Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Why I have given up Pharyngula and turned over a new leaf

No offense toward PZ Myers. Seriously. But I've given up on Pharyngula. I've deleted my subscription, removed it from my reader and also from my preferred blog list. If PZ even gives a shit that I'm breaking up with him, all I can say is "it's not you, it's me". You see, this isn't really PZ's fault.

I don't really have a lot of time to read generalized science blogs, but I consider countering the vehement anti-evolution movement in this country interesting and PZ often had posts relating to that topic. However, there are a LOT of other topics of interest to PZ about which I really don't care. Atheism for one. He does a LOT of posts on atheism. Which is why reader is so fantastic because I can just scan through the titles and cherry pick the ones that sound interesting. Very seldom do I even link to his page, I just read the entry in my reader unless I want to comment.

So I signed up for some info on the efforts of the anti-evolution movement and tried to ignore the rest. But it seemed that PZ's posts became more and more focused on atheism. I found myself choosing to read fewer of his posts every day. It just isn't my bag.

But yesterday, a post caught my eye. "Creationists gaming Kentucky". PZ had some strong opinions, mostly based in fantasy rather than reality as far as I could tell, but made some rather strong disparaging remarks about Kentuckians to the effect that Kentuckians (at least those at a state university in northern Kentucky) were incapable of having a rational discussion about the debate between evolution and intelligent design.

I read it. Ok, I let it get under my skin. I politely (I thought) asked that Kentuckians have enough trouble with public perception without PZ adding to the negative portrayals. I know. I know. You're right. But when did any of you know me to back off when I ought to? My original comment is #97. Dang, I wish I knew how to link to comments. Anyway, back to the story.

I got a couple of questioning responses. And this is where OC kicks in. I couldn't NOT answer them. Ok, the second comment (#105) may have been overboard. [/understatement] I got slammed. Interestingly enough, I got slammed hardest by a fellow Kentuckian, whose previous post was laying on the stereotypes thicker than any of them, but who subscribed to the idea that "I can slam me and mine, and don't you try to stop me" theory. By now I had realized what a bad idea this all was and attempted to back out saving some face, but NOoooOoooOoooo, that wasn't going to be allowed.

I'm a big girl. I can take it.

But back to the KY woman. To say that I find her kind of thinking preposterous is an understatement. And trust me, I realize that it isn't her thinking, it's how a lot of people think. But how well do you think it would go over if an African American poster started making comments about some black, KFC-eating-watermelon-seed-spitting-cadillac-driving-welfare queen sending her 5-year-old to the store to pick up mama's cigarettes? Do I make my point? IMO, there is a chasm between self-deprecation and self-loathing. I can only surmise that Kentuckians, who are so used to having their intelligence questioned, their family tree scrutinized for a lack of bifurcations, and their homes checked for appropriate plumbing, have been so beaten down by it that the only way to deal is by getting that "squeal like a pig" comment in before anyone else has a chance to.

I wonder sometimes if this isn't why I identify so closely with racial minorities. I am used to being treated as less than. Interestingly enough, I recall one instance when I worked at the Field and one of my co-workers, an African American woman, "tested" me by seeing if I would drink after her. Like this was a litmus test as to whether or not I had a hood in my closet. Although I'm pretty staunchly anti-germ, I realized it was a test and decided it was easier to pass it than to explain why I didn't appreciate the test in the first place.

But I digress. I don't buy into that Kentucky-stereotypes are cute. And I can't get away from it. It's the accent. I open my mouth and there it is. I don't want to be treated like a a charicture. I wanted to be treated like the intelligent human being that I am. But for that assertion in my post, I was called "Miss Prissy", a "concern troll", and a host of other names. And once the flame war begins, you can't bow out gracefully. It is not allowed.

I felt I had a legitimate point to make, albeit I may not have selected the right tactic. The response was immediate and overwhelming. It didn't start out this way, but it very quickly escalated into my getting cursed at, labeled a troll, and shouted down by the masses. Which got me to doing something I very seldom do. I began to read the comments on Pharyngula. And what happened to me is only the tip of the iceberg. This is gang warfare.

Take for instance one of Pharyngula's posts from today. A Christian woman talking about why she is for McCain. I have absolutely no problem with what PZ wrote as an introduction to this video. I disagree with the statements contained in the video. But just take a look at the comments that follow. Someone actually tried to imply that there is a scientific basis for a correlation between obesity, ugliness, and Christianity.

God help the Christian who shows up and asks to have their religious views respected. They would be sliced and diced like a infomercial for Ginsu knives. Regular commenters eviscerate any viewpoints that contradict their own. They are hypercritical. They engage in ad hominem attacks. It is embarrassingly petty. It is, in a word, distasteful.

And so, PZ, if you happen to stop by and read this. It really isn't you. It's your audience. That is a community with which I don't want to interact. I was interested in reading about science topics in a science forum that attracts mostly science types, and I found a heaping helping dose of intolerance and bigotry. It makes me a bit glad that my friends are my primary audience. I promise I won't take you for granted.

But the thing that worries me is I can't remember whether in my own blog, or on comments I have left on other blogs....have I been that intolerant? Have I made personal attacks on people's looks, weight, manner of speech, places of residence, or hairstyle? Have I treated alternative opinions with a complete lack of respect? I seriously hope not. I apologize to anyone who feels that I have. Please, stop me when I do. Make me listen to you. I mean this has stopped me in my tracks. Without going overboard, I think I need to check my own output and make some adjustments. I don't want to be like them.


  1. No mention about my show of support for you there =p

    I suppose I can imagine you've engaged in that type of nonsense, but I doubt it. I mean, I've let off some ad hominems, but usually only after a bunch were thrown at me, and even then, I try to make a real point inside of the "cretinous mass"es and "how are the acoustics up your own sphincter?"es.

    Of course, I think there's a valid double point here, though it's not like anyone on PZ was making the other one against you, and that I alluded to: I think random stereotyping is fun and harmless when it's between people who know better. (Of course, even then, there are some lines hard to cross, but my friends & I often do our best to cross them.) I guess I should refine it -- when it's between people who know each other and know that the others know better.

    Though whatever you think of that argument, it clearly wasn't the case on Pharyngula. I've never read it much, I actually find atheism interesting, though not in the didactic heavy-handed Dawkins mode. (I assume, but don't know, PZ falls into that category, along with Chris "Dickbag" Hitchens.) More in the philosophical sense.

    Anyway -- way too little work to do and too much time to do it.

    Wait. Strike that, reverse it.

  2. Well, in reality, I didn't want to drag your ass into my flame war, although I do think you shut their fat, unChristian, internet nerd asses up! ;) You rock!

    See what I did there?

    By the way, I am pretty proud of how efficiently I was able to jam pack my stereotypes and offensiveness into a single sentence. That may be a record for me.

    And as for understanding that some jokes are okay between friends, just the other day at lunch, we were laughing about how we were a walking "joke". It would start like this: An Indian, a Chinaman, a Colombian and a hillbilly walk into a Chinese buffet.....

  3. Wow. J wrote a really nice little comment backing you up on Pharyngula didn't he? He's a good writer, and sure got them to drop the topic! They (those who commented on your comment) totally missed the point: You're not against Kentucky jokes (you've made many references yourself that I recall), but against PZ saying Kentuckians are more likely to throw a mock trial than is any other state. Clearly he hasn't been to Utah.
    Ha ha ha. =>