Saturday, July 7, 2012

Dogmatism and Jean Kazez on Bullying

There are times when I'm not at all happy to disagree with someone who's done intellectual favors for me. This is one such time. I should note at the outset that I'm putting this on my blog instead of the comments on her blog because of presence of certain dogmatists of a particularly noxious aroma. Jean Kazez played a minor but noticeable role in my recently changing my mind about the level of discourse which is wise to adopt with respect to the FTB people; namely, she was a voice among a chorus who were applying pressure to induce people like me to drop what I like to call the nuclear option.

This despite her steadfast delight at ensuring certain received opinions are not challengeable in her presence. I shall, therefore, not directly challenge her dogmas for it would be useless to do so. She quite literally won't hear it. In her recent blog article on bullying, there is much to take issue with; to avoid a 'piling on' effect she in some sense equates with a bullying tactic, I'll constrain myself to a narrow range of issues (and ask that people who read my blog don't thus take it as a lead-in to poke and prod her - that would be counterproductive).

Jean writes:
Back when I was blogging at Talking Philosophy, I once deleted the comments of some Holocaust deniers who dropped by for "rational debate." No thanks.  I've closed threads here when I thought people were saying things not worth discussing.  But it takes a lot for me to do that.  The last time I did so someone was challenging the idea that women are raped more than men. Not. Worth. My. Time.
Notice here the scare quoting of people whose views on reality differ from hers. To deny the holocaust is, on her estimation of affairs, by definition not rational it would seem. In other words, there is only one permissible conclusion that but for its presence one is tautologically irrational, and thus no debate can follow on - axiomatically. Similarly, it is strictly forbidden to challenge her dogma that women are raped more than men. And, indeed, no discussion on that issue is worth her time; she has the truth. I will note that she's at least consistent in this, and upfront about it. Earlier in the article she advocates that there exist topics where it's acceptable to irrationally prevent from being discussed.


Only she doesn't call it irrationality to prohibit them; it's just 'non-rational'; a distinction commonly undertaken by the religious to explain that while belief in a god isn't rational in the way that science is, it's still not against reason and rationality; it's just a non-rational exercise. Jean, for all of your insights into the world, I think this is a blind spot on your part and I hope that my questions here can do for you what it is that your questions and opinions did for me quite recently. 

Within the last year, the country both you and I live in on the federal level changed the definition of rape, which now permits men to be counted as victims of rape. And this, of course, means that the estimated amounts of sexual assaults in the prisons now can properly be counted as rape. This influx of numbers, whatever they work out to be once the data are crunched, could potentially work directly against your can't-be-challenged-and-will-be-non-rationally-cleared-off-the-table-as-being-beyond-the-pale dogma. Why is an academic comfortable excluding from the conversation views which are contrary to hers?

For a point of reference, I have issues that I don't discuss. Say, incest. It makes me uncomfortable and I thus generally avoid it. On what grounds is it consistent with academic inquiry, though, if on the proviso that I do engage in discussion about it, then I'm entitled to define out of consideration, as you do, views I disagree with?

Why discuss rape statistics if you're going to exclude from the conversation people who disagree with you on this? What's the point in discussing it in the first place?

You may not claim it's to educate, for you've conceded out of the gate that you've reached a conclusion and contrary data will be excluded. One cannot well-claim that one is engaging in 'education' when one defines out of existence all other views but the narrow range of views one has taken on board - this is indoctrination, not education.

And the reason I care to put this to you is because the quote above immediately precedes:
There's a problem, though, if a blog community sets the parameters so that the permitted claims fall within a relatively narrow range, and a very wide range of claims are subject to being bullied off the table.
You concede that this exact behavior fits into your definition of bullying. In two related statements, you define what would count as bullying and then opine:
To bully a claim off the table, you do things like:  deleting comments, editing comments, mocking, straw-manning, piling on, insulting, and generally making life unpleasant for the person who made the claim.  They then withdraw, and the claim vanishes. Wonderful.
and:
Now, it's kind of bad calling this "bullying" because bullying is always bad, by definition.
It seems that you have just defined the parameters to your liking so as to make a point that it's bad when others do it, but not when you do it for reasons of utility:  expedience and efficiency:
Sometimes speed is of the essence. Sometimes we don't want to dignify a claim, or the person making the claim, by putting a lot of time and energy into a rational refutation.
But there's nothing about 'speed' and sparing 'time' which entails the tactics you describe as bullying:  deleting, banning, editing and the like. Except that you construct this inconsistent-to-my-reading position so as to let moderation you've done in the past get a pass while being able to condemn what others are doing now as not kosher.

In short, Jean, there is nothing about one not responding to another's claims that entails banning, blocking and preventing other people from discussing it. Yet you in some sense seem to my lights to conflate them.

How do you reconcile this?
 
 

12 comments:

Maria Maltseva said...

She can't. She doesn't want to offend poor Ophelia since they used to work together. I thought she was reasonable, but she's proved otherwise. Stick her on the other side of this issue with all the other riff-raff and forget about her. Her recent blog entry has demonstrated an incredible lack of intelligence, as well as failure to use the dictionary to look up "bullying." When I pointed out that email threats such as the ones I've received go outside the definition of bullying (they're worse), she told me to "stop ranting and raving."  Sorry, but it was my career that was threatened, not hers, and it was me who had to explain the garbage written about me on the internet and not her. Bullying? Yes.

On the other hand, toning down the rhetoric was a good idea, as good arguments conflated with slurs lose their persuasiveness. But she's certainly not the first to voice that opinion.

Maria Maltseva said...

Oh, and when I pointed this out, her response? She'll delete more comments from me about things that have happened (even though she's not the least bit informed about the sort of bullying that went on).

dustbubble said...

I dunno blu, I thought the bit where she propagated her definition of bullying, and then did a handbrake turn to shout you down for IIRC "ranting and raving" (i.e. writing opinions/stuff on the internet) was a hoot. The dim cow.

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