“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” - Often attributed to Plato but likely from Ian McLaren (pseudonym of Reverend John Watson)

Monday, May 03, 2010

A dip into the strident atheist, liberal pool

I read several of the blogs at the blog host ScienceBlogs. In fact several are on my blog roll. One that I don't link is Pharyngula. I've mentioned in a previous post the frustrations I've had commenting there. PZ Myers, the publisher (owner?) of the blog posted a cartoon lambasting libertarians (it was, IMHO, on point to an extent) and asking if they have a sense of humor. The self-righteous, holier than thou (but in a Godless way) chest thumping began immediately.

Now, I have libertarian leanings, though I well recognize the shortcomings of the doctrinaire libertarian agenda, particularly on a finite planet where we're going through all resources like an alcoholic goes through a bottle of gin (not speaking hypothetically here). But, being a glutton for punishment and suffering from SIWOTI syndrome, I waded in. The model of Pharyngula is as follows: PZ Myers writes on a subject of derision (typically involving one of a few subject areas such as intelligent design, theism, Catholicism in particular, etc.) and then the participants pile on and deride. It's almost competitive.

I didn't support the libertarian position per se but I pointed out that, for such an enlightened congregation, they sure did seem like a bunch of (quoting myself here - see comment #216) insufferable, self-congratulatory windbags after screen name Azkyroth declared a characteristic of libertarians to be (comment #26) "insufferable smug self-righteousness" without a hint of irony. Well, of course a spiralling war of name-calling ensued with me using such words as sycophant, accusing them of tribal and herd-like behavior, and mentioning that they had a devotion to PZ that seemed like worship of a god (as an aside, to offer a counterexample to my assertion that they simply fall in line, Rutee, Shrieking Harpy of Dooooom, pointed out that there had been disagreement on whether video games are art). I actually forswore name-calling after a few rounds, though I did state on multiple more occasions that I felt they were pack-like. I do and they are.

For my trouble, I was called: arsehole, asshole, fuckwit, arrogant idiot, Asshole of the Road (that's pretty clever, huh?), a sad little man, snarky asshole, fuckwit of the road, a moronic fucking asshole, and a dicknosed clownshoed fuckburger (though there was an element of irony in this last - see comment #367). The "troll" and "tone troll" accusations were plentiful, but that's to be expected. Then, in comment #377, a_ray_in_dilbert_space offered the following (quoted in its entirety):

KOTR, Have you in fact observed interactions here at Pharyngula? I would call your attention to something you might have missed. To wit, the blog functions in an almost entirely unregulated manner. Comments are posted immediately. No pre-monitoring. No censorship. And yet, the signal to noise ratio is higher here than at most blogs where monitoring is much more heavy-handed.

Now ask yourself: How does that work? How is it that a blog on evolution, biology, atheism and liberal politics is not completely overrun by the much more numerous and vociferous Faux News crowd? When you understand that and understand the role "tone" plays in that process, you might understand the dynamics here a bit better.

I think his point is that the insult hurling and name calling directed at dissenters keeps the signal to noise ratio high by keeping the riff raff out. I don't frequent Faux News (the closest I come is an occasional bout of self-flagellation at Watts Up With That) but, by reputation, the denizens thereof do not shy from such battles. I leave it to readers to conclude whether a_ray's point is well-taken.

The misrepresentations of my comments, the tortured logic, and the failure to comprehend in the zeal to take me down were manifest, but too numerous to list. As an example, Kagehi, in comment #231, was bemoaning the fact that in Arizona, you can't challenge being fired unless you can show that you were fired because you're in a protected class (among many other complaints about the perceived lack of employee rights in Arizona).

I replied as follows: "So, a job is your right? Should you also be able to force another company to hire you? Should the government determine how many employees your employer has? Where they locate their facilities? When you get promoted? What furniture you have in your office? What else? When a fired employee sues and loses, will the government pay the company for its defense? Will they implement any sort of penalty for such suits being brought frivolously?" Multiple subsequent comments, despite my pointing out that it was incorrect, assumed that I'd implied that Kagehi stated that these things had happened. I implied no such thing, but Kagehi clearly wants at least one of them to happen as evidenced by his complaint in #341 that companies can "refuse you work for purely arbitrary reasons."

All in all, I learned from it. But SIWOTI syndrome is a disease that has flareups, so it's possible I'll go back there again.


GD said...

Oh,man! Funny, very funny . . . There are many who believe that where there is smoke there is fire, of which I am not one. I am glad to say that I've had the good fortune of being able to call you a friend. I can also say, with absolute honesty, that you're not a "fuckwit of the road" (although I thought that line was hilarious!).

King of the Road said...

Yes, I'll admit that they're good insult hurlers. I've added dicknosed clown shoed fuckburger to my personal arsenal.