Open Forum, Thank God!

Since I am having trouble focusing because of the throbbing and radiating pain in my mouth, head, neck, throat and jaw (half of my face looks like Vito Corleone)—and because I am awash in guilt for getting so few posts up between the screaming—-I am even more grateful for the weekly free-for-all than usual.

Have at it!

48 thoughts on “Open Forum, Thank God!

  1. It is my intention to discuss some recently observed new to Ethics Alarms rhetorical tactics in an effort to gain some kind of understanding and maybe even a little self-awareness.

    Is it rational or ethical for someone to…
    1. Demonize regular EA commenters specifically for their level of participation to the point of writing specifically that daily commenters are “obsessive”, this is a personal attack on regular EA commenters.

    2. Define regular and/or daily EA commenters as people that will only participate in an ideological echo chamber or “they WANT to be in an opinion bubble and cannot bear to be otherwise”, this rhetorical tactic is a personal attack on regular EA commenters’ character, integrity, objectivity and personal fortitude.

    How dare Ethics Alarms have regular or even daily commenters!

    In my opinion, these personal attacks of regular or daily EA commenters are irrational lashing out behaviors, they’re unethical and they’re signature significant in a negative way. These kinds of irrational personal attacks are inflammatory, extraneous, and off-topic messages in an online community with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response.

    What drives a person to resort to these kinds of irrational personal attacks? Is it some kind of vendetta against EA regulars based on some lingering grudge? Is it blind bias against EA regulars? Whatever it is, it’s going to eat up commenters that engage in these kinds of irrational behaviors if they can’t find a better way to effectively deal with what’s perceived as poor anger management.

    If someone would like to try to explain how these rhetorical tactics are ethical, I’d welcome an open and honest good-faith debate on the topic.

    • I think the answer here is rather simple in that it’s never ethical to personally attack someone in this manner. I also think the shoe does tend to be on the other. I’ve been here since 2016 and I have seen many of the regulars treat people in similar fashion and at times the site can be hostile to new people. The first year I didn’t comment at all, and when I started to I was accused by the host of playing ‘gotcha’ when really I just didn’t have a clue. If I hadn’t respected his writing at this point, I would have just left. After that, I felt like I had to preface any question with ‘this is not a gotcha.’

      • I think the regulars got a little complacent here after the departure of most of the liberals, the booting of Chris, and Valky going fairly quiet. The discussion takes on a different tone when it’s relatively like-minded people discussing things about which their differences are mostly of degree as opposed to people that are not at all like-minded discussing things they have STRONG disagreements about.

        The thing is that, so far, a lot of these new liberal commenters aren’t really bringing any kind of quality discussion to the table. A lot of what they bring is either attacks on the regulars or just generally being argumentative. The place is called Ethics Alarms, which means it’s about the ethical implications of things and how people do or don’t pick up on them. It’s not Reaction Alarms, where the commenters just read what the moderator says and react to it however they think appropriate. So far, all I’ve seen is Democratic party talking points, snark, and argumentativeness.

        Well, no offense, but that’s the same as you get on Yahoo or YouTube or anywhere else, and I gave up commenting on those sites a long time ago. It’s just a waste of time. Yes, I get it, you don’t agree with me. Heck, it’s no better than some of those artists’ sites from two decades (!) ago where it was just about who could post the most praise of the artist and make the most vicious attacks on those who weren’t convinced. Is that what we’re headed to? And the insincere questions and trolling got old a looong time ago. I’m not going to write a term paper or legal comment with endless citations just to respond to the insincere questions of someone I don’t even know. I’m also not going to keep letting myself get baited into exchanges that achieve nothing but insults. That’s high schoolish, and I graduated high school a LONG time ago. I admit, at times I’ve gotten angry at certain people here who have pushed my buttons and attacked them. Some of them have attacked me. It at least gets the blood pumping…and tires you out just as fast.

        Trolling and substance-free attacks are in a lot of ways worse than vicious fighting. Know why? They’re BORING and they’re a WASTE OF TIME. Anyone can tell anyone “you’re an idiot.” That takes very little effort or thought. It takes actual effort and thought to tell someone “you’re wrong, and this is why you’re wrong.” It takes actual thought to pull up sources and say “what about this?” It takes no effort to say “cite me your sources, or I will ignore your opinion.” Know what’s especially annoying? When you actually go through the efforts to write something in response to one of these high horse demands for more support, names, or whatever,” and then the person just discounts what you said anyway. Know why it’s annoying? It proves what you probably already knew – this person wasn’t asking the question in good faith, and this person wasn’t going lo listen to whatever you tell him. He already had his conclusions formed, nothing you could say would change them, and his intention was just to make you jump through hoops trying to respond in good faith to a question asked in bad faith.

        I hope this isn’t what we’re headed toward. This forum is better than that, and those who come here need to BE better than that. Otherwise those who actually want to be substantive are going to get frustrated and lose interest, the quality is going to tank, and this is just going to be like one of those comments sections.

        • As usual, well said Steve. I am certain that your commentary (andotherregulars) is a big reason people follow this blogsite. No offense Jack.

          “A subtle form of trolling involving “bad-faith” questions. You disingenuously frame your conversation as a sincere request to be enlightened, placing the burden of educating you entirely on the other party. If your bait is successful, the other party may engage, painstakingly laying out their logic and evidence in the false hope of helping someone learn. In fact you are attempting to harass or waste the time of the other party, and have no intention of truly entertaining their point of view. Instead, you react to each piece of information by misinterpreting it or requesting further clarification, ad nauseum. The name “sea-lioning” comes from a Wondermark comic strip.”

        • All true. My larger point was maybe some self-refection would be better served than what seems to be obvious. I don’t waste my time with whataboutism, topics not about the conversation, ad-hominens, or the like. Our host already doesn’t tolerate these things, what more should be done about them?

        • I agree with everything you said. I have other thoughts about a lot of this, but am having trouble organizing them into something coherent enough to post. Mostly I’m thinking about the difficulties involved with truly engaging with someone who has diametrically opposed opinions in an online forum. In real life, that sort of dialogue involves a lot of listening to the other person. There isn’t really anyway to listen to someone through text, or at least not to demonstrate that you are listening. You can ask questions, but what do you do when the other person doesn’t bother to answer them? If you have some point on which you agree, you can start from that point and work outwards from there, but the conversations I think you are referring to involve people who agree on virtually nothing, including what the basic facts are. If you cannot even agree on basic facts, how can you come to some consensus through a written format? Especially if the person posts short posts and changes topics on a dime? I know how to have those conversations in real life, but in a comment section I don’t know how to have a productive conversation with those sorts of posters.

        • Steve-O says:
          “Otherwise those who actually want to be substantive are going to get frustrated and lose interest, the quality is going to tank, and this is just going to be like one of those comments sections.”

          The goal of some bloggers is to intentionally be disruptive, exhausting, and generally inject chaos into a forum to reduce its influence, readership, and ultimately degrade it as much as possible.
          There is likely some degree of ego gratification involved as well.

    • A lot of people are used to regular comment sections that often just devolve into free-for-all bloodbaths of insults (see the comments on Reason), with little substantive input. This site tends to more informed discussion, but it does lean right. It’s not easy being the odd man out in any forum, so if we want to hear other views, it could be helpful to stifle our own irritation and cut the “offending” commenter some slack. We should be more gracious than the typical leftists, willing to shout down or gang up and cancel their opponents rather than engage them.

      Or maybe we could just entice Alizia back to deal with them.

    • I’ve been reading Ethics Alarms literally since it began. I can’t honestly claim that I’ve read every article and every comment ever posted, but I’m confident that I’ve read 99% or better of them. So I consider myself an expert on the overall content of the site and its history.

      Here’s my take on the whole “echo chamber” issue:

      Yes. Ethics Alarms IS an echo chamber, but not the kind that the use of that term normally conjures up.

      Ethics Alarms is an echo chamber of people who want to discuss Ethics, and want to learn and better themselves through the study and application of Ethics to their own lives. Because of this, the commentariat specifically eschews non-ethical forms of discussion, such as trolling, discussions in bad faith, ad hominem attacks, rationalizations (we even have an explicit list of those that we will soundly reject and why), and other forms of argumentation that are rooted in emotionalism rather than logic and rationality. Personally, I think this is a GOOD thing and it’s one of the main reasons I’m a long-time regular reader and (occasional) commenter. I expect this rings true for a lot of the others here.

      Another category of things the host and commentariat both reject is purely political arguments. This is because Ethics Alarms is not a site about politics. It is a site about Ethics, which often (but not ALWAYS and not out of necessity) talks about politicians and the things they say or do. This distinction is important. The site has never been an advocate for a particular candidate or party and I don’t think it ever will. I also don’t think the commentariat even WANTS that. The closest it has ever come to that is Jack’s essays that were, in essence, “I’m planning to vote for {Candidate} and here’s why.” and even in those cases, it was a discussion of the ethics associated with choosing one candidate or the other (or neither) and not at all an exhortation for the readers to vote the same way.

      That said, the site does lean conservative. Having read Jack’s writings for over a decade now, I think he himself leans conservative but he pointedly doesn’t make it the most important thing in his writing. (I have my opinions on why this is, but that’s the subject for another post at another time.) He certainly doesn’t shrink from criticizing Republican politicians, and never has. That is what gives him credibility, because he has always shown the integrity to take a position based on ethical principles rather than parties and politicians. And again, this Integrity is one of the main reasons I’m a long-time regular reader and (occasional) commenter–and again, I expect this rings true for a lot of the others here.

      If Ethics Alarms is an echo chamber, it is an echo chamber of Integrity, not political leanings. I think this is, if you examine it closely, the common thread that weaves through the vast vast majority of contentious interactions in this site’s comments. The regulars here have both a love and thirst for integrity in this world where lies, deceit, and our-guy-is-always-right-your-guy-is-always-wrong kind of thinking is de rigueur. When others come in and can’t stick to basic ethical principles, they get attacked because lack of integrity is simply not tolerated here.

      You can’t come here and be hateful or disrespectful.
      You can’t come here and spew talking points–from either political party.
      You can’t come here and argue for a principle one day when it suits your political preferences and then against it another day when it doesn’t.
      You can’t come here and engage in a one-sided way (e.g. asking questions but being unwilling to answer them).
      You can’t come here and support a principle or idea without being willing to support it using logic and ethical principles.
      You can’t come her and advocate a contrary position without expecting any “cross-examination”, nor without being ready and willing to defend your position using logic and ethical principles.
      …just to name a few.

      None of these things have to do with political affiliations. As a matter of fact, I’m extremely confident that no one in the entire history of this site has ever been “pounced” on primarily and specifically because of political affiliation. It’s always been because of things like I listed above: bad (or non-existent) arguments and rationalizations. There have been (and I believe will be again) regular commenters who are left-leaning but still capable of engaging with honesty and integrity. It saddens me that they are gone* (and we KNOW it saddens Jack because he’s explicitly said so on many occasions) because the comments sections really are better with a few good arguments here and there, so long as they’re done in good faith and stay on-topic.

      We’re here to read about and discuss Ethics, and there is disagreement, for sure. Ethics is not “settled science” (that would be “Morality”) and the discussion and argument over ethical principles is not only expected but essential for Ethics to evolve and improve over time (to say nothing of the educational value of such exchanges). THIS is what we’re here for. But when someone comes in and won’t in good faith participate in the discussions with honesty and integrity, the commentariat can and will take action to protect it.

      And THAT is the true nature of the echo chamber here. It’s never been about politics.
      It’s entirely about wrapping a bubble around open, honest, debate by people of integrity so that we can learn and become better people.

      The rest we can do without.


      P.S. I haven’t said it in a while, but it bears repeating. Jack Marshall, THANK YOU for this site. I have learned more from it than I can recount and firmly believe it has made me a better person. My respect for you and what you do is immeasurable.

      * To be precise: Why it saddens Jack that they are gone, it saddens ME that, in my opinion, most of them left because they abandoned integrity in one way or another and devolved into pure partisan advocacy.

    • Steve,

      I found your commentary thought-provoking. I take issue with one of your comments and offer some perspectives on how not to have negative dialog divert the discussions.

      Regarding your first question/assertion specifically; “Is it rational or ethical for someone to…
      1. Demonize regular EA commenters specifically for their level of participation…? And 2. Define regular and/or daily EA commenters as people that will only participate in an ideological echo chamber.”

      My belief regarding both #1 and #2 is it they are not ethical, but they may be rational. It has been my experience that frequently when someone disagrees with someone’s opinion, and if they do not have a valid, rational, or convincing counterargument, they resort to character assassination.

      #1: With no effective counterargument at hand, it is a rational tactic to impugn the integrity of the other person. # 2 They disparagingly and narrowly define their attack thereby reducing the number of people motivated in countering their claim. The personal attacks also shift the conversation from the factual discussions of different perspectives to back and forth sniping. Politicians do this all the time. You hear politicians pledge to fight for this or that cause or group, but they rarely pledge to solve any problem. Political campaigns typically involve trying to convince voters what a slimebucket their opponent is, leaving voters to either pick the lesser of the two evils or vote a party line.

      My issue with your comment is these types of attacks are not reserved only for frequent commenters. I am an infrequent poster but have been the brunt of specious and personal attacks concerning some of my posts. My approach has been to confine my response to such attacks to providing supporting documentation to bolster my position or to ignore the comments and not engage in pointless back and forth comments. I have taken pleasure in the deafening silence accompanying my further documentation posts. I take this approach for the following beliefs:

      Except in cases where the intent of the individual is to deceive, all people believe their positions are correct. Where I differ from many is that neither my self-worth nor serenity requires others to agree with me.

      In my professional life, while I always play to win, the nature of my business dealings involves repeated interactions of the parties. Not a one-and-done situation. As such, everyone’s actions should be bound by mutual respect, ethical behavior, and mutually derived benefits. Briefly put, I don’t waste my time with reprobates unless I absolutely must.

      It is almost impossible to change a zealot’s mind; I have better things to do with my time.

      My ego does not require frequent sparring with individuals concerning trivial matters or matters over which we have little or no control or influence.

      Refusing to take the bait and play the game really pisses people off. The more narrow-minded they are, the more irritated they get. Taking pleasure in life is frequently a matter of perspective.

  2. On a previous open forum I commented on this person and how it was not right to have a vegan activist as the head of the state vet board. Many commenters did not understand why I had an issue with it. I have an issue with it because the vet board primarily works with ranchers and animal industry. Mostly, I don’t want activists appointed to any government agency because I think they’re unhinged. How can we stop these kind people becoming part of the bureaucracy? This is third world stuff here… cronyism at its worst.

    • How many of Biden’s appointees have been rejected or withdrawn now because of their questionable backgrounds and/or overly partisan leanings making even some democrats oppose them? Neera Tanden, David Chipman, Sarah Raskin, Saule Omarova,… He’s building a pretty impressive list that further undermines those still trying to claim that he’s a moderate uniter.

      • Fair point Willem but do you really think slo-jo has the necessary synaptic interplay to be the one putting forth these losers? My White House source says our Prez has just been fitted with a new and improved drool bucket. Not a good sign.

        • Oh, I’m pretty sure that he does little but whatever his handlers tell him to do. He obviously doesn’t produce his own tweets (a la Trump…I’d be surprised if Biden even knows how), and we’ve all seen the incomprehensible mess that falls from his facehole when he veers from what’s laid out for him in his written notes, or what his friend the teleprompter is trying to feed him.

      • There’s another side as well, if you don’t like something, just leave those lover ranking unfilled positions empty! Who will notice?

  3. Lia Thomas, national champion: Yesterday at the NCAA Women’s Swimming & Diving Championships, the Penn swimmer won the 500-yard freestye—and became the first transgender athlete to win an NCAA Division I title.

    Are the Olympics next?

      • What actually stops all heterosexual males from claiming they are preoperative transgender lesbians. Will that insulate themselves from claims of transphobic paternalistic misogynists and give them protected class status?

        If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. No pun intended. Force them to play by their rules.

    • I do martial arts. “Retired” in my early 20s because of college. At thirty something picked it up again and decided to join one of the local state tournaments in the open category. I was two weight classes above my usual against late teenagers and twentysomethings supposedly at their prime. Won the competition, qualified for state championships (didn’t go because of time commitment). At that tournament I beat a couple of guys badly enough that I held back to not injure anyone. That’s just the difference between a somewhat in shape male with experience and a naive one in prime physical form. If I suddenly decided to compete as a female I could easily create long-term injury even without intending to; and in my early 40s my hormonal levels might not be too far off from those of “Lia”.

      This is stupid, it is dangerous, and it is culturally destructive. If there is a second civil war, or a return to the 70s violence, or an American version of the Troubles, it won’t be because the wrong politician lost an election, but because enough families were hurt or marginalized in the name of “rights”.

      • I am confident given the comments here that the term “transphobia” won’t be well received, but can most of us agree that claiming that transgender people competing in sports as the gender they identify with is going to cause a Civil War is definitionally transphobic?

        • Alex did not say “ transgender people competing in sports as the gender they identify with is going to cause a Civil War”. He said that hurting or marginalizing families could potentially cause a civil war. Try again.

        • So, actually no. Transphobic would be hostility to the idea of someone being transgender. I have heard that and don’t care for it, nor I think would most of the commentators.
          Believing that a biological female should nor be competing in a men’s competition or vice versa is not transphobic.

        • I think it’s a stretch to suggest a civil war. It’s not transphobic to point out that trans men have an unfair advantage in women’s sports. Biology… still a thing, even if you want to ignore it and modify with surgery. You still are what you are. I think you are willfully ignoring the problems presented. Particularly the unfair nature of trans men competing in women’s sports and predators posing as a trans to access the opposite sex and children easier. The take seems to be ignore or deny it so we aren’t mean. Well… it’s mean to not address these issues too. Dangerous in some cases. Now, I think we need to figure out a solution to this. I do not know what it is. Coed sports? Another category?

  4. The French apparently are not fond of the new version of Cyrano de Bergerac.

    Jack has mentioned before that casting Peter Dinklage as Cyrano could be a not-unreasonable move, as the story relies on the character having a physical condition that limits his attractiveness to women (although it does cause conflicts with some of the other plot points, such as Cyrano’s proficiency as a swordsman). Other changes appear to be wokeness for woke’s sake, and have not been well received.

    How do you say “Go woke, go broke” in French?

  5. The New York Times finally admitted that the Hunter Biden laptop is real.

    They do not appear ready to admit they lied about it to sway the 2020 election, nor to apologize for lying about the laptop in the first place.

    Hunter Biden’s Ukrainian corruption schemes, and the involvement of his father in those corruption schemes, seems relevant to the current war between Ukraine and Russia and US policies involving that war.

    What ethical obligation does the US have to follow up on this corruption and investigate what, if any, role it is playing in the current policy decisions related to this war?

      • “ People familiar with the investigation said prosecutors had examined emails between Mr. Biden, Mr. Archer and others about Burisma and other foreign business activity. Those emails were obtained by The New York Times from a cache of files that appears to have come from a laptop abandoned by Mr. Biden in a Delaware repair shop. The email and others in the cache were authenticated by people familiar with them and with the investigation.”

        I linked the article. You could just go read it.

        • You’ve misunderstood my question. You said the NYT previously lied about the laptop to sway the 2020 election. Whatever lie you’re referring to is obviously not in the linked article. Can you quote the lie you are referring to?

      • The lie isn’t in the linked article. The lie was in the coverage of the laptop scandal in 2020, when the whole thing was called Russian information, despite evidence of its authenticity.

        • Glenn Greenwald has a good rundown of the situation,

          which includes this interesting bit on how the media falsely spun the “over fifty former intel officials” letter:

          These “former intel officials” did not actually say that the “Hunter Biden story is Russian disinfo.” Indeed, they stressed in their letter the opposite: namely, that they had no evidence to suggest the emails were falsified or that Russia had anything to do them, but, instead, they had merely intuited this “suspicion” based on their experience:

          “We want to emphasize that we do not know if the emails, provided to the New York Post by President Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, are genuine or not and that we do not have evidence of Russian involvement — just that our experience makes us deeply suspicious that the Russian government played a significant role in this case.”

        • The NYT reported as fact that the whole thing was Russian disinformation?

          I don’t remember that. That’s why I asked for a quote.

  6. I once again remember how Congress cut ioff to aid to South Vietnam when North Vietnam launched a full-scale invasion in violation of the Paris Peace Accords.

    Given precedent, why should the U.S. aid the Ukraine?

    What makes the Ukraine more deserving of aid than South Vietnam?

  7. Why does a Supreme Court nominee make “opening statements” at the Senate hearing?

    The nominee didn’t seek out the job. They were nominated. Wouldn’t the Senate open the proceedings? Or at best, wouldn’t an agent of the President open with a succinct statement of qualifications?

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