The other day I was catching up on the latest brouhaha in the atheist blogosphere (Jeremy Stangroom vs. Badnewatheists). I hadn’t really been keeping up, you see, as we just moved and have a seven month old daughter. Not ideal conditions for up-to-date blogging. But the internet works fine here, so I dipped my big toe in and…ouch! The water was scalding.
Stangroom is upset that gnu atheists are occasionally rude. Make that nasty. Make that abhorrent. Find the worst adjective you can and apply it to Jerry Coyne, the most evil motherfucker on the web. He just ran over your blind grandma with his Triumph, then stopped to watch her writhe and bleed to death on the pavement. Did I mention he was smoking a Cuban cigar at the time? And listening to Black Sabbath on his iPod? That’s pure gnu atheist style devilry at work.
I don’t really want to get in the middle of this debate. Yes, I do. Sort of. The issue is, do people have the right to be occasionally rude? I think so. You may disagree, of course. But you’d better disagree with a gentleman’s manners.
The comments are closed to most of Stangroom’s recent posts. And don’t bother twittering at him, because he has little patience for that kind of thing. His essential gripe is that the gnus have written things on their blogs that make people upset, and apparently some of those people write him emails kvetching about the horrible manners of a handful of science bloggers. So maybe he’s getting sick of playing school counselor. I don’t know. But it seems odd to me that the words of Jerry Coyne or P.Z. Myers carry such tremendous weight in the psyches of their debate partners (or that anyone debating them is unprepared for their style). If they are too rough and tumble, why are these tender souls even in the ring?
Stangroom surprised me, though, in a brief email exchange. After his pounding the nail on the head about how terribly nasty the gnus are, I expected him to be the very picture of politeness. Especially with his critics. But right out of the gate (on Twitter, no less) he told me I was making a fool of myself, intimated that I was out of my league, and that my opinion “wasn’t worth 2 cents.” One step short of telling me I had a stupid face, really.
I haven’t asked him for permission to quote his emails; and I don’t expect he’d give it to me, either. I don’t even want to play his game and point the finger at his sense of exquisite incivility. I did point out to him this one little thing, though. I wrote:
“I might just break out in tears because you told me I was making a fool of myself on Twitter. Has that thought occurred to you? Do you give a damn?”
I hope it gives him pause for thought, at least. He doesn’t know me. For all he knows I might be a basket case. I might even write to Ophelia Benson in tears that I’d been reduced to emotional oatmeal and my life had been rendered meaningless. But maybe he was having an off day. Or maybe he found my inquisitiveness nauseating. I don’t know and I really don’t care. He was rude to me and I don’t hold it against him.
And he should stop holding it against the gnu atheists. As far as I can tell his is nothing more than a sanctimonious pose. Given the chance to be an example of decorum, he blew it in one tweet.