A middle-aged man dreaming of the day when he can stop begging for scraps and write for a living.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Argument By Moderation

There's a curious trend in social media that simultaneously amuses and disgusts me. I call it "argument by moderation." Moderation in this case doesn't refer to a moderate or nuanced position, but rather the people responsible for performing administration on a forum. They don't have an easy job, and once the forum gets big enough they don't even try. They'll ban or lock you if anyone complains about you whether or not it's warranted.

Last week I posted this comment, making a general observation as I occasionally do and not addressing anyone in particular.

Behold My Comment!
After a few days this sparked a conversation with another user trying to peddle his "spiritualist" business and everyone who knows me knows how gladly I suffer fools. The conversation ended fairly quickly once I made it clear to him that I'm not easily swayed by bullshit. It's not the first time I've had discussions like that on Twitter although it had been a while, and I feel that I was fairly restrained compared to other evangelicals I've interacted with. I thought the matter settled until today.
How do you define 'unusual activity?'

Like, WHATEVEROkay, time to go to the mail account I registered for this, a one-shot I created expressly for stuff I don't care about. It turns out that Yahoo! really wants more information about me because they decided that while they recognize my password they won't let me continue without further validation. The validation account I used for that address is bogus because frankly, they don't need to know and I'd never needed it before. Today, it seems, I needed it. So I have a cascading failure of confirmation emails to accounts I can't access which is preventing me from verifying that I am who I say I am.

So, round one to the "spiritual" snake oil salesman for engaging in argument by moderation after he came to me with claims that I had the temerity to question and deride once he couldn't support them. But should the Twitter admins follow up on my support request they'll be able to see this short timeline of events and hopefully draw the conclusion that there was no unusual activity on my account, just someone tattling on me for failing to show them the respect they didn't earn.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Why Should This Offend You?

You need to eat bananas with creamy peanut butter.

the holiest of snacksLet's assume for a moment that people take this seriously. Imagine we live in a society where bananas and peanut butter have become part of our daily nutrition, specifically where they're eaten together. You cannot eat a banana without peanut butter, although you can eat peanut butter without a banana. No, it doesn't make much sense to make this a moral imperative, but bear with me a moment. In this thought experiment, the consumption of bananas with peanut butter is a cultural more and there's no quicker way to offend someone than to deviate from this behavior.

If you don't eat bananas with creamy peanut butter you deserve to be imprisoned and punished.

You can't not eat a banana every day. You can't not eat a banana without peanut butter.yuck! Neither can you eat a banana with anything but peanut butter, and if it's the chunky style you're in trouble. Imagine that you're told if you don't comply with this behavior you deserve to be locked away and punished. How does this make you feel? Annoyed? Perhaps even offended yourself? I happen to like a ripe banana and creamy peanut butter, but who am I to impose this preference on you? What gives me the right to pass judgment on you like this?

Now consider this argument:

It's not that I'm judging you for not eating bananas with creamy peanut butter, it's just the law that you have to. I'm simply letting you know what's going to happen to you.

nobody knows the troubles I seenThat makes it all better, right? I mean, it's just about who is or isn't following the rules, right? Just because the rule is arbitrary and unreasonable doesn't make it my fault. Of course, I could reject the idea that the rule is justifiable or should be enforced given its very arbitrary and subjective nature. I could turn a blind eye to a bad law and avoid calling attention to the fact that you're not following it.

If you think this is a bad argument for imposing arbitrary morality on you, then don't try to pull it on me with your religion. I reject the assertion that I "send myself to Hell" or "deserve Hell" based on what you believe. I certainly don't appreciate you trying to convince me that I'm sick (read: sinful) so you can sell me the cure (of salvation).

religious freedom in actionDon't tell me I shouldn't be offended from being told I'm destined for Hell. You may think you're doing me a favor by warning me of my impending doom but I appreciate it about as much as you might appreciate being told you're headed to prison for failing to eat bananas with creamy peanut butter. My behavior suggests I endorse the law requiring you to be imprisoned for deviating from it, and that I have no interest in changing the status quo. Likewise, you're expressing your endorsement of Hell and everything it implies (like infinite punishment for finite crimes) by trying to sell me your beliefs.

I don't believe in Hell, and I don't appreciate the implication that I deserve punishment for the immorality you imagine of me. If that's really what you think, do us all a favor and keep it to yourself.