Having foxes discuss the culture of the chicken-coop may be enlightening in its own way, but it will be a very inaccurate depiction (isn’t it marvelous that the natural tendency of chickens to run around has been channeled into working together to produce eggs …).
By the way, I hope Reagle is misquoting you in his blog, where he gives the impression you’re dismissive and trivializing of personal attacks via Wikipedia biographies (“David adroitly noted that the only biography a person would not complain about is their obituary.”). People get truly libeled and defamed. My involvement with Wikipedia criticism started from my entry being employed as part of a ongoing harassment campaign:
Ad hominem, ad hominem, ad hominem. Seth, do you realize how rarely you actually engage with the content — the ideas, as we used to call them, at least in the comments you leave on my site?
Joseph quotes me correctly. You misread me. What I said is true. It doesn’t imply that it’s therefore ok to slander people in their bios. Who on earth would ever believe such a thing? Jeez.
I’m sometimes more interested in the politics surrounding an issue than the nominal arguments put forth. Calling “ad hominem” incorrectly is often used to try to make that interest somehow illegitimate. Ruling discussion of extensive politics as out of bounds is hardly engaging with ideas.
No, in fact, what you said is false, unless one redefines it into meaninglessness. And, let me put it this way – AS PRESENTED, it comes off as a snide way of insinuating that people who are personally hurt by Wikipedia’s flaws are just whiners. Note the key word there – insinuating . Of course you didn’t say “itâ€™s therefore ok to slander”. But it sure invites dismissiveness when someone has a complaint about how Wikipedia has treated them. It’s very similar to the way accountability for racist or sexist statements can be deflected by saying something like “In this politically-correct world, there’s nothing someone says which won’t offend somebody” (true statement, right?). Maybe you didn’t mean it that way. Note my careful phrasing about effects, which differ from intent.
I went through a huge amount of grief and name-calling over my Wikipedia biography. Now, you may call the following ad hominem, but I think our different experiences and incentives are relevant. Biographies are objectively some of the worst and most destructive aspects of Wikipedia.
1. I’m sorry for the pain your WP BPL caused you.
2. As presented my comment states something that I still believe to be true: it is extremely difficult to write a bio of someone that will entirely satisfy that person. With this statement, I imply that (1) there is a level of dissatisfaction with BPLs (in WP or not) that is just about inevitable and thus must be tolerated (or, if you prefer to use pejorative language, which you do, dismissed); (2) BPL’s are an immensely difficult, thorny, issue for WP. There is no implication that (3) slander, libel, or harassment should be tolerated. #3 is such an outrageous, unreasonable position that I find it a tough implication to draw.
3. Am I only allowed to interview people I disagree with in order to avoid having you claim that the interview ought to be dismissed?
4. You didn’t listen to the interview, did you?
1) Thanks. It’s quite an extensive problem for Wikipedia.
2) Again, consider accountability for racist or sexist statements versus “In this politically-correct world, there’s nothing someone says which won’t offend some hypersensitive person”. Then the speaker goes on to claim (1) There is a level of offense which is inevitable and thus must be tolerated (2) Humor is difficult (3) It is an outrageous, unreasonable position to say this meant racism, sexism, must be tolerated.
Do you see the problem? Phrased this way, the issue of implication, the insinuation – but not outright statement – should not be difficult to discern. Yes, there is a logical problem. There is also a practical problem of not letting the logical problem excuse everything.
If it isn’t completely clear to you, just like there is a dismissal-algorithm for racism, sexism, etc. along the lines of “oversensitivity”, there is a similar dismissal-algorithm for Wikipedia biography harms as inevitable complaints. In both cases, the defenders may say that they of course don’t condone truly bad actions, but invite the audience to think (without saying so outright) that it’s mainly about a bunch of whiners who will never be satisfied.
3) That doesn’t follow. It’s entirely possible for political incentives to be relevant in interviewing people which whom you disagree. Look at it this way – why is it relevant if a medical researcher is paid by a pharmaceuticals company to test its products? Or a rival’s products?
4) I started to listen to the interview, then gave up for many reasons. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to comment to you about what was presented in a blog post from the interviewee, and I’ve been careful in phrasing it that way.