go away” paragraph. Sorry, but that is how it has to be. This is not a blog thing, it is a life thing. I avoid the crazies these days. Had enough of them.

  189. #190 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    John: Nice use of footnotes.

    (Style-wise. I have no comment on content. Not on this thread!)

  190. #191 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    [meta]

    Thanks, Greg.

    FWIW, I use the HTML entities &sup1;, &sup2; and &sup3;, and I endeavour not to require more than three such (there is no fourth).

    I find it much more user-friendly than using asterisks such as * and **.

  191. #192 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    John, you haven’t even made any accusations in comment 151 that were about anything other than vague speculation about my state of mind and what I would have done in a different situation that paint me as a bad person. They’re clearly not indisputable. I disputed them. I told you you’re wrong. I’m perfectly happy to let people choose who they want to believe, largely because I don’t care for the opinion of anyone who wants to judge me on the basis of shit you made up.

    Now, really, you’re getting boring. Don’t you stalk off in self-declared triumph about now?

  192. #193 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    Stephanie Z:

    John, you haven’t even made any accusations in comment 151 that were about anything other than vague speculation about my state of mind and what I would have done in a different situation that paint me as a bad person.

    Really. I’m not “painting” you as a bad person, I’m holding you to account.

    Did you or did you not link to a comment by SC in Pharyngula which purported to be a citation of SC “bring[ing] up the Holocaust”?
    Did I or did I not accuse you of sophism and disingenuity for so doing?
    In what sense is this vague?

    Now, really, you’re getting boring. [why] Don’t you stalk off in self-declared triumph about now?

    I just wonder if there’s any kernel of integrity inside of you that may push you to acknowledge the actual issue: to wit, that you made a spurious, apparently malicious and evidently unsupported accusation towards SC as a rhetorical point, and you are doing your best to avoid confronting that.

  193. #194 Ichthyic
    February 3, 2010

    In this comment above, you have twisted what I have said (as did Spartan) in a way that allows you to be a rather extraordinary victim. Sorry, I don’t collect self-created victims. Not even a little interested.

    actually, I read it the same way Spartan did.
    perhaps, instead of accusing those who concluded similar of crying “victim”, you should attempt to write more for clarity instead there, Greg?

    I can completely understand SC’s indignation, as I too read that as a backhanded way of indeed saying her writings indicate to you she is antisemitic.

    I understand you claim that wasn’t your intent, but why even say it to begin with?

  194. #195 Ichthyic
    February 3, 2010

    Don’t you stalk off in self-declared triumph about now?

    Is it still self-declared if I also think he ran you into the ground?

  195. #196 Ichthyic
    February 3, 2010

    last comment, and there is really little left to say…

    personal opinion, but I think instead of banhammering SC, a more productive approach would be to simply close this thread.

    might still be a good idea.

  196. #197 idlemind
    February 3, 2010

    Greg, this doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the original post any more. I’d agree the post had nothing to do with Henry other than using that kerfuffle as a jumping-off point. But somehow the question of a year-old dispute about Henry’s behavior in PZ’s comments was raised in your comments. Then it became like the party crashers who erupt in fisticuffs in your living room (that’s blood, not urine on the carpet) over some issue that had nothing to do with your party.

    ‘Tis a pity, since there was actually something to be discussed with respect to the multifarious nature of “civility” and the sort of anti-civility that some folks find strangely attractive.

    But I can’t let you off the hook — you no doubt knew things could get heated when you used the HG/Zuska conflagration as a starting point. But I’m not lecturing you; rather, I’m entreating you to come back to the issue at some point in the future in a way where discussion is possible.

  197. #198 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    Ichthyic: Tell me this. Are you still thinking that I’m accusing SC of saying that she is antisemetic? I didn’t say it. When she read that into it, I corrected her. YOu are n9ow saying that I “claim it was not my intent”. SO, calling me a liar?

    I made a statement. It was misunderstood. I clarified. There is nothing more that I need to do.

    idlemind: This thread got off the origional post when SC and Stephanie started thier slug fest. I then made comments related to the origional post that SC then interpreted incorrectly about being about her. SC started to impose blogging rules on me telling me what the conversation (on my blog) was to be about. Ichthyic is telling me how I am to speak, and also, what the rules are for closing threads.

    So, this thread is still ver much in line with the originoal post: There are assholes out there that ant to control how others act and what they can and can not say and when. Only the thread has turned from theory to object lesson.

    “But I can’t let you off the hook” I’m not on a hook and I’m not asking for anything. I will come back to the issue at some point, and this thread may well evolve in that direction now that the composition of the commenters has changed.

  198. #199 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    John and Icthyic, if you want to take:

    Reading it, I was at first happy to see that there existed intellectual aeries somewhere in the world in which Jews could consider Christianity so abstractly. But then I remembered times in the past in which this was also the case…

    and

    In fact, I think I myself brought [the Holocaust] up tangentially in response to his apparent ignorance of the history of Christianity. So? Making a historical point isn’t the same as accusing your opponents of wanting to deface graves and send you to the gas chambers because they openly criticize religious beliefs and oppose its influence.

    as something other than

    bring[ing] up the Holocaust to a Jew to tell him how he should feel about a particular issue

    all luck to you. Seriously. I’ll be over here, yawning.

  199. #200 mk
    February 3, 2010

    Wow.

    I don’t think I’ve ever read such a long and painful thread. The amount of anger and vitriol between people who really, in the end, AGREE! It really did start to look like everyone was looking for a fight that didn’t exist. Looking for a reason to exercise their online battle skills! Funny… but also sort of sad. Anyway…

    Not to bring the wrath down on me now, but Greg, I think you owe SC an apology.

  200. #201 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    mk: for what? Seriously. Tell me.

    I agree with your assessment of the thread overall. But I do want to know for which manufactured indignation I ow SC an apology.

  201. #202 Paul W.
    February 3, 2010

    Stephanie@199,

    You may be yawning, but I have to say that I agree with John and Icthyic that what S.C. was doing was not “telling a Jew how to feel about” the Holocaust—at least, not in any unacceptable sense.

    Henry was making “New Atheists” and Pharyngulans out to be Nazi-like, or gutless would-be synagogue burning antisemitic terrorists, while being utterly blase about what goes on in Christian churches. S.C. was rightly pointing out that he seems to factually mistaken about some things underlying his threat assessments.

    IMHO, that has to be okay. It’s not so much about Henry’s feelings, or ours, but about whether his assertions about people are true, or justified.

    What we should not do is take Henry’s feelings as independent of facts, and validate them, because non-Jews have no right to tell Jews about anything related to the Holocaust. If Henry projects Holocaust issues onto us, we have to deal with it, and we will.

    Surely, Henry has very good reasons to feel very strongly about the Holocaust. That does not mean that what he thinks about antisemitism, particularly as it applies to us, is true, or beyond critique. It can’t mean that, as you seem to want it to mean, such that S.C. has no right to point out an apparent error in his reasoning.

    My response was not about my hurt feelings. As I said, I take accusations of being Nazi-like far more seriously than accusations of being a goatfucking asswipe, but that doesn’t mean that I take Henry’s views as reasonable, or actually get my feelings terribly hurt—no more than I’m hurt by Christian trolls telling me I’ll burn in Hell forever. That’s often meant to be hurtful, but it comes across as mostly pathetic.

    Likewise, I have to sadly dismiss Henry as a kook on that particular point—despite having tremendous respect for him in other respects—and feel obligated to explain why, in case anybody else is similarly confused. If he was just some drive-by troll, the incident would be long forgotten.

    But he’s not just another drive-by troll. He’s an editor of Nature, a science blogger, a panelist on a panel about civility, etc.; his views and accusations matter more, and are more worth publicly refuting.

  202. #203 mk
    February 3, 2010

    OK… my take:

    No reasonable person would think SC is anti-semitic. It is therefore completely unnecessary to even suggest it. It appeared to be a gratuitous debating tactic to set the opponent back on their heals. It is wrong to say things like “some people might think you’re an anti-Semite–not me of course, but you know, some people.” Especially so when a friend is involved.

  203. #204 Paul W.
    February 3, 2010

    Greg,

    I thought that the comment about S.C. and antisemitism was a bad one. I don’t think you meant to suggest that she was anti-semitic, or likely to be.

    I did sound like you thought that while you personally didn’t lean that way, you really don’t know, and it wouldn’t be an unreasonable guess for other people to make. (If I didn’t know you better, I might have read your comment as a sneaky insinuation.)

    Given the nature of the charge, that’s somewhat faint praise.

    For the record, I’m pretty sure S.C. isn’t the least bit antisemitic, after reading various stuff she’s written over a period of years. I also don’t think what she’s written here supports that.

  204. #205 Spartan
    February 3, 2010

    Are you seriously telling me that you think I was subtly and indirectly accusing Salty Current of being anti-semetic? I wasn’t. I don’t think she is. All you have to do is read my words to get that.

    I’d say ‘accuse’ is too strong, but I think ‘suggest’ is fair. You phrased it cleverly, but rather transparently. It’s similar in a way to, ‘when did you stop beating your wife?’. If I say, ‘from what I’ve read on your blog, some people may think that you are a condescending ass who is trying to account for some kind of childhood abuse issues by lashing out at anyone who dares disagree with you and your overinflated yet fragile ego. I’m not saying that.’, you think it would be unreasonable for some people to be able to see through the lame disclaimer ‘I’m not saying that’ to perhaps think that I’m suggesting exactly what I’m saying I’m not? By saying ‘some people’ without adding ‘I think said people are entirely crazy’ or some other opinion on why these people are so wrong, you leave interpretations open. As you like to say, ‘this isn’t hard’. It’s an accusation/insult by proxy, and it doesn’t really seem to tie in with any particular point you were making; it just looks tacked on to your response.

    When you were discussing what ‘shrew’ ‘means’ a while back, you had no issue appealing to interpretations beyond what any dictionary supported and appealed to what some people infer from that word; here you seem to want to do roughly the opposite.

    And to be clear, I do not think any of the things in my ‘some people’ example about you… well maybe condescending sometimes but that’s cool. But I guess you would agree that my mentioning that I don’t think that is entirely unnecessary and made absolutely clear just because I said ‘I’m not saying that’.

  205. #206 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    You may be yawning, but I have to say that I agree with John and Icthyic that what S.C. was doing was not “telling a Jew how to feel about” the Holocaust—at least, not in any unacceptable sense.

    Paul, thank you for making that explicit. Now, try recasting this situation using a different oppressed group and using the most recent searing example of oppression (one in living memory) as a lever in an argument. Make it something not about religion. Let me know whether it makes you uncomfortable. This is the tricky part of tolerance without tolerance for religion that Greg was talking about upstream.

    Also, your comment makes it sound like SC’s statement came after the one she objects to from Henry. That’s not the order in which things happened. This is why I’m talking about provoking an emotional response then objecting to it.

  206. #207 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    I think the anti semitism remark is a wonderful analogy for a broader problem about which I shall write an entire blog post. I will title it something like “It is not necessarily the case that Salty Current is a Jew Hater” and the post will not be about her. I expect Henry Gee to jump into the thread on that post and have a long argument with some Pharengulista about a totally unrelated topic, possibly the Atlantic Conveyor and its effects on climate.

    I will note here that I made two comments that were related (I did not link them, my hope was to eventually link them) about perceptions about attitudes about religion both of which Salty Current seemingly willfully misunderstood, attacked, dismissed, etc. One was the “When you say things like that it makes you look antisemetic even though you are obviously not” comment. The other was about the link between being an atheist and being a tolerant person when certain issues came up.

  207. #208 Paul W.
    February 3, 2010

    Stephanie,

    I’d like you to be more explicit about the issue of whether it’s telling somebody “how to feel” if you tell them that they’re factually mistaken about something they feel strongly about.

    If that’s all that “telling them how to feel” means, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. We can’t let people’s feelings get in the way of honestly discussing the facts.

    People often think that people’s feelings can’t be invalid, so we should validate their feelings. But often, feelings are inseparable from beliefs, and we should not validate false beliefs, because that only entrenches inappropriate, falsehood-based beliefs.

    Now, try recasting this situation using a different oppressed group and using the most recent searing example of oppression (one in living memory) as a lever in an argument.

    Okay, suppose that the searing example is Proposition 8 in California, denying gays a basic civil right. It’s a loaded subject for a lot of gay people. (For whom I’m an advocate, as it happens, but assume the people involved don’t know that.) And that’s against a backdrop of an even worse evil in the not-too-distant past. (Widespread oppression of gays in worse forms, governmental complacency about a “gay plague” leading to many unnecessary deaths, including some of my friends.) And to top it all, gays were persecuted by the Nazis and many were killed in the Holocaust.

    Is that a fair analogy? I’m not sure where you want to go with it, but he’s a stab:

    Suppose I say that I think that biologically speaking, there may be something wrong with homosexuality. It’s a design flaw, which reduces reproductive fitness, on average, that is a side-effect of certain genes being selected for for other reasons that typically increase reproductive fitness.

    I think that may be true; it’s a live scientific hypothesis. Homosexuality may be the kind of “mistake” that evolution commonly makes because it’s short-sighted and doesn’t in general find an optimal design in any interesting sense.

    That’s a very, very loaded thing to say, which many gay people or gay sympathizers (like myself) could get all up in arms about. It seems to be saying that there’s something wrong with homosexuality, which in the only morally or psychologically interesting sense, it actually isn’t. It’s saying something very different, which does not imply that, but it sounds that way and could set people off if they’re hypersensitive to such possible (and erroneous) interpretations.

    Some people who do understand that—that evolutionary suboptimality doesn’t imply “bad” in any humanly interesting sense—may also object to me saying such things publicly, because other people may misinterpret and abuse such ideas to make gays look bad, and rationalize oppression.

    I’ll even say that that is a valid and important concern. It may be a strategically bad thing to say anything that even sounds remotely like criticizing gays on scientific grounds, because there are a lot of idiots out there, some of whom may take it and run with it.

    Now suppose I say that on some science blog, and some gay person stumbles in and starts calling me a Nazi for saying such things.

    What should I do?

  208. #209 DuWayne
    February 3, 2010

    Hmmm…I totally missed out on this conversation – which apparently has gotten rather bizarre…I apologize for going off the topic that the comments seem to have gotten to, but I am actually trying to craft a post about deleting comments, banning commenters and comment policies.

    I rather like my general methodology for rules about comments. Pretty much the only actual rule I have, is that people sign their posts when posting anon. Beyond that I have no specified rules and won’t. Beyond that, my decision to delete comments and/or ban commenters is somewhat arbitrary. Not that I will do so without reason, I have had very good reasons the few times I have done it. But I really don’t like the idea of having actual rules, because to some degree that imposes a limitation of me.

    The last person I banned (one of two) was banned because he was both insistent on discussing his pet issue (“you atheists”) in the thread of posts where it is not relevant and because he is a dehumanizing, hateful fucking bigot. I could have quite reasonably banned him for the latter a long time ago, but rather appreciate having the example. I also could decide to ban people for posting about their pet issue in irrelevant threads – but deleting such comments is easy enough and I don’t even always feel the need to do that.

    Which is why I think hard and fast rules – or at least too many of them, are a bad idea. I think it is totally reasonable to get irritated with people who have them and only arbitrarily enforce them or arbitrarily delete/ban outside the context of those rules.

    (sorry for the interruption)

  209. #210 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    Paul, what Henry said was, “What goes on inside Norfolk churches is not mine to judge. Neither is the way that other people practice their religion”. Was he factually wrong? Note that he was specifying their religion, not their politics. If not, I’ll get back to your question later, as I think it’s important but probably distracting. Short answer: false choice.

    I suggested you substitute others into the same conversation, not make up a new one. Do you want to try again, or do you want me to come up with an example for you?

    As for how I react when someone calls me a Nazi: approximately the way I reacted to John’s assertions upthread. I laugh my head off. If it’s not true, and I don’t think anyone reasonable is going to believe it, how does it hurt me instead of the person saying it? I certainly don’t bring it up to bloggers nearly two years later in order to complain about their post titles.

  210. #211 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    I certainly don’t bring it up to bloggers nearly two years later in order to complain about their post

    Did somebody complain about my post? What?

  211. #212 JohnV
    February 3, 2010

    Setting an outlook calender event for 2012 to complain about this post.

  212. #213 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    Greg! Stop quote mining me!

  213. #214 DuWayne
    February 3, 2010

    Greg! Stop…

    Damn Stephanie, why are you being so aggressive towards Greg?

  214. #215 Paul W.
    February 3, 2010

    Paul, what Henry said was, “What goes on inside Norfolk churches is not mine to judge. Neither is the way that other people practice their religion”.

    Was he factually wrong?

    Of course he was.

    If scores of million of people in my country think I will be tortured forever, and that that’s divine justice—I have every reason to be concerned about it, and to publicly disagree.

    Even if those people didn’t already have tremendous political power, it’s an incredibly dangerous and very popular idea that will inevitably have real consequences in the real world for other people.

    And they do have huge political power. They’re denying people civil rights at home, and having a disastrous effect on our foreign policy. (For example, inhibiting the distribution of condoms in HIV-afflicted subsaharan Africa, with the predictable consequence that millions of additional people will die of AIDS.)

    How can that not be my business?

    If I think that those real-world consequences are partly due to the ideas being promoted inside churches—and I definitely do—how is that not my business?

    If those ideas come out of the churches and become demonstrably decisive political issues—and they do—how is that not my business?

    Who does Henry think made George W. Bush the most powerful man in the world for eight years? (Or Dick Cheney or Karl Rove, if you prefer.)

    Why and how does he think they managed to do it?

    Hint: it wasn’t just fundamentalists. It wasn’t even just fundamentalists plus big money interests.

    There’s a reason Proposition 8 passed, and it’s because mainstream, “moderate” Americans do indeed believe exactly the kind of “first grade” theology that Henry says they don’t.

    And that is everybody’s business.

    Given the context, all of this was pretty clear. (Read negentropyeater’s post that introduced “Norfolk”, for example.)

    I have to agree with S.C. that it’s rather ironic for a Jew to be so oblivious to the likely real-world consequences of Christian ideas being promoted inside Christian churches, and to affect not caring what other people believe until they actually come to do him harm.

    Henry may have a good strategic point to make—that at the moment, it’s better to avoid the open, direct conflict of basic ideas as much as possible—but what he actually says is patently absurd. (Maybe mostly sketchy and simplistic on its face, but in the context of that thread, just silly.)

    Note that he was specifying their religion, not their politics.

    As if they were clearly separate, when in the context of that thread, it was quite obvious that they are not. That was exactly the point he was avoiding responding to.

    He’s advocating a “live and let live” policy, when it is quite evident that many millions of voters in this country favor policies that amount to live and let die—e.g., from prohibiting embryonic stem cell research, to denying people civil rights at home and letting millions of foreigners die for lack of condoms.

    Why? It is not unrelated to mainstream orthodox Christian theology promoted in most churches—not just fundamentalist churches, but supposedly “moderate” ones. Churches with what Henry portrays quite falsely as harmless “grown up” theology that Dawkins shouldn’t stoop to refuting, because supposedly sensible mainstream people don’t believe that sort of thing. He’s wrong. Most do, and it matters to a whole hell of a lot of real-world political issues.

    It’s also not unrelated to very basic religious ideas—e.g., that there’s a soul, that morality comes from God, and that God has a plan for what you do with your genitalia, which you should pass laws to make other people obey, even if it will cause predictable suffering and death.

    Yeah, I’d say that what goes on in other people’s churches is my business, and Henry’s.

  215. #216 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    Bullshit, Paul. We all pick and choose our battles. It isn’t your place or anyone else’s to tell Henry that yours have to be his. You may try to persuade him. If you assert it, however, expect to get kicked in the teeth.

  216. #217 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    OK, Stephanie, I’ll add one more thing to the quote to make it better:

    “…”

    Satisfied?

    Actually, this morning when I got up, I reached both hands into the air and did the double quote thingie. I’ll do it again before I go to sleep tonight. So this whole day is in double quotes.

  217. #218 Paul W.
    February 3, 2010

    Stephanie:

    Bullshit, Paul.

    Um… no.

    We all pick and choose our battles.

    Of course.

    It isn’t your place or anyone else’s to tell Henry that yours have to be his.

    Of course not.

    You may try to persuade him.

    OK, nice to have your permission.

    If you assert it, however, expect to get kicked in the teeth.

    Take a chill pill, Stephanie, and read what I actually wrote before you jump on me in your troll-stomping boots.

    I said that it’s his business—in the same way it’s mine and everybody’s—not that he has an obligation to make it his battle. There’s an enormous difference, that I think we both clearly recognize. I know you’re smart enough to see the difference, but you seem to guess that I’m not. Gee, thanks.

    Look at the context of what Henry said. He came over to Pharyngula and ranted about Dawkins and New Atheists and us. His point was not actually about what is his business, but about stupid childish assholes we are for making other people’s private religious beliefs our business.

    He was pushing the accommodationist line that religion and politics are mostly separable, and that the religious ideas that have a real-world effect on politics are mostly incidental to religion.

    He seems to imply that religion is mostly and centrally about things that have no important political implications, and the important politically-consequential stuff is fairly incidental, so we shouldn’t criticize religion per se, but should only criticize the stuff that crosses the line.

    He is demonstrably wrong. There is no such line, and the most important political consequences of religion are underpinned by very nearly ubiquitous ideas about god and/or souls, and/or the source and nature of morality. (All of which most “New Atheists” think are evidently false in light of modern science.)

    That’s what I explained above. (I would guess that you agree, given some of our shared views about accommodationism.)

    Step off, chill out, and try again, rather than assuming I’m dumb, ranting about me getting “kicked in the teeth,” and crap like that. Please.

  218. #219 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    He came over to Pharyngula and ranted about Dawkins and New Atheists and us. His point was not actually about what is his business, but about stupid childish assholes we are for making other people’s private religious beliefs our business.

    I don’t get why Henry takes it in the neck for complaining about the sometimes loud and scary voice of so called “new atheists” in a loud and scary voice.

    I also didn’t get why Henry takes it in the neck for screaming about how people need to be civil by people who are screaming that people need to be uncivil.

  219. #220 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    Define “business,” Paul. It’s generally used to mean how someone spends their time. Where it doesn’t mean that, it means responsibilities. Neither of which is substantially different from this colloquial use of “battles” and neither of which you get to assign to someone else.

    And note that there is a distinction between practicing religion and practicing politics that I made up front. You’re continuing to conflate the two.

  220. #221 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    Oh, and Paul, if I thought you were dumb, I wouldn’t bother arguing with you.

    Greg, fine on the “air quotes,” but I expect you to go on record tomorrow. Speaking of which, we need to get some questions to Mike.

  221. #222 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    Why isn’t IQ a good measure? How useful is race as a human classifier? What are the implications of race-based research? Who are the scientists doing this work? Wasn’t the concept of “race” disproved or thrown out 90 years ago? But what about the difference in brain size and IQ that is so often cited?

  222. #223 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    Yeah, yeah. I’ll take it to email.

  223. #224 Paul W.
    February 3, 2010

    Stephanie:

    Define “business,” Paul. It’s generally used to mean how someone spends their time. Where it doesn’t mean that, it means responsibilities.

    Not when the issue is whether it’s any of your business what somebody else thinks on a subject.

    (And we’re not talking about intruding on individuals—we’re talking about publishing criticisms of ideas in books, putting them on blogs, etc. Except that Henry seems to the the former will happen so frequently if we do the latter that the latter is unacceptable.)

    Anyway, that’s irrelevant what Henry actually said was that what goes on in other people’s churches is “not mine to judge.”

    I’m guessing he only means that selectively.

    For example, if a Lutheran minister bases a sermon on Luther’s The Jews and Their Lies, as some used to, and it became a news story, he’d make an exception and might feel justified if he chose to remark unfavorably on it, even on his blog.

    If that’s not his to judge, I wonder what would be.

  224. #225 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    And that’s Henry’s decision to make, Paul.

    Do you prefer the word “concern” as a synonym for “business”? It’s the only other relevant one I found out there, but I avoided it because there’s a rather unfavorable term for people who tell other people what their concerns should be. Either way, once again, people can only be concerned with so many things, and it’s up to them which ones.

  225. #226 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    February 3, 2010

    Re: 222 and 223. I’ll be watching my inbox with bated breath.

  226. #227 Paul W.
    February 3, 2010

    I don’t get why Henry takes it in the neck for complaining about the sometimes loud and scary voice of so called “new atheists” in a loud and scary voice.

    Jeez Greg, try a little harder to say what you mean, clearly, and what and who it’s in response to.

    I, for one, am not complaining about Henry’s literally loud an scary voice (if that’s what it is).

    And I haven’t been complaining about his metaphorical “voice” being “loud and scary.” I’ve been saying

    1) He was at least a bit uncivil at Pharyngula, by pretty much any standard, even Pharyngula’s allegedly simply low standards—which you seem to again falsely imply are either nonexistent or utterly irrelevant. If you want to know why we keep talking about Henry, it’s because you and Stephanie keep saying stuff like that, unclearly.

    (If that’s what you mean, spell it out and claim it, rather than making it sound like you more or less agree with me and then turning around and saying it again.)

    2) He was bit hypocritical about it in a way that you mischaracterized—as I explained before, the hypocrisy was not in failing to live up to the standards he requires on his own blog, but in failing to live up to even the “lower” standards prevailing at Pharyngula, or indeed pretty much any standard of discourse above utterly shameless, dishonest poo-flinging. He evaded the issues people raised and implied that they were the most vile kind of people—not just assholes in an argument, but truly, profoundly sick immoral and amoral fucks of very nearly the worst sort he could imagine. Sheer weaselry and the vilest ad hominem arguments are an unacceptable combination, even at Pharyngula, and Henry shouldn’t stoop that low, there.

    And apparently I need to clarify: We are not surprised that sometimes that sort of thing happens. That doesn’t mean that when it happens, nobody did anything wrong or uncivil, or that nobody said anything that was factually in error and worth correcting. One does not imply the other.

    (Again, if you disagree, spell it out and claim it. It’s another reason we don’t let go.)

    3) He’s wrong about where the line is between reasonably criticizing other people’s religious views and being an immoral/amoral asshole who’s singling people out for persecution.

    4) It is wrong to conflate that issue with the civility issue, without a really good argument as to where to draw the line about what is “mine to judge,” such that you’re an asshole if you don’t respect that line. We haven’t seen anything remotely like that yet.

    5) It’s not wrong to point out that somebody’s being paranoid toward you, if they actually are, even if they’re Jewish and rightly concerned about possible effects on Jews, and especially if they’re wrongly accusing you of Nazi-like traits. (That tangent is mostly in response to Stephanie.)

    I also didn’t get why Henry takes it in the neck for screaming about how people need to be civil by people who are screaming that people need to be uncivil.

    This sounds like you’re responding to somebody like maybe Isis or Comrade PP, not me or SC or John. (We are not screaming that people need to be uncivil. We’re arguing about what the relevant standards of civility are.)

    Is that correct?

  227. #228 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    Jeez Greg, try a little harder to say what you mean, clearly, and what and who it’s in response to.

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear. I’ll add “see above and all the other places on the internet this is being discussed at the moment” !!! Also, it was a rhetorical question. And no, I wasn’t responding to you.

  228. #229 Ichthyic
    February 3, 2010

    Henry takes it in the neck for screaming about how people need to be civil by people who are screaming that people need to be uncivil.

    Greg, you really have no clue what you’re talking about any more, do you?

    do please find ANY post in this thread, or on pharyngula, or anywhere on any even remotely related blog, where someone is actually screaming that people NEED to be “uncivil”.

    the way you paint things is… colorful.

    and that’s putting a positive spin on it.

    Not only is this thread a waste of time, but with the “clarity” of your writing skills, I rather think you might at least need a break from blogging for a while.

  229. #230 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    No, Icthyic, you don’t have a clue what Greg’s talking about because you walked into the middle of an ongoing conversation and, as far as I can tell, decided it was all about you. If you want to know who’s said what, start at the page for the ScienceOnline 2010 session on this topic and follow the links.

    http://www.scienceonline2010.com/index.php/wiki/Online_Civility_and_Its_Muppethugging_Discontents/

    You’ve got rather a lot of reading to do just to catch up to the part where a bunch of us went to a conference.

  230. #231 Comrade PhysioProf
    February 3, 2010

    Well Frank, I was with you 100% until your ‘serious antisemitic issues’ swipe. When you use phrases like, “lead some people to assume that you have some serious antisemitic issues to deal with. I’m not saying that…”, you lead a greater number of people to assume that you are indeed saying just that, that SC has antisemitic issues, in a roundabout way. And you of course know that. Which might be fine if, when confronted with it as you were, you actually backed it up. For not doing so, I am a little embarrassed for you.

    But I’ve never read a more eloquent and dead accurate summation of the turd that is CPP. Well done.

    Who the fuck is “Frank”, and what the fuck does what he said have to do with Comrade PhysioProf?

  231. #232 Mal Adapted
    February 3, 2010

    SC quotes Greg, then replies:

    An interesting feature of the above discussion is the interesting problem of avoiding being racist/whateverist and being generally tolerant but being intolerant of religion. That turns out to be pretty tricky.

    I don’t find it tricky at all.

    It’s a pity that SC is exiled (temporarily, I hope), because the intersection between racism and intolerance of religion is where I ran afoul of her on Pharyngula a while back. It was on a thread about the attack by an outraged muslim on the Danish cartoonist who drew Mohammed with a bomb in his turban.

    In that exchange, it seemed to me that she interpreted a defense of the cartoonist’s right to publish an anti-religious cartoon, as a defense of the cartoonist’s notorious xenophobia — arguably, his racism. My clumsy support for the cartoonist got me dogpiled, albeit by fewer dogs than routinely pile on some other unwary commenters there.

    In retrospect, my impression is that SC’s priority is to confront racism in any form, wherever it appears. My own priority is to defend freedom of expression, especially anti-religious expression, whatever other motivations the persons expressing it may have.

    To be clear, I have no problem with SC confronting racism, because racism assuredly is morally repugnant and a key cause of injustice in the world. It’s just that I’m more worried about violent reaction by religious extremists to criticism of their religion, because as an atheist I’m often impelled to criticise religion myself. By accident of birth (my privileged status, I readily aknowledge), I’m much less likely to be a target of racism personally, than I am to be a target of religious extremism. Be that as it may, religious extremism assuredly is another key cause of injustice in the world. Which is the greater injustice depends on one’s point of view — that’s the tricky part.

    Now, all I know about Henry Gee’s rhetorical style is what’s been said on Scienceblogs recently. My impression is that his first priority is to confront anti-semitism in any form, wherever it appears. Perhaps this makes him prone to Type I errors. Perhaps the same is true of SC with respect to racism.

  232. #233 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    Ichthyic: I hope someday to meet you in person. Then I’ll ask you to speak to me in the sam manner as you have done so here. I want to watch you do that. I want to look in your eyes when you form these insulting phrases.

    Mal: It’s a pity that SC is exiled (temporarily, I hope), She is not exiled. She just went away.

    It was on a thread about the attack by an outraged muslim on the Danish cartoonist who drew Mohammed with a bomb in his turban.

    I was thinking of my own reaction to the related bit of Religulous that deals with that issue.

    all I know about Henry Gee’s rhetorical style is what’s been said on Scienceblogs recently. My impression is that his first priority is to confront anti-semitism in any form, wherever it appears.

    Henry and I have broken bread together a half dozen times and it never came up. (Of course I don’t expect the blogs and real life to be that similar)

  233. #234 Mal Adapted
    February 3, 2010

    #233:

    Mal: It’s a pity that SC is exiled (temporarily, I hope), She is not exiled. She just went away.

    #189:

    This is you [SC] being asked by me [Greg] to leave this blog and not come back for a while, until you’ve come down from this rage.

    OK, self-exile. And I take your side in this little contretemps, Greg. I think SC is too sure of her own political virtue. I would have said the same thing to her.

  234. #235 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    It was an idle threat. The statement says “you can come back when you calm down” but in reality she can come back any time even if she is not calmed down. She would be welcomed.

  235. #236 Paul W.
    February 3, 2010

    I’d said:

    […]what Henry actually said was that what goes on in other people’s churches is “not mine to judge.”
    I’m guessing he only means that selectively.
    For example, if a Lutheran minister bases a sermon on Luther’s The Jews and Their Lies, as some used to […]
    If that’s not his to judge, I wonder what would be.

    Stephanie replied:

    And that’s Henry’s decision to make, Paul.

    I suspect you’re missing my point. Suppose that some Lutheran minister preached that way, and Henry got wind of it and chose to speak up against such things.

    Would you agree with anybody who said that it is not Henry’s to judge, because it was a private religious thing happening inside a church?

    I sure as hell hope not.

    I think it’s pretty clear that it is Henry’s to judge—it’s yours, mine, ours, and anybody’s to judge. There is justification for being concerned, and to speak up against such things.

    Whether Henry chooses to making it “his battle” or not is a different issue. I’m certainly not saying that he has to judge such things thing, or that he has to make it “his battle” by saying so publicly.

    That’s a distinction you keep missing.

    Do you prefer the word “concern” as a synonym for “business”?

    No, because both have the same problem. Both have a different meaning, idiomatically, when you say that something is none of your business or not your concern.

    I’m not saying that it’s Henry’s business. (It’s not his job.)

    I’m saying it’s not true that it’s none of Henry’s business. (It’s not the case that it’s an inappropriate or improper thing to be curious or concerned about, or comment on.)

    It’s the only other relevant one I found out there, but I avoided it because there’s a rather unfavorable term for people who tell other people what their concerns should be.

    Come on, let’s hear it. I want to know what term you’re referring to.

    Either way, once again, people can only be concerned with so many things, and it’s up to them which ones.

    Of course, if I understand your meaning. And if you understand mine, I don’t think what I’m saying contradicts what you’re saying.

    I’m not saying that the task falls to Henry. I’m saying that it’s not the case that the task shouldn’t fall to Henry, should he volunteer to take it on.

    An antisemitic sermon in a Lutheran church is a fine thing for him to be curious about, to be concerned about, to judge, or to speak up against should he choose to do so.

    Do you actually disagree?

    Would there be something wrong/rude/uncivil/unseemly about Henry or you or me having and publicly stating a negative opinion of such a private religious activity in a church?

  236. #237 Bexley
    February 3, 2010

    Ichthyic: I hope someday to meet you in person. Then I’ll ask you to speak to me in the sam manner as you have done so here. I want to watch you do that. I want to look in your eyes when you form these insulting phrases.

    Bwahahaha – had to delurk following this comment.

    Are you for real here? Earlier in the comments you were defending Gee’s comments as something perfectly acceptable for the pharyngula blog (which they aren’t). His comments were far more insulting to pharyngulites than anything Ichthyic has said to you.

  237. #238 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    Bexley: You seem to have a rule that if I say something is appropriate for an arbitrary blog that is not my blog that it must also be appropriate for my blog. There is no such rule. (I may or may not be wrong that Henry is OK at Pharyngula. According to the blog owner, PZ, he is. I think that carries a certain amount of weight.)

    You are also misinterpreting what I’ve said. I’ve not said that Ichthyic can not or should not say what s/he said. I was just pointing out that it is sometimes worth thinking about what it would be like to be saying the trash people so often say on blog comment threads only in real life. Ichthyic is welcome to be a total ass here on this site (unless I become annoyed or bored with Ichthyic and I arbitrarily tell it to go away). In real life, no one would ever speak to me that way or to anyone that way unless they were really drunk or really stupid. Or Becca.

  238. #239 Ichthyic
    February 3, 2010

    Ichthyic: I hope someday to meet you in person. Then I’ll ask you to speak to me in the sam manner as you have done so here. I want to watch you do that. I want to look in your eyes when you form these insulting phrases.

    I would be quite happy to tell you to your face that you’re a disingenuous drama queen, Greg.

    I think you have stress-related issues, frankly.

    and you might think to put a leash on your attack-terrier Stephie too.

    enough.

  239. #240 Knockgoats
    February 3, 2010

    The British “left” is not anti-Semitic because it is atheist. The British “left” is anti-Semitic because it is British – Greg Laden

    This is a generalisation of such astounding stupidity I find it hard to believe you can find your mouth when you want to eat. There is antisemitism among the left in Britain – as a British leftist I’ve come across it and denounced it, and I recommend the fine if somewhat outdated book That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Anti-Semitic by Steve Cohen – but this is by a British, leftist, anti-Zionist, atheist Jew, so its very existence will be incomprehensible to someone as cretinous as yourself. You’ll only find a general prejudice against “Semites” (I take it from your scare-quotes you are at least aware that the very use of that term to apply to modern populations indicates crass ignorance at best) among the far right, fundamentalist Christians, and the very old: leftist antisemites will invariably be pro-Arab and in particular pro-Palestinian.

  240. #241 Knockgoats
    February 3, 2010

    In real life, no one would ever speak to me that way or to anyone that way unless they were really drunk or really stupid. – Greg Laden

    Why? Are you likely to resort to violence if you think someone is speaking to you insultingly?

  241. #242 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    Knockgoats, thank you very much for your well reasoned and thoughtful argument, presented as a respectful disagreement that might encourage further discussion on the matter. That is very helpful.

  242. #243 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    Knockgoats (second comment). No. My assumption is that people act more respectfully in real life, face to face interactions. Do you disagree with that?

    Your assumption is presumptuous and obnoxious and I’ll ask you to start commenting in a more respectful tone right now. Is that clear?

  243. #244 DuWayne
    February 3, 2010

    In real life, no one would ever speak to me that way or to anyone that way unless they were really drunk or really stupid.

    For the record, while I do not speak like that in real life, I do tend to swear a lot and occasionally get mistaken for implying that someone I am arguing with is stupid. I am getting better about it, but like I am online, offline, people know if I am saying they are a asshat – as apposed to attacking their position.

    I do take a great deal of care to try to make that distinction clear…I like to be clear with people how I feel.

    I also don’t actually get all that aggressive or froth at the mouth while swearing about some disagreement – I am just as good at fucking swearing when I am happy and chatting happily…

  244. #245 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    Greg, from the OP:

    Is it reasonable that a blogger require commenters be “civil,” or is such a requirement a tool of repression of ideas one does not want to hear or be heard by others?

    Hm. This is expressed as a dichotomy, but might there be graduation or nuance? The evidence indicates the latter.

    Specifically, on this very thread, SC has been told to “go away”, so she and her ideas have certainly been repressed.

    Was it reasonable? Well, clearly you think so.

    So: evidently not an either/or (assuming non-hypocrisy); could it then be that the two goals are independent variables, and the requirement includes arbitrary ratios of each?

    I submit that is the case.

    Stephanie, I read your, um, response.
    This is my response to it, because you’re just not worth investing more effort into.

    (I consider I’m being charitable in considering you purblind, rather than purely dishonest.)

  245. #246 Knockgoats
    February 3, 2010

    Greg Laden,
    I see you have no defence for your stupid generalisation. Fine. My assumption that you were threatening a resort to violence was entirely natural. As for my tone, be assured I have no intention of wasting further time on a fuckwit like you.

  246. #247 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    John, maybe. In fact, I would say that social discourse is a negotiated process. The negotiation is dynamic, and involves shifting power and shifting conventions of what is prescribed and proscribed. There are times when a certain set of conventions … like demanding civility when the argument gets heated and one is losing it, or speaking in ever shifting hard to decipher slang so only the in-crowd gets the nuances, or conspiring to cram the Google machine or decontextualize phrases, or selective commenting policies or use of trained sock puppets … emerges for the specific purposes of controlling other people’s voices. Sadly, sometimes such things work. Where we fall into a similar political (or other activist) framework, we should be vigilant and helpful, to facilitate rather than repress conversation, and watch each other’s backs.

  247. #248 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    Oh. No, I’m not defending the idea that British Liberals are sometimes antisemitic because they are part of a society where antisemitism is relatively common. Nor am I going to point out that the point you make … inre contemporary politics vis-a-vis Israel … was also part of my point. I assume you did not read down that far before you went all goat fuck on us.

    You see, it’s not that I’m deciding to defend my position or not in relation to your comments, or to change my position in relation to your comments. It’s that I’m not taking you seriously at all. Not even a little.

    You need to work on your communication skills, goatfucker.

  248. #249 Paul W.
    February 3, 2010

    Greg,

    I may or may not be wrong that Henry is OK at Pharyngula. According to the blog owner, PZ, he is.

    I suspect you have misunderstood PZ. He’s not saying that Henry wasn’t an asshat at Pharyngula, or that Henry didn’t violate any norms there.

    He’s saying that he doesn’t have anything personal against Henry, even though Henry was an asshat saying “remarkably paranoiac” things on his blog.

    He’s also saying that Henry is welcome to come back to Pharyngula, and either not behave like such an asshat, or to behave like an asshat and get the treatment he deserves for it, namely having it clearly pointed out that he’s being a paranoid asshat, and getting righteously ridiculed for it.

    Pharyngula has social norms, as I’ve explained before. It also has social mechanism for punishing violations of those norms, without PZ having to intervene personally in most cases. I’ve explained that too.

    I’m sorry, but I honestly think that both you and Stephanie are having a very off day, in terms of taking onboard what other people are actually saying.

    I would really like to have this conversation face to face with you guys, because I’m curious whether you would say some of the things you’ve said here to my face.

  249. #250 Diane G.
    February 3, 2010

    I was just pointing out that it is sometimes worth thinking about what it would be like to be saying the trash people so often say on blog comment threads only in real life.

    In my one surprising and, with luck, only, fracas with Salty, I was thinking just that.

  250. #251 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    Ah …. no.

    The blogger is PZ. He has not told Henry to change his act. He has not tod Henry to go away. Henry is welcome on Pharyngula. Bottom line.

    Salty Current and you and others are part of the Pharyngula community, and it’s great what you’all do there, but you are a subset of stakeholders on that blog that are in fact stakeholders only because PZ allows it, and you have defined social norms from your own perspective, and you have defined one or more other members of that community as not meeting your expectations.

    And, you have been doing this for a while. You have reinforced your own beliefs and each others’ beliefs. You have reached a point of intractability and close mindedness. You have reached a point where if someone says something that contradicts your strongly held beliefs about how everything in your bloggy world works, that you will actually go so far as to label those with said beliefs as simply not understanding Teh Word as you have delivered it.

    Think about it. Is there any place in over two hundred comments that a Pharyngulista has said even so much as “Oh, I see your point. That could be, I’ll have to think about it” ? No. All I can see is strident disagreement of any statement that plainly disagrees with you, I see the reading of disagreement even when it isn’t happening into the text, I see a rich mixture of argumentative style and personal attack.

    Like it or not, Henry Gee is part of the Pharyngula Community.

  251. #252 Diane G.
    February 3, 2010

    …and if you don’t go to Pharyngula, Pharyngula will come to you…

  252. #253 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    Greg, you forgot “reinforcing your own and each other’s importance”. There’s a definite threat presented here that some of these people might not be impressed with us. May I just enter a plea of “Eek” into the record now.

    The irony, of course, is that if they were being remotely civil (defined here as not trying to tell you how to run your blog), someone might actually care what they think.

    Speaking of which, Paul, bear with me please. I’m under deadline. I have a moment for snark, but none for organizing an actual argument. I will come back to that.

  253. #254 wildlifer
    February 3, 2010

    I think all this falls under the category of:

    I know incivility when I see it.

  254. #255 MonkeyPox
    February 3, 2010

    I just finally finished this whole thread. That’s 20 minutes of my life I will never get back.

    It’s really amazing how much jizz can be spilled over something that most of the interlocutors don’t even understand.

  255. #256 Paul W.
    February 3, 2010

    Ah …. no.

    The blogger is PZ. He has not told Henry to change his act. He has not tod Henry to go away. Henry is welcome on Pharyngula. Bottom line.

    Ah… nah.

    That’s really remarkably simplistic and naive, especially coming from an anthropologist.

    The blogger is like the government, in a dictatorship. (A benevolent one, one hopes.) His/her rule is law.

    But “legal” is not the same thing as “civil.” Within a given legal (blogger-enforced) framework, there can be and generally are norms of civility.

    If the only norms of civility on your blog are the ones explicitly imposed and enforced by the blogger, you have a truly shitty and fabulously dysfunctional blog.

    Pharyngula isn’t that bad.

    And irrespective of what PZ says, that’s true. Pharyngula is not PZ Myers. They are different things.

    PZ’s just the all-powerful tentacled overlord. (Peace be upon him.)

  256. #257 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    Greg,

    In fact, I would say that social discourse is a negotiated process. The negotiation is dynamic, and involves shifting power and shifting conventions of what is prescribed and proscribed.

    I guess, though mostly implicitly (not explicitly) negotiated.

    I can’t dispute your observation that it’s dynamic — it’s a process and there’s a feedback system in operation.

    Yes, some power and conventions shift, but surely some are fixed: the blog owner/moderator(s) have power that ordinary commenters don’t, for example; likewise, some conventions (blog rules) are dogmatic.

    There are times when a certain set of conventions […] emerges for the specific purposes of controlling other people’s voices.

    Another truism. Blogs and other forums have a gestalt and a running consensus that is amenable to their constituent members, and therefore develop “antibodies” to disruptive influences.

    I note Paul has an excellent disquisition on this very issue @165, which unfortunately I suspect was tl;dr for most.

    Finally, I wonder what general metric one could use to gauge the utility (and success) of such norms — is it the quality of ideas; the size of the community; the satisfaction of its members [etc]?
    I suspect a general one would not apply, but that there’d be different, site-specific ones.

    I submit that the Pharyngula community, with both written norms and conventions (the “dungeon” page) and the unwritten ones (adumbrated by Paul in the post to which I referred) is both a civil¹ and a successful enterprise by any reasonable metric, contrary to how I interpret some claims made above.

    ¹ Civic virtue.

  257. #258 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    Greg,

    Is there any place in over two hundred comments that a Pharyngulista has said even so much as “Oh, I see your point. That could be, I’ll have to think about it” ? No.

    Google is your friend. Here is one hit:

    Posted by: Walton | September 18, 2009 11:22 AM
    I see your point, and maybe I was unfairly disparaging towards literary criticism as an endeavour. On further consideration, I’ll accept that it probably does have some useful social effect.

  258. #259 Paul
    February 3, 2010

    These people think they are visiting a BBS form the 1970s.

  259. #260 Comrade PhysioProf
    February 3, 2010

    I just finally finished this whole thread. That’s 20 minutes of my life I will never get back.

    D00d, there’s no fucking way you read all those fucking interminable tractatuses. There’s no way *anyone* has read ‘em.

  260. #261 Val
    February 3, 2010

    258: Self appointed Pharyngulistas can’t read.

  261. #262 Dunnigan
    February 3, 2010

    CPP:260. I just heard ambulance sirens heading from the general direction and there was a lot of screaming and then gunfire from a nearby tower. So it probably is true that he read them all.

  262. #263 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    While this whole discussion has been going on, I’ve been having another conversation. I thought you’all would like to have a look at it, so I wrote it up in a blog post:

    http://quichemoraine.com/2010/02/our-conversations-are-like-a-cold-fruit-salad-on-a-dusty-hot-summer-day/

  263. #264 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    Actually, Paul, I’m sorry. I had plenty of time, because the whole argument of “Henry must have meant this” falls apart with one’s ability to say, “It’s none of my business unless they make it my business,” and not be spouting nonsense. Same goes for “It’s not my place to judge unless they put me in that position.”

  264. #265 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    Careful, Val. He might sniff at you, you know.

  265. #266 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    Val:

    Self appointed Pharyngulistas can’t read.

    That’s self-appointed (if you care at all about grammar), and you need a citation that I am one such, since it was my comment to which you referred and since I have not so declared myself.

    Could you clarify in what sense you consider that am I unable to read?

    Val, your gracious civility @265 is noted.

  266. #267 DuWayne
    February 3, 2010

    I just finally finished this whole thread. That’s 20 minutes of my life I will never get back.

    Good grief, the last sixty some comments have made my eyes bleed and my chest start hurting again. But I can’t seem to stop – it is like watching a very slow motion trainwreck – the kind where the train is falling off a motherfucking bridge, into the gorge nearly a thousand feet below…

    And 258 just really made my chest hurt – laughing is the fucking worst right now – that and yawning. For that matter, the “no, he’s not welcome – blogs are dictatorships” @ 256 was pretty fucking hilarious. Even better was that horrible enforced civility that apparently makes Greg’s blog shitty…

    Motherfucker, if Greg enforced civility, he would have banned me a long time ago.

    And for the record, if someone has not been banned by the actual blogger of a blog – they are welcome to comment, whether the other commenters make them *feel* welcome or not…

  267. #268 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    Erratum: I meant to address that to Stephanie, not Val, in the second part of my previous comment.

    (I should preview more often.)

  268. #269 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    As is your grammar trolling, John.

  269. #270 Omar
    February 3, 2010

    263 While this whole discussion has been going on, I’ve been having another conversation.

    I hear those voices too sometimes.

  270. #271 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    DuWayne, how civil is it to purport to quote somebody (i.e. using quotation marks when ascribing the content to another) when you’re in fact paraphrasing, and inaccurately¹ so?

    Here is the comparison:

    “no, he’s not welcome – blogs are dictatorships”

    vs

    “The blogger is like the government, in a dictatorship.”

    Your misrepresentation is noted, and I further note I cannot find a charitable interpretation of your motive that is other than implausible.

    ¹ So very inaccurately that not one single word in your purported quotation matches the original source!

  271. #272 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    Stephanie Z, once again you display your civility, by claiming I’m “grammar trolling” @266, though:
    (1) I address someone’s response to a comment I made;
    (2) I ask for evidence of a claim in the comment¹; and
    (3) I ask for clarification as to the basis upon which Val opines that I cannot read.

    That the grammar correction is quite incidental to the substance of my comment is (not unsurprisingly by now) ignored by you.

    ¹ That I’m in the set of “self appointed Pharyngulistas”, whatever that is.

  272. #273 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    John, there is a very simple solution to your failure of imagination. Ask DuWayne.

  273. #274 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    Stephanie Z, to what failure of imagination do you refer?

  274. #275 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    You want me to answer questions you put to Val, John? Seriously, dude, you’re only hurting yourself here.

    I will note, on the other hand, that you have appointed yourself as an expert in what happened in that thread at Pharyngula, so Val doesn’t seem that far off. Are you saying that despite that evidence, you’re not a Pharyngulista?

  275. #276 DuWayne
    February 3, 2010

    Motherfucker, what the makes you think I am civil or charitable? You are an asshole fucking troll and at least not acting terribly bright – I should be charitable why? On top of which laughing at your ridiculous excuse for a response to Greg really fucking hurt my chest, so I am lashing out some.

    I am impressed that you noted my “quotes” were actually fucking paraphrasing though. You have a potential future in college writing…

  276. #277 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    John, I refer to this failure of imagination: “I further note I cannot find a charitable interpretation of your motive that is other than implausible.”

  277. #278 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    Stephanie Z,

    John, I refer to this failure of imagination: “I further note I cannot find a charitable interpretation of your motive that is other than implausible.”

    Ah, I thought you might be.

    Perhaps my standards of plausibility for what might be a charitable interpretation (i.e. one which considers Val wasn’t being malicious) are higher than yours; perhaps I truly am lacking in imagination.

    If you consider you can come up with such an interpretation, where someone effectively misrepresents another by quoting them and then opining upon that purported quote¹, then please feel free to do so.

    ¹ Straw dummies come to mind. I suppose they’re not always employed disingenously, sometimes it’s mere obtuseness — even so, I cannot in honesty consider a judgment of obtuseness as more charitable (in a general sense) than one of maliciousness.

  278. #279 Val
    February 3, 2010

    Self appointed Pharyngulistas can’t admit that they misread the comment.

  279. #280 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    John, again, I didn’t suggest you ask me. I suggested you ask DuWayne what his intent was.

    Not particularly apropos of any particular comment, I feel as though I should put in a plug for Pharyngula at this point. What people are reading here is not anything like unknown there, but there are plenty of people there who can make better arguments, follow them better, be funny and friendly, etc. While Paul’s holding up the side pretty well here, I think anyone reading this instead of Pharyngula itself would get a pretty skewed picture.

  280. #281 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    DuWayne:

    Motherfucker, what the makes you think I am civil or charitable?

    First, I’ve never engaged in coitus with my mother, so the epithet fails.

    Second, I’ve nowhere implied you’re either civil or charitable; quite the contrary! ;)

    You are an asshole fucking troll and at least not acting terribly bright – I should be charitable why?

    Your acumen is less than impressive, and your choice of vulgarities mundane.
    Where did I say you should be charitable?

    On top of which laughing at your ridiculous excuse for a response to Greg really fucking hurt my chest, so I am lashing out some.

    Ah. You are easily amused, I see.

    I am impressed that you noted my “quotes” were actually fucking paraphrasing though.

    I see you’re also easily impressed.

    You have a potential future in college writing…

    Perhaps. Does that, too, impress you?

  281. #282 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    John, I think that Val was referring to the fact that I was speaking of the comments on this thread, and in response you cited something from a couple of years ago that you found on Google. I’m sure Val will correct me if I’m wrong. I’m sure John will correct me if I’m right.

  282. #283 Denise
    February 3, 2010

    I want a list of the repressed people who have become unrepressed by this particular act of unmitigated goatfucking asshattery.

    This is going in the quote rotator on my screen saver.

  283. #284 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    Stephanie,

    John, again, I didn’t suggest you ask me.

    I’m aware of that. However, since your contention is that I have “failure of imagination”, it implies that you are aware of at least one such imagining that is contrary to my opinion.

    I was (and am) asking you to provide it, because I think it’s just bluster.

    Val:

    Self appointed Pharyngulistas can’t admit that they misread the comment.

    Functional troll has no substance, and ignores the previous response and request.

    Again: Could you clarify in what sense you consider that am I unable to read?

    (I note that being unable to read is quite different to misreading something, inasmuch as misreading implies the ability to read.
    This is not a subtle distinction! :) )

  284. #285 Paul W.
    February 3, 2010

    DuWayne,

    You have completely misunderstood me.

    For that matter, the “no, he’s not welcome – blogs are dictatorships” @ 256 was pretty fucking hilarious. Even better was that horrible enforced civility that apparently makes Greg’s blog shitty…

    What I said was that the blogger is like the government of a blog, who happens to be a dictator. (Which is consistent with what Greg says about bloggers having a right to run their blogs any way they please.)

    I certainly didn’t say that enforced civility made a blog shitty. What I was saying is that if that’s the only enforcement of social norms, the blog will be shitty.

    (Bloggers generally don’t have the time and energy to do all the norm enforcement a blog needs.)

    I said that despite PZ’s relatively laissez faire governing style, Pharyngula is not that bad.

    I did not imply that Greg’s blog is shitty. I don’t think so. (I read it regularly, and mostly like it.)

    I think that one of the reasons it’s not shitty is that despite Greg not constantly enforcing all the social norms, social norms do get enforced.

    (Like me, right now, not just viciously slagging you off for misrepresenting and ridiculing what I said. Greg doesn’t need to enforce that rule all the time, or even state it.)

    In any functioning community, norms are mostly enforced by common agreement and social feedback, without the need for the government (the blogger, in this case) to micromanage.

    Is that such a ridiculous concept?

    BTW, I’m curious whether you recognize my handle from mutually respectful interactions we’ve had on your brother’s blog. I’m surprised you’re not giving me more benefit of the doubt, and paying a little more attention to what I’m actually saying.

    And for the record, if someone has not been banned by the actual blogger of a blog – they are welcome to comment, whether the other commenters make them *feel* welcome or not…

    I think there’s a lot of ambiguity in the term “welcome,” as evidenced by Greg talking about commenters like me and S.C. “silencing” the voices of others.

    If we can silence people as Greg says, that suggests to me that they’re unwelcome.

    Think of it this way. If you have vicious attack dogs in your house, and you don’t keep them in check, should people feel welcome there? I don’t think so. Maybe not exactly unwelcome in the obvious sense, but certainly not welcome either. A welcoming host will make reasonable efforts to keep guests from silencing other welcome guests.

  285. #286 Tolling Bell
    February 3, 2010

    Paul 217: “It’s also not unrelated to very basic religious ideas—e.g., that there’s a soul, that morality comes from God, and that God has a plan for what you do with your genitalia, which you should pass laws to make other people obey, even if it will cause predictable suffering and death.”

    And how is atheism much different? That there is a certain place morality cojmes from, that there is a humanistic plan? How is atheism really different from any other religion? There is no more logic to atheism than to any other way of believing.

  286. #287 Val
    February 3, 2010

    282: that is correct, sir

  287. #288 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    I certainly didn’t say that enforced civility made a blog shitty. What I was saying is that if that’s the only enforcement of social norms, the blog will be shitty.

    And THAT is the best example of a post hoc self justifying argument that I’ve seen all week.

  288. #289 Val
    February 3, 2010

    “(I note that being unable to read is quite different to misreading something, inasmuch as misreading implies the ability to read.
    This is not a subtle distinction! :) )”

    Is English your second langauge, then? A phrase like “you need to learn to read” is what we call idiomatic. I have heard there are people who can’t parse idioms.

  289. #290 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    And now, John, you want me to answer for DuWayne. Nope. Would it be more palatable to you if I simply pointed out that “I can’t think of any nice reason for you to do that” (a paraphrase, just so you understand) is merely an argument from incredulity?

  290. #291 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    Greg, I’m too literal.

    I responded to “Is there any place in over two hundred comments”, not to “in this comment thread”, by quoting the 314th comment in some place.

    That said, I personally have on a number of occasions acknowledged I was in error or that I had been corrected; consider this one of them.

    Here: I thought you were speaking of regulars of Pharyngula (a.k.a. ‘pharynguloids’ or ‘pharyngulites’ in-house) not admitting to errors or being swayed by argument in general, rather than of this specific thread.

    It’s (typically) factual information or cogent argument that will sway us, not repetition, admonition or other rhetorical tactics.

    So, Val, if you mean I misinterpreted Greg, I admit to it. This doesn’t mean that I resile from the responses I made to your comments, I considered them (and consider them now) merited.

  291. #292 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    If we can silence people as Greg says, that suggests to me that they’re unwelcome.

    That is probably the most interesting thing I’ve read on this thread.

  292. #293 Paul W.
    February 3, 2010

    Greg,

    Is there any place in over two hundred comments that a Pharyngulista has said even so much as “Oh, I see your point. That could be, I’ll have to think about it” ? No.

    I’ve certainly said things like “I entirely agree” and “of course” a number of times.

    Admittedly, that was usually in response to being told something I already know, as if I didn’t, and as if I’d disagreed with it, when I hadn’t.

    On the other hand, I’ve been kinda disappointed that when that happens, I don’t get much acknowledgement that I had been misunderstood and misrepresented.

    I don’t see you guys taking anything on board and saying you’ll think about it. I don’t even see you saying “I get it” when I clarify that I never said or implied what you thought I did.

    I thought there was an exception to this when Stephanie said she’d address a point I’d made when she had more time.

    But then she came back and said she didn’t need to bother, because I was obviously wrong for a reason that reveals she still doesn’t understand what I actually said.

    It really doesn’t help that you guys generally won’t answer direct questions intended to clarify things, and would rather complain about not getting enough respect, while demonstrating little respect yourselves.

  293. #294 Val
    February 3, 2010

    “(I note that being unable to read is quite different to misreading something, inasmuch as misreading implies the ability to read.
    This is not a subtle distinction! :) )”

    Is English your second langauge, then? A phrase like “you need to learn to read” is what we call idiomatic. I have heard there are people who can’t parse idioms.

  294. #295 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    Paul: Wow. You need to go read this: http://tinyurl.com/yfegqyx

    In truth, I’ve not made very many comments on the points made in this thread. I am interested in the idea of emerging social values among the commenters on a thread. I actually have a student studying that. But I’m just not that hopefull about a productive conversation with … oh never mind, just read the link I gave you.

  295. #296 Val
    February 3, 2010

    Word scramble:

    PAULW

    unscrambled is

    CLUELESS

  296. #297 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    Val,

    Is English your second langauge, then? A phrase like “you need to learn to read” is what we call idiomatic. I have heard there are people who can’t parse idioms.

    Why, yes, it is. :)
    My natal name is Juan Ramón Morales, though I anglicise it because I live in Australia.

    I am aware of the use of idiom; typically, it relies on a shared intercontextual understanding — clearly, this is lacking here.

    Why did you not respond to my inquiry @266 with a clear answer?

    Stephanie:

    And now, John, you want me to answer for DuWayne.

    Sigh. No. I repeat: “I was (and am) asking you to provide it, because I think it’s just bluster.”

    “Would it be more palatable to you if I simply pointed out that “I can’t think of any nice reason for you to do that” (a paraphrase, just so you understand) is merely an argument from incredulity?

    As palatable as you have ever been.

    It’s not an argument from incredulity, for I have no a priori disbelief in the potential existence (nor a belief in the impossibility of one such) of an honest basis for a purported quotation which includes not a single word of its original source; rather, it’s a statement of fact regarding my cognitive process and ideation on the matter.

    Again, you are the one contending I fail at imagination, yet when I ask you to sustain this claim (by adducing an example) you evade the challenge.

  297. #298 Greg Laden
    February 3, 2010

    Who knew that there could be a word game troll.

  298. #299 Ubercommenter
    February 3, 2010

    I find it interesting that some of the better known bloggers who insist on the preservation of incivility are themselves the least welcoming to anyone who may have a different view on their own blogs.

    This is linked to the conservative/liberal spectrum as well. I note that one of the aforementioned is one of the few religious bloggers on the scienceblogs network rouster. Maybe two of them, if I guess correctly. Maybe all three.

  299. #300 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    Val @296, since you feel free to opine on Paul W’s worth, I feel similarly free to opine that anyone who’s interacted with Paul W to any degree and considers him clueless is clueless.

  300. #301 Val
    February 3, 2010

    John: so you see, I am usually right.

    In your role as a commenter you should gather up and learn the common idiom. “Hey, learn to read asshole” would usually mean “you have missed the point even though it is in your face” not “there is this alphabet and this vocab and this grammar and here is how it all goes together.”

    John, meet Paul, Paul meet John. I guess you share a great deal.

  301. #302 Stephanie Z
    February 3, 2010

    Paul, you can assert many times over what Henry meant by what he said. As long as that is the tack you take, I’ll continue to argue with you. However, I’m only doing it because you’re being a decent guy, because I like to argue, and because the ability to argue about it is part of my point. When it comes down to it, there’s no way to settle the question of what Henry meant other than to ask him to clarify. Nobody did it then, and I doubt he’d answer now unless you sent him a signed Lovecraft first edition as a token of esteem.

    There is nothing definitive to be said about that conversation between Henry and the Pharyngulistas except that it was a clusterfuck. There are a number of things about the way Pharyngula operates that I think contributed to it being a clusterfuck. Greg’s hit on some of them in the post he linked a few comments back. That specific devaluing of feelings is another, not because it keeps people from arguing from feelings, but because acknowledging your opponent’s feelings is one of the things that fosters a communication environment in which people work to understand and be understood by each other.

    This is what I’m talking about upthread when I refer to a civility model being limited in its usefulness and a model of thoughtfulness being much more productive.

  302. #303 John Morales
    February 3, 2010

    Val, I’m learning that you apparently can’t resist snarky rhetorical snipes:

    John, meet Paul, Paul meet John. I guess you share a great deal.

    I doubt that I share more in every attribute with Paul than I do with yourself; however, I’ve learnt that Paul is habitually honest and actually meaningfully engages his interlocutors.

    In that respect, I hazard to venture that your guess might be correct.

  303. #304 bioephemera
    February 3, 2010

    Wow, and I thought I got some weird comments. Nice thread, Greg. You should donate it to a museum.

  304. #305 Gyeong Hwa Pak
    February 3, 2010

    Stephanie Z,

    Please elaborate on how you think Pharyngula is a clusterfuck.

  305. #306 Comrade PhysioProf
    February 4, 2010

    Who the fuck is Frank!?!?!?!? HUH!?!?

  306. #307 Paul W.
    February 4, 2010

    Gyeong Hwa Pak,

    I don’t think that Stephanie said or implied that Pharyngula is a clusterfuck in general. (In fact she made a point of saying something moderately nice about Pharyngula a while back.)

    The “clusterfuck” she was referring to was specifically this thread, when Henry Gee came and commented:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/06/dr_who_dr_dawkins.php

  307. #308 Paul W.
    February 4, 2010

    Greg,

    If we can silence people as Greg says, that suggests to me that they’re unwelcome.

    That is probably the most interesting thing I’ve read on this thread.

    That’s good, I guess.

    It seems to me like a simple special case of what I’ve been saying all along about blogger rules vs. commenting norms, which is more general and important.

  308. #309 Paul W.
    February 4, 2010

    Greg:

    I certainly didn’t say that enforced civility made a blog shitty. What I was saying is that if that’s the only enforcement of social norms, the blog will be shitty.

    And THAT is the best example of a post hoc self justifying argument that I’ve seen all week.

    What?

    It is “self justifying,” I guess, in the sense that I’m explaining why I actually said what I said, and was not implying what DuWayne very loosely “paraphrased” me as saying.

    It’s not post hoc at all. It’s another simple application of the more general and important idea that blogger rules and commenter norms are different things, and that the norms and norm enforcement are where it’s at.

    That has been my main theme here all along. It’s the reason why I thought the Henry Gee thing was on topic. (Even ignoring your post title.) IMHO, that whole thing was about different ideas of norms of discourse, and misunderstandings about them. (E.g., that Pharyngula has none, because if you’re willing to criticize religious views, anything goes.)

    If you think the quote above is post hoc, you really haven’t been understanding the most basic things I’ve been saying.

    And if by “self-justifying” and “post hoc” you mean that it’s a bogus excuse for denying that I implied what DuWayne claimed I implied, well, you’re wrong.

    If you take my theme seriously, and look at the context of the quote, you’ll see that it was clearly about Pharyngula and the importance of norms.

    Here’s what I said, in context:

    The blogger is like the government, in a dictatorship. (A benevolent one, one hopes.) His/her rule is law.

    But “legal” is not the same thing as “civil.” Within a given legal (blogger-enforced) framework, there can be and generally are norms of civility.

    If the only norms of civility on your blog are the ones explicitly imposed and enforced by the blogger, you have a truly shitty and fabulously dysfunctional blog.

    Pharyngula isn’t that bad.

    And irrespective of what PZ says, that’s true. Pharyngula is not PZ Myers. They are different things.

    I was applying my idea of norms, and saying that as I understand things, if what you were saying was true—anything goes within what the blogger lays down as law and enforces—then blogs would suck. In particular, Pharyngula, which relies heavily on commenter norms, with minimal intervention by the blogger, would be a total disaster. But it’s not that bad, so evidently norms of civility above and beyond the blogger’s stated and enforced rules are important.

    I was also making saying that even if PZ says simplistic things that make it sound like we don’t need norms of civility on Pharyngula, that’s false. Norms of civility are crucial to making Pharyngula work; they’re just different ones than many people expect, and PZ may be using the word “civility” wrongly. (E.g., to refer to the kind of civility typically meant in complaints about “incivility.”)

    The point there is that quoting PZ at me is irrelevant to what actually makes Pharyngula tick.

    None of that is post hoc; it all of that follows from stuff I said long before.

  309. #310 Rorschach
    February 4, 2010

    I’m not going to read through all of this because I have a life, but my eye fell on this line by Greg :

    Like it or not, Henry Gee is part of the Pharyngula Community.

    This statement is meaningless in its generality and given the ambiguity of the term “community”, in this general sense every 3am spammer who ever posts furniture or jewellery spam over there is part of the “Pharyngula community”.
    In any meaningful sense of the term, Mr Gee most definetely is not.

    Apologies if someone else has already pointed this out.
    As you were.

  310. #311 Paul W.
    February 4, 2010

    Tolling Bell @ 286:

    It’s also not unrelated to very basic religious ideas—e.g., that there’s a soul, that morality comes from God, and that God has a plan for what you do with your genitalia, which you should pass laws to make other people obey, even if it will cause predictable suffering and death.

    And how is atheism much different? That there is a certain place morality cojmes from, that there is a humanistic plan? How is atheism really different from any other religion? There is no more logic to atheism than to any other way of believing.

    Notice that in what you quote, I didn’t make any claim that atheism is different. I do think it is, but that’s not really relevant to my point here. I do think that there is more logic to atheism than other ways of believing, but that too is off-point.

    My point is not that atheism is right.

    One point I am making is that religious beliefs are important enough in the real world that people have a right to be interested in what other people believe, and to state contrary opinions.

    Another point I’m making is that the religious beliefs with important real-world consequences are not limited to things like young-earth creationism, biblical inerrantism, and fundamentalism. They include very common, mainstream religious beliefs in things like God, souls, and divinely authored morality.

    Whether those beliefs are in fact true or false does not affect the point I’m actually making—that people are affected by other people’s religious beliefs, and therefore justified in being interested, concerned, and even judging of them in a way that warrants public disagreement.

    That’s not a special thing about atheism; atheists don’t have a special right to critique other people’s religious beliefs; everybody has that right. (That’s why I gave an example of a Jew being rightly concerned about what’s preached “in private” in Christian churches.)

    My point contra Henry Gee is that I’ll “live and let live” and ignore people’s “private religious beliefs” when religious people stop electing leaders and passing laws that force their specifically religious moral standards on other people, including me and my friends and millions of dying foreigners thousands of miles away.

  311. #312 Bexley
    February 4, 2010

    Bexley: You seem to have a rule that if I say something is appropriate for an arbitrary blog that is not my blog that it must also be appropriate for my blog. There is no such rule. (I may or may not be wrong that Henry is OK at Pharyngula. According to the blog owner, PZ, he is. I think that carries a certain amount of weight.)

    I think your comment (233) was in response to Ichthyic’s comment (229) that derided the clarity of your writing but feel free to correct me if you were insulted by something else.

    Ichthyic in turn was commenting on your charcterisation of the opposing side as saying that there NEEDS to be more incivility. This clearly is, at best, unclear writing from you since that isnt the opposing position. Therefore I dont see that Ichthyic’s comment came out of nowhere.

    Nor did I think that it violated the norms of civility on this blog. Just looking a few comments up and you see Val at 261 deriding Pharyngulites inability to read because John didn’t grasp the point you were making in a comment. Again the insult didnt come out of nowhere.

    I don’t see you saying anything about this comment although you did call Val out on another comment she made that randomly insulted Paul.

    That situation suggests where the line of civility on this blog lies. Random insults = bad, insult because someone was wrong = acceptable.

    That’s where my comment was coming from.

    You are also misinterpreting what I’ve said. I’ve not said that Ichthyic can not or should not say what s/he said. I was just pointing out that it is sometimes worth thinking about what it would be like to be saying the trash people so often say on blog comment threads only in real life. Ichthyic is welcome to be a total ass here on this site (unless I become annoyed or bored with Ichthyic and I arbitrarily tell it to go away). In real life, no one would ever speak to me that way or to anyone that way unless they were really drunk or really stupid. Or Becca.

    I apologise if what I took from your post was that you thought Ichthyic had crossed the lines of acceptable civility on this when this wasnt what you were saying. It looked that way when I read it though.

  312. #313 Stephanie Z
    February 4, 2010

    John, you’re missing the point, but you’re doing it in a way that’s worth talking about. Correct me if I’m wrong, but your original statement is unimportant (I’m using for evidence the fact that you forgot to whom you said it). All I remember is that it had something to do with imputing malice to a comment of DuWayne’s. Big deal. As I’ve already said, you haven’t established any reason for people on this blog to care about your opinion. I’m not even paying attention to whether you’re right or wrong about it, as evidenced by the fact that I can’t be bothered to remember what it was about or go look.

    What I said about it was that there was a way to find out whether you were right. DuWayne was participating in the thread. He’s a pretty honest–sometimes embarrassingly honest–guy. He’d have happily told if you if there was malice involved in whatever.

    But that’s not what you heard me say. Despite the fact that this is a comment on a post about making blog communities and discussions work, you didn’t hear me saying anything about getting things right. You only heard me saying you were wrong. Which I can’t say, as I didn’t ask DuWayne either.

    This is another of those situations in which SOP at Pharyngula gets in the way of discussion. Pharyngulites are great in oppositional situations, but what I said was orthogonal to what you said, not oppositional. It wasn’t interpreted that way, and I don’t think it had a chance in hell of being interpreted that way. To bring it back to the clusterfuck thread, this is very much like Paul seeing Henry say something is none of Henry’s business and Paul hearing that it’s none of Paul’s business either.

  313. #314 Stephanie Z
    February 4, 2010

    Bexley, there’s not much civility/incivility at this blog. There is productive, amusingly nonproductive, annoyingly nonproductive, and actively counterproductive. And if you’ve read the comment thread through, you’ll see that Greg has consistently said that those talking about Henry are talking beside the point of the post. Anyone who continues to try to interpret his general statements in light of the discussion about Henry is almost guaranteed to miss the point.

  314. #315 D
    February 4, 2010

    Despite the fact that this is a comment on a post about making blog communities and discussions work, you didn’t hear me saying anything about getting things right. You only heard me saying you were wrong.

    Needs to read the post at Quiche Moraine.

  315. #316 Mal Adapted
    February 4, 2010

    CPP #306:

    Who the fuck is Frank!?!?!?!? HUH!?!?

    I may be way off, CPP, but I believe “Frank” entered the conversation thusly:

    Greg #183

    I am a little embarrassed for you, frankly.

    Spartan #186

    Well Frank, I was with you 100% until your ‘serious antisemitic issues’ swipe.

  316. #317 Paul W.
    February 4, 2010

    Bexley,

    Ichthyic in turn was commenting on your charcterisation of the opposing side as saying that there NEEDS to be more incivility. This clearly is, at best, unclear writing from you since that isnt the opposing position. Therefore I dont see that Ichthyic’s comment came out of nowhere.

    It didn’t, but there’s a complication that Icthyic missed, and you seem to be missing.

    Greg’s original post was not aimed particularly at Pharyngula or PZ, and some of his points are good ones with respect to certain other blogs and bloggers.

    In particular, there are certain other bloggers involved in the larger discussion who frequently claim that the rules of civility are used by those in power to oppress people who are not in power, notably women and racial minorities. They often say things that sound (to some others) lot like “civility is bullshit,” and “we need more incivility, not less.”

    I think there’s some truth to that—and some truth to Greg pointing out that if that’s what they think, they ought to like Pharyngula. (Some do, some don’t.)

    Part of what makes Pharyngula Pharyngula is that certian norms of civility do not apply there, and we think that’s a good thing.

    In particular, we do not buy the widely-accepted idea that criticizing other people’s religious beliefs is a bad thing to do, or makes one a reprehensible asshole who deserves whatever other kinds of incivility people dish out in response.

    It’s a safe environment for atheists who think that religion is not generally a good thing, and the the usual norms about not criticizing religion are a game rigged against atheists, which religion uses to make itself immune from criticism. We are therefore “uncivil” in the eyes of a lot of people, on principle.

    I think that saying that “civility” is a good thing or a or bad thing is generally simplistic and useless; I think that’s part of what Greg is saying.

    If I had to pick, I’d say that civility is clearly a good thing—it’s utterly necessary for useful social interactions—but that popular notions of what constitutes civility are in fact screwed up and often serve to marginalize minority views.

    A vivid and familiar example of that for Pharyngulans is that in non-Pharyngula contexts, it’s often extremely hard to get a hearing for ideas critical of religion. Most people assume that if you even try that, you’re an asshole who doesn’t deserve a hearing.

    The discussion doesn’t even get off the dime, because once the subject comes up and it’s clear you’re being critical of religion, the discussion is immediately recast into what a flaming asshole you are for even starting to say such a thing. A common strategy for religionists and especially accommodationists is to avoid serious discussion of whether critiques of religion are actually valid, by whatever means necessary.

    That does in fact entrench the status quo. If your views are defined as uncivil, or if your trying to air them publicly is defined as uncivil, you’re pretty well screwed.

    As I see it, one of the major points of the “New Atheism” is to rebel against that rigged concept of civility, because if we keep appeasing the religious by accepting that we’re “uncivil,” and being put in our place and silenced, we will never get a hearing. We have to force the issue, and that’s inevitably going to mean that many people will regard us as uncivil, no matter how politely we say what we have to say, because what we have to say is offensive to many people in itself. And they need to get the fuck over it.

    One of my themes here has been that we should be really, really careful how we talk about that, and what we actually do. We should not do the ridiculous thing that Greg was criticizing, about fetishizing incivility. We should make it clear that we are basically civil people, who are challenging a particular norm of civility, and championing another particular norm of civility.

    Rather than saying that civility is stupid and an oppressive tool of The Man, we should offer a vision of a higher form of civility—one that isn’t an oppressive tool of The Man.

    We should point out that the usual norms of civility are in fact uncivil in certain ways that many people should be able to recognize if they think about it a little.

    That was a big point of the Civil Rights movement. So long as black people accommodated white people’s views of what was polite vs. “uppity,” they could not get out of the hole.
    They had to challenge the concept that black people behaving in ways white people took for granted was uppity and offensive. They had to accept that often, they’d inevitably be viewed as dangerous troublemakers rocking the boat, until their view was heard often enough and clearly enough that more people realized they weren’t—they were just people refusing to be unfairly silenced and shat on.

    But back to the Greg/Icthyic/you thing…

    I do think Icthyic made a mistake, which Greg rightly pointed out was a mistake. Icthyic didn’t see the bigger picture of what the larger discussion was about. Oops.

    On the other hand, I don’t think that was a big, unforgivable, or particularly revealing mistake, and I think that both Greg and Stephanie have been unduly critical and snarky about it.

    What Greg did was interrupt a conversation that already had several major issues and several major confusions flying around, and say something to the effect that “Damn, the incivility fetishizers sure are stupid!”

    I think it was understandable, in the local context of recent comments in the thread, that Pharyngulans would take that to be about them. There’s been a number of offhand slams against Pharyngula and Pharyngulans with a similar tone, and there is a popular conception of Pharyngula as a place where it’s simply considered cool to be as rude as possible. If we guess that such a comment is aimed at us, I don’t think anybody should be surprised, and I sure don’t think that Stephanie had any business being as condescending to Icthyic as she was, as though he was particularly self-centered or paranoid.

    That’s especially true in light of the fact that Stephanie herself has been criticizing Pharyngula, both before an after Icthyic’s error, in ways that make it a reasonable guess that she considers Pharyngulans to be fetishizers of incivility, or something rather similar, in terms of paying insufficient heed to people’s feelings.

    I for one was well aware of the larger context, and I wasn’t sure that Greg wasn’t targeting Pharyngulans—that’s why I asked him. I also interpreted Stephanie’s condescending snarky gotchas and her various comments about what’s wrong with Pharyngula as further evidence that guessing it was about us was not particularly unreasonable, even if it was mistaken.

  317. #318 Greg Laden
    February 4, 2010

    My post was not at all about Pharyngula, as you point out, and I see Pharyngula as the kind of environment in which due attention is given to the process of communication that important stuff get discussed there ina productive and useful way.

    I do think there is a conversation to be had by me regarding the seemingly conflicting issues of “tolerance” (not my favorite word) and the criticism of religion both from the perspective of wahs the arguments can be made and the pragmatics of getting key points across the usual social barrier.

    I should say I’m a little unsure why people commenting here have not responded to my current post at Quiche Moraine, which is very much about this comment thread.

  318. #319 Stephanie Z
    February 4, 2010

    Paul, I would have expected you to have caught on by now that I’m generally responding to people here in the same tones they’re using. I find it interesting that I should be pointed to as being rude to Ichthyic, but that Ichthyic should not be pointed to as being rude to anyone here.

    As for Pharyngula and feelings, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying that dismissing an emotional argument about the validity of religion is different than dimissing or abusing the emotions of the person you’re arguing with, with different consequences. And I’m saying that if you do the second, you should be prepared to suppress your own emotional reaction to anything said by the person you’re arguing with. If you can’t do that reliably, you should probably pay some attention to their feelings. I didn’t see either happen in the case under discussion.

  319. #320 Paul W.
    February 4, 2010

    Greg:

    I should say I’m a little unsure why people commenting here have not responded to my current post at Quiche Moraine, which is very much about this comment thread.

    I for one plan to. I haven’t had a chance to digest it yet, though, and I wouldn’t want to puke on your shoes.

  320. #321 DuWayne
    February 4, 2010

    Just to clarify, as I am not one to wait for the asking…

    I was mocking Paul without malice (I get what you meant – sort of – but I think when you equate dictatorship and government, you are generally talking about the same thing). While I really don’t care to read the whole thread closely enough to see if I really disagree all that much, I thought the sentiment there was rather silly. I still do.

    I was not however, mocking John Morales without malice, such as it is. Not that malice is a very accurate word – I just happen to suspect rather strongly that he is an asshat pretending not to be. Nothing I have seen here has really changed that. I also suspect that he is far less clever than he thinks he is.

    Paul may or may not be a jerk – haven’t looked closely enough, though I suspect he is not. I do not, however, suspect he is less clever than he thinks he is.

  321. #322 Bexley
    February 4, 2010

    Bexley, there’s not much civility/incivility at this blog. There is productive, amusingly nonproductive, annoyingly nonproductive, and actively counterproductive. And if you’ve read the comment thread through, you’ll see that Greg has consistently said that those talking about Henry are talking beside the point of the post. Anyone who continues to try to interpret his general statements in light of the discussion about Henry is almost guaranteed to miss the point.

    I’m actually missing the point here. What does your last sentence have to do with my comment at 312 (I assume thats what you’re responding to)?

    Paul – ok I think I now see that Gregs comment on “people who are screaming that people need to be uncivil” was aimed at people who aren’t commenting here.

  322. #323 Buffy the Asshat Slayer
    February 4, 2010

    “I just happen to suspect rather strongly that he is an asshat pretending not to be. ”

    What an asshat thing to do!

  323. #324 Paul W.
    February 4, 2010

    DuWayne,

    I was mocking Paul without malice (I get what you meant – sort of – but I think when you equate dictatorship and government, you are generally talking about the same thing). While I really don’t care to read the whole thread closely enough to see if I really disagree all that much, I thought the sentiment there was rather silly. I still do.

    Sorry, I’m just not clear on what sentiment you’re talking about that you think is rather silly.

    I was making an analogy, and the simple fact is that a typical single-blogger blog is generally run by one unelected person with ultimate power over the rules and the very existence of the blog. If we make an anology to government at all, I only know one correct term for that vesting of ultimate power in the hands of one unelected person, and that’s “dictatorship.” (Specifically, a dictatorship with the ability to nuke the joint!)

    I was not saying that there’s anything wrong with that, and I don’t think that there is, in the context of blogging. I have no idea how to do it better. That’s one reason why I specifically said that one generally hopes that it’s a benevolent dictatorship. That too, is a precise technical term for the analogous form of government, when the dictator is not an asshole, and is trying to do right by the governed. (As I think Greg does.)

    One of the things that’s great about dictatorships in the blogiverse is that the governed are much freer to vote with their feet than in a real-world dictatorship. They can simply stop visiting the blog, and most bloggers care whether people come, so they try to be benevolent to at least some of their constituencies.

    My reason for making explicit that it’s a dictatorship is to help make it clear what the strengths and limitations of the analogy are. As long as you keep the crucial disanalogies clearly in mind, it’s a very productive analogy, IMHO. (That is generally how good analogies are.)

    I think it’s useful to make the basic analogy to government, because it separates out the issue of blogger-defined and blogger-enforced rules from the issues of civility and social norms, in a way that most people can easily grasp with just a little explanation.

    Even the disanalogies are interesting within that conceptual framework, in particular how most bloggers are specially sensitive to consent of the governed, who are free to vote with their feet.

    I find it interesting that there is a rough correspondence to real-world dictatorships, which can suffer what’s called a “crisis of legitimacy.” People who lose respect for the dictator’s motives and/or competence may rebel, and start sabotaging the government.

    I’ve even seen a rough equivalent of coups d’etat, where the constituents overthrow the blogger and create a new regime more to their liking. They generally can’t do that straightforwardly, by deposing the blogger and taking over the existing blog, but they can get much the same effect by creating a new blog more to their liking, with most of the old blog constituents going over there, so that it’s effectively the same blog with new governance, perhaps a group blog that’s analogous to an oligarchy (rule by a few) rather than a dictatorship (rule by one).

    Given that I think humans are humans online and IRL, I think it makes sense to compare blog dynamics with real-world social and political dynamics.

    This is just a particular, fairly coherent framework for discussing the kind of thing Greg has been trying to talk about—e.g., the dynamic negotiation of blog/blogger issues.

    One of the reasons I tend to see these things in these terms is that for decades, I’ve had a number of friends and aquaintances who run online social environments (e.g., the pre-web BBS’s and newsgroups, Lambda MOO (the original MOO at Xerox PARC), MUDs, multiplayer online games, etc.) I’ve also known several people who study these issues in academia, in an oddball variety of departments. All of them tend to talk about things in roughly these terms fairly often, because they fit pretty well.

    I didn’t choose the term “dictator” to be snarky or provocative, but because that’s what those people tend to call it, on the basic analogy to government. (Which I also did not invent. It’s been around since before the Web, and even the Internet per se, back in the days of BBS’s and USENET newsgroups distributed largely by phone lines, because it’s understandable and useful.)

  324. #325 Stephanie Z
    February 4, 2010

    Bexley, I was saying more or less the same thing Paul was, with an added comment on the inevitability of the misunderstanding.

  325. #326 Paul W.
    February 4, 2010

    DuWayne,

    Paul may or may not be a jerk – haven’t looked closely enough, though I suspect he is not. I do not, however, suspect he is less clever than he thinks he is.

    Do you suspect that I’ve stopped beating my wife?

    I suspect you’re at least partially wrong about me being less clever than I think I am—either because I’m smarter than you think, or because I don’t think I’m as smart as you think I think I am. (Say that three times fast.)

    One thing that I don’t think is that I’m being terribly original here. The ideas that I’m tossing around are not mine and have been fairly commonplace for decades.

    Everything I know I know from killing smart people and eating their brains, including the occasional anthropologist who stumbles into my life.

  326. #327 Stephanie Z
    February 4, 2010

    Okay, DuWayne, if you don’t laugh at that, I’m going to have to have words with you. Just don’t hurt yourself again.

  327. #328 DuWayne
    February 4, 2010

    Paul –

    @326 – I meant precisely the opposite of what you thought I said. It is a bad habit of mine, but when I am comparing people, things or ideas, I tend to use like terms. I.e. I do not know if you are a jerk, not enough information to judge (that I have read). I have no doubt that you are rather clever though.

    @324 – Thank you for clarifying. That makes considerably more sense and is not particularly silly. What is rather silly on my part is that had you said “tyrant” instead of “dictator,” that explanation probably would not have been necessary.

    I do think that there is something somewhat flawed in the analogy still, though I do think the analogy is extremely functional. While a community that is loosely ruled by a tyrant (sorry, I much prefer the term) can largely shape the nature of that community, it is ultimately the tyrant who determines welcome – not only in terms of banished/not banished, but in a completely different context.

    Take me and my interaction on Greg’s blog. I am an asshole. I also tend to sound rather angry when I am not – it is just how I tend to communicate. Which is not to say that I don’t get rather irritated sometimes – Greg, never mind others who comment here, pisses me off sometimes. I am quite certain there are people who would rather I left here and never came back. I would suspect there are times that Greg would rather I just shut the fuck up as well. But I doubt that Greg would even consider banning me if asked, not unless I became really horrid. So whether or not the larger community at this blog welcomes me, I have never been made unwelcome by the tyrant.

    But underlying that all, I have a relationship with Greg outside the context of his blog – or even my own. I am extremely grateful to Greg, because he has been extremely helpful on several occasions – answering questions and/or sometimes providing information that has been very useful in my education. While Greg pisses me off sometimes, as I do him, we are friends and I am extremely glad we are.

    And this can be extended to my interactions on several sci-blogs. Though there are varying levels of interpersonal contact and appreciation, I do my best to make sure that I am not pissing off the proprietor of a given blog. And there are blogs where I am most certainly not appreciated by a fair segment of the community, but I am welcome nonetheless, because I have something to offer.

    But there is another issue to be considered here. That of comparing real world power dynamics with those in the intertubes. And really the point I just made is somewhat supportive of that. We can again use me as an example, because I know I won’t embarrass anyone that way (I am almost completely shameless (not the same as unwilling to apologize or admit I am wrong)).

    When I am sitting in my friend John’s living room, hanging out with a few of our mutual friends, I use pretty much the same language I do here. John happens to be a conspiracy nut and a mutual friend of ours is as well. “Are you fucking serious?, That is fucking ridiculous!, That is completely fucking insane!” are regularly heard from my mouth. And as I am dealing with my neurological issues with some help from pharmaceuticals and virtually never smoke cannabis anymore, I get similar in return. Sometimes it gets rather loud and often gets quite heated – yet there is never actual anger. I am well respected by my conspiracy theory friends, because I have well earned it – and they in turn have earned mine.

    That does not always, indeed often really doesn’t translate online. The power dynamic is very different. While I am respected by those friends, I do not intimidate them – though I am capable of being rather intimidating when I want to be. We are equals, even though they are wrong and I am right. We’re equals because we have enough shared values to make up for their total wrongness about – for example – vaccines (something that is a fundamental – I will not have my children playing with kids who are not vaccinated, if I am aware).

    With blogs and general online interactions, it is just not very easy to sort power dynamics like that. I interact with psychologists sometimes – mostly in academia. Most of my interactions with psychologists offline have a student/instructor power dynamic – these folks have power over my education and through that my future career.

    But while there are a couple of psychologists online with whom I have shifted the power dynamic on purpose – because they are willing to take an interest in my education and my future, most of the psychs I interact with online are on an equal footing with me. That power dynamic has always been different with psychologists I have met offline, with very few exceptions.

    The difference is – and this is true of any level of discussion – online I am judged not by my education or profession. I am judged by what I actually have to say instead. I do not have many readers on my blog – I suspect that is partly due to infrequent posting, partly due to being an asshole. But when I occasion to glance at my site meter, the majority are from .edu’s – including several rather prestigious schools.

    I am, btw, a high school drop-out who sank a home repair and remodeling business. I am in my second year at community college. Though thanks to many connections I have made online, I have a rather bright future. But the bottom line is that I have earned the respect of a great many very respectable people – and that in spite of being an asshole.

  328. #329 DuWayne
    February 4, 2010

    I did laugh, but not hard. I am very careful about that now – especially as I try to make it through classes today (which means painreliever sans xanax).

    But I am trying to be more polite, per Greg’s QM post. Though I am stopping at Morales – he totally rubs me the wrong way…

  329. #330 Greg Laden
    February 4, 2010

    329: DuWayne: I am trying to be more polite

    OK, that’s it. I’ve had enough. You’re banned.

  330. #331 Paul W.
    February 4, 2010

    DuWayne,

    I meant precisely the opposite of what you thought I said.

    I totally apologize for getting that completely backwards.

    I think I was thrown by the “however” construction followed by a double negative (not […] less clever […])

    I coulda sworn I double checked to make sure I had it right, but I still blew it.

    Thanks very much for the clarifications.

  331. #332 Gyeong Hwa Pak
    February 4, 2010

    Greg, I don’t understand why you just banned DuWayne. His post doesn’t seem ban-worthy.

  332. #333 Paul W.
    February 4, 2010

    DuWayne,

    About the “dictator” vs. “tyrant” thing, I’ve looked for other words that “dictator,” and considered “tyrant,” but for me the difference goes the other way—“tyrant” has an even clearer connotation of exploitative asshole.

    (As in “taxation without representation is tyranny,” and the thing about the tree of freedom being nourished “with the blood of tyrants,” which has been bandied around with respect to Obama recently. Yikes.)

    Thinking about it again, maybe “autocrat” would be better. It sounds technical, and doesn’t have as strong a villainous connotation as dictator, tyrant, or despot. (To me, anyway.)

    One thing I do like about the “dictator” is that many people recognize the phrase “benevolent dictator” and may get the idea of “a dictator, but not a villain.”

  333. #334 Comrade Paul W.
    February 4, 2010

    Greg:

    I am trying to be more polite

    OK, that’s it. I’ve had enough. You’re banned.

    YEAH!!! This polite shit is for suckers!!! Civility is for bourgeois running-dog Uncle Tom lackeys of the imperialist fucking bosses!!! Stick it to da man!!! Kill them and take their stuff!!!!

    (P.S., Gyeong Hwa Pak—Greg and I are both joking.)

  334. #335 Paul W.
    February 4, 2010

    Fuck me, I left out “patriarchy” and “accommodationist.”

  335. #336 DuWayne
    February 4, 2010

    Greg –

    Suck Eggs, I refuse to fucking leave!!!!!

    AHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Gyeong Hwa Pak –

    Google “irony”

    Paul –

    I am all about Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Google “Lord Vetinari” and tyrant will make a lot more sense…

    My problem with benevolent dictator is the history of benevolent dictatorships. It generally works more along the lines of “we are fighting to defeat this regime, the provisional government will be a temporary, benevolent dictatorship.” Rather like how it worked when the Czars were overthrown. Or in the cultural revolution.

    I think a lot of very decent bloggers are a lot more the benevolent tyrant, like Lord Vetinari. He rules Ankh-Morpork by mostly letting people do there thing – knowing if they fuck up too badly, they end up in prison. If they are a mime, or they really fuck up, they end up in teh scorpion pit. Knowing this, there are few mimes and those underground and mostly people just try to keep it reasonable.

  336. #337 Paul W.
    February 4, 2010

    DuWayne,

    The Vetinari thing makes perfect sense to me. (Although he is a scary fucker, too.) I just don’t expect it to make sense to most people, and I didn’t even think of it myself, despite being a Pratchett fan. I wonder why.

  337. #338 Paul W.
    February 4, 2010

    Stephanie @ 319,

    I’m not ignoring you, BTW, I just haven’t had a chance to organize my thoughts to say what I want to say. (About that, or Greg’s post on QM, and they’re kind of running together and sloshing around my head.) I will respond soonish.

  338. #339 Stephanie Z
    February 4, 2010

    No worries, Paul.

  339. #340 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    Oh yeah forgot about this earlier but some justification (maybe in a seperate post) on your comments in 107 would be good. There was stuff in there that just looks bizarre. Picking out the most obvious one:

    From a European Jewish perspective, if the Germans were not at war with the Brits, the Brits would have been directly involved in the holocaust.

  340. #341 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    Bexley: Why does that look bizarre?

  341. #342 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    Well they way you said “directly involved” makes me read the sentence as:

    If the British and Germans had not been at war (say if the Brits had reached an agreement after the fall of France) the British would have happily taken part in the mass murder of the Jews.

    That strikes me as a very odd sentiment.

  342. #343 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    Your first quote chopped off some of the sentence, your second quote reworded it. It may not make much difference, but what I said was: “From a European Jewish perspective, if the Germans were not at war with the Brits, the Brits would have been directly involved in the holocaust.”

    Perhaps the better way of saying it would be:”From a European Jewish perspective, if the Germans were not at war with the Brits, the Brits may well have been directly involved in the holocaust.”

    Was it the certainty in my original statement you found bizarre, because that’s gone now.

    Are you British? (I’m curious)

  343. #344 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    I am.

    And under both of the two formulations you have above Im still reading it the same way because you have “directly” in there.

    To my way of thinking for someone to be directly involved in the holocaust they would be someone who got involved in actually killing people.

    However Im not sure that this is what you are trying to say. Are you commenting on Britain’s policies on Jewish refugees before the war and the fact that presumably those policies would have continued if war hadnt broken out?

  344. #345 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    By directly I mean compliant and compliant. I don’t mean anything specific. What if histories are not really worth fleshing out at that level.

    Having said that, there are not a lot of things that needed to be different to have had the UK not fight, and eventually join up with the Germans. The King was sympathetic to the Nazis, UK was no less anti-semitic than the rest of Europe, etc. etc.

    I don’t personally want to engage in an argument as to what may or may not have happened. What I am saying here is that it would be perfectly reasonable for a British Jew to look back at the mid 20th century, considering things like the Exodus, other events, pre-WWII nazism, and so on, and NOT buy into the late 20th century version of history wherein the Germans were the ultimate bad guys and the British were the ultimate good guys.

    In truth, Jews died … many Jews died … because of indirect actions taken/not taken by both the British and the Americans. Had the Brits ended up as allies of the Germans, it is not a huge step to imagine English Jews shipped off to Europe, British parts in the gas chambers, whatever.

  345. #346 DuWayne
    February 5, 2010

    Bexley –

    If it will make you feel better, U.S. Americans may well have gotten involved – if it were not for our intensive isolationism. While I have no doubt that like the majority of German citizens, the citizens of Britain and the U.S. would have been appalled to learn what was really happening, that would only have been a matter of degree for most. I have no doubt that there were people in positions of great power who had no problem with the holocaust.

    I think a lot of people make the mistake of equating WWII with the holocaust, as though the allies were some magnanimous force for good who were (among other things) trying to save the Jews. The reality is that saving the Jews who were still alive, from concentration camps was a side effect rather than a goal. That isn’t to say there weren’t a lot of people who were absolutely horrified by what they found – but there were also people who probably really didn’t care, others who would have supported it.

  346. #347 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    Jebus – I think thats a stretch. Even Germany’s actual allies – Italy and Hungary dragged their feet all the way through the war when it came to deporting their Jewish populations, I find it unlikely that Britain would have voluntarily done so either.

    Having said that, there are not a lot of things that needed to be different to have had the UK not fight, and eventually join up with the Germans. The King was sympathetic to the Nazis, UK was no less anti-semitic than the rest of Europe, etc. etc.

    I’m not aware of George VI having any nazi sympathies (unless you’re referring to his brother Edward VIII?). Happy to be corrected though.

    Im not sure why you think the British might have ultimately joined up with the Germans. Chamberlain actions after the annexation of rump Czechoslovakia showed that in a choice between Hitler and Stalin he would rather ally with Stalin.

  347. #348 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    Sorry, I meant potential king (Ed VIII).

    From a Jewish perspective, at the time, allying with Stalin vs. Hitler would not have been exactly comforting.

  348. #349 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    From a Jewish perspective, at the time, allying with Stalin vs. Hitler would not have been exactly comforting.

    The point I was making was that a Conservative politician preferred allying to a Communist than to Hitler. This does illustrate just how unpalatable Hitler was to Chamberlain. So how exactly do you think it wasn’t unlikely that Britain could have allied with Hitler?

    And while Stalin was antisemitic, even by 1938 it was obvious that the Nazis were in a completely different league.

  349. #350 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    Bexley: What is your point? What is your position on British antisemitism in the 1930s and now? Are you making the argument that there was none, is none?

    Was the Prince of Wales not likely a Nazi? Did the Exodus not sail? Why do you avoid the substantive issues? Is this the beginning of a sophistic argument that dances around the fact of British antisemitism present and past?

  350. #351 DuWayne
    February 5, 2010

    Im not sure why you think the British might have ultimately joined up with the Germans.

    This is one of the difficulties of talking alt history – it didn’t happen, so people can’t imagine differently.

    Look at it from the perspective of a Britain that did not go to war. Germany has allied to France, because France really can’t stop them. Joining becomes the obvious choice, as it would lend them more autonomy than being invaded and conquered would. Of course even as allies, they are going to agree to certain changes – not the least being either actual integration of troops, or allowing Germany to build and man military bases. And German fascism has expanded into France – keeping in mind that it’s totalitarian nature aside, fascism offers some very attractive benefits.

    Alternatively, the French fight like they did and are defeated without help from the outside. Either way, France is essentially under German control to some degree or another.

    Then there is Britain. Less enthusiastic about fascism, but not dead against it. Again, fascism offers some benefits – including on paper, stability. Not to mention that Europe has just seen a nation that was almost completely decimated by 1918, outstrip the countries that had defeated them in terms of recovering from the war.

    Britain is really not in the best position to fight a war. While there are many who do not believe fascism is a reasonable way to go, there are a lot of people – including people with a certain amount of power, who are sympathetic. They aren’t all that pleased that Germany invaded Poland, but what the hell? Germany seems to be doing pretty damned well.

    Is it really all that hard to see Britain suing for peace? And given an alliance with Germany, Germany in the pilot’s seat – is it really that hard to consider what might eventually happen to the Jews? While genocide is fairly extreme to most people, antisemitism throughout Europe is only moderately less intense than it was during the reformation. Given enough time, with enough influence coming from Germany, it is not unlikely to happen eventually. And of course there is no reason to assume that Britain wouldn’t do little things here and there to support the effort – such as the manufacturing that Greg mentioned.

  351. #352 Paradox
    February 5, 2010

    Greg, this is not going to go anywhere. The whole point you are making is about British exceptionalism, really. And, we know you were thinking that the moment you asked Bex if he was British.

  352. #353 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    Actually my point was that your original post 107 had some really weird shit in there which you need to provide evidence for.

    I’m not denying that there was anti semitism in the 1930s. What i am arguing against is your bizarro theory that Britain might have allied with Nazi Germany and if they had become allies Britain would have deported its Jewish population to the death camps.

    1. If even a communist regime was more palatable as an ally than Hitler to a Conservative prime minister then I think you need some decent evidence or arguments to show why you think Britain could have ended up allied to Germany. All you seem to have said in support of it so far was that one former King had nazi sympathies.

    The Exodus sailed after the war so I fail to see how it is relevant to your views on whether Britain might have allied with Germany before the war.

    2. As I’ve pointed out even some of Germany’s allies resisted pressure to deport their Jewish populations (Italy and Hungary). Occupied Denmark was also unwilling. So why would Britain have done so if they had ever allied with Germany? Do you think Britain was more anti-semitic than those countries?

  353. #354 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    When you chopped off that part of my sentence, you seem to have forgotten the context and orientation of what I’ve said.

    It is understandable why someone like Henry might find himself foaming at the mouth a little too much for the average British (or even, astonishingly, Pharynguloid) sensibility.

    Calling British-Jewish concern over antisemetism bizarro is a little too dismissive in my view. You need to learn to be a little more thoughtful of your fellow person!

  354. #355 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    DuWayne – Germany was never going to ally with France.

    Hitler made it very clear in his books that he wanted a fight with France and he made that clear in his memos while in office too. From a German perspective an alliance with France was never going to happen although they would have been more than happy to ally with Britain. However for that to have happened Britain would have had to have been willing to throw France under a bus. That was never going to happen.

    That is why I think the alternative history outlined doesnt have any legs to it.

    Secondly as I keep pointing out other allies of Hitler (Italy and Hungary) resisted deporting their own Jewish populations to the death camps during the War. That only really came when Germany occupied Hungary and Italy. Its why the Hungarian jews were the last of the great central european jewish to be murdered.

    Hungary was more antisemitic than Britain at that time so why would you think that Britain would behave differently and acquiesce to handing over their own jewish population even allowing for the antisemitism that existed then?

    @ Greg

    Calling British-Jewish concern over antisemetism bizarro is a little too dismissive in my view. You need to learn to be a little more thoughtful of your fellow person!

    Now who is the sophist – I wasn’t calling British-Jewish concern over antisemetism bizarro. I was calling the theory on a possible link up between Britain and Germany bizarro.

    It seems to be a view you hold given this comment:

    Having said that, there are not a lot of things that needed to be different to have had the UK not fight, and eventually join up with the Germans. The King was sympathetic to the Nazis, UK was no less anti-semitic than the rest of Europe, etc. etc.

    If you really think that there was much chance of this happening then I’d like to see evidence beyond the fact that potentially the nazi sympathising King Edward VIII could have been on the throne throughout the period.

  355. #356 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    Bexley: I’m trying to convey the context of distrust a European or English Jew (or an American) might feel in regards to British tolerance. I’m not arguing for a specific alternate history.

    I am aruging for an impure British spirit in these matters. A post-hoc revisionism perhaps, a denial (like we have in the US) for pro-Nazi and pro-German sympathies.

    I do not really want to turn this into an argument about alternative histories, and I will remind you once again that I’m conjecturing what the perspective of a living Jew grown up in Britain who has numerous blank spaces in his genealogy owed to the German.

    I actually don’t go for the crushed butterfly effect too much myself. If Edward had become king there’s a good chance his Nazi-sympathies would not turned into an English-German alliance for some reason or another, as his abdication (or whatever you call it) and administrative exile demonstrate an anti-Nazi sense among those in power in Britain (I assume). And the Exodus post-hoc to the war certainly does not suggest that antisemitism is a post-war feature of British society. Rather, it is a very severe statement about what the pre-Holocaust revelation must have been like.

    I still don’t know if you are arguing against the presence in the 1930s and today of stinging and palpable British antisemitism. My good friend (an American) who cut off his year sabbatical because he was so uncomfortable there in the 70s has an argument to make, my Israeli colleageus who won’t go to England unless absolutely necessary have an argument to make. So when I heard Henry making his statement I was not surprised, and when I heard people telling him to shut up I was annoyed.

    With you I’m just perplexed. Are you denying the antisemitism or not? Or are we going to continue to discuss alternative histories?

  356. #357 Paul
    February 5, 2010

    With you I’m just perplexed. Are you denying the antisemitism or not?

    I think the argument is a matter of scope/intensity. There’s a large gulf between negative feelings towards a minority and a propensity for throwing said minority into ovens. For example, there is a lot anti-Hispanic sentiment in the States, but genocide is completely unthinkable as a solution. If Mexicans said USians wanted to throw them in ovens, very forcefully refuting that point would not mean one is saying there is no discrimination or biases in place.

    Once you start comparing people directly to Nazis, the issue of whether there is some bias goes out the window, quite overshadowing any subtle discrimination issues. It’s a very offensive charge, and the main reason many Pharynguloids are still so angry at Gee.

  357. #358 Paul
    February 5, 2010

    I conflated several terms that are not equal in my previous analogy, but please ignore it for the sake of the point being made. No offense is intended. Of course Hispanic doesn’t strictly imply Mexican, and Mexicans become USians when moving here…

  358. #359 Stephanie Z
    February 5, 2010

    Paul, are you suggesting that the situation in Britain was or is best characterized as merely “negative feelings towards a minority”? And I’m not sure that the gulf is as wide as you’re implying. It’s not that big a step from happy to see them rot in the desert to throwing them in ovens. The difference is mostly being told the second is okay.

    As an aside, I…have some rather strong negative feelings about the show Fringe. However, there was a very recent episode that featured an artist who made Nazi-flag collages out of photos of kittens and puppies. I thought that particular moment was lovely, and I keep coming back to the image as this discussion goes on. I worry sometimes that the constant invocation of Godwin’s Law may overshadow some of the lessons we once learned about the banality of evil.

  359. #360 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    No not arguing that antisemitism doesnt exist in Britain.

    The thing I AM arguing against is that the alternative history you sketched is at all plausible. It is utterly IMplausible.

  360. #361 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    Paul: There’s a large gulf between negative feelings towards a minority and a propensity for throwing said minority into ovens. For example, there is a lot anti-Hispanic sentiment in the States, but genocide is completely unthinkable as a solution.

    Paul, your point is essentially correct, but let’s be clear about two things: 1) The North American Hispanic population as an ethnic entity overlaps with the Central/North American native population, and there totally already was a holocaust, sans oven but a holocaust nonetheless. Unthinkable, but historically real. 2) While we can think that we can’t think of a future holocaust, there is a truth that must not be forgotten: Racism, left entirely on its own, will tend to lead to genocide. Thus, the wide gulf is quite crossable. And the first step towards loosening the fetters is to think it unimportant.

    I don’t buy the whole “He called me a Nazi! Bwaaaa!” argument. That is again a mere loosening of the fetters. It is one small step further to call a Jew uppity.

  361. #362 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    Yep Paul set it out well.

    1. I dont think the level of antisemitism in Britain was sufficient for Britain to have willingly deported its Jewish population for extermination.

    I say this given that some other countries that WERE allied to Germany didn’t hand over their own populations despite the antisemitism that existed in those countries and I dont see Britain back then as being more antisemtic than those countries.

    2. I cant see a scenario of Britain and Germany allying as plausible. It would have involved Britain throwing an ally under the bus (France) and what gain could they have got from doing so?

  362. #363 Omar
    February 5, 2010

    Hind sight is always twenty twenty. Then, if you get in there really close with the hind sight, your head might go all the way in.

    Do not get too comfortable with your idea that the British could have never gone in with the Germans. This thinking might make you feel good now but the real world does not serve to make you feel good.

  363. #364 Grandson of Ashes
    February 5, 2010

    What about the sign at Auschwitz?

    I notice Mr. Bexley has skipped the issue of The Exodus, and has not really even touched on the issue of the Nazi Prince. The British would have thrown the French sur la bus if that was what served. But what about that boat? What about that Nazi prince?

  364. #365 Stephanie Z
    February 5, 2010

    It’s also a much more comfortable position to take if the answer doesn’t affect you personally.

  365. #366 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    Omar – that was rather vague how about some specifics on why you think it would have been plausible?

    Like I said what would have been in it for Britain to fight alongside Germany?

  366. #367 Omar
    February 5, 2010

    That is hardly the point. This is not a discussion related to who would have fought with whom. You are the only one talking about that. I refer you to DuWayne’s comments above. The Holocost, anti-Jewish feelings and activity, and British cultural imperialism is one thing, the war over territory and the axis and allies fight was a different thing. These are not unrelated issues but it does seem that you like the smoke screen.

  367. #368 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    Grandson of the Ashes:

    1) The Exodus shows antisemtism but I fail to see how it shows the murderous intent required to carry out the holocaust. So trying to argue that the case of the Exodus is evidence that the British would have participated in the holocaust just doesnt work.

    2) Why would the British have allied with the Germans and thrown the French under the bus – what would have been the advantage in allying and fighting with Germany?

    3) Maybe Im missing somethign but what does the stiolen Auschwitz sign have to do with Britain at all let alone Britain in the 30s?

    4) If Edward had been King during the period Im not sure how this would have changed what happened. The politicians in place would still have been the same – which political leader of the time would plausibly have allied Britain to Germany? Not Chamberlain, not Halifax, not Attlee and certainly not Churchill.

  368. #369 Grandson of Ashes
    February 5, 2010

    Bexley you are doing a very good job at dancing back and forth. Go back a few posts and read what this argument is about. The test condition is not “would the british have put jews into an oven and lit the fire.”

    If that is your standard, and less than that is not antisemitism, then you are one sick puppy.

    There is a great deal of denial of the American and British links to the Germans and the Nazis prior to the war. What do they teach you in your British schools about this? (That is a rhetorical question, this problem with the British educational system is widely known.)

    You should admit that you are wrong, admit that you are a Jew hater, even if four hate is mild and you are unaware of it, and admit that if you were a Brit in power back in 1930-something you might have gone along with certain things here and certain things there and the result would have been a culpability. This is because washing your hands of the holaust is your only goal, while in the meanwhile lighting the ovens was not all that it too to have the holocaust occur. It also took … people much like you, or so it would appear. (I am willing to be convinced of evidence to the contrary, if you can manage that)

  369. #370 Stephanie Z
    February 5, 2010

    Once again, the question is not whether the British would have fought alongside Germany except for a single accident of history. The question is how comfortable a British Jew should feel that anything but accidents of history kept the British from that fight. After all, the Germans themselves didn’t kill Jews–until they did.

  370. #371 Grandson of Ashes
    February 5, 2010

    “four hate” = “your hate”

  371. #372 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    Bexley you are doing a very good job at dancing back and forth. Go back a few posts and read what this argument is about. The test condition is not “would the british have put jews into an oven and lit the fire.”

    If that is your standard, and less than that is not antisemitism, then you are one sick puppy.

    No that aint my standard for antisemitism. My argument is that the antisemtism in Britain at the time would not have been sufficient for Britain to have gone along with the holocaust even IF they were allied to Germany. ie Britain had problems with antisemtism but not enough to murder its own Jewish population.

    Read my 1st paragraph in comment 362 which makes that point explicitly.

    Moreover I also argue Britain would NOT have allied with Germany. This is not because Britain was a nice and virtuous country that wasnt antisemtic – but because it wasn’t in there interests to do so.

    Its been argued here that the scenario Britain allies with Germany is plausible. I think this shows a lack of historical knowledge.

    I also think the argument that Britain was SO antisemtic they would have been complicit in genocide of its own Jewish citizens does us no favours.

  372. #373 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    @ Steph

    Once again, the question is not whether the British would have fought alongside Germany except for a single accident of history.

    I refer you to DuWayne’s comment at 351 where he tries to argue that it was plausbile for Britain and Germany to have allied. Similarly Greg at 345 when he said:

    Having said that, there are not a lot of things that needed to be different to have had the UK not fight, and eventually join up with the Germans.

    Greg seems to argue that it isnt implausible that Germany and Britain could have ended up allies.

    Im arguing that it isnt at all plausible because it wasnt in Britain’s interest to ally with Germany (not because they were especially moral). Moreover given Britain and Germany were on opposite sides of WWI I cant see it as plausible either because of antipathy towards an expansionist Germany in Britain.

  373. #374 Grandson of Ashes
    February 5, 2010

    the argument that Britain was SO antisemtic they would have been complicit in genocide of its own Jewish citizens does us no favours.

    The intention was clearly not to do anyone any favors.

  374. #375 Stephanie Z
    February 5, 2010

    Bexie, if you’re looking for a WWII forum, you’re in the wrong place. Ditto if you can’t understand a statement made less than literally, even in the context of it’s original utterance and all the clarification that has been thrown your way since then.

  375. #376 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    @ Grandson of ashes

    Ok let me rephrase that – I think that position is wrong. Britain had problems with antisemtism but not enough that it would have been complicit in the genocide of its own Jewish citizens even if Britain had allied with Germany.

  376. #377 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    Bexie, if you’re looking for a WWII forum, you’re in the wrong place. Ditto if you can’t understand a statement made less than literally, even in the context of it’s original utterance and all the clarification that has been thrown your way since then.

    Are you trying to say that at 345 that Greg wasnt “literally” saying that a Germany and Britain was not implausible?

    Moreover do you think that if a blogger writes something like that a British reader isnt going to try and set him straight (rather then say go off to a WWII board somewhere)?

  377. #378 Stephanie Z
    February 5, 2010

    I’m saying that context is important:

    I don’t personally want to engage in an argument as to what may or may not have happened. What I am saying here is that it would be perfectly reasonable for a British Jew to look back at the mid 20th century, considering things like the Exodus, other events, pre-WWII nazism, and so on, and NOT buy into the late 20th century version of history wherein the Germans were the ultimate bad guys and the British were the ultimate good guys.

    Yet you keep trying to shift the topic.

  378. #379 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    Steph – Im not arguing that point because I dont disagree the broad point in there. Britain weren’t the ultimate good guys.

    My issue is with a couple of specific things that Greg has said to back his general point up.

    Namely whether an alliance between Britain and Germany was ever plausible and under such circumstances whether Britain would have gone along with genocide of its own jewish population.

  379. #380 Paul
    February 5, 2010

    @359, 361

    Just to be clear, I’m not really studied enough to actually forward an argument on the topic. I was simply trying to clarify where it seemed Bexley’s argument was based. Whether you accept the argument in those terms is another thing entirely.

    @379

    Namely whether an alliance between Britain and Germany was ever plausible and under such circumstances whether Britain would have gone along with genocide of its own jewish population.

    Is there a solid argument to show it was implausible? Or that Britons are incorruptible? I mean, I do thing that Greg was a bit sloppy in how he presented the point under contention, and didn’t sufficiently qualify his statements about the “British left being anti-semitic because they are British”. But when you couple subtle (and not so subtle) racism with Milgram, it seems odd to just assume the pristine quality of any citizenry to not commit or go along with atrocities (I definitely include my own countrypersons here).

  380. #381 bexley
    February 5, 2010

    my argument on why the two were unlikely to ally is absolutely not based on britain being incorruptible. my reasoning is based.on the fact that britain didn’t want to fight therefore an alliance between an expansionist militarist country wad not in its interests. a war would be expensive and for little strategic benefit – as a large imperial power it wasn’t in britains interest to upset the world order.

    in addition hitlers own writing before and after taking power make clear he thought war with frances inevitable and he didn’t wish to avoid such a conflict. allying with germany would have involved betraying britains main ally – unpalatable.

    finally the germans were on the opposing side in ww1. following that and the broken promises of munichleading british politicians viewed germany suspiciously.

  381. #382 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    The fact, if we accept it as a fact, that Britain would never go in with Germany, may ultimately have been a safety valve for those in power in Britain who may have been happy to see Jewish populations exported or incarcerated to have not done so. I may or may not buy that. The Britain that could not possibly have thrown France under the bus was at war with France on a few occassions. The Britain who’s a-crats intermarried with the Russians have undergone a costly multi-decade war (though a cold one) with those allies from WWI and WWII, in both cases allied against their long term, intermarried allies of Central Europe.

    If you are a member of a population or ethnic group that has been shoved around and crapped on for several centuries in Europe, this concept of ally and loyalty that seems to be governing the idea that Britain could not possibly have done anything different than it did may seem (and remember, before quote mining, I was speaking of a Jewish perspective) rather short sighted and even dangerious.

    But, again, I’m not making an argument about Britain and France as allies or enemies. Indeed, Britain could have even remained neutral had Germany acted differently for some period of time. And so on. The point is, if you’re Jewish, in Britain or anywhere in Europe for that matter, there is no way you could be comfortable. Jews across the entire region from Eastern Europe across the entire continent, the UK, Northern Africa and the Middle East did nor did not get put into concentration camps or ghettos based on a flimsy and quirky set of circumstances. No Jew in Europe was safe through the 19th Century and well into the 20th Century. If I were a British Jew, I would not be looking back on the mid 20th century and saying … “Oh, there was never a chance of anything bad happening to me or mine” …. I’d be saying something more like “That was way too close.”

    The argument that seems to be in process here really is one of denial. The fact that The Exodus could have happened AFTER the liberation is astonishing. Given that Britain does not seem to have had any kind of acknowledgement of it’s sometimes quite negative role in the Jewish plight in Europe and the Middle East (as the Germans had by force of the history they created!) I suppose it is not that surprising to see denialism and avoidance of the issue.

  382. #383 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    Oh, and I’ve not failed to make my point or been sloppy in so doing. Think about that. Arguments are being made about issues I did not bring up or intend, yet I’m held responsible. Huh.

    The real problem in this discussion is a lack of perspective. Consider the scale of time and space of the Jewish diaspora, consider the history, consider the vital nature of a perspective that one has culturally learned relating to the basic Jewish question.

    You do know what the basic Jewish question is, right? This:

    I woke up this morning. Before I go to bed tonight, what kind of unbelievable crap is God goign to throw at me and my people before goign to bed at night. Egyptians? An inquistion? Cossacks? Nazis? Pat Rorbertson? Across most of the diaspora, few have ever woken up in the morning and said “Oh, I’m in Britain. I’ll be OK here…”

    So, I’m asking you to broaden your perspective across time and space and try to be a little more flexible in your point of view.

  383. #384 Diane G.
    February 5, 2010

    Bexley, I can’t tell you how impressive it is that you are maintaining such a civil (and isn’t that the loaded word, now?) tone in this argument, one that usually devolves so quickly into name calling. As a disinterested by-reader, I am struck by how much of a difference that makes–to me, anyway. While I really hate to mention the c-word right now, I suppose it’s the recent discussions of same that make it so noticeable.

  384. #385 Paul
    February 5, 2010

    Oh, and I’ve not failed to make my point or been sloppy in so doing.

    I never said you failed to make your point. I simply thought the way you presented it left it too vague and open to misinterpretation. As a matter of taste, I did not enjoy it. That is, however, your style, and it’s your blog.

  385. #386 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    Oh, now, Paul … the “It’s your blog” line! That always comes at a certain stage in the argument.

    I did not make a statement that was intended to be the perfect wikipedia argument. I did not make a statement that was intended to be the end of a discussion. Indeed, I can’t imagine what such a statement would look like outside of holy scripture. I made a statement that could be the beginning of a discussion. To some extent, we’re still in the “I never thought of that before so it must be wrong and maybe I’m offended so I should denywhateveryoursaying phase. But it is true that the issue of war and alliances has come up as a side point (not quite a new topic) and my statement about the likely persepctive of a Jew in an antisemetic world is now being evaluated for some reason in the always hot crucible of military history.

    Why is that?

  386. #387 DuWayne
    February 5, 2010

    Bexley –

    Again, the problem with historical what if’s, is that they didn’t happen. And you are rather missing the nuance of the argument that I made. I did not say that the moment Britain decided to make an alliance with Germany, they would send their Jewish population out for slaughter. As for why? As in why would I possibly imagine France and Britain choosing to avoid war and allying with Germany?

    It is really simple – neither country was remotely prepared for another great war. While we obviously know they did not, it is not too far fetched to consider the advantages they might have gleaned from allying with Germany.

    First and foremost, there was the distinct possibility that the Germans might successfully invade and conquer. Had either nation or both decided that it was too big a risk, capitulating before that happened and allying to Germany would put them in a much better position than being conquered. Conquering nations are not terribly likely to provide nearly the autonomy that semi-subservient allies would get.

    Second, given a France and Britain that are allied to Germany, the only country left that might try to fight it out are the Soviets. Who else is likely to actually fight Germany at that point?

    Third and final (though there are probably more reasons), the economies of France and Britain (and most everyone else) are pretty well, good and fucked. The economy of Germany is not. Is it unreasonable to assume that it might be tempting to do what Germany has done to fix theirs. The National Socialist Workers party might be a little tempting.

    So now that we have gotten to Britain as ally and France as either ally or conquered, we can talk about the Jews. It is not unreasonable to assume that after enough time and rhetoric from, monster though he was, a brilliant and charismatic speaker and leader, attitudes and convictions might change. It isn’t as though the Germans themselves went into Hitlers regime with the notion that massacring the Jews – or even simply gathering them into camps, as the population generally thought, was a great idea. They were convinced it was.

    Is it really that big of a leap to consider that other nations that were connected by the National Socialist party might just get sucked into the rhetoric of the main leader of the party?

    That aside, this is all irrelevant to the discussion at hand. Greg was making a very different point – I was just filling in the story line. A story line that is impossible, because that is not what happened. But a story line that, impossible as it might be, is not implausible. It isn’t like there was just one man in Britain who was sympathetic, any more than there wasn’t a very considerable and economically powerful segment of U.S. society that was quite sympathetic to fascism. There was here and there was over there. And there were also people in France who felt the same.

    Another mistake a lot of people make, is assuming that WWII was about fighting fascism. WWII was about a conquered nation breaking the rules imposed upon it nineteen years before. I really do wonder sometimes what might have come of it if Hitler hadn’t been so keen on hegemony. No reason to go to war and the example of a nation rebuilding, while most of Europe and the U.S. were having rather serious economic issues.

  387. #388 Bexley
    February 5, 2010

    The argument that seems to be in process here really is one of denial. The fact that The Exodus could have happened AFTER the liberation is astonishing. Given that Britain does not seem to have had any kind of acknowledgement of it’s sometimes quite negative role in the Jewish plight in Europe and the Middle East (as the Germans had by force of the history they created!) I suppose it is not that surprising to see denialism and avoidance of the issue.

    Facepalm. I keep saying that Im not arguing that there wasn’t/isnt antisemtism in Britain. Therefore I find it hard to work out why you think this is denialism of antisemitism in Britain.

    My argument isnt even about whether a Jew would feel completely safe in Britain now let alone the 30s. My argument is that looking back there are reasons for relief over what did happen vs what could have happened but I dont think that any reasonable reading of history would make you think that Britain would have allied with Germany. And thats not an argument from Britains virtue.

    I think its you who are looking at the events leading up to and the start of WWII with hindsight. With hindsight you see the fall of France and see this event as having been inevitable and therefore a reason that Britain might have allied itself to Germany instead.

    Without hindsight I dont think there is any reason why Britain would have abandoned its major and longstanding continental ally.

    The Germans took a huge gamble in its plan of battle when attacking france and it payed off. But dont make the mistake of thinking that just because France was defeated that it was inevitable or even considered likely by those at the time. When the germans attacked, the bulk of british and french forces marched north in response to army group B’s feint attack through the netherlands. Had they left a reserve then Army group As pincer would have been in a whole world of trouble. The Germans lost 30% of their aircraft by the end of May and hadn’t held any panzer formations in reserve. A counterattack to Army Group As pincer would have been the prelude to Germany losing the war.

    That’s the scale of the gamble taken by Germany and the Germans needed to take this gamble because across the entire line they were outnumbered and had to concencentrate to achieve local superiority to overcome their overall inferiority. Moreover time was against them – Britain and France had far larger economies so in a long war could expect to outlast Germany.

    Therefore before the war Britain and France felt they were being dragged into a war they had little to gain from but they felt confident of winning. Like I said where was the incentive for Britain to abandon France and ally with Germany?

    None of this suggests that Britain entered the war because it was sympathetic to the plight of the jews in europe. If that were the case they’d have accepted more refugees in the preceding years.

    However I can’t think of any documents suggesting that british political leaders thought about using its Jewish population as some kind of bargaining chip with Germany.

    So why would a British Jew look back and think “that was way too close” when there was never any sign of an alliance between the two countries? Even in the light of centuries of persecution and current levels of antisemitism I’m not convinced that that line of thinking would be pursued by more than a handful of British Jews since there was never any indication that Britain would have allied itself to Germany.

    If anything the more obvious point to breathe a sigh of relief over is that Germany didnt win.

  388. #389 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    Well, it certainly is good that Germany did not win. And it is good that you have not fully vindicated the validity of the point you made that was stated in opposition to my statement about antisemitism in Britain though it really was more about military history.

  389. #390 bexley
    February 5, 2010

    Ok Im taking back my objection that only a tiny minority of British Jews could possibly conceive that Britain of the 30s could ally itself with Germany.

    Clearly from the comments here alongside Greg, DuWayne actually does think this is a reasonable alternate history. Which suggests others (Jewish or not) could presumably follow exactly the same line of thought.

    Even though I think knowledge of the actual historical record shows it profoundly unlikely. (DuWayne – Short reasons why – the british and french economies were bigger than the german one. Germany still had a large proportion of peasant farmers and was an autarchy. Hitler WANTED a fight with france. British leaders thought France was more powerful.)

  390. #391 Greg Laden
    February 5, 2010

    “British leaders thought France was more powerful.”

    More powerful than it was, or more powerful than Germany?

  391. #392 DuWayne
    February 5, 2010

    Bexley –

    You are reading too much into an alt history. It was impossible, just not inconceivable – if that makes any sense. That is what alt histories are about – the very fact that it didn’t happen as an alt history describes, means it couldn’t have been that likely.

    It would make a lot more sense, were we to expand the alt history story. Alt histories assume that very small, but significant details came out differently, thus causing a cascade effect of changes. It is far more conceivable, when you can follow the chain of changes – less so when you are looking at it in a concise macrocosm.

    Take one simple detail to start with – the French are actually aware that they are likely to get their asses kicked. For whatever reason, intelligence – whatever, they are aware that things could go very badly for them. Assume that the British are also aware.

    Then let the cascade of changes begin.

    Even better – there are supernatural creatures, coming out of Germany that make things even more obviously fucked for the French…Because the very best alt histories include magical, mystical forces. After all, if you are going to pretend something different about history, you might as well make it really fucking cool…

  392. #393 DuWayne
    February 5, 2010

    And in case you are wondering – yes, I played out a couple of scenarios in my head. And for the sake of this thought exercise I behaved and didn’t throw hell spawn of any sort into the equation…

  393. #394 Greg Laden
    February 6, 2010

    Well, there could the this man in a castle in Colorado…

  394. #395 Bennie
    February 8, 2010

    I love that movie.

  395. #396 bexley
    February 8, 2010

    More powerful than it was, or more powerful than Germany?

    More powerful than Germany. At the start of the Battle of France the French had more men under arms than Germany. They had more tanks and the French Char B was the most powerful tank in the world.

    The French Navy was far more powerful than Germany’s (and it remained the only real leverage Vichy France had when it came to negotiating German demands later).

    The obvious weakness though was the Armée de l’Air. The Germans defintely had the advantage in both numbers and modernity of aircraft.

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