This is the sixth in a series on what I have started referring to as “2nd Wave Internet Skepticism”. 2nd wave internet skepticism seems to fold tribalism in under the guise of critical thinking. It includes a lot of rhetoric that I first saw in the “Men’s Rights Activism” movement. The same rhetoric can be seen in the modern neo-nazi movement known as the “alt right”. These guys (and I do mean guys, mostly white guys) seem to think that because they’ve figured out that 9/11 truth and chemtrails are bullshit that anything they dislike, ranging from feminism to trans rights and beyond, is also bullshit. I imagine many skeptics will disagree with the ideas I am presenting here, and that’s fine. I have found that the cult of 2nd wave internet skepticism generally hates criticism even though many of those in the movement suggest that “safe spaces” are ruining everything. Hypocrisy and perceptions of one’s own victimhood are on full display in this, the war of really bad ideas.
Narrowing The Scope: Tone Policing
Surely when you enter a discussion with a rationalskeptic™ on twitter or somewhere else on the internet, if you disagree with them, they will tell you that you are irrational, you are not thinking logically, and that you are not entering the discussion in good faith. Should you tell them to fuck off with all that bullshit, as you do, the next thing you will often hear is that you are not engaging in the kind of polite discourse that these people have decided is the only way to have a discussion about anything. Because the ethos of skepticism is to demand credulity.
This is a tactic known as tone policing. Sure there is some value in being polite and expressing yourself without sounding all worked up and emotional, but regardless of how you say what you say, you have said what you have said. And should the party on the other end, usually some version of the actually guy, tell you that you’ve used foul language and therefore you’ve lost the argument, or you’ve used the “ad hominem fallacy” when you called them a jackass, they’re the one being disingenuous, not you. First of all, the ad hominem fallacy looks like “You are X therefore nobody should listen to you”. It is not something like “What you just said is mind expandingly stupid and as such I think you’re a moron”. But don’t tell the McSkeptics that, they wouldn't listen anyway, you're not rational and you've already "lost the debate" because they say so, and they make the rules.
What’s going on here is that a criticalthinker™, who is ostensibly a person who wants to debate ideas, has appointed themselves the arbiter of what debating ideas can look like. They want to define the parameters of the discussion in a very narrow way. You see, if they can define the parameters of the discussion to exclude things like commentary on their character as they spew the most obnoxious canned garbage you’ve ever heard, you don’t get to tell them that they’re annoying or obnoxious as they tell you why they’re definitely right and you’re definitely wrong.
Do not give up this ground in a discussion. These guys are used to, by virtue of declaring themselves a reasonable criticalthinker™, declaring themselves the victor when someone is rude to them. I say fuck that bullshit. Be rude if you want. Call them a bitch when they demand that you be polite. Ask them what happened to the free and open exchange of ideas when they try to tell you how you must say what you have to say. Tell them they’re obnoxious. Fuck it. They’re the ones saying that we don’t need so called “safe spaces”, so don’t let them create one for themselves when they find the particular wording of your disagreement objectionable. And when they continue to complain, ask them if they need you to send the struggle bus to pick them up. They love that shit.
You see, you don’t automatically become incorrect when some guy (I do mean guy, come on now) on twitter who worships the ground Sam Harris walks on tells you that you’re a big meanie pants and that you need to treat them with respect. This person has never done anything to earn your respect, and as they snivel and bitch about your lack of credulity, your unwillingness to engage them on the specific terms that they have in their minds but never bothered to announce, they are doing the very thing that they often claim to so strongly oppose. They are demanding that you be “politically correct” in your discourse with them. So point that shit out, twice if necessary. They’re showing that their desire for a free and open exchange of ideas is just a bullshit talking point. They’re showing that what they actually want is for nobody to criticize them harshly. I wonder if they will ever apply this standard to criticism of people with “the wrong imaginary friend”. Probably not. Okay definitely not.
And to the Sam Harris fans out there specifically:
Listen dude (I do mean dude, let’s not kid ourselves), I never agreed to be polite or credulous. I never agreed to respect you or your guru. I never agreed to any of this. I understand that the talking point is that all criticism of his work or his character is unfair. To me, this sounds a lot like Scientology. They respond much the same way to criticism of L Ron's work or his character. It's just that Harris bought a PhD with his trust fund and didn't write anything about aliens from 13 trillion years ago. But this fan base is basically Scientology, and many of us simply treat it as such now.
Maybe if well reasoned criticism of your guru wasn't always called character assassination, maybe if your cult leader didn't accuse everyone who says a sideways word about him of doing so in bad faith, him and his little cult would get good faith discussion from people like me. But people like me tried that, for years. It doesn't work. Because any criticism of his ideas are seen as an attack. This is what happens when you're born a millionaire I suppose, you never have any actual problems, so disagreements are seen as horrific attacks, and it's all in bad faith because who could reasonably disagree with a fucking guru?
The fuck out of here with your hero worship. And get the fuck out of here with your attempts to police the tone of those who aren’t bowing down to your hero. Hes’ not your real dad, and we’re on fucking Twitter, not in a Socratic debate club.