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Dogma, Part 3

with 8 comments

Yeah, yeah.

I know.

Three entries on a minor incident, and I just can’t stop.

But yesterday I ended up in an internet discussion with one of the wo men protesting Ron Lindsay’s speech–and a woman whose behavior proves that Lindsay’s fears for what the conference was likely to produce were entirely justified.

I think that it’s important to recognize that at the base of all the talk about “privilege” and “hearing diverse voices”  is a naked grab for power, backed up by a willingness to engage in any kind of dishonesty to score.

So, here goes:

1) The purpose of the technique is to get your opponent angry.  Once your opponent is angry, you can sit up and go, “See?   She’s just irrational. I’m the reasonable one here!”

2) The purpose of number 1 is to deligitimize  your opponent’s  position without actually having to defeat it.

3) The reason that’s the purpose is because you CAN’T defeat i t.  Your opponent is right and you are wrong, and you know it.

4) My opponent–we’ll call  her D–went after t his by constantly telling me I was “using hyperbole–after all, sexual  harrassment cases don’t usually end in court” and “what usually  happens is a write up and a training session–some employees actuall take advantage of this situation to better their skills.”

5) Of course, a write up and a re education sentence ARE punishment, and I’d be willing to bet that most of the employees sentenced to them resent the hell out of them in private no matter how they make nice in public to  keep their  jobs.

6) D began her argument by  insisting that sexual  harrassment l aw HAD to be subjective, that it was ONLY subjective feelings that counted, there could NOT be an objective definition of harrassment, that “perception is everything.”

7) I pointed out what should be obvious–in such a case,  it was not possible for someone to know IF he was breaking the law or not.  If the entire “crime” was in the contents  of somebody else’s head, then there was no way to avoid committing  it, and no defense against a charge of it.  It’s harrassment if your accuser says it is.  We’ve just gotten rid of the rules of evidence AND the presumption of innocence in one fell stroke.

8) At this point we’d get more accusations of how I was engaging in  hyperbole–but most cases  don’t go to court!  Do  you think there’s a reason why t his woman can’t grasp the difference between most cases DON’T go to court (which is irrelevant) and most cases CAN’T go to court (which would at least be a legitimate complaint)? 

9) At that point, I would point out that a write up and a training session WERE punishment, and she’d go back to denying it.

10) At that point–well, after a few rounds of this–she produced a legal definition of  harrassment and went–there!  don’t do that and you’ll be fine and free of those “pesky” training sessions.

11) You know what the problem with that was?   The legal  defintion she gave me was NOT based on anybody’s subjective feelings.  I think it was overly broad, but it did in fact give two objectively verifiable criteria for what is and what isn’t harrassment. 

          a) it required that the behavior show a pattern over time AND

          b) it implied–by saying that the behavior must be “unwanted”–that the accused must have been TOLD at some point that he should not be doing what he’s doing.

12) This is a far cry from “perceptions are everything” and “harrassment law  has to be subjective.”  It’s a far cry from that because it ISN’T that.  It is, instead, an attempt to establish rules that are OBJECTIVELY VERIFIABLE and DO NOT DEPEND ON THE SUBJECTIVE FEELINGS of self-declared victims.

13) She would then go back to telling me that harrassment law has to be subjective.

14) Oh, and she’d also throw around a lot of hackneyed Latin catchphrases and then  TRANSLATE them for me.  I think this might have been an attempt to intimidate me–oh, poor you, I’m much better educated than you.  I even know Latin!  So, you know, what the  hell.  She got the wrong person.

15) When I inexplicably refused to fall for this nonsense, or to be thrown off topic by various ruses (New Coke failed because–!) she would then declare that talking to me was like talking to a brick wall and all I did was make statement and provide  no evidence–it was up to ME, according to D, to explain why subjective feelings shouldn’t “count.”

16) I still say that since the exclusion of subjective feelings  has been a standard part of both the rules of evidence AND the scientific method for centuries–she’s the one who has the burden of proving that should be changed.

17) And I am now utterly convinced that Ron Lindsay had every right to expect that that conference would end where he said it would. 

People like this were in t he audience.

Written by janeh

May 26th, 2013 at 9:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

8 Responses to 'Dogma, Part 3'

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  1. I saw the discussion but didn’t know the person you were talking to (mostly). Is she an academic? Because I can tell you that getting written up and having retraining is definitely regarded as punishment. Sure, the company is giving the employee a chance to change their behavior – after all, it’s cheaper to “fix” an employee than to fire him and hire someone else and start training again. But it’s still the first step on the path to getting terminated.

    Also, companies do have objective definitions of what constitutes harassment. How do you hold people to rules of behavior that don’t exist? Of course we have them. My company’s are clearly defined AND all managers are required to repeat training on them annually. Anyone who thinks that employees can or should be punished based entirely on subjective bases isn’t dealing with HR or the Legal department – and when we get to the point of giving people their final written warning, yes indeed we do have to involve Legal.


    26 May 13 at 11:22 am

  2. I witnessed part of the above exchange, and right from the first “it has to be subjective” I was thinking, “that way lies the Thought Police. Is that what you really want?”

    And then I realized that yes, it probably is. As long as she gets to be the police chief.

    The other day my husband & I were viewing a little special feature on TCM called “Complicated Women.” It’s about the women in Pre-code movies (those made between the advent of sound and the creation of the production code) and their powerful sexuality. http://fan.tcm.com/_Complicated-Women/video/1641917/66470.html?createPassive=true It’s about 15 minutes and well worth a viewing just for the fantastic clips and still photos. The point of all this is that Mrs. Grundy is the most persistent force in our society, the notion that somewhere, some adult is having fun, or doing something that Mrs. G doesn’t approve of, and must be quashed at all costs.

    The Hollywood production code could arguably be one cause of generations of subjugated women, and is certainly a direct precursor of the current crop of conservatives trying so desperately to control women’s sexuality.

    The Thought Police types always want to edge away from objective criteria and laws and into subjective ones because they presume that THEIR subjectivity will rule. In an environment like the conference where Ron Lindsay spoke, where the TP were out in full force, it’s foolish to think their opinion wouldn’t predominate. I question not the veracity of his comments, but the prudence of his choice of venue.

    It’s like poking a snake with a stick. It can be entertaining, but is always dangerous.

    I can’t help thinking that the path to true diversity and equalization of “privilege” (which term I’m also coming to loathe) is not to divide ourselves into more and more narrowly defined groups and point fingers at all the other groups, but to each treat every person we meet as a fully autonomous adult worthy of respect, and not under our control in any way. But that doesn’t seem likely any time soon.

    Too many people and too many industries seem to be developing to tell everyone else what they’re doing wrong.


    26 May 13 at 11:28 am

  3. Um, guys?

    When somebody is involved in the kind of situation I was in last night,it REALLY REALLY REALLY helps if supporters chime in just to show they’re there.

    It’s always nice to know that the lurkers support you in e mail, but–still.

    Just saying.


    26 May 13 at 12:07 pm

  4. Ha – sorry, Jane.


    26 May 13 at 12:10 pm

  5. Yes, yes, I realize I should have spoken up. Sorry. But honestly, you always seem so capable of carrying the battle to the barricades on your own. ;)


    26 May 13 at 12:29 pm

  6. I’m capable. I’m just not all that fond of it.


    26 May 13 at 12:34 pm

  7. I’m with Lymaree. Treat people as individuals, not as an assortment of little categories with attached characteristics regardless of what the individual wants.

    It sounds like it was a lively debate .I regret missing it. I’ve encountered people who think that whatever one feels about a situation is reality. As often as not, that represents something quite unconnected to reality – but of course, these people often have some kind of half-baked notions about how there’s no actual reality, only the kind we create and so on and so forth. I could never read enough of that kind of stuff to really get a handle on it.


    26 May 13 at 1:33 pm

  8. This seems about beat to death, but I’d like to throw in a couple of definitional caveats.
    There’s a difference between thought police and censors. The Hayes Board was composed of censors: they didn’t care two bits what anyone thought, but they enforced limits on what went on the screen with their approval. The thought police really care what you think–and they believe they can know. Until about the Great Society, they only existed in societies in which churches were allied with the secular authorities–including, of course, Communist countries. But in the past 40+ years, we’ve built up a substantial body of law and a HUGE body of law enforcers based on the notion that they can tell not what you did, but what you thought when you did it. THOSE are thought police.
    I’m not hugely in favor of censors, though I do have some sympathy with movie ratings and public indecency laws, but next to the thought police, they’re saints.
    And of course reeducation is punishment, but let’s be a little more specific: re-education is torture. Try offering the victims–by which I mean the persons subject to re-education–five lashes instead of a week of trying to pretend to agree with the re-educator, and watch them line up.
    We are in fact the first society in centuries in which the sadists get to decide when someone has been hurt enough.
    We’ve also made it big business. The next time someone observes with surprise that the economy has flatlined, consider that we have more thought police than machinists or tool and die men. This will not end well. What concerns me is that it will not end soon enough.


    26 May 13 at 4:49 pm

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