Larry, since this is my second and last post of the day, I will use it to respond briefly to yours.

I am not asking to reserve my right to make personal attacks on people, but to engage in sharp political responses to folks such as Cohen and Campbell. This may be interpreted by some as personal attacks, but I don't think they are. For example, I would like to be able to argue not just the detailed points about 9/11 conspiracies and HIV and HPV denial, which we have seen plenty of recently on this list, but about the broader issues that concern me most: The damage that this kind of flaky nonsense does to the left, its credibility, and its ability to be persuasive to others. This might even extend to doing something you probably would not appreciate, which would be to criticize WBAI and other Pacifica stations that spend a lot of air time on this kind of nonsense (especially 9/11) and thus limit their audiences to a fairly small number of true believers in many cases (the audience for these stations has not grown, and I think the wrong side won in the Pacifica wars. That is not going to be popular with some people here, such as yourself, and it may be taken as a personal attack, but it's not.)

So while requests to keep the number of posts down seem reasonable to me, attempts to censor, inhibit, restrict, or otherwise limit political expression seem unhealthy and unwise. I never said that Mitchel Cohen or Jonathan Campbell were ugly or stupid or had bad breath, because I have never met them. Those would be personal attacks. But do I think their HIV denialism is a sign of clueless, knee-jerk, stereotypical, infantile leftism on their part? Yes I do. That is a political statement, or a political attack if you like. Perfectly legitimate.

best, Michael

On 2/19/07, Larry Romsted <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

I doubt that the two sides in this potential debate will convince each other—at least immediately.  The people you want to reach are those of us who are just reading (the email equivalent of listening quietly because we may do not know much).

So, if you want to reach me, for example, appeals to authority will not help because I will probably not know who they are.  Likewise, personal attacks will not help because I will not get the reasons for the personal attack.  In that sense a personal attack is like raising your voice in an argument to try to convince the other person when they are not convinced by your more measured presentation.

However, I will understand discussion about a critique of the basic assumptions behind the referenced paper, especially if I have time to read it.  A critique of basic assumptions gets at the politics.  Politics may be in part about polemics, but I will not be convince by polemics that are without substance.  It is, again, like raising your voice.

I also know that sometimes words I write that I think are descriptive others feel are personal attacks.  Tough to express feelings in a written messages to a diverse audience.

Do not know if I am typical of the readers of this list, but that is my perspective.

I have participated in fierce email exchanges and I know how useless they are because the rest of the list appears to be using their delete keys.  (If they do not participate, one is never quite sure.)

Larry Romsted

On 2/19/07 12:36 AM, "Michael Balter" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

"that all comments regarding this particular discussion (the so-called "anti-science left") be restricted to valid critiques of the articles (scientific analysis) rather than broad-based attacks on the authors or their supporters."

For the reasons I outlined in my post yesterday, I think that this particular restriction would basically take the politics out of political discussions of science. In the example of 9/11 conspiracy theories, it would require posters to disprove the theory point by point and could disallow comment on the politics and psychology behind these theories; same with HIV denialism. Politics is about polemics and analysis, and sometimes broader interpretations--some would call them attacks--are necessary.


On 2/19/07, Jonathan Campbell <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

     I didn't pay enough attention to that aspect of Jose's proposal; I interpreted it as the people who comment would be doing so with the intent of critique of the article rather than the person who wrote it. That is, comments like "xxx is a known quack" would be disallowed as part of the discussion because it does not relate to the article at hand. But now that I look at the wording more carefully I agree with you, and I would propose, in substitution, that all comments regarding this particular discussion (the so-called "anti-science left") be restricted to valid critiques of the articles (scientific analysis) rather than broad-based attacks on the authors or their supporters.

Kind Regards

----- Original Message -----
From:  George  Salzman <mailto:[log in to unmask]>  
To: [log in to unmask]  
Sent: Sunday, February 18, 2007 9:01  PM
Subject: Re: The 9/11 conspiracy  virus

Hi José,
      I realize you  proposed some rules in an attempt to resolve disagreements. A priori  not a bad idea, if the rules are not rigid. One of the things you wrote  is: " I say that we agree up front that the people who choose to participate  speak for the whole list.  Anyone who disagrees, say so up front.   No second guessers."
      To me that's  unacceptable. Only I can speak for myself. And whether or not others on the  listserv answer you is irrelevant, because no mature person can willingly  surrender the right to speak for  him/herself.


Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
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