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Bloggingheads 01-28-2010 07:55 AM

Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Oh, snap.

graz 01-28-2010 10:30 AM

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
In deference to civility, here is the link for this diavlog:
http://apollo.bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/25639

AemJeff 01-28-2010 10:41 AM

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 148502)
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by graz (Post 148504)
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by graz (Post 148504)
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by nikkibong (Post 148505)
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 148502)
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?

But seriously ...

I haven't watched this yet, but it looks like, from graz'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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 148510)
AemJohn?

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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by graz (Post 148507)

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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by nikkibong (Post 148511)
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
relax, it was a joke.

AemJeff 01-28-2010 12:22 PM

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by look (Post 148499)
Oh, snap.

Who got told?

look 01-28-2010 12:25 PM

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 148515)
Who got told?

Brendan.

AemJeff 01-28-2010 12:25 PM

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by look (Post 148516)
Brendan.

Oh, jeeze.

look 01-28-2010 12:34 PM

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 148517)
Oh, jeeze.

What the hell, Jeff?

AemJeff 01-28-2010 12:41 PM

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by look (Post 148520)
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by nikkibong (Post 148514)
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 148521)
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by graz (Post 148507)
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 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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by look (Post 148525)
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:

Quote:

Originally Posted by look (Post 148525)
... 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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 148526)
Seems to me that once you allow for unexpressed private thoughts, the same reasoning would apply to a private conversation, Mr. Franklin's grasp 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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Bobby G (Post 148534)
[...]

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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Bobby G (Post 148534)
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rcocean (Post 148540)
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.)

Quote:

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?

Bobby G 01-28-2010 03:22 PM

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Bobby G (Post 148542)
As for whether PZ is really a dbag...

i loved this pivot

Quote:

Originally Posted by Bobby G (Post 148542)
...this gets into a distinction in the philosophical literature ...

heh

Don Zeko 01-28-2010 03:40 PM

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by nikkibong (Post 148543)
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Bobby G (Post 148542)
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rcocean (Post 148548)
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by AemJeff (Post 148549)
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rcocean (Post 148550)
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by nikkibong (Post 148512)
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.
Quote:

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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by rcocean (Post 148550)
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 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.

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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
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 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

Re: Is civility in the blogosphere overrated? (AemJeff & Bobby G)
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by bjkeefe (Post 148555)
Not to pile on, but I agree with Jeff 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.

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.


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