Why are you opposed to ad hominems - unfactual, nasty, self-serving attacks on individuals - yet in favor of allowing equally unfactual, nasty, self-serving attacks on groups?

Please tell me how unproductive and childish displays of hostile prejudice against entire groups is okay, if the equivalent assault on an individual is so clearly not. 

Does the individual rate more consideration than an entire group of individuals?  Shouldn't it be rather the reverse, mathematically?

If ad hom's are not good because they are "unproductive and childish", do you consider groundless and unjustified attacks on women's concerns to be somehow productive and/or mature?  In what way/s?

In all seriousness, I am interested in the answers.  There seem to be some implicit understandings in play in our discussions of what's constructive on this list, and this leads to striking differences in the ad hoc arguments on the issues that repeatedly arise. 

So far, it seems to me that Robt Mann's vindictive, tendentious and unfactual rants against women are widely tolerated on this list because most readers are men, who feel it's not their ox being gored (wrongly, I think, since prejudice  affects far more than just the people it aims at suppressing).   Several members (men) have emailed me off-list to express different, and more reasoned sentiments.  That in itself underscores my sense that there's a reluctance to take the bull (or the ox) by the horns and follow this discussion of productive vs. unproductive SftP discourse -- an increasingly regular feature of the list -- to any productive outcome. 

Perhaps too many fear that they themselves might then have to eschew the attacks that bring them such amusement - when it's not them being attacked, either in posts or by masses of unwanted posts.  But we've demonstrated many times that the list is collectively capable of highly interesting and robust discussion without including falsehood, smears, or personal attacks.  I think the key to unblocking the logjam lies in better understanding of what "productive communication" consists of.  The mantra some keep raising of "free speech" vs. "censorship" is based on a fantasy at heart - the wet dream of limitless individual freedom to say, spit, defecate whenever or wherever one likes, to or on whomever one chooses.  It's fundamentally incompatible with social activity, including discourse, which by their very nature require mutual acceptance of common norms in order to be intelligible.  Research on the intersection of the internet and deliberative dialogue ("democracy" as some call it) increasingly shows that the western masculinist class-biased utopian vision of the internet - and the planet - as a free-for-all, a wild-west frontier, where everyone can somehow do anything he wants, leads not to freedom for all, but only to the freedom of some who speak loudest, longest, and most angrily, to run roughshod over the values and concerns of all others.

I too find these discussions amusing, insofar as they demonstrate how little a number of SftP members are willing to practice whatever "ism" they preach, and instead periodically (as on most internet fora) use the list chiefly to assault and offend others.  It's not inconsistent with Science as it's been practiced, but is hardly for the People. It's simply vainglory, the Cartesian - and western - fantasy of individual human autonomy run amok. One case among many.


On Mon, Aug 25, 2008 at 9:10 AM, Eric Entemann <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
I agree.  I am also opposed to censorship.  People should be free to offer their criticisms of Robt. Mann, and he should be free to criticise the feminist movement.  Likewise Mitch should be free to support HIV/AIDS denialism and alternative medicine, and Michael B. and others (including myself) should be free to criticise.  Any of these things can get out of hand -- that's why Michael G. should be paying attention and not be filtering, and should step in when he feels the need or when others remind him of what is happening on the list.
One thing for sure: the ad hominem attacks should cease.  They are entirely unproductive and childish.  Let's stick to the issues.  (Although I must admit that sometimes the ad hom nonsense is amusing...and revealing)

> Date: Mon, 25 Aug 2008 10:48:28 -0400
> From: [log in to unmask]

> Subject: Re: pseudo-experts on GM--re anti-scientific misogyny
> To: [log in to unmask]
> You know, this is as I feared.
> Some folks here jump from proposals to ban misogynist and sexist
> statements that occur periodically from one person posting to this
> list, and now are lumping those misogynist statements together with
> IDEOLOGICAL perspectives that they don't agree with, labeling others'
> ideas and evidence "quackery" and "conspiracy theories" and "antiscience".
> That is the slippery slope that want starts sliding down when one
> starts engaging in censorship.
> I had been leaning towards some sort of moderation of Robert Mann's
> posts, but I now feel that given this authoritarian streak in some
> individuals just bursting at the seams to come out, I would ask the
> members of this list to find some other way of addressing the urge to
> purge, which is in my opinion an even greater problem than the
> disgusting comments made by Robert Mann.
> Mitchel
> At 09:08 AM 8/25/2008, you wrote:
> >If one just considers the frequency of posts, this list appears to
> >be one that promotes quackery and conspiracy theories more than any
> >other flavor of "antiscience".
> >
> >
> >
> >----------
> >
> >Date: Sun, 24 Aug 2008 21:47:31 -0700
> >From: [log in to unmask]
> >Subject: Re: pseudo-experts on GM--re anti-scientific misogyny
> >To: [log in to unmask]
> >
> >Claudia,
> >
> >Your thoughtful and impassioned posts on this issue merit equally
> >thoughtful replies. Let me at least strive towards that here, though
> >I may not succeed. First of all, I think RM's stands on feminism are
> >wrong and rather disgusting. To me they tend to invalidate any
> >worthwhile remarks he might make on other topics. That's why I
> >filter everything he posts. But my version of socialism, such as it
> >is, does include freedom of expression, and to me that has to
> >include the freedom to say quite obnoxious things. I have generally
> >done my moderating by asking people to refrain from going over the
> >same ground in arguments again and again, and to refrain from ad
> >hominem or ad feminem attacks. This does not mean I approve of
> >everything else said; far from it. But if I were to start punishing
> >or removing people I disagree with strongly, not many might be left.
> >One does not, for instance, have to be a socialist to be on this
> >list, and still less any particular variety of socialist.
> >
> >When it was an active organization, SftP never had a completely
> >coherent ideology as far as I'm aware, and, given efforts I know of
> >to try to define such ideologies, I think they mostly do not end
> >well. They either lead to debating how many angels can dance on the
> >head of a pin, turn into sheer vitriol, drain what life there is
> >from a group, leave only a tiny core happy, end up with strict
> >dogma, or all of these at once.
> >
> >As to the supposed tacit approval of everything on the website
> >(which I never look at, I admit) I would suppose every single
> >article that anyone of us chooses to copy to the rest of us ends
> >up there. Many of them contain claims and science most of us
> >--quite often including the poster her or himself--- would probably
> >dispute. To include only what seems correct in advance or what has
> >been fully vetted or critiqued would defeat what many obviously see
> >as the list's function.
> >
> >Still, if enough people are outraged by Rob't Mann's attitudes and
> >feel his posts should be censored, I am willing to warn him as Herb
> >suggests, and then either to remove him if he refuses to heed the
> >warnings or put him under moderation, which would greatly limit his
> >ability to take part in any discussions, since I cannot always check
> >such things promptly. I think doing either would open up a can of
> >worms, and is probably a mistake, but if enough want this, then so be it.
> >
> >
> >Best,
> >Michael
> >
> >On Aug 24, 2008, at 3:11 PM, Claudia Hemphill Pine wrote:
> >
> >As Michael Balter asked about a similarly unfactual kind of post
> >some time back: Do we want the list archives to show that SftP
> >willingly invites such activities by rarely, if ever, speaking out
> >against them?
> >
> >There are two problems with doing this. First, public silence on the
> >issue is ambiguous. It's an absence of data: if no one points out
> >irrational, irrelevant, hostile, and/or politically self-serving
> >prejudice, it can later or privately (as happens) be claimed that it
> >was recognized as such. But it can equally be claimed as tacit
> >agreement. The fact is usually that saying nothing leads to
> >continuation, if not escalation, of aggression and delusive
> >crap. Silence ultimately supports the status quo. The status quo
> >on SftP with regard to
> >
> >Second is the problem of people saying to someone who objects to
> >personal vitriol or unfactuality, "well, if you don't like it, quit
> >the list, hit delete, or start filtering all of notoriously raving
> >person X's posts to the trash." This in effect privatizes the
> >burden of unpleasant posts onto the individual. Rather than the
> >list collectively agreeing what topics, goals, processes, etc., are
> >supportive of SftP's principles, we default to agreement that
> >anything goes. This doesn't just contradict the purpose of SftP, it
> >contradicts the purpose of a "list serve," because it makes the list
> >a universal posting site for anything anyone wants to throw up,
> >which the individual members must then use their time and computer
> >to filter it down to the actual SftP reading list they hoped for.
> >
> >It's long struck me as ironic that a list with socialist aims is
> >nonetheless willing to privatize the toll of hostile postings from
> >people who disagree with those aims onto those of its members who
> >are willing to measure the difference. The public message this sends
> >is - at the least - that socialist scientists are quite careless of
> >theory. Or perhaps, more fundamentally, don't agree what a "list"
> >is, or what SftP is.
> >
> >The long continuation of the posting of misogyny (or other
> >uninformed and vitriolic bigotry) without much challenge, however,
> >makes it seem equally likely that a substantial number of the list
> >members simply don't mind it at all, so long as it's directed
> >against subordinate or minority groups they don't belong to - like
> >women. Perhaps they think SftP really might be compatible with
> >hostile oppression against women. After all, socialism has been,
> >often enough.
> >
> >Or maybe many list members are simply so accustomed to the rampant
> >misogyny of the blogosphere - which simply follows the lead long set
> >in other mass media, even if it's dialled it up to nuclear levels,
> >in which the most racist, misogynist, classist and homophobic use
> >the mantra of "free speech" as cover for overtly hostile and even
> >threatening posts. The problem of this growing incivility, and its
> >particular assault on women and political minorities, is admitted by
> >every commenter on mass media or the cyber-world (eg,
> ><>
> >)
> >
> >The interpretation of "free speech" as "everyone can say whatever
> >they want, and those derogated and threatened can just leave" is
> >exactly the one offered by the very people who either want to make
> >those threatening and derogatory remarks. It's easy to agree with,
> >especially if you aren't in the targeted groups, or ethically alert
> >to its consequences.
> >
> >The consequences of laissez faire public speech policies are the
> >same as those of unfettered "free market capitalism" - the most
> >aggressively, obsessively, and unethically self-serving win. The
> >more restrained, balanced, moderate, and collectively-minded are
> >told to just go away, get offline, segregate themselves away
> >somewhere, or be flattened -- or be debased into like-minded
> >hostility. This does not further SftP's goals, either for science
> >or for socially just society. It is rule by those most willing to
> >be unjust. It re-segregates the world into a place where those who
> >aren't willing to be loud, to rant endlessly, to batter and bully
> >others, are pushed aside and trodden upon. (As a woman who rarely
> >joins mixed-gender list-serves outside of academic ones moderated by
> >a list-maintainer or the social checks of academia, I well
> >understand the anger of many feminists [yes, this includes many men
> >- and on this list] about this sad lowering of the cybersphere's potential.)
> >
> >Surely these outcomes are contrary to SftP's goals -- as Herb pointed out.
> >
> >After all, if the rule is "anything goes - caveat lector", why not
> >also encourage posts advocating institutional oppression of
> >non-white people, or the poor, or disabled? Or privatizing and
> >consuming the entirety of the planet's resources, including water?
> >We could similarly tell those who find such discourse (a) contrary
> >to SftP goals, and (b) constructive of a hostile list environment,
> >that it's up to them to read and delete, or filter out, all such crap.
> >
> >Better yet, SftP could simply invite every right-wing totalitarian
> >capitalist, racist, misogynist, homophobic, anti-environmentalist,
> >etc., etc. to flood the list with their irrational ideas and hostile
> >politics - and force EVERY member to view and delete the
> >garbage. That would be more democratic. Instead, at present, we
> >simply force the burden onto those scientists and other members who
> >recognize the irrationality of misogyny. Are they a minority? If
> >so, why is a theoretically socialist list privatizing the cost of
> >the hostility onto this minority?
> >
> >Perhaps it is a substantial majority of the list who finds blatant,
> >irrational, and offensive misogyny inconsistent with the goals of
> >SftP. In that case, Herb's request should find support and lead to
> >the actions he suggests, or something similar. There is no good
> >reason for the list to invite its use as a free messaging service
> >for moral mayhem.
> >
> >Claudia
> >
> >On Sun, Aug 24, 2008 at 12:57 PM, Michael H Goldhaber
> ><<mailto:[log in to unmask]>[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> >I myself have filtered out all of RM's posts for years. I only learn
> >of one when someone else copies it. If everyone would refrain from
> >copying or responding to the visibly misogynist ones, that would
> >help. If RN would refrain from posting such things, that would help
> >even more. If he would only recognize that misogyny invalidates any
> >good he might accomplish, that would be better yet.
> >
> >Best,
> >Michael
> >
> >
> >On Aug 24, 2008, at 12:23 PM, herb fox wrote:
> >
> >That Rob Mann is a misogynist is not news to those who have been
> >reading his stuff off and on. This serious flaw in his character
> >and politics does not deny that he has also contributed
> >well-informed critiques of GM and other stuff. Racism, misogyny and
> >homophobia are contradictory to the stand and tradition of Science
> >for the People. Since we (or rather Mike G) do not have the
> >resources to examine his every contribution in order to filter out
> >his destructive and insulting trash, it would be appropriate to
> >invite him to remain on the list only if he suppresses his
> >in-your-face misogyny.
> >
> >Robert should examine how he himself does exactly the opposite of
> >that for which he commends Kendall. He has used unscientifically
> >gathered correlations to determine cause. That the growth of
> >interstate highways and divorce examined as time series beginning in
> >the 50s through the 70s show strong correlation is hardly the basis
> >to conclude that highways cause divorce. That there is a marked
> >correlation between the misogynist trash appearing on this list
> >serve and communications from New Zealand is hardly the basis for
> >concluding that New Zealand scientists tend to be
> >misogynists. Calling attention to the necessity that critics of GM
> >including SftP maintain high credibility by well founded and
> >documented science is a positive contribution. Maintaining our
> >credibility as a progressive, critical voice based on sound science
> >is indeed essential For that reason we must deal firmly with
> >insulting, unscientific misogyny.
> >
> >I recommend that one racist, misogynist or homophobic post earns a
> >warning to the poster. Repeated racist, misogynist or homophobic
> >posts is an adequate basis to remove the poster from the list.
> >herb
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >----------
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