A Critical Comment

I was going to write a quick post about how I think a comment on a post by the blogger Anders makes for a disturbing implication, as well as how it is disgraceful Richard Tol continues to defend dishonest behavior he's engaged in on that thread. Then I saw a different comment and scrapped that plan.

One of the long-standing points of this blog is I've on many occasions offered for anyone who disagrees with me to write a post explaining what they think I got wrong which I would put up as a guest post without any editorial interference (save for things like profanity). Nobody's ever taking me up on this offer, but it still stands. People could write basically anything they wanted to disagree with/criticize me, and I'd host it so people could see an alternative view of things.

Today I figured I'd just copy a comment critical of me for this purpose. It wasn't submitted as a post, but I think it'd make for an interesting counterview to host on this site. Also, copying it here will take less time than writing new content myself, and I am swamped right now.

Mark Bofill –

Consider the following, completely hypothetical, scenario.

Imagine running across a person, ‘ll call her Brenda Shultz, who is quite intelligent in certain domains and who enjoys applying her reasoning in those domains to figure out challenges and exercise her intellect. Imagine that she is a little quirky, perhaps maybe even somewhere on “the spectrum,” and part of that quirkiness manifests as an intense attachment to the “correctness” of her reasoning. She is extremely confident in her reasoning skills (not entirely without merit) and this leads her to frame points of disagreement as situations where the other person “doesn’t make sense” or is a “liar” or is “insane” or who makes “insane arguments.” The quirkiness, because she is rigid in her own perspective formation (she tends towards a binary view of inherently complex issues) , seems to create something of a confusion for her as to what is a matter of perspective/opinion and what is objective understanding. When people present differing perspectives on issues to her, she tends to focus on and isolate pedantic and picayune points of disagreement instead of clarifying her understanding of the more important elements in what other people meant (in a way it makes sense because she’s so confident or her reasoning skills and it doesn’t seem possible to her that someone could mean something other than what she interpreted). She tends to be prescriptivist in terms of what words mean (they can only mean what she interprets them to mean) and so, trying to clarify a misunderstanding on her part is impossible, and if anyone interprets her words to mean something other than what she intended, it isn’t because of the inherent ambiguities in communicating, but because her interlocutor is (or must be) “insane’ or “lying.”

She tends to have a particular political ideological orientation, and while she isn’t uniformly enslaved by that orientation, because she has that particular ideological orientation others might see her as a propagandist when she relentlessly argues that her perspective on a politicized issue is the only valid perspective, and spends a great deal of time presenting that perspective in various fora while calling people who have different perspectives liars, insane, etc.

Now in some ways, Brenda reminds me of many people engaged in the climate wars…but perhaps some more than others.

22 comments

  1. Oh.
    .
    I'm so sorry Brandon. I neither noticed the original remark by Joshua that you reference nor this post until just now.
    .
    I like talking with Joshua and I think he's sometimes got interesting things to say. Frankly, I don't have enough blogging leisure to work my way through complicated remarks like that that appear to have no real point in the final analysis. I guess he was saying in essence, 'Brandon S. does this'. Well, so what? Why is that interesting? It's not interesting to me, not determining if it's true or false, not the implications if it's true or false, really no part of speculation about you particularly matters to me.
    .
    I hope this doesn't hurt your feelings. It's not that I don't care about you, precisely. I like you as well as any, more than some. Sometimes you irritate me. Whatever. It's just that I don't think you're an interesting topic of discussion.
    .
    Best regards Brandoon. 🙂

  2. OOOOhhh!
    .
    I guess he must have meant it to tie into my earlier remark somehow!
    .
    uhm, .. Oh well. People want me to understand their point, they need to give me a one or two sentence summary at the top of something like that. Unless they're one of those special people who's every word I read carefully. I like Joshua, but he ain't one of those people. 🙂
    .
    Anyways.

  3. ugh. You've drawn my attention to it. Now I can't let it go.
    .
    Joshua's remark doesn't appear to be responsive to the ideas raised by my earlier comment anyway. I was talking about people in general in my comment. It doesn't matter if we can find example X that Joshua thinks has properties Y and Z, I was generalizing in the first place.
    .
    Okay. Maybe that will suffice and I can move on now.
    .
    Thanks Brandon.

  4. The reason I care about this is Joshua has long engaged in a smear campaign against me. For instance, at Judith Curry's place he and several other people would often bring me up and refer to me in a derogatory way in conversations I had no involvement with nor connection to. He pretty much never makes specific accusations anyone could possibly verify even though he repeats the points ad nauseam. Because there are so many different accusations he makes, nobody (other than perhaps he and I) could possibly know what incidents he bases his smears upon. This comment of his, however, at least serves as a handy collection of (most of) them.

    As I pointed out in this post, I am happy to let my critics have guest posts here to explain their positions. That's because I genuinely do want my critics to be heard. I want people to be able to compare my views and the views of my critics so they can judge for themselves who is correct. This comment, as pointless as it is, just happens to represent (and even collect) a significant portion of criticisms of me I've seen posted online. As such, I thought it merited highlighting.

    I'm not offended by Joshua. I am a little offended Judith Curry let him and a couple other people engage in a straight-up smear campaign against me, particularly for the period they'd comment on every thing I wrote to post similarly vague insults that had nothing to do with my comments. Normally, it'd be considered harassment. And kind of creepy. Regardless, my level of concern about this is very minimal.

    Except in that I think it's funny. I mean, yeah, it's kind of sad people who want to engage in discussions on climate blogs have to run the risk of smear campaigns by people like Joshua, but... dude, read his comment. For all the things I've written on technical issues and all the details, references and analyses I've posted, that is the sort of the response I expect now. I think that's funny.

  5. Interesting. I didn't read it as a smear exactly. Let me rephrase. It's not what I'd expect Joshua to write if his motive was to smear you. However, I will freely admit that I don't have the first clue what point Joshua might have been trying to make.
    .
    Now that I'm commuting between blogs, I'm starting to discover that people seem to want to play 'telephone' with me and other people across the blogs. I never played 'telephone' as a child, so maybe I've got the wrong game, but I think that's what it is. At any rate, I think indulging in this isn't going to end well for me. While I've got nothing against you and nothing against Joshua, maybe the best course of action for me to suggest is to observe that I didn't respond to his post, wasn't much interested in his comment, and I recommend you ignore it as well. If you don't want to ignore it, go take it up with him I guess, you can catch him at Brandon G's blog
    ( http://climateconsensarian.blogspot.com/ ).

    Thanks for helping me realize that I'd better adopt a policy like this (although I don't really think it's what you set out to do, I appreciate it anyway). It's going to be complicated to remain on good terms with people who don't like each other I shouldn't wonder. Better give it some thought.

    Thanks Brandon.

  6. FWIW, I think Climate Etc. is a zoo. It's not that my feelings get hurt or anything posting there. It's that it costs me self respect to even try when the dialog is that juvenile. Of course some of it is interesting, but mix anything worthwhile with enough garbage and you pretty much end up with garbage, I think.

  7. I certainly don't expect or want anyone to play telephone for me. I never have. I do wish someone would point out to Anders he is completely wrong in his latest post, which I demonstrate in what was, until a few minutes ago, my latest post. I don't care about them delivering a message for me though. Just someone saying, "Dude, don't take quotes massively out of context to portray them as saying things they don't say" would be enough.

    As for Joshua and what he said, I do intend to ignore it. I wrote this post because I thought his comment was worth highlighting, but beyond that, I have no further plans for it. I mean, I would like to know what "particular political ideological orientation" I supposedly tend to have. I've been accused of having all sorts of those, and it's always interesting to hear which one I supposedly have now. Other than that though, I can't say I'd see anything in this comment I'd have to talk about.

    But I do think this comment was worth highlighting. If nothing else, it can serve as a warning to people who consider being active in climate blogs. The more active/visible you are, the more you will have comments like these show up. You have to be able to live with the knowledge people will write all sorts of things about you, often in places you may not see, which you would likely believe have little to no basis in reality.

    And hey, autism! Because Joshua is only the what, eighth person to suggest I have that as an explanation of my behavior.

  8. And yeah, I largely gave up on Climate Etc. I don't read many of its posts, and I don't read the comments at all (unless I happen to want to make one about the subject of the post). It's just not worth it.

    It doesn't help I'm still annoyed at Judith Curry for deleting my comment expressing shock at Steven Mosher comparing me to a Holocaust denier while defending the comment he wrote. I can't imagine what moderation rule might justify that.

  9. Some of the discussion over on that thread was rather... I don't know, but I decided I'd try to leave a quick comment. I figured it wouldn't go through (and it didn't) because I've been banned by Anders for quite a while, but I liked my comment so I wanted to keep a copy of it for posterity. I figured this thread was as good as any a place to store it:

    I imagine this comment won't go through moderation, but on the off chance it could, I feel like I should provide this quote from Dana Nuccitelli, when he was discussing the design of the rating system being discussed.:

    We can't assume that just because a paper says "anthropogenic global warming" that they agree the human contribution is >50%, but they have explcitly endorsed that humans are contributing. Thus they go in category #2.

    The way I see the final paper is that we'll conclude 'There's an x% consensus supporting the AGW theory, and y% explicitly put the human contribution at >50%'.

    Category 2 and 3 were for abstracts the raters felt endorsed the idea humans cause global warming, but as Nuccitelli makes clear, do not endorse (or reject) the idea humans are the main cause of global warming. In other words, Categories 2 and 3 are agnostic toward what the extent of human contribution is.

  10. Brandon -

    =>> "The reason I care about this is Joshua has long engaged in a smear campaign against me."

    1. I have never "engaged in a smear campaign against [you]" let alone long done so.

    2. I have explained that error to you in the past, yet you have either failed to understand it or just refused to correct for your error.

    I probably can't do much about your misperception (I suspect that your error is not correctable), but at any rate, I suggest that you needant care, as even if I were, which I'm not, it would probably matter little to anyone else. Since you care about something that isn't actually happening, and probably can't be reassured that your concern is Ill-founded, perhaps it will help you to let it go if you realize that it's extremely unlikely that anyone else cares or would somehow alter their opinions about you because of my putative "smear campaign?"

    Or perhaps you'll hang on to a misperception that it matters to anyone else also, as to let that go would require you to comprehend or accept your error?

  11. Joshua, while I'm sure you do not feel you've engaged in a smear campaign against me, I suspect most people who read the many comments you wrote specifically to try to smear me, often when I had no involvement in the discussion, would disagree. If it were necessary, I could provide dozens of examples of you writing comments in which you brought my name up in a derogatory manner for no reason relevant to the topic being discussed or where you responded to a comment I wrote by referring to something completely unrelated to what I said in order to try to smear me.

    That you might choose to believe such behavior does not amount to engaging in a smear campaign is your right. It would also be your right if you chose not to believe you engaged in such behavior. I don't see any reason to believe either though, and you've done nothing to show either belief is correct. Your claim to have explained an error is wrong as really, all you've done is just deny my accusation. Saying, "Nuh-uh" isn't explaining anything.

  12. Brandon you are wrong. I get that you feel I have been engaged in a smear campaign against you. But I haven't. Actually I'm the one who gets to determine whether I've been engaged in a smear campaign against anybody else. Your error plays into a rather typical pattern that you have of not seeming to understand the difference between fact and opinion. At any rate, as I said it makes little difference anyway. Even if I were, which I'm not, I can assure you there's no reason for you to be concerned. Of course you're probably going to be concerned anyway, and that is certainly your prerogative

  13. Also, I guess given your demonstrated past habits, I should acknowledge my error. I said that you were concerned about it when I should have said that you care about it. I wouldn't want you to get all worked up about the difference between my saying that your care about it and my characterizing that as you saying that you're concerned about it.

  14. Joshua, I'm afraid this just isn't true:

    Actually I'm the one who gets to determine whether I've been engaged in a smear campaign against anybody else. Your error plays into a rather typical pattern that you have of not seeming to understand the difference between fact and opinion.

    You don't get to determine what your actions were. Your actions were what they were. They don't change based upon your opinion of what they were. They don't change based upon my opinion of what they were. The only person who is mixing up fact and opinion here is you, in thinking your opinion somehow has any effect on whether or not what you've done amounts to a smear campaign.

    Incidentally, your accusation here is false. I've never had difficulty telling the difference between fact and opinion. All that's happened is you and several other people have repeatedly taken parts of my comments out of context and claimed they proved I was conflating my opinion with fact. In reality, the parts of my comments you ignored gave the justification for my claims in which I explain why they are true, not just my opinion.

    For instance, I described what your behavior was and how it fits the definition of a smear campaign. You didn't dispute my description of the facts of the situation or the application of the definition of smear campaign. Those are the only things which matter in determining if what I said was true. Ignoring them and claiming you somehow get to determine if you engaged in a smear campaign does not mean I've mixed up my opinions and fact. If anything, it means the opposite.

  15. Brandon -

    I'm not smearing you. And there is no campaign.

    I realize that you feel that I'm smearing you, and that there's been a campaign, but you're wrong on both counts. I would know if you were right, and I would be the only one who could actually know if you're right. I would be the only one who would know if I'm '"smearing" you. And I"m the only one who would know if I'm engaged in a "campaign" of doing so. This is what I mean about your confusion between fact and opinion. You think that because you feel that I'm smearing you (i think you previously felt that I was trying to assassinate your character), therefore it is a fact that I'm doing so. Except you're wrong.

    I have in the past used some of the more fallacious arguments that you have presented for illustrative purposes in discussions with other people. But that isn't a smear. And there has been no orchestration or plan involved. So it isn't a "campaign." In fact, I have not often even written anything about you at a personal level - I have more written about the fallaciousness of some of your arguments. I find that fallaciousness rather amusing and quite instructive in some ways, because it shows how smart people can miss very obvious flaws in their reasoning. If I were interested in engaging in a "smear campaign" against you, or in assassinating your character (as I think you amusingly claimed), I would be engaged in an entirely different set of activities, like make up lies or untruths about you and spread them among people who might be swayed by my having done so. In fact, I have no idea who that might be or how I might reach out to the.

    You are certainly not the only smart person who has trouble seeing obvious flaws in their own reasoning. In fact, that would be true of just about everyone (at least I can't think of anyone it isn't true for). Writing opinions about the fallaciousness of someone's arguments doesn't equate to a smear campaign. If it did, it would be pretty amusing as basically a huge % of your online presence would then amount to a series of "smear campaigns." And I have no intent or illusion of influencing other people's opinions of you (as I've told you before). The vast majority of people who read any of my comments already have their minds made up about these issues. They formulate their opinions about your argument and argument style, and perhaps you personally, based on reading what you write, not based on reading my opinions about what you write. So there would be no point in me engaging in a "smear campaign," let alone a "long" smear campaign. Perhaps you should stop being so paranoid, Brandon.

    In the recent thread at Anders', I have a bit of fun in pointing out why the claim that you're a propagandist was ill-founded. It wasn't a smear. It wasn't a part of a campaign.

    You're wrong, Brandon. But you're absolutely certain that you're right. Because you feel that you're right and you sometimes have difficulty in understanding the distinction between opinion and fact. You have, once again, done a very nice job of demonstrating that difficulty that you have. And you've also done a nice job of demonstrating other flaws in reasoning that I've pointed out to you. Of course, in having that difficulty, But you're not alone in that, Brandon. You're just human, and prone to the same selective reasoning that everyone else is prone towards. I fully expect that you'll not understand or acknowledge that you have that difficulty - I'm not sure which it is and I don't know that it really matters.

    It's kind of a beautiful thing, in a certain way.

  16. And btw, Brandon, this was particularly beautiful:

    ==> The only person who is mixing up fact and opinion here is you, in thinking your opinion somehow has any effect on whether or not what you've done amounts to a smear campaign.

    I mean really, that's just beautiful! Keep up the good work!

  17. Oh, and this is also beautiful

    ==> In reality, the parts of my comments you ignored gave the justification for my claims in which I explain why they are true, not just my opinion.

    Almost, but not quite as good as the comment I excerpted in my comment just above.

  18. Anyway, Brandon - I'm done here. It's quite clear that because of that certainly little difficulty I've discussed, and because of your repeated display of an inability or unwillingness to correct for that problem, there's really nothing further for us to discuss here. Knock yourself out explaining how your opinion is objective fact.

    Perhaps I'll catch you on another thread - one where the exchange might be more fruitful?

  19. Joshua, I think it is clear nothing will come from this discussion, but the reason is not what you claim. The reason is you are clearly not responding to what I say. For instance, you claim:

    I realize that you feel that I'm smearing you, and that there's been a campaign, but you're wrong on both counts. I would know if you were right, and I would be the only one who could actually know if you're right. I would be the only one who would know if I'm '"smearing" you. And I"m the only one who would know if I'm engaged in a "campaign" of doing so.

    While ignoring everything I wrote explaining why this is not only wrong, but a demonstration of the exact error you accuse me of. You then build upon this to say:

    This is what I mean about your confusion between fact and opinion. You think that because you feel that I'm smearing you (i think you previously felt that I was trying to assassinate your character), therefore it is a fact that I'm doing so. Except you're wrong.

    Even though I directly said my opinion of the matter has no bearing on whether or not you did engage in a smear campaign:

    Your actions were what they were. They don't change based upon your opinion of what they were. They don't change based upon my opinion of what they were.

    As the point you state, as fact, I believe things I directly state are not true as a fundamental aspect of your narrative, it is clear nothing will come from this exchange. What this shows is I can say something isn't true only to have you turn around and claim I believe it then claim that proves your portrayal of me accurate. A meaningful discussion in which a person does things like that simply isn't possible.

  20. Btw, brandon -

    that quote from you..."In reality, the parts of my comments you ignored gave the justification for my claims in which I explain why they are true, not just my opinion." is even better than "that doesn't make any sense" for illustrating how people can be blind to their own biases. It may be useful, in the future, when I am discussing that human tendency with people, to quote you. I will, if of course, be sure attribute the quote. I'll try to stop by to let you know so that you can clarify the context to prove that your opinion is, indeed, fact.

  21. Came back for a visit and I see that I missed something:

    ==> While ignoring everything I wrote explaining why this is not only wrong, but a demonstration of the exact error you accuse me of.

    Too funny.

    I didn't "ignore" your "demonstration," Brandon, I just found it laughably bad and "demonstration" of a lack of objectivity. For a smart guy, you can make some astoundingly obvious logical errors, Brandon.

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