Someone Is Vague on the Internet

Or, Why Naming Names Is a Virtue

So, you’ve got what you think is a problem in your community. You know you’ve got a bunch of arguing happening, and you observe what you believe to be fallacies mixed in, probably due to the strong feelings the topic brings u. You have some strong feelings yourself, whether about the community or the subject or about the behavior you witness. Your SIWOTI meter is pegged. What do you do?

What you don’t do is write something like Steve Cuno did at the Swift blog:

I can only hope that you will join with me in my outrage. Brine shrimp eggs are ripped from their natural habitat and shipped to hatch far from family and friends. Many eggs do not survive the arduous trip. The lucky ones that survive do not live free, but are doomed to an unfulfilling aquarium life as the “property” of snot-nosed kids. It is not unlike the early slave trade in the U.S.

If you are tempted to click “Add Comment,” be forewarned. Should you challenge my likening the brine shrimp trade to the slave trade, or question whether brine shrimp are capable of feeling fulfilled or unfulfilled, or ask me to back up the claim that kids are snot-nosed … I have an ace up my sleeve. I shall call you a racist. Nay, even better, I shall accuse you of being pro-slavery.

It’s a nifty, sleight-of-mind trick that lets me get away with begging the question, setting up a straw man and launching an ad hominem attack, all while looking like I’m defending decency. Heck, I may even fool myself.

Erm, what? This is sabotaging skepticism from the inside by entwining the claim with the cause, as the title of the piece claims? Nah. It’s just a big strawman argument, since there are no brine shrimp in skepticism, and Steve is just trying to use his platform to alienate those skeptics with whom he disagrees.

See how easy that was?

Not only is it easy, but it incorporates two lessons we (the collective but diverse skeptical movement) really should have learned already with Phil Plait’s “Don’t Be a Dick” speech:

Point the First
Vague arguments about some unnamed people doing things wrong is simply going to throw fuel on every little disagreement within your movement. I’ve already been told by several people that I’ve done some ridiculous thing wrong. Those charges were behaviors that absolutely would have been wrong, had I committed them, but they bore no resemblance to anything I’d actually done.

When I’ve been under attack that way for as long as I have, why should I trust that you’re not doing the same thing? You’ve been paying attention to what’s going on, right? You’ve seen that people have done this, right? Then why would you not take the time–always assuming you don’t mean to be doing exactly what others have done to me–to separate yourself from those people by being very specific about the behavior to which you’re objecting?

Even if I don’t decide that you’re working to attack me based on nonexistent behavior of mine, the people who have been doing so are still out there. They are your new best friends, whether that was your intention or not. They’re very happy to see that you agree with them, whether you do or not. By being vague–I’ll assume, for argument’s sake, in an attempt to not take a side–you’ve done their work, which becomes impotent in the presence of specifics. Even if your intent was only to point at a few very egregious examples of bad behavior, you’ve become a spokesperson for those who dislike perfectly reasonable behavior that vaguely resembles your vague admonitions.

Point the Second
You’re treating behavior as isolated events with common goals. Neither of these is true. As was explained to Phil time and again, not all behavior is aimed at making allies. Not all people are worth arguing with. Not all interactions are first contacts and should be judged as such. Not all insults are ad hominems.Some topics, like evolution, anthropogenic global warming, sexism, and racism, involve arguments with long histories of denialist claims raised and debunked. When we are engaging in education on those topics, yes, we frequently want to specifically address the denialist claims. When we are educating, we assume there is a need that is worth our time to address. When we set out to educate, we commit our time and energy to the purpose of overcoming the denialism.

However, we’re not always educating. Nor should we be. Sometimes we’re not educators but biology geeks who want to talk about how cool some process or outcome of evolution is. Sometimes we’re policy wonks who want to talk about what may work most quickly to combat AGW and how long we have to implement it. Sometimes we’re minorities wanting to share our experiences with each other or people concerned with outreach to underrepresented groups. When those things happen, we are not educating or trying to educate.

That doesn’t mean the denialist arguments stop. What it does mean is that those denialist arguments are exactly what they are intended to be: distractions. If you then look at me dealing abruptly with a denialist distraction because I’ve got something else to do, and if you then criticize me for not educating the denialists, you’re missing the point spectacularly. And if you’re vague about what exactly it is that you’re objecting to, I–having other things to do–am going to assume that’s as close to having a point as you’re going to get. Then I’ll get on with my day, because it’s much more interesting than dealing with vague nonsense.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a point to being nice, a la Phil. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a point to dealing in the arguments and evidence that support social causes, a la Steve. What it does mean is that unless people are specific about what and where they think these problems occur in our movements, I’ve got no idea whether they have an accurate picture of what’s happening in those arguments they’re complaining about, wherever they may occur. I have no idea what they think they’re trying to accomplish.

Given that, as long as they stay vague (which, to his credit, Phil tried not to do), I’m not particularly interesting in helping them. Not even vaguely.

Someone Is Vague on the Internet
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49 thoughts on “Someone Is Vague on the Internet

  1. 1

    I read Cuno’s post and honestly had no idea what he was trying to say. If you make an analogy like that without being clear what you’re referring to, how do you expect to make your point? It’s just poor communication.

  2. 2

    Steve Cuno may have had a point, but by not naming names, he managed to smear about everybody who’s ever voiced an opinion on a “hot button” topic.

    I’d say what he did was indistinguishable from trolling.

  3. 3

    On top of which, the idea that the claim can be entirely separated from the cause is not always true. Without establishing whether claims are actually separable from causes in a particular instance, the entire “brine shrimp” analogy falls flat.

    For example (oooh, lookey here, AN EXAMPLE!!! Which we can evaluate on its merits!!), some people claim that fertilized eggs in IVF clinics are human beings with feelings and therefore by researching with them we’re like Mengele, and that if we’re not opposed to stem cell research then we’re insufficiently horrified by the Holocaust, then yes, they are fallaciously associating a claim with a cause. If that’s what he’s talking about (and I doubt it), then yes, he would be right.

    On the other hand (oh, my, a COUNTEREXAMPLE!!! Why, this is getting to the point that it might require skepticism or critical thinking!!), if someone makes a claim that women should be able to identify as women on the Internet and not get harassed, then if you disagree with that claim you are in fact favoring sexism. Because that claim is inherent to the cause of combatting sexism. It’s not okay to say, “Well, of course I’m not sexist because I say I’m not and you have to take me at my word, and my opinions about situations where women should disappear or be treated like second-class citizens are an entirely unrelated claim and therefore you’re wrong to bring up SEXISM in regards to my entirely harmless point that women should avoid abuse at any costs and if they don’t avoid it well enough then their abuse is not my problem.”

    Sometimes the “just because I disagree with you…” whine is total bullshit, because if you’re disagreeing with the very idea of respecting your fellow human beings, then yes, the fact that you’re disagreeing DOES make you a bad person, and DOES perpetuate harmful, demeaning attitudes that I have every right–nay, obligation!–to denounce!

    Moreover, with subtle, systemic mistreatment, “microaggressions” that seem small to the observer actually make up the fabric of excluding and marginalizing people, so to claim that smaller instances of demeaning people are not relevant to the “big picture” is utterly obtuse (and privileged).

  4. 4

    Ironically, in the comments, Steve Cuno apologises for unwittingly drawing fire toward DJ Grothe with this article when it wasn’t his intention, and admits that DJ thought he should have been more specific.

  5. 5

    So was there any type of follow-up that actually got to some specifics?

    And also, UGH to DJ’s “bothsidesism.” I think Greta has already gone over in exquisite detail how disingenuous and harmful to mistreated people that attitude is, so I don’t have much more to add, apart from the fact that it seems DJ is still not listening to women.

  6. 8

    Moreover, with subtle, systemic mistreatment, “microaggressions” that seem small to the observer actually make up the fabric of excluding and marginalizing people, so to claim that smaller instances of demeaning people are not relevant to the “big picture” is utterly obtuse (and privileged).

    A thousand times this.

  7. F

    Plus, he wrote “ad hominem attack”. Bluh.

    But it inspired a diamond-quality post and comments here, and some good comments at the site, so it may be educational in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.

  8. 10

    @LeftSidePositive #3

    In your first example, the question is being begged: “Is a fertilized egg
    equivalent in a relevant way to a victim of Mengele?” If the answer were yes then support for IVF would be comparable to support for Mengele, although it would not entail that one supports Mengele.

    In the second example, you are begging the question: “Does [Behaviour X] relevantly constitute harassment, and if so, is said harassment necessarily sexist.”
    If the answer were yes then, of course, support for [Behaviour X] would be
    support for a sexist situation. But it doesn’t follow that one supports the position “…women should disappear or be treated like second-class citizens…”

    Plausibly, I think, most people don’t endorse Nazi human experimentation, and most people don’t disagree with the very idea of respecting human beings. Presumably, one is trying to argue in the examples above, that because someone doesn’t endorse these positions, they should agree with you about the action/position being compared and equated. Because you’ve made an airtight argument for the
    equivalence that no reasonable person could disagree with. But if by some chance your counterpart doesn’t agree with your conclusion, probably it does little good to argue that they in fact support Nazis, general inhumanity, etc. Unless you sincerely believe that is their own view, in which case you weren’t arguing with them before, just pointing out the consistency of their positions.

  9. 11

    @josh, #10:

    Yes, of course a question is being begged. THAT’S THE POINT. The original post to which Stephanie was objecting even outright stated that this “entwining the claim with a cause” is a strategy to beg the question. So, pointing out that the example is begging the question is not exactly insightful.

    Beyond that, you are wrong for several reasons, which I will post separately for readability…

    1) No, the second example is not begging the question. For one thing, you misinterpreted it entirely. It was not in any way about a specific example of harassment, and it was not supposed to “follow” that women should disappear. It was a reference to the actual claim being made outright that women should not identify as women on the Internet, to wit:

    In future, I would strongly suggest that if you are not familiar with a claim, you ask something along the lines of: “I haven’t heard that claim, could you tell me more about it?” rather than rushing in with a bunch of half-formed assumptions and trying to leverage said assumptions into claiming a poster is begging the question when in fact the problem is your ignorance.

  10. 12

    2) You are simply factually incorrect about the claim that people (I have no data either way about “most,” but in any event that’s in no way what I said) don’t disagree with the idea of respecting human beings. I’m going to assume from your screen name that you’re accustomed to a certain degree of privilege, and it must be really great for you that no one has ever argued with you as to whether or not you deserve to be treated respectfully. Let me assure you that is in no way the case for everyone. Now, if you ask just about everyone a point-blank question “Do you think human beings should be treated respectfully?” they will of course say yes, because they know that is the socially expected answer, and they will rationalize to hell and back their tendencies to mistreat others. However, certain positions are simply incompatible with treating people with respect, and here are just a few examples: insisting that women have an obligation to stay pregnant against their wills and regardless of threats to their health, insisting that one should be able to restrict gays and lesbians from civil rights, insisting that poor people should be required to undergo drug testing to receive benefits, insisting that one should be able to override others’ boundaries and basic etiquette to make a pass, insisting atheists should just shut up and ignore unconstitutional prayer, insisting that one is entitled to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to, denying that one’s use of watermelons and food stamps are dog-whistles to marginalize black people, and insisting that someone’s subjective experience of being sexually harassed doesn’t matter. The list goes on. The point is that these are all claims that people (esp. marginalized people) hear all the time, often with a heavy dose of “but…but, just because I disagree with you you’re saying I’m a bad person!” Yeah. “Just because.”

  11. 13

    3) You are quite wrong to assume this is about equivalence. More often, the argument takes the form of “this thing is bad for the same overarching principles that this other (generally more familiar) thing is bad.” An analogy is an argument for similarity, not for equivalence, and the “but you’re EQUATING such and such–**outrage**!!!” is one of the most threadbare derailing tactics. Just stop it.

    4) In the case of example #2, where the claim is fundamentally entwined with a cause–namely, the idea that women should avoid harassment by hiding their identity is not a position that it is possible to hold unless one believes, explicitly or implicitly, that male is the “norm” or “default” (a sexist position, for what I hope are obvious reasons), that misogyny disappears when a person is not overtly attacked (a minimizing tactic and acceptance of a sexist status-quo), that hiding should be acceptable to women (which by definition entails second-class status), and that women who identify as women had it coming (which is victim-blaming and overtly sexist)–the very act of disagreeing with the position (in this case, that women should be as free as men to identify their gender online) proves a problem with the cause, for all the reasons above. Now, a person may superficially claim to support a worthy cause–gender equality in this case–but actions speak louder than words, and the support of concepts and actions in violation of that cause are material evidence toward doubting the person’s understanding of or commitment to that cause.

  12. 14

    5) You have it backwards on your “presumably.” We are not taking it on faith or on the person’s say-so that the person actually has good values with respect to a certain cause. Primarily, because causes are not binary things that one can be for or against simply by declaring, and that’s that. Systemic discrimination in many forms is made up of many subtle systemic inequalities, cognitive biases, privileges, assumptions, and displaced priorities such that someone who is behaving in a discriminatory fashion is often not consciously aware of how their behavior affects others or violates an important cause–e.g., racial or gender equality, secularism, reproductive rights, freedom of expression, etc. Therefore, the fact that they purport to believe in a cause in no way means that they will have entirely enlightened views when it comes down to specifics, and those specifics can still be harmful. Rather, it goes the other direction–the specific impugns the cause.

  13. 15

    6) I maintain that it does do good to show that a person holding certain repugnant views is fact supporting larger repugnant worldviews. Not that they explicitly HOLD such entire worldviews, mind you (as I hope #5 made clear), but that their actions, excuses, or arguments are representative of or informed by such harmful attitudes, and as such perpetuate them. It is an argument for accountability, not to assign people to a certain box with which they would be expected to identify.

    7) If the vast majority of people in a forum already know all the reasons listed in #4 why a claim is inextricable from a cause and want to move on to more advanced discussion, it is not “begging the question” when they briefly mention what is already consensus, because it is not the responsibility of the discussants to educate the last few stragglers and denialists, any more than evolutionary biologists have to convince every last creationist or include them in debate before addressing related, more sophisticated topics.


  14. 17

    […] It seemed a useful observation to me, and PZ Myers was suckered in by it too. His commenters, though, pointed to a response by Stephanie Zvan. Having read her take-down, I’m embarrassed I gave Cuno the time of day. The problem, I now realize, is his assertion that claims and causes are independent. Feminism promotes the equality of the sexes, so if sexism did not exist then feminists have nothing to do. Conversely, if we claim sexism exists within the skeptic/atheist movement and back that up with evidence, then the cause of feminism is worthy. Stephanie goes into much more detail than I. […]

  15. 18

    @LeftSidePositive #11

    Okay, here we go. Please bear in mind that the fact that I critiqued your post doesn’t mean I disagree with everything you stand for. I’ll try to address your points in order.

    0)[A quibble only.] I didn’t say that pointing out the question begging in the first example was particularly insightful; we agree on that example and I was trying to clearly set up my point with respect to the second example and your other comments. To be fair, your concern seemed to be the ‘entangling the cause with the claim’ claim, which is “you’re insufficiently horrified by the Holocaust”. To me that’s more of a non-sequitur but you could call it question begging. It is, however, separate from the directly begged question of “are fertilized eggs relevantly equivalent to human beings”.

    1)So, it’s not a specific example, except it was a reference to an actual claim (and you called it a counterexample in your original post)? For the record, I took it to be a sort of general hypothetical on the model of any number of unspecified arguments you’ve had on the internet, similar to the first example. You didn’t provide a link or a reference in your original comments, so I don’t think I was in the wrong for not reading your mind, particularly under a post titled “Someone is Vague on the Internet”.
    Since the OP is about a post not clearly related to your later link, and that post seemed to be a complaint about a general phenomenon, I don’t want to spend too much time on the details of a particular grudge thread which I don’t know the whole history of. However, the comment you linked to does not assert outright that women on the Internet should not identify as women.

  16. 19

    @josh, #18, have you read the original Swift post about entwining the claim with the cause? You don’t seem to be familiar with it. That thread made it very clear that entwining a claim with a cause is a means of begging the question OF THE CLAIM. If you’re just repeating what is obviously the goal of the whole exercise, what is your point? You’ve done nothing but shown that example is valid, but that’s not what your tone is indicating you think you’re saying.

    1) This is where the big kids are playing. If you’re not familiar with a claim, that many of us have dealt with many times in the past and present, then you should apologize and educate yourself. For those of us who are actually familiar with these issues, we know this is a common claim. Again, the problem is your ignorance. And, yes, that comment DID say that women should not identify as women on the Internet:

    By providing her own image in a post meant to highlight a book she received as a gift, she sacrificed her account’s access to anonymity and to participation based on her words alone.


    She can, and should, still participate in the discussions she believes she has lost the privilege of participating in, and /r/atheism — despite its flaws — provides a venue for her to do so in the future using a different name and with no one being the wiser because of this incident.

    And subsequent commenters (if you bothered to read) called him out on it specifically and in detail.

    If you are too dense to understand that this means “don’t identify as female online” and/or “if women identify as women then well what do they expect?!” then the problem, josh, is with your ignorance and you need to ask for educational resources to address your knowledge deficits rather than arguing.

    Moreover, it’s a counterexample to the idea that a claim can always be disentangled from a cause. That’s why it’s a counterexample to Cuno’s thesis. And it shows why Cuno’s vagueness is a problem. It shows that dismissing a criticism by saying, “Oh, your entwining a claim with the cause!” is not always a valid reason to shoot something down. Sometimes that cause is very, very relevant. Again, you’re playing with the big kids here. Try to keep up.

  17. 20

    @LeftSidePositive #12

    2)Again, I didn’t claim you said it, I said that most people don’t disagree with the idea of respecting other people. You haven’t shown me to be factually incorrect and you freely admit you don’t have data.

    Since I hate being coy: I’m male, heterosexual and would be described as white, I’m also able-bodied (excepting myopia) and middle-class. So that’s like, a pentafecta of privilege I’m sure. I am, however, an atheist, so go team on that one. You can reasonably assume that my perspective is influenced by my experiences, but that is true of everyone and you don’t know any details. I recommend you pay close attention to what I write and try to evaluate its merits based on content rather than presumptions about the legitimacy of my perspective. You are not treating me with any particular respect, but, I have to say, it’s not a novel experience.

    Back to the main point: people do say other people should be treated with respect and many actually think that. The thing is, people disagree about what constitutes respect, and about how to balance respect against other concerns. One of the central themes of ‘new’ atheism is the idea that criticizing other peoples views and actions is not inherently disrespect of their persons, or that bigger concerns of, e.g., ending female circumcision, trump respect for culture and tradition.

    So, on your list, I’m probably on your side with most of the issues you put down. But people on the other side don’t see themselves as motivated by disrespect, they think of themselves as advocating a proper level of respect balanced against their other concerns. Note that you are strawmaning the other side with many of the items you list. But you want people on the other side to change their views. You’re trying to convince them to change their position on what a fair and respectful approach would be, or to argue that their competing concerns are misplaced or don’t trump the respect you think is merited. Yelling that they have no principles of respect and ignoring their stated concerns is probably not going to get you very far. They don’t recognize themselves in your rant and they will often ignore you or turn against you.

    Yeah, there are probably some lost causes against whom you might as well vent. But in a lot of the brouhahas that get started around the atheist/skeptic community (probably any community) I see two people of good will burning their bridges and denouncing the traitor on the other side. I’m not saying stop arguing for your position, I’m saying have a realistic perspective of the other side.

  18. 21

    @josh, #20

    2)Again, I didn’t claim you said it, I said that most people don’t disagree with the idea of respecting other people. You haven’t shown me to be factually incorrect and you freely admit you don’t have data.

    Do you have trouble understanding basic sentence structure? I clearly stated that people DO have disagreements about whether or not people deserve to be respected–they are couched in different terms, but fundamentally they come down to one party trying to weasel out of respecting another. I said I don’t have data only about the claim of “most,” and I said that’s not what I said. I did not admit I don’t have data about incidents of mistreatment and lack of respect, which I proceeded to detail quite thoroughly.

    You also don’t seem to understand what I mean by “respect,” but I would have thought my examples would have made it abundantly clear–I’m not talking about “deference” which is what people mean when they talk about “respecting” religion; I am instead talking about a deeper, more essential form of respect that means not violating people’s rights. When I say people disagree “about respecting their fellow human beings” it means respecting things like human rights, bodily autonomy, personal safety and self-determination, etc. NOT “don’t snark.” Again, people who are familiar with this type of discourse understand this distinction pretty well, so let me again advise that since you’re coming to this with a pretty significant knowledge deficit, you might want to ask questions rather than asserting things. (As an aside, when people talk about policies that threaten their most basic rights, comparing it to yourself getting schooled on the Internet is not a fair, wise, or sensitive comparison. Just a pro-tip.)

    I AM closely reading what you write, and I’m noticing some pretty major gaps in your thinking, which I have correctly attributed to your privilege, which I’m trying to point out to you. This is not me discounting your view based on who you are, this is me recognizing a pattern in the assumptions you make and the concepts of which you are woefully unaware.

    Again, if you knew what was meant by respect (or if you had–gasp–ASKED!) you would know that respecting human rights is not something you can ethically “balance” with other concerns. Human rights are, you know, rights. You would then be able to understand that people who think other concerns are more important and ought to be “balanced” are in fact denying people their human rights and saying that other things are “more important”–not okay. And, this ties directly into the “just because you disagree with me…” whine, because some things (like violating human rights!) should be outside the sphere of legitimate debate, but due to a lot of marginalization, some people’s rights are considered “debatable” by some, and this cannot be considered acceptable.

    By the way, WHAT strawmanning did I do? I assure you that I have had every single one of those claims made at me directly or in debates in which I have participated. Remember, just because you haven’t heard a position, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    Also, YOU’RE strawmanning (or, more likely, misunderstanding embarrassingly). Saying that a position is incompatible with treating people with respect IS NOT THE SAME as saying that person “has no principles of respect.” (See, I actually substantiated my strawman accusation!) I already discussed the way people rationalize their tendencies to disrespect people (and that was what made you factually incorrect–people DO disagree about respecting others’ human rights, but they weasel around it and defend it to themselves), and you have not addressed that point at all–that people’s self-perceptions are not at all a reliable indicator of their actual values, opinions, and prejudices. Again, if you were in a marginalized group you would understand this a lot better because you’d have been on the receiving end of that fundamental disrespect–THAT’S why I’m making an issue of your privilege, because it is grossly impeding your understanding (and thus wasting my time). I can’t believe you even missed that this was the entire POINT of #2.

    Moreover, your privileged self may think two people arguing are of “good will” because your preconceived notions and assumptions about the world have blinded you to issues where a party may be steadfastly refusing to acknowledge the others’ basic rights. This means they are not of “good will,” even if they think (or say) they are, and you could stop tone trolling and instead encourage people like you to re-examine their underlying assumptions and tendency for dismissal.

    Furthermore, the point of this was not to try to convince people, this was addressing a very particular type of evasion tactic that is used by trying to insist that people are unreasonably disagreeing with them, when in fact their contentions are (on a rights-based or “respecting your fellow human beings” analysis) not in fact subjects on which reasonable or good-meaning people can disagree.

  19. 22

    @LeftSidePositive #13
    3) You are misreading me. Many analogies are weak because they rely on superficial similarities, but I was not arguing that two situations must be exactly equivalent to be compared. Just addressing the fact that the crux of the argument is that the comparison is actually valid. Or, if you prefer, that the same overarching principles, agreed upon by the disputants, force the conclusion you want in both cases.

    Ironically, accusing someone of derailing is often a derailing tactic. I’m trying to have an honest discussion on the topic at hand. You seem to be trying to score points.

    4)You are now changing the example from what you originally wrote. You said “someone makes a claim that women should be able to identify as women on the Internet and not get harassed” and then someone disagrees with it. I’m trying to point out that what you perceive as disagreement is not necessarily the same as wholesale rejection of that claim. In reality it hinges on a)what constitutes wrongful harassment, and b) whether that harassment stems from or results in sexism. E.g.- one may hold that everyone on the internet is open to harassment, that not all gendered or sexual insults are sexist, etc. You may disagree with those positions, but in some cases, that is where your disagreement lies. The disagree-er is not, from his/her own perspective, asserting that women should hide their identities or that they deserve everything they might get.

    Again, I am not particularly advocating the position against you, especially with respect to previous threads you may have in mind. You are free to make the argument that your opponent’s position will have sexist results or relies on sexist assumptions. Stick to that argument, leave aside the stupid loaded questions and stawman rants. It’s possible that your opponent is in many ways a decent person who doesn’t secretly hate women or minorities, or want to crush your freedoms. They may be mistaken with bad consequences which you are right to point out, and yet they aren’t monsters.

  20. 23

    @LeftSidePositive #14

    5) The ‘presumably’ was with respect to the form of the argument you are making. As you proceed to do in the rest of your response labelled (5), you are arguing that the consequences of a persons position are inconsistent with the principles they espouse. (You don’t use the argument ‘that’s just like the Nazis’ with an avowed Nazi.) So you’re not disagreeing with me here. I’m saying that you can acknowledge that your opponent agrees with the principle but gets the execution wrong, even disastrously so. However, ranting about how much they disagree with the principle is counterproductive.

  21. 24

    @LeftSidePositive #15

    6)No real disagreement here, it’s essentially what I’ve said is constructive discourse. I’m telling you that, yes, people like yourself often do assign opponents to a box, pretend that they identify with it, and argue from the assignment with the box to positions they don’t advocate. Even if you don’t intend to, that is how it comes off in your writing. I’m not tone trolling but I’m advocating clarity and cogency in your arguments with people who are willing to engage. With people you actually want to persuade, repeating your conclusion ad nauseum as though it’s a premise they have to accept before discussion can begin is not going to get you anywhere.

    7)Begging the question is in the context of a disagreement with someone. You already agree that example 1 is a legitimate case where the ‘claim is extricable from the cause’, and we are talking general cases here (cf. Vagueness), so whether or not everyone you like agrees with you on a particular case you have in mind is irrelevant.

  22. 27

    Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s not fair to criticize someone for not naming names when ze DOESN’T ACTUALLY KNOW THAT PERSON’S NAME. And as Stephanie said, the critique of the behavior was specific and focused.

  23. 28

    josh, please note how the original post is talking about the problems with being vague in the middle of an existing argument. The same things can be said about engaging in bland hypotheticals. There are concrete examples all around you. Pick some and use them so we know what you’re talking about or realize that you have a bunch of background reading to do before you can begin to be oriented in this ongoing conversation.

    If you need help, ask.

    Also, LeftSidePositive is sacrificing no strawmen. Maybe s/he isn’t talking about you and your friends, but all those things have been said.

    If you need help finding them, ask.

    You may be sensing a trend.

  24. 29

    @LeftSidePositive #19

    On with the slog… I read the original Swift post, I don’t understand what’s confusing you. My overall point is that your would-be takedown of Cuno doesn’t pan out and he may have a point, (although I think vagueness is a fair criticism).

    1) I’d like to talk to adults actually. I’m ignorant of many things, but none of them very relevant to the topic so far. I respond to what you write, not to unknown specifics you may want to dredge up in the future. If you want to introduce a real example, that’s fine. It wouldn’t make what you originally wrote correct, but it could provide a counterexample to the general statement that you can or should always disentangle causes and claims. I’m not sure if anyone is making such a statement.

    The quotes you pulled do not say what you claim they say. The commenter’s point is that the girl hasn’t lost her ability to participate since she still has anonymity. Seems like kind of a stupid point. He didn’t say she shouldn’t comment and he didn’t say she shouldn’t reveal herself as a woman. He didn’t say the flood of comments was okay. Watson popped up to put those words in his mouth. By all means, criticize the guy for ignoring the chilling effect of not being able to identify oneself without harassment. But a dumb claim, (more of a comment but whatever), doesn’t mean this guy is for the cause of female oppression.

  25. 30

    Josh, how many times do I have to tell you that you are woefully underinformed before you’ll actually take a posture of learning and educating yourself? Aren’t you embarrassed to get all these points wrong? Don’t you actually want to learn about something of which you manifestly understand very, very little? If you don’t want to understand it, why are you insisting that you have a reputable point of view on it? You don’t.

    Here is more of why you are wrong:

    #3) You said “equated” and “airtight argument for the equivalence.” Here:

    they should agree with you about the action/position being compared and equated. Because you’ve made an airtight argument for the
    equivalence that no reasonable person could disagree with.

    This is what you said. Don’t try to weasel out by saying I’m “misreading” you. You said equivalence. If you mean something else, then apologize and rephrase yourself. Moreover, what even was your original point if not to equate? You said that the argument (as you misunderstood it) meant that the two things had to be equated to convince the other person. You made no other argument beyond that.

    And, “accusing” someone of derailing may be one thing, but when someone actually does something that is well known as derailing, it is perfectly fair and necessary to call them on it.

    #4) HOW did I change the claim?! You need to substantiate these accusations, or better yet, ASK if you’re misunderstanding because you’re a newbie to this stuff and you have a lot to learn. I made very clear that it was never about what constituted harassment. THAT’S NOT THE ISSUE SO STOP PRETENDING IT IS. You’ve already been told once before. I told you quite clearly (and have now copied and pasted it) that a person was arguing FOR women maintaining gender anonymity. This is a sexist position. The type of harassment was not the issue here, nor was there any disagreement about it being sexual–it was about anally raping a 15-year-old girl, in this particular case. This is also not the only time we hear this type of argument about how we should hide–it’s NOT that one thread, this is actually a pretty common silencing/minimizing tactic. Here it is being criticized again:

    You’ll notice it’s only the 4th one out of 14…so, I dunno, maybe this is actually pretty common?!

    The fact that you can’t understand (or refuse to understand the claim) is not my problem. And, once you understand the claim that is actually being made, you will understand that I did IN DETAIL describe why every underlying material assumption that supports it is sexist.

    Don’t give me this “They may be mistaken with bad consequences which you are right to point out, and yet they aren’t monsters.” THAT’S WHAT I’M SAYING, and if you’d actually listen to me you’d understand that. I have discussed at some depth the role of unconscious bias, self-justification, and the fact that the perpetrators of injustice and discrimination don’t realize they’re doing it. Don’t act like this is your new insight. It isn’t.

  26. 31

    #5) NO, YOU JUST DON’T GET IT. When you’re this clueless you need to ASK to learn more. I’m not making ANY statement whatsoever about whether or not the opponent agrees with the general principle–some people do, some people don’t. I’m saying that is irrelevant to the fact that their harmful position has bad implications for a goal that is important TO ME, or more likely, to society. I’m not “ranting about how much they disagree with the principle.” That has never been said. In fact, quite the opposite has been said (in detail!): that people’s general principles may be variably espoused, and might be blinkered when it comes to specifics. I am not making any judgment nor rendering any opinion on their subjective attachment to the general principle. I am stating that their specific positions has material problems with regard to the general principle (whether or not they agree with it or care about it).

    Here is why you got your “Presumably…” backwards: you interpreted it as “Because you agree with me about X, you must then agree about x.” That’s not what is being argued. Instead, the statement is “your position on x has serious negative implications about X.”

  27. 32

    @Stephanie Zvan

    Stephanie, LeftSidePositive’s bland hypotheticals were my concrete examples. I’m aware of numerous examples from which they could have been drawn, but they were vague. You have no idea what kind of reading I’ve done and don’t seem to be well oriented yourself in the conversation as it pertains to my comments. For example, I didn’t say anything about myself and my friends. (Other than some background info so we don’t play the idiots’ ‘I never said I was ____’ game.)

    On strawmen: ‘Insisting one should be able to override ones’ boundaries and basic etiquette to make a pass’, can you quote someone on this? I assumed this was a reference to Elevator Guy or similar incidents. Now I can’t vouch for the whole internet, especially with trolls out there, but I think most people being lumped in with this view would say they are contesting what constitutes reasonable boundaries and basic etiquette. So yes, that sure looks like a strawman to me. People who want school prayer generally don’t think it is unconstitutional, so they don’t advocate ignoring its unconstitutionality. Bit of a strawman. In general, most of the stuff listed in comment 12 could describe an actual position, but sounds very much like a strawman applied to somewhat more nuanced positions that you nonetheless disagree with.

    Since we’re talking about conversations within the skeptic/atheist community and not, say, tribal law in rural afghanistan, I don’t think many people advocate that one is entitled to have sex with someone against their will, period. If I’m wrong please enlighten me. Moreover, in the case of people like hard-core anti-abortion advocates, their position is, in their own minds, not built upon disrespect for women but on a competing respect for innocent life. (Yes I know the many arguments as to why they aren’t consistent and why that doesn’t hold up. I also know that there is a strong strain of patriarchy entangled with a lot of those beliefs.) So the trend I was sensing was strawmen coming down the pike.

  28. 33

    #6) Oh, “people like yourself”?!?! Really??? How about you actually listen to what I’m saying and make a good faith effort to understand, and when something is unclear, ASK ABOUT IT, rather than base your understanding of my argument on your misinformed prejudices of how “people like [my]self” argue.

    I’m not tone trolling but I’m advocating clarity and cogency in your arguments with people who are willing to engage.

    I think this is pretty much the definition of tone trolling. Moreover, when you have so blatantly misrepresented and misunderstood what I’ve said over and over again, you have absolutely no business telling me that you “advocat[e] clarity and cogency in [my] arguments.” My clarity is not dependent on you lack of knowledge (even though I have gone to very great lengths to fill you in whenever possible), nor can I plausibly anticipate how you will misinterpret what I say.

    #7) My first post wasn’t disagreeing with someone. It was made in an audience of people who seemed pretty familiar with the topics at hand, until you came along of course. I’m sorry but not everything on the Internet can be expected to be written to your level of knowledge before you even appear. When you seemed confused, I endeavored to explain as much as is humanly possible. Moreover, we are NOT talking about generalities. We are talking about the specific claim that women should be anonymous and un-gendered on the Internet if they want full participation. Even though this isn’t “specific” to your life, it’s pretty specific to those of us who have to hear it as an excuse for why we’re harassed. You can’t just pretend this claim doesn’t exist and pretend we’re talking in generalities. This is a claim, it is a problem, and it is materially connected to sexism (see the original #4). This means that claims can’t always be disentangled from causes. This is why pretending that entwining claims and causes is always wrong is misleading and diminishes issues where people have problems that are in fact connected to larger problems.

  29. 34

    On strawmen: ‘Insisting one should be able to override ones’ boundaries and basic etiquette to make a pass’, can you quote someone on this?

    Well, let’s start with Dawkins, who called it “zero bad.” From there, feel free to read the responses to my challenge to explain why it was “zero bad.” The first respondent to take up the challenge?

    To most sensible people “stuff I don’t like” does not necessarily constitute “bad”. Bad means stuff that someone else has a moral obligation to not do. OK? Now maybe this is a definition difference and that is all. If all you mean is that Watson didn’t like it but there was no moral obligation on the part of EG then we agree. But I assume that’s not true and you claim that EG had a moral duty to not do something Watson disliked.

    Another commenter:

    OK, what the hell… from premisses 1 to 4, it obviously follows that EG did something that Rebecca did not like, and which he had every reason to know Rebecca did not like. Is that bad? Well, that depends on the extent to which we think Rebecca’s desires reasonably compel others to act in accordance, and how bad we think it is when someone does not do so. Neither of those is determined by premisses 1 to 4.

    There are plenty more in that thread. How many do you need before it stops being a strawman? How many do you need before you understand that you’re either not well-versed in this particular conversation or failing to recognize descriptions of the things you read?

  30. 35

    Also, josh, I refer you once again to the original post. Why are vague criticisms a problem? Because they’ve been used repeatedly to attack people, making those people gun shy. Feel free to explain why you also qualify for some consideration for being gun shy. Use concrete, linked examples, please.

  31. 36

    @Josh, #32,

    Josh, why the hell do you assume that this was about Elevator Guy? I’ve got news for you: ELEVATOR GUY IS NOT THE ONLY EXAMPLE OF HARASSMENT WOMEN HAVE HAD TO DEAL WITH.

    If you thing harassment = Elevator Guy, you’ve got some serious privilege issues you’ve got to check. Again: knowledge deficits. They’re showing.

    Women in general have had to many, many iterations of this type of boundary violation, to the extent that I would consider it fairly common knowledge. The example that was actually immediately in my mind was the time a person who was then a very close friend of mine (and is not anymore, for fairly obvious reasons) insisted on embracing and stroking me while we were riding in a subway and WOULD NOT LET ME GO and made the explicit threat that if I didn’t comply he would leave me alone on an NYC subway at 2 o’clock in the morning. When I later confronted him on it, he said he felt justified in doing so because he and his best friend thought that we’d make a great couple. Shortly thereafter he grabbed my ass, I told him it was unacceptable, and he sat me down to tell me he loved me and we should belong together. When I (obviously) refused he demanded I explain to him why I didn’t love him and tried to talk me out of my objections to his behavior.

    Now, you would have learned that if you hadn’t just assumed this was about Elevator Guy (and what do you lump in to being “similar incidents”? Anything that you’ve already decided was not a big deal??). You could have ASKED ME what I was talking about rather than making an assumption and then accusing me of strawmanning. Again, when you don’t know something, ASK, especially when the topic under discussion is life experiences that are different from yours.

  32. 37

    @Josh, #32, continued:

    And as for your other examples of what you think could be strawmen but you never bothered to ask:

    I gave several broad categories that I thought could all be pretty clearly accepted as human rights/dignity violations. I thought they’d all be extremely familiar to most readers here, and understood as common knowledge. My reply to you was already over a thousand words long. I couldn’t include an example for EVERYTHING in addition to that. But, if you needed clarification, YOU COULD ASK.

    By the way, with the school prayer case MANY people told Jessica she should “just ignore it.” That the constitutionality of prayer doesn’t matter because she could have/should have “just ignored it.” Others claimed that because a mural could/should be “ignored” then it couldn’t possibly be establishment. I’ve seen it on countless discussion pages on the Cranston news websites, and I believe JT has also highlighted several examples on his blog. Just because you don’t think people would say something doesn’t mean people haven’t experienced it. Educate yourself first.

    Furthermore, I HAVE had many internet debates with people, ostensibly educated men, who give multiple justifications for having sex with someone against her will. I’ve read everything from “I get to try to make her enjoy it” to “Well if she didn’t say no then I get to do what I want” in the context of someone intoxicated or someone freezing up in terror. Again, just because YOU haven’t seen it, and just because YOU think these issues only relate to tribal Afghanistan DOES NOT MEAN that they don’t actually exist here and in the lives of women you may know. You don’t get to call things “strawmen” because you don’t know what others’ experiences are and then pompously argue from ignorance. If you’re confused, ASK.

    As for abortion, yes I KNOW those arguments. Hell, do you think I haven’t heard them before?! My point is (and you would have known this if you’d ASKED ME) is that ANY time you force someone to do something to their body they don’t want, you violate the Kantian imperative of never treating a person merely as a means to an end. If someone thinks that they respect person A’s life to the point that they will subject B to be subservient to it against her will (and deny B’s right to defend herself), IT DOESN’T MATTER what they think in their minds, they are denying person B’s autonomy and that is fundamentally incompatible with respect. Again, this isn’t a strawman that you can “sense coming down the pike.” And your “senses” to determine what may or may not become a strawman in the future is not a refutation of someone’s argument, it is an unwarranted assumption and therefore bad argument. If you’re wondering where someone is going or what they intend, ASK THEM.

  33. 38

    @LeftSidePositive #21

    Your sentence structure was mangled. You refuted a claim I never made in the middle of you parenthetical statement, plus you moved the ‘most’ inside it, which made the statement outside the parentheses one I never made. Then you proceeded to refute that unmade statement with a list of uncited, unspecified examples, (so, not data, not detailed) which were all question begging anyway. I don’t think it is fundamentally about ‘people trying to weasel out of respecting others’. I think, fundamentally, people disagree about what constitutes respect and about how their actions affect others or should be interpreted and about how competing claims should be decided.

    You don’t get to define words so that you win, Humpty-Dumpty. ‘Respect’ is a common word and trying to reserve it for the stuff you care about won’t solve your problems. By the same token, people disagree about what are ‘basic human rights’ and rights that we both endorse can still come into conflict.

    Strawmen: see above. And just because a position exists doesn’t mean it is relevant to the conversation at hand. I’m not trying to strawman you, I’m pointing out how your presentation comes across to others. Yes, I agree that people’s self perceptions are not all that reliable, it applies to you as well and it doesn’t undermine my point. It’s also a mistake to think that people have simple ‘actual values, opinions and prejudices’ that can be deciphered based on how much they agree with you. I AM in various marginalized groups, and yet I disagree with you, which is why you would like to discount my views based on privilege.

    Of course,I can’t prove I’m not just blinded by my own history, but you can’t prove that your sense of grievance doesn’t sometimes blind you to the legitimate position of another party. I guess we could actually talk to each other instead. I’ll let you know if you bring up a concept with which I’m unfamiliar, and I’ll try to be clear if I don’t know some particulars that might be relevant.

  34. 39

    I AM in various marginalized groups, and yet I disagree with you, which is why you would like to discount my views based on privilege.


    josh, you can knock off the mind reading right now. It has been pointed out to you that your arguments are largely arguments of ignorance. Now, there are two possibilities. You can be genuinely ignorant while still deciding your contribution to the discussion has such value it must be shared anyway, which is generally attributable to privilege. Alternately, you can be pretending ignorance in order to strengthen your argument. Privilege is the charitable interpretation here. Try to appreciate that.

    Also, enough with the fucking concern trolling. It’s whiny, dull, and unhelpful, and I’m getting very tired of having to see it.

  35. 40

    Stephenie #34

    So far it’s still a strawman. Both examples you quote are people arguing that reasonable boundaries and basic etiquette were not passed. That’s also Dawkin’s position as I understand it. I really think this is pretty clear from the quoted comments. You want to argue that it really did violate some bound, go right ahead, but I’m not here to fight that whole fight. But ‘it’s okay to violate reasonable boundaries and basic etiquette’ isn’t the position of the people you’ve quoted.

    Vague criticisms are often a problem because it is difficult to know if a specific example or a hypothetical is being proffered, or some mixture. Whether a criticism is legitimate or not sometimes depends on details, which cannot be well-addressed in vague situations. So, for example, if I say in reference to

    that many of the proposed examples sound strawmannish, I run the risk that some loon somewhere has said that exact thing. This can then become a distraction since they may be technically true in summation while ignoring the arguments actually put forth for them, which was part of my main point; or although they were advocated by someone, that does not mean they are the positions held by anyone relevant to the OP. (Or the OP’s OP rather. 🙂 )

    But I’m not terribly gun-shy so if that’s your worry, fire away. One more bad argument or off-base assumption won’t hurt. Seriously though, I’m not trying to be the fly in your ointment, I’m just a stickler for getting things right.

  36. 41

    I put “most” inside the parenthesis because YOU added that, and it was and incorrect addition to my argument–it doesn’t matter if “most” people do or do not disrespect people, or hold views consistent with disrespecting people. It only matters that enough people do to cause harm to those disrespected.

    I have already stated that IT IS IMMATERIAL what the person thinks about why they hold a position, or with what they are “balancing” respect for others–these positions deny autonomy and equality and are therefore unacceptable. Therefore disagreeing with whether or not allowing people their autonomy constitutes respect is denying some pretty basic ethical imperatives, so we do not have to consider that a legitimate contribution to a debate, and the fact that a person is disagreeing on such a basic ethical principle DOES reflect badly on their ethics and values.

    I’ve got news for you: words in the dictionary have several different definitions which may or may not operate at any given time. You are trying to communicate in a discipline which is different from the ones in which you’re familiar, and it may take you time to learn the jargon, if you would actually understand that you have a lot to learn. Just like “significance” means something very different to a clinician vs. a statistician. “Respect” from an ethical perspective means:


    An autonomous person is an individual capable of deliberation about personal goals and of acting under the direction of such deliberation. To respect autonomy is to give weight to autonomous persons’ considered opinions and choices while refraining from obstructing their actions unless they are clearly detrimental to others. To show lack of respect for an autonomous agent is to repudiate that person’s considered judgments, to deny an individual the freedom to act on those considered judgments, or to withhold information necessary to make a considered judgment, when there are no compelling reasons to do so.

    –from the Belmont Report

    And, the fact that these positions exist ARE relevant to the discussion, because they were all examples of a lack of Respect For Persons. You were trying to insinuate that I *must* mean something different because those arguments couldn’t actually be made–therefore the fact that they exist as stated IS relevant and they do apply to failures of the Respect For Persons (hitherto referred to as “respect”) standard, which constitutes an unethical/untenable/unacceptable position.

    Moreover, as for your claim that I’m referring to “‘actual values, opinions and prejudices’ that can be deciphered based on how much they agree with you.” NO. Values, opinions, and prejudices can be deciphered based on actions and behavior. Basically your whole argument has been a very wordy type of the “Just because I disagree with you…” canard to which I was objecting in my first post.

    Look, if you get everything wrong about several concepts and finer points that have been brought up here, if you find yourself making assumptions about what people must mean, it SHOWS that you are unfamiliar with the material at hand, whether or not you acknowledge it.

  37. 42

    @Josh, #40–you don’t get to disagree with someone else what zir stated boundaries are. To argue what boundaries “should be” is to deny the individual’s right to set ZIR OWN BOUNDARIES over their body and their safety, and that is a violation of Respect For Persons.

    Also, what the hell is your “relevance” standard?? (frankly, you’re minimizing some very, very common attitudes with the idea that “some loon somewhere said” something as though that’s a little thing that couldn’t affect anyone for real. Again: argument from ignorance and argument from privilege.) These are all examples of positions that violate Respect For Persons, and are thus ipso facto unethical. If you don’t think they’re common (you happen to be wrong, but whatever), then you don’t have to deal with them, but they are in fact cases of people trying to defend indefensible things while still demanding deference. They only “sound strawmannish” to you because you don’t have to face them regularly. Great. Argument from ignorance; argument from privilege.

  38. 43

    Stephanie #39

    I was responding to LeftSidePositive’s mind reading. You have not demonstrated any ignorance on my part. I don’t see where any of my argument relies on things of which I am potentially ignorant.

    I find much of LeftSidePositive’s and your commentary on this thread to be whiny, bloated, masturbatory, and poorly reasoned. No doubt, I’m windy myself. I could always add in a few fucks for color but I think I’ll call it a night. I think you’re right about a lot of things, I think you’re wrong here.

  39. 44

    I don’t see where any of my argument relies on things of which I am potentially ignorant.

    Holy shit, he’s arguing from ignorance about the fact that he’s arguing from ignorance!!!

    Here’s a hint, josh, wherever we’ve said you should ask about something, that is a topic or point on which you’ve been ignorant. By my count it’s been about 20 times so far.

    Btw, I was not mind-reading; I was concluding from your perpetual ignorance and your entitlement to repeatedly assume incorrect implications and talk down to people who are trying to show you gaps in your understanding that you have a certain degree of privilege–remember, actions speak louder than words.

  40. 46

    So far it’s still a strawman. Both examples you quote are people arguing that reasonable boundaries and basic etiquette were not passed. That’s also Dawkin’s position as I understand it. I really think this is pretty clear from the quoted comments. You want to argue that it really did violate some bound, go right ahead, but I’m not here to fight that whole fight. But ‘it’s okay to violate reasonable boundaries and basic etiquette’ isn’t the position of the people you’ve quoted.

    Right. You’re done.

  41. F

    josh, in comment 43 you very explicitly show the depth of ignorance from which you are arguing in a few brief sentences. There’s your privileged attitude right there, minus all the obfuscatory wall-of-text arguments. Your claimed search for clarity does not hold.

  42. 48

    Josh, I’d also like to point out that you simply don’t know what a strawman argument is.

    A strawman argument IS: when a person materially misrepresents or changes the other’s position.

    A strawman argument IS NOT: when a person states the other’s position without including all their justifications.

    This is an appropriate correction of a strawman:

    Person 1: My opponent says we should all eat salmon.
    Person 2: That’s a strawman! I said we should all eat any type of fish!

    This is falsely claiming a strawman:

    Person 1: My opponent says we should all eat salmon.
    Person 2: That’s a strawman! I said we should all eat salmon because it tastes better than halibut!

    Or, in this case, you keep trying to tell me and Stephanie that we are strawmanning the argument that people feel entitled to ignore someone’s boundaries to make a pass. Notice, we are talking about the individual’s boundaries–“one’s,” “someone’s,” and “her” are the terms we’ve used. When you say that’s a strawman because the people arguing aren’t sure that any “reasonable boundaries” were crossed or that “some bound” was violated, you (and they) are talking about substituting other judgments for the individual’s own determination of her boundaries. Therefore, they ARE stating that it is/may be acceptable to violate the individual’s boundaries, they just justify it with trying to claim that there is some universal or “reasonable” standard that they can decide on INSTEAD OF respecting the individual’s boundaries (which is reprehensible, btw–that was my whole point), so the statement that they think it is acceptable to ignore someone’s boundaries is in fact perfectly accurate (in fact, people were even quoted advocating doing so knowingly!).

    And another thing: it’s not a strawman if a person states an argument with an inescapable assessment, about which their opponent just tries to deny reality (I notice you do this rather a lot). For instance, the most basic aspects of etiquette are to be considerate and to make those with whom you interact feel comfortable. I don’t think it’s even POSSIBLE to boil it down more than that (all that other stuff about taking coats and salad forks are means to that end). Any system of behavior that does not take into account being considerate and making others comfortable may be many things, but it cannot be considered etiquette in any sense. So, if I say someone is ignoring basic etiquette because ze outright states ze should be able to treat someone in a way she does not want to be treated, that is a fair statement because that’s what basic etiquette means. You’ll notice the commenters acknowledged someone was being treated in a way she didn’t want to be (an issue of basic etiquette), they just felt they didn’t have to act in accordance (overriding said basic etiquette, therefore my assessment is correct).

  43. 49

    Josh, #32:

    People who want school prayer generally don’t think it is unconstitutional, so they don’t advocate ignoring its unconstitutionality. Bit of a strawman.

    Yes, I know this thread is basically history, but I just want to note with some satisfaction that this argument–that Josh was so sure was a strawman because he was qualified to declare it had never been said–is in fact so common that Cuttlefish put it to rhyme this morning:

    Delicious, isn’t it?!

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