Tag Archives: flame war

When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong

“They don’t gotta burn the books; they just remove ’em”
-Rage Against the Machine, Bulls on Parade

Friends,

Today I lost someone dear to me.  After months of online back and forth he finally unfriended me on Facebook after countless appeals to me to censor myself proved ineffective. I am kind of ambivalent; on the one hand I no longer have to scroll through my newsfeed and see his posturing as an intellectual and the subsequent overpowering urge to question the logical flaws in his arguments, buuut, at the same time his world just became a little more insular and he has less people to challenge him.

To be clear, in my view there was nothing I said that was particularly insulting; rather there is a history of both IRL and OL animosity which made it difficult for our online interactions to be amicable.  Case in point, by this morning I literally could not even present a separate point of view (on the topic of placenta-eating of all things) without him deleting it (deletion being his common recourse to my comments as of late). However, I don’t want to talk about who was right and who was wrong and who said what because it would be impossible to sift through and really it doesn’t matter.

What I find to be infinitely more interesting are the broader implications for online conduct.  At what point do we delete comments?  At what point does a comment become so offensive that we must alter history to read the way we want it to?  I think the only empirical answer is that either all comments are okay or none are okay; any limit on conduct based on personal taste will only (can only) be arbitrary.  That said, there are politics involved in which comments and points of view we allow  to be visible in our online profiles, because like it or not, people will judge us based on what we allow.

Or will they?

To be sure, certain people might make assumptions about you based on the company you keep, but its folly to believe that any of us are so important that worlds will come crashing down if someone gets wind of the fact that some of our friends have fringe ideas. For example, I have some Islamophobic friends who occasionally (not recently) posts xenophobic anti-immigration stuff or pro-military jingoistic crap on my wall.  What does one do in a situation like this? Well, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that if its hate-speech of any kind there is usually a logical way to quickly point out that it is little more than bigotry and prejudice with no empirical value.  So I point out that lack of logic. Mind you I try not to do this in an antagonistic way, but I instead I ask them to substantiate their positions with well-reasoned arguments. This does two things: One, it lets anyone who might be paying attention know that I don’t co-sign hate; and Two, more importantly it shows that I am secure enough in my own position and online persona that I don’t need to block ideas that I feel might reflect negatively on me.

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Ultimately, if you conduct yourself well, someone posting bull-jive on your profile is making an ass of themselves, not you.  The court of public opinion will quickly correct the situation.

I think this idea should serve as an example of how we deal with the inevitable posts that we don’t like. I have never been a fan of censorship and I acknowledge that it starts in the most inoccuous ways.  For example, we would all feel justified in deleting comments that were racist in some way but when it comes down to it, that is censorship.  This is why I much prefer the upvote/downvote model adopted by Reddit; nobody can pretend to be an authority on what constitutes offensive comments as they are weeded out by the groupmind which might be moving in a different direction that the commenter or the would-be censor.

It’s not a perfect system, but until people stop being so easily offended by words on the internet, its about the best I’ve seen.

Best,
-Andre Guantanamo

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Handling Things the Mature Way

My Friends,
   I have a real problem with being overly argumentative.  I am in fact horrible at conveying messages to a crowds which are not predisposed to liking what I have to say.  This is a real problem for me because I think I have some good shit to say.  At the very least I have some less cancerous shit to say than some people I know, all things being relative.  The most glaring manifestation of this argumentativeness and poor communication is my tendency to get embroiled in Facebook threads which devolve into flame wars real quick.  Its not because I hate the person, or so much that I object so much to their initial comments or posts (well, sometimes its that), but very often its how people rationalize their opinions when challenged (and I use rationalize in the loosest sense possible).  I think it bothers me when people don’t do thought experiments with their opinions, extrapolating premises out to the nth degree to see if they still hold water, or attempting to rationalize these ideas within a larger global picture.  And when you try and have a discussion with someone who is in a box like this, their truncated frames of reference and ideologies invariably lead to misgivings and resentment.

   So yeah, this cognitive dissonance is a very real problem for me, someone who operates on the foundational premise that that the more logical argument should prevail.  But in a slow, stubborn way I am becoming more and more aware that such arguments shant prevail if one is sufficiently determined not to be swayed

“Traditional sentiment is constantly in conflict with emergent knowledge” -Peter Joseph, “Defining Peace”

I don’t want to pull punches because if I can’t be brutally honest here then I can’t be honest anywhere, so I will say that as of late most of the head-butting I have been doing has been with buddies of mine from the army who post some super-moto, gung-ho shit, jingoistic tripe about Canadian pride, or bellyaching about how veterans don’t get enough respect.  I can’t stand shit like this but then I can’t stand a lot of things.  Interestingly though I see myself in the position of being able to call them out on their bullshit while being able to take their main bullet out of the chamber with regard to a rebuttal: “Yeah, well why don’t you try doing a tour of duty and then come say that.”
   Lol, been there done that and I’m still calling you out.  And just when I think that my street cred might actually mean something to them and that they might take my point of view seriously because I have gone through what they have gone through, they find some other ad hominem attack to go with which invalidates my points of view in their eyes.  Its very frustrating, but its a lesson which more or less jives with my view that you should consider the message absent the messenger; frankly I wouldn’t want someone to consider my views simply because I have shared a certain struggle with them, or because I have a certain credential in their eyes.  This type of selective attention seems to be the primary way in which we go about things today and its effects are mostly negative.  Don’t get me wrong, credentials have importance in many regards, but they should only serve as the cherry on top of a soundly-reasoned hypothesis-sundae, not the sundae itself.
   So anyway, I have as usual gone on a tangent.  My intent here is not to do a critique of the way knowledge is done (I find I do that far too often as it is), but to explain the way I am handling the inane bullshit and drivel I frequently encounter on the Facebooks.
   But first, a brief outline of the things which either cause me to comment rashly, face-palm hard, or ask myself, “Why am I friends with this person?”  
1. Super gung-ho army shit, jingoistic fervor and the aforementioned bellyaching that veterans don’t get respect.  While I do believe that the state entity is entirely responsible for taking care of any wounded (phsysically or mentally) solider and his family, I am more talking about this idea that John Q. Public doesn’t give a fuck about the military.  I am not sure where this comes from; maybe some people saw a disenfranchised Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump and feel his pain a little too acutely, but I can say that in 9 years of service I never had anyone say a sideways thing to me.  In fact they were all smiles and Hallmark cards, thanking me on the street, telling me how brave I was, etc.  I can’t speak for other countries but at least here where I’m at, the veteran is more or less revered.
2. People who post the most pathetic and desperate aspects of their daily lives for….I don’t know, pity maybe?  This shit gets old but there’s not really much you can say to someone who is complaining about how sick they are all the time, how exhausted they are, how much their kids cost, how tight money is, etc…  These are touchy subjects and unlike people with dumb opinions I don’t see any glimmer of hope with regard to helping these people come around.  As such, I never really comment on these posts, I just kind of cringe to myself.
3. People who make too much of politics.  Perhaps this one baffles me more than it should.  After all, I voted in the last federal election.  But hey, we all do stupid things when we’re young.  I get that it takes time for some people to realize that non-participation is the best route to meaningful change, and not established processes like voting, and many others never realize this at all, but knowing this still has not afforded me the patience I should have.  When someone posts something about how the Liberals are really shitting the bed and how the Conservatives would handle things better I will typically ask the poster something like “Do you think who’s in office really matters?” assuming that like me, they will look back to the chain of contrived causality which leads to a partisan system,  various offices and of course the media circus which ostensibly handles things with the highest journalistic integrity (wink wink).  But no, they take my question at face value and respond, “Of course it matters….”
4. Championing minority rights, a particular disease’s cure or the plight of a small nation by advocating the use of established, in-the-box resolution methods and not considering the root cause which lead to these problems.   With regard to minority rights, I think helping the black man is great, but if you try to help the black man by trying to help the black man you’re only going to piss off the white man, the brown man and the yellow man.  There are no minority problems, there are human problems.  We gotta start implementing solutions that help everyone and this might mean trying some new things and abandoning others.  This same logic applies to curing diseases.  I think a lot of people don’t really know how disease and addiction are fomented and thus believe there is a way to handle each related problem on a case by case basis.  Or even trying to “help” a country without giving it the means to help itself.  All of our solutions are not solutions at all, but ways of stroking ourselves to make us think we aren’t part of the problem.
   So anyhow, these are just a few of my favourite things.  And my master plan to avoid the frustration and rage that comes from being subjected to these inane ramblings every time I log onto the Facebooks?
   Unsubscribe.  This shouldn’t be that revolutionary to me because I have indeed directed friends of mine to unsubscribe from me when they complained of how their own news-feeds were full of updates whatever flame war I was embroiled in.  But I can actually feel waves of relief over me when I do this.  Its so satisfying to scroll through your news-feed and repeatedly lament the absence of a dislike or downvote button.  
   To be clear I haven’t unfriended these people as in most…all cases I still like them.  I just don’t wanna hear their stupid, tired, unrationalized bullshit every time I log on.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo

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The Cancer That’s Killing Facebook

My Friends,
   Pardon me for the tongue-in-cheek title of this post, but its a reference to a commonly-used phrase on a website whose name the first two rules of the internet forbid me from mentioning.

Now that you have absolutely no idea what the fuck I am talking about, let me reassure you that facebook is (mostly fine), but I did spot a post from my sister which caught my attention.  It was a CTV report by Lloyd Robertson (evidently from a few years back) which talked about the use of a cheap chemical called DCA which was showing success in curing cancer but whose efficacy was for some reason being denied by the Canadian Medical Association?? Canadian Drug Administration?  Well, whatever the Canadian equivalent of the FDA is anyhow.
   The posting of the video sparked some enmity from two of her friends, one a microbiologist and the other a cancer researcher (its funny how people who post online are always the undisputed experts of whatever topic they are talking about.
   Ian (the cancer researcher) posted first:

Ian: I don’t even have to watch this to know it’s fake. I work in cancer research – anyone claiming to have ‘a cure for cancer’ doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Cancer is hundreds of different diseases, not a single condition that has ‘a cure’. It’s like saying “I have discovered a cure for disease”.

Then:

Ian: Yeah, DCA is an old story. For some reason it keeps popping up despite the fact that it’s been shown to be based on terribly shoddy science over and over again:

http://scienceblogs.com/

insolence/2011/05/

the_dca_zombie_arises_again
.php (I never checked out the link)


I love a good argument, especially with someone who seems to have so flagrant a conflict of interest, so I had to chime in.  But alas I was at work and a calculated response would simply take too long.  So I waited…
   When I got to the computer half an hour ago, the microbiologist, Jas had said his piece:

Jas: Yup, this video is nonsense and dishonest

There was some banter back and forth between Jas and my sister and then I decided to weigh in:

Me: Ian, if cancer is “hundreds of different diseases” why are you even researching it? surely you must see the hypocrisy… 
As well, the venom with which you attack the video (before watching it no less) betrays an interest in not seeing alternative medicines work Cancer research is big business which carries both fortune and prestige for the researchers.

I am unfamiliar with DCA (the video is playing as I write) but I have heard of Dr. Stanislaus Burzynski and his antineoplastins which have had amazing success in Texas but have been brutally suppressed by the FDA and the American Cancer Association (http://www.youtube.com/

watch?v=1qG_ZWs04es). I suppose he is a quack as well?

I will agree with you that in the broader sense cancer has no simple cause or cure: Removing asbestos from a worksite for example does not solve the greater structural problem of an exploitative labour-market system which will negligently subject workers to the next harmful substance with impunity until specific legislation is passed to prevent it.
There is a definite tendency to look at causes and cures too reductively and not consider the socio-economic factors which contribute to the proliferation of diseases.

However, what makes the formal institution of cancer research (the institution I assume you work for) so different? Do you, in your work, address the social factors or look at the more localized (i.e. physiological aspects?) If so, wouldn’t that be no better than someone claiming to have a cure?

You can’t even cry make a cry of “misinformation” at this video, because normal people (me and Tanya for example) are incredibly UN-informed. These alternative medications which presume to threaten the formal institution of cancer research get almost no airplay in mainstream media and that’s no accident.
Unfortunately, people are getting fed up: Years of research and all you guys can offer us is radiation and chemo?
“No” you say? There are other treatments available? Well to the initiated researcher those cures might be known but for the lay-people (again, me and Tanya) you cancer researcher types don’t really have a leg to stand on when it comes to protesting alternative cures until you show & prove.

Best of Luck.


I linked this video.  Please watch it and pass it to your friends.

Jas shot back:
Jas: You know what they call alternative medicine that works? Medicine.

Then me:

Me: No. “Medicine” is the name for solutions which can be patented and sold for a profit.

The (dis)qualifier “alternative” denotes a more democratic, less profitable solution.In much the same way, solar, wind and geothermal are all “alternative” sources of energy.


Then Jas again:
Jas: Well, you’re right about wind and solar being less profitable, and wrong about “alternative” meaning the same thing in both cases.

“Medicine” is any substance or therapy that has been proven to improve patient outcome. This is why there is no such thing as proven alternative medicine because at that point it becomes medicine.The first sentence you wrote on this thread is ridiculous btw – nobody sees the hypocrisy but you. Cancer is hundreds of different diseases and we will never find a cure in our lifetime. This is obvious to anyone who’s spent a moment learning about it.


Finally, me: Nobody sees the hypocrisy but me? Story of my life…


What I was implying is that someone who gets paid to research cancer in the economic paradigm in which we live has an interest in not seeing other cures taken seriously. I don’t mean to imply that Ian is knowingly lying to anyone, but I would suggest that by being so immersed and ingratiated in any system, one would be inclined to disregard information which falls outside of the realm of approved knowledge. i.e. Einstein was probably considered crazy at first by scientific minds who had made their careers as champions of the Newtonian physics paradigm

Call it overly suspicious, but why would the heads of international cancer research give up willingly the profitable racket they have eked out for themselves by supporting a cure? Like you said, “we will never find a cure in our lifetime.” Imagine that, a perpetual source of income and access to all the research funds you could want. Damn it feels good to be a gangster.

I’m not sure where you got your definition of Medicine (a textbook or dictionary I will assume) but I mostly agree: medicine at its core should be benevolent. With regard to the appellation “alternative,” it is simply a disagreement on what constitutes alternative and we will have to agree to disagree.

I’m hurt by your last comment which implies I have never spent a moment studying cancer; I read all of your posts in their entirety.Be well


   This is where the conversation rests right now and I am not entirely certain that Jas will respond (I just posted that last bit like literally two minutes ago).  I figure once people start attacking your credentials they are preparing to bow out while maintaining the illusion of superiority.  
   Now I should say that I did relish the chance to get into an argument (I’m kind of a dick sometimes), but its not like these guys didn’t deserve a check.  Science has to be held accountable and a scientist who does not wish to have to explain himself can very easily attack his opponent’s ability to understand the esoteric concepts with which he deals.  But that in itself is an admission of failure, failure to perform his prime social responsibility as a scientist: to demystify complicated concepts and communicate his findings to the masses.  Not simply attack another voice. That shit seems mad suspicious to me.  
   As well, oh wait, more posts—
Jas: I just don’t think you understand science or the scientific method. All research on cancer is available via published articles and all hypothesis are hotly disputed until the best answer becomes the model (until a better model emerges). Ian is doing cancer RESEARCH, which simply means that he is attempting to elucidate the signalling pathway or mechanism for whichever one of hundreds of cancers he is studying and simply gain understanding. He is not directly researching a cure, or at least, not at all directly.


There is no world conspiracy to suppress knowledge of disease – no entity has that kind of reach.


Me: It sounds like you are at least trying to be more reasonable and fair here and the effort is appreciated. Perhaps if Ian had taken the same approach from the outset my spider-sense wouldn’t have tingled. But he didn’t; he flamed a video and divulged his credentials at the same time. This made it look very suspicious considering that however you look at it his livelihood right now depends on DCA not being effective. You at least see that don’t you?

And your use of the “C” word is not appreciated. Implying someone is a conspiracy theorist is like calling someone crazy. Its dismissive and attempts to invalidate their argument without refuting it. You, as a scientist, should be able to do better. I expect better from my scientists because I put all of my faith in them.Without divulging my credentials, which are modest, I will say that without having the specialized knowledge of you and Ian, I do have a knowledge of science and the scientific method, we simply have different vantage points.


I was going to write a last paragraph but I think I think this last bit of banter will suffice.  Besides, I forgot what I was going to say.  Trust, it was going to be good.  If more posts come up I will use my discretion to see if they warrant posting  and either add to this post or start a new one.  In fact I think I will link this post to the thread.
Stay Thirsty,
-Andre Guantanamo
   





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