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Another topic idea: Chris Mooney (does not) owe the world an apology
Posted: 13 July 2010 07:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]
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Oedipus, I changed the topic title. Chris had nothing to do with that.

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Posted: 13 July 2010 07:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]
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Okay, I’ll bite.

Darron, what in Chris’s post about me has changed your mind about your first couple of sentences?

Chris owes Ophelia Benson, PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins and several people a heartfelt apology for branding them New Atheists and using a sock puppet’s lie as evidence for his preconceived notions. He owes the world an apology for being a credulous journalist who ignored people who told him he was promoting a sock puppet and is now naively appalled that he was duped.

Well, except the part about branding me a New Atheist, but then I pointed out that mistake to you myself - Chris has never branded me anything; he’s never mentioned me; I’m not prominent enough and I don’t pretend to be. But Chris does brand “New Atheists” in general as various bad things, and nothing in his post on me changes that, that I can see. Can you clarify?

He did ignore people who told him he was promoting at least an anonymous commenter who claimed to be various things in such a way that no one could verify them. I don’t know if anyone called Tom Johnson a sock puppet at the time or not, but lots of people expressed strong skepticism about his reliability.

The connection with me and the ban is at one or two removes, here, and I could have done a better job of spelling it out…but it’s not purely imaginary. I was one of the people who told Chris at the time that there were obvious reasons not to take TJ’s story at face value. Because I was banned, I couldn’t do it on Chris’s site. If I had been able to, who knows, perhaps he would have been more likely to see it, and perhaps he would have seen what I was getting at. He excluded a source of skepticism that could have - well, would have, been useful to him if he had heeded it.

In that sense it was a mistake for him to ban me. Of course it’s his blog, as he says; of course no one has a right to comment; but the upshot of the bannings there is a very impoverished dialogue. With a less impoverished dialogue he might have seen the problems with taking TJ and his story at face value just as other people did, because more other people would have been able to point the problems out to him.

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Posted: 13 July 2010 08:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]
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Regarding the post dedicated to Ophelia at the Intersection, Chris does not mention that in the thread which prompted the banning Ophelia was responding to TB who indeed called Ophelia a liar. Ophelia did mix up bilbo and TB in this case, but that hardly matters given the circumstance. The point is that Ophelia Benson, a widely recognized author with a real name, was accused of lying by an anonymous commenter. She was then denied the opportunity to respond.

Now “bilbo”/“Milton”/“Tom”/“YNH”/etc, hereby known as the Toxic Socks, were rather obsessed with attacking Ophelia and called her a liar on multiple occasions. That he/they did not do so there (it was TB instead) is not particularly relevant. The wider, more important issue is the irony of it all: the Toxic Socks were spouting lies while, on the other hand, Ophelia was banned for repeatedly asking sensible questions. Mooney gobbled up the Toxic Sock lies with a grin while, on the other hand, being dismissive of Ophelia to the utmost extreme of banning her. That’s why Mooney owes Ophelia an apology.

With regard to Tom Johnson, the same applies. Mooney gobbled up Tom Johnson’s lies with a grin while, on the other hand, being dismissive of the unanimous or near-unanimous view of scientists that Tom Johnson’s story was clearly fiction. Elsewhere at the Intersection, Mooney watched as the Toxic Socks wreaked havoc on civil discourse (they supported Mooney’s viewpoint) while, on the other hand, Mooney accused others of lacking civil discourse. That is why Chris Mooney owes the world an apology.

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Posted: 13 July 2010 08:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]
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Thanks for the clarification, Darron. I should have asked it in the general sense rather than addressing Chris directly, and for that I apologize to Chris.

However to reiterate there is still a very important question open for Chris:

You say that you gave some private information which clarifies the story to Jean Kazez and TB, two of your ardent supporters. Will you share this information with a neutral, mutually-agreed-upon individual who agrees to keep it private?

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Posted: 13 July 2010 08:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]
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I know I started this thread Oedipus, but I think it is time to let this one fade away. Pursuing this issue further is pointless.

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Posted: 13 July 2010 09:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]
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It’s not pointless to me. Could you answer my question?

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Posted: 13 July 2010 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]
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Darron, now you’ve got me really interested. Did I miss something? Something about Chris’s post on Ophelia seems to have convinced you that you really had misunderstood everything. I am open to learning something here, but I haven’t seen what you obviously have. Precisely because I wasn’t expecting a change of mind from you, I am curious. I’m assuming Chris’s post was the catalyst, but perhaps there was something else you happened to hear/see/read that caused this. I know Chris seems to have me banned, presumably because my first attempts to post at the Intersection were about Ophelia, but I think I’m being completely polite here (as, indeed, I was there) and the little bit of interaction you and I had at B&W seemed quite cordial to me. There are specific questions about the way you phrased your reversal I might ask, but maybe we don’t even have to spend time on them if I get a better understanding of your thought processes on this. Is this something you could elaborate on? Thanks.

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Posted: 13 July 2010 01:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]
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This discussion does not seem at all pointless to me, and this seems like a fine place to have it—-if only because Chris refuses to have it at his blog, and he can’t ban his critics here.

IMHO, the biggest problem with Chris’s behavior with regard to “William” and Ophelia is not that he failed detect a sock puppet.  It’s that he let “William” (as “bilbo” and lesser sock puppets) and others vilify and libel various people including Ophelia on his blog, evidently because they were staunch supporters, while imposing much, much stricter standards on people critical of him.

He continues to misrepresent his opponents and critics, as he has done for years, and he is now misrepresenting his blog moderation policies, which have compounded that problem for years.

He claims that many recent postings about the “William” debacle were disallowed because of “unfounded allegations.” Perhaps some were, but I know for a fact that many postings were disallowed because they contained well-founded allegations.  I wrote some of them, and I’ve seen some by others, and none were what he claimed.  They were merely critical and questioning, as well as making some unflattering but well-founded observations about Chris and his behavior.

This isn’t particularly sour grapes on my part.  Chris has generally treated me surprisingly well, allowing me to say things on his blog that almost anybody else (such as Ophelia Benson) would have been banned for.  I’ve been one of his severest and most explicit critics for quite some time, and I am personally grateful to him that he hasn’t treated me the way he has treated others—-i.e., unfairly.  He has generally refused to answer pointed questions, and largely ignored what I’ve said (as he generally does with his critics, unless they’re quite prominent) but he has almost always allowed me to have my say.

(Until the latest debacle, that is.  He’s shut down commenting on the relevant threads and last I checked, isn’t allowing anybody to have their say.)

Chris Mooney’s comment moderation policies are quite bizarre, and conveniently slanted.

“bilbo” and a number of “William”‘s other socks have been allowed to be quite vicious and frequently patently dishonest, which would unquestionably have gotten anybody sympathetic to the “New Atheism” banned.

John Kwok, William’s socks, and some other commenters have been allowed to make false charges against various people, notably John and another commenter repeatedly falsely claiming that Ophelia Benson was “a liar,” which would generally get anybody Chris and Sheril don’t like banned.  Ophelia herself—-for no reason anybody can figure out except that she persistently questioned Chris and Sheril’s claims—-was banned and not allowed to reply to such charges.

They even silently put in filters so that any mention of Ophelia by anyone would get their post disallowed.  Several people made many unsubstantiated allegations, over and over, and NOBODY was allowed to rebut them, much less allowing Ophelia to defend herself.

One of the most striking examples of their moderation policy was the thread in which their loyal trolls accused commenters at Pharyngula of advocating or even threatening sexual violence and murder against Sheril.

Seriously, to make fun of Sheril’s pearl-clutching vapors, somebody at Pharyngula used obvious humorous hyperbole—-on Pharyngula, not the Intersection—-of the “oh yeah, well fuck you sideways with a rusty knife!” sort, and bilbo, Kwok et al. went ballistic with repeated, patently bullshit claims that it was a serious attempt to advocate sexual violence.

(That had, of course, gone completely unnoticed by Pharyngulans who are out as feminist rape victims, and who regularly call out other Pharyngulans for perceived careless misogynistic language, whether it’s meant that way or not.)

Worse, Kwok actually described such joking, over-the-top banter as death threats against Sheril.

Chris has recently revealed that for a long time now, they’ve been carefully moderating John Kwok, and holding a large fraction of his posts back.

Kwok has been quite repeatedly seriously libeling people as having issued death threats and repeatedly made it absolutely clear that he is absolutely serious in that claim.

But Chris and Sheril posted those comments, clearly falsely accusing people at Pharyngula of very serious crimes.

(Note: I do not claim that Kwok’s claims are actually technically libel, because I think that he may out of touch with reality—-he may honestly believe such things.  That doesn’t excuse Chris and Sheril posting such scurrilous accusations at the expense of people at Pharyngula, while clearly disallowing vastly less serious accusations about themselves and their supporters.)

It inconceivable that Chris or Sheril would let a New Atheist sympathizer make such patently false accusations of criminality against them or their sympathizers.  It is dead obvious that they would ban somebody who did that, if that person was not one of their supporters.

I have some questions for Chris and Sheril:

If that didn’t get you to ban John, what on Earth finally did?  What could he possibly have said that was more obviously serious, offensive, unfair, and inexcusable?

If it wasn’t that he was critical of you, what did the trick to get you to finally shut him up on your blog?

Likewise, when “bilbo” kept describing that as advocating sexual violence, etc., why was he not banned for that, before we all found out that he was sock puppeting?  Did you really need to wait until you found out it was a sock puppet repeating such libels before taking action?

Do you seriously expect us to believe that your long tolerance of such obviously dishonest or crazy behavior from “bilbo” and John had nothing to do with them being your supporters, or with their victims being your critics?  Good luck with that.

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Posted: 13 July 2010 04:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]
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Please.  The originator of the thread said drop it.  Let’s do so.  I don’t want to be a prig and delete all the posts after Darron’s final one, I will do so if people keep stiring the bucket.

Occam

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Posted: 13 July 2010 06:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]
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I would prefer that you do so, Occam. It would allow Mooney to more easily see my question and respond. Failing that, it would make his non-answer clearer for others to see.

We are skeptics here. We want evidence.

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Posted: 13 July 2010 08:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]
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Considering its worldly appeal, has Obama released a statement about this issue yet?

[ Edited: 13 July 2010 09:58 PM by Michael De Dora ]
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Posted: 13 July 2010 10:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]
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Ophelia, why don’t you PM Chris and work it out? The OP is satisfied with the results, I don’t understand why everyone else feels they have a dog in this non-fight.

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Posted: 14 July 2010 12:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]
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Michael De Dora - 13 July 2010 08:48 PM

Considering its worldly appeal, has Obama released a statement about this issue yet?

No, as it’s the world that might or might not be owed an apology a consultation period with foreign leaders is necessary, followed by a draft resolution to the U.N.

This could take months.

Stephen

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Posted: 14 July 2010 12:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]
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Not wishing to provoke a mass deletion, I shall try to reply briefly and generally to asanta. This began with assertions made in a book against a whole group of people. The assertions were questioned vigourously, that part of the discussion was shut down by banning the questioner from the site most relevant to it and no explanations have been satisfactory. In the meantime the group against whom assertions are being made seems to have widened; I certainly feel myself included in it. When the questions are made simple, factual and specific and every means is adopted to avoid giving an answer according to those criteria, even at a site with a name like “Center for Inquiry,” it becomes very hard to avoid the conclusion that there is a different agenda at work that is not being acknowledged or admitted to. There may be a single central point at issue here between just two people, but, since it began with accusations of lying on a matter that concerns a great many more people, it does go far beyond that level.

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Posted: 14 July 2010 01:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]
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Stewart - 14 July 2010 12:39 AM

Not wishing to provoke a mass deletion, I shall try to reply briefly and generally to asanta. This began with assertions made in a book against a whole group of people. The assertions were questioned vigourously, that part of the discussion was shut down by banning the questioner from the site most relevant to it and no explanations have been satisfactory. In the meantime the group against whom assertions are being made seems to have widened; I certainly feel myself included in it. When the questions are made simple, factual and specific and every means is adopted to avoid giving an answer according to those criteria, even at a site with a name like “Center for Inquiry,” it becomes very hard to avoid the conclusion that there is a different agenda at work that is not being acknowledged or admitted to. There may be a single central point at issue here between just two people, but, since it began with accusations of lying on a matter that concerns a great many more people, it does go far beyond that level.

Stewart, to be fair,I am not a big fan of Chris Mooney.I object to his portrayal of ‘New Atheists’.  I am suspicious of his ties to the Templeton foundation. Therefore, I do not frequent his blog. I understand that he made mistakes, but it is his blog. I would vote with my feet/ or fingers. Are you intending to chase him all over the internet demanding an apology? That makes you look more like a troll, and hardly makes your case for you. Personally, I would attempt to contact him in a cordial fashion via PM and work it out in private.If he ignored me, I’d let it go.  Loud nasty public fights never look good…even when you are right. They just end up embarrassing, for all parties involved.

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