Sunday, August 11, 2002

Something that you learn quickly in debate: it's fine (for the most part) to criticize someone, but if you ever call them "just another" of something, they'll go bugnuts on you. A perfect example is Just One Minute, a blog that I had described in an earlier post as "just another me-too E.C. blog". This provoked a sarcastic (and rather silly) email from it's proprietor, Thomas Maguire, which I responded to in good faith (except to point out that I both recognized the backhandedness of it and was slightly amused.) Apparently this wasn't enough, so he sent me a final email, stating "I don't expect you to pay attention to me, as I have no doubt I won't pay attention to you". Well, except for this last post. Intrigued, I checked it out, and what did I get?

Unfortunately, not much. What we get as some sort of "rebuttal" isn't especially promising- he complains about the length of the piece, gets the name of the blog wrong (missing the reference entirely), apparently doesn't like the color scheme, and apparently hasn't the faintest clue what I meant when I was talking about satisficing. Oh, and he uses that silly call-and-response "fisking" technique- no doubt expecting it to grant him credibility.

Here's a sample:

Stephen Den Beste seems to somehow believe that deductive reasoning can never come up with the wrong answer. Don't believe me? Check it out:

[den Beste excerpt]:
Deduction is prissy; it refuses to play unless it knows it can win. It requires sufficient information of high reliability, and when that is available it yields an answer which is nearly certain."

CRASH! TINKLE! (The tinkle is breaking glass, we're not scared or anything). We are not yet through the first paragraph and the author has driven his credibility into a ditch. Let me re-cap with faux quotes: "den Beste makes an overly broad statement. Don't believe me? Here is a clearly out-of-context excerpt which clearly does contain qualifications."
See, anybody who read where I went from there would have a pretty good idea that I meant that Steven's qualifications weren't enough- that even with perfect starting information, the interpretation is a problem in-and-of itself. The same people can come up with different answers to the same problem with the same evidence, and have both end up being "proven" by the evidence at hand. In fact, the point I made later that Mcguire seems to think was some sort of self-refutation was just restating this point- that Den Beste's qualifications themselves made assumptions. Then again, this is pretty obviously not a real critique.. it's just an attempt to attack my credibility as quickly (and weakly) as possible.

He then goes on to claim that my references to Den Beste were "phony":

[den Beste excerpt]:
--Which brings me, finally, to the article which inspired this entire ridiculously long post. Much of this analysis, by everyone involved, makes a fundamental assumption that Saddam, and other leaders of Muslim and Arab nations and groups, think more or less like we do -- or that they are insane.--

Already, he has ruined his argument, before I could even touch it. Amazing trick, really, and I'm quite impressed. Mixing together "Muslim" and "Arab" is fantastically wrong for obvious reasons, but so is mixing together fundamentalist leaders and strongman dictators like Hussein."

False alarm. Den Beste is apparently near the goal-line, but we have a ways to go. Is this another phony excerpt, which Demosthenes will later debunk? It is certainly NOT clear from the excerpt that den Beste has mixed anything.
The "minuteman" has asserted that this excerpt is "phony"... that it doesn't mix them up. He does this several times, pretty much ignoring every other point I made, especially the ones that didn't involve quotation. I imagine it's because he either agrees or can't think of a proper response, but I can't exactly be sure of that. Still, I'm rather confused- even if what Den Beste wrote didn't mix the two together (which it did)... what was it about that excerpt that somehow made it "phony"? It was a full excerpt, nothing left behind or left out. If Steven were making a point of making the difference clear elsewhere in the post then I might agree with this critique, or if the use of the word "assumption" referred to the melding of the two groups as opposed to the polarity of "sane like us" vs. "insane", then that might be different. Unfortunately, even a cursory examination of his other posts makes it pretty clear that that's not the case. The only distinction he possibly makes is between Saddam and the rest, but then goes on to argue that Saddam is as irrational as the rest.. just for different reasons.

(But then again, even if these two particular sections were wrong, how exactly does that invalidate the rest of the entry? All I'd need to do is edit them slightly and the rest of it would continue on, unchecked and unanswered. Neither were really critical- both were relatively minor "set-ups" for larger points? Hence the reason I'm not fond of "fisking"- forests and trees.)

Other than those two complaints, all it seems to be is endless whining about the length of the piece. Yes, it's long. I write long entries. Deal with it. Still, to complain about such a thing when I'm responding to Steven Den Beste of all people smacks of someone searching for something, anything, with which to attack my credibility. So like I said up at the top, it's probably a good idea to watch out before calling someone "just another" of anything.

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