that other Freddie

So I’ve gotten more aggressive in moderating and deleting comments here. A few times this has been because of people posting massive blocks of text that have essentially nothing to do with the content of the post I put up. (It’s free to start your own blog, fellas.) But mostly this stems from people telling me what I believe, and arguing with that belief that they claim I believe, rather than the things I actually do believe. And this practice often goes so far as to involve me literally saying “I don’t believe that” and people saying “yes you do.”

They’re arguing, in other words, with that other Freddie. This Freddie thinks that there are rhetorical, political, and moral problems with how we currently talk about privilege and inequality; that other Freddie doesn’t care about privilege and inequality or actively supports them. This Freddie thinks that affirmative consent laws are a mistake that could end up having unintended consequences that could actually make sexual assault harder to prosecute; that other Freddie doesn’t think rape is a problem or that rape culture is real. This Freddie thinks that pop culture enthusiasts have actually become the aggressors in the culture wars and that their own constant invocation of cultural elitism is the only place where that elitism survives; that other Freddie wants to burn your comic books. That other Freddie is a jerk, and I’m tired of defending myself by disassociating myself with him. So I’m adopting a policy of deleting comments that claim that I hold views I don’t hold.

This has, predictably, led to accusations of censorship. We could have a conversation about what censorship is and what it isn’t, if you’d like. If you think I’m someone who is unwilling to countenance criticism, even relentlessly personal criticism… that’s interesting. If I don’t think that claim is defensible, considering the stuff that is still in my comments right now. But either way: if you say I think something that I don’t think and haven’t said, your comment gets deleted. Life is just too short. So here are the rules:

You think that something I do believe should lead necessarily to a bad conclusion that I haven’t considered? Fair game.

You think that something I do believe contradicts something else that I do believe and I should think it over? Fair game.

If it’s a questionable case, I’ll tell you that I don’t believe what you think I believe and we can go from there.

If I clearly didn’t say anything implying Argument X, and you show up and say, “you believe X,” then I delete your comment, every time. I come right out and say, “I don’t believe X,” and you show up and say “You believe X,” then I delete your comment and you get banned, every time. You’ll survive; it’s not like this blog is a big deal or that commenting here is any great privilege.

Now, it’s my recent experience that this has become something of a plague in online conversation — people constantly having their views misrepresented and having to defend themselves against what they didn’t say and don’t believe rather than having productive arguments about what they did say and do believe. But I don’t want to write some sort of phony trend piece, so I’m just saying that this has been happening here a lot lately, and I’m tired of it, so I’m putting a stop to it.

If you and I are having an argument about what you believe, you win that argument by default, because you are you and I am not. If you and I are having an argument about what I believe, I win that argument by default, because I am me and you are not. That’s the only way argument can work. We’ve gotta get back to that simple principle.

12 Comments

  1. Imagine the rhetorical havoc that other Freddie would cause if he were real. Like when Mr. Conductor’s evil twin escaped in Shining Time Station.

  2. I think that other Freddie has recoded your web page so clicking on the title links to the ‘About me’ page, rather than the blog. So I never get to look back and see what events in old comment threads you are talking about.

  3. I believe that Satan has a hold of you
    I believe that the Lord God has sent me here
    And I believe that in 1978
    God changed his mind about black people

  4. Freddie:

    I’m sympathetic with the idea of banning commenters who argue in bad faith. However, it seems to me that ideological debates *necessarily* entail one side’s belief that the other suffers from “false consciousness.” Don’t you yourself often accuse today’s leftists of false consciousness — i.e. of thinking they believe one thing (doing good) when you sense they really believe something else (being good)?

    The premise that people don’t understand their own beliefs as well as they think they do is the premise of what, all social theory?

    1. Came here to say this … plenty of people don’t actually consistently hold the beliefs they claim to hold.

        1. I don’t how you’re using the term “democracy” in this statement.

          When you say that the contemporary American left thinks it’s committed to doing good things, but REALLY it’s committed to “being good,” you’re not undermining democracy. You’re submitting an observation about the false consciousness of the contemporary American left. Such observations, and the debate they spark, are PART of democracy, not antithetical to it.

          Again, I do get why you’re banning certain commenters. Certain commenters are making arguments in bad faith. But you shouldn’t ban ALL charges of false consciousness — that would really be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

          1. I’m mostly with you j@shell, but I still think it makes sense for Freddie to ban commenters who make arguments like that in his house so to speak. We each have the right to engage in the arguments we want to, and while I know that false consciousness and disingenuous arguments are real things, I personally don’t to waste any time dealing with people who think I suffer from them. (Because I know that I don’t. With perfect certainty. ;-).

            “Don’t accuse the blog owner of lying about what he believes” is a pretty reasonable rule, even if the blog owner actually is lying about what he believes (not that I think Freddie is). If someone wants to talk about why Freddie is lying about his beliefs, they can start their own blog.

    2. j@shell

      Freddie is the individual, the actual source point. Freddie is not an abstract conception like a “side,” or other arbitrary social category like “leftists.”

      At the individual level our society has a name for it and laws against it, like Libel and Slander.

      Just because there may be other people who exist in an echo-chamber that also engage in spreading misrepresentations throughout a social network, should not relieve us of a responsibility towards intellectual honesty.

      With regards to this:
      “The premise that people don’t understand their own beliefs as well as they think they do is the premise of what, all social theory?”

      I think you mean this as an overstatement, but even if it were actually true, it still only works under the assumption that you actually understood and are capable of stating what those beliefs are in the first place. Simply misrepresenting Freddie to make him easier to attack is just the definition of a strawman, and at worse can be defamatory.

      I’m amazed what people think they can post about other people on the Internet using their full legal names. Thinking that free speech entitles them to just totally defame people. It blows my mind.

      1. Arguments made in bad faith, slander, libel, setting up a straw man — I’m against all those things. Ban ’em from this blog, sure. That seems sensible.

        But individuals do sometimes consciously think they believe one thing which, upon closer scrutiny, turns out to mask a much different set of (more sub-consciously held) beliefs. Furthermore, this strikes me as a totally uncontroversial statement about human political nature: that human political sensibility is layered and complex, that it’s both social and individual at the same time. It strikes me as a mis-step to declare that democracy is somehow dependent upon a much more simplistic concept of “the individual” where, apparently, the individual never suffers from false consciousness, has no subconscious belief system which is distinct from a conscious one, is always the absolute “source point” of all of his/her stated views, etc.

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