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j_f_chamblee's Journal: Lost in the Sound and Fury

Journal by j_f_chamblee

....over debates that are many centuries old are two smaller, perhaps more relevant, and sad facts.

1. The first is that the release of this video was apparently, at least in part, worked out by Haught and Coyne themselves. Haught wrote Coyne a letter [uky.edu], asking Coyne to post the letter on his own blog and stating that, if Coyne did so, he would agree to have the video released. Coyne, apparently did so [wordpress.com], complying with the letter, at least, of Haught's request.

2. Missing from this action entirely is Dr. Robert Rabel, who, at least according to Coyne, threatened to sue over the incident. Instead, the statement [uky.edu] concerning the release of the video was provided by the Provost of the University of Kentucky. Rabel's absence from the current drama, in light of his threat to sue (if true), leads me to be concerned on his behalf.

After reading both Haught's letter and Coyne's blog side-by-side, and after stepping back and looking at the situation as a whole, I am of the opinion that we most likely have here is a situation in which what at least one group views as an unfortunate and un-collegial exchange of ideas was blown up into a far more damaging scandal by forces unleashed by one party, that, once released, spiraled out of control. And the scandal could conceivably have lasting impacts on careers -- though probably not given the seniority of the dramatis personae.

While it is impossible to avoid seeing the actions of all tree primary actors (Rabel, Coyne, and Haught), as contributory, I cannot help but think that primary the culprits in the act of throwing gasoline on this already smoldering blaze, were none other than ourselves -- the /. subscribers. I don't know Drs. Coyne, Haught, or Rabel. Because I have work to do (as most of us do), and a lot of it (as many of us do), I don't have time to watch the exchange between them. Because of that, I am, thankfully, also able to say that I didn't have time to write the NEH, the UK Provost, or Drs. Rabel or Haught. But again, that's because I don't have time and not, I am sorry to say, because I thought doing a bad idea when I read the original post.

However, admitting my own culpability, at least in terms of what I thought, if not what I did, I do want to take a moment and suggest that the community of IT enthusiasts and professionals has again [theregister.co.uk] been complicit in contributing to one of the uglier aspects of new media -- a sort of digital mob justice in which mundanely flawed people and even good people [slashdot.org] are forced into an anti-celebrity roles by strangers. We all want justice folks. And, our new overlords notwithstanding, I know that everybody on this forum wants free speech. But justice doesn't come over the internet. It happens person to person and face to face. I suspect that the outcome could have been the same if everyone who had written angry, abusive, or profane letters to Drs. Haught or Rabel (or the NEH or the UKY Provost for that matter) instead wrote respectful and collegial letters that explained merely explained their points. It could have been the same, except it wouldn't have been so painful to the primary players involved. So, that's my two bits. Maybe now it's my turn to be /.-ed.

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Lost in the Sound and Fury

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