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Bloggingheads
01-28-2010, 07:55 AM
When originally posted this video included a bit of conversation that was inadvertently recorded after the diavloggers did their official sign-off. Apologies to AemJeff and Bobby G. for the editing error.

look
01-28-2010, 09:56 AM
Oh, snap.

graz
01-28-2010, 10:30 AM
In deference to civility, here is the link for this diavlog:
http://apollo.bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/25639

AemJeff
01-28-2010, 10:41 AM
Apologies to Brendan and Bloggin' Noggin. Bobby and I kept talking for a few minutes after we thought we'd quit recording. The last part here was not intended as part of a public discussion, but both of your names came up in that part of our conversation. I didn't realize it was there in the recording and didn't know that BhTV would post it here. I have asked them to trim that portion from the recording.

graz
01-28-2010, 11:19 AM
Apologies to Brendan and Bloggin' Noggin. Bobby and I kept talking for a few minutes after we thought we'd quit recording. The last part here was not intended as part of a public discussion, but both of your names came up in that part of our conversation. I didn't realize it was there in the recording and didn't know that BhTV would post it here. I have asked them to trim that portion from the recording.

Thanks Jeff and Bobby. The bits after the 24 minute mark are really of a piece with the topic. I would ask Bobby how calling PZ Meyers a douche-bag is squared with his theory of civility. Or how exactly would it be enforced? Bobby's contention that ignoring trolls is the best approach, is a good example of the reason for diversity of opinion on the matter, or where the debate can begin.

I can't speak for Brendan or Bloggin, but the cat is already out of the bag. I know (reasonably assured) that Brendan can face the mild criticism you posed. (Even though I think I understand your impulse to cut it). I would welcome a response. Especially, having followed the exchanges, since I don't believe that Brendan is responsible for Bloggin's absence.
Enter the fray... accept the consequences, including risks. Community standards will adhere and adjust, but spare me anything more than guidelines that are generally mocked eventually anyway.

Let free unfettered speech reign.

nikkibong
01-28-2010, 11:25 AM
Thanks Jeff and Bobby. The bits after the 24 minute mark are really of a piece with the topic. I would ask Bobby how calling PZ Meyers a douche-bag is squared with his theory of civility. Or how exactly would it be enforced? Bobby's contention that ignoring trolls is the best approach, is a good example of the reason for diversity of opinion on the matter, or where the debate can begin.

I can't speak for Brendan or Bloggin, but the cat is already out of the bag. I know (reasonably assured) that Brendan can face the mild criticism you posed. (Even though I think I understand your impulse to cut it). I would welcome a response. Especially, having followed the exchanges, since I don't believe that Brendan is responsible for Bloggin's absence.
Enter the fray... accept the consequences, including risks. Community standards will adhere and adjust, but spare me anything more than guidelines that are generally mocked eventually anyway.

Let free unfettered speech reign.

This all feels very East Anglia, doesn't it?

That said: I'm not sure I agree with you, graz. You are conflating private conversations with public discourse. Since the ostensible topic of this diavlog is how to conduct oneself in PUBLIC, I see no hypocrisy in Bobby G calling PZ Myers a d-bag in private.

Also, the description couldn't be more apt.

BTW: did the bhtv bowers that "b" even bother to watch this thing? Pathetic editing job on their part.

AemJeff
01-28-2010, 11:41 AM
Thanks Jeff and Bobby. The bits after the 24 minute mark are really of a piece with the topic. I would ask Bobby how calling PZ Meyers a douche-bag is squared with his theory of civility. Or how exactly would it be enforced? Bobby's contention that ignoring trolls is the best approach, is a good example of the reason for diversity of opinion on the matter, or where the debate can begin.

I can't speak for Brendan or Bloggin, but the cat is already out of the bag. I know (reasonably assured) that Brendan can face the mild criticism you posed. (Even though I think I understand your impulse to cut it). I would welcome a response. Especially, having followed the exchanges, since I don't believe that Brendan is responsible for Bloggin's absence.
Enter the fray... accept the consequences, including risks. Community standards will adhere and adjust, but spare me anything more than guidelines that are generally mocked eventually anyway.

Let free unfettered speech reign.

It's been cut. I agree that there was nothing particularly alarming about what we said, but the nature of that part of the conversation was private, and none of the people mentioned had been notified that their "names" might be publicly mentioned.

graz
01-28-2010, 11:41 AM
This all feels very East Anglia, doesn't it?

That said: I'm not sure I agree with you, graz. You are conflating private conversations with public discourse.

That is the beauty of this. I actually agree with you that both Jeff and Bobby had an expectation of privacy. But I clearly was privy to their exchange. I also admit that they conducted themselves honorably - who would expect anything less. I also accept the premise of cutting back the dv, but hope that in honor of airing honest opinions or settling an ever present subject in the forum, some consideration is given to the unexpurgated version.

I'm also unclear on the concept of the difference between the public and private realms. Except of course in the case of unexpressed private thoughts. Why should uncivil words expressed in private be treated differently than those in public? Anyone?

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 12:02 PM
Apologies to Brendan and Bloggin' Noggin. Bobby and I kept talking for a few minutes after we thought we'd quit recording. The last part here was not intended as part of a public discussion, but both of your names came up in that part of our conversation. I didn't realize it was there in the recording and didn't know that BhTV would post it here. I have asked them to trim that portion from the recording.

AemJohn (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/22075)?

But seriously ...

I haven't watched this yet, but it looks like, from graz (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=148504#post148504)'s comment, that your request has been fulfilled. Which, as it happens, is worse, at least from my point of view. My imagination, never on a strong leash to begin with, will now be churning until the end of time.

Okay, that's not really serious, either.

I would like to hear what you and Bobby G had to say, if for no reason other than to slake my curiosity, so maybe we can figure out some way for me to get the director's cut? Or, if BN weighs in and gives his approval, have the Bh.tv overlords restore the original recording in full? Could make for a fruitful discussion.

However, as a general matter, I don't have any problem at all with the idea that you two were discussing anything I said (wrote), since my words were presented in a public forum. So, to you and Bobby G: rest easy on that. I suppose if one or both of you said something that I disagreed with strongly, and enough other people saw it, I'd like a chance to respond, but other than that, no worries.

[Added] I see you've posted some follow-up since I started composing the above. If, in the end, you and Bobby G feel strongly enough that what you said was a private conversation only, fine. In that case, consider the matter closed, from my perspective. However, as I said earlier, I am inclined to think airing what you and Bobby G said might be useful, so if the two of you aren't embarrassed by what you said, and BN agrees, repost it, I say.

nikkibong
01-28-2010, 12:07 PM
AemJohn (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/22075)?



ha!

I'll let jeff respond if he wishes - they were his words. But, to my mind, they said nothing offensive about you.

In fact -- maybe they were too easy on you. ;)

nikkibong
01-28-2010, 12:09 PM
I'm also unclear on the concept of the difference between the public and private realms. Except of course in the case of unexpressed private thoughts. Why should uncivil words expressed in private be treated differently than those in public? Anyone?

I would imagine its substantially a pragmatic concern. A society in which the agora is filled with every nasty private thought is not going to be one that functions well. A (slight) degree of self-censorship is required if we're going to get anywhere, or accomplish anything.

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 12:13 PM
ha!

I'll let jeff respond if he wishes - they were his words. But, to my mind, they said nothing offensive about you.

In fact -- maybe they were too easy on you. ;)

Might as well say what's on your mind now.

nikkibong
01-28-2010, 12:17 PM
relax, it was a joke.

AemJeff
01-28-2010, 12:22 PM
Oh, snap.

Who got told?

look
01-28-2010, 12:25 PM
Who got told?Brendan.

AemJeff
01-28-2010, 12:25 PM
Brendan.

Oh, jeeze.

look
01-28-2010, 12:34 PM
Oh, jeeze.

What the hell, Jeff?

AemJeff
01-28-2010, 12:41 PM
What the hell, Jeff?

I hate to drag this out, because some folks have a disadvantaged position here, since the video has been trimmed. But I didn't think it was about "telling" at all, just a more concrete discussion of what we'd been talking about generally. I do understand that it's possible to disagree.

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 01:07 PM
relax, it was a joke.

I'm perfectly relaxed, nikki. You're the one who seems to be uptight about something.

look
01-28-2010, 01:08 PM
I hate to drag this out, because some folks have a disadvantaged position here, since the video has been trimmed. But I didn't think it was about "telling" at all, just a more concrete discussion of what we'd been talking about generally. I do understand that it's possible to disagree.The beauty of it, Jeff, is that you both civilly expressed dismay at Brendan's completely unwarranted trashing of BN.

On another note, I understand that Brendan is a nice guy with a good heart, and he's only attempting to bring it in the Neanderthal manner of the Taibbi/Wonkette end of the leftosphere, with his exclamation points and 1s, his unbearably tedious shorters, his bigoted stance against Southerners (birf certificate), etc. But he's not bringing it, only being an insufferable bore, using this forum as his own personal litter box.

But what I think needs to be considered is that Brendan may have some Althouse in him...a need to be the center of attention, and right now he's probably enjoying this.

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 01:21 PM
I'm also unclear on the concept of the difference between the public and private realms. Except of course in the case of unexpressed private thoughts. Why should uncivil words expressed in private be treated differently than those in public? Anyone?

Seems to me that once you allow for unexpressed private thoughts, the same reasoning would apply to a private conversation, Mr. Franklin's grasp (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/benjaminfr162078.html) of reality notwithstanding.

As with the Journolist kerfuffle, I come down strongly on the notion that people ought to be allowed to let their hair down, vent, backbite, think out loud, whatever, without feeling as though they might have to account for their words to the entire world. It is a form of social lubricant that makes getting along in a society easier. Lots of times, if A says to B (C, D, ...), "You know, X is an asshole sometimes," just saying it makes it easier for A, etc., to move on, and probably even deal with X more easily in the future, whereas being forced to say that to X's face often spurs all sorts of competitive juices, and instincts to retaliate and escalate, and what should have been just a minor, passing thing metastasizes into something much uglier than need be.

This is especially so in this age of potential permanence to what ought to be understood as transient jabbering or even just pure expression of fleeting emotions.

So, as far as this case goes, I say let the whole thing air, if Jeff, BG, and BN are agreeable, because it seems like there might be some things that could benefit from being talked out. However, if any of those three are uncomfortable with the notion, they should be allowed to claim that privilege.

Don Zeko
01-28-2010, 01:23 PM
The half-hour limit returns! Clearly you guys needed PMP in the conversation, so as to excuse front page levels of long-windedness

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 01:23 PM
But what I think needs to be considered is that Brendan may have some Althouse in him...a need to be the center of attention, and right now he's probably enjoying this.

You do know how to hurt a guy, but as it happens, you're wrong.

[Added] You're wrong about this, too:

... his bigoted stance against Southerners (birf certificate) ...

If I am bigoted, I am bigoted against bigots and other stupid people, but there is no geographic constraint. Writing birf cirtifikit is due to the limitations of the medium. It is a textual signifier that I am adopting a tone of voice for the purpose of satire or mockery, much as !!!1! is.

You don't like what I write, don't read it, but don't try to make it into more than it is.

AemJeff
01-28-2010, 01:27 PM
Seems to me that once you allow for unexpressed private thoughts, the same reasoning would apply to a private conversation, Mr. Franklin's grasp (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/b/benjaminfr162078.html) of reality notwithstanding.

As with the Journolist kerfuffle, I come down strongly on the notion that people ought to be allowed to let their hair down, vent, backbite, think out loud, whatever, without feeling as though they might have to account for their words to the entire world. It is a form of social lubricant that makes getting along in a society easier. Lots of times, if A says to B (C, D, ...), "You know, X is an asshole sometimes," just saying it makes it easier for A, etc., to move on, and probably even deal with X more easily in the future, whereas being forced to say that to X's face often spurs all sorts of competitive juices, and instincts to retaliate and escalate, and what should have been just a minor, passing thing metastasizes into something much uglier than need be.

This is especially so in this age of potential permanence to what ought to be understood as transient jabbering or even just pure expression of fleeting emotions.

So, as far as this case goes, I say let the whole thing air, if Jeff, BG, and BN are agreeable, because it seems like there might be some things that could benefit from being talked out. However, if any of those three are uncomfortable with the notion, they should be allowed to claim that privilege.

As I've expressed privately, I have no problem with the entire thing being reposted, so long as everybody else agrees.

Bobby G
01-28-2010, 02:23 PM
Hi everyone,

First, I have to say when I found out about the private conversation being posted I was very angry, and I'm still angry. I thought we had stopped recording at that point.

Second, I also represent my university, so I'm not at all sure I feel comfortable with the rest of the conversation being posted. I'll have to watch it to see what was said.

Third, about private/public civility: I think civility functions differently as a norm in private and public contexts. I think in public contexts you're representing yourself and others in a very different way from the private sphere, and that you need a private sphere, unhindered by civility-norms, in order to figure out what you believe and to vent. Let it also be said that what one says in private is not necessarily their 'real' self. It's easy to say something in private, but when you take it out of the private context, the significance of your words comes to you frontally; you're confronted with the question, "do I really mean X?" And it's not at all clear that you do. You may identify with your words more easily when you're in a private context than you do in a public context. But easy identification could reflect lack of thought rather than your real values.

This leads to what I said (I don't know exactly what I said) about PZ Meyers and Brendan Keefe. Apparently I called PZ Meyers a douche bag. Do I stand by that? No; I wouldn't use that term to describe him in public, because I think it's juvenile, and I don't like to be juvenile in spheres with a public resonance (I also like to go to the bathroom behind closed doors; it's more or less the same principle). That said, I do think his approach to religious matters coarsens the discourse, and I find him arrogant and dismissive towards things that he doesn't know as much about as he thinks he knows. I stand by that.

As for Brendan: I am often quite annoyed at the things Brendan says, though I very rarely find them unreasonable; indeed, part of my annoyance stems from the fact that I think he says disagreeable things so well, and with so much powerful reasoning behind them. I would prefer it sometimes if the views I disagreed with didn't have so much going for them. I do think, and I still think, that his interaction with Bloggin' Noggin' went way over the line.

Unfortunately, I didn't want to talk about any of these things at all, except the private/public distinction. I wanted to talk about civility, and Leiter's take on it, and my take on it, with the Blogging Heads community because I find it contains so many smart people who could be used as a valuable resource. The worst thing that could come of this unfortunate lack of editing is if that didn't happen.

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 02:52 PM
[...]

Once more for the record: I am perfectly happy not to have aired what you would like not to have aired. Sorry the gremlins in the machine bit you. Let's consider it over and done with, at least as far as anything said about me, that you'd rather not share, goes.

rcocean
01-28-2010, 03:11 PM
Hi everyone,
Third, about private/public civility: I think civility functions differently as a norm in private and public contexts. I think in public contexts you're representing yourself and others in a very different way from the private sphere, and that you need a private sphere, unhindered by civility-norms, in order to figure out what you believe and to vent. Let it also be said that what one says in private is not necessarily their 'real' self. It's easy to say something in private, but when you take it out of the private context, the significance of your words comes to you frontally; you're confronted with the question, "do I really mean X?" And it's not at all clear that you do. You may identify with your words more easily when you're in a private context than you do in a public context. But easy identification could reflect lack of thought rather than your real values.

This leads to what I said (I don't know exactly what I said) about PZ Meyers and Brendan Keefe. Apparently I called PZ Meyers a douche bag. Do I stand by that? No; I wouldn't use that term to describe him in public, because I think it's juvenile, and I don't like to be juvenile in spheres with a public resonance (I also like to go to the bathroom behind closed doors; it's more or less the same principle). That said, I do think his approach to religious matters coarsens the discourse, and I find him arrogant and dismissive towards things that he doesn't know as much about as he thinks he knows. I stand by that.

I don't think there's any responsibility to be civil towards 3rd parties in a private conversation. In a certain way, its simply irrelevant what you say behind closed doors. BTW, I think our public life would be much healthier, if we didn't have muckraking journalists and "tell all books" informing us that politician X made scandalous comment Y at a private dinner party or was boinking Ms. Z. Because its really minor BS compared to what they think and do on public issues.

As for PZ Meyers he really is a douche bag. Just like Charles Johnson he's repeatably uncivil toward anyone who disagrees with him. I don't think either of these two DESERVE a civil response. Going out of your way to be civil to the deliberately and repeatably uncivil strikes me as masochism - not responsible public behavior.

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 03:16 PM
I don't think there's any responsibility to be civil towards 3rd parties in a private conversation. In a certain way, its simply irrelevant what you say behind closed doors. BTW, I think our public life would be much healthier, if we didn't have muckraking journalists and "tell all books" informing us that politician X made scandalous comment Y at a private dinner party or was boinking Ms. Z. Because its really minor BS compared to what they think and do on public issues.

How delightful! You and I finally have something we agree on, 100%. (Except for this minor nit: I consider "muckraking journalist" an honorable title, and usually understand it to mean someone who is digging up and exposing stuff that ought to be dug up and exposed.)

As for PZ Meyers he really is a douche bag. Just like Charles Johnson he's repeatably uncivil toward anyone who disagrees with him. I don't think either of these two DESERVE a civil response. Going out of your way to be civil to the deliberately and repeatably uncivil strikes me as masochism - not responsible public behavior.

How do you feel about someone from my political point on the spectrum holding that attitude toward any of the people listed here (http://bjkeefe.blogspot.com/2008/12/its-just-new-toy-o-o.html#the-list)?

Bobby G
01-28-2010, 03:22 PM
As for whether PZ is really a dbag, this gets into a distinction in the philosophical literature between so-called "thin" and "thick" terms. Thin terms aren't descriptive; they're purely normative. Thus, "good" and "bad" don't have any descriptive upshot--they just tell you what the speaker's valuations of a particular thing are. On the other hand, "cruel", "brave", "mendacious", and so on, combine both descriptive and normative elements. If I call someone cruel, you know that I think he's in some way bad, but also that he damages people in some kind of way. "Douchebag" is probably a thick term, though it's hard for me to figure out just what the descriptive upshot is. I take it that it describes someone as unfriendly, arrogant (also a thick term), and other such things. As for as thick terms go, I don't think it's particularly useful.

Now, can the use of thick terms be in keeping with civility? I think so, in theory; it can be a fact that someone is cruel, or brave, etc. But it could also be that the motivation behind using a thick term helps to determine whether it was, in fact, used civilly. If I call a jerk a jerk just to get a rise out of him, then I'm being uncivil. I think this is because conversations might often have certain kinds of aims--in the diavlog I think I describe the aim as getting to the bottom of things--that getting a rise out of someone might interfere with.

nikkibong
01-28-2010, 03:29 PM
As for whether PZ is really a dbag...

i loved this pivot

...this gets into a distinction in the philosophical literature ...

heh

Don Zeko
01-28-2010, 03:40 PM
i loved this pivot

Yep. This kind of comment makes me wish i had taken more Philosophy courses in college.

rcocean
01-28-2010, 04:11 PM
As for whether PZ is really a dbag, this gets into a distinction in the philosophical literature between so-called "thin" and "thick" terms. Thin terms aren't descriptive; they're purely normative. Thus, "good" and "bad" don't have any descriptive upshot--they just tell you what the speaker's valuations of a particular thing are. On the other hand, "cruel", "brave", "mendacious", and so on, combine both descriptive and normative elements. If I call someone cruel, you know that I think he's in some way bad, but also that he damages people in some kind of way. "Douchebag" is probably a thick term, though it's hard for me to figure out just what the descriptive upshot is. I take it that it describes someone as unfriendly, arrogant (also a thick term), and other such things. As for as thick terms go, I don't think it's particularly useful.

Now, can the use of thick terms be in keeping with civility? I think so, in theory; it can be a fact that someone is cruel, or brave, etc. But it could also be that the motivation behind using a thick term helps to determine whether it was, in fact, used civilly. If I call a jerk a jerk just to get a rise out of him, then I'm being uncivil. I think this is because conversations might often have certain kinds of aims--in the diavlog I think I describe the aim as getting to the bottom of things--that getting a rise out of someone might interfere with.

OK - but what's your opinion how much civility we owe the uncivil. I'm not talking about the occasional lapse, I mean people who deliberately and repeatedly treat others with contempt/derision and employ intellectually dishonest methods.

I've never read anything CJ or PZ wrote that indicates a HONEST or sincere desire to engage in intellectual discussion - quite the opposite. Charles Johnson's MO - for example - is to smear, misquote, and practice guilt by association against anyone he disagrees with. Someone called him a "hater" and I think that's accurate.

You can ignore them as much as possible, but to refuse to counterattack against people of their kind seems to be letting them "win".

AemJeff
01-28-2010, 04:20 PM
OK - but what's your opinion how much civility we owe the uncivil. I'm not talking about the occasional lapse, I mean people who deliberately and repeatedly treat others with contempt/derision and employ intellectually dishonest methods.

I've never read anything CJ or PZ wrote that indicates a HONEST or sincere desire to engage in intellectual discussion - quite the opposite. Charles Johnson's MO - for example - is to smear, misquote, and practice guilt by association against anyone he disagrees with. Someone called him a "hater" and I think that's accurate.

You can ignore them as much as possible, but to refuse to counterattack against people of their kind seems to be letting them "win".

A lot of people would disagree with your judgments in both of those cases. How do you square your characterization ("people who deliberately and repeatedly treat others with contempt/derision and employ intellectually dishonest methods") with the judgments of others who wouldn't endorse it in either or both cases? And, especially if it turns out that yours is a minority view, should that judgment be the controlling standard?

rcocean
01-28-2010, 04:34 PM
A lot of people would disagree with your judgments in both of those cases. How do you square your characterization ("people who deliberately and repeatedly treat others with contempt/derision and employ intellectually dishonest methods") with the judgments of others who wouldn't endorse it in either or both cases? And, especially if it turns out that yours is a minority view, should that judgment be the controlling standard?

Because its not really "judgment" - in the sense that all just a matter of personal opinion - like bananas taste better than pears. Any objective observer can read PZ or CJ & see both respond to criticism or disagreement by smears, guilt-by-association, straw-man arguments, and personal attacks and insults.

Of course, I'm assuming you use standard definitions of these words, instead of using "judgment".

AemJeff
01-28-2010, 04:49 PM
Because its not really "judgment" - in the sense that all just a matter of personal opinion - like bananas taste better than pears. Any objective observer can read PZ or CJ & see both respond to criticism or disagreement by smears, guilt-by-association, straw-man arguments, and personal attacks and insults.

Of course, I'm assuming you use standard definitions of these words, instead of using "judgment".

I hate to say it, but your first graf here is simply false. There's no objective standard here, and you seem to be applying your own private definitions as if they were writ in stone. It's fair ro say that both PZ and CJ have crossed the line of civility - it's also fair to say that about you, and me. But I wouldn't characterize you as a basically uncivil person, and I doubt that most people think that way about me. In these particular cases, I think you're allowing personal dislike to control the temperature of your rhetoric; but, more generally, the point is that it's certainly a judgment in all four cases. Take this statement and draw one conclusion, take another and draw another. Who's to say, with certainty, where the line is, or even if it exists short of some absolute that could only exist in a cartoon, or as a result of a neurological problem.

[added]

Ok, I take that last sentence back - there's certainly a point beyond which it would be difficult to defend someone. I definitely contend that neither of these guys comes close to being indefensible, however.

uncle ebeneezer
01-28-2010, 04:53 PM
I would add that in PZ's case I have never seen any examples of intellectual dishonesty on his part. I'm guessing that you haven't read many of his posts on biology. Though they often come up in efforts to combat ridiculous statements by creationists, many of them are simply posts on something interesting from a biological perspective. Oftentimes engaging in intellectual discussion with other posters, commenters, students, biologists etc. The fact that his creationism posts seem to evade intellectual discussion is more a symptom of the fact that the subject-matter isn't really conducive to such a discussion. His responses are typically to the most ridiculous of creationist claims. In these situations the only thing that would be considered "intelligent conversation" would involve him accepting a whole bunch of erroneous assumptions or showing deference to the very premises that he's trying to shoot down. Here's a decent article about his approach:

http://www.stanforddaily.com/cgi-bin/?p=1037697

As I have said before I contend that there is a HUGE assumption that we as a society tip-toe around when the subject of faith comes up. Many of the claims that religions make are utterly ridiculous when held against the facts of observed reality. A skeptic can point out hwy they are ridiculous, but isn't allowed to say that they ARE ridiculous or he/she is branded as a douchebag or some other bad name. People like PZ only get demonized because they refuse to play by the ground-rules that say we must always show respect for other people's superstitions. As for the usefulness of this tactic I can only say that there are plenty of religious people who make all sorts of nasty claims about science and scientists, and atheists, and liberals, with NO factual basis. There are whole channels full of them and legions of supporters who donate money to them. While PZ's approach may not be warm and fuzzy it is crucial for the opposing side to have a couple people who are willing to confront the lunatics on the fringe and call them out on the BS that so much of the rest of society seems to willfully let slide out of the obligation to be "respectful."

messwithtexas
01-28-2010, 05:06 PM
I would imagine its substantially a pragmatic concern. A society in which the agora is filled with every nasty private thought is not going to be one that functions well. A (slight) degree of self-censorship is required if we're going to get anywhere, or accomplish anything.

Are you referring to blogging heads commenters as a group capable of collective accomplishments? That seems pretty high-minded to me. jk. I catch your drift.

But more seriously, I think communication is meaningless outside of its interpretation. When hyperbole is used to make a point among understanding friends it has a very different communicative effect than making hyperbolic statements about someone to there face (or in public or on a comment board or whatever). Something can only be offensive if it is communicated. Not to imply that you are suggesting this, but in general I think its hypersensitive to insist that other people not express thoughts that are offensive to you, even when you are not around. That seems like thought police to me. On the other hand, I agree with Mia Wallace, that once the damage is done, it's done and you can't always keep from being offended, despite trying; we need to be careful with how we're interpreted and who's doing the interpretation.
No, no, no. You can't promise something like that. I have no idea what you're gonna ask me. So you can go ahead and ask me what you're going to ask me, and my natural response could be to get offended. Then, through no fault of my own, I would have broken my promise.

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 05:14 PM
Because its not really "judgment" - in the sense that all just a matter of personal opinion - like bananas taste better than pears. Any objective observer can read PZ or CJ & see both respond to criticism or disagreement by smears, guilt-by-association, straw-man arguments, and personal attacks and insults.

Of course, I'm assuming you use standard definitions of these words, instead of using "judgment".

Not to pile on, but I agree with Jeff (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=148552#post148552) here, and I tried to make the same point earlier, about your confusing a largely subjective evaluation with what the proverbial "objective observer" would say, in the closing question here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=148541#post148541).

In other words, you don't like what CJ or PZ have to say, and/or how they say it, and both of those are legitimate points of view for you to hold and sincerely believe right down to your core, but they aren't True in any sense beyond that.

Bobby G
01-28-2010, 05:17 PM
It's a good question of what the extent of our obligations to be civil to uncivil people are.

As to whether PZ Meyers is uncivil, I'm going to cut and paste a paragraph from this post (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2009/05/alvin_plantinga_gives_philosop.php) on Alvin Plantinga, who is generally regarded as the preeminent philosopher of religion of the 20th century, and who is certainly regarded as a very good philosopher even by devoutly atheist philosophers:

"he more sophisticated creationists like to toss the name 'Alvin Plantinga' into arguments — he's a well-regarded philosopher/theologian who favors Intelligent Design creationism, or more accurately, Christian creationism. I've read some of his work, but not much; it's very bizarre stuff, and every time I get going on one of his papers I hit some ludicrous, literally stupid claim that makes me wonder why I'm wasting time with this pretentious clown, and I give up, throw the paper in the trash, and go read something from Science or Nature to cleanse my palate. Unfortunately, that means that what I have read is typically an indigestible muddled mess that I don't have much interest in discussing, and what I haven't read is something I can't discuss." (Bold-facing mine, italics Meyer's)

I think it's fair to say that Meyers's post on Plantinga is objectively uncivil: he admits he hasn't read much of his work, he admits he's a well-regarded philosopher, but he nonetheless calls claims in his work stupid and him a pretentious clown. Surely the reasonable thing to do would be to stop for a moment and think, "if this guy is so well-regarded, is it possible that my initial assessment of him--or my assessment of him based on five programmatic pages of his work--is rash?" But he doesn't do that; he goes on right on castigating Plantinga in strong terms, and gets a predictable cheer from his audience of commenters.

Now, what obligations do people like me, who more or less agree with Plantinga, have to be civil to people like Meyers? Well, I certainly don't think I am obligated to refrain from calling Meyers's post poorly-informed, rude, arrogant, and the like; and I don't think I'm obliged to refrain from calling Myers himself dyspeptic, rash, ill-informed, and arrogant on the basis of posts like this (he could have been having a bad day when he wrote that, but given that he never retracts it in any way, and given that he tends to write in this vein, I think we can rule that out). I think these would be factually accurate terms to describe Myers's post.

That said, I think we have to ask what results from responding to Myers in this way. First, responding to Myers's actual arguments is important, and that if we don't, we let people like him have the day, which is not a good outcome. Second, if we respond with the same kind of terms he uses, presented in a manner so as to rally support, we may indeed rally support, but support both of us and of him, which is a fractious outcome, and one we may wish to avoid. Third, generally engaging in such kinds of tete-a-tete may make us feel good, and it may be intoxicating, encouraging us to refrain from more civil behaviors in the future and hardening our negative attitudes to Myers, which makes it harder for us to notice his good qualities.

So I think we have an obligation to respond to Myers, and to be clear about the faultiness of his arguments, but we must also respond civilly to him, refrain from calling him things like "douche-bag", in the hopes both that we will not become cruel, and that he may become more tranquil in his manner of expression.

nikkibong
01-28-2010, 05:30 PM
Not to pile on, but I agree with Jeff (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=148552#post148552) here, and I tried to make the same point earlier, about your confusing a largely subjective evaluation with what the proverbial "objective observer" would say, in the closing question here (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=148541#post148541).

In other words, you don't like what CJ or PZ have to say, and/or how they say it, and both of those are legitimate points of view for you to hold and sincerely believe right down to your core, but they aren't True in any sense beyond that.

But there has to be some point at which one can make an objective statement.

Take RS McCain -- one of Jeff and rc's faves. Jeff likes to claim that RS is - objectively - a racist, and he has data points to prove it. But, judging by what you've just posted, rc could turn around and claim,

"In other words, you don't like what RS has to say, and/or how he says it, etc. etc."

But at some point there has to be some some standard of objectivity. RS probably crosses it and can objectively be called a racist.

As for an Objective Standard Of Douchebaggery - oh yes, pz myers definitely qualifies for that designation as well.

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 05:41 PM
I think it's fair to say that Meyers's post on Plantinga is objectively uncivil: ...

I don't, and I would like to propose that we all stop trying to use objectively in this thread. To a first approximation, it's a cheap way to try to make one's own opinion seem more worthy or one's argument seem stronger, and even considered with more appreciation for nuance and less attempt to assign motive, it's just not right. Civility, as with all manner of manners, is largely (if not entirely) in the eyes of the beholder and the society in which the beholder has been raised.

As to your specific complaints ...

... he admits he hasn't read much of his work, he admits he's a well-regarded philosopher, but he nonetheless calls claims in his work stupid and him a pretentious clown.

Yeah, which all by itself makes him close to being civil in my book. He is honest about his lack of familiarity with the work, and he bends over backwards to make clear to his choir (regular readers) that "Hey, just because I don't respect this guy, bear in mind that many other people do."

I know very well the feeling of trying to get into someone who many others tell me I must like or respect, and every time, coming across a stumbling block that for me is just insurmountable. This is a matter of taste, of course, but it is not Wrong to have a minority taste, and it is perfectly legitimate to say that further efforts would be a waste of time, given the data (personal reactions) that have been collected so far.

Surely the reasonable thing to do ...

Surely what you would like him to do ...

... would be to stop for a moment and think, "if this guy is so well-regarded, is it possible that my initial assessment of him--or my assessment of him based on five programmatic pages of his work--is rash?" But he doesn't do that; he goes on right on castigating Plantinga in strong terms, and gets a predictable cheer from his audience of commenters.

Yeah, so what. There isn't enough time to give full attention and limitless chances to someone. So he makes a snap judgment, as do we all, many times a day. You can then make whatever judgment you like about his snap judgment, as you in fact go on to do.

Now, what obligations do people like me, who more or less agree with Plantinga, have to be civil to people like Meyers?

None. Whether you will be civil to or about PZ on this matter depends only on one, maybe two, things: how you would like to conduct yourself, and possibly, how important it is to you to persuade others of your view on the matter, and what strategy you think would best serve your ends.

So I think we have an obligation to respond to Myers, and to be clear about the faultiness of his arguments, but we must also respond civilly ...

No. There is no "obligation" and there is no "must" for "we." As with my complaint about "objectively" above, I think you're trying to impose your own tastes, or possibly your own views about strategy, onto everyone else. Do what you like, and do what you think works best if you think the point is important enough to try to win, but in the end, these are your opinions alone. (Which may be far from unique, to be sure.)

... and that he may become more tranquil in his manner of expression.

I think you would be amazed at how tranquil PZ is. Apart from an impatience for nonsense and a pugnacious attitude about the privileged position of faith, he's about as low-key and nice a guy as I can imagine, even when he's debating creationists in person. Yeah, he's plain-spoken on his blog about a couple of pet peeves, and he's marvelously persistent in fighting against the forces of woo, but that's only a slice of who he is.

graz
01-28-2010, 05:47 PM
...So I think we have an obligation to respond to Myers, and to be clear about the faultiness of his arguments, but we must also respond civilly to him, refrain from calling him things like "douche-bag", in the hopes both that we will not become cruel, and that he may become more tranquil in his manner of expression...

I think your giving him too much credit by calling his dismissal an argument. It 's really an expression of personal preference or bias. While you may not want to waste time gleaning what his motives might be. That would likely be more interesting than meeting his incivility with a kind rebuke. Just like in the forum... the ignore function is always available.

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 06:04 PM
But there has to be some point at which one can make an objective statement.

Well, partly, we're just not agreeing on what the word connotes. To a large degree, I take objectively as a binary descriptor -- either something is objectively {true|false, right|wrong, black|white, ...} or it is not.

However, I can see that we can conceive of a continuum, where Perfectly Objective and Purely Subjective are the two endpoints. So, in that light ...

Take RS McCain -- one of Jeff and rc's faves. Jeff likes to claim that RS is - objectively - a racist, and he has data points to prove it. But, judging by what you've just posted, rc could turn around and claim,

"In other words, you don't like what RS has to say, and/or how he says it, etc. etc."

I would say that there is a fairly well-understood meaning of racist, although it's hard to specify a complete definition in words, and I think the plethora of examples of RSM's written remarks means that Jeff's characterization loosely holds. But I would say the situation is more precisely (accurately?) described as: "By the conventions of 21st Western society, most or all of these are racially-tinged and offensive statements to most people, and taken as a whole, combined with RSM's lack of contrition about them, it is a reasonable bit of shorthand to call him a racist."

But ...

But at some point there has to be some some standard of objectivity. RS probably crosses it and can objectively be called a racist.

... no, I just don't agree with that, and I certainly don't agree with this:

As for an Objective Standard Of Douchebaggery - oh yes, pz myers definitely qualifies for that designation as well.

As I said at the beginning of my response (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=148558#post148558) to Bobby G, to a first approximation, using objectively as a modifier is too often just a cheap way to try to make one's own opinion seem more worthy or one's argument seem stronger. There are a lot of people who don't consider RSM a racist, and there are a lot of people who don't consider PZ a douchebag.

Now, I feel very strongly in disagreement with the first group, and very strongly in agreement with the second, but there is no Right or Wrong about it. At most, you can say something like "the overwhelming majority perceives X to be a Y," but when the minority view is as large as it is in these two examples, I just don't think you can say that there is an objective answer to the dispute. Maybe, in general, when the minority point of view gets to be small enough, the majority view becomes effectively "objectively right," but that's not what obtains here.

Generally, perceptions of the form "[person] is a [label]" are driven in large part by emotions, tribal loyalties, and other non-rational parts of what makes us human, so by definition, it seems to me, perceptions of this sort cannot be objectively true or false.

Bobby G
01-28-2010, 06:14 PM
I don't, and I would like to propose that we all stop trying to use objectively in this thread. To a first approximation, it's a cheap way to try to make one's own opinion seem more worthy or one's argument seem stronger, and even considered with more appreciation for nuance and less attempt to assign motive, it's just not right. Civility, as with all manner of manners, is largely (if not entirely) in the eyes of the beholder and the society in which the beholder has been raised.

I'm not going to stop using "objectively", because I disagree with your premise that what is civil is largely or entirely in the eye of the beholder. I also don't think aesthetics is largely or entirely in the eye of the beholder--for instance, I think The Godfather is objectively a better film than Mobsters. Moreover, I can give reasons for this assessment, and similarly I can give reasons for my assessment that Meyers is uncivil. When I say "objectively uncivil", I don't mean it to amount to the claim that there is some object, incivility, that I have discovered using the scientific method. Rather, I think, given that there is a term, "uncivil", that has a commonly accepted definition, and that rationally speaking there is no way to hold that Meyers's conduct is not uncivil without having to conclude that incivility is an empty term.

Yeah, which all by itself makes him close to being civil in my book. He is honest about his lack of familiarity with the work, and he bends over backwards to make clear to his choir (regular readers) that "Hey, just because I don't respect this guy, bear in mind that many other people do."

I don't see at all why that should make his uncivil remarks count as more civil. If I go off on a rant and say I hate Hispanics, and deride them in unflattering terms, but then caution that what I say is based on just a few personal experiences, that doesn't make me civil, or even more civil. My remarks are still uncivil, and the incivility is compounded by the fact that I have a clear-eyed view of the precarious ground on which I stand, and yet I nonetheless make the remarks. So I would say that in this case I'm both uncivil and also rash.

I know very well the feeling of trying to get into someone who many others tell me I must like or respect, and every time, coming across a stumbling block that for me is just insurmountable. This is a matter of taste, of course, but it is not Wrong to have a minority taste, and it is perfectly legitimate to say that further efforts would be a waste of time, given the data (personal reactions) that have been collected so far.

It's not wrong to have a minority taste, certainly not, but the degree to which you're obliged to examine an author's work should depend, at least so it appears to me, to some degree on the level of respect he receives from people whose opinions you have significant reason to trust.

Yeah, so what. There isn't enough time to give full attention and limitless chances to someone. So he makes a snap judgment, as do we all, many times a day. You can then make whatever judgment you like about his snap judgment, as you in fact go on to do.

Right; he made an uncivil snap judgment on a shaky basis, and I described it as such. We both agree on the description of the situation, then.

None. Whether you will be civil to or about PZ on this matter depends only on one, maybe two, things: how you would like to conduct yourself, and possibly, how important it is to you to persuade others of your view on the matter, and what strategy you think would best serve your ends.

If by the locution, "whether you will be civil" you mean to be making a descriptive statement of the factors that determine how I end up conducting myself, then your statement is close to being true, but probably leaves out a number of non-neglibile psychological factors. But if by the locution "whether you will be civil" you mean to say "whether I should be civil", as it appears you do (why else would you say "None" to my question of what obligations I have to Plantinga?), then you're making a quite contentious point that depends on a large number of philosophcial presuppositions, and the manner in which you're articulating yourself suggests that you're informing me of something as uncontentious as a well-established claim of number theory, rather than what is in fact something quite controversial.

As it happens, I reject your claim that the only thing that determines whether I have an obligation to conduct myself civilly depends on my own wants. I think it is the case that I have moral oblgiations, and that these moral obligations do not depend on my occurrent desires, but rather on something else: arguably, on some consequentialist ground--say, what happens if people generally make it a policy of acting uncivilly, and would such an outcome be one that is good for the world?--or on some deontological ground--can I rationally will a world in which everyone acts uncivilly in circumstances like this--or on some virtue ethical ground--does it contribute to human flourishing for me to conduct myself uncivilly?

No. There is no "obligation" and there is no "must" for "we." As with my complaint about "objectively" above, I think you're trying to impose your own tastes, or possibly your own views about strategy, onto everyone else. Do what you like, and do what you think works best if you think the point is important enough to try to win, but in the end, these are your opinions alone. (Which may be far from unique, to be sure.)

I take it, from this remark, that you don't think there are any such things as moral obligations--all there are are desires, or preferences, and so discourse about what we should and shouldn't do reduces just to what we want to happen, and so argument really reduces to a power-play. Certainly, if I took that view, I wouldn't hew much to the norm of civility, except when it suited me, but I don't hew to that view.

I think you would be amazed at how tranquil PZ is. Apart from an impatience for nonsense and a pugnacious attitude about the privileged position of faith, he's about as low-key and nice a guy as I can imagine, even when he's debating creationists in person. Yeah, he's plain-spoken on his blog about a couple of pet peeves, and he's marvelously persistent in fighting against the forces of woo, but that's only a slice of who he is.

Fair enough; it could be that the way he conducts himself in his online personna has nothing to do with how he behaves in his personal life. It's just an empirical hypothesis on my part that how you condcut yourself inj one sphere of life may have effects on your integrity as a person. But perhaps that's wrong.

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 06:45 PM
... here are some thoughts that occurred to me, especially in reaction to some of what Bobby G was saying at the end of the diavlog.

Thinking about this from my own perspective, there are a number of reasons why my tone can be as it is ("uncivil"). Sometimes, admittedly, it's just simple human failing -- loss of temper, letting a troll get under my skin, etc. Most often, though, it is purposeful and though I'm not going to claim to be proud of every last word I've ever posted, generally, being something other than civil (whatever that might mean) is not something I look back on with regret. I am of the various views that:

(1) Some ideas and/or people are contemptible and so should be treated with contempt.

(2) While some people are trolls who thrive on irritated attention, others can in fact be silenced by use of mockery, harshness, or other less than pleasant tones. This can also apply to people who are just honestly mistaken about what the boundaries are, and it may be the quickest way to get them back onto the right path.

(3) I tend to give what I get. Maybe my ideological opponents who most strenuously rail against me and my tone don't realize how their words come across, but while not at all claiming perfection here, I do think I'm pretty good at responding in kind, and I can, do, and like to have civil exchanges with someone with whom I strongly disagree about a worthwhile idea.

(4) As far as my perspective vis-a-vis the rest of the world goes, on political and politically-tinged matters, I will never be dissuaded of this: the coarsening of discourse writ large is almost entirely due to (a) the right-wing noise machine's scorched-earth, pull-no-punches, easier-to-ask-forgiveness-than-permission approach, and (b) the reluctance of most prominent voices on the left and in the center to stand up to the bullies. So, maybe I'm deluded in estimating the contribution I can make, or maybe I'm tilting at windmills, but I see a requirement to fight fire with fire, and to get down and roll around in the mud with the pigs, even if some of them enjoy it. The taking of this stance has to start somewhere; in fact, it has to be made in many places. I'm a foot-soldier in the bray-gun revolution, if you like, and no one will ever convince me otherwise that many complaints about me come from people who plain don't like the taste of their own medicine. (Granted, sometimes I dish out two spoonfuls in response to getting one.) [Added: see also (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=149169#post149169).]

(5) Snarking, or what used to be called "playing the dozens," is just plain fun. Being clever at someone else's expense -- going for the oh, snap! -- is entertaining, to do and to watch.

These are more or less independent motivations, on a case-by-case basis.

==========

As far as this forum goes, and as far as Internet-hosted political arguments in general go, I want to say two things.

First, I largely agree with Jeff, and disagree with Leiter (as presented by Bobby G -- haven't clicked those links yet) in that there is some hope of persuasion when arguing politics. You might win over the person with whom you're engaged; you might also, as Jeff says, sway others who are following the discussion. (After all, why do we all watch diavlogs, and why do people do them?) You're probably not going to flip someone by any one exchange, no matter how telling, but it's a process -- you keep presenting and refining your point of view, and hope to get people moving in your direction over time.

Second, for better or for worse, the tone of discussion is one that has been arrived at by an evolving process of consensus. Most of us just accept that we play a little rougher on this site than we might in some other setting. I think of it this way: when you're playing pick-up basketball, it is understood that there is a slightly different set of rules than exist when you're playing organized ball, in a league, with referees. For example, you can call "gimme that" when someone whacks your arm while you're shooting a jump shot, and by and large, people respect your call (if they're interested in keeping the game going). But you do not try to take a charge, or gripe about most of the banging that happens when going after a rebound. No one else wants to hear that, and if you try to make those calls, you are invited to find another game elsewhere.

Bobby G
01-28-2010, 06:47 PM
I haven't read your response yet, but regardless of its content, which I'll discover in a moment, thanks for responding directly to the diavlog.

Ocean
01-28-2010, 06:47 PM
It's been cut. I agree that there was nothing particularly alarming about what we said, but the nature of that part of the conversation was private, and none of the people mentioned had been notified that their "names" might be publicly mentioned.

This is discrimination! Against those of us who are at work all day and unable to watch these diavlogs until the evening when all kinds of cuts have been made!! Censorship!!!

OK. Deep breath. I'm calmer now. I can't wait until I listen to this purified version of the original. :)

uncle ebeneezer
01-28-2010, 06:53 PM
Bobby, I haven't had a chance to watch yet but I look forward to it. --UE

Ocean
01-28-2010, 07:52 PM
Interesting talk. As usual too short.

It seems that the topic was kept at a rather general and abstract level. Although there was an attempt to define what civility, or lack of, means for this discussion, I think it would help to make some distinction between levels of civility.

There is a certain level of mocking or use of inflammatory language that makes the observer reject the party that articulates it or reject the whole interaction. Of course the participants may not care about the effect on the observers, but I would imagine that for the most part they do.

When interactions become too uncivil, they seem to be a vehicle for venting anger and frustration, or perhaps to exert dominance or intimidation, but they usually greatly lose in rationality and as an effective means of persuasion.

I would love to hear the other commenters' opinion about the role of gender in the effect that these interactions may have. The reasons are obvious.

AemJeff
01-28-2010, 08:09 PM
Interesting talk. As usual too short.

It seems that the topic was kept at a rather general and abstract level. Although there was an attempt to define what civility, or lack of, means for this discussion, I think it would help to make some distinction between levels of civility.

There is a certain level of mocking or use of inflammatory language that makes the observer reject the party that articulates it or reject the whole interaction. Of course the participants may not care about the effect on the observers, but I would imagine that for the most part they do.

When interactions become too uncivil, they seem to be a vehicle for venting anger and frustration, or perhaps to exert dominance or intimidation, but they usually greatly lose in rationality and as an effective means of persuasion.

I would love to hear the other commenters' opinion about the role of gender in the effect that these interactions may have. The reasons are obvious.

Now that I've watched it through, I have to say I wish we'd spent time exploring the definition and the boundaries more carefully, before we started in earnest on the implications; but there's only so much you can do in a limited time.

Gender opens some interesting questions doesn't it? The presence of a woman in a discussion can have paradoxical effects, for instance putting some men on their best behavior while simultaneously raising the general emotional temperature. There are probably a few doctoral theses to be had on that theme.

Ocean
01-28-2010, 08:43 PM
Now that I've watched it through, I have to say I wish we'd spent time exploring the definition and the boundaries more carefully, before we started in earnest on the implications; but there's only so much you can do in a limited time.

The lack of sufficient time has been a problem in many Apollo diavlogs. Perhaps we should have these topics discussed in 30 minute (or whatever the time limit is) episodes.

Gender opens some interesting questions doesn't it? The presence of a woman in a discussion can have paradoxical effects, for instance putting some men on their best behavior while simultaneously raising the general emotional temperature. There are probably a few doctoral theses to be had on that theme.

In terms of the presence of a woman putting men on their best behavior, well, we wish! Raising the general emotional temperature, we wish not!

I was thinking more about the particular styles of interaction that a woman may favor, find productive or even tolerate.

kezboard
01-28-2010, 09:07 PM
I would post this as a new thread because it's not specific to this particular diavlog, but I'm not allowed to create new threads in this section. Why can't you download the Apollo diavlogs as a podcast? Why don't you get them automatically when you sign up for the bhtv podcast on itunes?

Bobby G
01-28-2010, 09:30 PM
Thinking about this from my own perspective, there are a number of reasons why my tone can be as it is ("uncivil"). Sometimes, admittedly, it's just simple human failing -- loss of temper, letting a troll get under my skin, etc. Most often, though, it is purposeful and though I'm not going to claim to be proud of every last word I've ever posted, generally, being something other than civil (whatever that might mean) is not something I look back on with regret. I am of the various views that:

(1) Some ideas and/or people are contemptible and so should be treated with contempt. (boldfacing mine)

I agree that some ideas and people are contemptible. Whether they should therefore be treated with contempt is something I'm less sure of. I'm willing provisionally, and perhaps finally, to grant that it's morally permissible to treat contemptible people/ideas with contempt; but even if you have such a right, I don't think it follows that you "should" exercise that right. (Of course, by "should" maybe you mean something like "it's fitting/appropriate that they".)

(2) While some people are trolls who thrive on irritated attention, others can in fact be silenced by use of mockery, harshness, or other less than pleasant tones. This can also apply to people who are just honestly mistaken about what the boundaries are, and it may be the quickest way to get them back onto the right path.

These are empirical questions, and it's hard to tell who's right about this, but even supposing this gets honestly-intentioned people back on the right track, it doesn't follow that it's all-things-considered what you should do; as I said in the diavlog, I think being uncivil may have bad effects both on the person who is uncivil and the target of the incivility.

(3) I tend to give what I get. Maybe my ideological opponents who most strenuously rail against me and my tone don't realize how their words come across, but while not at all claiming perfection here, I do think I'm pretty good at responding in kind, and I can, do, and like to have civil exchanges with someone with whom I strongly disagree about a worthwhile idea.

At least in some cases, your opponents must realize how their words come off. That said, I noticed your caveat that while you like to have civil exchanges about ideas you disagree with, the ideas have to seem to you to be "worthwhile". I think if you don't find the idea worthwhile, incivility is not usually, maybe not ever, the overall best response. You could explain in civil terms why you find the idea worthless or offensive, but I don't know why adding an uncivil tone to it (if indeed incivility amounts just to a tone; I'm still not sure about that) is something you would want to add.

(4) As far as my perspective vis-a-vis the rest of the world goes, on political and politically-tinged matters, I will never be dissuaded of this: the coarsening of discourse writ large is almost entirely due to (a) the right-wing noise machine's scorched-earth, pull-no-punches, easier-to-ask-forgiveness-than-permission approach, and (b) the reluctance of most prominent voices on the left and in the center to stand up to the bullies. So, maybe I'm deluded in estimating the contribution I can make, or maybe I'm tilting at windmills, but I see a requirement to fight fire with fire, and to get down and roll around in the mud with the pigs, even if some of them enjoy it. The taking of this stance has to start somewhere; in fact, it has to be made in many places. I'm a foot-soldier in the bray-gun revolution, if you like, and no one will ever convince me otherwise that many complaints about me come from people who plain don't like the taste of their own medicine. (Granted, sometimes I dish out two spoonfuls in response to getting one.)

I'm still thinking about this; I'll grant for now that the coarsening of discourse is due to the right-wing, but even so I want to figure out whether responding to them uncivilly is the appropriate way to respond.

(5) Snarking, or what used to be called "playing the dozens," is just plain fun. Being clever at someone else's expense -- going for the oh, snap! -- is entertaining, to do and to watch.

I agree with this, and I think it's a big motivation for why people snark. So, to the extent that a norm of civility is at odds with snark, acting civilly may make life less fun.

That said, it may not; there may be a certain kind of satisfaction you can get by being above that particular kind of fray. But I have to think about this more.

First, I largely agree with Jeff, and disagree with Leiter (as presented by Bobby G -- haven't clicked those links yet) in that there is some hope of persuasion when arguing politics. You might win over the person with whom you're engaged; you might also, as Jeff says, sway others who are following the discussion.

I don't think that Leiter would necessarily disagree that persuasion is not something to hope for in political discussion. I'm not sure whether his view is: "persuasion is not to be hoped for in online and most public political discussion" or "persuasion is not to be hoped for in online and most public political discussion if discourse is constrained by a civility norm."

(After all, why do we all watch diavlogs, and why do people do them?)

Even if Leiter-as-presented-by-me is right that arguments aren't persuasive, it doesn't follow that most people realize that. And even if they realize that, it doesn't follow that they have no reason to do/watch diavlogs. After all, you can get a frisson from watching someone say what you think is dumb, or smart.

Second, for better or for worse, the tone of discussion is one that has been arrived at by an evolving process of consensus. Most of us just accept that we play a little rougher on this site than we might in some other setting. I think of it this way: when you're playing pick-up basketball, it is understood that there is a slightly different set of rules than exist when you're playing organized ball, in a league, with referees. For example, you can call "gimme that" when someone whacks your arm while you're shooting a jump shot, and by and large, people respect your call (if they're interested in keeping the game going). But you do not try to take a charge, or gripe about most of the banging that happens when going after a rebound. No one else wants to hear that, and if you try to make those calls, you are invited to find another game elsewhere.

I think that's an important point--what counts as civil is going to be to some degree context-dependent. It's certainly the case that something that counts as civil here wouldn't count as civil in the classroom.

graz
01-28-2010, 09:33 PM
Why can't you download the Apollo diavlogs as a podcast? Why don't you get them automatically when you sign up for the bhtv podcast on itunes?

Plessy vs Ferguson (1896).
Or more likely technical limitations.

osmium
01-28-2010, 09:56 PM
I would love to hear the other commenters' opinion about the role of gender in the effect that these interactions may have. The reasons are obvious.

Entire square light years of the internet are male posturing bullshit.

osmium
01-28-2010, 10:00 PM
(1) Some ideas and/or people are contemptible and so should be treated with contempt.


I aspire more to the John Stuart Mill line that all ideas are healthy for arriving at the truth.

People can act pretty shitty sometimes though, I'll agree with that.

Ocean
01-28-2010, 10:13 PM
Entire square light years of the internet are male posturing bullshit.

LOL!

kezboard
01-28-2010, 10:17 PM
I'm a believer in the idea that some things should just be banished from public discourse unless there's a really, really, really good reason to bring them up. The reason I believe this has to do with my reaction to the debate about torture. I think it's revolting, bad, and corrosive to society that a debate about torture even exists. If I recall, the debate began right after September 11, when a bunch of people asked the question "Now that we're all so scared of terrorism, are we willing to consider torturing people to avert it?" There wasn't any more evidence on September 12 than there was on September 10 that torture works, nor were the moral arguments in favor of it any more convincing. It was just a hypothetical question that seemed more existentially important after those planes crashed into the World Trade Center. The more we talk about torture as a possible tool in the "war on terror", the more this kind of immorality is normalized, the worse it is. From my point of view, it's just not civil to argue in favor of torture and anyone who does so should be roundly ignored by right-thinking people.

I realize that this argument is somewhat similar to the argument put forward by opponents of gay marriage and gay rights, who attempted to change the Oregon state constitution in 1992 to forbid teachers from mentioning homosexuality in a positive or even neutral light and to "assist in setting a standard for Oregon's youth which recognizes that these behaviors are abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse and they are to be discouraged and avoided". [It didn't pass. I don't think it had any effect on this particular Oregon youth's adoption of that particular unnatural and perverse behavior, but the people behind that measure would probably disagree.] The idea behind prohibiting anyone in the government from speaking about homosexuality with anything but abhorrence is sort of similar to my belief that arguments in favor of torture should be banished from polite society, although I wouldn't try and pass a ballot measure about it. All I have to say about that is that homosexuality isn't wrong and torture is. Torture causes unnecessary suffering and promotes sadism as a political tool, and the arguments against homosexuality are either based in religious teaching that I don't believe in and has no place in the government anyway, or bad sociology and history, and further, that torture is incompatible with democracy and the rule of law and homosexuality isn't.

There are other arguments that I think sort of skirt the edge of incivility depending on what your beliefs are. Peter Singer's argument for infanticide is certainly one of them. The argument for abortion, the death penalty, or how many civilian deaths are acceptable in war (or whether war can be moral at all) could be another. Whether or not these arguments should be had, I think, depends on how good the argument is. The torture argument is not good enough and, like I said, is based in sadism and revenge fantasy. However, it's possible to make a case in favor of legal abortion -- a fetus isn't really a person, nobody actually thinks of a fetus as a person regardless of what their picket signs might say (hence the rape/incest exception or abortion opponents' general unwillingness to say that they would support trying women who get abortions as murderers), etc. -- or in favor of continuing or starting a particular war because the leader of a country is causing more suffering than would be caused through a war. These arguments may be wrong or right and you might think abortion or war is bad or good, whatever, but they're actual arguments based in logic and can't simply be boiled down to hatred for the civilians of the country you're at war with or desire to destroy fetuses.

Peter Singer's argument has a logic to it as well, although I think that there is something unacceptable in his morality. But the fact that he and other utilitarians don't seem to be motivated by cruelty towards newborns or the disabled does something to excuse them. I really don't know. I guess I'm arguing that the motives that someone might have in putting forth an idea are worth considering when you're deciding how acceptable or unacceptable it is. If the motives are ones that are generally good for society -- empathy, rationality, compassion, awareness of our own limits, and so forth -- it's worth having an argument over. If an idea is motivated by jingoism, revenge, hatred, superstition, etc., it simply isn't.

God, this was tl;dr, and I'm sure there are plenty of holes in this argument. Please tear it up and I'll try to clarify if I can.

Baltimoron
01-28-2010, 10:24 PM
I see so many of the opinions in the diavlog and on the threads as a reaction to Sunstein's warning about cyber balkanization. The Latin rot of 'civility' comes from the Latin word for'city'. Those who lived in a city acted differently from the barbarians. But, I don't see the cybersphere as I do a courtroom or legislature, the modern equivalents of the agora, where market and deliberation existed side by side. These spaces have a decorum associated with them. But, cybersphere is not the agora, and perhaps not even part of the real world city. It might even be its antithesis, the place where people go not to be themselves, citizens, or civil, and not to have decorum. Public places have their own mores, and the function of the cybersphere might still be forming, too.

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 10:58 PM
I'm not going to stop using "objectively", because I disagree with your premise that what is civil is largely or entirely in the eye of the beholder. I also don't think aesthetics is largely or entirely in the eye of the beholder--for instance, I think The Godfather is objectively a better film than Mobsters.

Okay, first, I said the beholder and the norms according to which the beholder was raised (or something like that), so it is more than just me saying, "each cat his own rat."

But more fundamentally, I guess we just disagree, either on the meaning of the word or where it can legitimately be applied. And as far as aesthetics go, certainly, one can have a more educated eye, and so it means more to me if a curator tells me about a painting than it does if some schlub starts going on about "I don't know much about art, but ...," but in the end, I'm with the Duke: if it sounds good, it is good. When you try to say that there is anything "objectively right" about what I consider matters of taste and perception (albeit matters sensitively subject to refinement), I just say, no, this is where we have to disagree.

Moreover, I can give reasons for this assessment, and similarly I can give reasons for my assessment that Meyers is uncivil.

Sure. We are all very good at rationalizing choices we make, after the fact.

That's not to dismiss, completely, the idea that you are capable of thinking about this rationally and have put work into intellectually analyzing your reactions. It's just to remind you that in human-to-human interactions, even at the rarefied remove of an academic responding to a second academic's remarks about a third academic's academic specialty, there are still all kinds of monkey juices flowing below the surface.

When I say "objectively uncivil", I don't mean it to amount to the claim that there is some object, incivility, that I have discovered using the scientific method. Rather, I think, given that there is a term, "uncivil", that has a commonly accepted definition, and that rationally speaking there is no way to hold that Meyers's conduct is not uncivil without having to conclude that incivility is an empty term.

Well, I don't know how reasonable a person you consider me to be, in general, but let's assume you're at least at "sorta." If so, what does it mean to you when I say I completely reject your assessment of PZ as uncivil? I can accept that you don't agree, I could even accept that a majority share your view, but I will never agree that I am Wrong about this.

I don't think this is the same as saying that "incivility is an empty term." Certainly, the term as a general principle is well-understood without much ambiguity. But I don't accept that because this is so, it follows that something or someone specific can be said to be objectively uncivil, except as I said elsewhere, when so many people agree about the case at hand that it becomes so, for all practical purposes.

I don't see at all why that should make his uncivil remarks count as more civil. If I go off on a rant and say I hate Hispanics, ...

I don't accept the analogy. Being Hispanic is not the same thing as choosing to believe in some sort of wingnut version of religion or some moonbat version of healing woo. Not even close. Though I'll grant that PZ, like all of us, does from time to time indulge himself in ad hominem banter, his oppositional stance is at core driven by the ideas and the actions freely chosen by those he belittles.

It's not wrong to have a minority taste, certainly not, but the degree to which you're obliged to examine an author's work should depend, at least so it appears to me, to some degree on the level of respect he receives from people whose opinions you have significant reason to trust.

No, I don't accept that fully. I accept it to the extent that the self-appointed critic is trying to pass himself off as an expert (say, a book reviewer for a major media outlet), or is demanding respect for his point of view, especially in a scholarly environment, or something along those lines. But on a blog? From a guy who averages half a dozen posts a day? Who has made clear that (a) he hasn't put much effort in and (b) lots of other people have respect for this author? Nah. He played more than fair there, and to the extent that some of his readers allow their opinions to be fully formed by his off-hand dismissal, that's on them, not him.

Whoops. Misread the end part. I thought you were talking about PZ being in the position of commanding respect. Now I see that's not what you said. So: Even if I accept that PZ said "lots of people who I respect think the world of this guy," instead of "lots of people think the world of this guy," it still doesn't mean to me that PZ is obliged to keep beating his head against a wall. If his cohort wants to have a serious discussion about the author, and he wants in, then, yes. But if he doesn't want in, and he's just saying, "Here's why I don't want in," I don't see the problem. Seems to me its the same as all his friends going to this great new seafood restaurant, and all of them agree the chef is the best in town, and PZ says, "Sorry, I don't like the taste of fish. I've tried it nine times and thrown up each time. Fish is gross, and anyway, you losers, I don't see how anyone can be so stupid as to eat something that swims around in its own toilet."

Bit of a stretch, but I hope you see where I'm coming from.

Right; he made an uncivil snap judgment on a shaky basis, and I described it as such. We both agree on the description of the situation, then.

Sneaky sneaky! Wag of the finger! I did not agree that making a snap judgment was uncivil. In fact, my point was the exact opposite, particularly in the example at hand.

If by the locution, "whether you will be civil" you mean ...

Taxi!

You're going too deep into the philosophical weeds for me here. Sorry. All I meant is it's up to you how to conduct yourself in response to someone who puts you off. I don't accept any of the larger implications about moral obligations or whatever, and with all due respect to your profession, I do not find them worth thinking about for this situation. It's a blog, on the Internet. Next question?

I take it, from this remark, that you don't think there are any such things as moral obligations-- ...

You take it wrong. I think in terms of moral obligations for lots of things. But not for something like how one guy says on his blog about another guy, "Meh. Don't care for him, don't see what others see in him. He's a bozo. Let's talk about something interesting, like squid."

Fair enough; it could be that the way he conducts himself in his online personna has nothing to do with how he behaves in his personal life. It's just an empirical hypothesis on my part that how you condcut yourself inj one sphere of life may have effects on your integrity as a person. But perhaps that's wrong.

Boy have you got a lot to learn about people, especially as they present when typing online.

;)

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 11:19 PM
(boldfacing mine)

I agree that some ideas and people are contemptible. Whether they should therefore be treated with contempt is something I'm less sure of. I'm willing provisionally, and perhaps finally, to grant that it's morally permissible to treat contemptible people/ideas with contempt; but even if you have such a right, I don't think it follows that you "should" exercise that right. (Of course, by "should" maybe you mean something like "it's fitting/appropriate that they".)

You have to go back to the line that preceded the list, and think of it as being distributed over each item in the list: "I am of the various views that:"

In other words, "I think." I don't claim it's Right. I was just trying to outline why I act as I do and why I, personally, am okay with myself acting that way. And to repeat what I said elsewhere, I don't trouble myself overmuch with whether my reasons for being uncivil are moral or not. Shooting the breeze on an Internet forum does not seem significant enough an activity to be weighted down with such considerations.

These are empirical questions, and it's hard to tell who's right about this, but even supposing this gets honestly-intentioned people back on the right track, it doesn't follow that it's all-things-considered what you should do; as I said in the diavlog, I think being uncivil may have bad effects both on the person who is uncivil and the target of the incivility.

Could well be. On the other hand, this reason is not one I claim always applies, or that I think it always works. It is just one of the possible reasons I act as I do, in some cases.

At least in some cases, your opponents must realize how their words come off. That said, I noticed your caveat that while you like to have civil exchanges about ideas you disagree with, the ideas have to seem to you to be "worthwhile". I think if you don't find the idea worthwhile, incivility is not usually, maybe not ever, the overall best response. You could explain in civil terms why you find the idea worthless or offensive, but I don't know why adding an uncivil tone to it (if indeed incivility amounts just to a tone; I'm still not sure about that) is something you would want to add.

Most of this goes back to my first reason -- some ideas are contemptible.

I would also say that I do, from time to time, explain civilly why I don't wish to discuss a given topic, and more often, that I simply ignore someone pushing a topic that seems worthless. But there are people here who repeatedly push ideas that push my buttons, and in ways that push my buttons, and so one of the ways I sometimes react is as stated.

I'm still thinking about this; I'll grant for now that the coarsening of discourse is due to the right-wing, but even so I want to figure out whether responding to them uncivilly is the appropriate way to respond.

Don't waste too much time. I'm not claiming to be Right about this. It is my choice for how I want to act, from time to time. I can fully accept that others may not want to conduct themselves in the same manner, and not only do I not think they're Wrong about this, I say, bully for them. The more approaches, the better.

I agree with this, and I think it's a big motivation for why people snark. So, to the extent that a norm of civility is at odds with snark, acting civilly may make life less fun.

Yep. But I don't think snarking in an online forum is inherently uncivil. As I said earlier, most people know what's what coming in, and virtually all the rest figure it out soon enough.

That said, it may not; there may be a certain kind of satisfaction you can get by being above that particular kind of fray. But I have to think about this more.

Could be.

I don't think that Leiter would necessarily disagree that persuasion is not something to hope for in political discussion. I'm not sure whether his view is: "persuasion is not to be hoped for in online and most public political discussion" or "persuasion is not to be hoped for in online and most public political discussion if discourse is constrained by a civility norm."

I see the distinction. Thanks for repeating it -- I now remember your saying this in the diavlog.

Even if Leiter-as-presented-by-me is right that arguments aren't persuasive, it doesn't follow that most people realize that. And even if they realize that, it doesn't follow that they have no reason to do/watch diavlogs. After all, you can get a frisson from watching someone say what you think is dumb, or smart.

Sure. There are certainly many reasons why various people watch diavlogs. I should have made more clear that mine was just one possible one.

I think that's an important point--what counts as civil is going to be to some degree context-dependent. It's certainly the case that something that counts as civil here wouldn't count as civil in the classroom.

Okay.

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 11:25 PM
I aspire more to the John Stuart Mill line that all ideas are healthy for arriving at the truth.

That's a nice-sounding line, and admirable as a guiding principle, but as a practical matter, I'm afraid I can't accept it as applicable in every last case. Some ideas have been examined and found wanting, whether by me, me and my friends, me and my society, or me and my species.

You can be meta about contemptible ideas, and still get something out of them, though, I grant.

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 11:27 PM
Entire square light years of the internet are male posturing bullshit.

Not just on the Internet.

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 11:30 PM
I would post this as a new thread because it's not specific to this particular diavlog, but I'm not allowed to create new threads in this section. Why can't you download the Apollo diavlogs as a podcast? Why don't you get them automatically when you sign up for the bhtv podcast on itunes?

Don't know about the latter, although I suspect it is a conscious decision by Bob, etc., to keep what's sort of for insiders only separate from what their main product is.

As to the former, you can download, say, a WMV file of this diavlog from the diavlog page. Does that help? (Oh, wait. I think you might mean you want the whole thing to happen automatically, where they're pushed as they're posted, so maybe I was wrong to answer the two questions separately.)

bjkeefe
01-28-2010, 11:40 PM
I'm a believer in the idea that some things should just be banished from public discourse unless there's a really, really, really good reason to bring them up. [...]

God, this was tl;dr, and I'm sure there are plenty of holes in this argument. Please tear it up and I'll try to clarify if I can.

I don't know if I can do that, but I will say that I might fundamentally disagree with your opening statement. I'm very, very dubious about the idea of just banishing a topic from being discussed.

You'd have to be more specific about what you mean, I guess, but if you mean, say, there should be no forums on the Internet where Topic X is allowed to be discussed, I reject that out of hand.

If you're being more narrow in scope and saying that, for example, on this given forum, we should not talk about how wonderful selling children into slavery is, okay. I can get behind social shaming; i.e., everyone else doing their best to put a stop to that, even to the extent of appealing to the Comment Nanny Overlord to delete the offending posts, and if repeated, the offending poster.

Extreme examples aside, I'd rather have a potentially contemptible idea out in the open, where it can be exposed for what it is by those who choose to do so. Suppression tends to make things fester, I think.

kezboard
01-29-2010, 01:03 AM
I'm not really arguing that nobody should ever be allowed to argue in favor of torture -- it would be counterproductive to do that for sure. What I mean is that it's an opinion that should be marginalized because discussion of the pros and cons of torture is destructive to morality in the way that arguing with Michael Behe is destructive to science.

bjkeefe
01-29-2010, 01:19 AM
I'm not really arguing that nobody should ever be allowed to argue in favor of torture -- it would be counterproductive to do that for sure. What I mean is that it's an opinion that should be marginalized because discussion of the pros and cons of torture is destructive to morality in the way that arguing with Michael Behe is destructive to science.

Okay. Yes, I can see that, and I think you or someone else came close to persuading me of it, back when this was a hot topic.

I guess I mostly felt at the time, though, that since so many people were pro-torture, the argument had to be engaged.

(Or at least, uncivilly addressed. I did both, I think.)

Wonderment
01-29-2010, 03:18 AM
Interesting topic. I'm glad you guys took it on. Very hard to cover in 25 minutes, however. Still, Apollo is a better venue for progress on civility on BH than lectures from Bob or scoldings from the Comments Nanny.

My quick take is to take note of the paradox that suppressing free speech is incivil. In other words, the moment you get into regulating speech in the name of civility, you are acting incivilly. Inaction in the face of incivility is also incivil, so what do you do? Cope. It's very messy.

One of the things all we humans do is establish rules to govern our behavior, so we will always be imposing, bending, challenging, limiting and revising the norms of civil discourse.

Wonderment
01-29-2010, 03:36 AM
I was thinking more about the particular styles of interaction that a woman may favor, find productive or even tolerate.

What explains the predominance of male voices in the comments section? Among the 10 most frequent posters, only one is female.

It's indisputable that Bheads Comments Land is a decidedly male environment. Since there are no "Men Only" signs on the walls, there must be something going on here that men enjoy (generally speaking) more than women do, or -- as you suggest -- that women deplore more than men do.

There must be (other) modes of discourse that women find more compelling and/or less distasteful.

Where is Franz de Waal just when we need him to explain male bonding?

Bobby G
01-29-2010, 07:38 AM
Interesting topic. I'm glad you guys took it on. Very hard to cover in 25 minutes, however. Still, Apollo is a better venue for progress on civility on BH than lectures from Bob or scoldings from the Comments Nanny.

My quick take is to take note of the paradox that suppressing free speech is incivil. In other words, the moment you get into regulating speech in the name of civility, you are acting incivilly. Inaction in the face of incivility is also incivil, so what do you do? Cope. It's very messy.

I don't think that can be right, unless by "suppressing free speech" or "regulating speech" you mean something having to do with the government. If you don't mean that--if you mean that merely trying to maintain a norm of civil discourse is itself uncivil because it undermines the free expression of ideas--then presumably almost all speech-norms you try to maintain are uncivil for the same reason. Thus, criticizing someone for saying something racist would be uncivil, as would policing your own utterances so that they won't be racist. That can't be what you mean, though, so I assume you mean something like governmental regulation. However, that's not what I was calling for--rather, I was arguing against a fairly specific argument: that the norm of civility is overrated because (1) we have no reason to think that arguing civilly is more persuasive than arguing uncivilly (and anyway, in many online contexts, the point of arguing is not to persuade, or anyway should not be the goal); and (2) arguing civilly with reprehensible people only legitimates them.

Bobby G
01-29-2010, 07:44 AM
I see so many of the opinions in the diavlog and on the threads as a reaction to Sunstein's warning about cyber balkanization. The Latin rot of 'civility' comes from the Latin word for'city'. Those who lived in a city acted differently from the barbarians. But, I don't see the cybersphere as I do a courtroom or legislature, the modern equivalents of the agora, where market and deliberation existed side by side. These spaces have a decorum associated with them. But, cybersphere is not the agora, and perhaps not even part of the real world city. It might even be its antithesis, the place where people go not to be themselves, citizens, or civil, and not to have decorum. Public places have their own mores, and the function of the cybersphere might still be forming, too.

That's an interesting point--it's certainly worth thinking about when norms of civility should apply, and to what extent they should apply. There are some contexts in which they have no bearing at all; if someone has murdered a loved one of mine, I don't think I have any obligation to be civil to him to any degree. On the other hand, I think I have a strong obligation to be civil to my students. Now where does the blogosphere fall in that? I take it from your above remarks that perhaps you see the blogosphere as closer to something like "Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tough_Crowd_With_Colin_Quinn); on that show, the main point of the conversation was to entertain the audience, but a supplementary point was also to try to present reasons on behalf of whatever political claims were of interest to the comedians that day. Some times the comedians really cared about making arguments; other times, it was completely for shits and giggles.

Certainly some parts of the blogosphere are like that, and that may be fine, as long as the norms are clear. But of course, there are lots of blogospheric interactions among sites that don't have the same established norms, and the the point of the norm of civility may be for just such interactions.

Bobby G
01-29-2010, 08:00 AM
I think the points you made in this comment were good ones, and they were ones I considered as well when I was thinking of what constitutes incivility. I think there are three possible candidates: (1) The content of what you say; (2) The manner in which you say it; and (3) Your intention in saying it.

As for right now, I'm convinced that incivility is a function of (2) and (3) (I emphasized (2), but I think (3) is a big part of it as well). As for (1), a couple things need to be said:

(a) In some contexts, bringing up something could be inappropriate. So, at a funeral, it would be inappropriate and boorish--perhaps, Costanzaesque--to bring up the fact that the deceased owed you $50 before he died, and that you'd like to please have it now. That said, while such behavior is boorish, I don't think it's uncivil.
(b) Saying that someone is jerk or an idiot seems to me to be usually the kind of thing that is uncivil. However, what if you think it's a fact that the person is a jerk or an idiot? I'm still not sure what to make of that case, but I'm not sure that it's civil to continue to use that description even if it's accurate. It may be the case that civility calls for a gentler rebuke. Still working on this.
(c) I take your point that our discussing some ideas can itself be bad. However, I tend to think that by the time that a person gets around to seriously considering some awful things--let's say, torture--then the debate is already corrupted in a significant way. If I ask you why I shouldn't murder my wife in an attempt to collect the insurance money, telling me that I shouldn't even bring that up, as it's uncivil, is too little too late. If I'm already seriously considering it, then I already show myself to be corrupt. The question is, what prevents such corruption from happening? Is it a civility norm that puts pressure against people bringing it up, or is it other factors that bring the issue to the fore? I think that it's other factors, and that once the cat is out of the bag, the argument has to be addressed.

look
01-29-2010, 11:57 AM
You do know how to hurt a guy, but as it happens, you're wrong.

[Added] You're wrong about this, too:



If I am bigoted, I am bigoted against bigots and other stupid people, but there is no geographic constraint. Writing birf cirtifikit is due to the limitations of the medium. It is a textual signifier that I am adopting a tone of voice for the purpose of satire or mockery, much as !!!1! is.

You don't like what I write, don't read it, but don't try to make it into more than it is.And that's a load of bullshit. It's your prejudicial attempt to paint a broad swath of people with whom you disagree as ignorant, backward redneck hill-billies that you are so, so far above with all your fancy textual signifiers. You're nothing more than a cultural elitist who does not realize he is not all that.

SkepticDoc
01-29-2010, 12:03 PM
OMG! our own civility experiment...

osmium
01-29-2010, 12:07 PM
I often wish people would be more civil, but it occurs to me watching this that what I really like is when people don't become overly emotional, personal, or abusive. Are they the same thing?

Bobby G: "Civility isn't about content, but about tone and style."

Maybe that's it, yeah. Hm.

look
01-29-2010, 12:10 PM
OMG! our own civility experiment...With Brendan swirling in the center...color me surprised.

graz
01-29-2010, 12:27 PM
Brava. Kudos to you for exercising and exorcising (likely) your thoughts and feelings. Thankfully, you reacted before considering or rejected the construct proposed by Bobby G to keep your incivility in a private rather than public sphere.
My appreciation is not meant to convey agreement, just to say that I support your effort and courage. Your stock is now a strong buy in my portfolio (not that that matters a whit to anyone but me).

Is their a potential downside to such personal attacks? My guess is that you are using a tactic that you have witnessed often by other, if not most commenters. In my estimation, fighting fire with fire is reasonable, and even if not for the faint of heart -or philosophically inclined- has a place in pulic spheres.

uncle ebeneezer
01-29-2010, 12:39 PM
omg!

TEXTUAL SIGNIFIER!!!1!

Lyle
01-29-2010, 12:49 PM
What about talking about how to execute (much worse than torture) someone? People just shouldn't go there... like the people who make up the Supreme Court? Furthermore, is it morally debasing to argue over whether or not it is constitutional to execute a man who puts his penis inside a juvenile, and he's HIV positive and knows it? People just shouldn't converse about this stuff? Really? What?

look
01-29-2010, 12:54 PM
Brava. Kudos to you for exercising and exorcising (likely) your thoughts and feelings. Thankfully, you reacted before considering or rejected the construct proposed by Bobby G to keep your incivility in a private rather than public sphere.
My appreciation is not meant to convey agreement, just to say that I support your effort and courage. Your stock is now a strong buy in my portfolio (not that that matters a whit to anyone but me).

Is their a potential downside to such personal attacks? My guess is that you are using a tactic that you have witnessed often by other, if not most commenters. In my estimation, fighting fire with fire is reasonable, and even if not for the faint of heart -or philosophically inclined- has a place in pulic spheres.Only just now, graz? You're a real tonic for the ego.

As far as Bobby the Civil, it's not always what you say, but also what you do, and ignoring the posts of those making polite inquiries strikes me as the soul of incivility.

My overall take on the subject of civility is that the best exchanges avoid ad hominem and consist of clever repartee. Hitting below the belt signifies insecurity and a lack of emotional intelligence.

Don Zeko
01-29-2010, 12:59 PM
I'm inclined to agree. On the one hand, I think that more mainstream political discourse has a civility norm that serves to avoid discussing the real consequences of policy, i.e. upbraiding Ezra Klein for suggesting that Joe Lieberman cares more about punishing political rivals than preventing avoidable deaths. This is the kind of civility that ought to be avoided in political discussions, because the outcome of these debates will have huge impacts on people's lives that ought to be honestly considered.

Yet there are other civility norms that do strike me as valuable, such as those that prevent people from using abuse, ethnic slurs, name-calling, ad hominems etc. in public discourse. The trick is distinguishing between discourse that violates the former and discourse that violates the latter.

look
01-29-2010, 01:05 PM
TEXTUAL SIGNIFIER!!!1!

Ahhh, the time-worn and beloved tradition of ganging-up on the enemy. How refined.

graz
01-29-2010, 01:16 PM
Only just now, graz? You're a real tonic for the ego.

No Darla... always and forever:)

uncle ebeneezer
01-29-2010, 01:26 PM
Almost as time-worn as donning the victim cloak, crying "echo chamber" anytime more than one person disagrees with you and having no sense of humor.

Francoamerican
01-29-2010, 01:26 PM
All this talk of civility made me look to my French classics, where you can find dozens and dozens of definitions of civility and politeness. The one I like best, by La Bruyère:

"Il me semble que l'esprit de politesse est une certaine attention à faire que, par nos paroles et nos manières, les autres soient contents de nous et d'eux-mêmes."

I confess that I don't always live up to this ideal.

look
01-29-2010, 01:34 PM
No Darla... always and forever:)Oh, graz. Thanks for making my day.

uncle ebeneezer
01-29-2010, 01:43 PM
My apologies for not having had a chance to watch the diavlog yet. But hats off to all the comments. Very interesting and lots of great points.

My overall take on civility is that it has a repricprocal nature. When going into someplace where there is an assumption of contention (debating forum, sales negotiation, sports etc.) you go in with a certain basic level of civility but that gets modified based on the actions of your adversary. As one of my parents once said "You don't just GET respect, you EARN it." And I think to some level sivility is the same way. Even the people I disagree with vehemently, I try to act respectfully towards provided they treat me or others that way. If I see someone routinely being nasty to others I'm not going to go out of my way to be nice to them, and will let the snark flow a bit more freely. Of course there is also the large factor of misinterpretation. I can't count the number of times when I have typed something that I felt was relatively harmless kidding and the response has been great offense. Usually I will explain or apologize for any offense taken that wasn't intended, but again, if somebody routinely overreacts to everything I'm less willing to make such concilliatory gestures. I expect (and assume) that others largely approach their interactions with me in a similiar vein and that the system reinforces the accepted norms of the group.

look
01-29-2010, 01:56 PM
Almost as time-worn as donning the victim cloak, crying "echo chamber" anytime more than one person disagrees with you and having no sense of humor.I have no problem with more than one person disagreeing me, but I do have a problem when they don't do so directly.

Bobby G
01-29-2010, 02:03 PM
Hi Franco,

Would you be willing to give me a list of the French classics you have in mind?

Feel free to PM about it.

Bobby G
01-29-2010, 02:16 PM
I do think this is our own little civility experiment. Obviously, we've had backs-and-forth (back-and-forths? BJ, help a brother out here) before, but it's kind of neat that it's happening in the comments section to this diavlog.

So, I'm still working out in my head whether these recent exchanges between BJ and look count as uncivil. After all, these are par for the course on BH.tv, and relatively soft, given what other kinds of tirades we've had. That said, I'm inclined to think that these two exchanges are uncivil, and that even though we've had lots of worse exchanges in the part. All that means is that incivility is a relatively common phenomenon here.

Why describe this most recent BJ/look exchange as uncivil? I take it it's because look is pointing out what he takes to be a personal failing in BJ, and he's pointing it out to him not in a pastoral spirit, but rather because this failing irritates him, and he wants BJ to become annoyed or agitated, or, he doesn't care how it will make BJ feel.

Now, I'd be interested in knowing whether anyone thinks look wasn't behaving uncivilly or whether they think he is, but that he should behave uncivilly in this situation? That is, did look violate some norm of civility or not? And assuming he did, should he have? I also want to know whether people think BJ violated a civility norm. It seems to me that he may have, but I'm inclined to think he didn't. Even if he is bigoted against southerns, that in itself doesn't strike me as intrinsically uncivil; as I've said before, whether it's uncivil depends on the manner he expresses his bigotry (assuming he is bigoted).

Apologies to look and BJ, by the way, for taking such the mortician's tone with them. But I do think this instance of possible incivility in question provides an object lesson in people's takes on the subject.

claymisher
01-29-2010, 02:19 PM
Almost as time-worn as donning the victim cloak, crying "echo chamber" anytime more than one person disagrees with you and having no sense of humor.

Rick "Nixonland" Perlstein (http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/parting-thought)
I hereby decree PERLSTEIN'S LAW:

In an online argument, the badder a wingnut gets his butt beat, the more likely they are to excoriate the butt-beater for using bad words.


I'm a lot more offended by somebody bullshitting me than I am by profanity.

Francoamerican
01-29-2010, 02:21 PM
Hi Franco,

Would you be willing to give me a list of the French classics you have in mind?

Feel free to PM about it.

I will be happy to PM you, but in the meantime here is a short list of the authors who have dealt with the topic of civililty and politeness. The French call them "moralistes," a term that is difficult to translate because it means observers of morals, character etc. rather than judge of morals, characters.

Montaigne, Essais, 16th century. Sorry I can't be more precise, but Montaigne is a bit like Shakespeare: You have to plunge in.

Pascal (Pensées), Nicole (Essais de morale), La Rochefoucauld (Maximes et Pensées), La Bruyère (Les caractères) --17th century.

In the 18th century Voltaire, Rousseau are full of reflections on civility and politeness---scattered throughout their writings. There is also the very interesting pre-revolutionary figure, Chamfort, whose thoughts and aphorisms on ancien régime politesse have been translated into English.

uncle ebeneezer
01-29-2010, 02:24 PM
Sorry you feel that way. But I reserve the right to employ satire in a public forum on occassion when I don't have the time or interest in having a full-on direct discussion of something.

bjkeefe
01-29-2010, 02:24 PM
Obviously, we've had backs-and-forth (back-and-forths? BJ, help a brother out here) ...

Exchanges.

look
01-29-2010, 02:33 PM
Sorry you feel that way. But I reserve the right to employ satire in a public forum on occassion when I don't have the time or interest in having a full-on direct discussion of something.Uh-huh.

look
01-29-2010, 02:35 PM
Rick "Nixonland" Perlstein (http://www.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/parting-thought)

I'm a lot more offended by somebody bullshitting me than I am by profanity.That's surprising, coming from one of the biggest bullshitters on the board.

look
01-29-2010, 02:37 PM
I do think this is our own little civility experiment. Obviously, we've had backs-and-forth (back-and-forths? BJ, help a brother out here) before, but it's kind of neat that it's happening in the comments section to this diavlog.

So, I'm still working out in my head whether these recent exchanges between BJ and look count as uncivil. After all, these are par for the course on BH.tv, and relatively soft, given what other kinds of tirades we've had. That said, I'm inclined to think that these two exchanges are uncivil, and that even though we've had lots of worse exchanges in the part. All that means is that incivility is a relatively common phenomenon here.

Why describe this most recent BJ/look exchange as uncivil? I take it it's because look is pointing out what he takes to be a personal failing in BJ, and he's pointing it out to him not in a pastoral spirit, but rather because this failing irritates him, and he wants BJ to become annoyed or agitated, or, he doesn't care how it will make BJ feel.

Now, I'd be interested in knowing whether anyone thinks look wasn't behaving uncivilly or whether they think he is, but that he should behave uncivilly in this situation? That is, did look violate some norm of civility or not? And assuming he did, should he have? I also want to know whether people think BJ violated a civility norm. It seems to me that he may have, but I'm inclined to think he didn't. Even if he is bigoted against southerns, that in itself doesn't strike me as intrinsically uncivil; as I've said before, whether it's uncivil depends on the manner he expresses his bigotry (assuming he is bigoted).

Apologies to look and BJ, by the way, for taking such the mortician's tone with them. But I do think this instance of possible incivility in question provides an object lesson in people's takes on the subject.Yikes.

claymisher
01-29-2010, 02:39 PM
That's surprising, coming from one of the biggest bullshitters on the board.

Links please.

nikkibong
01-29-2010, 02:42 PM
Links please.

http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/search.php?searchid=1073302

(sorry, look: couldn't resist.)

claymisher
01-29-2010, 02:47 PM
If you guys actually think I'm bullshitting you then stop being cute and just come out with it.

graz
01-29-2010, 02:49 PM
If Bobby G were more invested in this forum, than whether it can facilitate a consideration for his school project, he would know that look is a women.

Of course this is an example of incivility. And it shouldn't be reserved or repressed behind closed doors (or un-switched mics). Calling out someone is a privilege of free speech, not a malady.

Bobby G
01-29-2010, 02:53 PM
Okay, first, I said the beholder and the norms according to which the beholder was raised (or something like that), so it is more than just me saying, "each cat his own rat."

I've never heard "each cat his own rat". I'll have to use it.

Anyway, as to your remark that what is civil depends on which beholder you talk to, as well as the norms she was raised to follow (and let's construe "raised to follow" broadly, so to cover the norms a person is led to endorse as a result of her experiences), I'm not sure what you mean. It seems to me you could mean two things: (1) The Ontological Construal of Civility: what counts as civil is a function of which people think of as civil and what norms they endorse; (2) The Epistemic Construal of Civility: what a person will tell you is civil is a function of what he thinks of as civil and what norms he endorses. I assume you mean (1), that facts about civility supervene on facts about what people think of as civil and what norms they endorse about civility. I assume this because (2) seems to me to be tautological. Anyway, assuming I'm right that you mean (1), I may agree, I may not. It could very well be that civility is completely context-dependent; so, in community C1 behavior B is objectively civil (i.e., according to the standards C1 endorses--and there are psychological facts that tell us what standards C1 really endorses, by and large--, B counts as a paradigmatic civil behavior) whereas in community C2 behavior B is objectively uncivil (i.e. according to the standards C2 endorses, B counts as paradigmatically uncivil. Maybe in C1, a child speaking at dinner is a good thing, and displays to them their civilization, whereas in C2, a child speaking at dinner shows that her parents brought her up wrong.

in the end, I'm with the Duke: if it sounds good, it is good. When you try to say that there is anything "objectively right" about what I consider matters of taste and perception (albeit matters sensitively subject to refinement), I just say, no, this is where we have to disagree.

I think you should read one-time blogginghead Peter Railton on this issue (http://www.amazon.com/Facts-Values-Norms-Consequence-Philosophy/dp/0521426936/ref=tmm_pap_title_0). You may be more susceptible to changing your mind on this than you think.

Sure. We are all very good at rationalizing choices we make, after the fact.

You may be right that that's all I'm doing, but it certainly appears to me that many of my reactions to events and actions are in fact due to the principles I endorse in light of my experiences and in light of trying to reason impartially about things, rather than simply resulting from post hoc rationalization. Moreover, I don't think you have to endorse this view about rationalization to keep to your moral subjectivism. You could say that as a matter of fact practical norms (norms about conduct) cannot be objective (i.e., it cannot be the case that we are obliged to hew to certain norms independent of our desires) but that nevertheless much of our conduct is explained by our hewing to certain norms.

That's not to dismiss, completely, the idea that you are capable of thinking about this rationally and have put work into intellectually analyzing your reactions. It's just to remind you that in human-to-human interactions, even at the rarefied remove of an academic responding to a second academic's remarks about a third academic's academic specialty, there are still all kinds of monkey juices flowing below the surface.

I certainly agree, and more so than most philosophers of my acquaintance, actually. I think the psychological motives behind philosophers' endorsements of odd positions are worth investigating. So in the case of civility, you're right to press on the issue of whether I'm merely trying to impose my preferences on everyone else, or whether there's actually a reasoned case to be made such that others not only could, but should be convinced to behave more civilly.

Well, I don't know how reasonable a person you consider me to be, in general, but let's assume you're at least at "sorta." If so, what does it mean to you when I say I completely reject your assessment of PZ as uncivil? I can accept that you don't agree, I could even accept that a majority share your view, but I will never agree that I am Wrong about this.

What do you mean when you say you will "never agree that I am Wrong about this"? That seems really strong; it seems like you're saying you're not going to even consider seriously the possibility that you could be wrong about Myers's being uncivil; as far as you can tell, that would be like seriously considering whether you exist (alternatively, maybe you're emphasizing the Wrong part--i.e., you'll never seriously consider the view that someone could be objectively wrong about whether someone else is acting uncivilly). Anyway, why commit yourself to that? I.e., why foreclose serious consideration of either possibility?

Regardless, let me consider your question. I consider you to be a reasonable person, on the whole. Obviously, that's compatible with your being unreasonable on certain subjects--for instance, perhaps you find me unreasonable in taking seriously the possibility that God exists, or that miracles happen, or that there is an objective right or wrong, or that there is an afterlife, or that there is free will (of course, since I believe all these things, you may think I slide over into the "unreasonable person, on the whole" category, though I doubt you think that). So, are you unreasonable on this subject? Not necessarily; but I think probably. I think you're tying civility too much to content, such that if someone holds an incorrect view on something, it's much easier for him to be uncivil than someone who holds a correct view. Assuming that's your view, then that's a principle I think it's unreasonable to hold, because I think pretty clearly civility is supposed to be a rectitude-neutral norm.

I don't accept the analogy. Being Hispanic is not the same thing as choosing to believe in some sort of wingnut version of religion or some moonbat version of healing woo. Not even close. Though I'll grant that PZ, like all of us, does from time to time indulge himself in ad hominem banter, his oppositional stance is at core driven by the ideas and the actions freely chosen by those he belittles.

It's not at all clear to me that religious people freely choose their beliefs, but I'll bracket that for now. Let's say that they do. OK, then, imagine that a global warming denier reads something that a climatologist says and then scorns the climatologist as a pretentious clown? Would that not count as uncivil? Or, if you don't like the science analogy, imagine that someone who's sharper than your average bear when it comes to movie criticism reads a 5-page summary of the work of a person who is generally regarded to be the world's foremost expert on James Joyce and then really lacerates that person as a pretentious clown, and as straightforwardly stupid on the basis of that summary. You don't find that uncivil?

Also, what do you mean by a wingnut version of religion? Is any traditional Christian ipso facto a wingnut?



No, I don't accept that fully. I accept it to the extent that the self-appointed critic is trying to pass himself off as an expert (say, a book reviewer for a major media outlet), or is demanding respect for his point of view, especially in a scholarly environment, or something along those lines. But on a blog? From a guy who averages half a dozen posts a day? Who has made clear that (a) he hasn't put much effort in and (b) lots of other people have respect for this author? Nah. He played more than fair there, and to the extent that some of his readers allow their opinions to be fully formed by his off-hand dismissal, that's on them, not him.

[Added]Seems to me its the same as all his friends going to this great new seafood restaurant, and all of them agree the chef is the best in town, and PZ says, "Sorry, I don't like the taste of fish. I've tried it nine times and thrown up each time. Fish is gross, and anyway, you losers, I don't see how anyone can be so stupid as to eat something that swims around in its own toilet."[/QUOTE]

If the guy wasn't joking, and he meant it seriously, I don't see how you can count that as anything than uncivil.



I don't accept any of the larger implications about moral obligations or whatever, and with all due respect to your profession, I do not find them worth thinking about for this situation. It's a blog, on the Internet. Next question?

I don't understand at all why civility doesn't matter even in blogospheric exchanges. It's always possible to cross the line in any exchange with a person. The blogosphere consists of exchanges with people. Therefore, it's possible to be uncivil in the blogosphere. Therefore I can use the tools of philosophy to analyze those exchanges. So...now what?

You take it wrong. I think in terms of moral obligations for lots of things. But not for something like how one guy says on his blog about another guy, "Meh. Don't care for him, don't see what others see in him. He's a bozo. Let's talk about something interesting, like squid."

This is strange to me. So you don't think there's a way to speak immorally about someone on the Internet (avoiding, of course, revelation of private information or calling for his death, etc.)? You don't think there's anyway that insults can get so grievous that it makes sense to say, "what you said about wishing for that guy's child to be raped and die alone and unloved was too far. You should apologize"?

Bobby G
01-29-2010, 02:55 PM
Just when I need some Grammar Nazification, and you don't give it to me?!

Bobby G
01-29-2010, 02:57 PM
Apologies for mischaracterizing you, look.

As for whether being bigoted is intrinsically uncivil, obviously you think it is (otherwise, why the "Yikes"?). However, keep in mind that there are some people who are bigoted but aren't happy about their bigotry, and want to change it (maybe you deny this; maybe you claim that if you're, say, racist, but want to overcome it, then you're ipso facto not bigoted but are instead just racist, whereas a bigot is someone who is at peace with his bigotry).

There doesn't seem to me to be anything contradictory about a civil bigot. To say that someone is civil does not excuse her from all manner of moral condemnation--plenty of people throughout history have been genteel bigots.

Bobby G
01-29-2010, 03:01 PM
Sorry you feel that way. But I reserve the right to employ satire in a public forum on occassion when I don't have the time or interest in having a full-on direct discussion of something.

If you came upon a group of people insulting someone else, would you just dogpile on?

Bobby G
01-29-2010, 03:04 PM
I will be happy to PM you, but in the meantime here is a short list of the authors who have dealt with the topic of civililty and politeness. The French call them "moralistes," a term that is difficult to translate because it means observers of morals, character etc. rather than judge of morals, characters.

Montaigne, Essais, 16th century. Sorry I can't be more precise, but Montaigne is a bit like Shakespeare: You have to plunge in.

Don't worry, I've read a fair bit of him. At the time, though, I didn't read him looking for civility. Same with Pascal and La Rochefoucauld. I figured Rousseau would come in, as I've seen references to his work on civility. I suspect I'll try Emile.

I've never read Chamfort; I'll have to check him out.

bjkeefe
01-29-2010, 03:05 PM
http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/search.php?searchid=1073302

(sorry, look: couldn't resist.)

claymisher, FTW:

http://img682.imageshack.us/img682/5568/nikkibongfail.png

bjkeefe
01-29-2010, 03:08 PM
Just when I need some Grammar Nazification, and you don't give it to me?!

Depending on how you mean "give it to you," I'm pretty sure I just did.

nikkibong
01-29-2010, 03:08 PM
claymisher, FTW:

http://img682.imageshack.us/img682/5568/nikkibongfail.png

LMAO.

well that zinger didn't work.

it was supposed to go to 'all posts by claymisher.'

damn computer illiteracy getting in the way of snide, dismissive posts!

nikkibong
01-29-2010, 03:15 PM
If you guys actually think I'm bullshitting you then stop being cute and just come out with it.

clay, your posts have an unfortunate tendency towards calling people you disagree with "idiots" - and far worse.

uncle ebeneezer
01-29-2010, 03:21 PM
Maybe. Or I might defend them. It would depend on a whole bunch of factors.

bjkeefe
01-29-2010, 03:22 PM
(1) The Ontological Construal of Civility: ... (2) The Epistemic Construal of Civility: ...

You should take it as a compliment that I continued reading after encountering these two phrases. And make it to end I did. However, in between my feeling that you're trying to build this into waaaay more than it merits -- I don't know whether online civility is overrated, but I'm convinced that discussions about it are -- and my sense that you already seriously don't understand where I'm coming from; e.g., ...

So you don't think there's a way to speak immorally about someone on the Internet (avoiding, of course, revelation of private information or calling for his death, etc.)?

... I think to continue would be pointless.

Sorry.

claymisher
01-29-2010, 03:35 PM
clay, your posts have an unfortunate tendency towards calling people you disagree with "idiots" - and far worse.

I disagree with tendency. And unfortunate. If somebody's playing dumb, trolling, or bullshitting me I'm not going to just play along like a sucker to score civility points.

TwinSwords
01-29-2010, 03:37 PM
clay, your posts have an unfortunate tendency towards calling people you disagree with "idiots" - and far worse.

You should talk, Nikkibong. You're one of the most abrasive and obnoxious people on the board. And have been for a long time.

TwinSwords
01-29-2010, 03:38 PM
I disagree with tendency. And unfortunate. If somebody's playing dumb, trolling, or bullshitting me I'm not going to just play along like a sucker to score civility points.

Nikkibong dreams of making the kinds of substantive contributions you make regularly and routinely.

claymisher
01-29-2010, 03:43 PM
Nikkibong dreams of making the kinds of substantive contributions you make regularly and routinely.

I'm sure he would if his C++ took as long to link as mine does. :)

TwinSwords
01-29-2010, 03:45 PM
Uh-huh.

Here's what everyone knows: Your objections are based on ideology, not civility. You applaud and encourage incivility when it's directed towards anyone who doesn't share your political prejudices.

Which is fine. Just be honest, because no one's falling for the lies.

Wonderment
01-29-2010, 03:48 PM
I was arguing against a fairly specific argument: that the norm of civility is overrated because (1) we have no reason to think that arguing civilly is more persuasive than arguing uncivilly (and anyway, in many online contexts, the point of arguing is not to persuade, or anyway should not be the goal); and (2) arguing civilly with reprehensible people only legitimates them.

Have you thought about the justification of civility as being to maintain good relationships? You must have. It seems quite obvious.

I may not persuade you by arguing civilly, but we remain friends and we can continue in our social relationships (I invite you to my daughter's wedding; you shop at my bakery; our grandchildren don't throw stones at each other.)

I would argue that relationships are important (although not as important)
in a virtual world or an anonymous world.

In regard to point 2, I'd probably say that there are no reprehensible people.

Whether the point of arguing is persuading or not is more slippery for me. I think most of us bring a whole bouquet of motives to the forum, including a desire to persuade others and a belief that such persuasion is often possible.

nikkibong
01-29-2010, 04:02 PM
You should talk, Nikkibong. You're one of the most abrasive and obnoxious people on the board. And have been for a long time.

great quotes in history

"You need to treat women better." -Ted Bundy

"You talk about yourself too much." - Megan McCardle

"You're one of the most abrasive and obnoxious people on the board." - Twinswords.

Bobby G
01-29-2010, 04:09 PM
Depending on how you mean "give it to you," I'm pretty sure I just did.

And here I was setting you up to say, "It's grammar Nazism, Bobby".

Bobby G
01-29-2010, 04:14 PM
Have you thought about the justification of civility as being to maintain good relationships? You must have. It seems quite obvious.

I've thought of that; and I think that's our rough-and-ready definition of civility. We justify it as necessary to make social interactions possible, and then we can figure out where to take it from there. But there's at least one other view, that of Mark Kingwell, who claims that a just society is a society wherein people talk civilly about how they are supposed to live together, and that there's nothing more to being in a just society than that. So on Kingwell's view, we don't need something like a theory of justice (a la John Rawls) to prescribe to us the principles of a just society; rather, what makes a society just is whatever principles people agree to for society in a civil conversation. So the real question is, What makes for a civil conversation? And I'm sort of trying to get at that.

Bobby G
01-29-2010, 04:20 PM
You should take it as a compliment that I continued reading after encountering these two phrases.

Well, I shall. And I'll try to refrain from using occupational jargon in the future.

And make it to end I did. However, in between my feeling that you're trying to build this into waaaay more than it merits -- I don't know whether online civility is overrated, but I'm convinced that discussions about it are --

That's certainly a legitimate view, and one I've thought about: who cares about civility when the stakes are low? Maybe civility doesn't matter for low-stakes issues (or at least, it doesn't matter in most cases; there are obviously exceptions that change low-stakes issues to high stakes issues, as my oblique reference to Deb Frisch's calling for the murder of Jeff Goldstein's, of Protein Wisdom, child). But if it doesn't, that's in and of itself interesting; it tells us what the point of civility norms is.


... I think to continue would be pointless.

Sorry.

Sorry to have alienated you (or whatever it was I did) with my remarks. I suppose I should not have asked that as a question but should have said something like, "it seems to me that your view, as I understand it, leads to this absurd consequence; so that's probably not your view. But I don't see what your view is. So could you explain it to me again in different words?" In any case, maybe you'll feel up to continuing the discussion later.

TwinSwords
01-29-2010, 04:23 PM
great quotes in history

"You need to treat women better." -Ted Bundy

"You talk about yourself too much." - Megan McCardle

"You're one of the most abrasive and obnoxious people on the board." - Twinswords.

Yes, I'm abrasive and obnoxious. But I'm not a hypocrite. Or a liar. Or kidding myself. Like you.

Also, I try to treat everyone well in one-on-one interaction, and there are several conservatives on the board who I respect and admire a great deal, first and foremost Bobby G, but also including Basman, mvantony, JonIrenicus, and others. My inflammatory language is reserved for conservatives in the abstract, with the exceptions of a few truly vile figures in this forum, such as your hero KS.

TwinSwords
01-29-2010, 04:27 PM
I'm sure he would if his C++ took as long to link as mine does. :)

http://www.thecentralword.com/forums/images/smilies/extra/coverlaugh.gif

nikkibong
01-29-2010, 04:30 PM
... But I'm not a hypocrite. Or a liar. Or kidding myself. Like you.

Also, I try to treat everyone well in one-on-one interaction,

keep 'em coming twin...you're making my day here.

look
01-29-2010, 04:40 PM
Here's what everyone knows: Your objections are based on ideology, not civility. You applaud and encourage incivility when it's directed towards anyone who doesn't share your political prejudices.

Which is fine. Just be honest, because no one's falling for the lies.My objections to piling on are based on good sportsmanship. But maybe it's just a feature of the progressive mindset.

I wonder how many examples you can find of me piling on?

Lies? I find the low level of emotional intelligence the most disturbing aspect of so-called progressive liberals.

bjkeefe
01-29-2010, 05:05 PM
That's certainly a legitimate view, and one I've thought about: who cares about civility when the stakes are low? Maybe civility doesn't matter for low-stakes issues (or at least, it doesn't matter in most cases; there are obviously exceptions that change low-stakes issues to high stakes issues ...

Basically, I think a comprehensive attempt to describe (let alone prescribe) something like "civility" is doomed to failure, in addition to being a project I find uninteresting. Partly, it's an I-just-know-it-when-I-see-it kind of thing, and partly, it (whatever IT is) is too fluid in any given community, especially an online one.

Sorry to have alienated you (or whatever it was I did) with my remarks.

"Alienated" is too strong. And you have nothing to apologize for. This is just a case where someone has more interest in a topic than someone else does.

I suppose I should not have asked that as a question but should have said something like, "it seems to me that your view, as I understand it, leads to this absurd consequence; so that's probably not your view. But I don't see what your view is. So could you explain it to me again in different words?" In any case, maybe you'll feel up to continuing the discussion later.

Perhaps. But again, I'm usually more happy to discuss something like the above if it's just examined for what it is, rather than as some element of some supposed overarching framework. I don't think I can intellectualize something like sweeping judgments on civility -- there are too many visceral and other non-rational factors at work, as I see it. And the problem is, if we're discussing some specific thing and you try to extend it into, "Ah, so from that it follows ...," it's likely the case that I'll think, "No, no, that's not it at all."

It may even be the case that, very quickly, a requirement of consistency is more than the idea can bear, because among the many non-rational aspects of assessing civility is the frequent tendency to rationalize after the gut call has already been made. (Seems to me there's already a fair amount of supporting data for this, in this thread alone.)

popcorn_karate
01-29-2010, 05:25 PM
A lot of people would disagree with your judgments in both of those cases. How do you square your characterization ("people who deliberately and repeatedly treat others with contempt/derision and employ intellectually dishonest methods") with the judgments of others who wouldn't endorse it in either or both cases? And, especially if it turns out that yours is a minority view, should that judgment be the controlling standard?

you can not seriously defend the idea that PZ does not "deliberately and repeatedly treat others with contempt/derision" can you?

Wonderment
01-29-2010, 05:26 PM
Obama's meeting with House Republicans today, which was televised, provides an interesting take on the importance of civility in political discourse.

bjkeefe
01-29-2010, 05:28 PM
Obama's meeting with House Republicans today, which was televised, provides an interesting take on the importance of civility in political discourse.

Yes. (http://bjkeefe.blogspot.com/2010/01/moar-like-this-plz.html)

popcorn_karate
01-29-2010, 05:51 PM
(2)...This can also apply to people who are just honestly mistaken about what the boundaries are, and it may be the quickest way to get them back onto the right path.

doesn't this imply some set of "objective" standards? and didn't you go on a long journey with Bobby explaining why it is impossible that PZ could be "uncivil" because you don't think so? and there is no objective standard.

is it just that your opinions and boundaries are the gold standard?

popcorn_karate
01-29-2010, 06:08 PM
nice clip.

AemJeff
01-29-2010, 06:12 PM
you can not seriously defend the idea that PZ does not "deliberately and repeatedly treat others with contempt/derision" can you?

What I can't do is quantify that. My subjective sense of PZ is that most of what he says is completely civil. And I suspect that a fair portion of what you're characterizing as contempt and derision would strike me as parody. Which isn't an assertion that he's never been uncivil.

bjkeefe
01-29-2010, 06:28 PM
doesn't this imply some set of "objective" standards?

No. The "standard" is some vague sense that I and/or the community have. It's nothing more than an I-know-it-when-I-see-it sense at best, and often, it may be purely a visceral response. Also, it's likely not to remain a "standard" for long -- these things are fluid. The Atkins Diet (http://jyte.com/cl/the-great-thing-about-standards-is-that-there-are-so-many-to-choose-from), if you like.

I do not often think long and hard when I come across a post, "Is this going too far?" I tend to make the call within a few seconds at most, and I strongly suspect that I'm far from alone in this.

and didn't you go on a long journey with Bobby explaining why it is impossible that PZ could be "uncivil" because you don't think so?

No. But rather than try to talk rationally about someone who's so obviously loaded for you, I'll move on rather than trying to set you straight on this one.

and there is no objective standard.

That is my view, yes.

is it just that your opinions and boundaries are the gold standard?

In some sense, yes. For me they are. As with pretty much everybody else.

Note carefully that "my" opinions and boundaries are formed, over time, from a large number of external inputs, of course.

bjkeefe
01-29-2010, 06:29 PM
nice clip.

Thx. Glad you liked it.

Bobby G
01-29-2010, 06:36 PM
I was just going to link to that! (Not that particular clip, but to the transcript.)

bjkeefe
01-29-2010, 06:37 PM
I was just going to link to that!

;)

See? We're not really that far apart.

Especially at a lower level.

bjkeefe
01-29-2010, 06:45 PM
Yes. (http://bjkeefe.blogspot.com/2010/01/moar-like-this-plz.html)

A bit more (http://instaputz.blogspot.com/2010/01/obama-hands-house-gop-their-asses.html). (Not the post title, obvs.)

kezboard
01-29-2010, 06:53 PM
The Supreme Court can and should argue about whatever it finds useful to argue about. I'm talking about you and me.

Ocean
01-29-2010, 07:04 PM
Obama's meeting with House Republicans today, which was televised, provides an interesting take on the importance of civility in political discourse.

I watched a bit today during lunch and loved it.

uncle ebeneezer
01-29-2010, 07:09 PM
GROUPTHINK!!1!

Baltimoron
01-29-2010, 07:47 PM
...I take it from your above remarks that perhaps you see the blogosphere as closer to something like "Tough Crowd with Colin Quinn" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tough_Crowd_With_Colin_Quinn); on that show, the main point of the conversation was to entertain the audience, but a supplementary point was also to try to present reasons on behalf of whatever political claims were of interest to the comedians that day. Some times the comedians really cared about making arguments; other times, it was completely for shits and giggles.

Certainly some parts of the blogosphere are like that, and that may be fine, as long as the norms are clear. But of course, there are lots of blogospheric interactions among sites that don't have the same established norms, and the the point of the norm of civility may be for just such interactions.

Thanks for that link. It was fun.

Unfortunately, I might be even more cynical than this. Far from the original Crossfire approach, it might just be enough that the cybersphere allows young males to vent. A world full of geeky-macho Sam Seaborn's is preferable to the soju-swilling, Vietnam bride-raping, stuck-in-the-sticks Korean men I have to deal with.

Ocean
01-29-2010, 09:27 PM
What explains the predominance of male voices in the comments section? Among the 10 most frequent posters, only one is female.


Heh. Strange dudette.


It's indisputable that Bheads Comments Land is a decidedly male environment. Since there are no "Men Only" signs on the walls, there must be something going on here that men enjoy (generally speaking) more than women do, or -- as you suggest -- that women deplore more than men do.

There must be (other) modes of discourse that women find more compelling and/or less distasteful.

The question may be broken up in parts. First, are there more male commenters because there are more males interested in BhTV kinds of topics, and therefore watching diavlogs and reading comments? Are there more male commenters because although women are interested in the topics they prefer not to comment? If that was true, is it that they think they don't have anything meaningful to say? Are they intimidated by the tone of the comment section (incivility, hostility)? Do we have many women who start commenting but are turned off by the tone?

Unfortunately, we can guess about the above, but neither the men nor the women that routinely participate here are good representatives of those who remain silent observers.

I find the incivility in this site, when it passes a certain level, quite a turn off. I just feel like walking away. Fortunately, it doesn't happen that often, and when limited it's relatively easy to avoid. Overtime there have been fluctuations in the level of regressed commentary. Certain commenters are certainly more abrasive than others, and each of us learns to deal with those who are particularly difficult. The best we can.


Where is Franz de Waal just when we need him to explain male bonding?

Well, I can't help you with that...

Wonderment
01-29-2010, 09:44 PM
I find the incivility in this site, when it passes a certain level, quite a turn off. I just feel like walking away.

THAT could be a big clue to the gender disparity. Do men tend to enjoy watching the bloodshed more than women? Is there a voyeuristic and/or sadistic thrill to watching a male rival get beat up?

In Dr. De Waal's book on empathy he has a drawing (all drawings by the author!) of a female chimp with both arms outstretched like a boxing referee. She's separating the two males who are ready to beat the shit out of each other.

Bienvenida a la jungla de BH.

Ocean
01-29-2010, 09:52 PM
THAT could be a big clue to the gender disparity. Do men tend to enjoy watching the bloodshed more than women? Is there a voyeuristic and/or sadistic thrill to watching a male rival get beat up?

Most likely men and women's appreciation and enjoyment of aggressive behavior follow overlapping but not identical distribution curves. Do men or women enjoy more watching boxing, war movies or even competitive sports?

In Dr. De Waal's book on empathy he has a drawing (all drawings by the author!) of a female chimp with both arms outstretched like a boxing referee. She's separating the two males who are ready to beat the shit out of each other.

Yes, that was me. :)

Bienvenida a la jungla de BH.

Gracias.

uncle ebeneezer
01-29-2010, 09:55 PM
And more... (http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2010/01/stimulus-hypocrisy.php)

bjkeefe
01-29-2010, 11:02 PM
GROUPTHINK!!1!

Yew bigit!!!1!

Starwatcher162536
01-29-2010, 11:55 PM
I am somewhat surprised this forum is as civil as it is, considering a majority of the commenting here revolves around if you think government/free market is a dirty word or not.

bjkeefe
01-30-2010, 12:40 AM
(4) As far as my perspective vis-a-vis the rest of the world goes, on political and politically-tinged matters, I will never be dissuaded of this: the coarsening of discourse writ large is almost entirely due to (a) the right-wing noise machine's scorched-earth, pull-no-punches, easier-to-ask-forgiveness-than-permission approach, and (b) the reluctance of most prominent voices on the left and in the center to stand up to the bullies.

Just happened across this: Steve Benen, The Megaphone Gap (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2010_01/022157.php)

Lyle
01-30-2010, 12:53 AM
Kezboard, boo, if the Supreme Court can talk about it... you and I can talk about it. In fact people talk about what should be done to murderers all the time, and murderers are much more heinous people than torturers cause they've killed someone. You know there's just a difference between playing Prince really loud for hours on end and blowing someone's brains out.

Please, please... run as fast as you can away from "there's just some talk that is beyond the pale... cause it's immoral". What's immoral to you ain't immoral to someone else. Let's all just get along and let people talk about whatever the hell they want to talk about... like torture or gay bathhouse orgies.

PreppyMcPrepperson
01-30-2010, 06:37 AM
The half-hour limit returns! Clearly you guys needed PMP in the conversation, so as to excuse front page levels of long-windedness

Ha. I'm a blowhard.

TwinSwords
01-30-2010, 09:12 AM
I watched a bit today during lunch and loved it.

Chuck Toddler and Mark Halperin both hated it, so it must have been good.

The funniest part is that Fox News broke away from live coverage when it became evident how badly it was going for the Republicans.

TwinSwords
01-30-2010, 09:13 AM
Ha. I'm a blowhard.

Aw, no you're not. You have a lot of good things to say; takes time to lay it all out.

Ocean
01-30-2010, 09:19 AM
Chuck Toddler and Mark Halperin both hated it, so it must have been good.

The funniest part is that Fox News broke away from live coverage when it became evident how badly it was going for the Republicans.

Yes, I'll try to watch the whole thing today. I just read a comment written by Brendan somewhere in this thread making the point that there needs to be more push back from the Dems when the Republicans start to throw their right wing "memes". I think that's what Obama was doing, but again, I just watched a little bit. I wish he (and others) confronted more the irrational ideas that are thrown in. People seem to take them for granted without challenging their internal logic or consistency.

uncle ebeneezer
01-30-2010, 12:35 PM
Take that! (http://apollo.bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/25639?in=09:14&out=09:18)

uncle ebeneezer
01-30-2010, 12:56 PM
Finally got to listen to this one. Awesome job guys. As usual with any complex issue I agree with both of your points in many respects. I tend to lean more towards Jeff's "means rather than end" approach. Sorry my earlier post largely said the same thing before I had listened. I wasn't really persuaded to change my approach significantly by this diavlog, but then again I'm very proud of a song I wrote called "Fuck Everyone" so maybe it's just me ;-)

Great diavlog.

PS I still maintain that the comments section here at bhTv is on the balance relatively civil when compared against most other discussion forums that I have ever visited online. Even among the people we disagree with, there is a certain level of respect and (attempts at) civility that I think is admirable considering the heated nature of the stuff we talk about. Even though Bob has apparently orphaned us since the Apollo Project took off :-(

graz
01-30-2010, 01:27 PM
I wasn't really persuaded to change my approach significantly by this diavlog, but then again I'm very proud of a song I wrote called "Fuck Everyone" so maybe it's just me ;-)


No, fuck you also.

Bobby G
01-30-2010, 02:09 PM
For the record, no one told us to limit the diavlog to 30 minutes. I just assumed we had a time limit based on what I thought was an unstated rule. After the diavlog ended, Jeff told me that other Apollos had gone on for longer, and I thought to myself, "drat!"

bjkeefe
01-30-2010, 02:44 PM
I'm of two minds about posting this, since I don't want this thread to devolve into a(nother) bickerfest about one person, but, in the end, I decided this was worth passing along: fourteen and a half minutes of horrific incivility (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/01/reddit_interviews_me.php).

(h/t: u.e.)

bjkeefe
01-30-2010, 03:58 PM
Just happened across this: Steve Benen, The Megaphone Gap (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2010_01/022157.php)

And on a related note (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/archives/individual/2010_01/022154.php) ...

(h/t: res ipsa loquitur (http://rising-hegemon.blogspot.com/2010/01/was-it-over-when-germans-bombed-pearl.html))

spandrel
01-30-2010, 06:06 PM
Perhaps. But again, I'm usually more happy to discuss something like the above if it's just examined for what it is, rather than as some element of some supposed overarching framework. I don't think I can intellectualize something like sweeping judgments on civility -- there are too many visceral and other non-rational factors at work, as I see it. And the problem is, if we're discussing some specific thing and you try to extend it into, "Ah, so from that it follows ...," it's likely the case that I'll think, "No, no, that's not it at all." .....

It may even be the case that, very quickly, a requirement of consistency is more than the idea can bear, because among the many non-rational aspects of assessing civility is the frequent tendency to rationalize after the gut call has already been made. (Seems to me there's already a fair amount of supporting data for this, in this thread alone.)

So then incivility is clearly demonstrated not to require the sacrifice of a well-stated position. Certainly good enough for me.

Me&theboys
01-31-2010, 11:04 AM
Where is Franz de Waal just when we need him to explain male bonding?

I have no doubt he'd describe these exchanges as collaboration, rather than call them what many of them are: competitive arguing with a large amount of posturing thrown in.

Ocean
01-31-2010, 11:13 AM
I have no doubt he'd describe these exchanges as collaboration, rather than call them what many of them are: competitive arguing with a large amount of posturing thrown in.

That sounds like an interesting observation. Would you care to expand? There aren't that many women on this forum to start with, and probably even fewer invested in maintaining civility. I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts.

Me&theboys
01-31-2010, 11:16 AM
That sounds like an interesting observation. Would you care to expand? There aren't that many women on this forum to start with, and probably even fewer invested in maintaining civility. I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts.
Expand on which part? My claim about de Waal or my view of much of the comment section?

Ocean
01-31-2010, 11:43 AM
Expand on which part? My claim about de Waal or my view of much of the comment section?

Your view about the comment section as a general topic. I was also surprised that you would think de Waal would think of it as collaboration, and not recognize the competitive aspect of it.

PreppyMcPrepperson
01-31-2010, 11:52 AM
I would suggest that you also look at Habermas. Much of what you are arguing in this DV (which I loved BTW, so nice job to ya both) is premised on the notion that the web is a public space. I think that's still an open question.

As some commenters may know, I spend some time on the site exchanging with Lyle on his "Muslim did x" threads about whether it is appropriate, productive or indeed, civil to open conversations about terrorism and counterterrorism in this generalizing fashion. While I have lots of problems with the substance of the arguments he makes further down in those threads, we often exchange at a meta-level about the philosophical basis for making such generalizations in public debate in the first place. At one or two points in those dialogues, Lyle has argued that he feels its fair to use the tone he uses because he is a private citizen commenting as a private citizen, and not, say, an elected official or a celebrity or other public figure. I disagree and have encouraged him to adopt the same tone he would expect of a public figure in non-web life.

To me, the web effaces a line between private and public life. There are two possible consequences of this effacing. One, the view usually endorsed by techies, is that the web kills the public figure by bringing him or her down to the level of everyone else. Journalists, politicians etc are encouraged to get hip, have blogs, get on Twitter, etc and speak in the casual, edgy, sometimes uncivil lingo employed by their audiences and constituents. The other view, endorsed principally by privacy hawks, but I believe also underlying Bobby's argument, is that the web kills the private figure and therefore requires us all to be more cautious, for example, in what we post to Facebook, lest it come to the notice of a future employer. Everything, this latter view holds, is Google-able.

Lyle tells me his comments are intended for the eyes of this forum, but when I comment, I assume that I'm writing for the eyes of everyone. There's nothing here, or on my blog, or my Facebook or anywhere else that I'd be uncomfortable showing to an employer.

Anyway, I think it might be worth going back to Habermas to work out what IS a public space and how the web fits into that taxonomy.

AemJeff
01-31-2010, 12:04 PM
I have no doubt he'd describe these exchanges as collaboration, rather than call them what many of them are: competitive arguing with a large amount of posturing thrown in.

Is there anything wrong with that? (Assuming that some sort of civility norm generally remains in force, even if the envelope does get nudged from time to time.)

nikkibong
01-31-2010, 12:13 PM
Yes, I'm abrasive and obnoxious. But I'm not a hypocrite. Or a liar. Or kidding myself. Like you.

Also, I try to treat everyone well in one-on-one interaction, and there are several conservatives on the board who I respect and admire a great deal, first and foremost Bobby G, but also including Basman, mvantony, JonIrenicus, and others. My inflammatory language is reserved for conservatives in the abstract, with the exceptions of a few truly vile figures in this forum, such as your hero KS.

more evidence to the contrary.

twin on jonirenicus
http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=147146&postcount=12

twin on mvantony (this one is especially classy)
http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=93428&postcount=10

who is it that's "kidding himself" again?

jimM47
01-31-2010, 12:50 PM
Surely the reasonable thing to do would be to stop for a moment and think, "if this guy is so well-regarded, is it possible that my initial assessment of him--or my assessment of him based on five programmatic pages of his work--is rash?" But he doesn't do that;

It seems here that you've equated civility, either entirely or in large part, with humility — stepping back and considering that one might be wrong before speaking about something negatively. I find myself in complete agreement with such sentiment, but I suspect that mine (ours?) is the minority view.

A concept of civility as humility has several straight-forward applications that are not observed by a large number of people on the board, some of whom do appear to take the concept of civility seriously: it would seem to bar the assumption of bad faith on the part of other commenters, it would seem to bar the presumption of the moral illegitimacy of widely-held views, and it would seem to bar the painting of simplistic derogatory narratives.

The consensus among some here appears to be that it is fine for one to paint all members of an ideology or political coalition with a broad brush in extremely negative terms and without qualification, as long as one doesn't do this to individuals.

I content that civility as humility shows this to indeed be uncivil, and regardless of conceptualization, I feel it is an example of incivility. When I read someone write that all members of my ideology are evil or stupid, etc. or that my ideology has a direct historical relationship to some prior reviled ideology, my reaction is to take the statement as a personal attack, regardless of the fact that it is not directed specifically at me.

I also take such a statement as not just a mark of incivility, but as a mark of intellectual unseriousness. It's a signal saying "I have everything worked out already, so I can't be convinced of anything; and because I paint with such a broad stroke, I can't even be influenced at the margins."

The natural reaction to such a statement will itself be uncivil — I can't convince you of anything, so I oughtn't try. My goal can only be refuting your statement so that others don't come along and think that silence in its face means everyone accepts it as true. The most effective way for me to do that is often going to be a small bit of demeaning snark, intended not at actually laying out the more complicated truth of the matter, but at lowering your credibility as the maker of that statement.

jimM47
01-31-2010, 01:00 PM
My disagreement with this concept of civility can be found down-thread here: http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showpost.php?p=149161&postcount=8

jimM47
01-31-2010, 01:20 PM
(1) Some ideas and/or people are contemptible and so should be treated with contempt.

I'll grant you that certain ideas and people are objectively contemptible and therefore can be themselves treated with contempt, but I have two objections to this:

1) None of us have access to the list of objectively contemptible people/ideas, we have only our own subjective assessments of them, which are likely to be erroneous in some cases. I think you and I differ both in our assessments of what percentage of people/ideas are contemptible and in our assessments of the caution one should exercise in relying on one's own subjective assessment of which people/ideas are contemptible.

2) Even if some ideas may be treated with contempt, that doesn't mean it is a productive use of people's time to sort through a pile of uninteresting displays of contempt to find interesting exchanges of ideas.

bjkeefe
01-31-2010, 01:45 PM
[...]

The natural reaction to such a statement will itself be uncivil — I can't convince you of anything, so I oughtn't try. My goal can only be refuting your statement so that others don't come along and think that silence in its face means everyone accepts it as true. The most effective way for me to do that is often going to be a small bit of demeaning snark, intended not at actually laying out the more complicated truth of the matter, but at lowering your credibility as the maker of that statement.


Very well said throughout. I'd like to highlight the above part in particular, because I wish I had said it as part of my reason (4) elsewhere (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=148568#post148568).

graz
01-31-2010, 01:46 PM
I wonder if PreppyMcPrepperson, JimM47 or Bobby G could point me to an example (web based) of the commenter Utopia that they envision.

Preppy: Feel free to maintain your high standards. Please don't ask everyone to conform. A neutered exchange is a dull exchange.

Jim: Your "interesting exchange of ideas" are also subjective. Sifting through the free expression, including turn-offs and time saps is integral to the process.

Bobby: Protecting your professional status is understandable. Repressing your desire to call a perceived D-bag by name, because of the public/private split should remain a private impulse. Feel free to persuade otherwise, but don't assume it as a given shared by all.

bjkeefe
01-31-2010, 02:04 PM
I'll grant you that certain ideas and people are objectively contemptible and therefore can be themselves treated with contempt, but I have two objections to this:

1) None of us have access to the list of objectively contemptible people/ideas, we have only our own subjective assessments of them, which are likely to be erroneous in some cases.

Quite so. However, if you have read my comments elsewhere in this thread, you are aware that I do not place much stock in the notion of "objectively." If I didn't make it clear enough elsewhere, I am of course aware that when I call something or someone contemptible, it is my subjective call.

I am also aware that, to the degree that something subjective can be said to be erroneous, I make a bad call from time to time. I will, if persuaded, change my assessment and/or apologize, if so.

I think you and I differ both in our assessments of what percentage of people/ideas are contemptible ...

Yes. I am not the most tolerant person on the planet by any stretch.

... and in our assessments of the caution one should exercise in relying on one's own subjective assessment of which people/ideas are contemptible.

Eh, I'm less convinced of that. This is an Internet forum, fer crissakes, which means people (should) know what the ground rules are, and further, the overwhelming percentage of people I harsh on -- deservedly so or not -- are posting under pseudonyms. I don't think there is much risk at all of consequences from my perhaps less than lengthily-considered judgments.

Also, if I say an idea is contemptible, so what? Anyone who wants can explain to me why I'm wrong about that. As far as applying that label to a person, I believe I allow some evidence to accumulate before I say so. (This of course happens mostly in my mind, so it's hard for others to see the time lapse, granted.)

2) Even if some ideas may be treated with contempt, that doesn't mean it is a productive use of people's time to sort through a pile of uninteresting displays of contempt to find interesting exchanges of ideas.

That's true, and I do think I have to work on that. I do let some things slide, and I ignore outright some people who I think are obviously self-refuting, but I could get better on both scores, particularly in avoiding prolonged bickerfests.

But, two things: First, especially as regards the prolonged part, it's easy enough to see from the staircase pattern (in the threaded view, anyway) when a swath of posts may be safely ignored. Second, this (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=149169#post149169).

bjkeefe
01-31-2010, 02:17 PM
I wonder if PreppyMcPrepperson, JimM47 or Bobby G could point me to an example (web based) of the commenter Utopia that they envision.

Make it more stringent. Said location should also feature a large diversity of views. (There are plenty of soothing echo chambers out there.)

That said, I can think of at least one: the comments on Crooked Timber, to the extent that I'm familiar with them, strike me as more vigorous debate about ideas with less politicking and personal sniping than this forum. (Not that I mean to drive traffic away from this site.) I would add, pointedly, that the CTers do not hesitate to ban people they feel detract from the tone they'd like to preserve.

Hear, hear, to the rest of your post.

jimM47
01-31-2010, 02:31 PM
I wonder if PreppyMcPrepperson, JimM47 or Bobby G could point me to an example (web based) of the commenter Utopia that they envision.

To be clear, I envision no utopia. There are two reasons for that: 1) in many but not all forums it takes very few people acting in bad faith to ruin an air of civility, and 2) every forum of sufficient size will undoubtedly have numerous people of good faith who simply disagree with the conception of civility I advance or its relative importance. As with anything, the inevitability of legitimate value pluralism renders utopia impossible. But that's not to say that I think that on the margin I can't convince people to behave in a way that is more conducive to my sense of civility, so that's what I am trying to do.

As to where on the web I see good examples of civil discourse: I can point to two examples. (I can think of many more that probably don't count because they aren't large or diverse enough in their commenter communities). Ironically, I think Slashdot does a pretty good job with many elements of civility. This isn't true of all posts, but the moderating system does serve to elevate interesting discourse and suppress incivility that serves no purpose. I think that creates a set of norms that feed back into people's behavior on the site. The other I'd point to is the VolokhConspiracy. Threads on posts by particular authors tend to be pretty bad, but threads by authors who tend to respond in the comments, and who actively moderate the comments, also develop strong norms of civility.

In that vein, I note that this thread, as well as the other Apollo threads, has been pretty civil — more so than the median bh.tv thread, I think. I suspect that has a lot to do with the people here being repeat players, and the fact that the thread authors (the diavloggers) are in here responding.

Jim: Your "interesting exchange of ideas" are also subjective. Sifting through the free expression, including turn-offs and time saps is integral to the process.

Sure, it is subjective. Which is why I didn't propose that the criteria be "be uncivil as long as it is interesting." If in practice we could all do that, I suppose I'd care a lot less about civility, but I don't think we can.

jimM47
01-31-2010, 02:38 PM
However, if you have read my comments elsewhere in this thread, you are aware that I do not place much stock in the notion of "objectively."

Noted. I read those comments after I had responded. I think we took each other's meaning regardless.

jimM47
01-31-2010, 02:49 PM
Eh, I'm less convinced of that. This is an Internet forum, fer crissakes, which means people (should) know what the ground rules are, and further, the overwhelming percentage of people I harsh on -- deservedly so or not -- are posting under pseudonyms. I don't think there is much risk at all of consequences from my perhaps less than lengthily-considered judgments.

Also, if I say an idea is contemptible, so what? Anyone who wants can explain to me why I'm wrong about that. As far as applying that label to a person, I believe I allow some evidence to accumulate before I say so. (This of course happens mostly in my mind, so it's hard for others to see the time lapse, granted.)

To clarify my position, my reason for believing one should exercise a fair degree of humility before acting on one's assessment that a person or idea is contemptible is not a reason based on a theory of desert. You are quite right that everyone here is a big boy now and if they can't handle an undeserved insult they shouldn't be here. My concern is a more consequentialist one — if people don't exercise this humility, will the conversation produced be more fruitful than if not.

bjkeefe
01-31-2010, 03:09 PM
To me, the web effaces a line between private and public life. There are two possible consequences of this effacing. One, the view usually endorsed by techies, is that the web kills the public figure by bringing him or her down to the level of everyone else. Journalists, politicians etc are encouraged to get hip, have blogs, get on Twitter, etc and speak in the casual, edgy, sometimes uncivil lingo employed by their audiences and constituents.

I refute this with six words: Cable TV. Talk radio. Don Rickles.

(More to come.)

The other view, endorsed principally by privacy hawks, but I believe also underlying Bobby's argument, is that the web kills the private figure and therefore requires us all to be more cautious, for example, in what we post to Facebook, lest it come to the notice of a future employer. Everything, this latter view holds, is Google-able.

Lyle tells me his comments are intended for the eyes of this forum, but when I comment, I assume that I'm writing for the eyes of everyone. There's nothing here, or on my blog, or my Facebook or anywhere else that I'd be uncomfortable showing to an employer.

Anyway, I think it might be worth going back to Habermas to work out what IS a public space and how the web fits into that taxonomy.

To expand on my above bumper sticker, we have had what could be called a coarsening of the discourse since long before Twitter was capitalized, blog was a word, and spiders (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_crawler) crawling the Web became metaphorical. On the other hand, there are plenty of things that for all of our current abrasiveness, snarkiness, potty-mouthiness, what have you, we overwhelmingly no longer say that used to be accepted on the pages of the most prestigious newspapers and magazines.

So, while there is no disputing your contention that the Web has an effect on other media, it's not quite that cut-and-dried, and it's certainly not one-way. Or sui generis. What constitutes polite society, or whatever you'd like to call it, is an ever-evolving set of norms, and they have always fed into each other through whatever channels were at hand.

Here's something else we don't completely agree about: Just because you maintain a standard for yourself about posting only things you wouldn't mind your boss seeing (one which I admire and share, and which I enforce on myself by posting under my real name), this does not mean that everyone else should have to adhere to this. And by "should," I am not calling you a scold, nor am I patting myself on the back for my own choice; I am just saying it is a very good thing that not everyone shares (y)our standard. There are lots of people who are not in a good position to express their views, no matter how civilly they do so. I'm not just talking the extremes of, say, government and social critics living in totalitarian states. I'm talking people right here in the US, who might, say, have unusually ideological bosses. Or sensitive family members. Or are in a position where their enemies are perpetually on the hunt for ammunition, no matter how much they have to remove the context and distort it.

So, basically, the online forum environment lets people get some things off their chest and means some things get said that ought to be said, and I think that while there are costs, and some people abuse the privilege, it 'nets out (sorry) to be a good thing.

On a related note, to the extent that people post things on their Facebook pages that they might be embarrassed about later in life, I suspect we're going to see changes in attitudes about what constitutes embarrassing. Again, the Web is not a unique driver of this sort of change -- consider, for example, the evolving attitudes toward what constitutes appropriate clothing, beachwear and otherwise, the increased comfort in speaking frankly about sex and other bodily functions, and the even more rapid shift in people's attitudes about their presidential candidates' drug histories, all of which first came about without the help of the Web.

Also: piercings and tattoos (though not yet for presidential candidates).

In other words, having, say, a picture of your drunken younger self on Facebook with your naughty bits on display is even now not a deal-breaker for the most part, and will, I expect, achieve full Meh status within the decade. (And as this happens, I would like to believe that it will also come to be that the same sentence would be true were I to strike the word younger.)

Finally, I don't buy that notion of loss of privacy. No one is compelled to share, or overshare. And, as I indicated above, to the degree that most of us do (and share) things when we're younger that we'd like (everyone else) to forget as we get older, I expect that once we all admit that we all do those things, there will be less sympathy for the outrage junkies.

You wanna worry about loss of privacy, spend more time thinking about surveillance cameras and the increasing sophistication of image-recognition technology.

bjkeefe
01-31-2010, 03:28 PM
To clarify my position, my reason for believing one should exercise a fair degree of humility before acting on one's assessment that a person or idea is contemptible is not a reason based on a theory of desert. You are quite right that everyone here is a big boy now and if they can't handle an undeserved insult they shouldn't be here. My concern is a more consequentialist one — if people don't exercise this humility, will the conversation produced be more fruitful than if not.

There is quite a bit to that, and I for one probably don't need to come off as dismissive as I sometimes do, but I would dispute it, slightly, for a couple of reasons.

First, ideas (and to some extent, individuals) are better tested if they are pushed on and against. In other words, it can be fruitful to adopt a more rigid stance than one actually holds, simply to see if the idea (or person, sometimes) can stand up to a little stress. [Added: to be clear, this means in particular my own ideas and beliefs.]

Second, I have long had a particular loathing for the sort of debate that one hears, stereotypically, among humanities professors (in academic environs and even at cocktail parties) and among panelists appearing on NPR. It is fatiguing to hear the obligatory disclaimers, forelock-tugging, genuflecting, with all due respects, franklys (franklies?), I could be wrong about this buts, etc., and it is so obviously pro forma that it's just about hypocritical. Or, at least, a waste of everyone's time. This is not to say I am against all social lubricant, but I am against oil spills, if you see what I mean.

Thus, while I agree with you that we should all maintain a sense of humility, I would say (a) that I do, in fact, remain perpetually aware that I could be wrong about anything and everything, even if I don't show this when arguing, and (b) a good way to get other people to expose this in me is to challenge them.

bjkeefe
01-31-2010, 03:32 PM
Noted. I read those comments after I had responded. I think we took each other's meaning regardless.

Yes. Thanks for acknowledging, though.

bjkeefe
01-31-2010, 03:38 PM
So then incivility is clearly demonstrated not to require the sacrifice of a well-stated position. Certainly good enough for me.

Just to let you know I've seen this ... I haven't responded because I am still trying to decide what I think it means.

Bobby G
01-31-2010, 07:58 PM
It seems here that you've equated civility, either entirely or in large part, with humility — stepping back and considering that one might be wrong before speaking about something negatively. I find myself in complete agreement with such sentiment, but I suspect that mine (ours?) is the minority view.

A concept of civility as humility has several straight-forward applications that are not observed by a large number of people on the board, some of whom do appear to take the concept of civility seriously: it would seem to bar the assumption of bad faith on the part of other commenters, it would seem to bar the presumption of the moral illegitimacy of widely-held views, and it would seem to bar the painting of simplistic derogatory narratives.

There's a lot to talk about in this post, but it's definitely worth considering most of all whether humility equates to civility, or if the relationship between the two is different.

On first blush, one wants to say that they're of course quite different; it seems possible to imagine someone who is both arrogant and civil (she says nothing particularly unfriendly to you but takes any relevant opportunities to stroke her own ego), and it seems possible (but harder) to imagine someone who is humble and uncivil. She doesn't think much of herself, but when someone articulates a view she doesn't like she fires with both cannons.

That said, I think that intellectual humility may be closer to the kind of civility I'm talking about. It's harder to imagine someone who is convinced that it's extremely hard to get the right answer about things who nonetheless goes off on someone else. But even if, as is unlikely, such a person would never go off on someone else, it's still not clear to me that this is civility. I should think that civility is something that could motivate you to use more decorous language even if you think the idea you're dealing with is clearly, completely wrong-headed. Thus, you aren't intellectually humble, at least in this case, but you're still civil. Why would you still be civil? One possibility is that you don't like (I'm using "don't like" in a broad sense, to include aesthetic considerations, ethical considerations, etc.) what uncivil conduct does to the discourse at large; another is that you don't like what it does to you; another is that you don't like what it does to her; another is that you think that the other person deserves to have a civil response, even if she's acting uncivilly.

But it's worth asking you, jimM: why do you think people should conduct themselves civilly? Or perhaps, why do you think you should conduct yourself civilly?

Bobby G
01-31-2010, 08:02 PM
I thought about Crooked Timber, but it's not as civil as I would like--there are people there who get into pretty white knuckle arguments about Israel, for example.

My main inspirations were online fora consisting mostly of academics (Prosblogion, for example). They have a large diversity of views but usually keep things very civil. That said, they probably don't have as large a commenter base as you were thinking.

Bobby G
01-31-2010, 08:10 PM
First, ideas (and to some extent, individuals) are better tested if they are pushed on and against. In other words, it can be fruitful to adopt a more rigid stance than one actually holds, simply to see if the idea (or person, sometimes) can stand up to a little stress. [Added: to be clear, this means in particular my own ideas and beliefs.]

I agree with this, but with the caveat that if you make things too personal you may end up intimidating the person from talking further, or the person may change her idea, not for intellectual reasons but just so as not to be so strongly disapproved. I don't think you're easy to intimidate, nor do I get that you care that much whether you're strongly disapproved of (though you probably care if it's a person you respect), but others--e.g., I--are different from you on this score.

Second, I have long had a particular loathing for the sort of debate that one hears, stereotypically, among humanities professors (in academic environs and even at cocktail parties) and among panelists appearing on NPR. It is fatiguing to hear the obligatory disclaimers, forelock-tugging, genuflecting, with all due respects, franklys (franklies?), I could be wrong about this buts, etc., and it is so obviously pro forma that it's just about hypocritical. Or, at least, a waste of everyone's time. This is not to say I am against all social lubricant, but I am against oil spills, if you see what I mean.

It's interesting that you hear that particularly among humanities professors rather than science professors. Regardless, I rather like those disclaimers, and in my own case they're motivated by my own experience of seeing how damn long it takes to be really conversant in a subject. Once I saw that (by writing my dissertation), I became much less sure of myself regarding lots of views, and then the hedges came naturally.

Bobby G
01-31-2010, 08:16 PM
First, I will check out Habermas...first I'm reading Mark Kingwell, though, who wrote a book (1994) called A Civil Tongue. It's pretty relevant to all this.

Second, this part here is great stuff: "To me, the web effaces a line between private and public life. There are two possible consequences of this effacing. One, the view usually endorsed by techies, is that the web kills the public figure by bringing him or her down to the level of everyone else. Journalists, politicians etc are encouraged to get hip, have blogs, get on Twitter, etc and speak in the casual, edgy, sometimes uncivil lingo employed by their audiences and constituents. The other view, endorsed principally by privacy hawks, but I believe also underlying Bobby's argument, is that the web kills the private figure and therefore requires us all to be more cautious, for example, in what we post to Facebook, lest it come to the notice of a future employer. Everything, this latter view holds, is Google-able."

I'll definitely need to consider this more and how it relates.

look
01-31-2010, 08:51 PM
I have no doubt he'd describe these exchanges as collaboration, rather than call them what many of them are: competitive arguing with a large amount of posturing thrown in.What if we look at our gang as of the playing out of archetypal imprinting. They can't elect a leader and conspire to take down a mastadon, so words become their spears, and the person they wish to take down is not given the courtesy of being seen as a human with a viewpoint and feelings, nor given a chance to express themselves. It's Lord of the Flies time here, and it's an outlet furiously enjoyed by the participants.

AemJeff
01-31-2010, 09:09 PM
What if we look at our gang as of the playing out of archetypal imprinting. They can't elect a leader and conspire to take down a mastadon, so words become their spears, and the person they wish to take down is not given the courtesy of being seen as a human with a viewpoint and feelings, nor given a chance to express themselves. It's Lord of the Flies time here, and it's an outlet furiously enjoyed by the participants.

I think you overstate your case by an order of magnitude. It also seems to me that, in large part, your judgments are based on your personal feelings about the personalities involved. It certainly seems to be the case that you judge a subset of the community here in far harsher terms than you do the rest; and that you apply a different standard of behavior, depending on whom you're applying judgment. (Have you ever called Whatfur, for instance, to the carpet, even once? I challenge you to find instances where your bête noire has approached even one hundredth of his worst violations of any standard of civility you care to name.) You also seem to have let yourself off the hook entirely. (I'd further challenge you to find many utterances [other than those from the above named member] from this forum more uncivil than "go piss up a rope," for instance.)

This is, in my judgment, a pretty mild mannered community in comparison to most of the politically active online fora you might find.

look
01-31-2010, 10:26 PM
AemJeff;149211]I think you overstate your case by an order of magnitude. It also seems to me that, in large part, your judgments are based on your personal feelings about the personalities involved. It certainly seems to be the case that you judge a subset of the community here in far harsher terms than you do the rest; and that you apply a different standard of behavior, depending on whom you're applying judgment. (Have you ever called Whatfur, for instance, to the carpet, even once? I challenge you to find instances where your bête noire has approached even one hundredth of his worst violations of any standard of civility you care to name.) You also seem to have let yourself off the hook entirely. (I'd further challenge you to find many utterances [other than those from the above named member] from this forum more uncivil than "go piss up a rope," for instance.)

This is, in my judgment, a pretty mild mannered community in comparison to most of the politically active online fora you might find.Please find an instance where I said anything like piss up a rope before, which by the way is genteel considering some of the phrases your pals use. And please understand that when I said it it was in responsed to B being all friendly and jokey the next morning after he'd been so insulting the night before.

Brendan is far more incivil than Fur. Just consider his behaviour toward Arndt, Althouse, McArdle, Goldberg, pisc, harkin, lyle, Dee Bee, Noggin, and harry.

And now we have the most hostile person on the board trying to tell nikki what an awful person he is. Nikki's biggest crime is having mind enough of his own to find some appreciation for figures like KS and disregard for people like Sullivan.

Finally you ask for instances as bad as piss up a rope, which by the way, where I grew up was a mild saying, equivalent to piss off. Let's see, what about using the search with clay's name for 'fuck' or 'shit.' Let's talk about
the constant use of 'wingnut' against people like pisc and harkin. They're not birthers or truthers or religious extremists or bigots, but by gum they're to be ridiculed anyway because they don't conform to groupus superiorous. Let's talk about calling Goldberg doughy and overfed. Let's talk about the time you broke into Uncletomese in the Skip Gates thread. Let's talk about the time Eb made those vile comments about Meade and Franke-Ruta, which stood by the way, though Fur calling Eb a prig was deleted. Hey, and did you know B can't stand McArdle? I'm sure you do, as he can't refrain from sobbing and howling at her appearances.

And please don't refer to B as my bete noire. He's nothing more than a small fish in a small pond who uses up more than is fair share of oxygen.

Ocean
01-31-2010, 10:34 PM
That's some venting of long held grievances! Healthy to get it out, look!

bjkeefe
01-31-2010, 10:39 PM
Second, this part here is great stuff: [...]

I'll definitely need to consider this more and how it relates.

I hope you will consider, as well, what I said in response (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=149181#post149181) to it, because I really think it's a false dichotomy and a facile way of looking at things. In fact, upon re-reading it, I'm surprised PMP said it, because it scans as the sort of thing written by some old media person trying to write about Big Trends In Life Online solely after spending a week on Facebook and talking to two cubicle-farm neighbors, both of whom know "the Web" exclusively from work email and texting with their kids.

Okay, that's a little hyperbolic. But I do have to say that if you're that impressed by that paragraph, I guess I can understand why you and I have such different views about civility in an Internet forum.

[Added] So, to repeat for emphasis, I hope you will consider my POV on this as well as PMP's. I don't claim mine's right, fer sure, but I do feel pretty strongly convinced about it (as if you haven't figured that part out already).

AemJeff
01-31-2010, 10:55 PM
Please find an instance where I said anything like piss up a rope before, which by the way is genteel considering some of the phrases your pals use. And please understand that when I said it it was in responsed to B being all friendly and jokey the next morning after he'd been so insulting the night before.

Brendan is far more incivil than Fur. Just consider his behaviour toward Arndt, Althouse, McArdle, Goldberg, pisc, harkin, lyle, Dee Bee, Noggin, and harry.

And now we have the most hostile person on the board trying to tell nikki what an awful person he is. Nikki's biggest crime is having mind enough of his own to find some appreciation for figures like KS and disregard for people like Sullivan.

Finally you ask for instances as bad as piss up a rope, which by the way, where I grew up was a mild saying, equivalent to piss off. Let's see, what about using the search with clay's name for 'fuck' or 'shit.' Let's talk about
the constant use of 'wingnut' against people like pisc and harkin. They're not birthers or truthers or religious extremists or bigots, but by gum they're to be ridiculed anyway because they don't conform to groupus superiorous. Let's talk about calling Goldberg doughy and overfed. Let's talk about the time you broke into Uncletomese in the Skip Gates thread. Let's talk about the time Eb made those vile comments about Meade and Franke-Ruta, which stood by the way, though Fur calling Eb a prig was deleted. Hey, and did you know B can't stand McArdle? I'm sure you do, as he can't refrain from sobbing and howling at her appearances.

And please don't refer to B as my bete noire. He's nothing more than a small fish in a small pond who uses up more than is fair share of oxygen.

Let me remind you of some of 'fur's charming habits - calling people who disagree with him "pukes," for instance. Or obscene rickrolls in lieu of responses to an argument. Not to mention ridiculously peurile allusions to opponents' sexual preferences; lies about what was said in private communications; physical threats, etc...

Compared to your list, I don't think there's much comparison. Disliking Althouse (I've been pretty harsh about her, too. I stand by that.) or McArdle, or even saying so, isn't necessarily an offense; though of course those thing can be expressed offensively. You don't mention the fact Althouse gives as good as she gets, and has distinguished herself as the single most disrespectful, uncivil person ever to headline a diavlog - which is why judgments on her can be so harsh. (Remember Garance?) Repeating old slanders about Jonah's weight is in pretty bad taste, I agree. But it still doesn't rise to the levels I just described.

You ignore harkin's equally insulting attitude towards his opponents. pisc has his own moments, too; though he's certainly gentler than many of us. I'm not quite sure how saying the word "fuck" figures into this, at all.

Reading what you said above back, do you really feel comfortable regarding it as a refutation of what I said? I think you have more self-awareness than that. Seriously. I like interacting with you in the forum here, and I don't particularly want to alienate you. But you seem to have drawn a bead on some of the folks participating here, and I feel as if I'm at least caught in the crossfire. You're free to feel any way at all about anybody here; but I think you're justifying your feelings with sweeping and unwarranted judgments about some of the rest of us.

TwinSwords
01-31-2010, 11:10 PM
Also: piercings and tattoos (though not yet for presidential candidates).

Just give it about 38 years (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bar-art/2593184593/in/set-72157594526632707/).

look
01-31-2010, 11:11 PM
Let me remind you of some of 'fur's charming habits - calling people who disagree with him "pukes," for instance. Or obscene rickrolls in lieu of responses to an argument. Not to mention ridiculously peurile allusions to opponents' sexual preferences; lies about what was said in private communications; physical threats, etc...

Compared to your list, I don't think there's much comparison. Disliking Althouse (I've been pretty harsh about her, too. I stand by that.) or McArdle, or even saying so, isn't necessarily an offense; though of course those thing can be expressed offensively. You don't mention the fact Althouse gives as good as she gets, and has distinguished herself as the single most disrespectful, uncivil person ever to headline a diavlog - which is why judgments on her can be so harsh. (Remember Garance?) Repeating old slanders about Jonah's weight is in pretty bad taste, I agree. But it still doesn't rise to the levels I just described.

You ignore harkin's equally insulting attitude towards his opponents. pisc has his own moments, too; though he's certainly gentler than many of us. I'm not quite sure how saying the word "fuck" figures into this, at all.

Reading what you said above back, do you really feel comfortable regarding it as a refutation of what I said? I think you have more self-awareness than that. Seriously. I like interacting with you in the forum here, and I don't particularly want to alienate you. But you seem to have drawn a bead on some of the folks participating here, and I feel as if I'm at least caught in the crossfire. You're free to feel any way at all about anybody here; but I think you're justifying your feelings with sweeping and unwarranted judgments about some of the rest of us.You have heard that two wrongs don't make a right. I don't give a damn what Fur did, it does not excuse the things I listed in the uncletomese paragraph. You are simply blind to how obnoxious the gang's treatment of 'the other' is. You are all so full of yourselves thinking your soooo funny, but you don't realize you're operating on a clique high school level. Well carry the hell on.

I see that Fur has cleaned his act up and I have never seen Harkin do other than state the facts as he sees them and refer to you all as a clique, which is what you are.

AemJeff
01-31-2010, 11:14 PM
You have heard that two wrongs don't make a right. I don't give a damn what Fur did, it does not excuse the things I listed in the uncletomese paragraph. ...

You missed the point, which was to illustrate a double standard.

look
01-31-2010, 11:27 PM
You missed the point, which was to illustrate a double standard.The double standard of me not addressing Fur's transgressions? That's changing the subject.

We're talking about the gang now, let me know when you want to address the consistent demonisation of 'the other,' you know, people who speak differently than you, tall women who do vlogs, chubby people, people who question some of the GW science, people who believe in god. You know, people who aren't like you.

I'll be glad to discuss Fur's behaviour later.

bjkeefe
01-31-2010, 11:33 PM
I agree with this, but with the caveat that if you make things too personal you may end up intimidating the person from talking further, or the person may change her idea, not for intellectual reasons but just so as not to be so strongly disapproved. I don't think you're easy to intimidate, nor do I get that you care that much whether you're strongly disapproved of (though you probably care if it's a person you respect), but others--e.g., I--are different from you on this score.

Yeah, I buy that. I probably could do a bit better in this regard, as well as others I've acknowledged.

However, for one thing, I do think that I don't start out with a new member of our community turned right up to 11. Ditto every other regular that I can think of on this site. (Unless, of course, it's someone who dropped by because s/he heard it was a good chance to do a copy and paste job of, say, the latest creationist, Birther, or AGW-denialist talking points. Or, remember that Moon-hoaxer (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=104641#post104641)? Good times.)

I also have to admit that I assume that people who go to the trouble of thinking up a pseudonym and registering for permission to post in an online forum already have at least some sense of what's what. So, this is different from, say, dealing with some shy student in your class who has, for the first time all semester, worked up the courage to dispute what you, the professor, have just said.

It's interesting that you hear that particularly among humanities professors rather than science professors.

NB: I did say "stereotypically." But in my experience, yes. Generally, the science people were more willing to speak plainly, without beating around the bush, even harshly, about a colleague's ideas, claims, etc. It was much more understood that this was about Getting The Science Right or whatever, and even if no one kept that perfectly in mind at every last heated moment (it's always messy when actual people are involved), it was at bare minimum the guiding principle that someone would remember to say when horns started getting locked. You could pretty much calm down every shoutfest, and soothe all bruised feelings after a meeting, just by starting to say those four words. And conversely, because everyone knew that was a principle embraced by everyone, everyone felt more free to jump into the fray.

("Everyone" is, of course, a simplification. Because it wearies me to type hedges that I think should be understood by all. ;))

Who knows. Maybe it's because there's more of a sense that there is, in fact, a Right Answer in science (even if we don't (yet) know it), and there's more of a sense that multiple interpretations are equally admissible in the humanities. (Another oversimplification, obvs.)

Regardless, I rather like those disclaimers, and in my own case they're motivated by my own experience of seeing how damn long it takes to be really conversant in a subject. Once I saw that (by writing my dissertation), I became much less sure of myself regarding lots of views, and then the hedges came naturally.

Yeah, well. We all conduct ourselves a little differently, and our different learning environments will have different norms of behavior. Me, I always assume that in a setting of my peers, it's pretty much understood that no one is that sure about anything beyond what we all already obviously agree on, and that it's not the end of the world to be wrong about something, so there's no point in repeating what sound like ritual incantations. That much is understood, and as I said at the beginning of this sub-thread, the whole point is to set that aside and try as hard as you can to make a case for some specific idea, to test the worthiness of it.

It's somewhat akin to our legal system, I think, where we expect advocacy for the defense and the prosecution: You try your best to get your distinguished client off, or that dirtbag thrown in the can, depending on which chair you're sitting in, and you don't worry about anything except doing your job as best you can. And then you go out for a beer with that <strike>goddamn shyster</strike> good friend across the aisle. It ain't perfect, by any means, but it does, on average, appear to get the best outcome we can be sure of getting under some agreed-upon, more-or-less codified system.

Okay, this is starting to sound ridiculous, because I sure don't talk like this, or even think about talking like this, all the time. Yes, of course, there's plenty of room for kindness, courtesy, not trying to win every last point, etc., and failing to remember that may, eventually, make even an online forum not that fun a place to be. But so can too much pussyfooting.

bjkeefe
01-31-2010, 11:42 PM
I thought about Crooked Timber, but it's not as civil as I would like--there are people there who get into pretty white knuckle arguments about Israel, for example.

Heh. All bets are off on that topic, aren't they? This is a place where I am perfectly aligned with Mickey Kaus: the key to long-term survival (for him at TNR, for me in my own mind) is to say, sooner rather than later, "We've reached the limit of my understanding of this topic" and flee.

AemJeff
01-31-2010, 11:48 PM
The double standard of me not addressing Fur's transgressions? That's changing the subject.

We're talking about the gang now, let me know when you want to address the consistent demonisation of 'the other,' you know, people who speak differently than you, tall women who do vlogs, chubby people, people who question some of the GW science, people who believe in god. You know, people who aren't like you.

I'll be glad to discuss Fur's behaviour later.

Why? Do you imagine that I feel answerable to you? I made a point - your complaints are directed at specific people because you're pissed off at them, or you don't like them - but, you're presenting your preferences as if they represent a valid judgment, and you're presenting that judgment publicly (which is what motivates my response.)

In regard to your complaints about demonization - you exaggerate and overgeneralize. To the extent that any of those accusations is true - it's directed at individuals, not at "people who speak differently than you, tall women who do vlogs, chubby people, people who question some of the GW science, people who believe in god." And "demonization?" Please. I get tongue tied in the effort to be fair when I criticize somebody who isn't my direct interlocutor. And I'm careful in a back and forth to say things I can defend. Althouse has earned an exception to the above rules.

look
01-31-2010, 11:54 PM
Why? Do you imagine that I feel answerable to you? I made a point - your complaints are directed at specific people because you're pissed off at them, or you don't like them - but, you're presenting your preferences as if they represent a valid judgment, and you're presenting that judgment publicly (which is what motivates my response.)

In regard to your complaints about demonization - you exaggerate and overgeneralize. To the extent that any of those accusations is true - it's directed at individuals, not at "people who speak differently than you, tall women who do vlogs, chubby people, people who question some of the GW science, people who believe in god." And "demonization?" Please. I get tongue tied in the effort to be fair when I criticize somebody who isn't my direct interlocutor. And I'm careful in a back and forth to say things I can defend. Althouse has earned an exception to the above rules.Sorry, not interested in word games or talking in circles. Enjoy the frat house.

bjkeefe
02-01-2010, 12:04 AM
Just give it about 38 years (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bar-art/2593184593/in/set-72157594526632707/).

Heh. That's a pleasant dream. Thanks.

bjkeefe
02-01-2010, 12:23 AM
Just consider his behaviour toward ... Goldberg ...

You mean this, where I "ganged up" with the single stupidest person ever to post more than once on this site?

"fantasies and gut hatreds" why don't you just call us racist like you do every other day of the week, Michelle?

I wonder what Matt thinks of having to deal with her. Maybe he drew the short straw.

Oh, wait. The other Goldberg?

My mistake.

P.S. Just so you know, the reasons "Doughy" and "Pantload" are such persistent nicknames for your hero Jonah have far more to do with the flaccidity and diarrhetic nature of his mind than any body parts farther down.

look
02-01-2010, 12:44 AM
You mean this, where I "ganged up" with the single stupidest person ever to post more than once on this site?



Oh, wait. The other Goldberg?

My mistake.

P.S. Just so you know, the reasons "Doughy" and "Pantload" are such persistent nicknames for your hero Jonah have far more to do with the flaccidity and diarrhetic nature of his mind than any body parts farther down.The difference being, I was criticizing her ideas, whereas you were criticizing his person.

Pantload, I don't care about, I always assumed it to mean he was considered by some to be full of crap.

But doughy, well-fed, etc., were about his weight, so find someone else to bullshit.

I find you to be prejudiced, intolerant, volatile, and second in hostility only to TS. Please respect my wishes, and do not post to me again.

bjkeefe
02-01-2010, 01:05 AM
The difference being, I was criticizing her ideas, whereas you were criticizing his person.

[...]

But doughy, well-fed, etc., were about his weight, so find someone else to bullshit.

Good to know you are without flaw, always speak the truth, AND are able to read the hidden subtext in others' words. Thank you, Jesus! (Althouse?)

I find you to be prejudiced, intolerant, volatile, and second in hostility only to TS. Please respect my wishes, and do not post to me again.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: if you don't want to read what I write, don't. Develop some willpower, use the Ignore List, or both.

And if you don't want even to have to think about the idea, The Very Idea! that I might be commenting on something you post in a public forum, then don't post it.

Sorry, look. You can stamp your foot all you want, but even in the middle of this three-day spasm of loosing your inner four-year-old, you ought to be able to acknowledge how ludicrous it is to talk whatever smack you want about me and then demand that I zip my lip.

So, shorter me: Request denied.

PreppyMcPrepperson
02-01-2010, 11:33 AM
I wonder if PreppyMcPrepperson, JimM47 or Bobby G could point me to an example (web based) of the commenter Utopia that they envision.

Preppy: Feel free to maintain your high standards. Please don't ask everyone to conform. A neutered exchange is a dull exchange.

Jim: Your "interesting exchange of ideas" are also subjective. Sifting through the free expression, including turn-offs and time saps is integral to the process.

Bobby: Protecting your professional status is understandable. Repressing your desire to call a perceived D-bag by name, because of the public/private split should remain a private impulse. Feel free to persuade otherwise, but don't assume it as a given shared by all.

I'd agree with what Keefe and Bobby have said already, that Crooked Timber and academic blogs generally are good examples of respectful web discourse. I think niche sites are also pretty good that way, places that focus on one area of policy, not one area of the political spectrum. I follow a number of South Asia sites--Chapati Mystery, Sepia Mutiny, Kafila--where the dialogue is always both polite and interesting. I think, though I follow these less closely, that a similar dynamic holds for local news sites, where debate can be spirited but rarely hostile.

PreppyMcPrepperson
02-01-2010, 11:44 AM
I hope you will consider, as well, what I said in response (http://bloggingheads.tv/forum/showthread.php?p=149181#post149181) to it, because I really think it's a false dichotomy and a facile way of looking at things. In fact, upon re-reading it, I'm surprised PMP said it, because it scans as the sort of thing written by some old media person trying to write about Big Trends In Life Online solely after spending a week on Facebook and talking to two cubicle-farm neighbors, both of whom know "the Web" exclusively from work email and texting with their kids.

Okay, that's a little hyperbolic. But I do have to say that if you're that impressed by that paragraph, I guess I can understand why you and I have such different views about civility in an Internet forum.

[Added] So, to repeat for emphasis, I hope you will consider my POV on this as well as PMP's. I don't claim mine's right, fer sure, but I do feel pretty strongly convinced about it (as if you haven't figured that part out already).

Responding here rather than above as I read the whole exchange at once. I think you're right that this goes back before the web, but I think the web is a major catalyst. I think BOTH techophiles and old media techophobes make this binary distinction that I've made as a way of discrediting the other side or positing a scenario in which one side must win. If you explore some of my older blog posts, you will find that I have spent a long time trying to find a middle ground in this debate, but ultimately, I found I was unconvinced by those arguments and recanted. So I haven't endorsed the binary as a knee-jerk thing in the manner the old media type you have described would.

I am now of the view that the web ends the pub/priv divide, and that we have to manage accordingly. Whether that means we dispense with social taboos about the things we, formerly, would want to hold private (as you suggest) or whether that means we dispense with some social license to maintain public decorum, I don't know. I personally would prefer the latter, so I behave that way and try to advocate it when I can.

bjkeefe
02-01-2010, 12:29 PM
Responding here rather than above as I read the whole exchange at once. I think you're right that this goes back before the web, but I think the web is a major catalyst.

Mmmm ... I might go along with "helps things happen faster," but not "makes things happen that wouldn't otherwise have happened."

I think BOTH techophiles and old media techophobes make this binary distinction that I've made as a way of discrediting the other side or positing a scenario in which one side must win.

Yes. It is annoying, isn't it?

If you explore some of my older blog posts, you will find that I have spent a long time trying to find a middle ground in this debate, but ultimately, I found I was unconvinced by those arguments and recanted. So I haven't endorsed the binary as a knee-jerk thing in the manner the old media type you have described would.

Perhaps it's a mistake to privilege either of those extreme views by the very idea of trying to find middle ground between them. Since they're both wrong, one wonders if the average of the two, so to speak, is likely to be much better. GIGO, if you will.

I am now of the view that the web ends the pub/priv divide, and that we have to manage accordingly.

Okay. We plain don't agree at all on that. The most I would say is that some aspects of privacy may be harder to maintain, and some thought has to be given to aspects of one's conduct where this was less true in an earlier time, but I would also remind you that the Web is only one piece of this, and on the important stuff, I'm not even sure how large. To the surveillance camera/image-recognition software worry I mentioned earlier, I'll add another example: databases; i.e., the plummeting cost of storing, searching, and correlating massive amounts of personal information. While I'll grant that these can be tied in with (to?) the Web aspect, they don't have to be, to be a problem. In fact, they were a problem long before personal computers could be connected, and if anything, the Web is a way for the people to fight back against the powers (government, big businesses) who previously held monopoly control.

I'd also say that the Web can as easily be used to enhance privacy, in some senses. This forum is a perfect example of what I'm thinking about: anyone who wants can post under a pseudonym and feel free to speak his or her mind without worry. One can even develop an entire online persona -- i.e., not restricted to one site or one community -- that can make for a rich life entirely separate from life AFK, and this really doesn't take much effort at all.

Moving back a step, I think your "ends" is the thing that triggered my earlier hyperbolic response. People love to pronounce these things, but it's really not that dramatic or final. You're entitled to your views, and I usually respect them whether I agree with them or not, but I have to say, "Ends the public/private divide" sounds like a click-bait headline, not a serious thesis. It is entirely too superficial.

Whether that means we dispense with social taboos about the things we, formerly, would want to hold private (as you suggest) or whether that means we dispense with some social license to maintain public decorum, I don't know. I personally would prefer the latter, so I behave that way and try to advocate it when I can.

Again, I don't think it's an either/or thing. All of these things -- taboos, licenses, and the like -- are complicated collections of human attitudes that evolve over time while jostling against each other in societies. It's always "some of this, some of that, some of the other" and "whoa, who ordered that?", if you see what I'm saying, and there are no endpoints, except as we arbitrarily declare them ("the end of innocence," "the end of history," etc.).

However, I am not at all opposed to your advocating the preservation of public decorum. Or, indeed, even an increase.

bjkeefe
02-01-2010, 01:40 PM
... and there are no endpoints, except as we arbitrarily declare them ("the end of innocence," "the end of history," etc.).

Wheels within wheels, man, wheels within wheels. (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/25715?in=10:00&out=10:13)

;^)

popcorn_karate
02-01-2010, 06:45 PM
I'd also say that the Web can as easily be used to enhance privacy, in some senses. This forum is a perfect example of what I'm thinking about: anyone who wants can post under a pseudonym and feel free to speak his or her mind without worry.


isn't that an illusion of privacy? I think, if for example, the real P_K became the target of oh say, Fox News because i was running for office on a progressive platform, all of my supposedly "anonymous" and/or "private" postings and chatter on the web would be quite easily dredged up and tied to my real world identity.

in some ways it is more dangerous than a lack of privacy because of that illusion.

what do you think? is that paranoia or reality? a little of both?

bjkeefe
02-01-2010, 06:55 PM
isn't that an illusion of privacy? I think, if for example, the real P_K became the target of oh say, Fox News because i was running for office on a progressive platform, all of my supposedly "anonymous" and/or "private" postings and chatter on the web would be quite easily dredged up and tied to my real world identity.

in some ways it is more dangerous than a lack of privacy because of that illusion.

what do you think? is that paranoia or reality? a little of both?

A little of both, but more the former than the latter. In order for Fox or whomever to do that, they'd have to be able to make the connection between your Web handle and what you call yourself AFK. If you're concerned about keeping your online and meatspace identities separate, you just have to be careful about not revealing information that could tie the two together. So, sure, you have some responsibility to be aware of the possible risks, but I'd say you're far better off than you would have been in broadcasting your opinions, pre-Web.

I'm also going to say the odds against any given person having a legitimate shot of running for Congress make your scenario beyond an edge case, but if you're really worried (paranoid), use an onion router (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onion_Router) when you post on line.

popcorn_karate
02-01-2010, 07:10 PM
I'm also going to say the odds against any given person having a legitimate shot of running for Congress make your scenario beyond an edge case,

well, i'm sure you are creative enough to imagine a scenario where Joe Blow suddenly becomes the center of a media spotlight for some odd reason. remember the kerfuffle about singing a song about Obama at some elementary school?

I have to say that your penchant for wanting to pick at the minutia on the periphery of an idea is a bit maddening at times, but thanks for the thoughts.

Me&theboys
02-01-2010, 08:17 PM
Is there anything wrong with that? (Assuming that some sort of civility norm generally remains in force, even if the envelope does get nudged from time to time.)

Not necessarily. It depends on what the purpose is and what you value. Some people see every interaction as a reflection of their position in the virtual pecking order and their objective is more to defend that position than to make meaningful contributions to the discussion. Some people simply cannot stand it if you don't see things their way and are unwilling to defend their view with any persuasive arguments. Both of these kinds of competitive arguing tend to be vacuous (though apparently very entertaining to some) and often devolve into incivility at the first push-back, contributing to a poorer bhtv community than there would otherwise be.

OTOH, competitive arguing that consists of a battle of facts (or of opinions strongly supported by facts), rather than a battle of opinion alone, is quite worthwhile (for both the reader and the poster). With these kinds of interactions, there is little need for real incivility and when they do devolve into incivility, it is generally because one side has marshalled the facts better, and the other side chooses to hide behind insult.

Personally, I'd rather read someone poke holes in someone else's argument than read people call each other names or offer empty opinions.

I read a great quote today by Saul Bellow: "A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep." I think that could be amended to read "A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance and incivility when the need for illusion is deep."

Me&theboys
02-01-2010, 08:39 PM
Your view about the comment section as a general topic.

I just posted my view of the comment section in general in my reply to AEMJeff (which comments were not gender-specific). Regarding the gender aspect of the comments section, I do believe the relative dearth of female commenters is due in large part to a general female preference for more personal one on one and small group interactions and a general male preference for more superficial interactions among large groups. I also believe that fewer women enjoy the competitive (and often uncivil) nature of the interactions more common to men and prefer other forums for discussion. Many male commenters here go after each other repeatedly. I know that the few people with whom I have had uncivil interactions rarely prompt subsequent responses from me, and I don't even consider engaging many of the more uncivil male commenters because it would prove a waste of time. Since I don't desire to play the ref or the peacemaker between opposing sides, that rules out a lot of options for interaction. Some may consider that to be the way things work and c'est la vie; you get into the fray or you have no say. That may be true, and if so, it explains much about the way our world works. I don't necessarily think it's good. Finally, I know that for me, personally, it's a massive waste of time to wade through the comment section dreck to find the few posts that have meaningful information in them. After reading 20 or 30 useless exchanges that carry no added value, I just stop. Given the above, I would wager that there are far more female viewers of the diavlogs than readers of the comments, and even fewer female posters of comments.

Ocean
02-01-2010, 08:55 PM
I just posted my view of the comment section in general in my reply to AEMJeff (which comments were not gender-specific). Regarding the gender aspect of the comments section, I do believe the relative dearth of female commenters is due in large part to a general female preference for more personal one on one and small group interactions and a general male preference for more superficial interactions among large groups. I also believe that fewer women enjoy the competitive (and often uncivil) nature of the interactions more common to men and prefer other forums for discussion. Many male commenters here go after each other repeatedly. I know that the few people with whom I have had uncivil interactions rarely prompt subsequent responses from me, and I don't even consider engaging many of the more uncivil male commenters because it would prove a waste of time. Since I don't desire to play the ref or the peacemaker between opposing sides, that rules out a lot of options for interaction. Some may consider that to be the way things work and c'est la vie; you get into the fray or you have no say. That may be true, and if so, it explains much about the way our world works. I don't necessarily think it's good. Finally, I know that for me, personally, it's a massive waste of time to wade through the comment section dreck to find the few posts that have meaningful information in them. After reading 20 or 30 useless exchanges that carry no added value, I just stop. Given the above, I would wager that there are far more female viewers of the diavlogs than readers of the comments, and even fewer female posters of comments.

Thank you for your response. Generally speaking I tend to agree with you about this topic. Perhaps I depart from your position in regards to the extent of my participation, although I admit this has varied over time, and it may continue to change.

As to women's interest in the kinds of topics presented here, I have somewhat conflicting ideas. When I was working in academic environments, I would find more women interested in these topics. However, once I stepped out of academia I found it very difficult to find women that had a genuine interest or curiosity about the same. I realize that these are not necessarily representative samples, but they may reflect some aspect of what is common occurrence.

AemJeff
02-01-2010, 09:32 PM
Not necessarily. It depends on what the purpose is and what you value. Some people see every interaction as a reflection of their position in the virtual pecking order and their objective is more to defend that position than to make meaningful contributions to the discussion. Some people simply cannot stand it if you don't see things their way and are unwilling to defend their view with any persuasive arguments. Both of these kinds of competitive arguing tend to be vacuous (though apparently very entertaining to some) and often devolve into incivility at the first push-back, contributing to a poorer bhtv community than there would otherwise be.

OTOH, competitive arguing that consists of a battle of facts (or of opinions strongly supported by facts), rather than a battle of opinion alone, is quite worthwhile (for both the reader and the poster). With these kinds of interactions, there is little need for real incivility and when they do devolve into incivility, it is generally because one side has marshalled the facts better, and the other side chooses to hide behind insult.

Personally, I'd rather read someone poke holes in someone else's argument than read people call each other names or offer empty opinions.

I read a great quote today by Saul Bellow: "A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep." I think that could be amended to read "A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance and incivility when the need for illusion is deep."

I think I'd add another kind of competitive arguing - with the goal being defined in terms of the quality of the arguments, with winning arguments functioning as a standard of measurement. That's obviously idealized; who says who's won, for instance? But I, for one, find this sort of argument-as-sport highly entertaining; and, to the extent I'm capable, it's the model I hold for my own engagement. But it's also true that playing "dozens" is a deeply entertaining distraction - somewhat more gladiatorial than the above, and maybe a cheaper thrill, ultimately - but nevertheless pretty seductive. There are, of course, more and less artful ways to play that game.

bjkeefe
02-01-2010, 11:43 PM
well, i'm sure you are creative enough to imagine a scenario where Joe Blow suddenly becomes the center of a media spotlight for some odd reason. remember the kerfuffle about singing a song about Obama at some elementary school?

Yes. But I would say that, first, that has happened since long before the Web became what it is, and second, that's not the same thing as I was talking about -- someone making a conscious plan to participate in some Web-based activities while wanting to preserve his or her privacy in other spheres of life.

I have to say that your penchant for wanting to pick at the minutia on the periphery of an idea is a bit maddening at times, but thanks for the thoughts.

I thought I was only responding to your edge case, but whatever. You're welcome.

Francoamerican
02-02-2010, 04:08 AM
Anyway, I think it might be worth going back to Habermas to work out what IS a public space and how the web fits into that taxonomy.

Excellent suggestion Preppy. But, after reading your exchange with bjkeefe, I think it needs to be pointed out that the private/public distinction, as Habemas defines it, is a distinction between matters that concern only the individual in his private life and matters that concern all individuals as citizens---- political or social beings (what Habermas calls the "public sphere"). Rules of civility or politeness are obviously more important in the latter because they facilitate communication and mutual respect. But even in private life they have their value!

Habermas certainly never thought (does anyone?) that what is private is necessarily offensive---vulgar, tawdry, juvenile, crude etc.. The private sphere is simply irrelevant to the public sphere. The internet allows people to be vulgar, tawdry and juvenile with impunity---by concealing their public identity. But the fact that we still judge certain kinds of behavior as vulgar, tawdry, and juvenile shows that we still have public standards of civility.

Bobby G
02-02-2010, 05:01 AM
I will write something in response to what you and PMP said soon; right now I'm swamped with work.

PreppyMcPrepperson
02-02-2010, 05:13 AM
Thank you for your response. Generally speaking I tend to agree with you about this topic. Perhaps I depart from your position in regards to the extent of my participation, although I admit this has varied over time, and it may continue to change.

As to women's interest in the kinds of topics presented here, I have somewhat conflicting ideas. When I was working in academic environments, I would find more women interested in these topics. However, once I stepped out of academia I found it very difficult to find women that had a genuine interest or curiosity about the same. I realize that these are not necessarily representative samples, but they may reflect some aspect of what is common occurrence.

I have experienced the same dichotomy in women's interests, Ocean. I'm not sure what drives that gap though. Your take?

PreppyMcPrepperson
02-02-2010, 05:19 AM
isn't that an illusion of privacy? I think, if for example, the real P_K became the target of oh say, Fox News because i was running for office on a progressive platform, all of my supposedly "anonymous" and/or "private" postings and chatter on the web would be quite easily dredged up and tied to my real world identity.

in some ways it is more dangerous than a lack of privacy because of that illusion.

what do you think? is that paranoia or reality? a little of both?

"Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you."

Ocean
02-02-2010, 07:34 AM
I have experienced the same dichotomy in women's interests, Ocean. I'm not sure what drives that gap though. Your take?

First, a similar dichotomy exists between men in academia (or highly educated, well-read) and outside. If that's the case, probably a mix of intelligence and education can explain the gap.

Beyond that gap, and getting to gender differences, the most obvious contribution comes from the history of women being relegated to child rearing and housework and kept away from education. It's likely that in addition to this cultural factor, there is something in the psychology of women that makes them less likely to be interested in certain topics or in debating them.

In sum, nature and nurture combined. The good news, we are changing it!

PreppyMcPrepperson
02-02-2010, 11:51 AM
First, a similar dichotomy exists between men in academia (or highly educated, well-read) and outside. If that's the case, probably a mix of intelligence and education can explain the gap.

Beyond that gap, and getting to gender differences, the most obvious contribution comes from the history of women being relegated to child rearing and housework and kept away from education. It's likely that in addition to this cultural factor, there is something in the psychology of women that makes them less likely to be interested in certain topics or in debating them.

In sum, nature and nurture combined. The good news, we are changing it!

We are, but slowly. It seems to me that even among eduated, ambitious, career women, there is an ambivalence towards politics and current affairs, or at least more of an ambivalence than I find among my ambitious male peers. And that is something I find perplexing.

PreppyMcPrepperson
02-02-2010, 12:01 PM
We are, but slowly. It seems to me that even among eduated, ambitious, career women, there is an ambivalence towards politics and current affairs, or at least more of an ambivalence than I find among my ambitious male peers. And that is something I find perplexing.

PS. Blogginghead Dana Goldstein, who was in college with me, used to write a bunch on this topic for the student and local press. I vaguely recall that she had compelling things to say. I should ping her and get her to take up the question again.

Starwatcher162536
02-02-2010, 06:26 PM
I think alot of it is because of the tribal nature of politics. It's not that men are generally more interested in a wider range (Or should I say different?) of topics, it's that men are more drawn to the adversarial aspects of politics that are making sure the other side doesn't "win". I wonder if the differences you perceive are not as evident in a parliamentary system that has less group identification (At least that is how it felt to me).

I have a hard time believing people (even the highly educated) have a wide enough base of knowledge to really care as much as they seem to on such a wide variety of subjects. Or who knows, maybe it just seems that way because I am especially ignorant.

I am a guy btw.

Edit:
Ah, I see Me&TheBoys already said it. I guess that's what I get for randomly selecting posts to read.

jimM47
02-02-2010, 11:49 PM
But it's worth asking you, jimM: why do you think people should conduct themselves civilly? Or perhaps, why do you think you should conduct yourself civilly?

This isn't a full answer, it isn't edited and read-over like I'd like, but I feel bad saying nothing for this long, so I'll post this much and try to get back here to flesh it out.

Obviously a lot of civility in the off-line world is not humility-based: you refrain from provoking people and using profane language, etc not necessarily because you want to have an informative dialog, but because you don't want people to feel hurt or offended. Civility in this context is about not making other people feel bad if you can help it, because they've done nothing wrong and nothing which implies consent to take abuse.

But on an internet forum, people are there voluntarily and can exit, and should probably have thick skin anyway, so care for their well-being isn't the primary issue.

The primary issue, I think, is the productivity of dialog, and so I think some concept of humility ought to be built into the very concept that the dialog can have any utility. Unless one thinks he's gods gift to the ignorant masses, who will be magically illuminated by the light of his wisdom, the very premise of participating in the conversation must implicitly be based on learning from one another, and civility may just be the set of norms best-adapted to having that sort of interaction.

AemJeff
02-02-2010, 11:53 PM
...Unless one thinks he's gods gift to the ignorant masses, who will be magically illuminated by the light of his wisdom, the very premise of participating in the conversation must implicitly be based on learning from one another, and civility may just be the set of norms best-adapted to having that sort of interaction.

That is very nicely said.

ledocs
02-03-2010, 07:33 AM
I have yet to hear the diavlog. I have now read all the comments and think that this discussion is more interesting, and more important, than the majority of the diavlogs, simply because this is a topic that is not ephemeral and that characterizes...civilization.

As regards those matters of debate that are ideologically fraught, and that is most of them, I would very much like to see higher standards of argumentation and civility observed in the forums. For me, these two things are bound together inextricably, standards of argumentation and civility.

The standards of civility in the diavlogs themselves are quite high, remarkably high I would say, perhaps too high, so the editorial board is to be commended on that score. That is, this is an explicit goal of the site, as I understand it, and I think the goal is being met. One could ask whether too much of a premium is being placed on civility in the diavlogs, in fact, although I have been pretty vocal in reacting against marked incivility in the diavlogs, as in Althouse v. Goldberg or the recent diavlog about Afghanistan involving the fellow who writes for "The Nation" and Rachel Kleinsfeld (sic?) I do think that it's pretty clear that the standards for civility both are, and should be, rather different in the forums than in the diavlogs themselves.

Ocean
02-03-2010, 07:36 AM
But on an internet forum, people are there voluntarily and can exit, and should probably have thick skin anyway, so care for their well-being isn't the primary issue.


I agree that people in a forum can exit. I also agree that the primary goal of participation is others' well-being. However, I don't think that it is so evident that participants have (or should have) thick skin. And it is part of civility everywhere you interact, whether online or not, to have some degree of respect and concern for the other's well-being (even if not the primary issue).

ledocs
02-03-2010, 09:41 AM
I have now listened to the diavlog. I am very pleased about having been introduced to Leiter. Those posts of his were excellent. I am not too clear about what BobbyG's objections to those posts are, although I suspect that I should be.

AemJeff and Leiter agree that civility is not an end in itself. I agree with that also. BobbyG's main point in the diavlog seemed to be that one rarely stands to gain much, if anything, by being uncivil. Leiter questions this. His principal counter-example is Nietzsche. Leiter apparently believes that Nietzsche's hyperbolic rhetoric and frequent contempt for, shall we say, Aristotelian logic, made him more persuasive. Would Nietzche be a world-historical figure without the hyperbole and the mordant irony? Probably not. As someone who has been influenced by the Socrates of the Platonic dialogues and by Nietzsche, I am inclined to agree with Leiter.

I would like to point out that Leiter places particular emphasis upon the connection between civility and the quality of argumentation of one's interlocutors, just as I did. I think that this diavlog, as opposed to the commentary on the diavlog, could have been sharpened and improved if it had focused directly on Leiter's posts, which strike me as an excellent starting point for discussing what is really at issue here.

My implicit assumption when arguing in these forums is, I think, that I am more likely to persuade third parties of something than I am to persuade my immediate interlocutor. That almost never happens, in my experience, probably primarily due to issues surrounding the loss of face. But that would imply that sometimes a party to a dispute actually is persuaded by an argument, but simply pretends in public not to be. My suspicion about that hypothesis is that it, also, turns out almost never to be true. So, again, I agree with Leiter, that persuasion usually is not the goal in political debate in online forums, or should not be the goal, but I only agree with him as regards the immediate parties to a dispute. I have been somewhat amazed to see that the ratio of participants (members) to lurkers (nonmembers) in these forums tends to be quite low. And in many respects that is understandable.

I just want to point out, also, that Obama has been subject to considerable criticism from various quarters for not being tough enough, whether in rhetorical style or in substance. This criticism could be extended, I think, to the left more generally (insofar as Obama belongs to the left, which is questionable). But again, speaking for myself, lapses into incivility can be seen in part as a desire not to be seen as weak, and I think that there is good reason for the left to be fearful on that score. While there is an abstract issue about the value of civility, there is also a concrete issue about the rhetorical conditions of the left vs. right divide in America.

Me&theboys
02-03-2010, 06:12 PM
I think alot of it is because of the tribal nature of politics. It's not that men are generally more interested in a wider range (Or should I say different?) of topics, it's that men are more drawn to the adversarial aspects of politics that are making sure the other side doesn't "win". I wonder if the differences you perceive are not as evident in a parliamentary system that has less group identification (At least that is how it felt to me).

Edit:
Ah, I see Me&TheBoys already said it. I guess that's what I get for randomly selecting posts to read.

I was just going to post that I agree with your comment, and then I saw your edit. No surprise that I agree, I guess. ;) Your point was different than mine, though, in that I was referring to the arena of internet commenting. You made the more valuable point, I think, that women may well have a disaffinity for the nature of politics as it is played in many parts of the world. It's not necessarily that women don't or wouldn't have an interest in these issues, but that the forums in which they are discussed tend to be dominated by (adversarial?) males, as are the politics themselves. I know that, for me, if the game must be played by the rules of men, I often refuse to play (unless I am in a position to influence the rules themselves, which is my preferred approach). Not being naturally inclined to engage in battles, I pick mine very carefully. I think this is true for many women. Change the ground rules and the way the game is played and different players may well come to the fore. (See Jonathan Haidt's civil politics web site (http://www.civilpolitics.org/)). Your idea of whether a parliamentary system is viewed by women as a more welcoming one is interesting. I wonder if anyone has looked into that more closely.

Me&theboys
02-03-2010, 06:15 PM
That is very nicely said.
Ditto

Ocean
02-03-2010, 06:20 PM
AemJeff and Leiter agree that civility is not an end in itself. I agree with that also. BobbyG's main point in the diavlog seemed to be that one rarely stands to gain much, if anything, by being uncivil. Leiter questions this. His principal counter-example is Nietzsche. Leiter apparently believes that Nietzsche's hyperbolic rhetoric and frequent contempt for, shall we say, Aristotelian logic, made him more persuasive. Would Nietzche be a world-historical figure without the hyperbole and the mordant irony? Probably not. As someone who has been influenced by the Socrates of the Platonic dialogues and by Nietzsche, I am inclined to agree with Leiter.

Early on in this comment section I made the observation that "civility" or lack of wasn't sufficiently defined. When I read your comment above, I had no choice but to wonder what definition you may be using. In my mind, an online interaction that deteriorates into insults and name calling can't be compared with Socrates' methods. I'm quite confident that you would agree. Using hyperbole or mordant irony doesn't imply incivility, at least according to my understanding.

My implicit assumption when arguing in these forums is, I think, that I am more likely to persuade third parties of something than I am to persuade my immediate interlocutor. That almost never happens, in my experience, probably primarily due to issues surrounding the loss of face.

You are talking about two somewhat separate issues here. One is about debating in order to persuade your interlocutor, or to persuade/influence the audience. The other is that by using incivility you will lose your interlocutor but may gain the audience. I am not sure that is true. I would guess that depends on the audience and the degree of incivility. When a debate ends in real uncivil exchanges, reasoning has ceased. The dynamic used is one of emotional dominance. One party uses derogatory terms to put down the interlocutor so that he/she loses authority in front of the audience. Or, what is more common to see is that the goal is to make the other angry so that his ability to refute arguments weakens. If the observers are not aware of the process they may fall in the trap, so to speak. But, I would hope that an educated audience will detect the game and be able to maintain perspective.

In sum, the effectiveness of civility or lack of it, as a tool of persuasion or to influence an audience for status, depends on the audience.

But that would imply that sometimes a party to a dispute actually is persuaded by an argument, but simply pretends in public not to be. My suspicion about that hypothesis is that it, also, turns out almost never to be true.

If the exchange doesn't make it to the level of incivility that becomes unacceptable, I wonder whether the strength of the arguments would at least make the interlocutor reflect on and challenge his/her point of view, at least after he/she has cooled down. I suspect that if the exchange is uncivil, it would be highly unlikely for this would happen.

So, again, I agree with Leiter, that persuasion usually is not the goal in political debate in online forums, or should not be the goal, but I only agree with him as regards the immediate parties to a dispute. I have been somewhat amazed to see that the ratio of participants (members) to lurkers (nonmembers) in these forums tends to be quite low. And in many respects that is understandable.

Again, if incivility is being used, I question the effect on the audience. I personally tend to dismiss any argument once the debate has deteriorated into name calling or narcissistic tantrums.

I just want to point out, also, that Obama has been subject to considerable criticism from various quarters for not being tough enough, whether in rhetorical style or in substance. This criticism could be extended, I think, to the left more generally (insofar as Obama belongs to the left, which is questionable). But again, speaking for myself, lapses into incivility can be seen in part as a desire not to be seen as weak, and I think that there is good reason for the left to be fearful on that score. While there is an abstract issue about the value of civility, there is also a concrete issue about the rhetorical conditions of the left vs. right divide in America.

I agree that the Democrats have been depicted by the right as being weak and everyone seems to have bought that story. Whether that perception can be changed by the use of incivility is questionable. You talked about Socratic methods before. How would you apply the same in political discourse? One of the main aspects that may be lacking in political discourse is a deeper awareness of what is being said and the internal contradictions of the adversary's argument. That's precisely what I liked about Obama's visit to the GOP house last Friday. He didn't let them run with their talking points and called them on the inaccuracies of their statements. I don't think that his discourse was uncivil, but there was a flare of "No BS!" in it. I think that's what Dems need to do more of.

ledocs
02-04-2010, 06:05 AM
Various replies to ocean:

Early on in this comment section I made the observation that "civility" or lack of wasn't sufficiently defined. When I read your comment above, I had no choice but to wonder what definition you may be using. In my mind, an online interaction that deteriorates into insults and name calling can't be compared with Socrates' methods. I'm quite confident that you would agree. Using hyperbole or mordant irony doesn't imply incivility, at least according to my understanding.

I certainly agree that "civility" was not adequately defined, and I'm certainly not up to the task myself. That's a big job, as francoamerican reminded us, and I think that BobbyG at least implied that that's part 1 of a philosophical project, or perhaps of a philosophical/historical project. And I meant to indicate that I thought it was a big job by pointing out the intimate connection between "civility" and "civilization." It is a huge subject. So, to answer your question, I don't have a definition, and, to be honest, I haven't thought that much about it. I know when I'm intending to insult someone and when I'm not. I know when I'm just teasing, and when I'm not. But others sometimes do not know.

I actually don't entirely agree with the second part of your paragraph. Socrates clearly at times is trying to embarrass his interlocutor(s), in public. I think that this would qualify as incivility for some. That his methods are those of logic seems somewhat irrelevant. As BobbyG was saying, we are discussing "tone." Socrates can be hostile and condescending. The issue is whether such behavior is permissible, and, if so, under what circumstances. Similarly, I think many find mordant irony, if it is applied personally and in the context of a discussion or argument, uncivil. But this again would presumably be a matter of context and of the listener. You seemed to be something of an admirer of Christopher Hitchens. There is someone who has clearly won many fans by the exercise of mordant wit in order to embarrass his interlocutors and a fair amount of what I, at least, would identify as incivility. But I don't think that incivility is always inappropriate either.

Leiter makes a useful distinction. He does not try to embarrass students, because they are students. To the contrary, he explicitly tries to avoid doing so. He has no problem with attempting to embarrass commenters on his blog, the motley crew he meets on the Internet, and perhaps colleagues, in other words, people who have a presumption of intellectual/social equality.

In sum, the effectiveness of civility or lack of it, as a tool of persuasion or to influence an audience for status, depends on the audience.

Not much to disagree with there. I had a professor who was fond of saying that Socrates never persuades anyone of anything in the Platonic dialogues. Even if that is hyperbolic, the point is that he has probably been more persuasive as a character in the dialogues to the readers of the dialogues than he ever was in the agora. Similarly for Nietzsche.

I wonder whether the strength of the arguments would at least make the interlocutor reflect on and challenge his/her point of view, at least after he/she has cooled down. I suspect that if the exchange is uncivil, it would be highly unlikely for this would happen.

I don't know. This is all a matter for empirical research. I would not assume that incivility, in and of itself, prevents persuasion, especially after the cooling down period to which you refer. It would depend upon the degree of acquaintance and respect the parties to the dispute have or had. Also, the standards for civility differ enormously, depending upon context. The standards in Israel are different from those in the US, for example.

Suppose you're a person, like Obama say, who is almost always polite. Something someone says makes him erupt in anger and he says something uncivil. That anger and incivility could be very persuasive, precisely because of the contrast with his usual comportment. This is the point of some critics. "Let's see some fire."

Clearly, a lot of people seem to find the aggressive rhetorical tactics of right-wing talk show hosts persuasive. And those tactics have crept into places like this forum in a big way.

I just announced that I would stop talking to someone who is in the habit of citing long posts I've written in their entirety and replying to them with one or two sentences. At first I thought it was a joke. Then he told me that it was just laziness. So, to me, that's an act of incivility, an insult really, both in terms of form and because of the admitted laziness. I don't think it was meant to be insulting, but it makes me look ridiculous, or it makes both of us look ridiculous. This is not the reason I am ceasing relations, but it was a contributing factor leading to my decision. This is by way of saying that incivility can take many forms.

Ocean
02-04-2010, 07:33 AM
I tend to agree with your comment.

I take your point that incivility is in the eye of the recipient, within certain limits. I have objected to the more extreme, overt forms of incivility, as I said before, such as insults and name calling which have the main purpose of putting down the interlocutor. But I agree there are more subtle ways.

It's interesting that you brought up the difference between what one side intends to say and how it is received by the other. This has always been a problem I encounter in written communication. It doesn't allow the use of the rest of language (tone, inflection) and non-verbal language, which can modify the message very significantly.

Thank you for your thoughtful post.

TwinSwords
02-04-2010, 11:05 AM
Video: Obama on Civility (http://tpmlivewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/02/obama-makes-birther-joke-at-prayer-breakfast.php?ref=fpb)

He notes that "civility is not a sign of weakness."

He must listen to The Smiths (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2e4V3Xh17w):

It's so easy to laugh
It's so easy to hate
It takes strength to be gentle and kind

Over, over, over, over

It's so easy to laugh
It's so easy to hate
It takes guts to be gentle and kind

(lyrics (http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/I-KNOW-IT'S-OVER-lyrics-The-Smiths/D7ADAAC4B8F515D3482568AB0028482A))

claymisher
02-04-2010, 11:19 AM
Video: Obama on Civility (http://tpmlivewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/02/obama-makes-birther-joke-at-prayer-breakfast.php?ref=fpb)

He notes that "civility is not a sign of weakness."

He must listen to The Smiths (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2e4V3Xh17w):

It's so easy to laugh
It's so easy to hate
It takes strength to be gentle and kind

Over, over, over, over

It's so easy to laugh
It's so easy to hate
It takes guts to be gentle and kind

(lyrics (http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/I-KNOW-IT'S-OVER-lyrics-The-Smiths/D7ADAAC4B8F515D3482568AB0028482A))

Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking when I said I'd like to
Smash every tooth in your head

Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking when I said by rights you
Should be bludgeoned in your bed

bjkeefe
02-04-2010, 12:44 PM
[...]

Many excellent points. Great post.

TwinSwords
02-04-2010, 01:33 PM
Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking when I said I'd like to
Smash every tooth in your head

Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking when I said by rights you
Should be bludgeoned in your bed


Heh. Another masterpiece of The Smiths'. It's amusing how cheefully they sing those particular lines.

Lemon Sorbet
02-05-2010, 01:19 AM
Wow, this was good! All throughout both were making me rethink my position on this constantly, proving Jeff’s assumption that people can be persuaded with a good argument.

BobbyG, I was about to jump all over you for the post that even a racist comment can be civil, but listening to this one I get what you’re saying. The diavlog really made me think because though I don’t recall ever being rude to other commenters (ok, ok, maybe once or twice to kidneystones, - sorry kidney, but you know why), I do remember totally freaking out when Judith Miller came on and saying some nasty things about her. And I can’be be sure, but probably at some point I also had some words for David Frum and Bob Kagan as well, though I think I laid out some sort of an argument backing my comments. But as much as I hate David Frum and don’t think he should be given a public forum, I would dislike it intensely if all I saw on the comment section of his diavlogs were name calling. He would deserve it but that kind of thing would just be BORING and doesn’t add anything to anything.

As for civility to other posters, one of the main reasons I became a fan of BloggingHeads was because of the awesome commenters. It was such a change from Huff Post, where I had to wade through 5 pages of “what an idiot!”, “asshole”, etc., before I could get to read any interesting opinions on what others thought. I usually tend to just skip over comments that have that tone because I know that it’s going to be utterly useless to me, so in effect I shouldn’t even care, but it does waste my time as I have to wade through the junk to get to the good stuff. Unlike the Nordstrom Rack however, the useless vs. the gem is fortunately at a favorable ratio at Bloggingheads, but I think we need to all be diligent to keep it that way as it can go from here to there in a snap. Also, I’m really curious to know what was said during the part that was cut out, but I do want to give credit to BlogginNoggin that his comments in particular were always great, even when I disagreed, and I would venture to say that it probably had a big influence on the success of BH in those early days

uncle ebeneezer
02-05-2010, 02:33 PM
Hey welcome back Lemon. I was just thinking that your input would be great for this topic as you were always one of the more civil commenters here. As usual, not much I can argue with. I would only add that I think everyone has their own style and approach and that variety is good. While we can talk about what approach is most useful and what the optimal level of any factor involved in various approaches might be, I very much enjoy the fact that some of the commenters here (on either side) are willing to throw down and use sarcasm, snark etc. I also agree that bhTv still has one of the better commenter forums that I have seen as far as the quality-to-snark, seriousness-to-troll ratios.

nikkibong
02-05-2010, 03:31 PM
lemonsorbet!

where've you been all my life?

ledocs
02-05-2010, 06:14 PM
I also agree that bhTv still has one of the better commenter forums that I have seen as far as the quality-to-snark, seriousness-to-troll ratios.

That is a sad commentary, indeed, on the quality of discourse on the Internet. But it's probably true, unfortunately. I still think Robert Wright should get some funding to recruit better commenters for the right and the libertarian right. I'm sure there is money available for that. I know things are tight right now, but the FBI and CIA might have funding for such purposes, not to mention many other possible funding sources. Gloria Steinem got funding for this sort of activity back in the day, so I've read.

Me&theboys
02-05-2010, 07:31 PM
As for civility to other posters, one of the main reasons I became a fan of BloggingHeads was because of the awesome commenters. It was such a change from Huff Post, where I had to wade through 5 pages of “what an idiot!”, “asshole”, etc., before I could get to read any interesting opinions on what others thought. I usually tend to just skip over comments that have that tone because I know that it’s going to be utterly useless to me, so in effect I shouldn’t even care, but it does waste my time as I have to wade through the junk to get to the good stuff. Unlike the Nordstrom Rack however, the useless vs. the gem is fortunately at a favorable ratio at Bloggingheads, but I think we need to all be diligent to keep it that way as it can go from here to there in a snap. Also, I’m really curious to know what was said during the part that was cut out, but I do want to give credit to BlogginNoggin that his comments in particular were always great, even when I disagreed, and I would venture to say that it probably had a big influence on the success of BH in those early days
Great comments, Lemon. I agree that excellent commenters were a lot of what made bhtv very compelling in the early days, and Bloggin Noggin gets a lot of the credit for that, among others. The only really uncivil commenter I recall from back then was Wolfgangus, and even he had some very informative things to say. I seem to recall the comment section being much less partisan back then. I very much miss Bloggin Noggin's contributions. Even when I did not agree with him, I learned a great deal by interacting with him. You couldn't get a poorly thought out argument past that guy, and he was civil in the face of all manner of incivility.

ledocs
02-06-2010, 08:10 AM
If anyone should think that my praise of Brian Leiter’s posts about civility on the Internet amounted to more general praise for Leiter (no one cares about this in the slightest, I know), I want to disabuse them of that impression. I had forgotten that I had seen Leiter’s diavlog with Shapiro of Yale, which I just watched for a second time.

Here is what I said about that diavlog fifteen months ago, when it appeared.

“I guess this was interesting. Hard to say, really. It all seemed to be one big begging of the question (petitio principii) to me. That is, the positivist or conventionalist just says that any claim that moral reason makes turns out, upon inspection, to be another part of convention. The interesting question is whether this conventionalist claim about moral reason would also be extended to the claims of natural science and mathematics. I don't want to be too harsh, but maybe this wasn't really interesting. I would rather hear the same debate about Paul Feyerabend, I think.”

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/15918

I don't know whether I should revise this opinion after a second viewing or not. A second viewing did not really advance my understanding very much. I would have to get into the nitty gritty of this literature. Shapiro thinks that it is sufficient to qualify one as a legal positivist if one thinks that the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany had [genuine] legal systems. But why can't one just say that they had legal systems in the conventionalist, legal positivist sense, but not in the philosophical, viz. natural law sense? Then the legal positivist says that there is no such thing as the natural law sense, and we're back to new atheism: "natural law" is a phrase empty of content, it cannot be discussed intelligibly. And round and round we go.

Leiter seems to me to be a smug fellow in a lot of ways, but this remains a superficial impression. I would have to read his book on Nietzsche to get a better idea.

ledocs
02-06-2010, 08:31 AM
Again, this is probably not of interest to many people, but I think it will interest franco.

Read what Leiter has to say about the current state of the discipline of philosophy here:

http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/meaningof.asp

This is the very definition of smugness. I wonder if Leiter is not more a sociologist than a philosopher. I don't think that the way to decide the question of what constitutes philosophy is to take a poll of professors of philosophy. There is a classic passage about this at the end of Plato's "Cratylus," a passage that does not get enough attention.

So, to repeat, I would not infer too much from the fact that I had some nice things to say about Leiter in a particular context. In general, I don't think I would find him, or his approach to things, very congenial.

Florian
02-06-2010, 11:30 AM
Again, this is probably not of interest to many people, but I think it will interest franco.

Read what Leiter has to say about the current state of the discipline of philosophy here:

http://www.philosophicalgourmet.com/meaningof.asp

This is the very definition of smugness. I wonder if Leiter is not more a sociologist than a philosopher. I don't think that the way to decide the question of what constitutes philosophy is to take a poll of professors of philosophy. There is a classic passage about this at the end of Plato's "Cratylus," a passage that does not get enough attention.

So, to repeat, I would not infer too much from the fact that I had some nice things to say about Leiter in a particular context. In general, I don't think I would find him, or his approach to things, very congenial.

Hello ledocs. I am the avatar of the avatar francoamerican, who is temporarily or permanently lost in strange seas of thought.

I remember the Leiter diavlog on legal positivism. I think I even had an exchange with someone about it, a Yale mathematician I believe. Rather pedestrian.

Smug indeed. The "philosophical gourmet" is a bit of a gourmand, having bitten off more than he can chew. I am pleased, though, to see that he admits some savory "continentals" on his menu, but only after they have been purged of their unsavory sauces by no-nonsense anglo-american "analytical" chefs.

Lemon Sorbet
02-06-2010, 01:53 PM
lemonsorbet!

where've you been all my life?

laugh....Bloggingheads is the bar where everybody knows your name. Hey nikki, uncle eb. I've been around - watching/reading with perplexity on the whole outrage by Carl Zimmer, Sean Carroll thing, the god series triggered by Bob's book, etc. Seems like my schedule doesn't allow me to view and comment on a timely basis, so I will often watch in a batch when I have some time and then it's too late to participate in discussions.

Me&theBoys, I vividly recall Wolfganus because you just knew that he was always simmering just beneath the surface with the need to spew when he saw something he thought was stupid, but he kept it in control, barely, just barely, to make a reasoned argument. But yeah, he would sometimes go over the edge. I do recall him fondly though.

bjkeefe
02-06-2010, 02:29 PM
I do recall him fondly though.

I miss Wolf, too.

TwinSwords
02-06-2010, 03:21 PM
Me&theBoys, I vividly recall Wolfganus because you just knew that he was always simmering just beneath the surface with the need to spew when he saw something he thought was stupid, but he kept it in control, barely, just barely, to make a reasoned argument. But yeah, he would sometimes go over the edge. I do recall him fondly though.

Great description, especially considering how he finally disappeared: after an epic, earth-shattering meltdown that lastest for days, triggered by BhTV's switch to vBulletin. The impression he gave me during his "OMG they changed the forum!" was that he was cruel, self-absorbed, and arrogant to a degree I have rarely encounted elsewhere. But I realize this is just one side of his personality and many people recall him fondly.

bjkeefe
02-06-2010, 04:15 PM
Great description, especially considering how he finally disappeared: after an epic, earth-shattering meltdown that lastest for days, triggered by BhTV's switch to vBulletin. The impression he gave me during his "OMG they changed the forum!" was that he was cruel, self-absorbed, and arrogant to a degree I have rarely encounted elsewhere. But I realize this is just one side of his personality and many people recall him fondly.

I do remember that meltdown, and I agree it was uncalled for. But he was really fun to argue with about most things.