Saturday, August 10, 2002

I'm not quite sure whether this article from Steven Den Beste is supposed to be a rebuttal or not to my earlier comments. It would make sense that it's supposed to be one- it pretty obviously takes potshots at my pseudonymity, for starters. I've already explained why I stay pseudonymous, but in reality it's pretty simple- I don't want my arguments here to affect how people treat me in real life (unless I let them... some of my real life friends do know about the blog, but it's my decision), and more importantly I don't want interpretation of my arguments weighed by how people perceive my beliefs and interests- I'd prefer the arguments to stand on their own, and the reputation of Demosthenes to grow and exist apart from my reputation and credentials in real life.

(Then again, upon further examination, he seems to be setting up for something...)

The entry goes on to ass-backwardsly complains about the lack of quotation (which I usually avoid in order to stay away from mixing up forests and trees), and the indirect way in which I addressed his arguments (which were based on his invocation of some sort of higher, logical basis for his arguments, and his implication that it occupies the same place as real analysis). It also pulls out all the stops in trying to sway the audience to his side- whether it's praising their "bullshit detectors" (which in my experience are highly overrated, usually relying more on avoidance of cognitive dissonance than anything else), praising their boundless intelligence, or lauding the endless flows of information that we receive nowadays (although anybody familiar with blogs understands just how easily that information can be skewed or selectively displayed and just how useful a really good information collector/filter can truly be.) I somehow wonder why he bothers with that... why praise the audience in order to curry their favor when you can simply do so with your arguments themselves?

Amazingly enough, it doesn't end there. It seems to accuse me of ad hominem attacks, which is not quite the case- it is if anything ad argumentum... I'm attacking the validity of his arguments, not the man himself. (How could I attack him? I don't know him.) It implies that those with a mathematical education are somehow better equipped to make political arguments than those with liberal educations, because of their greater (?) familiarity with logic. (All it suggests to me is ignorance of the field, but anyway...)

Finally, though, it comes out into the open, crying out that his methods "[leave] me open for mockery by those who disagree with me, but that's the price I pay for trying to play fair with you." (He linked to myself and warbloggerwatch in that sentence). Cunning little trick, that- it manages to equate me with the hated warbloggerwatch, set me against his readers (who he is just "trying to play fair with"), imply that I'm not being fair to him (bolstered by the link to Warblogger watch), claim that my post was mockery instead of debunking and rebuttal (also bolstered by the WBW link), and imply that my critique was some sort of cheap insult session. Most damningly, by linking at the end of the entire entry, he has successfully set me up as being the embodiment all the sins described in this entry, and ensures that his readers will link to me and read my rebuttal only after they have been primed to read it in the worst possible light.

(Of course, he follows it up with a cry of sainted victimhood, proclaiming that "[t]he stains of their rotten tomatoes on my clothing are a badge of honor. One can be judged not only by one's enemies, but by how those enemies behave. If this is what they're reduced to, then I must be winning." This barely needs commentary- a vague sense of embarrassment on his behalf is all I can muster)

For someone who trusts his readers, Steven, you've done a damned good job of conditioning them to read my response exactly the way that you want them to. All I can say in response is that I link at the top of my entries, and don't care whether you're really Steven Den Beste, engineer, or a hobo that sneaks into an internet cafe when nobody's looking and slams out posts on the sly. I, as "Demosthenes the pseudonym" and his creator, couldn't care less.

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