[extropy-chat] On Gut Feelings

Jack Parkinson isthatyoujack at icqmail.com
Sat Jan 14 14:54:49 UTC 2006

The fairly recent acrimonious political debate in this forum and the airing of the WTA 'dirty laundry' has made me wonder a little about the reliability of the 'gut-feeling' as an arbiter of what intelligent life ought to be listening and paying attention to.

In the case of Danila Medvedev: To be sure, I am no apologist for Stalin: But - I do believe in free speech. I see no benefits whatsoever in sweeping unpalatable political facts - or even unpalatable political fictions and delusions - beneath some metaphorical carpet. We are reasonable people (or should be) and able to engage/reject a topic with reason and informed debate.

So I was somewhat taken aback some time ago when I mildly remonstrated against the ad-hominem attacks Danila Medvedev was being subjected to on the WTA list and was promptly denounced as a 'commie' and an admirer of Hitler and Pol-Pot. Almost immediately the signal to noise ratio made further discussion impossible. Pity - because something important was lost. Reasoned response was sacrificed (eventually moderated out) because a few individuals persisted in their pejorative attacks - making it clear that their sacrosanct world view was not to be threatened on THEIR list... 

But, if you read Danila's posts, it is clear that he is not an idiot, and that he is capable of presenting useful viewpoints on a whole range of topics. Ok - most of us disagree with him concerning Stalin - so what? If he has other useful things to contribute, why should you or I care if he indulges in the odd whacko belief? Is it worse than Mormonism? Seventh Day Adventism? The Moonies? Catholicism? Flying Spaghetti Monsterism? Adulation of Mao? Che? Eva Peron? Or even, God help us - George W?

I often disagree with the neo-conservative and libertarian viewpoints as expressed here on this list. To me these opinions often appear to lack the rigor of a truly subjective (international as opposed to Amerocentric or occasionally Eurocentric) viewpoint. For me these opinions smack too much of the home-comforts of a select and highly privileged group. OK - it is true that the future will be built by groups like this. But also, and perhaps more importantly, probably equally - the future will be built by the Stalinist and Holocaust revisionists, the theocrats, cultists, communists, anarchists, totalitarians, corporate entities, democrats, socialists, petty dictators and the myriad others who make up the current population of this world. 

This list, this group, and the values it generally shares (values which some members sometimes seek to ferociously protect) has no comfortable sanction on what will and will not be a part of our extropian future. We each have our subjective reality. All the things that this group (or some elements of it) might seek to exclude will continue to be factors influencing the future regardless of your willingness to admit them or not. So what is the point of limiting debate? The truth is - there is no point - if you admit that reality is more important than the maintenance of some fictional comfort-zone. 

In fact, moderation should not be about limiting debate, it should be about limiting personal abuse. Nor is there any merit in shunting unpalatable topics off to sub-lists with headings like 'politics', 'technology', 'personal development', etc - there are NO neat dividers. Everything merges into everything else - and no overview/synthesis/synergy is possible as long as some elements are denied.

Names like 'Bush,' 'Clinton,' 'Mao,' Stalin,' 'Hitler,' 'Saddam,' 'Pol-Pot,' 'Chavez,'  'Ayatollah Khomeini' are so loaded with semantic association it is difficult to imagine any useful dialogue that does not quickly revert to the 'gut-feeling' of emotion and personal attack. Usually the call is to banish the topic, limit it, or divert it elsewhere: Anything but face up to the fact that the past we refuse to come to grips with and reconcile NOW - is still a very real part of our future,

Just my opinion: But moderation might be (could be):
  1.. Anything goes - provided it has an extropian angle. 
  2.. Politics, religion and sexual preference are exclusively the preserve and prerogative of the writer. Respect them.
  3.. Although you may seriously doubt the mental health of the poster - you may attack the concept/proposition as outlined in the post ONLY on reasoned, rational grounds. Under NO circumstances will you resort to pejorative labelling: ie, telling the author s/he is crazy/commie/anarchist/etc etc, or otherwise attempt to discredit the person rather than the argument. If you do so - you will get moderated out of the discussion forthwith.  
  4.. If you find something offensive - you may protest by stating: "I find this offensive because...reason 1)...2)...3) etc. You may then choose to have nothing further to do with either the subject or the poster. You do NOT have the right to demand that the moderator support your world-view - no matter how worthy it is - by suppressing a poster who is able to present a cogent argument contrary to your principles. (rubbishy, rantings, ravings and vilifications can be trashed of course)
I know that the downside of this is that you have to put up with a certain amount of lunatic fringe activity. But the consequence of not adopting some such rule set is that free speech is the preserve of some inner elite who perpetually reserve the right to quash dissent.

Free speech needs the odd crackpot to reassure us all that the system is working.
Jack Parkinson
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