Fahgettaboudit: What Happens When Right People Say The Wrong Things
There is a pattern emerging in the comment section of posts about “good people behaving badly”. It seems that some people seem obsessed with the idea that people we share some common goals with are beyond reproach.
Richard Dawkins writes off sexual harassment as a worthless First World Problem- people insist that he get a pass. Commenters all over the internet tell us that we can disagree, but politely- and we must- MUST- afford his comments the most charitable possible interpretation. I agree with Dawkins on most subjects- but I find his line of reasoning dismissive and dangerous on this issue. So why am I supposed to give that idea less measured criticism than I give to any other?
We come to respect people because they are uncannily right- so when they get something wrong- do they not equally earn criticism as they have earned esteem?
The faux-pas du jour is now DJ Grothe’s. The President of the James Randi Educational Foundation has handled the issue of harassment at TAM with all the tact of a bull moose courting a chihuahua.
DJ decided to do some classic victim blaming. He suggests that harassment victims “regret” past “sexual exploits”. In other words, he suggested that harassment is not that big of an issue because the people claiming to have experienced it are just feeling guilty for letting their hair down. Some of the bloggers out there have suggested (in no uncertain terms) that DJ is forwarding an offensive and unwelcoming opinion of people who are trying to share their experiences in an effort to make conferences safer and more enjoyable.
Once again, the chorus of those who think that certain people deserve a pass chimes in. Why should victim blaming be considered reasonable by virtue of the person who initiates it? Why should I or anybody else give Grothe’s comments the most charitable interpretation when such an interpretation doesn’t even exist? He doesn’t get a pass. He doesn’t get to act like he never said those things. People have a duty to call him to account until he acknowledges his mistake.
Did people call DJ some bad names? Sure. Has he earned most of them? Yep.
Ideas that don’t respect facts don’t deserve respect. Period.
They deserve to be mocked. They deserve to be attacked. They deserve disdain. Measured comments deserve measured responses. Poisonous comments deserve poisonous responses.
So why am I writing a post about this? Because a friend of mine is dealing with a troll over at his blog who is arguing that DJ deserves to be treated with more respect than his actions deserve. Not only that, said troll is arguing that he himself doesn’t deserve to be called a troll- and doesn’t deserve to be banned- because he is Kind of A Big Deal™.