There’s a slime pitter who goes by the name of Aneris who has been cracking me up for a long time. Why? Well, to explain that, I need to start with a little diversion about Discordians.
Discordians follow a weird little religion/philosophy that uses ancient mythology to put forward a fundamentally post-modernist worldview. Essentially, reality is unknowable by humanity, and both order and chaos are illusions. The proponents of Discordianism follow or worship Eris, the Greek goddess of discord and casual architect of the Trojan War. Her golden apple is one of their symbols.
I was introduced to Discordianism back in college, by a friend who was a fan of the Illuminatus books. He was on the side of gentle chaos (the “Eristic Principle”). We had some fun with that, mostly in the creation of confusing pieces of art. I never got into Discordianism per se, something I was quite happy about later, when I met proponents whose ideas on imposing chaos were decidedly less gentle. An absurd number of internet jerks, for example, are followers of some sect of Discordianism or another.
The Aneristic Principle, from which Aneris takes his name, is the converse of apparent chaos. And this is what cracks me up.
You see, the Aneristic Principle not only says that order we view within the world is illusory. It also says that the apparent order we perceive is the order that would validate our preconceptions. It is confirmation bias writ large. That this perfectly describes what Aneris does while Aneris himself and the rest of the pit remain oblivious to the connection is one of those things that continually makes me laugh amid all this nonsense.
Take this recent example:
— Aneris ✻ (@Aneris23) October 26, 2014
For context, you need to know that the Center for Inquiry announced their Reason for Change conference a few days ago. Richard Dawkins and Susan Jacoby will receive lifetime achievement awards and the conference, and Ophelia is one of the speakers featured in their advertising. The first tweet here is one of a spate of tweets aimed at CFI and Ron Lindsay in response.
What’s going on here? Back in July, Ophelia highlighted a post by Janet Stemwedel about Richard Feynman in which she discussed Feynman’s pursuit of sexual activity with undergrads. Stemwedel talked about commenters who appeared to think that Feynman’s scientific work has some bearing on whether we should take his behavior seriously (i.e., We shouldn’t because he was a genius.) Ophelia had this to say on the topic:
This is what quite a few people tried to tell me about Shermer. It’s what a lot of people insist about Dawkins. It’s what gets said and implied about various other sexually predatory Famous Thought-Leader Dudes.
This is not the world’s clearest paragraph unless you already know that Dawkins is not one of the big-name speakers discussed as being predatory. If you do know that, as Ophelia does, the lack of clarity might not even occur to you. Still, if you read the comments, you’ll see Ophelia clarifying that she meant Dawkins’ sexist behavior, not any predatory behavior on his part. The “other” referred to Shermer, not Dawkins.
This is present in the frozen link Aneris provided, yet he still quoted the confusing wording, made all the more confusing by the fact that the tweet doesn’t include the reference to Shermer. Aneris quote-mined a statement that’s already been clarified by way of suggesting CFI shouldn’t want Ophelia as a speaker and attempting who knows what by copying Dawkins. (Update: Aneris even had this clarified directly to him.)
Except it’s worse than that. Not only did Ophelia clarify her meaning in the comments. She also went back and changed the text itself when the misreading proved persistent. If you look at the post now–if you look at the frozen version from less than two weeks later–you’ll see that the mention of Dawkins was removed.
Not only that, but Aneris knows this. From the pit:
She has to own that one then. I tweeted the information to Ron Lindsay. I see no reason why such smears are used by her for her advantage, farm SJ points, stoke resentment against Richard Dawkins but then it is hidden when inconvenient. The facts are as they are.
That’s right. Aneris thinks it’s perfectly fine to hold up a poorly worded paragraph as an example of bad behavior on Ophelia’s part, even knowing it’s been fixed. Don’t ever mix up your words, boys and girls, because they will become your tombstone. And certainly don’t correct something that confuses and misleads people, because that becomes evidence–not that you’re amenable to constructive criticism, not that you work to get things right–but that you’re hiding something.
This is what we face from the pit. Along with the manipulated pictures that don’t make sense unless you’ve been soaking in pit mythology, along with the demeaning nicknames and wild conjecture about our sex lives, we face these absurd narratives. They’re built of nothing, or bad games of Telephone, or even out of the fact that we’ve fixed problems that have been pointed out to us.
There’s a particular irony when this is being done by someone calling himself Aneris. Of all the people who should know better, it really ought to be the person whose chosen name signifies the imposition of false patterns on underlying reality.
That doesn’t stop Aneris, of course, no matter how much pause it should give him. He’s been playing champion of pit narratives at Michael Nugent’s. Don’t take my word for it. Take the pit’s.
Bring this crap up on neutral blogs without going over-the-top, like Aneris does.
Further opinion, obviously YMMV and this is worth what you paid for it: Educational material & analysis presented w/o hyperbole (Nugent’s & Aneris’ approach) and humor are likely to be the most effective approaches at reaching observers & those open to changing their mind, for those interested in that goal.
I think Nugent/Aneris/… style arguments are also directly confrontational in their own way, but they are some of the aggressive attacks in which victim feminists lose.
If there is such a thing as an efficacious approach to this, I think that Nugent’s and Aneris’ calm but relentless and methodical approach is it. It’s not exciting or very lulzy but it’s probably the best way to deal with SJW incursions into the world of grown ups.
What stories has Aneris been spreading? There’s the one about the Pharyngula porcupine, of course. Only in Aneris’s retelling, there’s nothing about the Horde being challenged on the practice and giving it up. No, there’s a link to and quote from a three-year-old blog post on the initial commenting culture of Pharyngula as FtB started, including a reference to the porcupine meme. There are no links or quotes from the several blog posts that have dealt with the evolution of that culture, and there is no link or quote from the current commenting rules.
Aneris also includes a quote from the Pharyngula wiki:
The preferred animal for ill-received commenters to be urged to introduce, usually decaying and sometimes sideways, into their orifice of choice.
Now, the wiki is kept so thoroughly up to date that it still says Teresa MacBain works for American Atheists, but even it, on the very page Aneris quotes selectively from, in the very next paragraph, links to the discussions that signaled the end of the porcupine meme. Aneris doesn’t quote that, despite it being more than two years old. Instead, he presents everything in present tense and isolated.
In Aneris’s version, the Pharyngula of today is the Pharyngula of three years ago. “It is uncontroversial that FTB is a ‘rude’ blog, where rude means shock insults of sexual/graphical violent nature.” Is. Now. No one has learned. No one had discussions about the ethics of their in joke and voluntarily given it up as a bad idea. Time stands still, because that’s how you find something to complain about regarding us (because all of FtB is one blog, and that blog is Pharyngula).
Aneris also refers to the “rusty knife” meme, saying, “‘Meme’ suggests popularity already.” He does this despite the fact that the wiki points out that the origin of the meme was a quote-mine by notorious sock puppet Wally Smith, making his comment the Inception of quote-mining.
Simply for the sake of completeness, Aneris also quotes Chris Clarke on the suspicious atmosphere in the Pharyngula comments. Of course, he does so without mentioning that Clarke’s views on this were the impetus for one of the broad discussions on how to make the comment threads better. Again, only the problem is worth mentioning for Aneris.
There are funnier examples of how Aneris warps the available information in order to suit his worldview, like the gigantic conspiracy that involves people who agree with each other linking to each other and harassment being talked about in the press. Did you know that I have a secret, behind-the-scenes relationship with Secular Woman? Sooper, sooper sekret. (That reminds me. I need to renew my membership.) And JREF is just too cozy with us.
But no, the whole game is not really funny. There’s nothing helpful or reasonable about only picking up the bits and pieces of reality that paint the picture you want to make. There’s even less funny about it when you’re using it to paint a false picture of people. And there’s nothing at all funny about it when you use those lies–because, yes, these distortions are lies–to try to hurt people’s careers.
So that laugh I laugh is a bitter one, at the chutzpah of Aneris spreading these tales under that name and at people like Mick Nugent hosting them without the tiniest bit of understanding what that name is advertising.