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Civility in the blogosphere is a local problem
Posted by: McQ on Monday, April 09, 2007

If you're not familiar with the cases of Kathy Sierra or Cathy Seipp, both bloggers, one of whom recently passed away, I'll leave it to you to google and read about them. Short story: both, in their own right, were victims of personal attacks, threats, misrepresentations and simply abominable and vile commentary by both bloggers and commenters alike.

This has been the impetus for a conversation which is now moving through the blogosophere about civility and conduct. I don't think most responsible bloggers would argue that the conduct toward the two women cited was uncivil, and that's putting it mildly. But what to do about it is not as easy as acknowledging the problem. Brad Stone of the NY Times puts forward one proposed solution:
Last week, Tim O’Reilly, a conference promoter and book publisher who is credited with coining the term Web 2.0, began working with Jimmy Wales, creator of the communal online encyclopedia Wikipedia, to create a set of guidelines to shape online discussion and debate.

Chief among the recommendations is that bloggers consider banning anonymous comments left by visitors to their pages and be able to delete threatening or libelous comments without facing cries of censorship.

A recent outbreak of antagonism among several prominent bloggers “gives us an opportunity to change the level of expectations that people have about what’s acceptable online,” said Mr. O’Reilly, who posted the preliminary recommendations last week on his company blog (radar.oreilly.com). Mr. Wales then put the proposed guidelines on his company’s site (blogging.wikia.com), and is now soliciting comments in the hope of creating consensus around what constitutes civil behavior online.

Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Wales talk about creating several sets of guidelines for conduct and seals of approval represented by logos. For example, anonymous writing might be acceptable in one set; in another, it would be discouraged. Under a third set of guidelines, bloggers would pledge to get a second source for any gossip or breaking news they write about.

Bloggers could then pick a set of principles and post the corresponding badge on their page, to indicate to readers what kind of behavior and dialogue they will engage in and tolerate. The whole system would be voluntary, relying on the community to police itself.
Ed Morrisey says:
This is one of those well-intentioned but doomed reform efforts that sound reasonable but will have no chance of changing anything. Before the reform leaves the dock, it has already split into several "standards", which will cause confusion on which logo means what rules and under which circumstances. Bloggers and commenters will have to look for logos, and then will endlessly argue over each individual post or comment as to whether it meets the guidelines.
I agree. I'm not much for adopting someone else's standards or trying to determine by their standards where I want my blog to be considered. My guess is my co-bloggers would agree, for the most part. While I certainly think the blogosphere could use a cleanup, as I look at QandO - that is the only blog I have nominal control over - I'm not particularly concerned by what I see in the comment section for the most part.

Now this may come off as mere self-congratulatory back slapping to some, but I think it is primarily because of the atmosphere we have here that has been formed over the 4 years of the blog's existence. Certainly we don't attract the traffic like most of the high volume blogs. But it is my belief that they attract a lot of that traffic because for the most part (and I'm speaking particularly of the political blogs here since that is the sphere in which we place ourselves) they're echo chambers in which a certain portion of those who frequent blogs find reinforcement for their beliefs and the opportunity to anonymously vent about the other side. They're able, for the most part, to say things, unchallenged and anonymously, that they'd never say to someone's face.

The obvious point is, doing something like that on the net is, for the most part, risk free. Anonymity is freedom, at least in that regard.

That, in my estimation, is the real reason for the incivility within the blogosphere. Commenters, and even bloggers, can step out of their everyday persona and be someone completely different. They can let their inner demon have full reign and they do.

So what to do about anonymity. We can certainly demand that commenters use their real names and use their actual email addresses if we choose. We can go through email certification before we let anyone comment if we choose. But to what end? You can still use a fake name and some free email service to really remain totally anonymous.

I don't want to spend my time trying to ensure everyone is who they say they are. Instead, I'd prefer we look at the substance of what they post in their comments and make decisions based on that. And yes, that means we have to judge and act based on the standards we decide are important, not some group handing out badges.

For the most part, we attempt to keep a civil blog. More importantly, we challenge commenters who exhibit the characteristics of those I describe above. That's important. What that has given us is a cadre of commenters who are, for the most part, thoughtful in their commentary. Sure they're snide, snarky, sarcastic, cynical, and even nasty to each other at times, but rarely are they threatening, screaming, vile, rude or crude. And I think that speaks more for the atmosphere set by the blog in a general sense and that set in the comment section by our regular commenters in a more specific sense.

When you go to the magazine section of the bookstore, you have several choices. Certain magazines are going to draw a more serious crowd less inclined toward uncivil behavior. Others are going to draw those who are much less inhibited about being uncivil. I don't believe blogs are any different.

We draw a nice daily average of a bit over 3,000+ on SiteMeter (although server stats show considerably more). That's well behind most of the mega-blogs. But I'm perfectly happy with those numbers because that 3,000 represents, again for the most part, a section of the readership on the net which has demonstrated an ability to think and then argue in a relatively civil manner. They've also fairly well policed themselves in the comment section with a very few exceptions where an administrator has had to step in and take action (the first person I ever banned was someone who threatened another with physical attack).

I prefer that to badges and codes. Obviously I'd like to see civil discourse on blogs, but the only place I have any control whatsoever is here. And this is then the only place I'm going to worry about it.
 
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Typekey is one way to slow the ad hoc anonymous poster.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
It is also a pain.

I prefer my "delete" button on the admin console. I rarely if ever use it (except for spam), but it is there if needed.

Typekey might be an option if we were much bigger than we are (and got a lot more comments than we do), but at this level, the "delete" button serves us well.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
and typekey would make the scientology and 9/11 conspiracy nut posts less fun.
 
Written By: ChrisB
URL: http://
and typekey would make the scientology and 9/11 conspiracy nut posts less fun.
LOL!

True. And, for the most part, they are a laugh.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
For me, the blogger and the commenters should, and for the most part, do, "control" the blog, not the blog "itself", i.e., mechanical flags and censoring devices.

Admittedly, it is tough to find those truly centric, or perhaps more label-correct, "balanced" blogs, where people try to tee up the points or counterpoints to incrementally move the "other side" to their viewpoints rather than hammer blows of attempted total and immediate repudiation of the other side, accompaned by a generous helping of the rhetoric of demeaning epithets.

The 30% fixed on either side are so wedded to their viewpoints I doubt their approach or rhetoric will ever change. However, I am also finding that you really don’t learn anything from those people. They often know the side of the issue that supports their view cold, but I am finding very few issues of the world are equally so one-sided.

 
Written By: the_casual_observer
URL: http://
The comment boards could be more civil than they are. Scott Erb would agree, I’m sure. Having said that, they could be worse, and the moderators mostly set a good example.

The problem with ending anonymity is that it may actually increase legal and quasi-legal harassment. Anonymous posters and bloggers can’t easily be stalked. Their family members and employment offices can’t be harrassed. All you can do is talk smack about them.

If I had to post my real name here, I’m not sure I’d do it. Leaving a long string of opinions after a google search of your name gives people an advantage over you.

The problem might actually be solved with greater anonymity. On the other hand, if you are a blogger who uses your real name, you are indeed better off requiring others to use theirs as well. Anyone who stalks you can be stalked in turn.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
The problem with ending anonymity is that it may actually increase legal and quasi-legal harassment. Anonymous posters and bloggers can’t easily be stalked. Their family members and employment offices can’t be harrassed. All you can do is talk smack about them.
For a truly anonymous commenter, that’s probably true. But we’ve demonstrated to certain commenters who are instead simply using a pseudonym that we can indeed find them if we really want to.

But we don’t. What we want is for people to act like they’d act if they were having a face-to-face discussion. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
The comment boards could be more civil than they are. Scott Erb would agree, I’m sure.
Of course that’s a matter of opinion and is exactly why I say the matter of civility is a matter to be determined locally and not by some external imposition of a code.
If I had to post my real name here, I’m not sure I’d do it. Leaving a long string of opinions after a google search of your name gives people an advantage over you.
That’s one of the primary reasons we don’t require it (although we have a good number of folks who do and have always used their names). I prefer conversation, discussion and debate to worries about off-blog stalking and attacks.

I used to blog strictly under the pseudonym "McQ" because I wanted anonymity for privacy reasons (not that it provided it), but I finally decided that if I was going to put my opinion on the board I ought to willing to put my real name behind it. It hasn’t been a decision I’ve regretted nor one that has appreciably increased harassment.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
The (mostly) thoughtful comments and blog posts are the main reason this site is one I visit almost daily. Comments greatly increase the value of blog posts when the comments provide more information or another viewpoint on the topic, and commenters who descend into name-calling or bashing often mask or nullify any value the original post may have had.

This is my biggest complaint about reading most of the left-leaning sites, simply because I can’t stomach the cesspool the comment area contains. There are quite a few good bloggers that I’ve read on the left side but I can’t bring myself to read them regularly because of their comment sections. The bigger right-leaning sites don’t do much better.

All in all though, I’d like to congratulate most of the commenters here for providing a usually reasonable environment, even those posters I completely disagree with.

(A side note: picking on Erb lately has seemed to be getting worse, or more pointed, which is somewhat disturbing. He writes enough things that can be directly rebutted or replied to, we don’t need to invent things or pre-emptively smear him with stuff. Or is it just me noticing that?)
 
Written By: Bill W.
URL: http://
The comment boards could be more civil than they are. Scott Erb would agree, I’m sure.
They could be worse too. But granted, you two take your share of knocks that are sometimes more focused on you than your opinions.

I sometimes think Dr. Erb enjoys the controversy though. 8^)
But you know, if we’re going to play cowboys and indians, someone has to be the indian.
 
Written By: looker
URL: http://
I don’t really care about the "real name" thing. I use mine, but I don’t consider it to be some badge of honor, in fact it’s a bit of a liability.
 
Written By: Brad Warbiany
URL: http://unrepentantindividual.com/
Where is my Easter Bonnet?

While some may see the blogosphere and the behavior of its participants as a new phenomenon, it isn’t difficult to find an appropriate predecessor model. That model is found on the streets of any metropolitan area and it is called traffic and the prevalence of road rudeness...or in its extreme...road rage.

Granted, personal attacks and snark on the internet are not likely to lead to fatalities, but if computers had wheels, it certainly would.

Read more on the relationship between blog civility and Easter Bonnets...here:

www.thoughttheater.com
 
Written By: thoughttheater
URL: http://www.thoughttheater.com
Some distinctions need to be made. First, there’s what’s illegal and what’s uncivil. Slander, libel, and death threats won’t be curbed by a civility code. Any civility code. As McQ points out, there are ways to stay anonymous. Further, is it really the job of the blogger to see to it that laws are enforced?

As far as genuine lack of civility is concerned there’s no consensus on what constitutes civil conduct in the blogosphere. For some George Carlin’s Seven Words are uncivil. For others the content can be uncivil even while being stated in a civil manner. I’ve read plenty of complaints about Glenn Reynolds’s posts based not on their diction but on their content. IMO Glenn is pretty darned inoffensive. If Instapundit is uncivil what in the world is civil?

I have a regular commenter whose comments are, generally, offensive, insulting, and expletive-laden but whom I tolerate because of his legitimate expertise. He really has something to contribute. I wish he’d be more civil but you take the bad with the good.

That in the end is the heart of the matter. The blogger needs to make decisions about what sort of blog he or she is publishing. That’s beyond any code of ethics, guidelines, or what have you.
 
Written By: Dave Schuler
URL: http://www.theglitteringeye.com
I THINK IT’S A F*CKING STUPID IDEA AND ANYONE THAT SIGNS ON IS SOME KIND OF NEO-FASCIST, NAZI-WORSHIPPING MORON!

FURTHER Hypocrisy, has already set in and corrupted the whole thing...
Bill W.’s post violates Article I, Section 4. sub-section A. Paragraph 4, and McQ you did NOTHING to discipline him! If that doesn’t demonstrate that the whole point of this "system" is to enforce a McCarthyite Uniformity of Thought I don’t know what does!

Good Day, Sir!
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Will there be a "nutroots" badge, with a picture of a straightjacket and a tinfoil helmet?
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
And that’s why I love Joe’s posts....
 
Written By: Bill W.
URL: http://
Granted, personal attacks and snark on the internet are not likely to lead to fatalities, but if computers had wheels, it certainly would.
Heh ... I like the line but would argue that any auto mechanic would tell you that, in fact, computers do have wheels.

Your point is a good one and to take it even a step further, there is a certain anonymity on the road as well. But I’d also point out that we’re less likely to act in a rude or crude way on the road in a situation where we could be caught up with by the person we’re being rude too than if there’s no possibility that person could catch you. And there are other permutations to that (woman v. women, men v. men, women v men, men v. women, young v. old, etc.) which effect our behavior as well.

An anonymous identity on the net gives none of those signals, plus, for most of us, we’re pretty assured that the person we’re being rude too won’t "catch up with us". So it leads to even more widespread incivil behavior than we might anonymously engage in on the road.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I said it before, on another thread, and I’ll copy it here:
I’d like to offer some friendly advice to you and anyone else who feels compelled to spend time on debate. You can take it or leave it depending on the merits as you see them, but I’ve found after years of debating that some things work better than others for me.

In my experience, when someone proposes a modicum of civility, it’s typically smart to agree as quickly as possible and hold his feet to that fire as hard as you can. Then you get a race to the top, where the victory goes to whoever makes the better argument, instead of a race to the bottom, where everyone wastes time and neurons on name-calling, mockery, and speculation on motives. Better yet, offer civility before your opponent does, and look like the bigger man.

If he says he’ll take your opinions in good faith, promise to do the same, and then—with that promise safely archived where everyone can see it—force him to represent your arguments faithfully when debating with you.

If he publicly gives himself a label, let him prove it: ask him as many irksome questions as you can. He can either strain to be consistent, or admit he was being a bit sloppy with his terms... or maybe he really does fit the label, and then you’ll know the truth about him.

Trying to be clever or insulting gives your opponent tons of room to maneuver. He can back out at any time, assuring himself that you are the one at fault, that it’s your problem that you can’t see the "truth" of his arguments. Instead of facing your arguments, as good as they may be, he can focus all his attention on the insults and vague language you employed.

But if you never mischaracterize his arguments, and just break him down point by point, he’s backed into a corner. He can either retreat quietly and leave the field to you (whether or not he realizes he’s wrong), or he can admit he was wrong, or he can try to lay down smoke by resorting to uncivil behavior—at which point, you can call him on it because he promised to be civil. And then you have all kinds of leverage over him until he scrambles back to civility.

Then you don’t even have to lob insults. Everyone who’s watching—including him—will come to their own conclusions. And that’s a thousand times more damning.

This is time-consuming, because it doesn’t avail you of any shortcuts, but the really dangerous part is, you have to be willing to play by the same rules, and admit when you’re wrong. And hey, we’re all mistaken about lots of things. Let your opponents be your strength, though: if they prove you wrong now, you don’t have to go around mistaken anymore.
In short, I do it because over time, it works. And I think our guests who are giving both barrels to Scott Erb are going about the path of greatest resistance, however justified they may feel (or may be).

Some might respond, "I’m just calling a spade a spade!"
Maybe you are. But despite all the effort, you’re not accomplishing much (and in any effort, you want to give yourself a progress report from time to time to see whether your current strategy and tactics are working as you hoped, and make adjustments as necessary). There are ways of making things obvious without drawing people’s conclusions for them. On the internet, and in any debate, you can’t do much more reliably.

On a personal note, I haven’t regretted starting to post with my real name. It wouldn’t be hard to dig up just about everything I’ve ever written on the internet, but even though I wrote things in the past that I wouldn’t agree with now, I’m fine with that. I can admit having been wrong in the past, and I can provide an explanation for why I believe I was wrong (or why I said something that I didn’t even believe at the time—as a rhetorical exercise, to trap someone with their own ideas, or as a devil’s advocate). And as I said, I let my critics be my strength. They keep me honest and sharp.

I certainly prefer to talk with other people brave enough to use their real names, because otherwise I’m on the hard end of an accountability asymmetry, but if they have other, "real-life" reasons (e.g., their job’s at stake) to fear making honest and incisive comments without that veneer of anonymity, I’d just as soon have them post here with a pseudonym.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
Some distinctions need to be made. First, there’s what’s illegal and what’s uncivil. Slander, libel, and death threats won’t be curbed by a civility code. Any civility code. As McQ points out, there are ways to stay anonymous. Further, is it really the job of the blogger to see to it that laws are enforced?
Good points Dave. As mentioned, one of the few people I’ve banned made a threat toward another commenter. I didn’t so much see it as enforcing the law as much as removing someone who was irrational and dragging the discourse down. But no, it’s not my job to enforce the law.
I have a regular commenter whose comments are, generally, offensive, insulting, and expletive-laden but whom I tolerate because of his legitimate expertise. He really has something to contribute. I wish he’d be more civil but you take the bad with the good.
Yeah I do to. Well he’s semi-regular, but a guy I’ve known and admired for years. And we’ve had heated discussed his methods many times. But he does indeed have a much to contribute. Additionally, he has, for the most part, become a pretty good guest at my place over time. It’s called simple courtesy and he gets it.

I’ve got another I can’t stand but leave on here because as poorly as he does it, he does provide an "other side" which, if nothing else, stimulates some dialogue.
That in the end is the heart of the matter. The blogger needs to make decisions about what sort of blog he or she is publishing. That’s beyond any code of ethics, guidelines, or what have you.

Bingo. I heartily agree.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Will there be a "nutroots" badge, with a picture of a straightjacket and a tinfoil helmet?

Written By: Aldo
*LOL* That’ll be for the "Truther Sites."
And that’s why I love Joe’s posts....

Written By: Bill W.

Thank you thank you....Codes of Ethics are such Hoohah...In this I am a libertarian...I don’t go to the Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler any more, as I’ve said, I felt like I was covered in spittle after a reading a couple of Mischa’s posts.

You don’t like Kos or RWN or QandO don’t go... send an e-mail to the "author" if you like saying, WHY you don’t. Sooner or later if you’re in the majority, the site will change or die. Let the "Off" button do it’s job.

Any thing else is just silly, as Limbaugh calls it, "Good time plastic banana Rock n’Roll feel good" stuff.

People will just whine and moan about how "DrFeelGood" or "Hotgrrrrrl69" are in violation of the terms of the International Code of Blogging’s Rule No. 43. As an example, persue Fark.com’s "Irony" Section wherein invariably someone begins to complain that this story is NOT ironic, and from then on 10-25% of the posts are about "irony" its definitions and uses, rather than the article itself. A Code of Conduct or Ethics is just a waste of time and a source of more complaining than it’s worth.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
For me, the blogger and the commenters should, and for the most part, do, "control" the blog, not the blog "itself", i.e., mechanical flags and censoring devices.
Precisely. It should be the effort of those who have a vested interest to make it the place they want, not hiding behind some auto adjudicator.
Admittedly, it is tough to find those truly centric, or perhaps more label-correct, "balanced" blogs, where people try to tee up the points or counterpoints to incrementally move the "other side" to their viewpoints rather than hammer blows of attempted total and immediate repudiation of the other side, accompaned by a generous helping of the rhetoric of demeaning epithets.
Well QandO certainly has a particular ideology which drives it which, on it’s face, precludes it from being balanced or centerist. That’s not the purpose of the blog anyway (even if we did end up in the "Best Centerist Blog" category this year - it simply means they don’t know what to do with us).

But I think we try to provide a forum, at least, where the other side can present it’s arguments if it so desires.
The 30% fixed on either side are so wedded to their viewpoints I doubt their approach or rhetoric will ever change. However, I am also finding that you really don’t learn anything from those people. They often know the side of the issue that supports their view cold, but I am finding very few issues of the world are equally so one-sided.
You’re absolutely correct here. And it is among those 30% or so that you find the most despicable behavior. They feed off one another’s comments and rarely a contra word is heard (or in some cases, allowed). That’s why I say it is important to challenge those types, from both sides, when they land here. And I think commenters on this blog do a pretty good job of that. They certainly take off after me enough.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
And that’s why I love Joe’s posts....
Heh ... yeah, me too. Joe only gets in trouble when he tries to get serious (which should tell you something Joe).
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
(A side note: picking on Erb lately has seemed to be getting worse, or more pointed, which is somewhat disturbing. He writes enough things that can be directly rebutted or replied to, we don’t need to invent things or pre-emptively smear him with stuff. Or is it just me noticing that?)
There’s a long, long history with Erb and many of the commenters who go after him (I’m talking 10 to 15 years) which colors the commentary.

You’re right about there being plenty to rebut, and commenters who don’t know him try that for a while. But they too fall into what you find "somewhat disturbing" commentary after a while.

I simply ignore him. What you see from the others are varying levels of angry frustration. Some eventually learn he’s not worth the effort (as did JWG). Others feel honor bound to hammer him everytime he resorts to his old tricks. As long as it is kept to a mild roar, I’m fine with it.
All in all though, I’d like to congratulate most of the commenters here for providing a usually reasonable environment, even those posters I completely disagree with.
Agreed Bill ... and thanks for yours.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
I think this is yet another instance of "let the market decide". If you think about it, the comment sections that we tend to gravitate towards are the ones that offer us what we are looking for. If you want debate and potential insight, you go one place, if you want to vent and snark, you go to another.

Personally, I prefer to get involved in a good debate that hashes the issues in a way that I’ve either learned something or that has honed my arguments (which is also learning something). I’m not above a good snark now and again, but I usually try to debate the arguments instead of the person (although, Pogue often leaves me no choice ;)

As for blogging/commenting under one’s own name, I haven’t found it makes much difference in the way I write. Perhaps I would be more vicious or less reasoned in tone and content, but I doubt it. And I don’t regret the loss of anonymity since, for all intents and purposes, I’m still pretty much anonymous (i.e. no groupies ... yet).
 
Written By: MichaelW
URL: http://asecondhandconjecture.com
This was a great article and the commentary as good as ever. It did get me thinking though... what ever happened to MKUltra? I kinda miss the crazy kook :)
 
Written By: meagain
URL: http://
what ever happened to MKUltra? I kinda miss the crazy kook :)

I believe he is chief policy advisor to The Speaker of the House, Ms Nancy Pelosi. I understand that she also needs a Foreign Policy Guru, and is leaning towards an academic from Maine.
 
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
When I write something, I stand by my thoughts, even when wrong, so I use my real name and e-mail address. To do otherwise is cowardly in my mind. I write for another blog, and try and thank those who comment on my essays. Virtually all the time, those e-mails are returned as undeliverable. I understand the potential for harassment, but my experience in journalism reinforces Harry Truman’s “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.”

As in journalism, codes of conduct are unenforceable. If free speech means anything it means tolerating that we disagree with most. That doesn’t mean those running the blog, if they wish, should not delete comments that are patently obscene, but it is their call. No one is forced to read a blog they don’t like. Let the free market of ideas rule.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://faroutfishfiles.blogspot.com/
MKUltra was banned after posting some nonsense attacking someone. He’d been gone awhile and it seemed that he’d forgotten just exactly how things went here when he came back and was rabidly attacking several posters.

I also miss his postings, not because I agreed with him, but because he’d post some background info for his arguments that I hadn’t seen. His conclusions didn’t always follow from that information, but they were still relevant. About the worst he’d gone before that was pretty much labeling everyone "wingers" constantly, which, while annoying, didn’t exactly fall to the level of the stuff that got him banned.
 
Written By: Bill W.
URL: http://
Then you don’t even have to lob insults. Everyone who’s watching—including him—will come to their own conclusions. And that’s a thousand times more damning.
You are touching on something that it took me a while to learn. In internet debates there will always be a few people who will tell outright lies and otherwise engage in dishonest tactics in order to "win" a heated debate. When I first began participating in political discussion on-line, several years ago, I would never let something like this go unchallenged. I was like a matter of honor to correct the record.

Over time I realized that the best way to handle people like this is to let them have the last word. Usually they are resorting to dishonest tactics because they know that they are getting their asses handed to them and they are desperate to save face. Once they have had the last word they usually disappear pretty quickly.

There is no "record" to correct that matters. As you note, everyone in the thread will have formed their own conclusions, and the dishonest debater is not fooling anyone.

I have had people go so far as to link to an old thread that I walked away from for this reason in order to prove that I "ran away" from a debate, but I had the satisfaction of knowing that anyone who cared enough to read an old stale thread would see who was the jackass.
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
MKUltra was banned after posting some nonsense attacking someone
MK was told to hit the bricks when he came in here calling people who were expressing opinions "liars".

I have no use for that. The fact that you disagree with a person’s opinion does not then make him or her a liar. And I’m just not going to tolerate that sort of nonsense. MK stepped over the line many times, was warned on a number of occasions and usually complied readily. That’s cool. But his last return, in which he was nothing more than a foaming-at-the-mouth troll, was a bridge too far.

Personally I think he was off his meds that night, but such is life.

Anyone is welcome to leave a comment here. And, especially if new, you’ll be warned if you cross the line, but I won’t hesitate to ban someone who can’t find it in themselves to play by the house rules, even if the are nebulous and arbitrary (that’s just to save the inevitable critics the time).
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
"Will there be a "nutroots" badge, with a picture of a straightjacket and a tinfoil helmet?"

Hey! Watch that! There is a difference, you know. A straightjacket is for restraining the insane, while your so-called "tinfoil helmet"(properly known as an aluminum foil deflection beanie or AFDB) is a legitimate defensive device. You may disagree, just as there are those who disagree that a pistol or rifle is a legitimate tool for self-defense, but it is clearly wrong to defame it. Would you say "...straightjacket and a rifle.."? I can personally testify to the utility of the AFDB. Since I started using one, I have become much calmer and less hostile. I suspect that your mocking tone indicates that you are not wearing one, and are being used by Them. Nancy Pelosi forgot hers when she went to Syria, and look what happened! She tried to substitue some sort of cloth head covering, but it just doesn’t work. Please, do yourself a favor and get one. Quickly! Do it for the children!


http://zapatopi.net/afdb/
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I can personally testify to the utility of the AFDB. Since I started using one, I have become much calmer and less hostile.
Maybe they will come out with a Rosie O’Donnell signature model, made out of aluminum that no fire could melt.
 
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
Sure they’re snide, snarky, sarcastic, cynical, and even nasty to each other at times, but rarely are they threatening, screaming, vile, rude or crude. And I think that speaks more for the atmosphere set by the blog in a general sense and that set in the comment section by our regular commenters in a more specific sense.
Might be more of a cultural thing. On numerous occasions you lot have showed just how well armed you are. And that you are in favor of the right to use lethal force to see off threats. The following of the blog tends to be people who accept the premise that guns and self defence are A-OK. Since we feel that lethal force is OK as a response to a threat, we do not tend make threats.
 
Written By: unaha-closp
URL: http://warisforwinning.blogspot.com/
even if the are nebulous and arbitrary

This is not me picking a bone so much as being genuinely interested - have you considered trying to flesh them out a little?

MK was told to hit the bricks when he came in here calling people who were expressing opinions "liars".

I don’t care much one way or the other about MK getting banned, which I didn’t really notice, but I know that commenters can call other commenters liars and not get banned. I’ve basically inferred the house rules as, ’be careful with the language towards mcq’ and not much more.

It would do the civility, not to mention the extent of backandforth, of the site some good if you banned some of the counterdissenters once in a while as well as the dissenters. Really, I started this thread just to muse on what the house rules were... but while I’m here...

a good rule of thumb is ’people who never discuss issues but only insult other people are not very helpful’. If there’s a case against MK that he spent too much time insulting and not enough on the issues - I think it’s fair to say that I’ve never seen a counterdissenter moderated for that.

You could also use a level of sanction less than banning, says I. Sure, some people will go into rage-fueled confrontational cycles upon being sanctioned..
but some won’t.

I mean, I don’t know if me and A.L. are the only liberals around here, but it seems to me to be in the one-hand territory.
 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
I have a somewhat plausible reason for posting somewhat anonymously: SPAM.

Anyone who wants to can read (aloud) my eamail address and send me something, be it flower or brickbat, but using that device has kept my spam load down to something on the order of 3 spams to 1 valid. An older account that I’ve since closed was up over 20 to 1 before I bailed on it.

My full name would not be too hard to figure out, but why make it easy for the clowns who want to annoy me?
 
Written By: bud
URL: http://
I mean, I don’t know if me and A.L. are the only liberals around here,
Obviously you mean AL and I.

You are much more reasonable that MKUltra. MKUltra was never interested in debating the current post. He always turned his discussion to whatever he wanted to discuss and to hell with it.

As to AL, I see his stuff everywhere. He is just a partisan. He seems to have sold off whatever principles he had in order to march to the whatever it takes to get your side into office. I don’t believe much of what he says is not just the poisoned partisan mentality.

I think you are ok. I disagree with 60% (maybe more) of what you say but it is still your right to say it. It disturbs me when I read your putdowns of Michael Totten’s interviews.
 
Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
unaha-closp:
Might be more of a cultural thing. On numerous occasions you lot have showed just how well armed you are. And that you are in favor of the right to use lethal force to see off threats. The following of the blog tends to be people who accept the premise that guns and self defence are A-OK. Since we feel that lethal force is OK as a response to a threat, we do not tend make threats.
What can we say? An armed society is a polite society?
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
Sometimes manners only get in the way of honest communication. It is ok to bump up against one another from time to time. I really enjoy the intensity of interaction here.
Some commenters are so predictable you know what their response is going to be even before they post it. Others dig deeper and offer some real insight.
Important "stuff" gets discussed here and if one can manage to keep an open mind they might actually learn something.
I have found it worthwhile to spend time here and I thank the Q&O folks for making it so.
Well done
 
Written By: darohu
URL: http://
If there’s a case against MK that he spent too much time insulting and not enough on the issues - I think it’s fair to say that I’ve never seen a counterdissenter moderated for that.
Might want to review the "Mona guest post" comments then. Then we had the guy (for the life of me I can’t recall his name - Don something? or David something) who kept throwing references to jews into everything he wrote. He heard from me quite often and was finally shamed out of here.
... even if the are nebulous and arbitrary
This is not me picking a bone so much as being genuinely interested - have you considered trying to flesh them out a little?
Not really ... it’s kind of like pornography ... you know it when you see it.

And frankly, I’m just not that interested in moderating comments that much. I just have a short fuse on certain types of personal attacks.
I’ve basically inferred the house rules as, ’be careful with the language towards mcq’ and not much more.
That’s just common sense, ’nost. But then there’s "Book Adams" who was banned for antisemitism. And then Bithead, who was banned for a while for just being Bithead.

So no, it’s not just "be careful with language toward McQ". If that’s all it took, a few here, who comment quite frequently, would be playing elsewhere or not at all.
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
 
Written By: VRB
URL: http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com
Those who refuse to engage in ‘civil debate’ acknowledge they have nothing on which to base their arguments. It’s easier to call your opponents names than refute their arguments. When I see someone resorting to these childish tactics, I know they are like the finale of a Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta, “Full of sound and Fury, signifying nothing.
 
Written By: James E. Fish
URL: http://faroutfishfiles.blogspot.com/
When I finally have the time to post front-page comments around here—hopefully that’ll be in about six weeks, by the way—I’ll be a bit more explicit about what’s cool in my book and what’s not, and while I’m consistent, I’m also lenient. I’m just not comfortable with Animal Farm rules, where only some people can read the constitution. I’m not Potter Stewart’s biggest fan; I like people to know where they stand.

As far as I’m concerned, personal attacks, mockery, and speculation on the motives of other commenters are all a waste of time. I’ve seen what a forum looks like when none of the above are long tolerated, and it’s pretty nice. Invective doesn’t chase off jerks (like wrestling a pig), but it quickly stretches the patience of serious commenters of the "put up or shut up" variety, and I prefer the latter kind of guest... even if—nay, especially if they disagree with me.

But that’s just me. I can’t speak for the other four main contributors; forewarned is forearmed.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
Bryan Pick
"And I think our guests who are giving both barrels to Scott Erb are going about the path of greatest resistance, however justified they may feel (or may be).

Some might respond, ’I’m just calling a spade a spade!’
Maybe you are. But despite all the effort, you’re not accomplishing much..."
That’s what you think.

I will also point out that I earn my right of invective with the goods on the issues. I know what I’m talking about, and that’s why I do it the way I do it.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
And that, despite how tempting the rhetoric is of one of Billy Beck’s recent posts...
"I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject I do not wish to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire, to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen, but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch - and I will be heard. The apathy of the people is enough to make every statue leap from its pedestal and to hasten the resurrection of the dead.

It is pretended that I am retarding the cause of emancipation by the coarseness of my invective and the precipitancy of my measures. The charge is not true. On this question my influence - humble as it is - is felt at this moment to a considerable extent, and shall be felt in coming years - not perniciously, but as a blessing; and posterity will bear testimony that I was right."
(William Lloyd Garrison, "An Immediate End To Slavery", editorial in The Liberator, January 1, 1831, emphases original)

Word.

"This ain’t no disco."
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
The point of that has completely escaped me, Bryan.

I don’t understand.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Sorry, you posted right before I did, so I didn’t see your comment. I thought that Garrison’s rhetoric was a tempting counterpoint to my own experience in debate.

Now. To respond to your earlier post:
That’s what you think.
It is.
I will also point out that I earn my right of invective with the goods on the issues. I know what I’m talking about, and that’s why I do it the way I do it.
I have questioned neither your perspicacity on the issues nor your rights, but rather your strategy.

For example, I saw you throttle the gun grabbers at Majikthise, but they didn’t see it. I keep hoping you’ll back them into such a corner that it makes them think, "Uh oh. I could be mistaken." If you do indeed know these issues inside and out, and you see straight through their arguments, right down to the pillar of faulty reasoning holding the whole thing up, there’s no person better equipped to smother them.

So when I see you take on a hundred people who, despite the sharp words, are still satisfied at the end that this Beck character is crazy and he called me names so he must be wrong, I don’t think, "pearls before swine." I think, "Why is the whole drift still standing?" If you don’t make them doubt, what’s it all for?
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
Might want to review the "Mona guest post" comments then. Then we had the guy (for the life of me I can’t recall his name - Don something? or David something) who kept throwing references to jews into everything he wrote. He heard from me quite often and was finally shamed out of here.

Not that I intended to frame it as something I was certain of anyway, but I’ll just admit to being wrong here. Happy Easter.

If that’s all it took, a few here, who comment quite frequently, would be playing elsewhere or not at all.

It’s true. You’ve reached Kindly Old Uncle Bob levels of intellectual tolerance. All the same, I’m sure glad I’ve learned to use scrupulous decorum and warm ’n fuzzy neighborliness while letting the air out of the bike tires of your logic all over the place. I learned these tricks from Oprah, Dora the Explorer, and Bill Beck.

Your semiannual Exhibition of A Sense of Humor. Merry Xmas. In advance.

 
Written By: glasnost
URL: http://
"If you don’t make them doubt, what’s it all for?"
It’s about observers who aren’t convinced on an issue, Bryan, or people who are and haven’t distilled their thoughts as far as I have. It’s not about the moron that I’m engaged with, when I’m engaged with a moron. Scott Erb is always going to be a lying commie dirt-bomb. Nothing is ever going to change that. But he’s not going to get away with impressions on people who’ve never looked through him in ways that I have, when I can help it. And the response that I’ve gotten pretty consistently over a long time tells me that I carry a big-league average.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
Scott Erb is always going to be a lying commie dirt-bomb.
That statement is an early morning coffee drinking hazard. :)
 
Written By: cap joe
URL: http://
" An armed society is a polite society?"

But of course, mon ami. And if we bring back dueling we shall have a much needed renaissance of circumlocution and creative insult. A thorough knowledge of our native tongue(English for you new arrivals) will not only be necessary for economic and social success, but often for survival. And think of the boon it would be for martial arts instructors and manufacturers of innovative and obscure weaponry. I myself plan to take up the boomerang, which I look upon as a semiauto throwing stick.

*****************************

" If you want debate and potential insight, you go one place, if you want to vent and snark, you go to another."

And here you can do both! Ah, heaven.

*********************

"Sure they’re 3nide, snarky, sarcastic, cynical, and even nasty to each other at times, but rarely are they threatening, screaming, vile, rude or crude"

Sort of like family, except for the threatening, screaming, vile, rude, or crude part.

*******************j*********
"It’s easier to call your opponents names than refute their arguments.

It is possible to do both.

"I know they are like the finale of a Gilbert and Sullivan Operetta, “Full of sound and Fury, signifying nothing.” "

Which operetta is that? Oh, right, the Scottish operetta.

*****************************

" I keep hoping you’ll back them into such a corner that it makes them think, "Uh oh. I could be mistaken.""

Wow. Well, hope springs eternal in the human breast, as they say. There is a reason, however, the phrase "invincible ignorance" was coined. And I rather doubt you could change the mind of any of the millions of true believers, left, right, or center. Your faith in the power of reason and rational discussion is a bit naive.

" But he’s not going to get away with impressions on people who’ve never looked through him in ways that I have, when I can help it."

Bingo. Why give credibility to some ignorant, phony, pretentious poseur by treating them as if they are actually engaged in a rational discussion? I myself certainly do not plan to even give the appearance of respecting the spreading of falsehoods or intentional misrepresentation.

*************************

" That statement is an early morning coffee drinking hazard. :)"

It’s not just the statement that is a health hazard.

 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I’m not above a good snark now and again, but I usually try to debate the arguments instead of the person (although, Pogue often leaves me no choice ;)
Hey!! In my defense… I am a jackass. So take it easy on your old buddy Pogue, you know I have issues.

I mean, I don’t know if me and A.L. are the only liberals around here, but it seems to me to be in the one-hand territory.
Well, I can tell you, Glasnost, that you and AL are definitely not the only one’s accused of being liberal.
I have on many occasions, been branded a liberal by some of the dwellers here at QandO merely for holding positions on separate issues that don’t, as they believe, fall in line with thoughts held by persons not of the liberal persuasion. The war and gay marriage for example.
But I will say, that this is one of the few blogs in which I leave comments. I find the dwellers here for the most part reasonable and cordial. Which is a rarity in the so-called blogoshpere.
They, the dwellers, may perhaps judge me as a clown with attitude. That’s fine… I’m okay with that… perhaps I am just a clown. But I try to make veiled points and innuendo with the follies that leave my keyboard, and if readers can get that point, then all the better. If they cannot, then I at least, consider it a loss for them.
For example…

For those who feel comfortable with themselves as they belly calls of Left wing ideology in my direction, it amuses me to imagine them squirm impatiently as I hold tight my assault rifle up their ass and force them to whistle Dixie.

Is there a veiled point in that? You decide.
Is there innuendo? Most definitely.
Do they get it? I care not.

Anyway, I will tip my hat to most of the posters and commenters here at QandO. I keep coming back and littering the comments section so there must be something that I admire about the dwellers or at least myself, despite being thought of as a clown.

If the dwellers do indeed think of me, a clown. (McQ, you don’t have to answer that.)

Cheers.
 
Written By: PogueMahone
URL: http://ceilidhcowboy.typepad.com/
(McQ, you don’t have to answer that.)
Drat!!
 
Written By: McQ
URL: http://www.qando.net/blog
It’s about observers who aren’t convinced on an issue, Bryan, or people who are and haven’t distilled their thoughts as far as I have. It’s not about the moron that I’m engaged with, when I’m engaged with a moron. [...] And the response that I’ve gotten pretty consistently over a long time tells me that I carry a big-league average.
If you get a pretty optimal result for the effort expended, more power to you. Now, you wrote at your blog, "Scott Erb has got a fight on his hands that I haven’t had the patience to conduct against him in quite a while"... I take it you’ve tried similar tactics in the past?

(http://www.two-
-four.net/weblog.php?id=P2931)
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
I keep hoping you’ll back them into such a corner that it makes them think, "Uh oh. I could be mistaken."
Wow. Well, hope springs eternal in the human breast, as they say. There is a reason, however, the phrase "invincible ignorance" was coined.
So, what was the reason that term was coined? What do you suppose empowers such people to ignore whatever valid points are presented to them?
And I rather doubt you could change the mind of any of the millions of true believers, left, right, or center. Your faith in the power of reason and rational discussion is a bit naive.
We’ll just see... unless your definition of "true believer" is a tautological "person who won’t change his mind". I know where you’re coming from, I do. I just know what I’ve been able to make work in the past, and what I’ve observed. I also know which environments have been most conducive to my own learning.
Why give credibility to some ignorant, phony, pretentious poseur by treating them as if they are actually engaged in a rational discussion?
The more ignorant/phony/pretentious they are, the sharper will be the contrast between your rational arguments and their hand-waving, the faster you can rob them of credibility. If you treat them like they’re invincible threats to your whole worldview, they’ll appear even more credible than they are.
I myself certainly do not plan to even give the appearance of respecting the spreading of falsehoods or intentional misrepresentation.
So, you couldn’t manage to debate in a place that didn’t tolerate personal attacks (or mockery or speculation on motives) on other commenters? You couldn’t be effective in that environment?
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
"What do you suppose empowers such people to ignore whatever valid points are presented to them?"

Insanity, stupidity, fanaticism, faith, etc. It can be a different reason for each individual. What does it matter?


" I just know what I’ve been able to make work in the past, and what I’ve observed."

So, you silver-tongued devil, noone has been able to withstand your fact based logical arguments?

" If you treat them like they’re invincible threats to your whole worldview,"

WTF?

"So, you couldn’t manage to debate in a place that didn’t tolerate personal attacks"

Can and have. What is your point?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
"I take it you’ve tried similar tactics in the past?"
I was talking about you, Bryan, and the effort that you’ve put into the thing, here.

I have to say, however, that I’m a lot less impressed with you than I was when you set out on this thing with Erb. And I’m not talking about anything but your ideas. The more I see of your thinking, the less impressed I am.

In any case, I was referring to an effort to take him seriously without just booting him straight in the head all the time. I must point out that some people might not believe me, and there are grounds for a dissenting case: I’ve had an attitude on about that bastard ever since the very first post of his that I ever laid eyes on, because he came marching into something that he knew absolutely nothing about, and with a perfectly-patented partisan snoot on in a place where that had simply never been happening until that year. We had ’em all: left to right, liberal to libertarian, with our heads down and doing very close work on something that everybody else in the country was just flat ignoring out-loud. He didn’t know f*ck-all about it, but he landed in it as if he was just too cool for school and the teacher’s pet, to boot.

The thing is, he hung around, and he became starkly clear to me in a very short time. And in that time, the original sin was nothing next to what I and a lot of others were able to wring out of him when we could get him to write about eight words in a straight line.

I’ve been through the whole show, Bryan. I’ve got the popcorn and peanuts all over me, to prove it.

And believe me: you’ve got him purring like a kitten now, and this place is going to stink to high heaven for a long time.

You don’t have to believe me.

Mark my words.
 
Written By: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two—four.net/weblog.php
"What do you suppose empowers such people to ignore whatever valid points are presented to them?"
Insanity, stupidity, fanaticism, faith, etc. It can be a different reason for each individual. What does it matter?
What I’m driving at is, by what process do you come to the conclusion that the reason your argument isn’t changing your opponent’s mind is that your opponent is (hopelessly) at fault, and not some weakness in your method or your argument itself?
" I just know what I’ve been able to make work in the past, and what I’ve observed."
So, you silver-tongued devil, noone has been able to withstand your fact based logical arguments?
Did I say I was perfect?
" If you treat them like they’re invincible threats to your whole worldview,"
WTF?
I think that’s fair. You spoke of "invincible ignorance." I think it’s pretty clear you count such people as a threat. And you say you won’t engage them with superior arguments, because you consider that to be counter-productive. So, they’re impervious to you—what’s left in your arsenal besides insults? Insults don’t get the job done with "ignorant, phony, pretentious poseur[s]". No one’s convinced but the already-converted.

So what’s your response to what I said about the contrast between your arguments and those of the hand-wavers? You don’t think your arguments are sufficient to sink your opponents’ credibility? You think insults do a better job of that?
"So, you couldn’t manage to debate in a place that didn’t tolerate personal attacks"
Can and have. What is your point?
That’s all I need to know. You can and have done it, but you won’t, if it comes down to sharing space with people you consider unreasonable (but who can’t engage in personal attacks against you).
-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Billy Beck -
"I take it you’ve tried similar tactics in the past?"
I was talking about you, Bryan, and the effort that you’ve put into the thing, here.
I know. But (based on the bold text) I take it you’ve put in the same kind of effort in the past, some kind of full court press?
I have to say, however, that I’m a lot less impressed with you than I was when you set out on this thing with Erb. And I’m not talking about anything but your ideas. The more I see of your thinking, the less impressed I am.
As I suggested in the email I sent in response to yours, I had a feeling you would be. But:
* I’ve already said you’re smart, and I’ve said you’re better read than I am.
* You seem to be able to articulate very well the weaknesses you see in someone else’s argument, when you take the trouble.
* I’ve said that I enjoy debate and I prefer being proven wrong to going around mistaken.

So, given that you’re well aware of all of the above points, if you don’t want to intrude on my argument with Erb in the "Morality and Politics" thread (who knows, I might surprise you again), I welcome you to fire a few emails my way and set me straight. I know you’re a busy guy, and so am I, but the offer’s there.
I’ve been through the whole show, Bryan. I’ve got the popcorn and peanuts all over me, to prove it.

And believe me: you’ve got him purring like a kitten now, and this place is going to stink to high heaven for a long time.

You don’t have to believe me.

Mark my words.
They’re marked. And as always, you have a flair for the dramatic.

It could be that pointing out the contradictions in Erb’s arguments, chasing down every last red herring, and demanding that he brings something to bear on the objective world—facts, numbers, reason—only encourages him, but that’s all I have for now. I derive little or no satisfaction from hurling insults, even at the deserving, and I didn’t see the many other people who were here simply to give Erb a drubbing having much of an effect anyway. Did you? After a decade-plus of dealing with you seeing right through him, was he just about to break and go scurrying off from QandO to parts unknown when I decided to toss some questions his way? I don’t believe you think so.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
Do you all not know that when you speak to someones ability to argue or the type argument they may use, it is personal? The reason you would never have any code is the very reason you have these many comments and it seems that your main purpose has been to single out individuals and their ability to come up to your academic standards. To call someone a liar is as agregious as calling someone ignorant and not worthy of having an opinion.
 
Written By: VRB
URL: http://hathor-sekhmet.blogspot.com
"and not some weakness in your method or your argument itself?"

Perhaps when the issue is a fact, and that fact is either denied or ignored. And yes, I do know the difference between a fact and an argument.

"Did I say I was perfect?"

"In short, I do it because over time, it works."

You could at least be consistent.

"I think it’s pretty clear you count such people as a threat."

Threat to what? Are you, by any chance, a psychology major?

"Insults don’t get the job done with "ignorant, phony, pretentious poseur[s]"."

Gee, I hadn’t realized! Insults are not meant to convince, they are meant to insult. Believe it or not, that has been known to me for some time. Don’t be patronizing.




"You can and have done it, but you won’t,..."

Frankly, I find that particular phrase insulting. How many of my comments, or those of Mr. Beck’s, have your read? You are forming opinions based on ignorance.

"You don’t think your arguments are sufficient to sink your opponents’ credibility? You think insults do a better job of that?"

Perhaps I, and probably Mr. Beck, have not been clear enough. Insults come after rationality and logic are exhausted.

"I didn’t see the many other people who were here simply to give Erb a drubbing having much of an effect anyway. Did you?"

What effect is it that you imagine we are trying to achieve with insult?


************************************
"Do you all not know that when you speak to someones ability to argue or the type argument they may use, it is personal?"

Rats! I wish I had known that in college. I would have gotten better grades by intimidating the professors.

************************************
"Do you all not know that when you speak to someones ability to argue or the type argument they may use, it is personal?"

Rats! I wish I had known that in college. I would have gotten better grades by intimidating the professors.

" To call someone a liar is as agregious as calling someone ignorant and not worthy of having an opinion"

What if it is true? Calling someone a racist is also, according to your standard, "bad or reprehensible".
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
"and not some weakness in your method or your argument itself?"
Perhaps when the issue is a fact, and that fact is either denied or ignored. And yes, I do know the difference between a fact and an argument.
I didn’t say you didn’t, and that sounds pretty reasonable, really. If you present something that plenty of people can observe is true, but your opponent decides to ignore it, and you call attention to your opponent ignoring it, then you’ve got your opponent wrapped up. If your opponent’s in denial of a clearly true fact, you have tons of leverage. ("So, even though you said it would be 5%, and the report says 2%, you’re sure of your position because... why again?") After that point, yes, there’s only so much you can do on the internet.

I still think your strategy for presenting the facts is important. Some methods of debate give your opponent a psychological escape hatch in case the facts don’t match their argument. Others get under their skin. It’s not easy to articulate, but surely you’ve experienced it yourself. Debating with the very same person, one style of argument gets them to respond with huffing and puffing and dismissal, while another approach catches them off guard in such a way that they visibly have more trouble responding effectively, like if you catch them in a really flat contradiction or lie.
So, you silver-tongued devil, noone has been able to withstand your fact based logical arguments?
"Did I say I was perfect?"
"In short, I do it because over time, it works."

You could at least be consistent.
*sigh* Do you really think that’s a neat little contradiction? Read the entire argument above that short little quotation to see what I meant by "over time, it works". If I were perfect, I’d never be proven wrong, but I am, and debate serves one function of helping me realize when I am. It strengthens my rhetoric and helps me articulate my arguments; if I’d been perfect in the first place, that wouldn’t be an issue. And yes, it does help me to change a person’s mind when they know I’m going after their argument and not them personally.

I have changed more minds in a civil environment with some type of accountability for abusive behavior (classrooms, workplace, fora with rules against personal attacks, in friendly relationships that all parties want to preserve) than I could have ever changed where people can fall back on substituting insults for arguments and disappear the next day if things get too hot. Perhaps it’s that people who are willing to change their mind simply self-select to enter civil environments more often than those who aren’t, but even if that’s the case, that’s the kind of place I’d like to host. If I could host something like one of David Brin’s disputation arenas, I’d love to.

Deciding to debate civilly and use a little strategy in your arguments is not foolproof. I didn’t claim it was. It’s a process and a skill that you refine by studying how people respond to your arguments, and yes, I’m claiming that civil persuasion is a skill that can be developed. So, now that I’ve described it for you, can you represent my argument a little more faithfully when you respond?
"I think it’s pretty clear you count such people as a threat."
Threat to what? Are you, by any chance, a psychology major?
No, and I’m not a mind-reader, either. It would have been much more fitting for me to aim that at Billy Beck, who’s been much more explicit on the matter, but if you weren’t seemingly afraid of giving liars, phonies and poseurs "credibility" by responding to what they say, I wouldn’t have come to the conclusion that you consider them a threat.
It was unfair of me to use the words "your entire worldview." I can’t say for certain that it’s your worldview that you consider threatened. But you do make them seem more credible when you fear that even a stunning defeat at your hands would lend them credibility.
"Insults don’t get the job done with "ignorant, phony, pretentious poseur[s]"."
Gee, I hadn’t realized! Insults are not meant to convince, they are meant to insult. Believe it or not, that has been known to me for some time. Don’t be patronizing.
I’m not insulting your intelligence. I’m saying that insulting such people is like wrestling with pigs. What are you accomplishing, such that it’s worth your time, bandwidth and neurons?
"You don’t think your arguments are sufficient to sink your opponents’ credibility? You think insults do a better job of that?"
Perhaps I, and probably Mr. Beck, have not been clear enough. Insults come after rationality and logic are exhausted.
What’s the need? Why is it worth your time to stick around? Once you’ve employed logic and rationality as well as you know how, your opponents can either contine to make claims they can’t back up (in which case, you can hold their feet to that fire as much or as little as it pleases you), or they’ll limit themselves to discussion of hazy stuff that doesn’t matter to you.
"I didn’t see the many other people who were here simply to give Erb a drubbing having much of an effect anyway. Did you?"
What effect is it that you imagine we are trying to achieve with insult?
I’m trying to get you to answer that question for me, because I’m not going to even try to speculate on your motives. "It vexes me. I’m terribly vexed." I can’t figure out how it could possibly be worth your time, when you’re (apparently) able to see right through your opponents and level their faulty logic with a minimum of mental exertion.
"You can and have done it, but you won’t,"
Frankly, I find that particular phrase insulting. How many of my comments, or those of Mr. Beck’s, have your read? You are forming opinions based on ignorance.
I asked you the questions, and that’s what you told me.
I asked you if you could manage to debate in a place that wouldn’t tolerate personal attacks, mockery, and speculation on the motives of other commenters. You said that you "[c]an and have." That covers the first phrase, in which I took your word for it.
The second part, "but you won’t, if it comes down to sharing space with people you consider unreasonable (but who can’t engage in personal attacks against you)" is based on you saying that you certainly won’t engage in debate with people you find unreasonable because you consider it counter-productive.

I do see how I could be mistaken: if you’re saying that you’d debate in such a forum, but you’d be able to completely ignore those who you consider unreasonable. I asked earlier if you could be effective in that environment. Well, you personally ignoring people might have the effect you’re hoping for... or it might not. Based on what you’ve said here, you don’t seem to think it’s effective, leaving people to their own devices after you’ve "exhausted" rationality and logic.
If I’m wrong about any of that, feel free to correct me.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
"I still think your strategy for presenting the facts is important."

Perhaps you can be more specific. What am I, and presumably others, doing wrong? Examples?

"than I could have ever changed where people can fall back on substituting insults for arguments"

There you go again. Who is saying that insults are a substitute for argument? As I said before, it is possible to do both.

" So, now that I’ve described it for you, can you represent my argument a little more faithfully when you respond?"

Perhaps, since I have a short attention span and limited working memory, you can restate your argument in short, declarative sentences. Just what is the point of all this?

"I can’t say for certain that it’s your worldview that you consider threatened"

You can’t say at all.

"because I’m not going to even try to speculate on your motives"

That doesn’t seem to have stopped you before.

"What are you accomplishing, such that it’s worth your time"

Well, that is my problem, but thank you for your concern.

"or they’ll limit themselves to discussion of hazy stuff that doesn’t matter to you."

You are kidding, right?
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
"I can personally testify to the utility of the AFDB. Since I started using one, I have become much calmer and less hostile. I suspect that your mocking tone indicates that you are not wearing one, and are being used by Them. Nancy Pelosi forgot hers when she went to Syria, and look what happened! She tried to substitue some sort of cloth head covering, but it just doesn’t work. Please, do yourself a favor and get one. Quickly! Do it for the children!" - timactual
I rely upon Mindguard, myself.
"So, you couldn’t manage to debate in a place that didn’t tolerate personal attacks (or mockery or speculation on motives) on other commenters? You couldn’t be effective in that environment?" - Bryan Pick
Could, can, have and done. But it’s not nearly as much fun as Scream N Leap. ;)

I’ve been a moderator and forum admin for more years than I care to think about, a number of them professionally. I have a problem with the "No personal Attacks!" schools of debating ToS [Terms of Service], such as you find at places like Renderosity and many other forums.

A multifold problem: 1) Majority of places that attempt to go there attempt to define "what constitutes a Personal Attack", creating in the long term a haven for rules lawyers. 2) Any forum or ’net locale that attempts to moderate on a "No personal Attacks" basis tends to devolve to a situation where a group of posters will specialise in flying just under the ToS by making extremely subtle personal attacks that have enough plausible deniability that they don’t get banned for it, and warnings can be argued away. I’ve seen this environment get far more vicious than an outright, straightup flamewar. 3) Inevitably, favoritism creeps into even the best moderators or admins judgement calls, and poisons the ability of the staff there to have any perception of integrity in the eyes of other members.

Sounds groovy in principle, but it don’t work in practice. *shrug* I’m not basing this off of one or two examples. I’ve been there and done this in the trenches over a large number of sites, and I currently work as a forum admin on three sites.

Me? I preffer my personal attacks out in the open, both recieved and given, not concealed behind a smirking veneer of civility within the letter of a ToS. Never have cared much for the knife concealed behind a smile method of posting.
 
Written By: Ironbear
URL: http://oldwolves.co.uk/
"because I’m not going to even try to speculate on your motives"
That doesn’t seem to have stopped you before.
Okay, timactual, when you say things like that, you back them up. Show me where I’ve speculated on your motives. I look at every post I’ve directed toward you above, and I see absolutely nothing that justifies your accusation.
What I’ve said regarding your actions has been based entirely on your own statements and not on any speculation on your motives for such action.
" So, now that I’ve described it for you, can you represent my argument a little more faithfully when you respond?"
Perhaps, since I have a short attention span and limited working memory, you can restate your argument in short, declarative sentences. Just what is the point of all this?
My original quoted comment was an offer of advice, take it or leave it.
It stated that civility is an effective strategy or tactic for debate (both in the effectiveness against other debaters, and in keeping the signal:noise ratio up).
It also stated that personal attacks, mockery, and speculation on the motives of other commenters are typically a waste of time, and give your opponents room to maneuver.

Later on, in response to me saying I’m not perfect, you quoted a single short sentence of mine to say that I was inconsistent. The idea, apparently, was that when I said "over time, it works," I was actually claiming that I was perfectly persuasive.

I was not. I never have claimed that. So I was consistent.

The point of all this is nothing more than my original quoted comment. I prefer an environment with a high signal:noise ratio, where the strongest arguments rise to the top.
"I can’t say for certain that it’s your worldview that you consider threatened"
You can’t say at all.
Please respond to the actual points I’m making: what you do feel is threatened by your opponents gaining credibility?
"What are you accomplishing, such that it’s worth your time"
Well, that is my problem, but thank you for your concern.
You asked me what effect I thought you were hoping to achieve with your insults. Apparently, this is pertinent. So enlighten me.

It must be important, if you consider it to be worth your time and effort.
-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Now Ironbear, that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout. Very cogent, straightforward argument.

Maybe I got lucky in the forum lottery. Maybe the moderators where I came from exercised better judgment than most, and the commenters themselves had an uncommon tacit agreement to self-police. But those rules that I mentioned—even if they weren’t explained down to the last detail—made for a fine forum for a very long time, with people of vastly different political (and other) persuasions. People knew where they stood, even though the rules weren’t in legalese, and a truly arbitrary kick/ban ruffled everyone’s feathers.

1 a.m.: Edited to add/subtract stuff
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net
"The idea, apparently, was that when I said "over time, it works," I was actually claiming that I was perfectly persuasive"

Well, perhaps "over time, it usually works", or "it works most of the time" would have been more accurate. "over time, it works" sure sounds pretty definitive to me.

"Show me where I’ve speculated on your motives"

"I know where you’re coming from, I do."
"I think it’s pretty clear you count such people as a threat"
Where have I ever even used the word "threat"?

This may be the result of misinterpretation of some of my words, or, I am forced to admit, a lack of clarity in my expression. Nowhere did I ever say that I use insult instead of argument. In fact, there are at least a couple of places where I say either I can do both, or that insults are used after rational discussion has proved fruitless.

"My original quoted comment was an offer of advice, take it or leave it."

I will leave it(surprise!).

"It stated that civility is an effective strategy or tactic for debate (both in the effectiveness against other debaters,..."

I do not understand this. I do not look at civility as a strategy or tactic.

" It also stated that personal attacks, mockery, and speculation on the motives of other commenters are typically a waste of time, and give your opponents room to maneuver."

You consider it to be a waste of time. I take that to mean that you are thinking of insult as a part of a debate. I do not consider insult to be part of a debate, but one can do both. If I am insulted, I feel no qualms about returning it, while at the same time presenting arguments. I am not dainty.

"It must be important, if you consider it to be worth your time and effort."

Perhaps it(and I am not sure of the referent anymore) amuses me, and that is sufficient.


Finally, what Ironbear says.

*****************************************
"I rely upon Mindguard, myself."

Great news! Thank you. Now I can finally install my Linux OS. Thank you eversomuch for the link.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
"Show me where I’ve speculated on your motives"
"I know where you’re coming from, I do."
"I think it’s pretty clear you count such people as a threat"
Where have I ever even used the word "threat"?
Saying "I know where you’re coming from" didn’t have to do with your motives. I understood what you were talking about when you referred to "true believers" and the difficulty of changing minds with rational debate; I’ve been in those fever pits and mine eyes have seen the horror. No motive involved.

You didn’t use the word "threat" (until just now, of course), but again, not speculating on your motives.
I was originally saying that if you treat someone like they’re a threat, they gain credibility—the image of petulance does that. When you replied with a "WTF", I replied that you’d openly identified them as a threat (would you prefer "unpleasant challenge"?) just as soon as you admitted you didn’t want to lend those poseurs with "invincible ignorance" an ounce of credibility, even by crushing their arguments for all to see.

If that steps over the line into speculation on motives, I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t see it, and I’d apologize if I did.
"It stated that civility is an effective strategy or tactic for debate (both in the effectiveness against other debaters,..."
I do not understand this. I do not look at civility as a strategy or tactic.
See my original quoted comment. I accomplish those things more consistently when I behave civilly. You can look at civility in several ways, but the behaviors I talked about as part of bringing civility to a debate are effective (with the ever-present caveat: in my experience. I try to explain why my experience is replicable in my post as well).
" It also stated that personal attacks, mockery, and speculation on the motives of other commenters are typically a waste of time, and give your opponents room to maneuver."
You consider it to be a waste of time. I take that to mean that you are thinking of insult as a part of a debate.
Well, not so much as a part of debate (I don’t think insults, even fair ones, are part of debate even if they happen to be between two otherwise fair arguments), but they’re a waste of time in any forum of debate. Giving your opponents that room to maneuver also strikes me as a sure way to waste time; you spend all that effort trouncing their arguments, but then they assure themselves that you *must* be wrong; after all, you said something nasty about them and they’re veritable paragons of virtue, of course.

I do not consider insult to be part of a debate, but one can do both. If I am insulted, I feel no qualms about returning it, while at the same time presenting arguments. I am not dainty.
Oh, I don’t think debate is for the dainty. I’m all for aggressive adversaries ripping into each other’s arguments and slaughtering sacred cows; being proven wrong stings, especially for those who are invested in their positions, even if one is ultimately more relieved to be better informed. I think insults against the persons debating detract from the focus of the debate, though, and dilute its power to refine ideas and change minds. I also have reservations about how likely people are to wait until prospects for real debate are exhausted before they resort to slinging mud, if the option’s available. Whatever their utility may be for you, insults are also a favorite diversion for people who are on the losing end and can sense it.
Well, perhaps "over time, it usually works", or "it works most of the time" would have been more accurate. "over time, it works" sure sounds pretty definitive to me.
Well, it’s a more effective way of doing things, and works better than the alternative for me consistently, but that doesn’t mean it’s overwhelmingly powerful. Given time, it does hold people increasingly accountable for what they say, more than any string of insults. It does increase the signal:noise ratio in my experience, rather consistently. And again, in my experience, it changes the minds of those with whom you’re debating more consistently, partly because many of them will stick around and keep actually listening to your arguments if they know you’re not going to get abusive. Over the last 15 months or so, I’ve had several very pleasant meals with people I’ve debated against for years, people who will hear me out when I make an argument. If I’d resorted to insults with these individuals as soon as I saw them disregard or deny what I considered to be a fact, I’d have never had the opportunity to change their minds—as I do, on occasion—on a wide variety of other policies and current events. Even worse, I’d have missed the opportunity for them to keep me honest, as they did many times when I overextended myself. I will undoubtedly overextend myself in the future, particularly since there are (to paraphrase Rumsfeld of all people) things I don’t know I don’t know. I’m also bound to contradict something I said in the past, which will force me to account for the discrepancy.

That’s what I was referring to in my quoted post about civility.

Billy Beck informs us that he has a respectable success rate on a different crowd (not the people he’s actually eviscerating, but some curious bystanders) with his approach. Well, somehow I don’t doubt that, so more power to Billy.

Oh man, it’s late (early) — 4:40 a.m. I have some work to do for the rest of this week and weekend, including taxes, and a concert to attend, so if I don’t get back to you, my apologies. I tried to cover all my bases before I left.
 
Written By: Bryan Pick
URL: http://www.qando.net

 
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