Remember the old days on the Internet, when we spent most of our time on Usenet and on certain older listserv's (email discussion groups)? And what of trolls? They certainly still exist.
Anyway a few years ago I discovered the blogs of a guy who has been increasing in prominence within the "atheist" community called P.Z. Myers. His blogs are at two locations apparently:
The first one is more longstanding but the second one relates to a more recent spat online.
My long developed evaluation of Myers is that he tends to attempt to use science to justify his ultra-left-wing views. Maybe I share some of those views, but I also think that all of our views should be up for debate. And after reading a lot of Myers' blog posts online over the years and hearing him speak more recently, I've basically come to conclude that the guy is about 30 to 40% interesting and 60 to 70% like an a-hole who acts and talks like he has a big stinky thing up his rear end on a permanent basis.
I know some people like the guy, but to me he's acerbic in a non-useful way. Hitchens was acerbic in useful ways, but Myers often comes off as a petty retard - just my view. Hitchens was acerbic and smart. Myers is acerbic but usually is also often petty and inappropriately hostile. So this was my view before the more recent spat - see below...
Next, I heard about this show called the Magic Sandwich Show, and on that show there's this guy named thunderf00t (AKA Dr. Phil Mason, a chemist) who sometimes was on that show. I took no special interest in the guy other than that he seemed interesting when he spoke.
Next I found the following blog:
via looking on http://www.atheistblogs.co.uk/
So what's my reaction to this spat between two somewhat prominent web & video bloggers? I'm not surprised frankly. Dr. Mason (AKA thunerf00t) probably made a mistake to associate with Myers in the first place, because Myers has a long standing tradition of booting off detractors from his own blogs in rather petty ways. This has been going on for years now. So when Dr. Myers' virtual boot hit the virtual bum of Dr. Mason, where's the surprise? There is none. It's par for the course.
I'm all for having a crucible where people can discuss things openly. As long as personal threats are not made, people should be able to debate issues and disagree openly, even vociferously, in public forums - again as long as people can avoid threatening each other or wasting space with spam.
Anyway PZ Myers' actions in this case are par for the course. Thunerf00t AKA Dr. Mason should not have been surprised. He simply got treated the may Myers tends to treat everyone in his little corner of the Net.
There is a certain hysteria in the ivory tower of academics when it comes to hearing views which are critical of the ultra-liberal status quo - speaking and saying this as a liberal myself. Reference the work of Sam Harris & Steven Pinker on this front. Myers is apparently so closely tied to the quick-willingness to pounce on perceived detractors to the hysteria that he's willing to apply the same shallow tactics to people he invites onto his blog as to all the other people he's booted off of his blog over the years now.
So, in this debate I'd tend to stand with thunderf00t (Mason) as well. Mason can start his own blog and he has one. Myers really is part of the "old school" of Internet discussions, where you could routinely get your virtual head cut off for asking an otherwise innocent question. Myers has apparently spent so many years in a virtual sewer (partly of his own making) of Internet discussions that he is apparently unable to act in a non-petty and non-shallow way himself. Spend enough time shoveling crap and eventually you'll start to enjoy the smell. So anyway that's my view on all this. Who was "right" in this recent debate? Thunerf00t, yes. Myers, no. That's my vote.
Here's more videos on the issue:
And related blogs: http://thunderf00tdotorg.wordpress.com/
No one wants to be abused. But I agree with Mason that when we're too vocal about there being a problem when the problem really is relatively small, then that means we're more hung up than needs be and detracting from other issues. We're also using an inappropriately broad brush and painting & tainting otherwise innocent people who really don't need to be treated like children.
If you don't want to be hit on my drunk men don't go to bars. End of story. No more needs to be said, and in my view atheist conference organizers do not need to treat attendeeds like they're guilty until proven innocent, nor like children.
People shouldn't be censored for speaking their mind, or shut down or shut out for saying what they think and feel.