What Aneris Means

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:


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.

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What Aneris Means
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26 thoughts on “What Aneris Means

  1. 1

    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.

    You have just summed up the position of the right wing, chickenhawk, neo cons during Bush43’s presidency. The idea that the U.S. is so powerful that reality can be bent towards the desired allusions of the GOP/Presidency.

  2. 2

    At this point I’m wondering if Monsignor ‘I’m going to write a new and even more boring than the one that preceded it 5,000 word blog post about how people are defaming me on Twitter’ Nugent isn’t lost for good. I just can’t see him finding the way out of his own ass now that it’s being held in there by the comforting hands of the slymers.

  3. 4

    It is more correct to say that the Aneristic Principle holds that the illusion of order comes from the order we try to impose on reality. To say that it validates our preconceptions is to put effect before cause: our preconceptions are what give the illusion of order its form.

    None of this changes anything you wrote, but it does make the irony of his name pretty funny: he comes up with a whole list of far-out, baseless preconceptions, then does whatever is necessary to coax reality into that shape.

  4. 5

    I always thought aneris was one of the #notyourshield pitter women? Not that I remember much about them apart from exhibiting an amazing case of Watson derangement syndrome…

    Like the post, their confirmation bias at the pit is so hilariously anti-skeptical that it always makes me laugh when they pretend to be the “true” skeptical ones.

  5. 6

    Whatever happened to Wally Smith? He was outed in March 2011, and that seemed to be the end of it. However, the (original) Slime Pit formed a few months later, and a group of people devoted to hating PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson and Greg Laden would have been very attractive to him.

    I’d say it’s fairly likely that one (or more) of the Slime Pit regulars is Wally Smith. I’ve got no idea who, although some of the more pathetic characters (e.g. Pitc*guest, Tu*ok) can be ruled out. Could Aneris be a Wally sock?

  6. 8

    I prefer to err on the side of caution with accusing people of lying. But you are certainly right about the huge amount of confirmation bias.

    I think also that the pitters are wrong about “Nugent/Aneris style arguments”. I receive both styles as very different – as a matter of fact, I receive them as the opposites in some crucial respects. Nugent is analytic and ready to delve into details (well … except when the details in question concern topics which he prefers to avoid!). Aneris is definitely on the synthetic side. S/he presents general pictures and diagnoses, s/he lists lots of examples, but very rarely goes down to the level of actually analysing them.

    Even disregarding the (very real) bias you mentioned, I’ve always found the discussion with ‘the synthetic types’ quite difficult. In particular, I find it difficult to assess what they actually think (and know) about the – sometimes intricate – details of the situations they describe. And my impression – for whatever it’s worth – is that they are really not interested in these details, with the simplicity of the diagnosis being their primary goal. Sometimes it even works – I’m far from condemning such an approach in general. It is only when the diagnosis is preconceived that the real trouble begins.

  7. 10

    Typically brilliant exposé of ‘pitter tactics, Stephanie.

    Seriously, WTF are they so afraid of? I mean, you have to be scared, right, to obsessively plot the downfall of people who are no threat to you by any means necessary (even if those means are “not exciting or very lulzy”)?

    Nice to see the ever-charming Dr Skep tickle M.D. joining in the plotting in one of your links. Physician, heal thyself, I say.

  8. 11

    Ariel:

    S/he presents general pictures and diagnoses, s/he lists lots of examples, but very rarely goes down to the level of actually analysing them.

    That is pretty much the common definition of pseudoscience; gathering evidence in support of a claim, with no effort made to test or disprove.

  9. 13

    Interesting, I was curious as I’d always seen them referred to as “she/her” and didn’t think you’d get a detail like that wrong. It appears you most likely didn’t, but if their “shared account” story is true then the collective “they” might not be far off the mark either 🙂

  10. 14

    @Oolon: I took a look at the You’re Not Helping archive a couple of weeks back, and noticed some familiar people who, if not ‘Pitters, are pit-adjacent (IIRC, Gurdur was among them, and I know I got into it with Barb Drescher in those comments once long ago). I’m sure there are others; if nothing else, the Wally Smith legacy lives on in Pit targets and tactics.

    I know erv, she of the Slimepit genesis, was not fond of Chris Mooney & Sheril Kirshenbaum, who harbored and promoted Smith’s falsehoods. It’d be interesting to see how allegiances have since changed.

    I didn’t look at many of the links directly to Aneris comments, but I noticed him complaining about people linking to “The Privilege Delusion” instead of the original Dear Muslima comment, neatly eliding that Dear Muslima happened on ScienceBlogs, where the comments have been broken for years now, and linking directly to them is all but impossible. I just checked again, and the comments don’t even appear on the original post.

    The irony of saying that when accusing people of being misleading because they link to tertiary sources and trust others won’t bother to check the facts? Simply unbelievable.

  11. 15

    Oh allegiances have since changed all right. Jerry Coyne, in particular, has flipped. He and I collaborated in managing the Wally Smith mess, but now he apparently has zero problem with Wally Smith-type behavior as long as it’s aimed at people he hates. (He hates some people now whom he didn’t hate then.)

  12. 17

    Wow, this Aneris of the Pit is second only to Michael Nugent himself in terms of extreme verbosity.

    We find it very telling that these people are willing to put in such an inordinate amount of time and energy acting as apologists for themselves and their atheist heroes Dawkins, Harris, Randi, Dennett, Jillette, Nye, (now) Nugent, etc. All well-off, older, white, cis-het men, we notice. Coincidence or something else?

    They write novellas in response to individual tweets. If they put in even a fraction of this time and energy actually fighting against misogyny and rape culture, maybe we wouldn’t be dealing with such a toxic culture (GamerGate, etc.) right now. It makes us feel sick inside.

  13. 20

    Hunt @16,
    We sense more than a hint of jealousy in your comment, as if you are lashing out because of your own inconspicuousness… as if you wished you were important enough to register some reaction, any reaction, even hatred or anger, from someone as important and influential as Ophelia Benson or Stephanie Zvan. Why else would you come hear to smear shit on the walls instead of doing it at your own place? We see you much like a neglected child acting out to garner some attention, even negative attention (as some form of validation most likely). We wish there was something we could do to provide that validation for you so that your hate can be re-directed for the power of good.

  14. 21

    Speaking of changing allegiances (and fairweather standards), it’s nice to see the Pit so readily adopt Coyne, whose comment policy is what they all falsely claim PZ’s is like.

  15. 22

    Tom Foss wrote:

    Speaking of changing allegiances (and fairweather standards), it’s nice to see the Pit so readily adopt Coyne, whose comment policy is what they all falsely claim PZ’s is like.

    The hypocrisy in not calling out Coyne for being banhappy is as laughable as it is predictable for those dishonest creeps.

  16. 24

    Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea [people forget that Illuminatus! had two authors] publicized Discordianism, but they didn’t invent it. Kerry Thornley may have been trolling religion, or he may have been trying for another way to poke holes in pomposity. (This is tangential, but whether it’s credit, blame, or both, I’d rather see it going to the right people.)

  17. 25

    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.

    They really can’t let this one go. We abandoned the porcupine meme years ago, and actively try to promote a culture where people don’t wish harm on others. It’s so funny…people didn’t like the porcupine meme and complained. In time, PZ decided to request people not use it anymore and we all pretty much agreed to stop. We amended the behavior that others didn’t like. Yet the Pitters criticize us for something that we’ve stopped doing. All while they continue using gendered slurs and being anti-feminists.

  18. 26

    @Tony! The Queer Shoop #25: It’s because they don’t actually see a problem with the porcupine meme, or with the gendered slurs, or with the threats and photoshops and whatnot. They just know that we see a problem with it, so they use it as a gotcha. It’s the same logic behind conservatives saying that liberal policies on the safety net and big government are the “real war on women,” or that acknowledging race or affirmative action is the “real racism.” It’s GamerGaters saying they should use SJW jargon to shut down SJWs because it doesn’t actually mean anything. It’s #NotYourShield and similar campaigns, hiding behind female and PoC avatars and tokens because they think SJWs respect them uncritically. It’s Aneris adopting a feminist pose in the Pharyngula comments to be treated less harshly.

    They adopt our language and try to throw our standards back in our faces, try to show that we’re hypocrites, because if the people campaigning for change and progress and improvement can be tarnished, then the campaign is tarnished by proxy. If SJWs are guilty of racism and sexism and paternalism, then there’s no reason for anyone to combat any bigotry. “Al Gore rides in a plane, guess global warming isn’t real.”

    What they miss is that we’re aware of this. We recognize that it’s a racist, sexist, kyriarchical culture, and that we all grow up stewing in and absorbing toxic memes and attitudes and beliefs. We recognize that people can make mistakes and missteps, and that the measure of character is in how you respond to those mistakes, and legitimately working to correct them.

    The irony, as it always is, is that these same people recognize how fallacious and self-defeating this tactic is when it comes from alt-med proponents calling people pharma shills, when it comes from Christians saying Darwin was a racist and wrong and recanted on his deathbed, that they used to be atheists and have you heard of Antony Flew? These are the same arguments, the same attempts to smear ideas by smearing the people who hold them, the same gotcha games and underhanded tactics. But suddenly when it’s about minorities, when it’s about liberal values, when it’s about social justice, when it’s about questioning their own beliefs and behaviors, the fallacies apparently drop away and the logic becomes sound.

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