The awful ways some atheist leaders talk to each other

Christian apologists must be getting lazy not to notice the big, fat, atheist-bashing rhetorical club that certain leading atheists are constantly offering them. I’m talking about the awful ways that some people talk to (and about) each other.

Earlier this week I ran across a reference to Sara Mayhew “standing up to” Rebecca Watson. There’s something enticing about a fight… so I guiltily succumbed to temptation and visited both Mayhew’s blog and Skepchick. Among other things I found this, a tweet from Watson in response to Mayhew:

20130126-023428Welcome back to middle school. Never mind what the argument was about. The first sentence alone is enough: This is how a prominent conference speaker in the skeptic/atheist movement publicly addresses another human being, who in this case happens to be another prominent young skeptic.

But this is not going to be a Rebecca Watson-bashing post. There’s too much bashing going on generally, and Watson is herself the recipient of plenty of it, some of it downright vicious.

Disagreements are inevitable, especially among people who value freethought. But it’s this constant childish bickering that I’m getting sick of. If you follow the atheist/skeptical blogosphere at all you know what I’m talking about. PZ Myers vs. Sam Harris. Ophelia Benson vs. Michael Shermer. Thunderf00t vs. Freethought Blogs. Etc., etc.

I’m not saying that all of the above are equally guilty, but can we at least agree that there’s a lot of room for improvement in how we disagree with each other?

Not to rehash Elevatorgate for the millionth time, but suppose that Richard Dawkins had written in reply to Rebecca Watson’s “Guys, don’t do this” video, something like, “I think she is making too much of this. The man in the elevator probably had good intentions, and since women differ in their expectations, how could he know without asking her?” Now you could agree or disagree with that (myself, I can see how a woman would feel vulnerable in that situation), but that would’ve been a way for Dawkins to start a discussion rather than picking a fight.

But instead he chose to insult and demean and, more importantly, never backed down from it.

Hold your thoughts about the issues of Elevatorgate. What’s most important in these online feuds isn’t who’s right or wrong about the issue at hand. What’s most important is that we learn to have conversations in such a way as to avoid needless feuds, and that we learn when to listen, when to clarify what the other person is saying, when to back down, and when to apologize.

Part of the problem is Internet culture itself, because it’s emotionally easier to write harshly from a distance than it is to speak harshly to someone’s face. TV political culture hasn’t helped either, because it has normalized public vitriol.

Then add human cognitive traits such as self-justification and cognitive dissonance, plus our tendency to respond to perceived aggression with a perceived equal measure of aggression (which in reality is predictably a greater level of aggression) and you get spiraling feedback loops of anger and recrimination, which then ripple outward through the blogosphere when partisans of each camp fire volleys of wholesale condemnation at each other.

For people who crow about rationality as much as atheists and skeptics do, we sometimes demonstrate a comical lack of self-awareness.

I’m truly surprised that more Christians haven’t picked up on this. I can just hear them saying, “See? This is how people without God treat each other.” (Take note, Christian apologists: this would actually be more rhetorically effective for you than trotting out the latest lipstick-on-a-pig iteration of the cosmological argument.) Sure, those of us who’ve come out of Christianity could respond with juicy tales from the passive-aggressive world of church politics, but do we really want to have that conversation? When do we get to the part where we talk about the world as we’d like it to become?

So what do we do, those of us who don’t have much of a platform, but whose combined voices could make a difference? Here are some ideas:

1) Before responding angrily, clarify the other person’s ideas or concerns. Carl Rogers taught psychotherapists to restate a client’s ideas and feelings back to them in your own words. This ensures that you understand the other person (so many bitter arguments begin with misunderstandings), plus it shows the other person that you’ve heard them. Don’t underestimate the importance of being heard. Even when disagreements are major, sometimes all it takes to prevent a feud is to demonstrate that you’ve truly listened to the other person and acknowledged their feelings.

2) Respond to perceived aggression with less aggression than you think warranted. Again, reflecting the other person’s concerns is a great way to do this. Admittedly, this is hard. And sometimes you’ll realize after a few rounds that the other person is just being an asshole, but at least this way you won’t jump to that conclusion. (And more importantly, you won’t be one yourself.)

3) If it becomes an argument, fight fair. Criticize ideas and behaviors. No name calling. Say “you did this” rather than “you are this.”

4) If you’re out of line, apologize as quickly as possible. Because it doesn’t get easier if you wait. And if the insult is public, the apology should be too.

5) If you’re a bystander, don’t join the fight. When you see an honest argument crossing the line into personal feud, encourage the participants to consider the above points. But if they don’t, treat them like misbehaving children rather than evildoers. When I was in seventh grade, I got into a hallway fight with another boy. We traded a few blows, but mostly stood with fists ready, talking trash and daring each other to bring it on. Finally a girl said, “Do you guys realize how stupid you look?” Well, we did then, and we slunk away muttering empty threats at each other, but the fight had gone out of us. We became friends after that.

Will any of the above help? I think so, if enough people start treating these and similar practices as basic expectations of adult interaction.

Oh, and one more:

6) Make it a personal rule to wait a given amount of time before posting anything angry or accusatory. Or have someone read it first who will tell you the truth.

And if you’re prone to outbursts, do everyone a favor and cancel your damn Twitter account.

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24 thoughts on “The awful ways some atheist leaders talk to each other

  1. I commend your ability to see within the nomenclature of atheism the problem of certain atheists. So often, like theists and other zealots of ‘higher truth’, and also like politicians of every party, atheists believe that their godlessness affords them a higher rationality and a perfection in itself. Frankly, some of the stupidest people are atheist, and some very intelligent and highly reasonable people are Christians. Belief or lack thereof means NOTHING. What matters is how you channel your thoughts, how you utilize your intellect, however great or minuscule it is. Descartes had it right when he said, quote:
    “For it is not enough to have a sound mind; the main thing is to apply it well. The greatest souls are capable of the greatest vice as well as the greatest virtue.”

    • Thanks. If research on human cognition teaches us anything, it should be an awareness of the limits of our own rationality. Not to say that we can’t argue passionately for what we think is right, but it seems to me that true skepticism involves a good deal of humility.

      • Humility only in regards to one’s ideas. These concepts have to be mere tools utilized for the understanding of truth. I venture to propose that true skepticism demands a pride in oneself; in the mind’s capability to recognize truth and error through its own machinations. Humility too often causes one to look toward the highest pedestal, and we know who resides there. This always looking upward is the ethos of the pious sheep and an indication that one does not have faith in one’s self. But, true pride in one’s cognitive capabilities is often mistaken for the cause of such vitriol as you have described. Yet, this is not the case.

        What causes one to attack so personally and so foolishly is such an individual’s attachment to whatever idea is being attacked. Such is the illusion of connectivity to the idea, that the individual’s brain gives off signals that the body itself is being molested in some way. This leads to anger and stupidity. Example: the history of every religious institution. These are ‘selfless’ people, and yet, their anger knows no bounds when their ideology is attacked. One can also see the effects of such ‘selflessness’ in collective atheistic organizations such as Communism, Fascism, etc.

      • Good points – thanks! Regarding the proper level of personal humility, I would say that I’m aware that I can be and certainly have been wrong in strongly-held opinions. But I recognize that this is true of everyone else and so I’m no one’s disciple. What gives me confidence in things like, for example, disbelief in Christianity, is not only my own ability to reason through the issues, but also the existence of a long cultural conversation about the subject, meaning that the arguments and counterarguments have been sharpened against each other for many years. So I don’t worry that I might be missing something important – if there was a convincing case to be made for Christianity surely it would have been made by now and would be well known. In the same way, scientists can be badly wrong, but in the long run the accumulation of evidence weeds out bad hypotheses.

        One quibble: I’d note that, historically, fascism was closely allied with religion rather than being an atheistic ideology, but I agree with your point about ‘selfless’ people defending their ideology.

  2. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth. ??

    Let’s get over this idea that there is a movement or community and the silly idea that there are leaders for these make believe things. When you do that all you have is semi-famous people treating others badly. The reaction to elevatorgate should have been harsh. It was wrong from the very inception. She opened her mouth and spoke from some imagined point of privilege, encouraging others to be divisive. While your words here might be kind suggestions on how to get along better, it should never be said that bad behavior should be rewarded with kind words. Such only serves to reinforce the bad behaviors. Yes, you are not alone in being tired of the bashing and in-fighting. The problem is that those who think there is a movement or community that needs leaders are the very same that do not want to hear that this is not so. They claim we need leaders and then vie to be those leaders yet do not want to hear that people disagree with them. There is no atheist community. There is no atheist movement. There are simply people who will group together under a banner for a time, then disband again. Leadership is volatile in such groups and there is no lasting rule. There is only meritocracy, those who can be visionary will be until they are not, then johnny come lately gets his turn. The direction of such loose bands of people is decided by popular vote via effort and support provided at the time. Unpopular ideas get no support, so are not the direction of the group. Such groups necessarily meander through social structures and directives. There is no cohesion, no direction from the top, no cognizant view of where anyone is headed or what everyone is doing. It is, per chance, mob rules. Those that claim leadership will be toppled. Those that contribute will be revered and honored. Remember that. Contribution is the gauge, not leadership or prominence, or popularity. Everything wanes without contribution. Those who do not contribute are left on the side to wallow in their own sense of loss, or at least it is so if they had desired to be leader.

    Telling others how to live or behave is the job of clerics. In a group of people who dislike clerics if you choose to act like one, you will not be popular and your contributions will be rejected. The slings and arrows of such meritocracy necessitates that some will be bashed. Bemoaning the process is pointless and pitiful.

    • Well, by “movement” I mean the people who attend conferences, get involved with secularist organizations, write blogs, or speak out in various ways to try to influence the culture, and by “leaders” I simply mean those people who have relatively greater influence among the aforementioned people. Certainly all those things exist whether or not we use the words “movement” or “leaders” to describe them. I think the words are apt, but that’s not what’s important here. As long as there are secularists trying to influence people, there will be some who exercise more influence than others, rightly or wrongly. I’m suggesting that it would be wise for atheists/skeptics to gently but firmly correct those who use abusive or demeaning language to make their points, focusing especially on those who exercise the greatest influence. I think it’s wise to do so because bad behavior undermines people’s effectiveness and makes it harder to achieve common goals (and also because life is just too damn short!).

      I disagree that the reaction to Rebecca Watson’s initial “elevatorgate” video should have been “harsh,” if by harsh you mean the sort of wholesale personal condemnation that she received from many people. She offered an opinion. People could agree or disagree with that opinion, and that could have been a useful discussion. But when Dawkins and others chose to insult and demean, it turned into a shouting match that accomplished nothing. I disagree that meritocracy “necessitates that some will be bashed,” if by this you mean that there’s nothing that we can (or should) do about it. And what I’m suggesting is not that we reward bad behavior with kind words. In fact, my whole point is that we need to do more to call people out on bad behavior toward others, but not by sinking to their level.

      Imagine what would happen if a someone behaved in person the way some people behave online. They show up at a conference or other adult gathering and start screaming, insulting, maybe even threatening. How would we handle that? We’d ask them to leave, we wouldn’t invite them back, and they’d lose status and influence. Why? Because they violated the norms of decent behavior. I’m suggesting that we – meaning all of us who are tired of this childish behavior – should broaden our norms to include online behavior.

      I’m also suggesting that many of these online fights don’t involve people who are unredeemable assholes, but instead often involve honest (if hardheaded) people who fail to listen, are quick to attribute dishonorable motives to others with whom they disagree, and are quick to condemn the entire person rather than the specific behavior – thus creating a lot of needless misery.

      • Well gosh! I really can’t say that I disagree with you on any of that actually. I don’t think there is an easy answer to people behaving worse on line than they would in public. Deep down I rather relish that people have the freedom to say online what they would not be able to say in person. There is a certain amount of freedom of thought that accompanies the ability to speak your mind without undue restriction. By undue, I mean restriction that is there to protect the feelings of others.

        If you wish to judge what Watson said as less offensive than what others replied with that is fine. The trouble is that to implement manners systems based on the level of offensiveness is to constrict free speech based on subjective morals… or something like that. The notion that we should all be civil is good but it might be good to remember that the current growth in ‘nones’ and atheism is a (more or less) direct backlash to what happens when you remain civil.

        In this understanding it is necessary that there will be harsh words. In fact, in all of society there is a place for harsh words. I rather like the way the Brits have of putting harsh words – I’ve seen a girl lambast a yank for 30 minutes and he thought he was getting lucky because she was talking to him.

        There will be harsh words, this is a fact. Asking people to react nicely (play nice together on the playground) is idealistic. It would be nice, but it is not probable. I’m not saying give up trying but I would caution anyone who thinks that if it does not happen then we must instigate new rules for everyone. It’s part of the process and pretending it is not is hubris. The blaghag herself just blogged that she’s going to stop bashing people and getting into flame wars on the Internet. That’s a start. It has been refreshing lately to see more of my favorite ‘personalities’ going back to the stuff I really liked about them in the first place.

        These things have to run their course, unfortunately. I feel that the best approach is to somehow lessen the reactions all around but not at the sacrifice of the lesson to be learned. In pack animals, when one member is punished all of the pack participates in the punishment whether it is simple warning or castigation. We hairless apes are pack animals still, just not so with regard to food sources etc.

        My old grandpa would say that if one person tells you that you have a tail, so what. If 7 people do you should probably look behind you to see what your dragging around.

        In this case and several others of late, I’ve received banning or severe backlash for politely suggesting something contrary to obtuse opinions expressed by others, so called ‘leaders’ of the ‘community’ and it is expected that I’ll just be quiet etc. With elements like this in ‘the community’ harsh words cannot be avoided as far as I know.

        Yeah, not a great situation but I can’t see any way around it. It requires cooperation from all parties, not just those willing to participate. It’s a kind of Mexican stand off that requires everyone to put down their guns at one time. Usually that sort of thing does not work well because we hairless apes are a violent and aggressive species. Pax Romana was a blessing for many parts of the world from time to time. (limited scope on that statement). When the Romans left everybody went back to their normally scheduled bashing and fighting. It’s not a new problem. Thought policing won’t work. Mrs Manners has no influence here. Perhaps not a lost cause, but I can’t see a plan for success in your goals.

        My tuppence.

      • Well, I don’t expect to have “success” if we define success as everyone being nice to each other all the time. But I think we can do a better job than what we’re doing. To me a little improvement would be a success, and a little more improvement would be more success.

        But I don’t like to see people becoming prone to banning people who disagree with them, even those who disagree vigorously (as long as that disagreement is on topic and not just an attempt to derail a thread). It’s a fine line between keeping the conversation civil and letting people have their say, and honest people are going to disagree as to where that line is. I gather that your preference is to err on the side of open discussion, that hurt feelings are better than a conversation stifled by manners or an expectation that we must make nice at any cost. I agree that free speech is messy. In fact, as I think about it, one of reasons I dislike the petty personal attacks is that it’s a way of people stifling their own conversation. Once they cross a certain line they’re no longer arguing about ideas because they get sidetracked with personal attacks and they’re no longer listening to each other.

        So I don’t want people to stop arguing in the sense of criticizing and defending ideas and behaviors. I want people to learn how to do it better. Freethought is always going to be loud and boisterous. But if we work at it, maybe we can at least keep it from turning into a pointless brawl quite so often.

      • With these last thoughts, I have no disagreement.

        “So I don’t want people to stop arguing in the sense of criticizing and defending ideas and behaviors. I want people to learn how to do it better. Freethought is always going to be loud and boisterous. But if we work at it, maybe we can at least keep it from turning into a pointless brawl quite so often.”

        The emphasis here is on the ‘we’ part.

  3. Of all the leaders in the atheist/skeptical communities, I think I most admire Sam Harris’ approach to conflict. You don’t have to look any further than his discussion with Bruce Schneier to see how he engages his serious critics. Although I think Schneier got the better of him in that argument, Harris handled himself very well. It’s true that Harris will sometimes throw an insult here and there, but they are generally fairly mild and in response to people who grossly mischaracterize what he’s said or otherwise do not abide by the critical principle of **assuming good faith**.

    • Harris’s exchange with Bruce Schneier is a great example of how to handle a public disagreement. (For those reading this who aren’t familiar with that discussion, Harris stated some controversial ideas about racial profiling, and invited Schneier, whose work was cited by many of Harris’s critics, to comment on Harris’s blog. They went back and forth, argued their positions, and never reached an agreement. But it was a civil discussion that helped clarify the issues. And I agree with Fomoose that I think Schneier presented the stronger case. Their discussion is here: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/to-profile-or-not-to-profile)

      And yes, assuming good faith is crucial. I’m glad you brought that up.

      This example reminds me… I once watched an evangelical Christian professor publicly critique another evangelical professor’s views on gender equality. Professor 1 was a conservative who believed women shouldn’t be pastors and should be ‘subject to their husbands.’ Professor 2 gave the Bible a more feminist reading. Professor 1 invited Professor 2 to speak to his class and critique a paper that Professor 1 had published on the subject. Professor 1 did so in detail, but referred only to “the article” or “the author” so as to avoid giving offense. It was clear that the two men disagreed profoundly, but also that they respected each other. They shook hands, and the class applauded. If evangelicals can do this, I don’t see why skeptics can’t.

  4. These ideas are really important for everyone, not just arguing atheists. It’s a basic principle of instant and faceless communication that if you’re furious with what someone has written you should wait and/or get someone to check your reply – for all the reasons you state above. I think ‘modern communication pitfalls’ should be added to the standard curriculum.

  5. Commenting on a specific issue before finishing the entire article. Will finish reading but don’t want to forget to post about this:

    “Not to rehash Elevatorgate for the millionth time, but suppose that Richard Dawkins had written in reply to Rebecca Watson’s “Guys, don’t do this” video, something like, “I think she is making too much of this. The man in the elevator probably had good intentions, and since women differ in their expectations, how could he know without asking her?” Now you could agree or disagree with that (myself, I can see how a woman would feel vulnerable in that situation), but that would’ve been a way for Dawkins to start a discussion rather than picking a fight.

    But instead he chose to insult and demean and, more importantly, never backed down from it.”

    Ironically, it appears that you’ve been sold the ‘Dawkins started it’ meme, and your description of what he *might have* said is stunningly similar to what *was actually said* by a person whose name you’ll almost never hear from the Skepchicks/FTB side of things.

    But in this case, which, I *must* emphasize, was literally *weeks* before Dawkins got involved, it was Stef McGraw who said:

    Watson is upset that this man is sexualizing her just after she gave a talk relating to feminism, but my question is this: Since when are respecting women as equals and showing sexual interest mutually exclusive? Is it not possible to view to take interest in a woman AND see her as an intelligent person?

    Someone who truly abides by feminist principles would, in my view, have to react in the same manner were the situation reversed; if a woman were to engage a man in the same way, she would probably be creeping him out and making him uncomfortable and unfairly sexualizing him, right? But of course no one ever makes that claim, which is why I see Watson’s comment as so hypocritical.

    If you really want social equality for women, which is what feminism is, why not apply the same standards to men and women, and stop demonizing men for being sexual beings?

    Source: http://freethoughtkampala.wordpress.com/2011/09/11/elevatorgate/

    Now, Watson *could have* chosen to discuss this politely, as you suggested above, but, to slightly paraphrase your quote, “But instead [she] chose to insult and demean and, more importantly, never backed down from it.”

    Quite quite ironic, given the *actual* history of EG (again, that you’ll never hear from the Skepchick/FTB side of things). Again, I highly recommend this link: http://freethoughtkampala.wordpress.com/2011/09/11/elevatorgate/

    Here’s how Watson chose to respond to Stef McGraw:

    Not very happy with the comments from these students, on June 26th, during her presentation at the CFI Student Leadership Conference titled “The Religious Right VS Every Woman On Earth”, Rebecca Watson decided to criticise Stef McGraw. She did this after briefly talking about sexism in the atheist movement at the start of her talk, and showing her audience samples of highly obscene hate mail she receives from people who disagree with her views, particularly on feminism. She cited McGraw’s views as being part of the problem:
    About McGraw’s comments, Watson said:

    [Video not embedded here. See http://freethoughtkampala.wordpress.com/2011/09/11/elevatorgate/ for video. NB: Importantly, it juxtaposes actual misogynistic trolling comments with a short, out of context snippet from Stef McGraw’s blog, making out that McGraw was supportive and/or part of the problem. McGraw, a young student feminist and atheist activist, was *in the audience* at the time, which was known to RW, as her talk indicates. After showing these juxtaposed trolling/reasoned-blogging slides, she said of McGraw’s thoughts:]

    “This is, unfortunately, a pretty standard parroting of misogynistic thought.”

    She later expanded on her criticisms of McGraw in a blog post on Skepchick two days later (June 28th), prompted by criticism Watson herself was receiving from several students over Twitter. They were unhappy at the way McGraw was called out during the conference:

    ” I hear a lot of misogyny from skeptics and atheists, but when ancient anti-woman rhetoric like the above is repeated verbatim by a young woman online, it validates that misogyny in a way that goes above and beyond the validation those men get from one another. It also negatively affects the women who are nervous about being in similar situations. Some of them have been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted, and some just don’t want to be put in that position. And they read these posts and watch these videos and they think, “If something were to happen to me and these women won’t stand up for me, who will?”

    This is, *surprisingly* I know!, the actual event which kicked off what would later become known as ‘ElevatorGate’. The guy in the elevator actually has almost nothing to do with the online dramastorm: It is the actions of people like Watson (and, to be perfectly fair, some of her critics as well, but most tellingly of Watson, since she’s supposedly standing against bullying and intimidation of women in the skeptic community), as your post is simply *another* in the many examples of Watson’s *repeated pattern* of sniping at *women* she merely *disagrees* with on matters of opinion, not fact, ‘throwing them under the bus’ as the saying goes, that *most* of her critics are concerned with. Yes, she gets trolls. But she represents anyone that disagrees with her as *equivalent* to random internet trolling, and does not admit her mistakes or apologize for her smears of people.

    It’s the drama and the ad hom and the sniping and the smearing and the rumour campaigns that people are upset about. I’m glad you’re noticing it now with this post. But sadly, that’s what this *whole thing* has been about since the very beginning of ElevatorGate. I only got involved because I had been following the events prior to Dawkins getting involved (I repeat: It was going on for *weeks* prior to Dawkins.) Dawkins was actually responding to the *kerfuffle*, not directly to Watson. He was exasperated at the weeks-long drama shitstorm, and spoke too bluntly and too-easily misinterpreted (which RW readily exploited to spin her ‘Dawkins started the whole thing’ story which she and her supporters regularly repeat (repeat until true, I suppose? Is that their idea? Sadly, reality doesn’t work that way. Well, not sadly, actually; I’m glad loud-mouths don’t get the last say in the truth, to be honest). Dawkins’ poor comment was scapegoated and translated into wider coverage, leading to EG making a blip on the mainstream media radar. But he most assuredly did not instigate it. It was already a well raging multi-blog flamewar by the time he jumped in.

    Hope this info gives some insights as to how deep this rabbit hole goes. It is very very freaking deep. Fortunately, more and more people are beginning to realize this.

    Cheers!

    • Oops sorry about formatting. Should have been a closing blockquote, but I must have messed it up right around here: “This is, *surprisingly* I know!, the actual event which kicked off what would later become known as ‘ElevatorGate’.” That part and what follows is from me, not the quoted source.

    • Thanks for the context – and for taking the time to write such a long reply! Actually, my comment on Dawkins came from reading his initial response to Watson on his blog. Regardless of what came before, it wasn’t a good way for him to address the subject. And if he was responding to the things you mentioned he didn’t make that clear. It sounded to me like he was responding to the initial video. So I stand by my remarks that he set a bad example of how to criticize someone else. (And certainly it blew up in his face.) It’s getting late so I’ll check your links tomorrow, but at this point I’m not really surprised to hear of Watson sniping at other people. Thanks again for commenting.

  6. And if you’re prone to outbursts, do everyone a favor and cancel your damn Twitter account.

    “Holy shit, you are dumb, here is why” – is the equivalent of an outburst? It seems that you’re speaking generally about ‘outbursts’ and ‘cancellation’, yet this suggestion seems to be aimed directly at the earlier specific example of a twitter exchange. I can’t speak for your motives, but it does seem a bit biased, whether it was intentional or not. Maybe I’m reading too much into it.

    And in fairness, let’s have some other chronicling of the events from another, self-admittedly biased, perspective: http://ohthehumanityofitall.blogspot.ca/2012/07/deep-rifts-or-humanity-of-it-all-part-1.html

    • Well, yes, “Holy shit, you are dumb” is certainly an outburst. It’s a direct insult. Imagine saying that to someone’s face. Watson could have disagreed with Mayhew and pointed out why she disagreed without resorting to childish name-calling. I’m not saying she’s unique in this; this was simply the example that prompted me to write the post. I brought up Elevatorgate in order to cite a well-known example in which Watson was on the receiving end of nastiness, because I didn’t want people to think that in criticizing her treatment of Mayhew I was somehow justifying all the things that have been said to and about Watson. My point isn’t that people shouldn’t disagree with other and argue for their points of view, or even that they shouldn’t criticize one another’s behavior, but that there are appropriate and inappropriate ways to do this.

      Now, about that final comment. Yes, I think that Watson (and others) would do herself and the skeptical movement a favor if she waited to cool off before replying. People are much more effective as advocates for their ideas if they avoid outbursts like that. Better not to use Twitter than to misuse it.

  7. Pingback: effective online dialogue | violetwisp

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