Chris Clarke’s open letter

Chris Clarke’s open letter to the progressive blogosphere from 2007 seems just as apt today:

It’s a fine thing to slam someone for writing something you find offensive. It’s another thing to slam someone for not writing something they way you would have, or for writing about a subject other than the one you think they ought to have picked. It’s a fine thing to criticize someone moderating comments on their blog in a way you don’t agree with, but it’s another to slam someone for not moderating comments on their blog 24/7. It’s a fine thing to decide that your blog has a specific mission. It’s another to decide that your blog’s mission is the only mission any blog should have.

In short, it’s one thing for you to be disappointed in or angered by bloggers with whom you share some political viewpoints. It’s another to assume they owe you anything other than basic human respect because you’ve done them the favor of reading their work.

It reminds me of some people slamming others not for rejecting science and the scientific method, but for speculating that it’s possible there might be an Ultimate Cause behind it all. I’m looking at you, PZ! We keep saying that we’re separating Methodological Naturalism from Philosphical Naturalism. Let’s do it. Let people who feel the chill winds between the stars keep their metaphorical fig-leaf.

Chris’s whole letter is instructive. He makes quite a few points that I’d like to see added to the Guide to the Intertubes or, better yet, the Guide to Public Discourse:

balance between competing interests is important. Explaining that jokes are jokes will help the pathologically humorless avoid embarrassment, but it ruins the jokes for everyone else. Saying that every time one discusses a bad thing, one is obliged to point out that it is a bad thing, and that bad things are bad, and that failure to point this out every single time is an offense punishable by witch hunt, firing, ostracism and the like? Fuck that noise.

Heh. Reminds me of the furor over Randy Newman’s satirical song, “Short People.”

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