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User Journal

Journal Journal: Diversity 1

I have a dream - well okay, a nightmare. Picture thousands of students at a university graduation ceremony, standing shoulder to shoulder in their mortar hats and gowns, blank faced and vacant eyed, intoning in unison...


User Journal

Journal Journal: FUD

I am tired of hearing people dismiss as FUD every opinion they disagree with.

First, let's define FUD. It stands for "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt" (or alternatively "Fucked Up Disinformation"). To say someone is spreading FUD is to say that they are maliciously spreading misinformation with the objective of creating baseless fear. It does not just mean that the information is wrong, but that the author is being dishonest.

Now I'm sure that many people do indeed spread FUD, or at least are so careless with the facts and blinded by their own agenda that they deserve some kind of epithet.

But even if you suspect the term is deserved, you should avoid using it. Why?

  • It's a turn off for people who have not taken a position on the subject, the very people you want to convince. To them it just sounds like name calling.
  • We all think we're right, and are often convinced that only people with impure motives could possibly disagree with us. By avoiding name calling, we recognize and compensate for our own biases.
  • It distracts from the important task of pointing out exactly why the opinion is so badly misguided.

I consider the last point the most important. Name calling is intellectually lazy. Instead of organizing a thoughtful rebuttal, you resort to ad hominem attacks.

Now many people have trouble accepting the idea that even if they are sure something is FUD, they should refrain from calling it so. After all, it feels good, and they are just being candid about their beliefs. "But it is FUD!" is the common refrain.

But arguing a position isn't about feeling good, nor about stating every thought that pops into one's head. It's about pursuading those who can be pursuaded, and that requires restraint and discipline. Calling something FUD, no matter how much you believe it, just gets in the way.

I posted the above opinion (in somewhat different words) in response to a Slashdot posting in March 2006, and a vigorous but reasonably polite debate followed. Quite suddenly, each one of my postings in the discussion got moderated down to the level of an earthworm. I got nuked, torpedoed, blown out of the water. And given the pattern (5 trolls in a row at one time), it was clearly initiated by a single moderator. This apparantly attracted more unfavourable reviews, a common phenomenon, I'm told. I ended up with so many bad mods, my posting privileges were automatically revoked for a month.

When I complained to SlashDot about such abusive moderation, I was told by a Robert Rozeboom that I deserved it for putting forward such a contentious opinion.

I didn't know there was a moderation category called "-1 contentious".

User Journal

Journal Journal: Conservatives 1

I am a conservative. Or rather, I'm a laissez-faire liberal who finds himself more at home in the conservative than the progressive-liberal camp. I would probably call myself a libertarian if that term ever establishes a fixed meaning.

Having said that, conservatives have to start dealing with reality. For instance:

  • Evolution happened. The evidence is vast and overwhelming. Deal with it.
  • Global warming due to pollution is likely happening, and the smart thing to do, subject to the receipt of better information, is act on that assumption.
  • Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are an embarrassment.

Not all conservatives disbelieve the above, but they have not done enough to disagree with those who do.

The conservative cause is not helped by burying one's head in the sand. You just end up getting bit on the ass by the truth.

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"Open the pod bay doors, HAL." -- Dave Bowman, 2001