Being Right Doesn’t Guarantee That You’re Not Wrong – By Jacques Rousseau

Posted by on August 13, 2012 in Featured, Guest Post, Thoughts | 19 comments

It’s not always necessary to be polite. Sometimes, being abrasive or rejecting diplomatic niceties is exactly what’s needed to get a point across. And sometimes, getting a point across is preferable to pleasing the crowd, a subset of the crowd, or even the person you’re talking to. For every person who has been disabused of some fanciful metaphysics by a self-styled “friendly” atheist like Hemant Mehta, you’re likely to find one that’s been persuaded by a firebrand like PZ Myers.

Different approaches work on different audiences. And as so many of us have pointed out over and over again, atheism is not a religion, a cult, an organisation. We’re united in our disbelief in god(s), not in our politics or strategies. So whatever approach one of us takes – no matter how large their blog or Twitter following – it’s a mistake to think that they define atheism, whether old, new, Gnu or one that eschews these categories altogether.

But we (and there, the dangers begin to lurk, as soon as I speak of a “we”) pride ourselves on not believing in the same highly implausible proposition (that gods exist). This means, at the very least, that we share some minimal commitment to reason, in that we want to be guided by the evidence rather than superstition or dogma. And if that is the case, it doesn’t seem much of a stretch to suggest that we should apply the same critical mindset to propositions beyond merely the god hypothesis.

So, when we speak of social justice, equality, freedom of speech and so forth, it’s reasonable to expect some similarity in approach, even if not in conclusions reached. To put it plainly, an approach in which we listen to the evidence, in other words to each other, without pre-judging what someone is going to say, what they believe, or what ideological faction they belong to. Their arguments are assessed on their merits, rather than via knowing which websites they frequently comment on.

Nobody can deny that some participants in these conversations are not honest brokers. Some are simply unreconstructed trolls, others trolls of the sly sort, mimicking critical reflection while subtly distracting – and detracting – from the real issues that others are trying to address. Another set of “others” aren’t trolls at all – and it seems to me that the community of sceptical and/or atheist activists and bloggers sometimes have a difficult time of it in distinguishing between these sorts of contributor to the debate.

The trend on the Internet generally – at least according to my anecdata – is for increasing hyperbole and hysteria, perhaps especially so when we can comment anonymously, with no fear of reputational harm. Those who shout the loudest think that they can win, or end up thinking that they’ve won once they have drowned out the opposing view. And even though our community might (hopefully) be more rational than any randomly selected group, we’re not immune to the same trend.

On emotive issues, this can be particularly worrisome, and is also more likely to happen – simply because the stakes are higher. And here’s the thing: I think we forget that a concern for tone does not automatically mean that you are a tone-troll (broadly, someone who is attempting to shut down legitimate criticism on the grounds that it’s expressed in a rude or hostile fashion).

To put it another way: you can grant that Francis Collins (for example) has some pretty confused ideas about which propositions gain epistemic weight via waterfall observations, yet still think that it’s a bad idea to call him some abusive name. You might think it’s a bad idea because you think it rude, or you might think that (on balance) he does more good than harm for science, so let’s not alienate people who we might reach through discussing him politely.

When the space for saying that (“that” being something like “Collins is wrong, but it’s not helpful to call him a moron”) disappears, we’re not having a rational conversation anymore. Yes, I did use the phrase “not helpful” – sorry, but it fits. And what it means is “not helpful to a certain strategic goal”. You might not share that goal, or you might share it, but think it should be achieved through different means. All of which are questions that we can discuss, if we’re still listening to each other.

We’re not, though – at least not consistently. And right now, the debate on misogyny in the sceptical community has escalated to such an extent that there’s a lot that can’t be heard over the screaming. Yes, there is certainly plenty that doesn’t need to be heard because it genuinely is sexist, or excuses sexism. But simply labelling someone a “rape apologist”, for example, doesn’t magically transform someone into actually being a rape apologist.

A problem here is that we could mean different things by a phrase like “rape apologist”. Coming from a position of privilege, most men might well be unaware of how that privilege biases them against seeing various threats, insults or instances of being demeaned or trivialised that women experience. This blindness might make them too tolerant (in other words, at all tolerant) of sexist language, or stereotypes around what it means when a woman dresses in a particular way.

To be clear, this blindness is bad, and needs correction. It’s certainly bad if we create, endorse, or fail to combat a climate of hostility to any poorly defined (and heterogeneous) group like “women”. And the fact that some women believe that such a climate currently exists is a problem in itself, whether or not you’re complicit in creating that climate. In fact, it’s a problem whether or not such hostility even exists – unless you want to claim it’s a complete fabrication, the perception most likely finds inspiration in some forms of behaviour or speech that we could modify at little or no cost.

Furthermore (and obviously, one would hope), rape jokes and stereotypes about women (or about any hypothetical “group”) are bad things. But there’s still a significant difference of degree between a man who says that a woman who was raped was “asking for it” and someone who asks the question whether, empirically, there is any correlation between what women wear and whether that correlates with sexual violence in any way. That difference rests in part with their attitudes, and in part with how easy it might be to change their views.

The former sort of man can perhaps never be persuaded that he has Neanderthal attitudes. The latter one could perhaps be persuaded that that’s the wrong question to ask. But once he’s driven out of a comment thread by name-calling, we lose our chance to persuade. And this is a key thing: it’s not PZ (or whoever’s) job to control the people who comment on their posts. But we all need to be aware that we set the tone at our websites not only by what we write, but also by how we respond to those who leave comments.

So if someone doesn’t give someone else a chance to explain what might be an honest mistake, rather than an attempt at trolling or rape apologetics, before descending on them with abuse, that abusive reaction is also antithetical to the skeptical cause, and should also be called out by the blog owner or other commenters. If it’s not called out, we quickly become gangs who have chosen a side, and chosen our authorities or leaders, and who then defend our turf by whatever means necessary – whether principled or not.

This tribalism, and defending of a cause, comes naturally to most of us. What also comes naturally is to double-down when challenged, especially when others question your integrity or motives. This complicates the reactions that people have to being called out for language that appears – or is – sexist or insensitive to the pervasive misogyny debate. Being defensive in light of such accusations is normal, and it’s perhaps uncharitable to use this defensiveness as further evidence of the commenter’s ignorance, prejudice or malice.

Here in South Africa everyone will know what I’m talking about if I were to use the phrase “playing the race card”, and hopefully you do too. In case you don’t, it refers to a tactic that’s sadly common here, and is used for avoiding uncomfortable discussions and not allowing any facts to interfere with your prejudices. If a white man such as myself says something about South African culture or politics, it is often dismissed simply on the grounds that I can’t understand what it’s like to be black.

What this crude form of identity politics misses is that blackness or whiteness or whatever-ness is only one feature of identity. Sometimes a powerful one, to be sure, but nevertheless, I might have far more features in common with a randomly selected black South African than she does with another randomly selected black South African. The same principle applies with gender, and just as we shouldn’t use the race card, but instead look at the arguments and evidence, we should avoid using the gender card.

Yet, we have to make distinctions between well-meaning interlocutors and trolls, and we all want to keep our websites and blogs free of trollish pestilence. So patience cannot be infinite. But when the current tensions started escalating to the point of an apparent civil war, it started to appear as if – increasingly – some members of this community started making judgements before hearing any arguments.

If all we want is to feel self-righteous, and right, that’s fine. It is indeed good to know who the enemy is. But it’s also good to change the enemy’s mind, where possible, and it’s good to discover that someone you thought of as an enemy is actually simply a confused friend. Let’s be wary of making the latter two sorts of interaction impossible.

P.S. I apologise for the generality in this post. It’s a difficult thing to write about, for various reasons, and that accounts for the evasiveness. First, the vociferous responses to interventions in this area do play a censoring role (or did, in this post). Second, I have friends and “friends” (in the Facebook/Twitter sense) on both sides of the civil war, which serves an inhibiting role. Third, and most important, specifics might detract from the general and primary point I’m trying to make – that we should be careful to keep listening to each other, because the thing we (as skeptics) are arguably best at is remembering  that we can be wrong, and recognising when that’s the case.

Jacques is Chairman of Free Society Institute in South Africa and blogs at Synapses. You can follow Jacques on twitter @JacquesR.
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 10.0/10 (1 vote cast)
Being Right Doesn’t Guarantee That You’re Not Wrong - By Jacques Rousseau, 10.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating

19 Comments

  1. You raise some excellent points in this post. One of the things being missed in this entire #FtBullies debate is that not everyone questioning the positions of some feminist bloggers is a misogynist troll. I understand that these bloggers have been criticized and threatened by some vile trolls. It makes sense that they’d have a sort of siege mentality after awhile. But I am seeing them alienate many potential supporters by treating those who don’t toe the party line as trolls. This lends credence to the accusations of bullying.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    •  @vjack At this point, the siege has been ongoing for some time. Newcomers would be well-advised to recognize that some of the blogs on FTB have been under siege for a good long time now. My response to suninabox above was long enough, so I’ll just direct you there for my summary of how engaging at, say, Pharyngula (or B&W, or for that matter a non-FTB blog) is a two way street.
       
      But I have to add, the #FtBullies thing is just straight up dishonest. Not calling you dishonest, just observing that the people who engendered that meme did so either out of complete ignorance or bad faith. It’s a network of independent blogs, most of which are completely peripheral to this debate.

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  2. A+

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  3. A great post. (And yes, I’m well aware that many of the strictures can apply to me.)
     
    “Nobody can deny that some participants in these conversations are not honest brokers. Some are simply unreconstructed trolls, others trolls of the sly sort, mimicking critical reflection while subtly distracting – and detracting – from the real issues that others are trying to address. Another set of “others” aren’t trolls at all – and it seems to me that the community of sceptical and/or atheist activists and bloggers sometimes have a difficult time of it in distinguishing between these sorts of contributor to the debate.”
     
    Understatement of the year! We have a very difficult time of it, often an impossible time of it. I encounter this pretty much every day, often several times a day. I often just can’t tell if someone’s a troll, and I realize I can’t tell. What to do?
     
    The active trolls have poisoned the whole thing – deliberately, for the most part, I think – deliberately and gleefully. I’ve had so many trolls of such a poisonous type that I’m now hyper-vigilant. I probably get lots of false positives.
     
    That’s partly because I really don’t want people who put on a deceptive veneer of civility at my place while calling me a cunt at another place. I don’t want people like that making themselves at home on my blog so that they can snigger at me on other blogs – and I have certainly had people doing just that.
     
    The unpleasant and anti-rational result is that certain kinds of dissent come under instant suspicion at my place, from commenters as well as from me. I try to keep the comments civil, but I don’t always succeed.
     
    I find this situation deeply annoying.
     

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    •  @OpheliaBenson “<i>I don’t want people like that making themselves at home on my blog so that they can snigger at me on other blogs – and I have certainly had people doing just that.</i>”
       
      I’m a follower of your Butterflies & Wheels and notice it’s a WordPress blog.
       
      Might it help you to hide drive-by Comments and show Blogger Trackbacks only? It’s a trade-off, I know.
       
      See:  http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2006/06/why_i_dont_have.html
       
      Anyway, just a thought. Keep at it. Cheers,

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    •  @OpheliaBenson In regards to hyper-sensitivity / troll false positives, can I get your comment of the treatment Justin Vacula has received at the hands of many in the FtB community?
       
      I’ll admit I’ve not read everything Justin has ever written on this matter so I may well be missing some insults he may have hurled or character attacks he has made, however everything I have seen from him has been respectful and sincere and most importantly skeptical.
       
      This is one of the best examples of what I’m talking about, in fact I think it illustrates most people’s concern with FtB/SkepChick (though obviously SpokesGay is a very extreme example).
       
      http://imgur.com/MdYKC
      http://imgur.com/F90Xg
      http://imgur.com/b8Gnx
      http://imgur.com/y08lE
      http://imgur.com/pOHiS
       
      Here we have someone claiming that any disagreement with the “only side” of a story is bigotry/sexism (which I feel is peoples primary grievance with certian members of FtB, that dissent of any form is not tolerated and evidence of misogyny), we have insults thrown at Justin and we have Justin continuing to ask questions that would be enlightening to what the opposition believes if they were answered.
       
      I’m afraid if these are “troll questions”, then I must be a troll as well, since they’re the sort of questions I would ask if I was told I must hate women and view them as sub-human if I disagree with “There is only one side to this story and anything else is bigotry” (for example I am concerned with the strong reliance of anecdotes and rumour and lack of empirical evidence when people are making claims about the nature and scale of the problem, and the fact expressing such concerns are seen as victim blaming or misogyny, I also have concerns about proportionality of focus but its impossible to have a discussion about proportionality without measurement, and people seem to be willing to claim any mention of proportionality is instant proof of wanting to silence women or not care about harassment, while caring about harassment should necessitate care about measurement since measurement is vital to solving problems)
       
      I understand that you’ve had a falling out with Justin given you felt he dishonestly represented your views on his podcast. However, I haven’t seen that matter proven either way, and given how eminently open and reasonable I’ve seen Justin being, and the fact you labelled him a troll and ended discussion while he was still willing to talk out, I am tempted to give Justin the benefit of the doubt (though I still don’t know if he was being dishonest based on the available evidence)
       
      You may very well be completely right about Justin but from a 3rd party outsiders perspective it does not look like you are on solid ground when you don’t ask or answer questions, use insults, and ultimately end the discussion (bans) without resolution, especially when you continue to talk about the incident afterwards.
       
      To put it another way, even if Justin is in the wrong, he’s acting how you should do if you’re in the right, which is being open to hearing grievances, asking questions, not use insults and be willing to accept you might be wrong.
       
      I would also posit that if I can’t ask this legitimate question without also being accused of being a troll or supporting misogyny (given that I’ve never seen Justin act in bad faith but I’m not ruling out the possibility and am open to seeing evidence of it), that it would strongly confirm to me that FtB has gone firmly out the bounds of the marketplace of ideas.
       
      I know I could not be as calm under the level of insults Justin has received, so it makes me think there would be no point in talking to anyone from FtB if such a calm person inspires such vitriol.

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
      •  @suninabox A couple comments on that:
         
        First, Twitter is probably the least effective form of communication ever invented by humankind. I can’t find this example compelling, because it may very well have spun out of a different forum. Twitter doesn’t provide a great place to see this. If Josh and Justin have interacted before (I know Josh in the sense that I’ve interacted with him in forums, but I’m not familiar with Justin Vacula, at least by that name), it might go a long way toward explaining the vitriol in that exchange. 
         
        In short, a single Twitter exchange between two people is a really bad example from which to base generalizations.
         
        Second, with that said, from my experiences at Pharyngula, I feel it necessary to really emphasize some points:
         
        Pharyngula has a 3 post rule. Regular commenters are asked to restrain themselves (and restrain others, even!) by assuming a newcomer is NOT a troll for 3 of their posts. If, at the end of that, they give every indication of being a troll, the claws are encouraged.
         
        Pharyngula gets a LOT of trolls. A lot. And not the “can’t tell” kind, but the “unreconstructed” kind mentioned in the original post.
         
        Due to the format of a blog commenting section, it is quite possible to come and see some truly vitriolic language directed at these trolls, often in the context of a multi-page thread with comments numbering in the hundreds. This should not be confused with the general tone. It is a specific response to individuals who are attempting to derail and rouse anger for teh lulz.
         
        Tone trolling is a classic derailing move by these dishonest actors. They disregard actual polite comments and zero in on the ones made by people that contain any heat or “objectionable” language. It’s extremely frustrating to deal with, and as Ophelia said in another comment here, it’s very difficult to have a system for determining “troll” from “well-meaning but engaging in troll-like behavior” without a lot of false positives.
         
        Finally, there’s a weariness that sets in when people come in and ask very basic questions that have been addressed again, and again, and again, and again. Pharyngula has a Feminism 101 wiki that people are routinely directed to, as it answers the questions a lot of newcomers raise. If people ignore it, they’re not going to be treated well, as most people at Pharyngula have zero interest in rehashing arguments that have been dealt with (from their/our perspective) many times over many years. Again, this is a behavior often used by bona fide trolls, in that they ask very basic questions, are referred to a reference, and ignore it so they can later complain about how they were treated.
         
        I’m fairly new to the Pharyngula community (only started commenting regularly about a month ago). I’ve put my foot in my mouth and been thoroughly chewed out. However, once I recognize how I’ve put my foot wrong, I’ve acknowledged it and people have been quite gracious.  Note that this does NOT mean I necessarily “folded and agreed”, it means that I made a public effort to understand the terms of the debate and the conventions of the forum I was commenting in. That was well received!
         
        So the TL;DR of this all is: 
         
        If you’re concerned about being seen as a troll, make that clear up front. Realize you’re entering a space that has been subjected to repeated attack by dishonest actors. Recognize that people may jump aggressively on things they perceive as being symptomatic of such. Engage the arguments in a forum on the terms of the community there.
         
        People are trying to preserve their safe spaces on the internet, and if they’re unduly aggressive, remember they have reason and engage accordingly.

        VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
        Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
        •  @suninabox I should clarify that my specific focus on Pharyngula was as a specific example. Obviously the major points are true beyond just that; I found it easier to focus on a specific case.

          VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
          Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  4. Great post. This same general idea of respectable and rational discourse is important to any controversial and hot button issue. Being open minded means being open to changing a position, new information, and respectfully and actively listening to what someone with a differing viewpoint is trying to say. Ad hominem attacks are nearly always unhelpful. 
     
    Patience comes from understanding, and understanding comes from listening. 

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  5. Great article.
     
    <blockquote>If all we want is to feel self-righteous, and right, that’s fine. It is indeed good to know who the enemy is. But it’s also good to change the enemy’s mind, where possible, and it’s good to discover that someone you thought of as an enemy is actually simply a confused friend. Let’s be wary of making the latter two sorts of interaction impossible.</blockquote>
     
    I agree with that, but there’s also the possibility that you might change your own mind by arguing with the ‘confused friends’/’enemies’. Debating and discussing isn’t only about changing other people’s minds, but seeking good reasons to change your own mind.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  6. “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them” — Thomas JeffersonTo engage others in discussion on equitable terms is to give credence – however minimal – to their views.  Where those views have been considered and rejected before, and no new evidence or intelligible argument has been offered, the only reasonable course of action is to reject them again – with ridicule or contempt.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  7. @ Martin S. Pribble:
     
    While I greatly enjoyed your post and agree with many of your points, Stephanie Zvan had a great point, which I’m going to shamelessly steal (with attribution in a moment): “I ended up deciding that the problem with Rosseau’s piece was that he was forgetting that there are two “sides” involved in the problem communications. He kept acting as though ours was the only one that had agency.”
     
    It’s illustrative that on Ophelia Benson’s commentary on your piece (<a href=”http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/08/remembering-that-we-can-be-wrong/”>here</a>), the comments section immediately devolved into a classic example of JAQ-ing off (Just Asking Questions).  It went straight to your comment:
     
    “Yet, we have to make distinctions between well-meaning interlocutors and trolls, and we all want to keep our websites and blogs free of trollish pestilence. So patience cannot be infinite. But when the current tensions started escalating to the point of an apparent civil war, it started to appear as if – increasingly – some members of this community started making judgements before hearing any arguments.”
     
    The apparent civil war has been going on for some time. It’s incumbent on both website/blogs AND people visiting them to contribute to a troll-free zone. At this point, well-meaning interlocutors really can’t plead ignorance of the environment they’re entering into. The map clearly indicates “Here be Trolls”, after all.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
  8. @ Martin S. Pribble:
     
    While I greatly enjoyed your post and agree with many of your points, it seems like your focus is more on the responsibility of the blogs/websites than on the commenters. There are two sides in this “apparent civil war”, and unfortunately it seems like only one has been called out with regards to maintaining a hospitable forum.
     
    I’m sure many people might disagree with me, but the “flow of trolls” really seems to be unidirectional.
     
    It’s illustrative that on Ophelia Benson’s commentary on your piece (<a href=”http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/08/remembering-that-we-can-be-wrong/”>here</a>), the comments section immediately devolved into a classic example of JAQ-ing off (Just Asking Questions).  It went straight to your comment:
     
    “Yet, we have to make distinctions between well-meaning interlocutors and trolls, and we all want to keep our websites and blogs free of trollish pestilence. So patience cannot be infinite. But when the current tensions started escalating to the point of an apparent civil war, it started to appear as if – increasingly – some members of this community started making judgements before hearing any arguments.”
     
    The apparent civil war has been going on for some time. It’s incumbent on both website/blogs AND people visiting them to contribute to a troll-free zone. At this point, well-meaning interlocutors really can’t plead ignorance of the environment they’re entering into. The map clearly indicates “Here be Trolls”, after all.
     
    P.S. I deleted and reposted this comment as I used someone else’s words without permission. While I attributed it in the original post, I felt uncomfortable enough to remove the direct quote.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
    •  @granvold 
      “It’s illustrative that on Ophelia Benson’s commentary on your piece (<a href=”http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/08/remembering-that-we-can-be-wrong/”>here</a>), the comments section immediately devolved into a classic example of JAQ-ing off (Just Asking Questions).”
       
      Great example thread of exactly the opposite of what you are attempting to illustrate. Timon for Tea, who made a genuine and concerted effort to engage the topic of Ophelia’s blog, was ultimately dismissed as “unfit for debate”, “tone trolling”, “privileged”, etc… That thread is an excellent example of just how unwilling the FTB gang are to engage with even the most mild and reasonable criticism.  Your description of this person’s contributions to that thread as “JAQing off” is way off base. 

      VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
      Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
      •  @br0kenmech Actually, I would argue it’s extremely relevant. The sequence of the thread is:
         
        – debate about content of this thread (i.e. ideal format of commenting sections, with Timon engaged and arguments presented). This went for ~ 70 comments
        – comments warning Timon for Tea that he was acting in ways that some people found reminiscent of trolling (see #72). Commenter stressed “Not saying that’s what you’re intending to say, of course”.
        – Tim for Tea continues to argue “NOBODY should be allowed to call names or be abusive”. (#75)
        – Pteryxx provides extremely detailed response (#76) with many links.
        – Things start to go offtopic with a discussion of reporting of rape and whether reports of rape are treated with same respect as reports of car theft. (#85-90). Tim asserts “psychological harm cannot be caused by statements. The kind of verbalisations that can cause such harm ( threats, abuse, assault etc) are policed by the law.” People disagree.
        – Timon now attempts to veer into a discussion of whether the State should be allowed to police thought as a result of this discussion. “IN PRINCIPLE” of course. (#99)
        – Timon (responding to request) claims nobody has provided evidence that harmful statements impact rape victims (#108), ignoring several previous comments.
        – Responses specifically indicate the examples Timon is ignoring and ask Timon to address them. (#100, #106, #108).
        – Timon doubles down at #111, “Stephanie, you didn’t give an example”. Redoubles at #114. Finally opines that he really wish the conversation hadn’t derailed at #119. Actually says “I realise that for most of you rape is just an interesting theoretical subject”, despite multiple people asserting direct experience with sexual abuse. Accuses his main interlocutor (Stephanie) of trolling.
         
        At which point, people give up and Timon disappears.
         
        Recap: Tone and moderation policies -> reporting rape vs. reporting car -> thought control by the state -> ignoring repeated requests to address the points made -> completely dismissing the rape survivors ON THAT THREAD -> huffing off muttering about tone trolling.
         
        So yeah, he made what appeared to be a genuine effort and people engaged him. Then he began derailing, people observed he was derailing, he ignored their requests to return to topic, wandered completely off topic, then whined about tone. Yet you claim that he was treated badly? And he did it without being “uncivil”, but he did completely derail a thread.
         
        And you think he was treated unfairly? Wow.
         
        That’s all I’m going to say here, since I’m sure Martin Pribble has better things to read, and I have no wish to derail this thread further than has happened already.

        VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
        Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
        •  @granvold It’s all there for anyone to read… minus the many legitimate comments that were left in indefinite moderation.  I’m sure people can make up their own minds as to which party was engaging in good faith. 

          VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
          Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
        •  @br0kenmech
          Your opinion and my opinion on whether he WAS a troll are sort of beside the point. His behavior fit a classic pattern that people have dealt with on a number of occasions. Personally, I think he was a troll. I might be wrong, but I think I fairly clearly laid out WHY he was perceived as a troll.
           
          There is indeed a “siege mentality” at some blogs, to steal a phrase from elsewhere in this thread. If people really want to engage in substantive engagement, it would behoove them to remember that, and to really LISTEN when people tell them they’re coming off as a troll.
           
          Whatever his actual troll status, Timon completely failed to do that, despite multiple opportunities.

          VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
          Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
        •  @granvold  @br0kenmech  Simpler still: “If people really want to engage in substantive engagement, it would behoove them to…” not attempt that in the Comments section of a blog. Evidently the blog comment is an unsatisfactory tool for that communication task …and many more besides.

          VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
          Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)
        •  @blamer You have a point. The blog comment forum as a tool for debate has serious limitations. However, if people are going to cry “unfair treatment”, it’d be nice if they acknowledged the limitations of the forum.
           
          Intent isn’t magic. People can only go on what they read. It’s a difficult problem… a lot of self-education is required before engaging in any online forum. I mean, really, just look at the comments on any major newspaper article and despair for humanity. :)

          VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
          Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. An unstoppable tide of trolls - [...] [...]

Have your say

%d bloggers like this: