Tuesday, November 5, 2013

An important question

Someone please analyze this comment in Nadelhoffer's post about interviewing at the APA. Is it A++++ trolling or is the author serious? My faith in the reasonableness of academic philosophers rides on settling this question (just kidding, I don't have faith in the reasonableness of academic philosophers). If it is determined to be an excellent parody, I want to meet this person, buy them drinks, and learn the art of internet commenting from them. The comment (emphases added):
Skype interviews may well be preferable, overall, to APA interviews. But I do think we need to carefully evaluate the pros and cons of both. Cost and inconvenience aside, I think that in-person interviews are *clearly* better than Skype interviews. Basically, I think this follows sort of a priori from the fact that in-person conversations are clearly better than phone Skype conversations. There's a reason we don't Skype our colleagues down the hall. I also have (very limited) empirical evidence of this, having had both APA and Skype interviews. In many ways, my Skype interview was quite positive, so if anything I should be biased towards that interview format. But there were a couple of significant downsides:
First, even though I'm pretty technically adept and almost never have trouble with Skype, there were repeated technical difficulties. I sort of laughed them off, but if I were only a bit more anxious about the interview those glitches could have thrown me off quite a bit. Second, I couldn't really clearly see the faces of the people interviewing me, since they were so small on the screen. This had three unfortunate effects: it made it difficult to interpret some things (was that a good natured joke, or are they annoyed with what I said, or what?). Second, if I run into one of them at a conference or something I will not recognize them, which is awkward. And third, it just make the whole thing a bit more "abstract". Even though there was video, it was a *bit* like teleconferencing. Anyway, I'm pretty convinced that the interview would have been significantly better (not necessarily for my job prospects, but as a human interaction) if it were in person. 
So: I think we need to assess how expensive and inconvenient APA interviews are for job seekers and hiring departments. Most of the focus has been on inconveniences for job seekers, but the lucky among us will probably conduct more APA interviews than we sit through. Basically, all I'm trying to say is that we shouldn't ignore the inconvenience to hiring committees. In any case, my graduate institution paid my way to the APA. How common is that? If it is almost universal, then while it would suck to be one of the few whose grad department doesn't pay, such is life. (Some grad departments have lots of money for conference travel, some don't. Some require a lot of teaching, some require none. Etc. Pick a grad school carefully.) The other question is about inconvenience. I have no idea how to measure that. And having the prospect of APA interviews lurking is *very* inconvenient. But *if* my trip to the APA were being paid for by someone else, I think I would choose an inconvenient APA interview over a Skype interview. But I have no idea how representative this preference is. I also don't know if this is the kind of thing that it makes sense to settle democratically, by survey or vote or something, or whether we should focus on protecting the vulnerable people whose trip to the APA won't be paid for by someone else, no matter how few in number they are.
-- Jaded, Ph.D.

197 comments:

Anonymous said...

Huh? This seems perfectly reasonable to me, even if it's wrong.

Anonymous said...

"(Some grad departments have lots of money for conference travel, some don't. Some require a lot of teaching, some require none. Etc. Pick a grad school carefully.)"

This is excellent advice. I can't really be bothered with the rest.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, this seems reasonable to me too.

Anonymous said...

I think it might even seem right to me.

Anonymous said...

After the first paragraph, I get off the bus. But I second the notion that in-person interviews are better than Skype interviews, although I'd hasten to add that skipping interviews and going straight to campus visits on the basis of a careful consideration of the dossier is preferable to both.

Look, you're ultimately hiring a colleague who is going to share time and space with you. Unless you think that a candidate's ability to interact face-to-face with you is or ought to be *in no way a factor in the decision to hire them* (in which case, you're bound to make bad hiring decisions) then you'd be foolish not to have such interactions with candidates before hiring them. You could do that in an APA interview, you could do that in an on-campus visit. You cannot do that in a Skype interview. So what CAN you do in a Skype interview that you can't do otherwise? Or, better yet, what can you do BETTER in a Skype interview than you can do otherwise? (Notagoddamnthing.)

Look, I get it, Skype is cheap and we're all fucking broke. But jesus h. christmas, shit sandwiches are cheap too and we're all fucking hungry. You wanna jump on that bandwagon too?

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

Huh? Really, you guys? You wouldn't give this low marks if it were a paper arguing that we should prefer in-person interviews to Skype?

First, it would not follow a priori from the fact that Skype conversations are worse than in-person conversations that Skype interviews are worse than in-person interviews. An interview is not a conversation.

Second, the reason that we don't Skype our colleagues down the hall because they are down the fucking hall.

Third, with most faculty members having photos online, I doubt it's a real problem that people's faces appear small on-screen (do they really appear all that small?) preventing us from recognizing them at conferences.

Fourth, anecdata and feelings of conviction are not reasons.

Fifth, the discussion is not about the burdens on job interviewers, but about the ethics of imposing unnecessary burdens on job-seekers.

Sixth, "such is life" is not a reason to accept some already existing moral state of affairs.

Seventh, the inability to measure (quantitatively?) inconvenience is a red herring. There are plenty of things we can measure potentially relevant to the question of "inconvenience": grad student salaries, plane tickets, hotel rooms, time spent traveling, etc.

Eighth, who the fuck mentioned anything about settling the issue "democratically, by survey vote or something?"

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

I almost forgot: "Pick a grad school carefully," is not fucking advice. It's condescending bullshit.

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

I just got trolled, didn't I? Please confirm.

Non-trolling anon said...

Sorry, Jaded, it looks like you just got trolled. I agree with your assessment, if that matters.

Anonymous said...

12:39 - Here's something you can get through Skype that you can't get without some kind of interaction - how does the candidate respond to objections? Is he defensive and doesn't say anything to advance the debate or recognize the weight of the objection? Has she already thought through some of the more obvious objections? I agree that in-person is better, but skype might be better than nothing, if you can't afford to fly out directly everyone that you think is, on paper, fine to hire. Now, that isn't of course to say that you can do this via skype BETTER than through any other way. But it is something you CAN do through skype, even if skype isn't a perfect medium.

Also, hiring departments have budgets too. I do think that we ought to think more about the people with less power, but skype is also a cost-saving method for departments that don't have their searches lavishly funded by the administration. If we could fly out our top 15 for a position, we would. But we can't. So, skype or APA.

Anonymous said...

Jaded pretty much already covered this, but:

"while it would suck to be one of the few whose grad department doesn't pay, such is life."

My response: Fuck you. Seriously.

Anonymous said...

I also thought the comment was perfectly reasonable, and I'd add that it is really mean to publicly mock someone else's well-intentioned comment like this.

Anonymous said...

actually isn't the whole comment a reductio ad absurdum of the adequacy of mediated communication and therefore end-game for the very idea of a skype interview?

Anonymous said...

as a contribution to this public forum on the important issue of interviewing, i would like to note that i was hired and the hiring process, whose vital nucleus, at least in my case, was me, included a skype interview, not to mention all my other interviews, some of which i did not even ENJOY because UUUGGGGH, so me being the one chosen for the position, skype gets my vote for being apriori awesome HAIGH FIVE!

Anonymous said...

Agree that we're being trolled. But fwiw, it is empirically false that "most" departments cover grad student expenses for APA. And even setting aside the $ expense of attending, there is no way to recoup the cost of the time.

Bobcat said...

I also think the comment is reasonable, and by and large right.

First, people don't necessarily put all that much thought into a blog comment, so even if it's unreasonable, I doubt that it's intentionally unreasonable.

Second, re: the a priori point, even though an interview is not a conversation, from the fact that an in-person interview is better than a Skype conversation, it *could* still follow a priori that an in-person interview is better than a Skype interview, if the following is true: what makes a conversation good is if it has features X, Y, and Z; a Skype conversation doesn't have feature Z; therefore, an in-person conversation is better than a Skype conversation. Similarly, what makes an interview good is if it has features A, B, and Z; while an in-person interview has all of those, a Skype interview doesn't still doesn't have Z. Therefore, etc. (What might that missing feature be? I don't know, I'm not a scholar of these things; perhaps it's harder to focus on auditory communication through the medium of Skype than it is during a face-to-face interaction. If that's true, that could make in-person conversations and interviews both preferable to Skype.

Third, re: the colleagues down the hall point, I think you're being a bit too quick. My wife sometimes texts me something even though she's literally only two rooms away. It's conceivable that at some point people would prefer to do Skype 6.0 than walk down the hall, because Skype 6.0 might have features that make the interaction more enjoyable (it might put a cool green filter over the camera, or something, I don't know.) But I agree that right now, the main reason we don't Skype our colleagues is that it's simply much easier to walk down the hall. (That said, there are a lot of colleagues that are far away from me, and I phone them rather than Skype them, even though I know they have Skype.)

Fourth, the conference recognition thing could be a problem, though it seems to me extremely unlikely to be one. But in those very rare cases where it was a problem, I can imagine how it could be a pretty embarrassing situation.

I kind of agree with you about the rest of the points.

Finally, I'm not trolling you! (Just in case you think I am.)

Anonymous said...

It seemed reasonable to move, and in fact has convinced me, if I am ever given the choice, to elect in-person interviews over Skype interviews.

Good stuff. Can't figure out what Jaded is up in arms about.

Anonymous said...

Jaded, you are not crazy, this comment is fucking insane, I thought so when I first read it. Also, the thing about losing faith in common sense of philosophers? Dude, that happened to me so long ago its like a distant memory. I've long since adapted the attitude that professional academic philosophy is running itself into the ground, and we should probably just let it burn itself down and hope that whatever comes around in its place is better. (So those petitions to save philosophy departments/graduate programs? I don't ever sign them anymore.)

Academic philosophy deserves what's coming to it: it has basically earned it. That's not to say there aren't a handful of basically decent, sensible people out there in academic philosophy, but that the handful of basically decent, sensible people out there would survive any forthcoming Professional Philosophy Apocalypse just fine, and everyone else deserves what's coming.

Anonymous said...

Oh, the Professional Philosophy Apocalypse has already happened, brother. Just look around at the Eastern APA in December. Plenty of Philozombies and Philozombophers there....

Anonymous said...

It seems reasonable to me, and most of your criticisms are really weird and uncharitable.

The poster didn't really mean that it followed a priori --this is a blog comment, not a paper. He just meant that it was supported by this other stuff we already know, even without having direct experience with skype interviews. The a priori / a posteriori thing is just loose talk that people engage in all the time in informal settings.

The point about us not skyping with colleagues down the hall is that when skype meetings and real meetings are both relatively low-cost, we all choose real meetings. The poster is just making the obvious point that if cost were not an issue, we'd all choose in-person interviews for the same reasons we choose in-person conversations.

The poster said only that we shouldn't totally ignore how skype vs real interviews impact search committee members, which seems like a non-crazy view.

I think "such is life" is meant as shorthand for "We have to accept some degree of unfairness in life, and maybe this is a case where we have to." Potential reasons why we might have to were supposed to be provided by the rest of the post, which stressed the advantages of in-person interviews.

I also think you are being really uncharitable about "democratically, or by survey vote." This is obviously loose talk. He is saying he's not sure whether everyone's interests count equally, or instead whether the most vulnerable's interests trump the interests of the well-off.

Anonymous said...

"But fwiw, it is empirically false that "most" departments cover grad student expenses for APA. And even setting aside the $ expense of attending, there is no way to recoup the cost of the time."

while it would suck to be one of the few whose grad department doesn't have a time machine, such is life.

Anonymous said...

I read the comment and thought it was basically fine too. I'm now teaching but at one point played poker at a local card club and studied very carefully a book called "Caro's Book of Poker Tells: The Psychology and Body Language of Poker." This little gem provided a careful discussion of how to read body language and its relevance to communication. This is a normal part of interacting and something I would fear would be lost in a Skype interview. Someone commented above that it's very useful to know if your comments or answers are being received well, and facial cues are an important part of this. So I think one may be giving up something with this aspect of an interview.

The comment in the post about the cost of interviews being covered for some grad students was unfortunate. Ideally, people shouldn't be disadvantaged by such things (or cavalier about them). But aside from this I don't see what's wrong with complaining about the move to electronic interviews. Lots of people have raised legitimate concerns about online teaching and what's lost in the process, and their concerns may have a reasonable basis, even if there are some other benefits which exist.

Anonymous said...

9:21,

I agree with you entirely. And I think one of the problems here is demonstrated by 8:29 (who I agree is probably not a troll): "what makes a conversation good is if it has features X, Y, and Z; a Skype conversation doesn't have feature Z;[...](What might that missing feature be? I don't know, I'm not a scholar of these things"

It's awesome that we can describe a scenario whereby Skype might be missing something, and therefore in-person is superior. But what that missing feature is? That's a minor detail, best left for others (presumably, scholars of these things) to determine.

Our ability to logically discuss an issue we admit we don't know anything about is one of the reasons for the coming Apocalypse you note.

I'll bring popcorn.

meno said...

It's awesome that we can describe a scenario whereby Skype might be missing something, and therefore in-person is superior. But what that missing feature is? That's a minor detail, best left for others (presumably, scholars of these things) to determine.

I think you may have missed 8:29's point. It wasn't to show what was wrong with Skype. It was to provide an interpretation of the original comment -- the one this thread was designed to ridicule -- that makes it not absurd but comprehensible and possibly true.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, now I remember why I don’t usually visit the Smoker at this time of year. A lot of people are in really crappy moods.
An entire post just to call some poor schlepp’s blog comment insane? And then the piling on. Ugh. The actual Smoker is pleasant by comparison.

Anonymous said...

In case anyone is interested in the substantive issue here, Dreyfus discusses what might be missing in skype interviews in his book "on the internet"...well he is generally discussing telepresence, emoticons and such, but his views would apply here.

Anonymous said...

"I couldn't really clearly see the faces of the people interviewing me, since they were so small on the screen."
This is completely bizarre. Were they sitting 10m from the camera? Was he having a skype interview on his cell phone? Does he not know how to put a skype call into full-screen mode?

Bobcat said...

Thanks, Meno. Yes, that was my point.

That said, I think it's very likely that if you did a cost-benefit analysis with the aim of determining whether departments should use Skype or in-person interviews, then Skype wins. I just think it's fair to say that there are *possible* disadvantages, possible disadvantages that might not even be actual.

meno said...

I think it's very likely that if you did a cost-benefit analysis with the aim of determining whether departments should use Skype or in-person interviews, then Skype wins.

So do I, but I have never done a Skype interview, whereas I am quite keenly aware of the costs of convention interviews. So my impression isn't worth much.

Anonymous said...

On an unrelated note, is the phylo wiki dead? Have people stopped posting job updates on there?

Anonymous said...

3:37, this thread hasn't hit rock bottom yet. We still haven't reached the point where some inane, mentally deficient, self-styled 'feminist' starts freaking out, someone else points out one of the obvious flaws in his/her argument, and Mr. Zero rushes to the defense of the so-called 'feminist' on general principle and then begins censoring posts for some trumped-up reason.

Anonymous said...

6:04 AM -- I think that the Phylo is only dead because each of us is sitting here, looking at its deadness, and thinking "Won't one of you lazy fucks update all of the postings!"

Once someone (or a couple people) go through and plug all of the PhilJobs postings into the Phylo wiki, I think it'll be routinely updated by everyone else. Hopefully someone does that before mid-November, when the very early SCs start setting up interviews.

But it won't be me. I'm way, way, way too lazy. I'll just keep refreshing until one of you folks does it.

Mr. Zero said...

...and Mr. Zero rushes to the defense of the so-called 'feminist' on general principle and then begins censoring posts for some trumped-up reason.

If I deleted some comment of yours that I shouldn't have, why don't you get in touch with me and ask me why I did that, or explain why you think it was a mistake, instead of bitching about it forever and ever?

Anonymous said...

i tried to update the phylo wiki a couple weeks ago for the PLU job. the entry never showed up.... maybe there is a bug or something?

Anonymous said...

@3:37: "Schlepp" is a verb, not a noun. Perhaps you meant "poor schmuck" or "poor shlemiel"?

Anonymous said...

Hm, I guess I meant "schlepper".

Anonymous said...

anon 9:21, foreseer of the professional philosophy apocalypse here.

anon 10:24 - i appreciate the sentiment and all, but im more of a sister than a brother. i'll accept the sentiment of "we are all brothers in the fraternal spirit of what the holy fuck", but i do feel like insisting just a bit on the fact that i am definitely not a dude.

anon 12:18 - fuck popcorn, what we really need is lots and lots of alcohol. also, maybe some MDMA? it would definitely help us stop being the crappy mood people anon 3:37 seems to think only stop by this blog at this particular time of year (hah). anyway, im generally in a pretty cheerful mood -- gainfully employed being a philosopher and miraculously not surrounded by man children at all times. its fab.

Anonymous said...

"If I deleted some comment of yours that I shouldn't have, why don't you... explain why you think it was a mistake, instead of bitching about it forever and ever?"

I tried that, but you deleted my explanation, and then my explanation of why you shouldn't have deleted my explanation of my explanation, and so on.

And in the meantime, you allowed pseudo-feminist hacks from various fashionable blogs to dominate the discussion while giving them the false impression that there was no response to the claims they were making while I tried desperately to get a response through.

But I'm not the only one you did this to, Zero. It's clear from discussions at other blogs that your reputation for doing this is legion. I have no idea how many of us are out there, but there seem to be plenty.

Anyway, you seem to be in better company now. Leiter has started to do something similar (again, on the feminist issue).

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with you people? Seems reasonable? The conclusion or the argument? If the argument is what you are referring to, please leave philosophy now. If you are accepting the conclusion because it seems reasonable without any REASONS for accepting it, again please leave philosophy now.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

7:51PM

Dude, the blog is moderated. Get over it. If you want to bitch about feminism, which this thread isn't even about anyway, start your own blog. Christsake.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

Actually, YFNA, I wasn't "bitching about feminism", and I wasn't complaining that the blog is moderated.

What I did was merely to point out that this thread had not yet sunk to the lows that Philosophy Smoker threads are prone to. That would, I said, have required three more things:
1) At least one inane, self-styled 'feminist' coming in and ranting;
2) Mr. Zero coming to the defense of that self-styled 'feminist' on general principles; and
3) Mr. Zero then censoring all the posts against him and the self-styled 'feminist' while allowing all the pseudo-feminist posts through, leaving people with the impression that those opposed to the pseudo-feminist had nothing decisive to say.

That would have been it, but Mr. Zero made a specious attempt to defend his past reprehensible actions. In the process, he asked me why I hadn't done some things that I had already done. I responded by explaining that I had done them. And now, a self-styled 'feminist' appears on the scene...

... omens of the fulfillment of the prophecy of doom!

Mr. Zero said...

I tried that, but you deleted my explanation...

You have me at a bit of a disadvantage, because you know what comment(s) you're talking about and I don't. However, there are a number of possibilities. Maybe I made two mistakes instead of just one. Maybe it was a close call, requiring me to exercise judgment, and I didn't see things your way. Maybe you didn't explain yourself very well. Maybe your comment really wasn't as terrific as you thought it was. Hard to say.

...and then my explanation of why you shouldn't have deleted my explanation of my explanation, and so on.

Now it's starting to sound like there was a hint, and you didn't take it.

And in the meantime, you allowed pseudo-feminist hacks from various fashionable blogs to dominate the discussion...

Huh? Feminist invaders from fashionable blogs! Dominating the discussion!

Whatever. Point is, everyone makes mistakes, and if one of my mistakes was deleting a comment of yours that didn't deserve it, I apologize and I hope you can find a way to get over it. But I think that if you're honest with yourself, you have to acknowledge the possibility that I'm not the one who made the mistake. And since it's over and there's no way to fix it (unless it was your mistake, in which case it's already fixed), there's no point in dwelling on it and we might as well move on.

AFNY said...

YFNA, dude, there's a difference between moderation and the systematic censorship of one side of an issue. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

Since you insist on responding rather than let the matter drop, I'll refresh your memory a little.

At one point, there was what _would_ have been a discussion of a substantive issue on this blog. People from a fashionable blog, who called themselves feminists, backed up one side of the issue -- your side, as it turned out. I argued that, in fact, a true feminist should back the other side, which was also the morally correct side for other reasons. You did not allow that comment through.

I then sent _more than ten_ follow-up comments, bending over backward to imagine what you could possibly object to in them aside from the fact that the view I advocated was at odds with your own and the self-styled 'feminists'' view. Finally, I tried breaking down my argument into pieces, trying to get one premise published at a time. You finally relented and published one of my premises, but without the context it appeared to readers that the premise was the entire argument.

You say that I perhaps should have taken a hint from you. I grant that that charge against me is correct. What you were hinting at -- no, actually, virtually shouting at me and others through your actions -- is that your moderation practices have everything to do with barring certain views from being presented. I admit that it is my fault for persisting beyond all reason in employing the principle of charity and thinking that you couldn't stoop so low and that, in the end, you'd allow the alternative case to be made. Not so.

I then discovered that you have done this to many other people, all of whom wanted to present views like mine.

By the way, I'm no foe to moderation. I'm always grateful for chairs at APA sessions and colloquia for keeping comments short and to the point. But I would hope that any moderator in any context who barred particular arguments from being made, or particular views from being expressed, while allowing their alternatives to be repeated ad nauseam would swiftly be drummed out of the profession. That's not moderation: it's dishonest, one-sided censorship.

But as you say, let's move on. Once this has been posted, readers will know that you have a policy of dishonest, one-sided censorship, and they will know that I tried foolishly to get my comments through for much longer than I should have when it was obvious you weren't willing to give half the debate a fair chance. And with that, we should indeed let the matter rest.

Stafford said...

"If one of my mistakes was deleting a comment of yours that didn't deserve it, I apologize and I hope you can find a way to get over it."

I don't know this history, Mr. Zero, but the charge seems to be that you've censored posts based on not agreeing with their content. If that's the case, and I hope it isn't, then that isn't good and it's not a matter of telling the person you censored to get over it. That concerns all the readers of the blog.

I hope you can honestly assure us that you did no such thing.

Anonymous said...

anon 7:36 am:

"And now, a self-styled 'feminist' appears on the scene..."


Where? I see no one in this post ranting about feminism EXCEPT YOU.

Anonymous said...

8:54 -- the reference is to YFNA, who was a key player in previous discussions here.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Stafford,

I don't know this history, Mr. Zero, but the charge seems to be that you've censored posts based on not agreeing with their content.

Yes, that is what this person thinks happened.

If that's the case, and I hope it isn't, then that isn't good and it's not a matter of telling the person you censored to get over it. That concerns all the readers of the blog.

Agreed. But, as I will explain below, that is not what happened. I know I have a responsibility to this blog's audience, and I have not and will not betray that responsibility by publishing/deleting comments based on whether I agree with them. If I deleted a comment that didn't deserve it, it was an honest mistake, for which I have apologized.

I hope you can honestly assure us that you did no such thing.

Yes. I hereby assure you that I have done no such thing.

Obviously I can't prove this--the comments are gone, because I deleted them. But if you've been reading this blog for long, you must have noticed that its comment section is littered with comments that I don't agree with. There are several such comments in this thread, some of which attack me personally and accuse me of misconduct. When I have deleted comments, I have done so because of abusiveness, or hostility, or irrelevance. (And I think it's clear that I have a relatively high tolerance for comments that exhibit those vices.)

It's hard for me to be specific because I'm still not sure which incident the person is talking about--although he says he's going to refresh my memory, the description is awfully vague. I think I have a guess, but I can't be sure. Even the thing about "more than ten follow-ups" isn't helpful, because that happens almost every time I delete a comment. It's a clear pattern: there's a discussion in which the topic of feminism arises (even just peripherally), and someone says something extremely dickish, or insulting, or irrelevant, and I delete the comment. The person then spends the next several days (usually not more than a week) posting a series of follow-ups, escalating in hostility and rancor, and accusing me of trying to suppress his point of view in order to lend the impression that the other side is unopposed. These sequences often culminate in threats of physical violence. They generally do not convince my that the initial deletion was in error.

(Also, instead of "bending over backward to imagine what [I] could possibly object to in them aside from the fact that the view [he] advocated was at odds with [my] own," he might have just emailed me and asked.)

But I don't know which incident this person is talking about, and maybe this particular deletion was a mistake, and if it was, then I apologize.

Stafford said...

Thank you, Mr. Zero.

However, I don't think this adequately addresses the worry I raised.

Yes, you have sometimes posted comments that disagreed with you. That is good, of course. But the charge made against you was that you have been censoring _particular_ views and _particular_ arguments from being expressed here -- not that you have censored _all_ the views that disagree with yours. So that doesn't really address the issue.

Moreover, you said at 7:59 "Maybe I made two mistakes instead of just one," but now you admit that you sometimes -- frequently, by your own account of it -- have censored things not once or twice, but over ten times, over the space of a week. Again, you make it seem that this is a regular occurrence. That seems to belie the implication of your original claim that this was done only once or twice.

More worrying, if I may say so, is your characterization of why you are doing this. You say that the ten or so emails you receive by people trying to sustain one side of the argument are all characterized by "hostility and rancor" and for that reason cannot be published.

Whether a post is hostile or firm, and whether it's motivated by rancour or a philosophical spirit, are clearly matters that are judged differently depending on the reader's affiliations and passions: that has been established experimentally many times.

But even supposing that you are right in your assessment of all these comments that you now admit having blocked us from seeing: was the blocking really necessary? Was there no way at all of redacting them (with notes of where you did so) so that we readers could have a sense of what the other side was saying?

I find it difficult to believe that this was impossible, and that your allowing one side of these arguments to be heard at length while completely silencing the other was always completely necessary.

Given the tone of your apology (or your nasty quasi-apology to the anonymous writer who was censored), I'm not sure that you realize that greatly distorting the dimensions of public debate in a widely-accessed medium is very, very wrong (just as it is when done by the Bill O'Reillys and Sean Hannities of this world). I find that disturbing.

Anonymous said...

Once in awhile people post things on this blog (and others, such as NewAPPS) which attempt to split hairs, muddy the waters, etc. with regard to straightforward instances of sexism, racism, etc. and then pretend they are "doing philosophy."

I don't know whether this behavior qualifies as sexist or racist, but it definitely qualifies as obnoxious and stupid. There aren't always two sides to every story. Sometimes parsing and splitting hairs and niggling over details just makes things worse.

IMO the people who do this sort of thing are mostly asshats and should probably be called out. Should they be censored as well? No, but then again, I don't see any evidence that censorship of that sort takes place on this blog (or any other philosophy blog I read). As Mr. Zero said, he has allowed many such comments to stand.

If, on the other hand, people have violated the policies of this blog Mr. Zero and friends are fully within their rights to delete posts. It's called "moderation." Calling it "censorship" is idiotic. Seriously, STFU.

Stafford said...

10:31,

Fair warning: this (censorship) is an area I work in, and I probably know this issue more than you.

It is an elementary blunder, often seen among members of the lay public, to confuse two different things:
a) the question whether it is morally permissible for the owner of the medium to censor (or block, or whatever else you want to call it) views and arguments, and
b) the question whether the owner of the medium has the right, politically/legally understood, to do so.

You, I'm afraid, have just made that elementary blunder. Please review what I wrote just before: that by your reasoning, it would (absurdly) be perfectly innocuous for FOX News to shape public opinion by the selective reporting of events and the selective presentation of arguments and positions.

I won't rudely ask you to STFU, since I'm not a fan of silencing interlocutors. But I will ask you to _think_ before you speak.

Anonymous said...

So Philosophy Smoker is a journalistic outlet like Fox (at least claims to be)?

Anonymous said...

I hope not, 1:39. But now I'm not too sure, either! Hm.

Anonymous said...

Granted, I don't work on censorship, but I don't see an elementary blunder in 10:31's comment, Stafford.

Mr. Ginzburg said...

@10:31

Let's see: you think that some people's contributions to discussions here and elsewhere should be censored because they call into question some assumptions about the topic at hand (sexism, in the cases you mention) in a way that you deem to be splitting hairs (i.e. trying to carefully distinguish genuine cases of sexism from false charges of sexism). And, while many of us would consider this to be a useful contribution to a debate on a matter of great practical significance (since if we don't properly distinguish genuine sexism from non-sexist actions, speech and ideas wrongly lumped under the same heading we'll condemn the innocent), you think not only that these contributions to the discussion are unhelpful but that they ought to be held back from public consideration and might even count as sexism themselves!

Wow. Glad we've got that straight. History seems to be on your side. Following the same principle, we get some very useful normative guidance:

- When communists are the enemy, those who split hairs about what is or isn't communists are doing no profitable work and should not be permitted to pervert the minds of readers by being publishes (they're probably commies themselves!).

- When Muslim terrorists are the enemy, those who split hairs about what is or isn't terrorism are doing no profitable work and should be censored so that right-thinking people don't need to think too hard about that (they're terrorist sympathizers if they write anything like that!).

- Same for feminism.

Oh, and who should decide whether it's hair-splitting or important work? Why, the opponents of whatever these people are trying to split hairs about! The most fervent anti-communists are surely the best experts on what is or isn't acceptable (as opposed to 'hair-splitting') on the subject.

So yeah, let's have the most committed anti-sexists determining for us what's hair-splitting (and the rest of us shouldn't be shown) and what's important.

What could possibly go wrong with that? Sounds like fair dialectical practice to me!

Anonymous said...

Stafford,

I am not sure that I am persuaded by your account of censorship. Declining to publish something because you do not believe it makes a useful or interesting contribution to a debate does not seem to be the same as censorship, which (to the ear of someone who does not work on this area...and, like, dictionaries) implies actively seeking to silence an individual or a group. Since the moderators of this blog arguably have an ethical obligation to remove content that does not make useful or interesting contributions (in order to ensure the best possible environment for their audience), their actions do not amount to censorship as long as their decisions are in service of this goal. If you disagree about what does or does not make an interesting or useful contribution, maybe you should start your own damn blog.

Finally, I'd like to note that this thread seems to have finally hit rock bottom. This is particularly amusing, as the recent discussions all stem from the comment that the thread had not yet hit rock bottom. This is either a very funny turn of events, or some of you are amazing trolls.

Anonymous said...

Whatever side of the issue we're on, let's make an effort to engage with one another respectfully. If you think someone's being an asshat, there's no need to put on an asshat in response (does one don an asshat?). And at any rate, the odds are that your definition of 'asshat' isn't going to track everyone else's, and if the issue is sufficiently contentious you're just going to convince them that you yourself are the asshat.

Mr. Zero said...

But the charge made against you was that you have been censoring _particular_ views and _particular_ arguments from being expressed here -- not that you have censored _all_ the views that disagree with yours. So that doesn't really address the issue.

I have already acknowledged that. As I have said, there's nothing I can do that would directly address that issue. I can't reproduce the comments I have deleted because they are deleted. So I am not in a position to present incontrovertible evidence that would compel you to see things my way. All I can do is point to my overall patterns of behavior, which include a general willingness to post comments that I don't agree with--and, in particular, to post comments that accuse me, personally, of unscrupulous behavior--and point out that they support my version of the story.

but now you admit that you sometimes -- frequently, by your own account of it -- have censored things not once or twice, but over ten times, over the space of a week. Again, you make it seem that this is a regular occurrence.

That's not correct. I haven't said anything that indicates that I delete comments with any frequency or regularity. I don't. I said that when I delete one comment I often subsequently have to delete many more from the same person as his anger-management problem manifests itself.

...I'm not sure that you realize that greatly distorting the dimensions of public debate in a widely-accessed medium is very, very wrong... I find that disturbing.

I realize that "greatly distorting the dimensions of public debate" is "very, very wrong." Luckily, I didn't do that. What I did--and what I will continue to do--was to protect the the quality of discussion/commentary on this blog from the most egregiously hostile and/or insulting and/or irrelevant comments. That is not "very very wrong," and in fact I have an obligation to our audience to do this.

You say that the ten or so emails you receive by people trying to sustain one side of the argument are all characterized by "hostility and rancor" and for that reason cannot be published.

Who said anything about emails? No one whose comments I have deleted has ever emailed me about it. This guy just posts more profanity-laced comments, complaining about feminists, calling me vulgar names, accusing me of dishonesty, comparing me to figures from Fox News, etc. It's not that I'm suppressing one side of the debate; I'm keeping some guy's unhinged rage-a-thon out of our comment threads.

Whether a post is hostile or firm ... are clearly matters that are judged differently depending on the reader's affiliations and passions

I realize that, which is why, as a rule, I publish unless the comment is egregiously and unmistakably inappropriate, and also why I have acknowledged the possibility that I may have made the occasional mistake. I don't think I have, but I realize that it's a possibility.

But the fact remains that I have a responsibility to our readers to moderate the comments; I have a responsibility to do so as judiciously as possible; I am doing my best to live up to that responsibility. That's all I can do.

Stafford said...

Hi again,

Have a look at the literature (I can quote some to you if you like) about people deeming themselves to be unfair censors.

You'll find that everyone who censors others -- including those at Fox News, including those who worked for Pravda, including the Inquisition -- tend _never_ to see themselves as cutting out genuine contributions to debates.

Rather, they deem the works they refuse to publish incendiary, profane, pointless, and so on.

Does this surprise you?

As for the distinction between having the right to censor something and censoring that thing being the right thing to do:

The owners of a media outlet -- be it this blog, or Fox News, or the New York Times, or whatever else -- always _have the right_ to publish whatever they wish, so long as there is no law prohibiting or requiring publication of something. That's a legal and political matter.

However, it's an elementary fallacy to think that what one _has the right_ to do is therefore _the right thing_ to do. I have the right to disclose the embarrassing secrets of my best friend or husband if I wish. I have the right to tell my children that the earth is ten billion miles in diameter when I know that is false. And so on. But that is not at all the same as saying that those are the right things to do, morally speaking.

I don't contest for a minute -- and I don't think anyone else here does -- that Mr. Zero and others have a right to censor comments. What I'm calling into question is the moral propriety of doing so. To say that the blog is private property is a red herring because it confuses the issue of moral rightness with the issue of legal/political rights.

Finally, I have to cringe upon reading the demand against the poster who was censored that (s)he 'start his/her own blog'. This is, again, a historically salient bit of rhetoric used by various ruling parties throughout the history of censorship. The essence of it is that nobody -- not FOX News, not Pravda, not anyone -- should ever be blamed in the least for whatever censorship they perform (knowingly or unknowingly) or whatever falsehoods they promote, since those who are unhappy can 'start their own newspaper' if they want to. Everyone knows, of course, that it would be extremely difficult to suddenly get the readership for an alternative medium, and that the process for establishing general accessibility to such an alternative medium would take so long that whatever issue is being discussed will be forgotten long before.

But, if one squints a little and doesn't think too much about it, it's an easy way of dismissing people who's views you don't like and making sure nobody else gets a chance to hear them while patting yourself on the back.

I certainly hope that nobody here would, in good conscience, endorse this kind of slipshod reasoning. Like all fallacies, it can be fun to employ it against one's enemies, but in the wrong hands it can be very deadly if not discredited.

Anonymous said...

Declining to publish something because you do not believe it makes a useful or interesting contribution to a debate does not seem to be the same as censorship, which (to the ear of someone who does not work on this area...and, like, dictionaries) implies actively seeking to silence an individual or a group.

I don't get it.
Is the distinction between silencing a group, on the one hand, and silencing a certain type of opinion, on the other, supposed to be the difference between censorship and something else?

Or is it the actively part? You mean if the blog let all comments through automatically and then a moderator went and removed some, that would be censorship, but if they instead just block some from ever getting through, that wouldn't be censorship?

Anonymous said...

ah, the smoker blog. good work on this thread, everyone. we couldn't have done it alone.

Frank said...

OMG, Stafford, you are so mundane. All you need to say is that there is a difference between morality and legality and leave it at that. It's almost too obvious to point out.

As for whether Zero did something wrong or not, people here must just be chomping on something to argue about. Who freaking cares? He sounds like he's doing the best job he can (and remember that this is voluntary for him). If some people's comments were laced with profanity and rage, I'd delete them too.

Get over it. Move on. Argue about something more worthwhile and forgo the moralism.

Stafford said...

Hey, Frank, apparently you didn't read back to the person (2:21) who said that the two things are different. I would have thought that it was too obvious to be worth mentioning and then explaining, too! But (s)he didn't understand the difference, so I had to break it down.

You say I shouldn't join the discussion (which I didn't start) about Zero's censorship practices. And why shouldn't I take part? Because it sounds to you as though Zero is doing a good job censoring only the bad stuff, and because the stuff he's been censoring on an ongoing basis is profane and hostile and had no decent content to it, anyway.

Oh, wait: how do you know Zero's doing a good job? Right, because Zero tells you he is. None of us have any way to verify this, since Zero got rid of all the posts we weren't allowed to see. And even Zero can't remember what they were about. But hey, let's trust the censors to censor the right things, yeah?

And why should we think the posts Zero censored had profanity in them? Because Zero kind of remembers them that way. The anonymous person who submitted them (well, (s)he was one of the people who submitted stuff) claims that Zero was censoring substantive comments and not letting them get through, so that's contested. So... since Zero's claims are under dispute, let's trust them implicitly!

After all, this is an issue very dear to Zero's heart. Zero even claimed once on this blog that anyone who suggests that women _might_ have an advantage in today's academic environment is guilty of 'dickishness' for raising the idea, and he also has said (here and before) that dickishness is sufficient grounds for his censoring a comment.

So there you have it. There's surely absolutely no reason to think that Zero's personal convictions could lead to his censoring anything, except if you listen to his own account or have a brain in your head. Jesus.

Anonymous said...

Frank, it's kind of hard to take seriously your command to 'forego the moralism' when you yourself are moralizing by saying Stafford should forego it!

Frank said...

Moralism = an exaggerated emphasis on morality

That's precisely what is going on here. That hardly constitutes a tu quoque on my part.

Stafford, you do realize that this is just a blog, right?

You people need to let it go. sheesh

Anonymous said...

Right Frank. Because conversations on philosophy blogs about the activism and politics of, say, feminists has no bearing on the profession. Otherwise, the false impression of unity in the community, and the stifling of active voices of dissent, wouldn't be the sort of thing we'd just want to 'let go.' sheesh.

Mr. Ginzburg said...

Oh, right: it's just a blog! I forgot the two basic rules about blogs: first, no matter how widely read a blog is, nobody's opinions are ever altered in any way by what they see on the blog; and second, no matter what swindles and shennannigans people get up to on blogs, it's never OK to say anything about it (unless you want to flippantly tell others to let something go, in which case it's the coolest thing in the world to say it).

A censored woman said...

Part I: I've been censored by Mr. Zero before, and I have a fair recollection of the circumstances (my guess is that this discussion is allowed to take place now because Jaded is moderating this thread. If so, thank you for letting these messages get through, Jaded).

Here's what I remember: a discussion was raging about the status of women in philosophy and what should be done about it. Some of the familiar characters were advocating a morally problematic 'naming and shaming' approach, in which people who were accused of sexist behavior (or what the accusers deemed to be sexist for whatever reason) would be blacklisted from conferences and anthologies and have their reputations destroyed by innuendo, without any impartial investigation of the matter. The injustice of this procedure was brushed off by the 'feminist' advocates of the scheme because, they said, the ends justify the means and we know that the extent of sexism in the profession is serious because of a) anecdotal evidence on blogs like 'What It's Like to be a Woman in Philosophy' and b) the low numbers of women in philosophy.

In my first attempted comment in the thread (in which I didn't say that I'm a woman in philosophy who has never encountered any such problems and have never had a female colleague who reported any sexism to me either, which might be part of why I was censored), I pointed out the injustice of this poorly thought through proposal and pointed out clear problems with the evidence for a sexism-saturated profession -- not that the ends would justify the means anyway. To wit:
a) 'What It's Like...' and other blogs do not allow critical discussion, have moderators with a clear agenda, and even if they were intellectually honest are committed in principle to cherry-picking their cases in a way that highlights women with bad experiences and silences those of us who have never experienced sexism.
b) there is a growing body of research on why women tend not to pursue philosophy. And -- surprise, surprise -- Haslanger, Langton and others seem to be dead wrong in thinking that sexism is a major factor. There are far better explanations, and the interviews with women in serious studies simply do not support the explanation these 'feminist' philosophers give. Smokers can read a little about this here: http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2013/06/17/192523112/name-ten-women-in-philosophy-bet-you-can-t. I seem to recall giving a link to other work on the subject in my post, but of course it's been deleted now.

I wrapped up by saying that this misguided and incorrect (though 'in') approach was not only harming the men who would be named and shamed, but also women.

Many women in philosophy are terrified of encountering sexism and have their eyes open for it, because they're told that it's everywhere. The psychological effects of being primed to think one is discriminated against are well known, of course, and I suggested that the feminist blogs and the work of many of the 'feminist' philosophers are doing much more harm than good.

A censored woman said...

Part II:

I waited for my comment to appear. It didn't. But then some other comments added after mine started showing up. I thought there must have been a mistake, and that my comment had been lost in the shuffle. I painstakingly wrote it out again from memory as well as I could and resent it. Same thing: my comment didn't appear, but the comments of ideological feminists did even when they were just repeating points made before. So I resubmitted (this time, I had kept a copy). Again, nothing.

After trying three times, I got angry at Mr. Zero. How dare he skew the discussion to his own ideological purposes? I could find nothing in my comment that could be objectionable other than that I was raising a point of view that might make certain people (like Mr. Zero, of course) uncomfortable.

So, I admit, I wrote a couple of angry comments about what had been happening. Those, too, were censored by Mr. Zero. And in the end, shamefully, I wrote something quite abusive against him for silencing me repeatedly without giving a reason. That never appeared. I gave up.

So that's part of what these conversations have been missing. Apparently Mr. Zero has done this to many other people. I wonder what other views haven't been heard and how some of these conversations might have been different.

Anonymous said...

Gee, I wish the comment threads at this place were better moderated. Zero sure lets a bunch of worthless crap get posted.

[Note to Zero: My guess is you won't post this. But seriously, dude, you should delete MORE posts, not fewer]

Stafford said...

6:41,

Please read through the post before yours -- read it carefully -- and tell us whether you stand by your view that Mr. Zero should censor even more comments than he already does. And if you do think so, please explain why.

Mr. Zero said...

my guess is that this discussion is allowed to take place now because Jaded is moderating this thread.

You guessed wrong.

You don't link to the discussion you're talking about, but my guess is that if you did, readers would see a variety of views represented. Smoker threads are characterized by their, uh, animated discussions and vigorous disagreements. My guess is that this one was no different, and that there were people arguing for the naming-and-shaming/blacklisting strategy, and other people arguing against it.

The fact that you couldn't tell why I didn't publish your comments doesn't mean there was no good reason, and doesn't mean that I was skewing the discussion for my own ideological purposes. And I don't think you've correctly identified my "ideological purposes"--I don't think blacklisting people from conferences or anthologies on the basis of suspected sexism is a good idea.

It might have been more productive for you to send me an email asking about it instead of trying to post the same thing three times and then writing what you describe as an abusive note.

A censored woman said...

Mr. Zero, why on earth should I have thought to write you a private email after you deleted my comments? What could possibly have warranted my stepping out from behind my anonymity (which you haven't done)? And why should I have bothered? What indication did I have, or do I have now, that you would have been more reasonable in person?

In the discussion we were having, _nobody_ else was making the points that I was.

I just explained this. Nobody else was considering the possibility that the low relative numbers of women in philosophy might be explainable in terms that have nothing to do with sexism, _despite the fact that this is what the available non-anecdotal information seems to suggest_. Do you consider that to be an irrelevant contribution to the discussion? If so, why?

And why do you think it's irrelevant for me to have mentioned, which nobody else in the thread had, that the data-collecting means used by the blogs I indicated are heavily biased, and that this not only made them bad sources of information (information that was taken for granted by both sides of the dispute in the thread) but positively harmful for women in the profession? Please explain why that didn't deserve to be heard and why you chose to censor it rather than let it through.

I agree with Stafford's comment that your apparent failure to recognize the extent to which you acted badly here is 'disturbing'. Even now, despite some lukewarm apologies you made to some other people earlier, you seem to think you acted rightly. Either you don't appreciate the effect your censorship has had on the way these issues are seen and discussed across the profession or there's something missing in your thought processes, ethically speaking. Yes, that's very disturbing indeed.

Anonymous said...

Hm. Up to yesterday, I thought I was on the side of Mr. Zero's moderating/censoring the blog. Now that I've read 'A censored woman' and Mr. Zero's response, in which he doesn't deny censoring that sort of thing, my views have started to shift pretty radically.

Glad some of the inner story is finally coming out. I had no idea.

Mr. Zero said...

why on earth should I have thought to write you a private email after you deleted my comments?

So that you could ask me why I deleted them, obviously. The fact that it wasn't immediately obvious to you why I did that doesn't mean there was no good reason. If you couldn't tell what that reason was, and you wanted to know, you could have asked.

As I have said before, it's hard to defend myself without knowing which particular comments we're talking about, or even which specific discussion the comments arose in. (You still haven't said which comment thread you're talking about.)

And, as I have said before, it is simply not possible for me to demonstrate that I was acting in good faith. All I can do is point to my larger, general pattern of posting comments whether I agree with them or not--including yours. I don't delete comments just because I disagree with them, and that's not why I deleted yours. I'm not sure why I did delete yours, in part because you haven't provided the kind of information that would help me to remember which one it was.

Anonymous said...

One explanation of all this is that Zero is a partisan hack who consistently censors the other side and does this to lots of people. Here's another explanation: there's a dude who has a bug up his ass about feminism, sees feminist boogeymen around every corner (he thought that YFNA was a "self-styled feminist" for what seems to be no reason whatsoever), and cannot help but be a total asshole when these issues come up. Then Zero deletes the asshole comments, which, as he points out, is his responsibility, and then the dude gets mad. And here we are.

Mr. Zero said...

What could possibly have warranted my stepping out from behind my anonymity (which you haven't done)?

Anonymous email addresses are remarkably easy to come by. Gmail.

Anonymous said...

Uh... no. I'm the person who made the remark about YFNA. It wasn't for 'no reason whatsoever', but because of things that YFNA has said in her voluminous contributions to this blog's threads over the past year or so.

I mentioned this, but you seem to have missed it.

A censored woman said...

Mr. Zero,

You still don't seem to be getting this.

You blocked comments that were made to a thread, making relevant and important points that nobody else was making, and did so in a way that seriously skewed discourse not only here but, almost certainly, across the profession. You've apparently done this many other times with other people. That's wrong.

The reason I didn't respond to your doing this by going out and securing an anonymous email account and then using that account to send a note to your personal email account and initiate a private discussion with you over your having deleted comments it took me a long time to write is that there simply seemed to be no point to doing so. I wanted to contribute to the discussion in a widely-held forum, and you gave absolutely no reason whatsoever for thinking that that would have had any effect. If for some reason you thought that having that conversation might help, the sensible thing for you to have done would have been to leave me a note on the thread, telling me that you would consider publishing my comments if you could talk with me first. I would have responded with an email then. But I'm not a mind-reader, and your having rejected several versions of my post (while publishing comments of questionable worth making unoriginal points were getting through on the other side) seemed a pretty clear indication that I wasn't getting through. I'm not a mind-reader, Mr. Zero. This is a pretty lame excuse for your actions.

The reason I haven't indicated the thread in which this took place is that it was probably over a year ago, and my comments don't even appear there.

You seem to feel you aren't responsible for any wrongdoing here against me and however many other people you've been doing this to because, while you've buried the evidence of what you did, you're just really confident that there was probably a good justification for your having done it. Even when I explain the case to you, which others seem to find disturbing also, you aren't fazed.

I don't know what to say to that. But please stop blaming me for your having blocked everyone from reading my (and others') contributions to several threads that have skewed the profession's general thoughts on these matters. Shame.

Stafford said...

"As I have said before, it's hard to defend myself without knowing which particular comments we're talking about..."

Because you deleted them rather than let the rest of them see them, Mr. Zero? That's your excuse? Can you not see that any owner of any medium can use that as an excuse?

Good lord, I hope a weighty majority of your readers have, unlike you, learned the lessons of history and can see why this is a terrifying approach to media responsibility.

Mr. Zero said...

You blocked comments that were made to a thread, making relevant and important points that nobody else was making, and did so in a way that seriously skewed discourse not only here but, almost certainly, across the profession. You've apparently done this many other times with other people. That's wrong.

We've been over this. It's not wrong to delete comments when there is a legitimate reason to do so. The fact that you think that there was no legitimate reason to delete your comment is less than incontrovertible evidence that this is so.

And, as I have repeatedly pointed out, there is no way to settle the issue one way or the other. And I don't even really know which comment you're talking about, in part because you continually decline to even specify which thread this occurred in. (Which also prevents readers from checking for themselves whether there is any evidence of suppression of dissent. You also seem to have misidentified which side I am on.) And if, as you say, this happened over a year ago, I'm just not going to have a vivid memory of the comment's contents or why I didn't post it. There's no way for me to say anything interesting about what happened.

You seem to feel you aren't responsible for any wrongdoing here against me and however many other people you've been doing this to because, while you've buried the evidence of what you did, you're just really confident that there was probably a good justification for your having done it.

That's true, as far as it goes. I don't feel I'm responsible for any wrongdoing here because I don't believe I did anything wrong. Yes, I seem to have deleted some comments of yours. But I did not do this in an attempt to suppress your point of view. I can categorically say that I didn't do that because I categorically do not do that. If the comment I deleted did not deserve deletion, it was an accident and not a malicious attempt to silence you. And I have acknowledged the possibility of errors on my part all along.

And as I have also said before, I have a responsibility to moderate comments here, and I am doing my best to do so in an even-handed and judicious way, and I will continue to do so.

Anonymous said...

This is fantastic. I wanted to leave a comment on the original issue (wondering whether the whole series Nadelhoffer posts on Leiter are basically some form of higher-order trolling) but the heat/light ratio of the current discussion is way distracting!

Anonymous said...

Why don't you assholes just start your OWN BLOG where you can write till your heart's content about how sexism doesn't actually exist in philosophy and how the feminists suck, and blah blah fucking blah? Fuck this is so tiresome. If you don't like the way this blog is moderated, or think it's immoral or unjust or whatever, than fucking GO SOMEWHERE ELSE.

A censored woman said...

The reason I haven't specified which thread it was in is that this was a long time ago and I don't recall the title of the thread. Many of the threads changed topics part way through, and some are hundreds of comments long. I don't have the time to burrow through history for the evidence. If others want to on the basis of the context I've provided, then fine.

If we'd been able to have this discussion in this public forum when I raised my objections to those other commenters, we wouldn't now have to reconstruct a debate that took place over a year ago and influenced people's decisions and views then.

That's the point. You shouldn't have censored my comments. I was making important points. So were others, presumably. You didn't let them be heard.

If you thought there was anything objectionable in the way I and others presented these comments, there was a clear course of action for you to take. First, you could have edited out whatever was genuinely objectionable and told your readers this (though I can't imagine what was objectionable).

In sum, there was no justifying reason at all for your withholding the content of my (and others') comments from the thread. Even if there was something objectionable in them, you could have removed that. You didn't. That was very wrong.

If you can't see what was wrong with it, then I'm not sure what point there is continuing this discussion. I take it that any thoughtful reader will easily see whether it was or wasn't a serious lapse in judgment to withhold the points I just repeated again.

Thanks for your time. I hope you think this over and come to some realizations about it.

Stafford said...

5:20, the blunder in reasoning you repeat has been 'asked and answered'. Yesterday, 3:14. Scroll up.

Anonymous said...

9:20, have you missed this whole discussion? It's been explained in detail already what's wrong with your reasoning.

Please don't contribute to threads until you've checked to see that your objection hasn't already been refuted. It wastes our time. Thanks.

Mr. Ginzburg said...

Uh... nobody here has said that sexism doesn't exist in philosophy.

Reading is hard.

Anonymous said...

9:20:

"Why don't you assholes just start your OWN BLOG where you can write till your heart's content about how sexism doesn't actually exist in philosophy and how the feminists suck, and blah blah fucking blah? Fuck this is so tiresome. If you don't like the way this blog is moderated, or think it's immoral or unjust or whatever, than fucking GO SOMEWHERE ELSE."

(a) Nobody's saying that there's no sexism in philosophy or that feminists (generally) suck. Why must you mischaracterize what your opponents' positions? My guess is that you're the sort of person who sees any failure to tow the party line on this issue as "trolling" or -- let's just say it -- counter-revolutionary, and you don't think trolls and counter-revolutionaries merit respect as interlocutors.

(b) The reason people express concern about how this blog is moderated, and don't simply "fucking go somewhere else" is because *this* blog is widely read and linked to by other widely read blogs. Like, did you expect some other answer?

Mr. Zero said...

you could have edited out whatever was genuinely objectionable and told your readers this (though I can't imagine what was objectionable).

No, I couldn't. Blogger's comment moderation system doesn't allow moderators to do that. I can publish the comment as it was written or not, and that's all.

Second, I would be very uncomfortable using that power even if I had it. Third, if I am as untrustworthy as you say, I can't imagine why you'd want me to have that power. Seems like it's just as open to abuse as deletion.

Anonymous said...

This is what happens when you have a bunch of overeducated, un/underemployed people with too much time on their hands.

Stafford said...

Zero, the point that keeps getting made here is that there have been important views and arguments that you have blocked from getting into the discussion, and that that's misled your readership and has probably skewed the philosophical community's discussions on important issues.

If you'd wanted those views to get through, they would have got through. Please don't tell us there was just no way. It doesn't sound as though there was anything objectionable about the posts, anyway. The details of how you could have allowed these ideas and arguments into the discussion isn't the big thing: the big thing is that you blocked them while leaving the door open to those on the more socially dominant side to contribute as much as they wanted while stifling views that happened to constitute important dissent (whether or not this was your motivation).

That much has been established. You don't think that's morally reprehensible. Most of your readership seems to. I guess we can just leave it there. But please don't keep rubbing our faces in coming up with convoluted justifications. We all know where we stand. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

If someone can't be bothered to contact Zero by email, and can't remember the deleted posts a month later, and raises the matter on a random thread, I rather doubt that anything worth hearing has been lost. Also, and especially, stopping one instance of something being said, perhaps an accidental stopping, doesn't constitute censorship.

A censored woman said...

Holy crap, 12:02.

1) As I explained, Mr. Zero did absolutely nothing to suggest that I should contact him by email.

2) I remembered what I posted, and repeated all the main points here.

3) It wasn't a month later, but over a year later, and I've said that several times.

4) Some very substantial points were lost, and they've been repeated here (but you seem not to know that either).

5) This wasn't a case of one post being blocked, perhaps by accident. It was a case of some ten posts being blocked in my case, and apparently several more in many other people's cases. That's been made clear.

6) The blocking was not accidental, but deliberate, _as Mr. Zero himself has admitted repeatedly here_.

As someone else just said: please don't join discussion threads without reading them first. It only makes you look like a complete idiot and wastes our time. Thank you.

Anonymous said...


I fail to see what sort of odd sense of vindication these various anonymous and really annoying complainers think they are going to receive by bitching about the status of their neglected blog posts from months or years ago. Is this really that important to you? Or is this some kind of joke meant to play off of the initial questions brought up by this blog post?

Frank said...

What's your end game "censored woman?" What do you want Zero to say?

If he says it, then fine. If he does not say it, then let it go.

I agree with 10:23.

Anonymous said...

"the point that keeps getting made here is that there have been important views and arguments that you have blocked from getting into the discussion, and that that's misled your readership and has probably skewed the philosophical community's discussions on important issues."

Hahaha!

1. Of course the people who have their comments censored think their contributions are important. But other than their word, we have no way of knowing if this is true or not.

2. Do we really think that we are "the philosophical community"? I can't possibly be the only one who thinks the commenters are the same couple dozen people who obsess about what's going on here. (And sure, let's say I am one of them. I've commented before.)

3. Important issues? Are you kidding? The last few posts in this community:
-Is this guy trolling another blog?
-Here's a comic!
-I miss the old way jobs were posted.
-Here's a comic!
-Moderator navel-gazing.
-Here's a comic!
-Moderator navel-gazing.
-THEN we get a very useful post, based on a question provided by a reader (that is, not a moderator).

I'll believe that there might be some useful discussion buried in the comments, but they are likely drowned out by the chorus of people ranting about censorship v. moderation, the usefulness of feminism, and masturbatory exercises in logic.

Stafford said...

The censored woman who has spoken out about what has happened to her posts has made clear that she's 'letting it go', since she's not interested in continuing the conversation.

I can't speak for her 'end game' (Seriously, do you wonder about everyone else's 'end game'? Or just hers, for some reason?), but it seems clear that the question now is what the rest of us should take from this.

Speaking as someone who is interested in coming to a correct understanding of the world around me, and who recognizes the degree to which that can be affected by the diversity of opinion being misrepresented to me, I think the big question is what _we_ should do about it. I, for one, will try to revise my opinions about what others in our profession think about these issues, since there's now good reason to believe that at least one blog moderator (and possibly Leiter also, as someone mentioned) have been skewing the results they post.

More important, perhaps, I hope that the facts that have now come to light will somehow lead to a revision of editorial practices or at least a heightened skepticism about comment threads on blogs whose moderators may explicitly or implicitly skew away from claims and arguments they might be personally uncomfortable with.

But that's just me. If you're not troubled by any of this and just want to go back to your happy programming without worrying about views you don't presently like anyway being systematically misrepresented to you, then your best course of action is to take your own advice and let it go. Again, the information is now out and needn't be discussed further unless further posts necessitate a repetition of comments already made.

Anonymous said...

Thus spake self-righteous Stafford!

May his moralism and unending, overinflated quest for correctness provide occasion for many laughs.

6:41 said...

@Stafford,

No, I will not read this thread.

Yes, I do think that *in general* Zero should delete more comments. And no, I won't give you my reasons because I don't think this conversation is going to go anywhere.

Those are my final words on the matter.

Anonymous said...

12:02 again:

Could one of the not-censored-but-claiming-that-label people say just what they think the non-sexist reasons for there being so few women in philosophy are? And how those reasons contribute to what has been (and continues to be) a poor climate for many women in many places where philosophy is practiced? And what they think the breakdown is between sexism and other factors in causing the low proportion of women in philosophy. Is it 90/10? Because then I agree! Is it 50/50? Because then I don't.

If the whole position boils down to "talking about sexism is worse than not talking about sexism" then I'm not sure how any philosopher could hold it without exceptionally compelling empirical evidence.

Censorship surely implies some global or near-global ability to stop speech. Governments used to be able to do that; I agree that it's a legitimate worry that some tech companies might be able to do it in the present or future. But individual bloggers can control control speech only on their own blogs, and that's not censorship.

Anonymous said...

This thread is so unbelievably dumb. I can't take seriously all of this high-flown moral grandstanding and righteous indignation over something so completely and totally trivial. As has been suggested a few times now, STFU.

Anonymous said...

3:01, we've been over this. Did you follow the link? Your questions would have been answered then. http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2013/06/17/192523112/name-ten-women-in-philosophy-bet-you-can-t

Now, let's all STFU. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

3:01, if you've followed the dialectic so far, you'll know that your view entails that FOX News is not guilty of censorship when it selectively presents views, when Bill O'Reilly cuts off guests' microphones, and so on.

Happy with that, on reflection? Just curious.

Anonymous said...

Fox News is obviously not guilty of censorship. Guilty of many things, sure. But clearly not guilty of censorship. I think applying that word to their behavior is completely absurd.

That NPR Blog post is very, very bad. Nothing could persuade me to take it seriously enough to step through it to point out all the places where it gestures at things without spelling them out, but I will quote this, my favorite, paragraph:

"To borrow a metaphor from a paper by Antony herself, philosophy could involve a "perfect storm" of social and psychological factors that conspire to make it difficult for women to persist in the field. No single intervention is likely to change the climate."

Anonymous said...

I like how this thread is titled 'an important question'

Any way, didn't people last year worry about whether posting about interviews would displease interviewing departments? If this a silly worry or should one pause before posting on the wiki?

A censored woman said...

4:49,

1) Your definition of 'censorship': Fair enough, I won't quibble over a word. Whatever you call it that FOX News does in its selective reporting and silencing commentators, though, it's immoral.

2) If you don't like the NPR link, you might check out the article it discusses (in _Hypatia_: hardly a hotbed of anti-feminist thought). Yes, the matter is complex. But the point I tried to make a year or so ago, and was repeatedly barred from doing so, was that we should stop taking for granted that the best explanation for the generally low numbers of women in the profession is the sexism of men in the profession and/or the combative nature of philosophical discourse. The article, and the research summarized in the little thing I linked to, supports taking a skeptical approach to that trendy 'feminist' line.

Anonymous said...

This blog gets dumber by the day.

Anonymous said...

I've been wincing at this with gritted teeth too, 6:11. It's a very sad sign for the state of many of the people in our profession.

The good news, if there is any, is that if this represents the level of intelligence and attention of the competition, we might have an easier time out-competing them for jobs.

There are many things to wince at, but one that stands out to me is the complete inability of several commenters (or perhaps just one, let's hope for the sake of humanity) who can't distinguish between saying something and saying the exact opposite of that thing.

The person who tarted this digression, and later 'A censored woman', complained about people who were:
- "self styled 'feminists'"
- "pseudofeminists"
- "quasi-feminists" and
- "so called 'feminists'".

In other words, they were complaining about those who, in their opinion, were not genuine feminists at all but merely taking on the mantle of feminism. We later found out that the main person ('A censored woman') who was critical of those she took to be NON-feminists feels that a genuine feminist would try to stop freaking women out by building up the level of sexism in the profession, which (she argues) is not warranted by the available evidence and is worsened by non-peer-reviewed blogs like 'What It's Like', which allow no comments and never report on the women who never encounter any sexism in the profession, and so on.

Now, I'm not sure what I think of this line of thinking: it'll take time to settle. But whatever we should think of it, it's clear that ACW is _NOT_ attacking those she takes to be feminists!

That's what the scare quotes were for! That's what the prefixes 'pseudo-' and 'quasi-' were for! You don't need to be a genius to see that!

So... how could trained philosophers (if they are trained philosophers) show up here and accuse ACW of criticizing feminism?

Perhaps their 'philosophical' (note the scare quotes) background didn't involve paying close attention to reading? Uh...

Anonymous said...

Sweet lord in heaven! Do you ever shut up?

Anonymous said...

Voluminous contributions? Wow. I don't think I'd go so far as to call them "voluminous" or "contributions." Also, I don't think I likely contribute here anymore than anyone else does, but I do happen to have a handle. "Self-styled feminist" huh? What other kind is there? Not sure where I got the tag "feminist" but OK.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

I don't know who (s)he thinks (s)he's fooling, but it is transparently obvious that the comments written by the Original Threadjacker, Stafford, Mr. Ginzburg, A Censored Woman, and several anonymouses are all written by the same person, and it's also pretty clear that this person is a narcissistic dickhead with a chip on his shoulder about "so-called feminists" and a grudge against Zero. And while this is less certain, if Zero was as lacking in integrity as (s)he has insinuated, it's easy to imagine him censoring a lot of the comments that have appeared in this thread. My own reaction to this episode is that I trust him more, not less.

Anonymous said...

YFNA, a self-styled feminist need not be a kind of feminist at all. "Self-styled" is an alienans adjective.

Anonymous said...

1:00 for the win!

Anonymous said...

My own reaction to this episode is that I trust [Zero] more, not less.

Yep.

Mr. Zero said...

To the person whose comment about Leiter's editorial practices I did not approve: I didn't approve your comment partly because it didn't have anything to do with anything, and partly because after a some searching I couldn't confirm that the incident you were complaining about even took place, and mostly because it was needlessly and gratuitously insulting.

Stafford said...

Stafford here. Nope, I'm not identical with any of the other people who agree with me. Sorry, nice try.

Anonymous said...

It looks like the Phylo wiki is indeed dead. I tried adding a new job to the system and it didn't take. (It said that it would be added after the addition was approved by moderators, but it never showed up.) My jobs only seem to be showing up in the wiki if they're first added to the 'official' jobs database. My guess is that the moderators are no longer actively engaged in maintaining the wiki.

New thread discussing where we're going to be posting the information this year?

Anonymous said...

2:18PM

Go get a sense of humor for all of our sakes. Pedantic ass.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

YFNA,

I'm not 2:18, but he's clearly right. One needn't be a feminist to be a self-described 'feminist' (and one can also be a feminist without describing oneself as one). Also, whether one contributes voluminously to discussions is an absolute matter, not a relative one.

Just admit you goofed, or let it drift! One doesn't come across well being indignant when people point out your mistakes.

Anonymous said...


Go get a sense of humor for all of our sakes. Pedantic ass.


Wow! Hostile!
Nobody gave you the label 'feminist', is all I was pointing out. If that makes me a 'pedantic ass', I'm not sure why, but OK.

Anonymous said...

has anyone reached out to the phylo wiki moderators to see what's up? i doubt we could quickly come up with an alternative that is as sophisticated. it'd be nice if someone could just take over maintaining the wiki if they aren't into it anymore...

Anonymous said...

But if she were a "self-styled" feminist, he would probably have some idea where he got the tag, no? Or do you think that she's saying that one cannot be tagged a feminist without being one? Dumbass.

Anonymous said...

6:50,

If you need a reminder or don't know the history of YFNA's (purportedly) feminist antics on this blog, a good place to start is where she admittedly hijacked a thread on bad letters in order to vigorously sound off irrelevantly on purported male privilege in the profession. It's worth checking out her response to people trying to quiet her down and get the thread back on topic, too.

You can find the thread at http://philosophysmoker.blogspot.com/2012/10/bad-letters.html . YFNA's hijacking begins on October 24th at 11:29am.

Speaking of getting back to the point of threads, yes, let's see about getting the Wiki resurrected. It's not entirely reliable, but it's sometimes a little useful.

Anonymous said...

Lex Luthor here is right about the problems with Skype interviews, but I think he vastly overestimates the worth of a 15 to 30 minute conversation under incredibly artificial conditions. Given their drawbacks which would be better a short APA interview or a long Skype interview or series of Skype interviews? I don't see that it follows at all that it's a priori better to do the former. Steak may be be better than hamburger, but I'd rather have a whole burger than a bite of steak. And I think that gives to much credit to APA interviews. It's more like the difference between a burger from Wendy's and one from Burger King.

Really I think the best solution is for departments to spend a bit more money and skip straight to fly outs but invite more people (say 5 or 6 rather than the usual 3). People like Nadelhoffer would surely complain about not getting their annual junket payed for by their departments and it might involve more work on the part of professors like him (poor things it's so sad when they have duties they can't shirk on to adjuncts or grad students) but if you want an idea of actual applicants it's certainly a much better system than Skype interviews or the APA interviews.

Anonymous said...

I didn't see where YFNA styled herself a feminist in that thread. Did you?

Anonymous said...

People like Nadelhoffer would surely complain about not getting their annual junket payed for by their departments

Right. That must be why Nadelhoffer posted in favor of replacing APA interviews with Skype interviews.

Fucking brilliant comment.

Stafford said...

9:17,

Back again. Look, I'm not sure why we're still discussing it, but YFNA has posted several things on several blogs that seem to conversationally imply that about herself. For instance, here's one of her posts from Philosophers Anonymous:

"To the one who mentioned having no feminist sensibilities: do you also have no anti-racist sensibilities. Or are you just an immoral ass?

YFNA

(MAY 8, 2013 AT 7:02 PM)"

I'm not sure I can recall whether, in addition to saying things like this, YFNA actually referred to herself in print as a feminist. I just assume that someone who conversationally implies that anyone who doesn't have 'feminist sensibilities' is an 'immoral ass' will tend to see herself as a 'feminist'.

However, I admit there is a snowball's chance in hell that this is one of those cases in which, despite appearing to conversationally imply it over and over again, the effect is highly misleading: there is an extremely tiny chance, I admit, that YFNA thinks of herself as an immoral ass and meant to condemn herself through her comment, contrary to all appearances.

If that is so, and YFNA has never identified herself as a feminist, then I admit my error and apologize to YFNA for the misunderstanding. I'd be grateful in that case to YFNA for making clear that she doesn't think she's a 'feminist' by her own lights, so this remarkable matter can be sorted out.

The Un-Dude said...

It is absurd to accuse Zero of censoring the important and meaningful contributions of those that he opposes. We don’t, as Zero suggests, have to look at the history of comments on this blog to realize this; we need only look at this one (as was pointed out by Anonymous 1:00 pm). If Zero were intent on giving the illusion that his views were more widely shared, we wouldn’t have seen the objections raised in this post at all. Moreover, it is obvious that the position alluded to in the unspecified previous discussion in which Censored Woman’s comments were moderated out were not deleted based on the position that she held – she successfully repeated that position in this thread. So, is there evidence that Zero is unfairly moderating the comments? No. There are, at most, two assertions of unfair moderation embedded within a discussion full of examples of disagreement.

Anonymous said...

8:24 is right. The worst thing about Skype interviews is that they are delaying the much-needed abandonment of short interviews as a stage in the process. Skip that, ask for more writing or other materials from your final list of 10-15, and then bring an extra person out to campus. Our department tried that in a search, and we were very happy with the results.

Those people who think that they have the power to see into candidates' souls on the basis of short interviews, whether at the APA or Skype, are wrong.

Anonymous said...

I didn't say I wasn't feminist either. I was simply pointing out a source of hypocrisyn in previous post. And I wonder if the inference that because I am a woman, I MUST be feminist. If that inference played any role in thinking I'm a feminist, well then, I resent that.

YFNA

A (formerly) censored woman said...

Hi again,

Yes, Mr. Zero did censor some seemingly important points previously, and he did so for what seemed no clear reason. There's no controversy over whether he blocked those comments: he admitted it, as you'll know if you've been following the discussion. And yes, he has refrained from censoring my allusions to those same opinions this time (he hasn't blocked any of my posts in this thread).

Does it follow from this that Mr. Zero is currently not censoring important points? It gives us good reason to think so, and I for one am grateful to Mr. Zero if as it seems this indicates that he's not going to censor these things anymore. Obviously, it doesn't indicate that he never did it, though. That's a different thing entirely, but I think we've settled that.

YFNA: "I wonder if the inference that because I am a woman, I MUST be feminist"

No, obviously it wasn't, and Stafford just _explicitly stated_ what the inference was from, providing a quote from you.

Are you playing games here? Are you refusing to read your own words when they're quoted back at you?

And do you really still not see the difference between being a feminist and being a 'feminist', which has just been explained?

I'm really starting to wonder whether this is trolling on your part. That, or you're really not paying attention.

Anonymous said...

Can we please, please, please not use the word censor in this context? Unless Mr Zero has power over the entire range of spaces where the (really weird - but that's another issue) opinions being sort-of--vaguely-defended by A Not-Actually-Censored-Person can appear, he can't be censoring them.

Though I guess persistently misusing a simple concept is one way to troll a bunch of anxious philosophers during a shitty market, so maybe ANACP's posts are in fact on-topic?

Anonymous said...

1:56, it's curious that these implications of the term "censor" that you seem really, really confident about are missing from Merriam Webster's definition of the term. Here it is:

"2censor transitive verb
: to examine books, movies, letters, etc., in order to remove things that are considered to be offensive, immoral, harmful to society, etc.
cen·soredcen·sor·ing
Full Definition of CENSOR

: to examine in order to suppress or delete anything considered objectionable ; also : to suppress or delete as objectionable
Examples of CENSOR

The station censored her speech before broadcasting it."

Anonymous said...

1:56 here

I was going to post the Merriam Webster definitions of 'right' and 'wrong' in order to settle some long-standing questions about their use in ethical debates, but instead I'll pose the following question:

If the New York Times posts an article about feminism, and I send them 50 badly written, vaguely argued, passive-aggressive letters full of insinuation and distinctions between ""feminism"" and "feminism" and they only publish thirty-eight of them on their letters page, have I been censored?

Anonymous said...

You're the one who said "self-styled," "Stafford," or whatever your names are. Then you went to a lot of trouble to demonstrate the unbelievably obvious fact that being a self styled feminist is consistent with being a non feminist. You're the one who used YFNA as your example. I assume you thought you had reasons for doing those things. If there wasn't, you should ask yourself whose fault it is. I'm just trying to understand what you think you're talking about. I'm confused because clearly it's possible to understand how privilege works and to see oneself as having "feminist sensibilities" without being a feminist, or pseudo feminist, of any type.

What's more. the fact that this is the evidence you cite in defense of your claims of YNFA's self styled feminism makes it seem like you think you know more about how YFNA styles herself than she does. It also seems like you think that there is an important reason to distinguish between real feminists and mere pseudo-feminists and that you have a nontrivial qualification to decide who's in what group. It also seems like you've got a real chip on your shoulder about it. and t seems like you have an unjustifiably high opinion of your ability to conceal your personality & writing style & other idiosyncrasies as you switch between different sockpuppets.

ACW said...

1:56, it's really time to end this. We're well past the point of diminishing returns. You goofed on the definition of 'censor'. Admit it. Or don't. Just stop writing. Please.

At the risk of provoking more stupidity: I submitted about ten comments before. They raised relevant issues that were not discussed by others Mr. Zero did not allow any of them to be published.

So, the parallel question with the New York Times is: if
a) someone submitted ten relevant letters to the editor on a certain topic, to address an ongoing controversy in the letter section, _and_
b) nobody else had raised the points made in the letters, _and_
c) the editor made a deliberate choice to withhold those letters from publication _not_ for reasons of space, etc. but because (s)he deemed those letters to be objectionable in some way,
would that be censorship?

And the answer is, yes, obviously, it would be, by definition. Again, look at the definition of the term.

If you think Merriam-Webster has the definition of 'censor' wrong, then please take up the matter with them. I think we've all heard enough about it. Thanks.

Mr. Ginzburg said...

1:56/2:23,

Have you been following this discussion at all? If so, how are you getting confused between the _uncensored_ comments she posted on _this_ thread and the ten _censored_ comments she posted on _another_ thread, a year ago (which, by her description, had nothing to do with the signifying power of scare quotes)?

Please. Stop. Now.

Anonymous said...

Good lord.

To claim that some person X is a self-styled Y is merely to say that X claims to be a Y.

I know you hate looking up words in dictionaries, 3:21, but I recommend getting over your qualms and trying it some times. It would certainly save us from pointless digressions here.

I recommend that you start with this one:
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/self-styled

Mountain Feminist said...

YFNA doesn't need my support; she's fighting these loonys extremely well on her own. But asking people to look things up in a DICKtionary is classic mansplaining.

Talk about invisible male privilege.
Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

You're using the word 'censored' wrongly as part of your melodramatic self-conception. Mr Zero didn't censor you; the NYT declining to publish freshman B- quality responses to an article is not censorship.

What happened in Communist Czechoslovakia; what happens to letters home from soldiers in wartime; what the Chinese government seeks to do to mentions of the Tiananmen massacre, these are cases of censorship. "Not accepting a shittily-written comment" is not a case of censorship, no matter how many definitions you cite. Or do you really, actually think that dictionary definitions are decisive in philosophy? If so, you can start by looking up "feminist".

Actually, if you have anything substantial to say, stop with the sockpuppetry (which is beginning to seem insane) and write something clear and cogent, if you can. Then submit it to the proper journals and stop harassing Mr Zero, because stalking is creepy and gross, and you're coming very close to it with your nonsensical whinging about lost comments from a year ago.

Anonymous said...

Mountain Feminist! Welcome back.

The prophecy begins to be fulfilled.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely. If you want to know what a word means, the last place to look is in a dictionary. White male privilege par excellence.

This comment thread has it all. Classic!

dick webster said...

4:53,
Dictionaries are fallible, obviously. But they are evidence, and generally pretty good evidence, to back up a claim about the meaning of a word.
I don't see that you have anything at all on your side. You're just making assertions.

Anonymous said...

"To claim that some person X is a self-styled Y is merely to say that X claims to be a Y."

I understand that, Anonymous Censored Staffburg. Whoever denied that? Not I, said the fly. The only thing is that YFNA doesn't claim to be a feminist. She once expressed an understanding of male privilege and I guess thinks its important to have some feminist "sensibilities," whatever those are. You seem to think that commits her to an outlook that she has to call "feminism." But then she's not saying she's a feminist. You are.

Mountain Feminist said...

@5:13

Mocking feminism and feminists using sarcasm, which your comment does, is a well known sexist tactic. Sorry if it offends you to think about it, "par excellence" or not.

Try taking a feminist philosophy course sometime. You just might learn something. And if your department doesn't offer one, maybe you should think about why that is. Maybe you should think really, really hard.

Look THAT up in a DICKtionary, why don't you.

Stafford said...

6:34, etc. etc.,

I already explained this. There is clearly good reason for thinking that YFNA regards herself as a feminist. I also said already that I will withdraw my claim that she's a self-styled feminist if she will claim -- extremely implausibly -- that she doesn't see herself as a feminist. She hasn't done that.

Again: this is well past old. Please give it a rest.

Anonymous said...

@6:34,

"The only thing is that YFNA doesn't claim to be a feminist."

Really? She doesn't? When did she say she doesn't?

Put up or SHUT UP. It's time.

Mountain Feminist said...

Nice work, men.
*sarcastic claping*

First, you hounded YFNA because she stood up against sexism.

Now, you're all beating up on another womyn, who is forced to remain anonymous by your bullying, just because she's a woman.

This is a perfect example of what it's like to be a womyn in philosophy for those of you who can't be assed to read the blog but insult it from a distence. Pity the sick joke is lost on you.

Mr. Zero, it's time to put a stop to this. I'm disgusted with the level of hostility toward womyn being shown in the last few comments. I respectfully ask that they be striken from the record.

Mountain Feminist said...

dick Webster,

Wow, we've actually descended to DICKJOKES here.

As if the McGinn case never happenned.

Anonymous said...

dick webster,

I'm not "making assertions" any more than you are. The question, as I see it, is: what constitutes censorship? "Suppressing something considered objectionable" is all that M-W has space for. Well, it's a dictionary, not a monograph on censorship. If you take that in a contextless way, countless things qualify.

My claim is that someone not publishing a blog comment is not censorship unless you take all the sting out of the charge of censorship.

Censorship is a bad thing because it suppresses free speech, limits the range of viewpoints that can be heard, and supports a status quo. To accuse someone of censorship in a strong sense is a large claim, especially when the claim is being made about an academic.

I claim that Mr Zero is not censoring in any morally objectionable way - and that therefore, contextually, using the word as it's usually used, he's not censoring at all. There are hundreds of blogs, journals, websites, and so on where philosophers can argue about feminism. That's as it should be; it's a hugely important and fascinating topic. In general, though, joining that conversation makes demands of clarity, explicitness, attribution, seriousness, originality, cogency, substance, lack of paranoid assertion, and so on. These are the norms that apply, and meeting them isn't easy, as journal acceptance rates demonstrate.

I submit that if the crank who derailed this thread had met those norms, his/her posts would have been posted.

Now, if Mr Zero had sought to stop the posting of those posts elsewhere, he might have been engaged in "Suppressing something considered objectionable".

But as it is, Mr Zero isn't censoring. He's editing.

Anonymous said...

"There is clearly good reason for thinking that YFNA regards herself as a feminist."

So you say. What you haven't done is show where she herself claims to be one. Does she make that claim? Put up or shut up, as someone once said.

7:01 doesn't get the difference between not claiming to be a feminist and claiming to not be a feminist.

Anonymous said...

Mountain feminist:

Things like "DICKtionary" is super cissexist.

Anonymous said...

7:10,

Your case is getting weaker the longer you grasp at straws.

Normally, when you've got to the point where you've been shown that your central claim rests on a misuse of a word, and that misuse has been documented by appeal to the standard dictionary definition, it's time to wave the white flag.

But not for you: you keep arguing, and do so by changing the dictionary definition to suit your rhetorical purposes.

The dictionary definition just quoted to you does not say that censoring is "suppressing something considered objectionable." It says that to censor is "to suppress OR DELETE" something as objectionable.

Also, your quirky definition is inconsistent with the example given in the dictionary definition, already quoted in this thread:
"The station censored her speech before broadcasting it."
On your view, this would not constitute censorship.

If your only way to maintain your view is to screw around with a dictionary definition by blatantly changing its wording, concealing a crucial disjunct, it's time to throw in the towel.

Apparently, I'm not the only person who's bored with this. At this point, I'm just curious to see what you and Mountain Feminist will try next.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm too optimistic, but I think I've got a nonpartisan way of ending this to everyone's satisfaction.

In the kerfuffle, it seems that Stafford, YFNA and some anonymous lunatic have all got confused about where the term "self-styled 'feminist'" appeared. It was in the anonymous post that began the thread hijack, which read in part,

"We still haven't reached the point where some inane, mentally deficient, self-styled 'feminist' starts freaking out..."

So you see, the "self-styled 'feminist'" remark was not made in reference to YNFA! It wasn't made in reference to anyone in particular, though the description might well apply to, say Mountain Feminist (who does style herself a feminist in her moniker).

Anonymous said...

Whatever. The key point is that no-one was censored on this blog except in a really, deeply, trivial sense, and they obviously deserved it. I found the self-labeling of 'censored' to be offensive, because real, non-trivial censorship is a thing that happens, and is bad. Clue to telling the difference: if your more coherent contributions in some medium get through, you're not being censored.

Anonymous said...

This whole thread is horrific. Just dreadful. The folks calling for Zero's head because they felt their speech was suppressed on this blog a year ago are the worst, but there's a whole lot of awful to go around.

Our Provost refused our department's request to perform TT search this year and after reading this train-wreck of a thread, I'm thinking it was perhaps a blessing.

ACW said...

9:04.

Are you paying attention? Are you sober? Here it comes, one more time.

Ready?

You wrote: "Clue to telling the difference: if your more coherent contributions in some medium get through, you're not being censored."

At the time we were discussing, when my comments were blocked, _THEY WERE ALL BLOCKED_.

ALL

MY

COMMENTS

WERE

BLOCKED.

Is that clear now? Because I'm not going to say it again.

THIS THREAD: I WAS _NOT_ CENSORED.

THE OTHER THREAD LAST YEAR: I _WAS_ CENSORED.

Got it now?

Sorry to have to be a bitch about it: you leave me no other choice.

Anonymous said...

9:20,

I agree that it's dreadful. But who's calling for Zero's head? I don't think any of us are. We were just discussing the rights and wrongs of censorship on this blog.

Seriously, the whole thing should have been dealt with in two, maybe three posts. But anyway, nobody that I recall on this thread called for Zero to step down/resign/anything like that. They just urged him not to censor posts (or supported him in censoring them, or got confused about what the word 'censor' means).

Anonymous said...

This thread has been the best and the worst.

I have to admit, though, that I was really hoping West Coast Feminist and/or Rodolfo would make an appearance. Damn.

At least Mountain Feminist came back. That's something.

Anonymous said...

"Wow, we've actually descended to DICKJOKES here."

Yes, we have! Or rather: YOU HAVE.

(November 11, 2013 at 4:39 PM)

Let's see if you can stoop any lower. It's hard to see how, but my money is on you. Keep digging, Mountain Feminist!

Anonymous said...

The thing I like most about ACW is her unflappable demeanor. She never flies of the handle or hurls insults under any circumstances. It is inconceivable that there could ever be any legitimate reason not to approve one of her comments.

Anonymous said...

That's not censorship. That's editing. Again, write to the NYT with your crazy theories, have them not publish them, do an x-phi study, see whether people (especially philosophers) think you've been 'censored'. Optional step: shout at people about dictionary definitions. Not all blocking is censorship, even if all censorship is blocking.

Anonymous said...

To be fair, 5:34, she has been facing a rather exasperatingly obtuse interlocutor who won't quit or listen no matter what. I'm not sure I would have done any better, and I'm a patient man.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, she definitely didn't start insulting people almost immediately, like here. And if she was getting trolled, she definately handled it right. Everyone knows that the best way to deal with a troll is to lose your cool and start yelling at them. That shows 'em.

Mountain Feminist said...

4:34,

Calling it a DICKtionary is not making a dick joke. Duh. I guess you've never read Mary Daly. Come to think of it, you're probibly never read any feminist theory.

Let me fill you in on what's going on here. You and the other antifeminist male philosophers here. I'll try to put it in terms you'll understand from a male prospective.

You know how when you stop the police from doing their job its worse than just stopping an ordinary person from doing her job? Technically it's called obstruction of justice.

Well, in feminist friendly discourse, feminist womyn are like the police. You don't beat up and pile up on them when they're doing there job. You listen and learn. That's why Zero should go back and delete the posts starting with the ones that attack YNFA and the anonymous feminist who keeps getting womynbashed here.

By the way, "Keep digging" is racist. Think about where that saying comes from. Think and, listen, and think some more.

Anonymous said...

7:22, that really doesn't seem like a case of yelling at people immediately. The first comments in the exchange between Zero and ACW both make clear what was agreed on by both sides of the issue. The Anonymous writer at 12:02 (and thereafter?) wrote a nasty comment dripping with sarcasm that managed to misconstrue the entire debate.

Again, I'm not sure I would have done better. It's really astonishing to me that people can't be bothered to learn the facts of a dispute before jumping in. I'm not sure whether ACW's reply was warranted (maybe it is) but it's surely understandable given the idiocy of the one/many anonymous responder(s) who just won't read and just won't quit.

Anonymous said...

I didn't say she yelled in the comment I linked to. I said she resorted to insults, which she clearly did. I guess Ginzburg was right: reading is hard.

Anonymous said...

Calling it a DICKtionary is not making a dick joke.

It's a dick pun! (The fact that it's intended to be serious just makes it worse. Well, funnier, so better in that way.)


Well, in feminist friendly discourse, feminist womyn are like the police.

Yes, precisely. Only difference between feminist womyn and the police is that feminist womeyn are self-appointed. So, more like paramilitary. But you're right, otherwise the analogy is perfect.

By the way, "Keep digging" is racist.

Oh, thank you officer!
I know it's unbecoming for paramilitary police to offer evidence, so I won't bother asking for any. You just assert it, and everyone will have to follow your orders.

Mountain Feminist said...

"Only difference between feminist womyn and the police is that feminist womeyn are self-appointed"

*Cringe*

Anyone here still wondering why Feminist Philosophers and What It's Like To Be A Woman In Philosophy don't allow comments?

This is your answer. It's because men and antifeminist womyn would rather be disrespectful than listen and learn.

THAT's what it's like to a womyn in philosophy. Get it now? And yes, that's why every department needs as many feminist philosophers as masculinist philosophers. It's why everyone here who hasn't already needs to read up on feminist philosophy rather than shoot the messenger.

Anonymous said...

Anyone here still wondering why Feminist Philosophers and What It's Like To Be A Woman In Philosophy don't allow comments?

Feminist Philosophers does allow comments. But don't worry about the facts, they aren't important. Speech police get to make up their own facts, since they will later appoint themselves as judges.

It's because men and antifeminist womyn would rather be disrespectful than listen and learn.

Self-appointed police always demand respect they don't deserve and won't earn. You're no different.

THAT's what it's like to a womyn in philosophy. Get it now?

THAT's what it's like to be a self-appointed speech police officer. Almost no women in philosophy appoint themselves police. You don't speak for those women.

Get it now?

Anonymous said...

Discussion Threads on the Philosophy Smoker might well be be one of the Four Horsemen of the Philosophy Apocalypse. Honestly, I feel a special place of warmth for Jaded, and Mr. Zero ... the idea that they continue to run this blog, with decent and generally appropriate content despite the constant insanity is impressive. I would have given up ages ago.

Anyway, please carry on with your Behavior that Precedes The End.

*munches popcorn*

Anonymous said...

Everyone realizes that Mountain Feminist isn't serious, right? Just observe the obviously intentional misspellings and the ridiculous claims--he or she isn't for real. It's either a joke (lots of references in her or his comments to Smoker threads past) or an attempt to make actual feminists look silly (e.g., by pretending that any actual feminist would make hay out of the "DICKtionary" line). Probably best not to engage this person as if he or she was an actual feminist expressing genuine views.

Anonymous said...

9:07, I think Mountain Feminist, with her "Dicktionary" lunacy, is for real.

Some evidence:

http://wwomenwwarriors.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/womens-liberation-get-it-right-dicktionary/

Also, Mary Daly's _Wickedary_ does use the spelling 'Dicktionary' to refer to what she considers the male-oriented standard reference guide.

Mountain Feminist said...

"Just observe the obviously intentional misspellings and the ridiculous claims--he or she isn't for real."

Thanks for your vote of confidence, asshole. Yes, I struggle with dyslexia and my editing isn't always perfect, especially when I'm in a hurry. Sorry if that delegitimizes me in your eyes. What the fuck.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I really believe you didn't fully intend to write "DICKtionary." That wasn't an unintentional misspelling on your part: that was some straight up cissexist BS. Own it.

Mr. Zilch said...

"Well, in feminist friendly discourse, feminist womyn are like the police. You don't beat up and pile up on them when they're doing there job. You listen and learn."

Mountain Feminist, I'm listening to you, but I ain't learnin' shit, because you ain't teachin' shit.

I don't think that we have to hand over police power to the likes of you for our discourse to be feminist-friendly. But assuming for argument's sake that we do, then my response will be to simply avoid feminist-friendly discourse. I suspect that my doing so will have absolutely no negative effect on my contribution to the good of humanity, my apprehension of the truth, the happiness of me and my family, my lifetime earnings, or, really, anything that I ought to care about.

Anonymous said...

11:17, that's no way to speak to the police. You're about this far from getting yourself a commenting ticket.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to hire any of you crazy motherfuckers. Smoke that.

Anonymous said...

Ready? Listening? GOOD.

Not only did Mr. Zero not approve my unhinged comments, OTHER_PEOPLE_DID_NOT_READ_THEM_AND_SUBSEQUENTLY_ACKNOWLEDGE_THAT_I_AM_THE_WISEST_PERSON_ON_THE_INTERNET. Got it?

Now, can people start acknowledging my anonymous brilliance, already?

Jeez.

Anonymous said...

12:58,

I'm definitely not hiring you! Thanks for clarifying that.

God, I hope you talk like this in interviews.

Your behavior throughout this thread has been a class act.

Anonymous said...

My original question was meant to be tongue in cheek and rhetorical. Leave it to philosophers to have no sense of humor. POI: There are a variety of things you might be and have feminist sensibilities, e.g., pro-feminist, humanist. Is that enough schooling for now? YOU get your facts straight. Though I never intended to be being serious again for Christsake. Maybe you should write a dictionary instead of doing philosophy? Clearly you have no imagination.

YFNA

An appalled reader said...

"Though I never intended to be being serious again, for chrissake."

Don't worry, YFNA. After this thread, you'll never be taken seriously again.

Anonymous said...

Haha. YFNA is pulling what should now be called "The McGinn Defense."

Anonymous said...

Ummm...I wasn't engaging in conversations containing sexual innuendo with a graduate student. I don't think. To call what I did a McGinn defense woefully fallacious, unless you're going to bite the bullet and say that everytime someone makes a joke that is taken the wrong way is McGinnish. Please. 5:56 AM given your reasoning in this thread, I wish you would leave the profession so that you don't take one of my jobs in virtue of the sheer luck factor involved in hiring decisions. Get out of my way.

YFNA

Anonymous said...

The McGinn Defense is (forgive me, 5:56, for speaking on your behalf, but I'm pretty confident I got it) seeking to avoid responsibility for a boneheaded move by pretending it was a joke. So, you can be engaging in it even if you didn't engage in sexually charged conversations with a graduate student.

It seems to be a pretty regular thing, actually, that you make some fairly simple error and then lash out at whomever corrects you. I hope you do that at interviews too!

Anonymous said...

YFNA,

I hope that you and that moron who kept posting anonymously until 8:02/Nov. 12 are the same person. I really hope there aren't two people in the profession who would act this way.

I'm not being rhetorical when I say I'm genuinely embarrassed to be a philosopher when I read this thread.

Anonymous said...

I WAS being facetious. I do that kind of thing on this blog ALL THE TIME because mostly I get sick of the constant sense of entitlement to a job in philosophy that I hear on here so often. Or I hear some stupid comment about feminism.

As to 7:09, I felt the need to defend myself from its being implied that I am both stupid AND a feminist, god forbid, an equation I see far far too often at work here.

Anonymous said...

There are feminists who are dogmatic. But there are non-feminists who just as dogmatic about their views. None of this should be surprising. People can be dogmatic. Don't dismiss a whole view because you've come across a few people who hold that view that are dogmatic about it.

Although, to be fair, why is anyone denying being a feminist? Perhaps you were overly impressed by Joss Whedon's speech (who I think is otherwise great). But, at the base of things, feminists simply think that women are just as (morally) valuable as men and should being treated as such. So instead of arguing about whether someone is a feminist, you should be arguing about what kind of feminist they are.

Because if you're not a feminist, you're a misogynist. By definition. And I'm going to be dogmatic about the fact that no one ought to be that. But that's not unreasonable.

Anonymous said...

YFNA/Anon(9:30,etc.),

I think we're all able to see that, from the fact that one person is both stupid and a feminist, it doesn't follow that all stupid people are feminists or that all feminists are stupid. So I'm not sure why it would be especially bad for someone to think you're both.

As for whether you're stupid, and whether you're a feminist, your comments in this and other threads give me all I need to make up my mind. I suspect other smokers feel similarly.

Anonymous said...

6:19,

Spot on. I figured it wasn't too hard to figure out.

YFNA,

The key word is "defense." Reading is hard. And no worries, I won't be applying for your jobs.

Anonymous said...

5:53 wrote:

"...feminists simply think that women are just as (morally) valuable as men and should being treated as such... if you're not a feminist, you're a misogynist. By definition."

I don't think it's that simple. Yes, at one point in history, the word 'feminist' was used to refer to the view you describe. But over the past few decades, the term has been appropriated (rightly or wrongly) by people who load it with a great deal more. Personally, I think that's a shame; but there it is.

For instance, what is meant by the term 'feminist philosophy'? On your definition of 'feminism', it would be that subset of philosophy that assumes that women are just as morally valuable as men. But really, aside from an extremely small group of people perhaps, do any philosophers hold that assumption to be false? The upshot is that, on your definition of 'feminism', the term 'feminist philosophy' would be vacuous and it would be trivially true that there is no area particularly worth pursuing. But whether or not feminist philosophy is worth pursuing, it isn't trivially true that it isn't.

So, 'feminist' seems to mean something else now, and so it doesn't need to follow from someone's claim not to be a feminist that that person is a misogynist.

Anonymous said...

I see we're not unfamiliar with intellectual snobbery here. I really don't understand why anyone would bother splitting hairs about spelling on a fucking internet blog, but maybe that's because you have no imagination. Exactly of what the profession needs more (I wouldn't dare end a sentence with a preposition on here. As for being stupid, you're entitled to your opinion). I think you're an obtuse, unimaginative, pedantic, elitist fuck FWIW. Bye for now all, I'll be back when I'm bored again.

Anonymous said...

ps: 6:19, yes, stick to the community colleges. Thanks!

YFNA

Anonymous said...

6:19: No I don't make simple errors, my comments are often intended just be tongue in cheek many times. Us British colonies have that kind of sense of humour that is lost on thick-headed americans most of the time, but you know, do you really think someone could have a PhD and be as stupid as you are implying I am? Let's just put it on the table. Have you published stuff in top five journals or not? If not, then I'm not too concerned about your opinion of my intelligence and I feel bad that you cannot understand self-parody, sarcasm and whatnot. Talk about a killjoy. Sheesh.

CTS said...

Oh dear. I see this thread has gone the way so many do.

But, let's note that this train wreck was started by someone posting about "inane self-styled feminists" when the OP had nothing to do with feminists, inane or not, self-styled or not.

I, for one, do not think 'self-styled' is a merely descriptive claim. That qualifier is always employed to discredit whoever- is being referenced. I suppose an outright "inane feminist" would have been too obvious.

Anonymous said...

YFNA,

Us British colonies have that kind of sense of humour that is lost on thick-headed americans most of the time,

I get it. Doubling down on the McGinn strategy, right? (Only I don't think Colin uses subjective 'us'.)

do you really think someone could have a PhD and be as stupid as you are implying I am?

I wasn't implying you were stupid. Come on, Colin would never say that. It would never occur to him that someone would think he was stupid.

Let's just put it on the table. Have you published stuff in top five journals or not?

Heh.
That's more like it. Very McGinnish.

ps: 6:19, yes, stick to the community colleges. Thanks!

I don't get this one, but I assume the idea is that it's more of the droll British colonial humour that's lost on Americans.

-6:19

Anonymous said...

CTS,

"But, let's note that this train wreck was started by someone posting about "inane self-styled feminists" when the OP had nothing to do with feminists, inane or not, self-styled or not."

Amazing that one poster, who hasn't appeared in the last hundred comments as far as I can tell, is responsible for the whole derailment!

"I, for one, do not think 'self-styled' is a merely descriptive claim. That qualifier is always employed to discredit whoever- is being referenced."

In this case, the point seems to be that, while these people claim to be speaking as feminists on behalf of feminism, we shouldn't take that claim at face value. Merely saying that you are a feminist doesn't make you one (and hence, in criticizing these people by calling them inane, you aren't criticizing actual feminism or actual feminists.

"I suppose an outright "inane feminist" would have been too obvious."

Or rather, it would have said something different.

To criticize inane self-styled feminists is to criticize people who (dubiously) call themselves feminists, and are inane.

To criticize inane feminists is to criticize inane people who really are feminists.