Pharyngula

A suggestion for the comments

The comment section at Pharyngula is becoming a bit too wild west lately. I am all for vigorous, unhindered language and the expression of strong opinions, and I think dumb ideas need to be dealt with harshly, but we also need to allow opportunities for those ideas to be fully expressed. Too often, the conversations are beginning to go like this:

Stranger: I think…
Old hand: [Pulls out six-gun, shoots stranger down]I do believe I didn’t like your accent, stranger, and you were a bit cross-eyed.

I’m not at all keen on this. It makes the comments a very hostile place to new people (I like seeing new people here, don’t you?) and if it keeps up all we’re going to have left are the twitchiest, most psychopathic contributors. To encourage a little more restraint, I’m going to ask everyone to voluntarily impose a 3 comment rule on themselves. What that means is that if someone comes along and says something, no matter how outrageous, engage them in polite conversation first, give them a chance to clarify and expand on the idea, and then if it’s still utterly insane, you can cut loose.

For example:

Stranger:1I think all women are chattel.
Old hand: Pardon me, friend, but are you using humor, irony, sarcasm, or satire? Are you perhaps about to expand on a deeper philosophical point?
Stranger: 2No, I just think women are meant to serve my needs.
Old hand: This sounds like a most unfortunate and disagreeable belief. Why should you hold such a demeaning attitude?
Stranger: 3Because the Bible, which is the literal word of God, tells me so.
Old hand: [Smashes whiskey bottle over stranger’s head. General brawl commences.]

See? Isn’t that much better? You can still have your fun in the general melee, but let’s just slow the onset down a little, hold fire for a few minutes, and see if we can get a few words through the macho murk first.

I will also add that, aside from a few persistent trolls, most of the regular commenters here share at least some of our goals, although there are of course routine differences of opinion on subsidiary matters, and it isn’t in our best interests to reflexively knife one of your fellow commenters because he is a Christian or opposes abortion or once voted for a Republican city council member. You certainly can argue about that stuff, but treating it as good cause to spit in their eye gets a little tiresome.

Note to metaphor-challenged literalists: there aren’t actually any Colt pistols or broken beer bottles in the comments threads here. It’s a metaphor (look it up.) I do, however, have the power to throw individuals out of the saloon through plate glass windows.

Comments

  1. #1 Scott Simmons
    August 25, 2006

    I’m looking for the man who shot my … um, actually, the man who once voted for a Republican city council member.

    DRAW!!

  2. #2 No One of Consequence
    August 25, 2006

    Well I have to admit, I once thought Republicans were the party of small/non-intrusive government and fiscal responsibility.
    [walks blindfolded to gallows]

    She turned you into a Republican?

    …I got better.

  3. #3 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    August 25, 2006

    Are you sir trying to suggest that voting for Republican’s is somehow stupid?

  4. #4 Diego
    August 25, 2006

    I’m all for more civil discourse on the internet, and your simple rules seem promising. Good job, P.Z.

    P.S. Except for the defenestration part. You have to fix the plate-glass windows when you do that. Why not ride them out of town on a rail? That’s a lot easier on the infrastructure. 😉

  5. #5 Sean
    August 25, 2006

    *shucks* Figures I have to go spend my next twelve hours at work. I know folks feel passionate about their personal beliefs, but not everyone who differs in some aspect is worthy of immediate scorn and mockery. Let me use the confession soapbox as a test run.

    I support some aspects of the Libertarian Party’s platform.

    I have voted for some Republicans.

    I have actively worked on the campaign staff for some Republicans.

    I own firearms and am a member of the NRA.

    To counterbalance, I also have voted and campaigned for Democrats, am a member of the ACLU, am a member of a labor union, and still have original loony email from Ted Holden.

    Not completely apostate.

  6. #6 No One of Consequence
    August 25, 2006

    Are you sir trying to suggest that voting for Republican’s is somehow stupid?

    Yes…except for the “somehow” part.

    Actually, I voted for a Republican in the Missouri primary, against the Republican-Rubber-Stamp, Todd Akin — of course my candidate lost miserably and now I have no one to vote for in the general election because both of the decent Democratic candidates lost to a religious conservative Democrat — Woe is me. It doesn’t matter though, none of them will beat Akin anyway.

  7. #7 John
    August 25, 2006

    Diego: Tar & feather them, maybe? A bit hard on the chickens, though, and gets more expensive as we approach/pass peak oil.

    Sean: If it makes you feel better, I’ve even voted for a few Libertarians (before I figured out that big-L/small-l distinction). Never an R, though.

  8. #8 T_U_T
    August 25, 2006

    The thing you are talking about, is the flamewar that death penalty comments devolved to ?

    Funny thing that… a debate on topic “death penalty brutalizes the culture” ends up as a direct evidence of extactly that happening. 🙂

  9. #9 Brian Spence
    August 25, 2006

    Wow, social ettiquette for blog commenters? Good luck with that… lol

  10. #10 Rick @ shrimp and grits
    August 25, 2006

    An objective reading of PZ’s post clearly indicates that he merely wants more comments on each post. 🙂

  11. #11 spork_incident
    August 25, 2006

    I just had the image of Sheriff Myers cleaning up the town.

    Heh.

    But where exactly would Deputy Squid pin his star?

    .

  12. #12 DouglasG
    August 25, 2006

    I voted for Republican Norm Coleman. For mayor of St Paul. I didn’t vote for him to become rubber stamp for the Bush administration though. I am sorry pardners. I was young. And he was a decent mayor.

  13. #13 Steve Watson
    August 25, 2006

    OK, let’s test out this new Kinder Gentler Comments Policy on something really controversial:

    PLUTO IS TOO A PLANET! DAMN THE IAU!

    (OK, who’ll be the first to flame me on that one? 😉

  14. #14 RavenT
    August 25, 2006

    (OK, who’ll be the first to flame me on that one? 😉

    Sorry to disappoint, Steve, but ever since losing “brontosaurus”, my heart just hasn’t been in it anymore… 🙂

  15. #15 Mike Fox
    August 25, 2006

    Steve

    You raise some interesting points, but your comments seem to be made with sarcasm or perhaps as a joke. Do you mean your comments literally? Or are they a metaphor or do you mean them like a simile? I am worried that you are you may be making fun of people who maintain a certian position and ideologies, thus violating the 3 comment rule by a good, clean 3 comments? Thank you for your prompt, ernest reply.

    Mike Fox

  16. #16 Diego
    August 25, 2006

    John

    Tarring and feathering is a messy, albeit attractive, alternative. I’m sure you can collect shed feathers from free-range chickens in a very humane manner. But the tar remains a sticky point. To make this option truly viable we need to minimize the environmental impact of tar. That’s why I prefer the rail option: less mess and it’s reusable.

    P.S. If you use rail feathers (i.e. Rallus longirostris), can that be an effective combination of the alternative approaches?

  17. #17 The Ridger
    August 25, 2006

    Or, as TJ remarked once: Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.

    caveat one: I don’t always agree with TJ.
    caveat two: It was the 18th century – if he were writing today I’m sure he’d say “Not every difference…”

  18. #18 HP
    August 25, 2006

    It’s a metaphor (look it up).

    Not to derail, but this reminds me of something that’s been bugging me for a while: Has anyone else noticed that there’s a near-perfect congruence between anti-science types and people who are completely deaf to metaphor and irony? I’m not saying that all pro-science types necessarily have a good ear for metaphor and irony, but its the rare anti who can comprehend even the most basic figures of speech, let alone deal with a non-humorous satire or an extended metaphor.

    It seems to me that this is an important part of understanding Fundamentalism, ID, creationism, etc. as we witness the collapse of the Enlightenment. I guess what I’m saying is that I’d like to see Swift given the same iconic status as Darwin.

    I’m not an educator, though, and I’m not sure to what extent we can teach this stuff. I wonder what a humanities guy like Michael Berube would have to add.

  19. #19 fusilier
    August 25, 2006


    what kind of pantywaist librul drinks at a saloon with pLATE gLASS wINDOWS?!?!?!?!?!?!

    {surfacing from lurk mode}
    fusilier, paleoconservative
    James 2:24

  20. #20 Sanguinity
    August 25, 2006

    Holographic plate glass windows. Like in Firefly. Environmentally sound, and you don’t have to replace them as often.

    Although what the point is of having a hologram of something that’s invisible, I don’t know.

  21. #21 fusilier
    August 25, 2006

    Grot, that didn’t come out right, even though I previewed.

    I was trying to be snarky and show a “neocon” tag.

    sorry for the waist of bandwidth.

    {hanging head, submerging back into lurk}
    fusilier
    James 2:24

  22. #22 llewelly
    August 25, 2006

    But where exactly would Deputy Squid pin his star?

    Our Tentacled Overlords need no badge of office; their Superior Form indicates their Right to Rule clearly enough.

  23. #23 AndyS
    August 25, 2006

    PZ,

    Thanks for taking the radical position that commentors here should hold off flaming new people who happen to disagree with them. As you say,

    if it keeps up all we’re going to have left are the twitchiest, most psychopathic contributors

    of whom we already have a nice sampling.

    20 years ago as a TA I was tasked as the moderator of a message board for an Intro to CS course which had 250 freshman participants. (The “conferencing” system was hosted on the university’s mainframe.) I was amazed at how coarse, rude, sarcastic, and offensive 18 and 19 year olds could be — even when they knew that, in addition to me and the other TAs, the professor was reading what they wrote. Reflecting on that experience a decade later after the Internet and email became ubiquitous, I thought most people would learn in high school if not earlier how to behave with some civility in the electronic public square. You know, like the small things about how difficult it is to express humor in written communication and how easy to come off as a dick rather than clever. Then blogs became popular and I am back to square one. There is far more sociopathic behavior — even on a science blog — than I would have believed possible. Seems like a fertile area for research.

    While I applaud this effort of yours to mitigate the behavior, I’m not optimistic about its success. But keep on tryin’! I continue to hope Pharyngula will become a place that can teach and persuade people in addition to being a rallying point for the converted and a lightening rod for the opposition. Trouble is, many get much more excited about “rallying point” and “lightening rod” than about “teach” and “persuade” — and the former is easier than the latter.

  24. #24 RobW
    August 25, 2006

    A stand-up comedian of my acquaintance tells me the “give three chances then unleash hell” rule also applies to hecklers.

  25. #25 Scott Hatfield
    August 25, 2006

    My army of zombie creationist squirrels chitters sneeringly at your attempts to throw ME through the window of the saloon. Bwa ha ha ha ha!

    Cordially…Scott

  26. #26 Keith Douglas
    August 25, 2006

    AndyS: You have listed one of many reasons that I feel we desperately need new educational mechanisms about computing. My high school CS teacher did stress some of it, but it sort of got lost in the shuffle.

  27. #27 Sharon
    August 25, 2006

    “I do, however, have the power to throw individuals out of the saloon through plate glass windows.”

    Only do that if you take pictures and post them.

  28. #28 Try Ton
    August 25, 2006

    Steve Watson wrote:
    “PLUTO IS TOO A PLANET! DAMN THE IAU!”

    Ok let’s try out PZ’s recommended method…(*ahem*)…
    Pardon me, friend, but are you pointing a deep philosophical? Are you perhaps humoring – oh stuff this for a bunch of soldiers –

    IS NOT!!!! UP THE IAU!

  29. #29 crash test dummy
    August 25, 2006

    But isn’t Evolution the foundation of an immoral world-view?

  30. #30 DAS
    August 25, 2006

    It’s a metaphor

    Q: What’s a metaphor?

    A: Meta indicates that you are going to be talking about talking about X rather than just talking about X, e.g., metamathematics is the mathematics of mathematics.

    OK — stupid joke … but I just couldn’t resist …

  31. #31 David Harmon
    August 25, 2006

    Thank you PZ!

  32. #32 Pygmy Loris
    August 25, 2006

    I thought the IAU said Pluto was a planet? Did they say it wasn’t?

  33. #33 Stogoe
    August 25, 2006

    Re: No One of Consequence’s first post (intra-thread topic necromancy!) about small government conservatives:

    It is my belief that conservatives never really wanted small government at all, merely that they have spun the PR that way so convincingly that that assertation has been pretty seamlessly woven into their narrative of identity.

  34. #34 Will E.
    August 25, 2006

    –Has anyone else noticed that there’s a near-perfect congruence between anti-science types and people who are completely deaf to metaphor and irony?–

    Yes. Is it ironic when you don’t realize your lack of irony when you make an ironic statement? Better consult Alanis Morrissette.

  35. #35 Steve_C
    August 25, 2006

    Conservatives don’t want small government… they just want to privatize it and pocket the profits.

  36. #36 Mena
    August 25, 2006

    But where exactly would Deputy Squid pin his star?
    Posted by: spork_incident

    No need for a pin, chromatophores are the answer you silly human!

  37. #37 stogoe
    August 25, 2006

    As for Pluto, the official vote classified 8 planets, shoved Ceres, Pluto/Charon, and ‘Xena’ (plus all the Kuiper Belt sphericals we’re going to discover eventually) into the dwarf planet category, and only deals with objects in our own personal solar system.

    A planet has to orbit the sun, have compressed itself in to a near-sphere, and cleared its neighborhood of debris. A lot of talk on the internets about this decision deal with ‘technically’s’ and ‘I don’t wanna’s’ as to whether the 8 we know and love (My Very Elegant Mother Just Served Us Noodles) are actually planets, because “Neptune hasn’t cleared Pluto, then now it’s not a planet, myeeeah, Glaven.”

  38. #38 Ktesibios FCD
    August 25, 2006

    Please don’t smash the whisky bottle over the stranger’s head if it isn’t empty (the bottle, that is).

    I can’t abide wastefulness.

  39. #39 Gregory
    August 25, 2006

    “Has anyone else noticed that there’s a near-perfect congruence between anti-science types and people who are completely deaf to metaphor and irony?”

    Aha, that means if we find a student that’s troubled with understanding metaphors and irony at schools, we can specially teach them. Hopefully, this’ll bring down the creationist numbers in coming years.

  40. #40 PZ Myers
    August 25, 2006

    It’s a fire hazard, too.

  41. #41 Steve Watson
    August 25, 2006

    In reply to my respondents re Pluto: Of course I’m joking. As a (at best) very casual amateur astronomer, I really have no opinion on what the official definition of “planet” should be. I was, however, amused by the apparent intra-IAU soap opera this issue seems to have created (see the linked article), particularly in the context of a call for civility here.

  42. #42 Ken Cope
    August 25, 2006

    Wild West? Wild West!

    Arrrr cutlasses and keelhauling suddenly insufficiently genteel?

    I’m not about to let my babies grow up to be cowboys.

  43. #43 Monado
    August 25, 2006

    What *I* love is those people who say, “I’m against abortion but I don’t think we should stop people from having them.” I tell them, “That, friend, is a pro-choice position.”

    I must dig up that picture of myself dressed as a pirate at age three, complete with wooden cutlass.

  44. #44 G. Tingey
    August 25, 2006

    No Pluto is now a Dwarf planet … and Jupiter is a Giant planet so now…
    WHY is it that we have: GIANTS + PYGMIES + DWARVES???

    P.S. – pygmies are the asterisks (or do I mean asteroids, or is that a a pain in the butt?)
    PPS – The Late prof. J.R.R. Tolkien said, strictly speaking the plural of “dwarf” was “Dwerrows” – so there!

  45. #45 Steve_C
    August 25, 2006

    Why aren’t some of the bigger moons in this galaxy called planets?
    or Giant moons or Moon Planets?

    Europa is over twice the size of earth, no?

  46. #46 stogoe
    August 25, 2006

    It has nothing to do with size (at least, size only matters if you’re too small to collapse yourself, or big enough to have fusion and become a star). Europa orbits Jupiter, and is a satellite. That’s it.

  47. #47 Ken Cope
    August 25, 2006
  48. #48 386sx
    August 25, 2006

    sean wrote: To counterbalance, I also have voted and campaigned for Democrats, am a member of the ACLU, am a member of a labor union, and still have original loony email from Ted Holden.

    Do me a favor. Go take a hike.

    spork_incident wrote: But where exactly would Deputy Squid pin his star?

    Would the fountain of your mind were clear again, that I might water an ass at it.

    fusilier wrote: sorry for the waist of bandwidth.

    Yeah. You, and the rest of the freakin planet. And the rest of the stinkin universe.

    Keith Douglas wrote: You have listed one of many reasons that I feel we desperately need new educational mechanisms about computing.

    A word of advice to you sir: Never enter into a battle of wits without bringing along some wits with you.

  49. #49 junk science
    August 25, 2006

    Has anyone else noticed that there’s a near-perfect congruence between anti-science types and people who are completely deaf to metaphor and irony?

    The really bad ones don’t even understand fiction. To them, everything is either true or a lie.

  50. #50 Flex
    August 25, 2006

    RE: Pluto now a PIGMY + DWARF planet –

    So now the astrologers have to dust off their pre-1930 calculations?

    No wonder they were so wrong for so many years!!!

    TGIF,

    -Flex

  51. #51 Warren
    August 25, 2006

    Note to metaphor-challenged literalists: there aren’t actually any Colt pistols or broken beer bottles in the comments threads here.

    Hmph, just what I’d expect from a bleedin’ heart lib’rul: Gun control. Bet you’re a drugged-out pinko Commie hom’sexshul too.

  52. #52 AndyS
    August 25, 2006

    Keith,

    AndyS: You have listed one of many reasons that I feel we desperately need new educational mechanisms about computing. My high school CS teacher did stress some of it, but it sort of got lost in the shuffle.

    It does get lost in the shuffle. I would generalize your idea and suggest schools could help by offering or even requiring a course in effective communication. Not a speech or debate class, but a class directed at skillful, civil dialog that would teach how to talk about emotionally loaded, difficult topics without being insulting or sarcastic and without backing down from your own position.

    Commerical TV, radio, and the web are filled with examples of how to shout, needle, jab, and trade talking points under the guise of a “fair and balanced” discussion of important issues. Where are young people getting examples of people with serious disagreements actually discussing issues in a meaningful way? Public radio does a pretty good job but I doubt there are many young people its audience.

  53. #53 Chris
    August 25, 2006

    But isn’t Evolution the foundation of an immoral world-view?

    No. Empirical investigation and evidence can only describe how the universe *is*, not how it *should* be. Morality has to come from a mind; reality doesn’t.

    It can be argued based on this that morality is therefore always a subjective illusion founded on nothing, but that’s not a necessary consequence of evolution or any other description of the physical universe; it’s a completely logically separate (and, AFAIK, unsolved) problem in the epistemology of ethics.

    Life evolved whether we want it to or not, and whether we approve of its methods or not.

    P.S. Yes, I realize this was quite possibly a fake post, given the post name. I’m trying to demonstrate how we ought to (now) respond to such posts if they are made in earnest, according to the new rules as posted by PZ “Ruling with an Iron Tentacle” Myers.

  54. #54 Squeaky
    August 25, 2006

    AndyS,
    I was reflecting on just the things you speak of last night on my way home. I had just read someone’s less than positive comment towards me. It occurred to me that had I been in an actual, face-to-face conversation with that person, s/he probably would not have made that comment (although, s/he may certainly have thought it). As I got into my car, I reflected on the fact that we easily throw negative comments towards other drivers when they do something stupid, and I realized there is an interesting parallel between the information highway and the actual highway. We yell at stupid drivers because we don’t see them as people–they are nameless, faceless entities who have no feelings to hurt, and dang it, get off the road when I’m on it! Same is true here on the information highway. It’s easy to insult someone we will almost certainly never see, and whose name, in many cases, we will never know. I doubt very much that many here (not all) who resort to insults would ever actually express those same insults in a face-to-face conversation. This is a very impersonal environment and it is easy to fall into the trap of dehumanizing those who express opinions contrary to our own.

  55. #55 Squeaky
    August 25, 2006

    Can we all have a moment of silence for Pluto?

  56. #56 Craig Ewert
    August 25, 2006

    Stogoe wrote:

    It is my belief that conservatives never really wanted small government at all, merely that they have spun the PR that way so convincingly that that assertation has been pretty seamlessly woven into their narrative of identity.

    Steve_C said:

    Conservatives don’t want small government… they just want to privatize it and pocket the profits.

    Both of these reflect the improper conflation of “conservative” and “Republican”. Once, years ago, there was a healthy strain of conservatives who felt that government monies shouldn’t be spent on some classes of expenditures, notably charity/welfare (they felt it was better done by true chatities like the Salvation Army, and/or that it was corrosive to the recipients). There was also a subset of the Republican party that was libertarian, and they wanted smaller government so they could keep their own money.

    Now days, the Republican cry for smaller government is more nostalgia/reflex than any actual desire for smaller government. The party has been taken over by radical religious fundamentalists, “neocons” who are more radical than conservative, and plutocrats who just want to use the party to get more for themselves (at which effort they have great success).

    I was a Libertarian party member myself once. (they had the best actual parties). And I voted for President Bush, Sr. But he lost me when he said “No new taxes” and then raised taxes, and then weaseled about it when confronted with his lie.

    So the Republicans have lost me, as they have lost most of the true conservatives and almost all of the libertarians.

    Would I vote for a Democrat? I voted for Bill Clinton. If the Democrats can do better than Al Gore or John Kerry, you can get my vote. You can reclaim (rescue?) the country. But to do that, you have to clearly see who you are dealing with. “Republican” does not equal “conservative” any more than “Democrat” equals “liberal”.

  57. #57 Steve_C
    August 25, 2006

    My bad. Read a chart wrong.

    I think conservatives are a little confused. They can’t decide if they’re the “more moral and meddling in everyone’s lives” or the “leaner meaner less intrusive government” kind. One seems to sell out to please the other.

  58. #58 Craig Ewert
    August 25, 2006
    But isn’t Evolution the foundation of an immoral world-view?

    No. Empirical investigation and evidence can only describe how the universe *is*, not how it *should* be. Morality has to come from a mind; reality doesn’t.

    Loathe as I am to defend a view that isn’t mine, and reluctant though I am to use a false quote:

    if there is no God, everything is permitted.

    For most of the world, what is has every bearing on what ought, and conversely.

  59. #59 Craig Ewert
    August 25, 2006

    Steve_C wrote:

    I think conservatives are a little confused.

    I agree. It depends on what they want to conserve, I suppose. One set look back to a time when the government was almost completely uninvolved with individual welfare. Another set looks back to another time when the government and especially all your neighbors were all over your personal life. And those people who want to conserve the welfare state as is would be “conservative” by any proper dictionary, but you can’t call them that in America.

    I think we should date-stamp conservatives, and “conservative”, so you can tell what they really stand for. “1970 conservative” wants the New Deal and the War on Poverty. “1840 (southern) conservative” wants chattel slavery and hoop skirts. “10,000BC conservative” want hunter-gathering and mammoth hunting, if I may stretch a point beyond all reason.

  60. #60 RickD
    August 25, 2006

    Regarding the conflation of “conservative” and “Republican”:
    when the vast majority of the voters who support President Bush identify themselves as “conservatives” and also support his policies, then it seems a bit too, um, convenient to simply say “he’s not a real conservative”. While it’s certainly true if you use a textbook definition of “conservative”, the problem is that if you use the textbook definition of “Communist”, neither Stalin nor Mao was a communist. And yet people are quite happy to conflat “communism” and “totalitarian dictatorship”.

    Are “true conservatives” ready to join “true communists” on the pile of history relegate for “philosophies that never actually appear in reality”?

    I doubt it.

    In any case, most of the leading self-described conservatives have been quite happy to play along with Bush’s assorted abuses of power, unlawful activities and power-grabbing by the executive branch. If there had been a serious movement afoot (outside of the CATO institute) to retain the “conservative” label and distinguish it from “Bushitis”, then I would take this attempt to keep the “conservative” label a bit more seriously. But from where I sit, Bushitis is a logical consequence of the the decisions of the conservative movement going all the way back to Nixon. The ultimate unwieldiness of the conservative philosophy cannot be simply laid at the feet of Bush’s personality, since so many of Bush’s sins have been latent (and untreated) in the conservative movement for such a long time.

    Or to put it more bluntly: the conservatives were happy to bring the religious wackos and the racists into their camp. It’s a bit late for trademark control at this point.

  61. #61 PZ Myers
    August 25, 2006

    “10,000BC conservative” want hunter-gathering and mammoth hunting, if I may stretch a point beyond all reason.

    And in Ted Nugent, we see that 21st century conservatives have come full circle.

  62. #62 Steviepinhead
    August 25, 2006

    But this new, nicer-than-thou commenting policy only applies to NEW commenters, right.

    We can still immediately reef all over bad-Jason, known religious apologetics, and like that, right?

  63. #63 PZ Myers
    August 25, 2006

    Don’t worry about bad Jason. He gets disemvowelled on sight now.

    It’s also not a nice commenting policy. I encourage vigorous replies to demonstrable idiots. I would just like everyone to reef those sails and hold off on the broadsides until the target actually flies its colors (yes, I can bobble between cowboy and nautical metaphors…at will.)

  64. #64 Craig Ewert
    August 25, 2006

    RickD has defeated me. I must admit that, like “kleenex”, “xerox”, and “gay” before it, “conservative” now no longer means what it once did, if in fact it ever really meant that.

    It’s a sad day when my descriptivist linguistic stance sabotages my desire to distance myself from wingnuttery. Damn my internal consistency! Damn you to hell!

  65. #65 Craig Ewert
    August 25, 2006

    PZ Wrote:

    (yes, I can bobble between cowboy and nautical metaphors…at will.)

    So that would make Pirates “Cowboys of the Sea”? Would then, the Jesse James gang, and Butch and Sundance be “Land Pirates”?

  66. #66 Steve_C
    August 25, 2006

    I think conservative has been refined down to “hate taxes and hate fags”.

    I think that’s what alot of people think when they call themselves conservative.

  67. #67 Stogoe
    August 25, 2006

    yes, I can bobble between cowboy and nautical metaphors…at will.

    Yeah, but it still takes a standard action.[/geek]

  68. #68 junk science
    August 25, 2006

    These days, “I’m a conservative” means “Fuck you for trying to make me feel uncomfortable.”

  69. #69 Jason
    August 25, 2006

    Wht’s th mttr, PZ? Cn’t hndl trly rtnl rspnss?

    h, lk. N vwls. Wht vr wll y d?

  70. #70 Millimeter Wave
    August 25, 2006

    it’s a good job that sed will let you strip out whatever characters you want, eh?

  71. #71 Owlmirror
    August 25, 2006

    Well, instead of “delete vowels”, one could easily delete “not consonants or spaces”.

    sed ‘s/[^B-DF-HJ-NP-TV-Zb-df-hj-np-tv-z ]//g’

  72. #72 Ken Cope
    August 25, 2006
  73. #73 suezboo
    August 25, 2006

    Thank you very much, PZ. I so enjoy this site and what I learn here but the regular commenters DO intimidate one from asking questions.

  74. #74 Owlmirror
    August 25, 2006

    And maybe throw some punctuation in the range as well.

    Alternatively, for the (0/\/\pl337 1337-$73><7, rather than deletion, there are some amusing possibilities with substitution.

    tr \!-\~ \?

  75. #75 Owlmirror
    August 25, 2006

    Looks like the Autodisemvoweler is pretty clever already.

    I guess the only way around it is to post in one of those already nearly vowelless Eastern European languages.

    Srps? zdrvnsy! pzhlst. dzvdny! yb tvy mt!

  76. #76 Squeaky
    August 25, 2006

    Thanks Ken Cope–that was hilarious!

  77. #77 Jason
    August 25, 2006

    PZ v J&s*n

    Pstd by: Kn Cp | Agst 25, 2006 03:38 PM

    I’m Cls (snc I’m s bldy tll s hm!).

  78. #78 Steve_C
    August 25, 2006

    Is that a fish in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

  79. #79 Ichthyic
    August 25, 2006

    I’m Cleese (since I’m as bloody tall as him!).

    >>Master Tang: Pay no attention to Wimp Lo, we purposely trained him wrong… as a joke.

    >>Ling: You think losing is winning.

    How many quotes from Kung Pow can you find that fit Jason perfectly:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0240468/quotes

  80. #80 Ichthyic
    August 25, 2006

    oh, and hat tip to “scaryfacts” over on PT for the suggestion.

  81. #81 Kristine
    August 25, 2006

    I would just like everyone to reef those sails and hold off on the broadsides until the target actually flies its colors

    In other words, wait ’til the stranger ambles all the way to the bar, check out the steadiness of his hands while he knocks back the bourbon, give the bartender time to duck and the rest of us a chance to bolt up from our card game to fully view the fun. This, friend, is not being nice. It’s called knowing how to wait.

    Which brings me to you, DouglasG.

    I remember Norm “Democrat” Coleman. If there’s anyone I want to see get what’s coming to him, it’s the Disco Kid. If one of us can lure that mudsnake into this here saloon, you’ll get your chance to even the score. But be warned. He no longer travels alone.

  82. #82 JackGoff
    August 25, 2006

    I think I know Jason’s favorite movie.

  83. #83 j
    August 25, 2006

    Pluto is not a planet.

    I like this polite-comments suggestion a lot; I’m one of those people who still believes in civility.

  84. #84 Steviepinhead
    August 25, 2006

    the regular commenters DO intimidate one from asking questions

    Don’t know why. Not sure I qualify as a “regular commenter,” but I ask stupid questions all the time (see further up almost any thread).

    Maybe you just need to grab a “handle” like mine, that makes it clear from the get-go that, should it turn out that you have the faintest clue, it’s purely by chance.

  85. #85 sam
    August 25, 2006

    Ambling into the conversation a little late, I’d like to suggest an alternative to both tarring and feathering as well as the riding on a rail.

    catapult!

    A good catapult not only rids your town of the miscreants, but it’s also reusable and fun.

  86. #86 Torbjörn Larsson
    August 25, 2006

    What??? No early joking allowed? But a good joke can hurt more than smashing a whiskey bottle over a … Um, never mind.

  87. #87 AndyS
    August 25, 2006

    Squeaky,

    … As I got into my car, I reflected on the fact that we easily throw negative comments towards other drivers when they do something stupid, and I realized there is an interesting parallel between the information highway and the actual highway. … It’s easy to insult someone we will almost certainly never see, and whose name, in many cases, we will never know. I doubt very much that many here (not all) who resort to insults would ever actually express those same insults in a face-to-face conversation. This is a very impersonal environment and it is easy to fall into the trap of dehumanizing those who express opinions contrary to our own.

    I think your analogy fits all too well. And since the opportunity to communicate annonymously (blogs, message boards, etc.) is growing I think it’s important for people who run popular blogs to make some attempt to establish a civil tone among their commentors — like PZ has done with this post.

    Like other people have mentioned, I often get as much from the comments as from the post itself, but, if I have to wade through pages of snide and snarky comments, I tend to stay away. I’m looking for comments that contribute something valuable: clarification, elucidation, reasoned disagreement, etc. — or just an interesting story. A snarky putdown is at best just a signal of “I strongly disagree” with no intellectual content or even entertainment value for those of us beyond our teens. It also seems to be mostly a male behavior.

    Now, if we could just eliminate the prevalent idea that showing concern for others or seeking understanding for “the other point of view” is a sign of weakness, …

  88. #88 AC
    August 25, 2006

    Has anyone else noticed that there’s a near-perfect congruence between anti-science types and people who are completely deaf to metaphor and irony?

    I’ve always thought it must be because they use language in a different way, perhaps even process it differently somehow. It reminds me of the mystical idea seen in incantation, golems, and a god speaking the universe into existence – that to say/write/think a thing makes it (at least) as real as the rest of the world.

    Of course, I’m losing patience in my premature old age, so I usually just tell them they owe Plato royalties and laugh at their long-discredited “ancient wisdom”.

  89. #89 Ichthyic
    August 25, 2006

    It’s easy to insult someone we will almost certainly never see, and whose name, in many cases, we will never know. I doubt very much that many here (not all) who resort to insults would ever actually express those same insults in a face-to-face conversation.

    ahhh, but the big difference is, others can easily see you when you pick your nose on the internet; and they hear you when you cuss out the driver next to you.

    It’s like driving on a highway in invisible cars, where everybody has a microphone on and the stereos are all on so loud everybody can hear.

    My point, of course, is that there ARE repercussions, it’s just that there are a lot of folks who simply don’t care.

  90. #90 AndyS
    August 25, 2006

    that there ARE repercussions, it’s just that there are a lot of folks who simply don’t care.

    We can hope PZ’s post has some positive effect as well as the disemvoweling. A bit of directly applied peer pressure might help too.

  91. #91 Wild Wild West
    August 25, 2006

    * Sets up Gatling gun, deals with innumerable jams, and finally gets gun going. *

    * Gleefully hoses down the entire thread, cackling in manic glee as all the posters collapse under the hail of gunfire. *

    There. Shoot first, ask questions later — that’s my motto.

    Now, did any of you have anything to say? No? Good.

  92. #92 Ron Sullivan
    August 25, 2006

    he … opposes abortion

    *BLAM!*

    Oh, sorry. I’ve had an itchy trigger finger since that neOK Corral in Kansas.

    Don’t waste the whiskey or the petroleum. Obviously, the humane alternative is to roll ’em in molasses and birdseed and throw ’em to the chickens. That catapult sounds like fun, tho’. Just don’t let the chickens out till the varmint lands. A catapult on a pirate ship, hmm, you’ve already got sharks out there. Or launch ’em toward the really big squid.

    OK, worth waiting for.

  93. #93 j
    August 25, 2006

    This is too sweet. I’m seeing would-be flames in comment threads that are instead rephrased as strained politeness.

  94. #94 JackGoff
    August 25, 2006

    FSM will make sure their mouths burn like hell by slipping habaneros into the sauce.

  95. #95 junk science
    August 26, 2006

    Now, if we could just eliminate the prevalent idea that showing concern for others or seeking understanding for “the other point of view” is a sign of weakness, …

    I don’t know. I think the mocking in the death penalty thread was a bit extreme, but there’s usually little value in trying to reason with the majority of deliberate idiots. Far better to at least get some entertainment out of them, at the blog owner’s discretion.

  96. #96 MikeM
    August 26, 2006

    My suggestion: Check out The Comics Curmudgeon’s “Cockpit.”

    That is all.

    I’m in Maui! Until tomorrow. It is HOT here.

  97. #97 Kristine
    August 26, 2006

    Gleefully hoses down the entire thread, cackling in manic glee…Now, did any of you have anything to say? No? Good.

    I couldn’t live if I didn’t believe that someday, SkookumPlanet will come riding over that far hill…

    I don’t care what people say, no one can out-gun SkookumPlanet… No matter how long it takes, I’m going to go on believing. SkookumPlanet, where are you? He’ll come back. He will.

    Skooky!

  98. #98 Keith Douglas
    August 26, 2006

    AndyS: That was one possibility. I was thinking more on the lines of a technology class which would, inter alia discuss communication online, how to avoid getting scammed and phished, computer security, basics of using a computer for research in other areas, etc.

  99. #99 Sean
    August 27, 2006

    Well. I jump from response number five to number ninety-nine. That’s what working thirty-two out of the last forty hours will do to a fellow. I suspect it also may have effects on cognitive behavior, so bear with me.

    There have been multiple comments expressing the wish and/or approval for firing salvos into ‘idiots’. I still respectfully disagree and will endeavor to do so in three points.

    1. There have been cases over the years, granted they are quite the minority, where those who have popped into a forum spouting the cliches (why still monkeys/moon dust/darwin recanted/circular dating) are not hopeless idiots. Instead they are newbies to this arena and are armed with one dose of Absolute Wrongness from a friend, Sunday school or ICR pamphlet. A firm, yet reasoned, response has been effective for redeeming these lost souls back to logical orthodoxy.

    2. As for the majority of cliche spouters who are hopeless idiots, I prefer a more civil tone for more than the initial exchanges. PZ, you still observing this thread? What kind of lurker to poster ratio do you typically have here? How many fencesitters and newbies are watching our reactions when someone spouts one of the cliched pieces of idiocy? Some of those cliches can sound somewhat reasonable to one who hasn’t spent time in the trenches. If we respond with a sheer wall of vitriol and sarcasm, we end up with folks who not only think the hopeless idiot has a factual point, but that those in opposition are raging assholes without a valid response.

    3. The first two points dealt with factual areas where I believe there are clearly defined right and wrong sides. There is no rational support for the (why still monkeys/moon dust/darwin recanted/circular dating) cliches. There is rational support for opposing views in areas such as the death penalty, gun control, military spending, social spending, drug laws, the environment, etc etc.

    My views on those topics are shaped by my personal set of values. How do I relatively weigh civil liberties, respect for all life, respect for human life, the value of my personal wealth, safety, etc etc. I expect that perfectly rational and intelligent individuals will assign differing weights to those values and will accordingly have different opinions on the controversial subjects of our society.

    Just different opinions. Not objectively wrong opinions. I will disagree vehemently, but I do try not to dismiss these folks as idiots for having the temerity of weighting fundamental values differently.

  100. #100 angry doens't mean wrong
    August 28, 2006

    Squeaky says

    “… As I got into my car, I reflected on the fact that we easily throw negative comments towards other drivers when they do something stupid, and I realized there is an interesting parallel between the information highway and the actual highway. … It’s easy to insult someone we will almost certainly never see, and whose name, in many cases, we will never know. I doubt very much that many here (not all) who resort to insults would ever actually express those same insults in a face-to-face conversation. This is a very impersonal environment and it is easy to fall into the trap of dehumanizing those who express opinions contrary to our own.”

    This analogy fails for two reasons:
    1. Idiot posters can’t kill you by failing to follow commonsense rules of online interaction.
    2. I can’t add an idiot driver to my “killfile” and skip him when he makes my drive to work take half an hour longer than it should.

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