Comment of the Day: “How People Rationalize Being Close-minded: A Case Study”


The Ethics Alarms resident humanist, Bruce, has filed a passionate brief condemning the sometimes rough debate on Ethics Alarms, and, in some ways, the blog itself. This is the latest volley in an ongoing thread that has jumped around from multiple posts: my fault, because I keep raising the issue in various ways. I would normally append some reactions at the conclusion of such direct criticism, but it’s a busy day, so I’ll have to put them in the comments to Bruce’s post later, with this exception.

The Ethics Scoreboard, which was not a blog but a website, embodied Bruce’s suggestion of radically fewer posts, more carefully considered and proofread. I am proud of a lot of the work there, but the format was limiting. The goal of Ethics Alarms is to try to inject ethical considerations into the national analysis and discussion of daily events, including politics, that need them but hardly ever receive them, because, sadly, most commentators are either uninterested or incapable of it.  The reason I chose a blog format is that these issues are time-sensitive, and if I am to have even a wisp of a chance of elevating the discussion and encouraging valid analysis of right and wrong, I have to strike quickly, or I might as well be writing about the ethics of the Spanish American War.

Jeffrey Field, my favorite Occupier who often weighs in here, periodically sends me a note that says “Slow down!”  I appreciate that, and take it to heart. Nonetheless, when the news media was (lazily? maliciously?) misrepresenting the meaning of David Wildstein’s lawyers’ letter regarding Chris Christie’s involvement in the George Washington Bridge affair, and I could find nobody who was pointing out what miserably unethical journalism this was, I had to write about it immediately—and, frankly, Ethics Alarms readers were ahead of most of the public. A little later, the New York Times, for example, had to tune down its characterization of the document.

I know my analysis is not always air tight, but I’m not trying to end discussions, but begin them. I wish I could do ten posts a day.

Here’s Bruce, and his Comment of the Day on the post How People Rationalize Being Close-minded: A Case Study”:

How People Rationalize Being Close-minded: A Case Study: Ethics Alarm Blog.

You make a space that is socially unsafe, don’t label it as such, let newcomers discover for themselves how the dangerous place works. You make a god of intellect and forget to be kind, or even civil.

You indulge ego and restrict mercy, feed terror while compassion is a beggar.

You put your awards on the top shelf and your sense of humour in a banana, up a goat, in a Humvee somewhere in the vicinity of ..Sorento. (NB this is called disarming humour or an attempt at it)

You take yourself seriously, the issues and arguments even more so – but each other as just words on a screen

You fail the empathy test – because you won’t take one that isn’t also an intelligence test.

You forget that an idiot like me can say it’s raining and be right. And that the cleverest among you can argue logic, miss a step, and get a wildly wrong answer.

Arrogance, ignorance, umbrage and error. Pride and aggression.

In other words you are all 99% average everyday over-evolved apes. Passionate, dirty, squalid, vulnerable, hairy, sweaty, flatulent and innocent.

You made a mistake that’s all. And thus made an echo chamber that is also a bully pit. What’s the quality you are looking for in members and in discussion. Humility, kindness, humour, fellowship would be my primary set. A bunch of dummies can debate issues to a successful end if they can get along together and follow rules. Clever people must work alone and talk only when they get results. Clever people invent new ideas, they can’t help it, they excrete novelty. New ideas can’t be exposed to critique when half-formed and the blog format of 4 posts a day more or less assures yours always will be. No wonder you bloggy fellas fall out. There’s no more exposed position than just after giving birth to an idea and just before lunch. You are attempting a feat way beyond journalism. Novel take on news items in real time? No one can research that fast and double-check sufficiently to stop your friends snickering at your bad logic. And every snigger hurts like hell. Just what you don’t need when a comment is dumb. No wonder Jack gets snippy. And looks to the wrong people for allies. and some fairly booted tactics. And that’s what will always limit the blog.

High intellect at this pace needs equally high human and social skills and wisdom and common sense, maturity, true resilience rather than willingness to suck up the stress. Many other things beside.

Well that’s all so much guesswork from your resident dummy. Make the posts twice a week, if the world is still up your bum, cut it to once a week. Well meant suggestions.

Well meaning, pure intentions, Calon Lan. How else can you be safe to have an open mind than to keep good company? That’s good as in .. y’know good. You’re all ethicists … work it out.


Graphic: kiss my wonder woman

101 thoughts on “Comment of the Day: “How People Rationalize Being Close-minded: A Case Study”

  1. Ah nuts- I published a lenghty detailed response to this on the original post, without noticing it was nominated for Comment of the Day. Any chance of porting my response over to this one where it’s more appropriate? I don’t want to double-post something that long.

    • Today I’ll give an account of my comments yesterday
      I believe the blog is in an unknowigly perilous condition with regards the free speech, under comments policy, of sensitive or liberal or left leaning persons of becoming a ‘one-sided echo chamber’ for libertarian leanings only

      I have no problem wth the comments policies as they are but I do have a big problem with the way that they are being practised. Specifically by AMS/Scott Jacobs. This is not a libertarian blog as such. That level of rough and tumble is allowed, supported even endorsed. Hooray. But naturallly speech also contains delicate sensitive compassionate merciful statements. These statements and the people that tend to make them require equal protection even if there’s no of one of that type actually enaged here. That is, if everyone is to feel welcome and be heard and able to keep a presence here. And there is a common bond represented by the small amount of pity remaining in the policy The llbertarians included, everyone has an implied small duty by virtue of that remaining molecule of compassion to protect everyones rights. Truly and strongly ‘my lot’ lefties should, by their code and by the policy, do everything to accomodate the libertarians and give them maximum leeway, fight to he death if necessary to protect the right to be wrong (one more thing that separates me fom the specific left).

      Despite all those factors, above, which would naturaly tend to a dominant libertarian tone to discussion I think there should be room for an out and out bleeding heart liberal to be completely outspoken here, or the blog loses it’s claim to be a true non-echo chamber. I thus have a problem with Scott’s tactics (for discussssion) and what I see as outright manipulation, and I’m mindful of a potential future decision to exterminate the last restriction on Scott’s ‘total offense’ requirement. I object on my own ‘euro-leftieist’ grounds of solidarity’ with whatever lost soul who may wander in here thinking ethics means nice, and the remaining spark of shared liberal duty I see in the policy.The first part being a tiny voice (because I’m a newcomer) the second more broad and conventionally american ( I hope) And quite specifially I have big probem on my own behalf and on abstract ground with anyone who is is not on the level. So for these selfish reasons and general concerns I put the following account forwards.

      Although the libertarians (I deliberately call attention to my error) I mean Scott has expressed a view that words have no weight and to give offence by words is impossible that view is not accepted by Jack, not yet. Nor by me. Knowing that many on the loose left would regard Scott’s attacks as outrageous and a great deterrant to participation, given the strange state of current play, and my temporary status that gave me a big problem, a knot, so I wrote what I thought..

      I”d no sooner written my objection than the blog was attacked by comics (I’ll let the hows and whys’s slide) and that’s when i first exchanged comments with Scott on the subject.

      i’ll pause there. I’m usiing my natural style and I know there may be demands that i hurry up or whatever. I’ll hear them, as by my code I’m obliged to, but after the week I’ve had I’m not minded to be generous..If Scott is allowed to call me a whatever whatever, then I am definitely going to use my right to be verbose. Within limits. If I think it helps tell the story plainly. Because it’s how I write

      And of course it also give’s Jack the option to sack me before I waste more space.

      • Dude, we already have liberals on this site, or did you not notice Beth commenting on the very same post that you made your original comment in? They’ve not been as prolific lately, though I suspect that’s more a function of their personal priorities as much as anything else (and also because arguments about Obamacare will almost inevitably go nowhere but down).

        And of course, if you take a look at this blog’s history, there’s quite a bit of outspoken liberalism/left-libertarianism in the comments, particularly back in the days of tgt. Hell, Barry, whose moderating philosophy is perhaps closer to yours, held his own pretty well here himself. That’s shifted a bit recently, but given what I’ve seen as a long time lurker, I suspect the political tides on this blog will shift again on its own, like it always has, as posters come and go and the set of regulars changes (most of the commentators on this very post were not even around during the first years of this blog).

  2. (Full disclosure, since I don’t know what posts Jack will delete: I put this on the original comment but Jack gave me permission to move it here where it’s more relevant.)

    The thing is, I don’t see how you’ve come to the impression that the blog is an echo chamber. Just in the last month or so I’ve been both fiercely arguing and in total agreement with Jack, Texagg, and… Phlinn, I think? I don’t recall, it was a while ago.

    Anyway, the point is, ideas get a rigorous workout here. There is an expectation that you (the general sense of you, not you specifically Bruce) will consider your comments, replies, and arguments before posting them. This is an intillecually demanding place to comment, and if you toss off a comment based on straight ideology or an obvious misreading of the facts, you’ll get ripped into. There are other places that support different kinds of argument and that’s fine, but this place is one where most of the regulars understand that a differing opinion will be attacked from all sides, its every defense tested- after all, they do the same when the tables are turned. If your argument is good and well thought out, sustain it against challenge. If not, be open to seeing its flaws.

    Newcomers have full freedom to read into archives, as I did before beginning commenting, to see what level of discourse occurs here. They have full freedom to participate or not, but if a pop warner player runs out into the middle of a varsity football game and is knocked down he shouldn’t say that it wasn’t fair, that the field wasn’t a safe place for him. In much the same way, this blog has a group of intelligent, incisive regulars. As a whole they are open to logic and discussion but will be on you like a spider monkey if you argue poorly. That’s not always easy, and I’ve logged off of this site feeling angry or embarassed before, and probably will again. Still, I knew what I was getting into, and can always stop reading or commenting if it gets too much. As can you, or anyone.

    A bullied schoolchild can’t just stop going to school. A harassed employee may not have the financial ability to just quit their job. This is a voluntary place with an established way of discussing, and I find it hard to credit people who demand that it change on behalf of newcomers who leap in and decide that it’s “unsafe.”

    • Bingo.

      And to reiterate your earlier point: Even when we disagree vehemently and bordering on aggression and disdain, the moment a disagreer posts something their opponent agrees with, I have yet to see that disagreer NOT give full credit to the opponent.

    • I really don’t mind seeing someone’s ideas getting thoroughly thrashed. I feel that is part of the good things about this blog, the in-depth examination of ideas.
      What I don’t like is the personal attacks, the insults, the name-calling. If the ideas aren’t standing up to scrutiny, explain why it is so, and move on. I don’t see the need to throw in insults (often gendered ones at that) at the person while you are doing it. Not only does it change the subject (from whatever the topic is to “you’re an asshole/cunt/twat; no you’re an asshole/cunt/twat), it’s tedious to read, doesn’t support the argument, and drives many thoughtful posters away. It tends to create the very echo chamber that Jack deplores. Argue the idea, not the person.

      • I think enroute insults are unnecessary. However, at the end of a demonstration, if one individual, facing unassailable logic, solid premises and unbreakable conclusions flowing from those premises, still refuses to show critical thinking or rational impulses but insist upon folly, they ought to be reminded of how they appear to be.

      • I hope you are not saying that all the blame belongs to Scott. That isn’t the way I see it. I’m not completely sold that what he does is good but what he writes is unique. It could be that I have never been on the receiving end of one profane comments (I don’t post very often), but it doesn’t seem personal with him. So I find more fault with the receiver of his comment then with him. Because once that thread of the conversation has reached that point the receiver should at most make one additional comment informing Scott of their dislike of the last post and close that conversation thread. I personally would not go that far and end that conversation thread there. However what I see, often, are people that continue to argue, change the argument, make it about his profanity, and get themselves really upset. They are the ones who make it an echo chamber. One, they are pushing their views on profanity to Scott, he is not going to change his ways and they have already made the same argument more than once. Secondly, they do make good arguments and the loss of their participation doesn’t leave Ethics Alarms better off. So if the choice is that Scott needs to stop the profanity or the receiver of Scott’s comment needs to overcome desire to continue that particular conversation thread, which do you think is the right way to go?

        • However what I see, often, are people that continue to argue, change the argument, make it about his profanity, and get themselves really upset. They are the ones who make it an echo chamber.
          I don’t think it is (always) about his profanity.
          It is more that he has conservative views and is intelligent, well-informed and articulate.
          That is not allowed in the US.

    • Except when it’s unsafe. Players should never be knocked down only arguments. People put their souls into their arguments, good, They get hurt when their ideas don’t fly, great. But don’t attack the person they are irrrelevant, attack the argument. A forum cannot endure any personal attack at all, it limits the free speech of the sensitive. A forum must endure all forms of expresssion even the most foul against arguments to do otherwise limits the freedom of the most offensive. That’ s tradtional.

      Basically those are the blog rules but the deviations are starting to become the norm. Studding the discussion with frequent 4 letter words doesn’t help, it diminishes their face value as does playing games of taunting to establish that words have no innate power. We’ve most of us fallen for it, even me. Especally me. Me with a whopper. Who normally wouldn’t hurt a fly. Customarily I believe there is a common duty to notice errors. And anyone who calls anyone anything including, lampstand, Kumqat, or bicycle is technically across the line.

      “That’s not always easy, and I’ve logged off of this site feeling angry or embarassed before, and probably will again. Still, I knew what I was getting into, and can always stop reading or commenting if it gets too much. As can you, or anyone”. My point exactly- you shoudn’t do that if the abuse is against a person not an argument.

  3. Jack,

    I like the flood of topics. If someone can’t keep up, they shouldn’t try, and THAT’S FINE! Select the topics worthy of commenting on. The beauty of having a set of well thought out values and conclusions, is one doesn’t need to be perfectly researched on a topic to weigh in.


    “Clever people must work alone and talk only when they get results. Clever people invent new ideas, they can’t help it, they excrete novelty. New ideas can’t be exposed to critique when half-formed and the blog format of 4 posts a day more or less assures yours always will be.”

    Clever people don’t over extend themselves either, or at least have clarity of thought to keep abstract portions of their assertion that have not been fully thought through.

    “No wonder you bloggy fellas fall out. There’s no more exposed position than just after giving birth to an idea and just before lunch. You are attempting a feat way beyond journalism.”

    And thank God, because the journalists have given up.

    “Novel take on news items in real time? No one can research that fast and double-check sufficiently to stop your friends snickering at your bad logic. And every snigger hurts like hell. Just what you don’t need when a comment is dumb”

    And if a piece has bad logic, then IT MUST BE CALLED OUT and not attributed to “oh, he just mistyped what he wrote”. To not call it out:

    1) is a disservice to the original poster IF that original poster DID mistype, because then they have a permanent, uncorrected piece that misrepresents their views.

    Thank God for friends who do edify each other.

    2) is a disservice to other readers IF the original poster did NOT mistype, but actually is attempting to foist false and possibly harmful conclusions on the reading audience.

    • I’ve said my share of dumb stuff here, either poorly phrased to convey my thoughts or proper phrasing of poorly thought out ideas. I’ve been called out with varying degrees of snark, and admitted my poor logic/writing skills. In those instances, when I’ve just made an oops and can admit it, I’ve never been ridden any further than the original pointing it out. Nobody has overlooked my correction to keep making fun of the silly mistake. That would drive me away, as I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying anything for fear one goof would make me a pariah.

      Granted that’s just my experience, but it hardly seems unreasonable to expect adults to be able to say “oh crap, that’s not what I meant at all, let me phrase it better” or “Whoops, didn’t read the link well enough, dammit, my first comment WAS stupid.”

      • Again fair comment thanks. If my mind was working at all then it may be that the comment you are responding to is about creative and new works. Well yes that’s all completely correct. The only additonal comment is that when you first put your creative work forward you are in a mindset that gives you good insight into the mind of someone very vulnerable and how little you would like to receive personal criticism at a time when you are defending your brain child from the scrutiny of your peers. Well neither does anyone who feels like that, the bereaved or what have you

    • Fine I make no apologes. If my evident good will is not sufficient to rouse your support. Then I’ll accept the judgement of my peers on minor points of logic.
      I am accountable. I have acted in good faith. That I had to raise my emotional state to this level and expose myself to harm to get you to take Scott Jacobs repeated flamings as serious offense. Blog threat, contrary to freedom of speech, it will not have been in vain . I know of your belief that one statement cannot affect another’s so be on guard for the serpent is slippery and your current guard is weak for it consists of mere reason. I am spent.

      • Nobody is suggesting that you have anything to apologize for, Bruce. I posted your comment not to give people a target, but because it’s a different point of view, interestingly and passionately argued. William Saroyan said (paraphrasing) that if one person sings your song, you haven’t lived in vain. It is one of my favorite concepts—Saroyan, by the way, was a loving, narcissistic, passionate, brilliant, cruel, kind, brilliant, terrible, generous, infuriating man gave as good as he got, and he got it but good, usually deserving every bit.

        • One thinng. Whatever Scott comees back with please don’t sack me tonight I must have time to recover now. More sense tomorrow.. I’m all in.

          • Criminy man. Get over the martyr routine.

            You’ve got valid points, ARGUE THOSE and ARGUE them passionately.

            You could easily simplify your dialogue if you’d dispense with your opening paragraphs of pre-apology and your closing paragraphs of apology… in short, be less British in your responses. You aren’t going to hurt feelings here.

            You will, however, be taken increasingly less serious the more you tip toe around everything, then take this martyr’s stance.

            I’ve been reading your comments and seeking the points you’re making, but I’m becoming more disinterested with these “woe is me” comments.

            If you are “all in” as you say it, then be “all in” and quit explaining your intentions and start explaining your opinions in hopes that your intent is met. I can’t tell if you are a self-styled Sisyphus or if you are Don Quixote tilting at something more substantial than windmills.

            • You know what, I’m starting to see this as sort of the counterpart to Scott’s (god, I’m still shocked he actually has a name) own style in the tendency to add perhaps-unnecessary rhetorical flourishes. And, I’ll be damned, I actually find Scott’s style much more readable; at least it’s direct.

            • Tex I respect you greatly but never doubt the word of a good man. Or a Liberatarian. And I pointblank refuse to define good, I of course can only work out the moves after I’ve made them. But by natural bond of honour I will answer to you or anyone else for any consequences. When my blood is up I react emtionally not logically. But with complete sincerity. Paying in blood for each word. I know that if I say it is amatter of honour you will understand. While my heart is pure I give no apology. Nor of course would I ever dream of asking a libertarian for one either or permitting him to be asked for one. Your selfdom or whatver you call it is too precious to me. No apoogy is ever owed to a man of honour or can ever be requested from a Libertarian.. And I will fight any liberal who says otherwise. Eitehr Scott leaves or I leave that is a matter of honour between him and I, but apology? Never.

            • Texagg, sometimes when it acts, walks and looks like a duck – it’s a duck. It’s a shame text can’t convey emotion verifiably. So I see why you suspect anyone who uses those terms. The windmills I am charging are fairly difficult targets, but worth it for me. I hope for you too. Tip toeing is a habit i must cure, you are quite right. Americans stand tall and fight rough but fair. I must grow 10 inches if I am to stay here. But I won’t compromise on my sense of Britishness. My soul is mine and I won’t lie. I’ll try to fit in, but I won’t be other than Brit. You I know would not dream of such a thing but the land of my fathers is dear to me and I’ll fight 10 americans if needs be on an insult to it.

    • Harsh and fair comment:: I labellled it all as guewswork and so t is. It dsrves no better treatment than it got from you. Top class criticis and standard keeping thankyou. Except weirdly it picked up for comment of the day.

    • I may be responding twice to this comment. But it’s all fair criticism and accepted. But please allow that this statement is also consistent with a person who is normally rational but is under strain at that moment.

  4. “Clever people must work alone and talk only when they get results. Clever people invent new ideas, they can’t help it, they excrete novelty. New ideas can’t be exposed to critique when half-formed and the blog format of 4 posts a day more or less assures yours always will be.” This is wrong. Clever people will mention an idea to see if someone else can find something wrong with it BEFORE it turns into a full book length idea which they are heavily invested in. Spending too much time developing an idea without defending it from critics makes incredibly difficult to accept that you have built a castle on sand. A little bit of honest self criticism first is useful, but as soon as you think you’ve got a solid foundation you should test it before moving on.

    • Again solid criticism and just. But again this comment is also consistent as evidence of a normally rational and reasonable (though ethically naive) mind bent out of shape. Mine (lest there be doubt – my mind was out of shape and I was guessing. I’ve gussed before it’s a bad habit, but not grandly and with a flourish like this pst.

  5. I accept the blame for much of this problem, of course. Blogs should be, I think, more than sterile forums, but also reflect the unique personality of the blogger. I decided to let my hair down more (how I have longed to write that, just once!) than is common in the field of ethics, or law for that matter. part of that is reflected in my belief that badly reasoned or unethical ideas should not be allowed to just sit around, unchallenged, unrebutted, undiagnosed, and stinking up the joint.

    My mentor in ethics CLE was a wonderful and brilliant young man named Michel Daigneault, whose engaging style I would call “ecclesiastical.” I was impressed that when a lawyer would make a comment that was stunningly unethical, Mike would usually smile, say something neutral like “Interesting!”, and move on to the next question or topic. i quickly found that I couldn’t do that. You never want to insult or ridicule a seminar attendee—the class will turn on you—but I would, and do, react by saying something like—“But that’s just “everybody does it,” right? You can’t justify conduct like that; that’s a habit lawyers have to get out of..” And every now and then, when the statement is genuinely outrageous, I’ll say, “I can’t believe you said that, and here’s why.” And sometimes, I am sorry to say, “WHAT????”

    I admit to being tougher online than I would be face to face—and that probably is a sign that here I am less conscious of dealing with real people than in person. Then again, in my seminars I am not a free agent, and am representing the client, so I cannot go some places that I am free to here.

    I will also note that nobody, ever, has stood up in an ethics class and say to me, as initial commenters here do on occasion.,”Well, Jack, is it consistent with your self-proclaimed status as a a so-called “ethicist” to parrot tea party blatherings about imaginary scandals while ignoring the fact that Bush lied and people died?” Would I designate such a person a jerk—for jerks they surely are—, as I will here?

    I don’t know. I might.

    • I read all that, and it’s great, so don’t think this comment is indicative of having not read it:

      “I decided to let my hair down more (how I have longed to write that, just once!”

      As my balding father says “God made alot of beautiful heads. His mistakes He’s covered with hair.”

    • And, if I take your implication correctly you may be right, I may be a jerk. All that I ask is to hear the case not just receive the evidence. I documented the recovery of my mind as it progressed last week. I can give 4 or 5 reasonably good references that this conduct is unusual for me and that my integrity is sound.

  6. I, for one, enjoy the rapid pace here, both of new articles and comments. Some articles result in a mere handful of comments, others take on a life of their own. If the pace is too much for a reader to keep up with, then that is thier problem. Heaven knows life itself doesn’t slow down enough to allow a deep study and research on every point. As far as I understand, that’s the best part of a rapid-fire blog like this. Post some things, get shrugged at. Others get a pat on the back. Still others get you called a fuckwit, and others get comment of the day. The hope is, over time and lessons, to gradually move from one to the other. Practiceing the quick refining of thoughts and arguments at a rapid pace, knopwing that being called out can be brutal – if your flawed process merits a brutal response.

    And I’ve always relished ABS’s passionate, stalwart defenses of his beliefs. Even as I have winced at some of his… more colorful insults. On the rare occasion when I have felt insulted, belittled, or dismissed in an argument, I retain the power to walk away from the argument. Far more satisfying than demanding the others argue differently, and escalating when they indicate they are… disenclined to aquiese.

    In short – I find this blog, and it’s colorful crew of regulars, to be delightful fun, and a valuealbe resource in my own life. As iron sharpens iron, so, too does one man sharpen another. I can hardly complain if the process isn’t as gentle as I would prefer – and if it gets too rough for me, it’s my responsibility to withdraw to safer waters until I have recovered enough to resume play.

    • Rough as to argument is fine, that’s the point to make a space where all rouhh argument can be heardd. But the rougher you want the attack on arguments to be, the more delicate and refined must be your treatment of person’s. That way everyone can enter and take part.

  7. I’m just a lowly new guy, struggling to keep up with the big fish, and absolutely inundated with scorn and malice. Maybe I just don’t know how disenfranchised I am. It could be that the hate and the constant beatdown of logic I receive are stunting my emotional growth. Perhaps the soup I swim in is sarcasm! And it’s so thick I don’t realize it’s retarding my progress towards being an empathetically superior human being.
    Or maybe I don’t give a damn.
    Having your arguments discussed vigorously is part of how your arguments grow. Being reviewed by my peers, and coming out of the discussion with an opinion that is different than the one I walked in with is exhilarating. That is it also done quickly and efficiently isn’t indicative of a low standard of discussion, it’s indicative of an intelligent group that is able to have a discussion, and move on. I feel I grow in this environment. If someone’s feelings get hurt, well… Tough.
    By insulating people against hurt feelings, you deprive them of an essential step of the process of intellectual growth, that component being uncensored peer review. With all due respect, by removing content you think might be hurtful, you are dumbing the conversation down. This, added to your comment regarding ‘echo chambers’ leads me to believe that you either don’t know what you’re talking about, or are purposefully being disingenuous.
    For that, I mock you: Mock!
    Now, grow.

    • Signature error: “I mock you”. The newbie has picked up that personal abuse is the norm here. It is a subtle line and hard to see. No insult to you of course Humble, It was just one of several I could pick on.Apart from my own. But a sweet one, thanks.

  8. You make a space that is socially unsafe, don’t label it as such, let newcomers discover for themselves how the dangerous place works

    Jesus fucking Christ, what a fucking pussy you are.

    “Let newcomers discover for themselves”? My god, the horror… Why, it is almost like Jack expects people to be adults. How very dare he!

    How a society that has spawned the likes of you hasn’t regresses to a land of shut-ins, forever terrified of the mean and uncaring world outside, I will never understand.

    I would sooner eat a bullet then to life a life so filled with fear that someone might not be nice</I< to me…

    • >Jesus fucking Christ, what a fucki g pussy you are.

      That is an example of something that is not an argument.

      When Jack takes a flamethrower to me because I get facts wrong, that’s simply unforgiving debate.

      If the standard of discourse here changes from bare-knuckles argument to calling people fucking pussies, there won’t be much reason for sharp analytical people to spend time here.

      • Rather, I’d suggest that many on here have repeatedly and consistantly pointed out the sheer stupidity and lunacy of the totalitarian “Somebody might skin their knee, so therefore, everyone must wear kneepads” nanny state. It applies politcally, and it applies philosophically, as well. By lowering discourse to accomodate the lowest common denominator, it ill serves all of us. By allowing each to post and respond as they wish, it enriches all of us.

        I see here, Scott shortcutting that argument which has been made again and again, and jumping directly to applying mockery and public shame for even attempting to insist upon such a lackwitted argument.

        Especially when coupled with an attidue of “You guys are doing it all wrong – let me enlighten you…’ which anathema to the libertarian mindset, and not very respectful or tolerant of alternate viewpoints.

    • Tune into Prime Ministers question time to see the level of robustness I would like not to see facing a new Senator. Not without warning. But even there, honourable gentlemen must use parliamentarty language to each other. They are not for example allowed to meet an opposition spokesman with the words ‘you’re an idiot’. Idiot is fine but not as the first move and then only rarely, as i undrstand the comments policy.

  9. I love that there are multiple posts on this blog most days. It challenges my thinking in a way that a slower pace doesn’t. I enjoy the rough and tumble and that the topic is often one that I’m not very qualified to render an opinion about.
    I admit, I don’t like to be called names, but that’s an acceptable risk to me.
    I find myself editing my comments here in a way that I don’t on other forums. since the topic is ethics I examine and reexamine my statements for clarity and to search out rationalizations. I find this a safe place in the sense that I know what the rules are. I also like it that you, Jack, interact with the comments.

    • I love that there are multiple posts on this blog most days. It challenges my thinking in a way that a slower pace doesn’t.
      That is how I feel, also.
      Because I already know that the amount of work Jack churns out takes a lot of time, I cut him a break as far as doing endless research on a topic and making typos.
      That is what reasonable people do.
      If I wanted to read a slower blog, then that is what I would do, not expect the blogger and his regular following to morph into something to suit me.

      You know what kills a blog faster than anything else?
      When readers visit and find the same post up.
      They get bored and look for something else to read.

    • I admit, I don’t like to be called names, but that’s an acceptable risk to me.

      I’m sorry granny but if you let a bully bully you you just make the bully stronger. It is your duty to fight back. Never give an inch. To protect others and to protect speech.

  10. There’s a lot to look over there, so I’ll just head towards the echo chamber business; it’s a little ironic that he made that post in a thread where Luke G was disagreeing with Jack and tex, Beth was going “Really, Jack?”, PM Lawrence was being, well, PM Lawrence, and Fred was questioning Jack and Scott in that Socratic manner of his.

    However, I do see where newcomers in the post-tgt era could sometimes get the impression that this blog’s comment section tends to lean a certain way, though I think that’s only because tex and Scott just happen to be our two most prolific commentators. But that’s not the same as a true echo chamber; we get plenty of disagreements on the major posts (even between regulars), and Jack, I think, has done a pretty good job of being welcoming to intelligent dissenting comments (indeed, that might be the best way to prevent things from becoming too echo-y, and something I think could be done much more even on this blog).

  11. I completely get where Bruce is coming from. People have differences in their ability to handle… tolerate… deal…(not sure of the word) with what can be perceived as insensitivity on this blog. These differences are not always weaknesses from being coddled or being sheltered from the cruel realities of life but just plain genetics. People are born with different dispositions and there is only so much a person can do to alter this disposition. They will never harden to the “fuck you” or the “dumbass” which is thrown their way while others can laugh it off. I was about to write “while others may not be offended” but “offended” is not the word I want to use here. I’m not talking about being offended and I don’t believe Bruce is either. I mean “hurt” in a deeper sense. If you want to throw a “fuck you” my way because I deserve it because I’m an “ignorant moron” on this blog, I can’t say that I would take offense to it but it would definitely hurt. More so than than most people, I believe. You can tell me to get over it but this disposition is hardwired in my genetic make up. I’ll be less sensitive when my eyes turn from brown to green. But the thing is…I know this about myself. I know that a “fuck you, moron” is going to sting more so for me than it would someone else and I know that commenting on this blog comes with some risk of being called out for being a moron or ignorant which I can be at times on some issues…and not willfully so. Do I wish that some of the discourse were more “civil”? I’m not sure because I would never assume that anyone feels the exact way I do. I’ve seen Beth take her share of over the top insults and I can’t assume how she felt about that. I have also seen Zoebrain stay calm and reasonable while arguing points and providing information while being called what I would consider hurtful names. However, I can’t assume that anyone else including Zoebrain felt this was hurtful. As for me, I like this blog so I will continue to comment but I am also very familiar with the style of the blog and viewpoints of the other commenters which helps. If Jack writes that my comments are “utterly ridiculous”…it’s not personal. If Scott tells me to “go get fucked”…I would have to wonder why he is in such a good mood.

    • If Scott tells me to “go get fucked”…I would have to wonder why he is in such a good mood.

      Sometimes I am caught during the 20 total minutes a day during which I am not seething with hate and loathing towards my fellow man. 🙂

      • I thought you anger mostly derived from one of two sources:

        Trying to eat a taco while driving…
        Sitting on the toilet only to realize the only available reading material is the back of the soap dispenser or your credit card…

          • I went back and read comments from previous articles which I had little time to do over the last week or so and I have changed my view. I can’t support Bruce’s position and I’m really not sure where he is coming from. I’m not sure when Bruce started commenting…I’m working backwards but it seems that whatever “performance” Scott or anyone else may be putting on…Bruce seems to be putting on double the performance and seems to want the spotlight. Bruce calls out Scott for his language etc. but doesn’t seem to see that he is much more over the top than Scott in most cases. I see many manipulations in Bruce’s comments but I don’t see the same in Scott’s comments. It seems that Bruce has found an “enemy” in Scott so that he can play the role of “good guy” to Scott’s “bad guy”. And it’s obvious that Scott doesn’t want to play so I’m not sure why Bruce keeps calling him out. Why all the theatrics? Finally, it’s Jack’s blog. He can run it the way he wants.

            • It isn’t that I don’t want to play… I mean, pro boxers probably always want a good match.

              But you won’t find Merryweather fighting the 5 year old retarded kid in a wheelchair, you know?

              Bruce has decided that he really, really likes being up on his cross, and needs an excuse to stay up there, so he has gone all in on his delusion that he has some kind of power over me.

              It would be funny if it weren’t so sad…

            • Yes Sharon. Jack’s blog. But if I’m at all unsure that he has seen and understood everything and his command is ‘battle’ then I’m afraid this is what happens. My language last week profane and otherwise was apalling, but can only be seen in context of previous provocation to the point of mental meltdown (from a subjective viewpoint, I make no commennt on Scott, my mind is on the blog comment system and its resilience.

  12. This blog is pretty close to what’s described in the page about comment policies(*). In that respect, criticizing it is like returning a bottle of bleach to the store because it’s not cat food.

    Except that empathy and kindness are ethical values and the best way to lead is by example.

    There’s also a need for cat food in the world. Maybe there’s an opening for someone with time on their hands to start an ethics blog that emphasizes diplomacy in the comments section, or one that does more investigative journalism on the stories it discusses.

    (*) One difference is that “political rants” sneak in often.

  13. “Humility, kindness, humour, fellowship would be my primary set.”

    Humility is good intellectual discipline as well as a social virtue.

    Kindness, humor, and fellowship are good and worthwhile things but it seems idle to ask them of someone whose habits of thought were set in the rough and tumble of law school classes.

    • Except when they enter parliament or congress when courtesy to fellow members is a necessary rule. To ensure that when someone is ripping the guts out of your precious baby argument you don’t take it personally,. Which is why tea partyists and other partisanists are a threat? Maybe?

  14. Just got back from teaching 277 DC lawyer about the DC ethics rules. I want to salute every one on this thread for a terrific, rigorous, varied, interesting and best of all, funny exchange. That’s the kind of community I want to build here, and this is very gratifying.

  15. I want to further point out that, while I will probably never moderate my words without specific orders from Jack, I take an ungodly dim view of newcomers who wander in and start randomly insulting people.

    “No one calls us names but us.”

    For example – Zoe and I don’t agree on much, but that asshole harassing her? Yeah, I wanna have a chat with him.

    That shit just don’t fly, you dig?

    • At the risk of having you swear at me just to be a contrarian, I actually think your language has been a lot more civil recently. Either that or I just haven’t had enough time to read Jack’s blog.

    • Signature error possibly: The individualist referred to himself as part of a collective. I hope I understand something of what happened last week. I think of it as an instructive unhappy accident. Unhappy for Scott, very unhappy for me.

  16. As for instuctiveness of last weeks accident. Although it is already in the comments policy the line between rough treatment of argument and gentle treatment of the writer is not intuitively obvious and could do with some reemphasis. with explanatory note that failure to treat contributors entirely gently can lead to misattribution of motive (taking things personally) And thus limit the rigour of debate. Maybe?

  17. To explain one way the normal system may have failed last week I need to refer to the normal set up. In basic terms (to be confirmed by Jack and Scott) I’ve used my own notation as I cannot see a suitable one online

    Take a blog of people P(n(1-25) where each person n is a vector of (D,R) where D is damage done and R is resilience

    Take a set of insults and other words I(m(1-infinity)) where each member m is a vector of (L,S,X) where X is the emotional intensity, S the semantic content and L the lexical label

    Scott’s ‘Theory: power of an insult is the recipients choice,
    Scott’s role Umbrageous bully

    The action is ‘->’= sends to

    Scott -> Commenter (eg.’Cunt’, Insult, arbitrary),

    Game: test the theory by summating damage and assessing tolerance) over a few games over months so most receivers learn to ignore Scott’s language

    CASE of Commenter(Sum,Tolerance) –
    ‘Case’ as in computer programming
    ‘Canny’ commenter(< min., good) : Accept
    'Tough' commenter (max., good) : Accept
    'Liberal' commenter (max., poor) : Accept
    'Cranky' commenter (< min., poor) : Accept

    Which looks foolproof everyone passes the test no harm done, (if max, maximum, the level when the joke is revealed is < Scott (pleasantry, 0 Scott perceives (intrusion, 100
    Scott-> Bruce (‘insult’, 200 Bruce percieves (huh?, 200
    Bruce -> Scott(challenge,400 Scott perceieves (invasion, 400,
    Scott -> Bruce ( scorch, 800, Bruce percieves (coshing, 800

    In other words a positive feed back reaction.. Bruce giving the most offence and looking for resolution. Scott suffering contamination with an idiot why should he resolve diddly … and around and around they go.

    As they both have the wrong idea about each other (Idiot, bully) they keep playing, true to their word/beliefs until Bruce explodes, gets 2-3 more expert chops from Scott (who by now has really had enough of this), cracks up (Bruce was less tough than he knew) staggers and collapses.

    Much to Scott and everyone’s bemusement.

  18. that didn’t work well, part in the middle is folded over some how, heres the missing part
    Which looks foolproof everyone passes the test no harm done, (if max, maximum, the level when the joke is revealed is < Scott (pleasantry, 0 Scott perceives (intrusion, 100

  19. 3rd attempt (sorry about this)
    Which looks foolproof everyone passes the test no harm done, (if max, maximum, the level when the joke is revealed is much less than 1000 (1000 = a figure to represent point where physical/mental injury occurs)

    And works well. Theory proven time after time. Everyone happy until Bruce shows up

    Scott believes insult power is in the receiver’s choice but can craft a great ”lookalike” insult and Bruce assumes the emotive power level of an insult is in the originator’s apparent intent and is a second non-rational agent (altruist) and both are highly reactive (Scott playing up to his umbrageous role in one case Bruce altruistic bully battler the other)

    A sequence starts (using a shortened notation
    Agent 1 -> Agent 2 (Semantic Content, Damage

    Bruce -> Scott (pleasantry, 0 Scott perceives (intrusion, 100
    Scott-> Bruce (‘insult’, 200 Bruce percieves (huh?, 200

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