Bah, I signed in with my e-mail instead of my blogger ID. Would you kindly delete my last two posts? Thanks! ((Done and done. - DSimon))
You wrote in comment #35, "I made no such comparison, and have no idea why you bring it up." I brought it up because you said, "It's a lot like how some people will automatically assume about any atheist, until they learn otherwise, that they're obsessively interested in science, or that they can't talk with theists at a party without starting an argument." The goal was to show some real prejudice in action. Ebonmuse simply did not say that all old ladies are like that; again, his comment was simply that we are not all like old grandmothers who meet for tea. He didn't say all old grandmothers were like that, or even that it was bad. What definition of prejudice does this fit at all? Yeah, maybe an old lady might say, "Hey, I'm not one of those people!" So fuckin' what?
Your statement about a lone atheist at a party doesn't strike me as prejudicial, either. You didn't say that all atheists were like that, you didn't say that starting arguments is a bad thing, and you didn't use it to tell me what to do. You simply used an image I'm familiar with. Where is the prejudice? It's not a statement about atheists, it's a statement about trolls.
Also, please don't confuse my cussin' and firmness with a lack of relaxation. When something upsets me, I remove myself from the situation until I'm not upset any more. Except when I say I'm angry, and then I usually just pour on the humor. So: who cares if something could be interpreted as mildly insulting? Anyone can take offense to anything. I, personally, am very deeply offended by supercilious shit-heads who think that there's a way to talk that won't step on anybody's toes, and I'm also offended by attempts to do so. I think that instead, we should say what we fuckin' mean and change our minds when someone shows us something better. But people usually don't like to do that, and that offends me, too. "Getting offended" is a decision that people make; it's very easy to simply steel yourself against an insult and look through to the content, then choose how to respond from there.
I'm not saying you're uncivil, I'm saying you're wrong. Incorrect. Mistaken. Ebonmuse's statement was not prejudicial, it doesn't fit the definition of the term. Anyone who takes offense at it is looking for a fight, wanting to be offended about something. That's not "uncivil," plenty of civil people pick internet fights all the time. I'm saying there's simply no non-imaginary basis for doing so. Your statement that some people might get offended by it adds precisely zero to the discussion, because some people might get offended by anything and everything. You have to show more than that to make your case that Ebonmuse was doing anything that was in any way out of line at all. This is the internet, for crying out loud, and everyone's responsible to themselves and their peers to have at least somewhat thick skin.
12/05/2009 at 01:29 PM
Google says " Prejudice is an unreasonable dislike of a particular group of people or things, or a preference for one group of people or things over another."
I don't think that what ebonmuse said meets this definition in any way. It was not said, or suggested, that the quiet life some elderly women enjoy was to be hated. Nor was it suggested that the way ebonmuse and many others among us chose to live our lives are better than the way those "grandmothers" choose to live theirs.
So how was this prejudice again?
Chris French |
12/05/2009 at 02:19 PM
Alright, I've enabled HTML in comments now. Don't know why TypePad disables that by default.
I don't agree with this definition, because it doesn't include things that are clearly prejudicial, like assuming an Asian guy is good at math before you know him.
To my understanding, "prejudice" means literally "pre-judging", is a judgement about a person made in advance based not on actual knowledge of that person, but on bullshit stereotypes instead. That definition fits the way I generally hear people using the word, and it also matches the definition D quoted in the Daylight Atheism thread.
However, I'm fine with backing off the use of the word "prejudice" from here on if the alternative is more arguing about dictionary definitions. The main point I'm trying to make is about not pissing off your potential audience for no reason.
Your statement about a lone atheist at a party doesn't strike me as prejudicial, either. You didn't say that all atheists were like that, you didn't say that starting arguments is a bad thing, and you didn't use it to tell me what to do.
Here's my example statement again: "The idea that we should always be starting heated arguments with others, like a lone atheist at a party, is a modern aberration."
It doesn't explicitly say all atheists are like that, but the implication is "A typical lone atheist at a party will start heated arguments." The key word here is "typical"; a stereotype is about what would be expected in a typical member of a group, it doesn't have to categorically be about every single member of the group to qualify. The image the statement is trying to invoke is: "Imagine a typical party, where there's one typical atheist and a bunch of other typical theists. What happens? The atheist starts a heated argument about religion."
It doesn't have to be a negative stereotype to be insulting (again, consider the "Asians are good at math" stereotype), so whether or not it's a "bad thing" is not relevant.
So: who cares if something could be interpreted as mildly insulting?
Let's say I'm reading somebody's blog. I don't have any prior information on what the author knows or thinks about atheists and the blog doesn't have anything to do with atheism (so, there's no context for me to think they're "lovingly joking" or "being satirical" about atheism or whatever). I run across the example statement above in one of their posts. I then think the following things, in order:
1. This author thinks typical atheists tend to start pointless heated arguments.
2. This author has no basis for thinking this about me (an atheist), and the fact that they think this about me is somewhat insulting. This author's kind of a jackass!
3. However, let me consider their main point about not always starting heated arguments.
How is it helpful to send me through #1 and #2 before I get to #3? If the author wants me to think #3, why are they writing in a way that evokes #1 and #2 first? Why are they even sending #1 across at all when it's (a) bullshit and (b) has not one thing to do with their point?
Your statement that some people might get offended by it adds precisely zero to the discussion, because some people might get offended by anything and everything. You have to show more than that to make your case that Ebonmuse was doing anything that was in any way out of line at all.
Yeah, there are people out there who get offended at anything. I don't care about them being offended, because you're right: nothing can be done to make content clean enough for them. However, my argument is about justifiable offense, so let's talk about how to determine if a statement is justifiably offensive.
[...] it's very easy to simply steel yourself against an insult and look through to the content, then choose how to respond from there.
I'd be insulted by the example statement because (a) it's directed at a group I belong to and (b) part of the content is obviously wrong and no attempt is made to justify it. If the content were justifiably true, it wouldn't be an insult in the first place. Insult = personal + bullshit.
If I'm reading a blog post and I feel insulted by their propogation of stupid bullshit stereotype ideas (not just ideas that are wrong, but ideas that are wrong, personal, and have no attempt made to justify them), my estimation that that blogger has anything to say at all that I should read drops. After enough instances of this, I unsubscribe. If a blogger wants me to read their stuff, it's not unreasonable for me to expect not to have to wade through stupid bullshit stereotypes.
I, personally, am very deeply offended by supercilious shit-heads who think that there's a way to talk that won't step on anybody's toes, and I'm also offended by attempts to do so.
If you call somebody a supercilious shit-head (nice alliteration, by the way), do you think they still have an obligation to their own intellectual honesty to pick through your insults for valid content?
To cut off a potential argument that starts out with a link to a study finding that older women are more likely to go to tea parties and avoid arguing with anybody (or for that matter, a study finding that atheists are more likely to start heated arguments at parties), I'd like to point out that in order for that to make the respective meme stop being a bullshit stereotype and start being actual content, it would have to show a correlation so strong that an argumentative grandmother or a quiet atheist is not just not the mode, but so unusual as to be downright noteworthy and non-typical.
Fuck but this comment is way too long. Whatever, it's my blog. :-)
David Simon |
12/06/2009 at 10:23 AM
Thanks for clearing my old comments, and thanks for turning on HTML! OK, from the top...
If you don't agree with Google's definition, then can we use the one I quoted on DA? "An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts." Or provide another of your own, but please provide a source. At any rate, the word "adverse" is key, because that's when the harm is done. I'd say that your example of the math/Asian thing is an example of stereotyping, but not of prejudice, for just that reason (it's not an adverse judgment or opinion, even though it is formed without knowledge/examination of facts). People at my workplace do this all the time: they know I'm good with Microsoft Excel, so they assume I'm good with other computer programs. Sometimes, this is right; others, it's not. Either way, I don't take offense until they start using it to insult me.
Ultimately, the definition matters because prejudice, by both our definitions, is bad. So saying that there is prejudice in someone's writing is saying that they did something bad. I'm saying that what he did was not bad, and taking offense at it is unreasonable.
Getting back to your example statement, "The idea that we should always be starting heated arguments with others, like a lone atheist at a party, is a modern aberration," I don't think we should always be starting heated arguments (though I also don't think that starting heated arguments is always a bad thing), I do think that such an idea is aberrant, and I recognize that there are individual atheists who do this.
I don't see prejudice in there, because the facts are on your side, and you have not made a generalizing statement that discriminates against me because you have not made a generalizing statement at all. I am an atheist, but I am not like the hypothetical atheist you are pointing at, and I am able to separate myself from the group of all atheists and recognize that pointing out the flaw of one, or even many, atheists does not necessarily imply that you think I share in that flaw simply for being an atheist.
...but the implication is "A typical lone atheist..."
As for your numbered thoughts, I suppose you can't be blamed for having knee-jerk reactions. But we philosophers have this thing called the principle of charity, and what it boils down to is that you give someone the most favorable interpretation you possibly can by default, and if you have a knee-jerk reaction or two along the way, you get over it. Also, I think your comment about not wanting to "wade through stupid bullshit stereotypes" is entirely unwarranted - I don't want to wade through bullshit, either, but I hardly think that one off-hand comment that doesn't even insult anyone (but rather says people are individuals and not all like this one way) constitutes anything remotely close to enough to have to "wade through."
As for the supercilious shit-heads thing, umm... do you think that there's a way to say anything that could not possibly step on someone's toes? If you do, well, then I think you do have some shit in your head, because some Muslims will get upset if you don't praise Allah with everything you say, while some Christians will get upset with you for doing just that, and I'll be upset with anyone who thinks such attitudes are worth indulging. Whatever you say is guaranteed to step on the toes of at least one of these groups (or me), but I think we can agree that the folks who would take offense to the mere failure to overtly defer to their sensibilities are being cranks. Fuck 'em, says I. It's not worth it to cater to their whims. And I think the people crying ageism and sexism are being cranks, albeit to a markedly lesser degree. Ebon is neither calling for the mistreatment of any group nor generalizing about the individuals in any group, he simply painted a picture with words and said that reality isn't like the picture - and now some people are upset with the picture he chose to paint which was never supposed to reflect reality in the first place. Doesn't that strike you as a bit unnecessarily confrontational? Or am I being prejudiced against painters by implying that words could possibly represent reality in any way similar to the way that images can? (We can call this prejudice "artism," so am I being artist?)
12/16/2009 at 07:50 PM
If you don't agree with Google's definition, then can we use the one I quoted on DA? "An adverse judgment or opinion formed beforehand or without knowledge or examination of the facts."
I've got no problem with this definition. I'm going to argue that even a positive stereotype can still be "adverse", because (at least for me) it's insulting to have people make unwarranted assumptions about me whether those assumptions are good, bad, or neutral.
I'd say that your example of the math/Asian thing is an example of stereotyping, but not of prejudice, for just that reason (it's not an adverse judgment or opinion, even though it is formed without knowledge/examination of facts). People at my workplace do this all the time: they know I'm good with Microsoft Excel, so they assume I'm good with other computer programs.
I think an assumption that your skill with Excel means you're also a potential source of help with Photoshop is way more reasonable than the Asians/math stereotype. It someone's good at one computer program, there's a solid chance they'll be knowledgable about others, or at least have the ability to figure out how to use it quickly if they don't already.
On the other hand, making that assumption not just across the skillset of a single person you know but onto the skillset of other people who just look similar to the skilled people is just really poor reasoning.
But, is it insulting? Yeah, I'd say it is, because it's shitty reasoning, and because it's about me. Even though the stereotype is about a positive thing, it's insulting (at least to me) to have people assume things about you that they have no good reason to assume, even if the attribute they're assuming is a good one. I mean, poor reasoning gets on my nerves anyways, but when it's about me, it gets personal (well, by definition it's "personal" then, but you know what I mean), and it pisses me off a little bit. Do you think that's unreasonable?
...but the implication is "A typical lone atheist..."
You made up that implication.
Well, that was genuinely how I interpreted Ebon's statement when I read it in his article. Maybe my interpretation isn't reasonable (and that's probably where our discussion should focus), but I didn't just pull it out of my ass while thinking the Internet was clearly too low on things for me to argue about. :-)
I think my interpretation is reasonable, especially from the perspective of a first-time reader of DA: they have no context for thinking that Ebon is invoking the stereotype in any way but the most direct.
But we philosophers have this thing called the principle of charity, and what it boils down to is that you give someone the most favorable interpretation you possibly can by default, and if you have a knee-jerk reaction or two along the way, you get over it.
I'm not claiming that anyone would reasonably think Ebon is intentionally being mean. I'm saying that Ebon unintentionally implied that he buys into an irritating stereotype about potential DA audience members. I think a first-time DA reader could arrive at that interpretation reasonably from the text, and without violating the principle of charity re Ebon's motives. Good people can still be wrong.
[...]do you think that there's a way to say anything that could not possibly step on someone's toes?
I already discussed this in my last comment, and now it's just a strawman of my argument. Lemme reiterate: I'm not claiming that it's a good idea to try and write so that nobody could possibly be offended, because as you point out that's impossible. My argument is about saying things that justifiably offend people, so let's stick to discussing whether or not Ebon's statement could cause justified offense.
The implication of Ebon's statement is that "we (grandmothers included) are not all like that."
I don't agree with that interpretation. Ebon's statement was about how we're not all like stereotypical grandmothers at tea parties, but as far as I can tell, he failed to imply that he doesn't think the stereotype he invoked is actually true. That he doesn't believe the stereotype to be true doesn't go without saying, because there are more than a few people who do unthinkingly assume the stereotype of the passive tea-party-attending grandmother (or, for that matter, the obnoxiously argumentative atheist) to be a valid reflection of reality.
We both know that Ebon would answer "yes" if asked if grandmothers can be just as passionately rational or just as atheistic as anybody else. However, the statement in the original DA article unintentionally expresses the opposite assumption in its uncritical use of that stereotype, especially out of the context of prior knowledge of Ebon's beliefs.
Also, I think your comment about not wanting to "wade through stupid bullshit stereotypes" is entirely unwarranted.
I made that statement in the part of my comment discussing running into so many instances of BS that I stop reading a blog. You're right in that one single, minor, fairly innocous BS statement is not all that big of a deal. But it's still worse than zero such statements, and the "fuck this site, I'm reading something else" threshold is particularly low for new visitors.
12/19/2009 at 11:59 AM
Mister, I don't think you understand how subtle and nuanced us geeks are. When someone assumes that my skills with math and data analysis in any way correlate with the skills of digital painting, I feel like I am being oversimplified as a person and undue expectations are being placed on me. So for someone to expect that I am able to do this one thing just becaue I'm able to do this totally unrelated thing makes me feel marginalized and taken for granted, rather than being treated as the complex and unique individual who I actually am (and skill with Excel no more correlates to skill with Photoshop than skill with a rapier correlates to skill with a rifle - sure, they're both programs/weapons, but they're completely different kinds of programs/weapons).
Man, it's easy to get offended when you go out of your way to point out how slighted you feel by the impersonality of the world around, isn't it?
But seriously, I think this is the point where we're going to have to agree to disagree. We've both stated our cases in clear and intelligent fashion, I just think that people owe it to themselves to be considerably more thick-skinned than you seem to think people ought to be. Thick-skinned to a degree that remarks such as Ebon's (and also the one you gave as an example) should be entirely unproblematic. I also think that people ought to be able to laugh and poke fun at each other without any problems, too, because every single person does some stupid, ridiculous crap from time to time and we shouldn't take ourselves too seriously. Some people seem to think that laughing at this or that thing just isn't appropriate, though, and I think those people are being hoidy-toidy. Or however that ought to be spelled.
Point is, I think we've both adequately expressed our values and the rationale by which we translate those values into actions. I feel like I understand a bit more of where you're coming from, and that's good. I think I just expect a little more emotional sturdiness from people than you do, it seems. Now, don't get me wrong, I think it would be great if we could make the world a nice enough place that we could afford to be so sensitive all the time; I just don't think we ought to let ourselves be so sensitive right now, otherwise we'll get too far side-tracked down rabbit holes of nit-pickery like this and lose sight of the real problems in this world, like illness, ignorance, and barbarism. I guess what it boils down to, for me, is that getting upset over tiny things like this is a complete waste of emotional investment when there are such bigger things going on. Does that make where I'm coming from a bit easier to understand?
12/21/2009 at 07:26 PM
Does that make where I'm coming from a bit easier to understand?
Yeah, I think so. I don't know if I agree with the premise of having fixed quantities of emotional investment to spend, or that having a certain amount of thick-skinned-ness yourself means that that's an expectable minimum for everyone to have. However, I can definitely get behind fighting illness, ignorance, and barbarism.
Anyways, thanks for taking the time to discuss this with me. Also, I think it's "hoity-toity". :-)
12/22/2009 at 08:33 AM
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