Subject: Re: OT: Usenet lack of civility (was Re: Logical pathname hosts.)
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1998/12/26
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Barry Margolin <>
| Are you saying that it's OK to be nasty to someone just because they're a
| helpless moron?

  I don't believe in helpless morons, Barry.  I believe people do stupid
  things because they have been allowed to and not reprimanded for it, and
  didn't have a strong requirement on them to avoid doing stupid things.  I
  also believe the only difference between stupid people and smart people
  is that it takes stupid people longer and more information to reach the
  same conclusions -- what makes somebody guilty in my eyes is not spending
  the time it takes or not gathering the information they need before they
  act on such conclusions.  both smart and stupid people can commit this
  "information crime", but stupid people do it more often because our
  society is unwilling to recognize that some people need more time, and
  thus impede their progress during their youth.  however, when you've
  grown up, there are no excuses: incompetence is about people who do
  something they are ill equipped to do, and society should tolerate that
  kids may be slow and stumble, but should not tolerate that adults are
  incompetent.  instead we punish kids for being slow and institutionalize
  adult incompetence.  it's a miracle we're technologically advanced.

  if you believe in _helpless_ morons, Barry, I think you rob people of
  every opportunity to get things right, you rob them of their dignity by
  defending them, and I bet _you_ feel superior when you can help someone
  you think is a _helpless_ moron against the perceived "unfairness" of
  asking them, first politely, then harshly, to pull themselves together.

  I get the impression from your insane accusations that you think I kick
  people who have fallen.  I kick people who claim to have a right to my
  help to get them on their feet, who think they should not do anything on
  their own, and who try very hard to make it appear that if they are still
  on the ground it is through my failure to help them.  in my view, the
  people who _should_ be helped are those who would have struggled on their
  own and all that help can do it save them some time or pain or effort.
  if they couldn't have reached the goal you "help" them reach, you do them
  an _immoral_ disservice, because you destroy their sense of independent
  accomplishment, which I think is at the core of one's self-esteem.  I
  also happen to think that some people act stupidly because our society
  sees stupid as a valid excuse, and if they're stupid, others have no
  right to attack them.  that's your line, I believe, so you encourage all
  forms of stupidity by defending stupid people, which you certainly do.

| Does it make you feel superior to point out the morons on the net?

  do you feel good after posting these increasingly insane accusations
  towards people you just don't _agree_ with?  first, you spout a lot of
  insane drivel about how those who answer technical questions feel that
  they do the world such a favor that the world should take anything from
  them, which I can only assume is the way you feel about it, and now we
  get this "superiority" shit?  it's bad enough to have people think a lot
  of unfounded crap about technical matters, but you, Barry Margolin, are
  the kind of person who goes out of his way to project your own psyche
  onto others, and then accuse them of ill will because _you_ would have
  had ill will if you did what you _think_ they do, as extrapolated from
  what you see with your own prejudices as a strong reinforcer.  you really
  should stop and think about what you're saying, but I guess that tip has
  to come from somebody that doesn't trigger the moron in you.

| If you don't think his questions are worthy of answering, why do you
| bother?

  you really aren't very observant, are you?  it isn't the _questions_ that
  take a harsh reaction, it's the unfounded, wrong, baseless statements of
  incorrect fact that get a beating.  "`read-sequence' is underspecified",
  claims Sam Steingold in his typical way of concluding things long before
  he knows what he's talking about, so "ACL5 refuses to read-sequence from
  a socket to a vector of unsigned-byte."  this is not a question, this is
  a moron hard at work to draw baseless conclusions and post idiotic drivel
  to a technical newsgroup.  of course, there's a question, _too_, but I
  guess you think "does it make you feel superior to point out the morons
  on the net" is _just_ a question, and not really an accusation, right?

| Just so you can put him down?

  that would be what you do, Barry.  you seem to have a knack for attacking
  people without understanding anything at all of what they are doing, and
  you have a disturbing propensity for accusing them of thinking the way
  you would have thought if you had acted the same way.  since you don't,
  and I can only assume you have to work hard at that, you think somebody
  else should take the heat for the evil in _your_ ways.  so, when somebody
  has transgressed, you feel _entirely_ free of all moral bounds and post
  the most insane and unfounded accusations against them, you psychologize
  and speak for them and all sorts of things that moral, intelligent people
  just _don't_ do, no matter how angry they are.  I call this the "moral
  outrage" stage, and it's just two notches away from a ward-winning
  psychiatric illness, because people who suspend every moral precept once
  they get past a certain emotional barrier are legally insane at the time
  of action.  if you can't keep your ethics with you when you're angry or
  emotional (or drunk), you don't _have_ any ethics, and people should know
  that.  your willingness to accuse me of all sorts of insane shit tells me
  that people should stay _way_ clear of you if you lose even a moderate
  amount of control.  you could do anything, being completely unpredictable
  once you manage to turn off your ethics, and god knows what that takes,
  when you manage to do it simply because you think somebody attacks
  "helpless morons", which isn't even the fact of the matter, which of
  course is entirely irrelevant to your accusations.  your purpose is
  simply to make somebody look a lot worse than they are, isn't it?  there
  is no constructive element in this behavior at all, is there?

| I am not a private, personal consultant to the rest of the Internet.
| Without that request, my reputation results in my receiving an inordinate
| number of direct queries.  In fact, even with it, I get one or two
| messages a week beginning with something like "You seem to be extremely
| knowledgeable about XXX on the net, so I hope you can help me."

  and what's wrong with a canned reply that is, what, _one_ function key
  away?  that's what I do.  I think you feel personally invaded by these
  private questions, and that you have to be rude to people up front,
  yelling at them to stay away from your mailbox.  I think you know EXACTLY
  how it is to be expected to answer people's questions for free, and how
  annoying it is to see people ignore your responses, or just take you for
  granted so they can ask another simple question the next day.  you go out
  of your way to defend those who behave that way towards others, yet you
  reserve the right to slam your door in the face of random strangers even
  before you know what they would say to you.  this isn't _smart_, Barry.

| Our customers pay through the nose for a service that includes access to
| my networking expertise.  The rest of the Internet gets it when I feel
| like giving it.  Yet I still try not to be an asshole when I choose to
| answer.

  really?  and what were you thinking you were when you wrote what I'm now
  replying to?  _not_ an asshole?  you're a prime-time asshole in my book,
  primarily because you steadfastly believe that you have the right to post
  your baseless accusations while under the influence of moral outrage.  I
  bet you feel no remorse at all, either.  you actually feel _good_, don't
  you, that you have spouted a number of _really_ evil accusations without
  a single shred of evidence except that your own motivation would have
  been in terms of superiority and similiar crap if you had done the same.

  some day, I hope to understand why some Americans are so hypocritical and
  feel so entirely free to suspend their ethics when they see something
  they don't like.  (I once had the mother of a girlfriend cry on the phone
  to me for more than an hour because she had read my letters to her and
  had gone postal early in our relationship.  she did a lot of really evil
  things to harm both her daughter and me, and was instrumental in making
  the whole relationship unworkable.  now she wanted forgiveness, but no
  trace of actually understanding that it was fundamentally wrong to steal
  her daughter's mail and read it.  I never figured this woman out.)  I
  have tried to figure out what could cause a country to let Kenneth Starr
  loose, but gave up.  I have tried to figure out what made the Republicans
  in Washington tick and how such people could at all be voted into office.
  I have tried to figure out Barry Margolin's many weird accusations over
  the years, but give up.

  these people all have an ethics that says, in effect if not in words,
  that if somebody has done something bad, they become fair game, no holds
  barred.  fire at will, do any nasty thing you have to do to bring the
  evil-doer down, because you are now in the moral right, and the evil-doer
  isn't.  I think this concept of fighting really dirty is a core part of
  Christianity, and that's why I probably can't relate to the concept of
  suspension of ethics or justice: "be good to all people, forgive sinners,
  except you can be arbitrarily _evil_ to those who don't accept your
  religious edicts" -- it's been the foundation of all sorts of evil from
  the crusades to the anti-abortion people, and so also of how some people
  react in small ways to things they don't like, such as Barry Margolin
  when he reacts to "unfair" criticism.  like, there actually _are_ people
  who think a complex system of justice is unnecessary, because they would
  have been happier with public lynching of whoever they thought were
  guilty.  there are people who do not accept that failure to follow due
  process _should_ be grounds for dismissal, because they "know" someone's
  guilty, usually "as hell", either.  such people scare me, because they
  are completely unpredictable, irrational, and _amoral_.  I see Barry
  Margolin as that kind of person, since he's fully willing to assume guilt
  on my part in a number of really insane accusations that he just _loves_
  to hurl my way.  (I'm just waiting for him to disapprove of my fairly
  well-founded speculations about him, yet not regret his own actions.)

  it's when somebody does something you _don't_ like that you need to know
  what you're doing and keep within certain bounds.  I flame their socks
  off for not using their brain, but welcome any sign of them actually
  using it.  I _don't_ assume motivation on the part of such people and I
  _don't_ assume that they are helpless and cannot change.  they have
  _done_ something, and they can _do_ something else.  I _don't_ attack
  their personal space, and I _don't_ attribute all kinds of random evil to
  them.  that's what my critics, such as Barry Margolin, do, and I make
  certain that they have to approve of such tactics before I can respond
  and expose their ways.

  an interesting question of ethics that never gets answered by people of
  Barry Margolin's caliber is "what would it take for you to stop thinking
  the way you do?"  the answer, in the Christian belief system is: death.
  as long as somebody is alive, Christians go around and remember what evil
  things they think they have done -- no proof is necessary, of course.  in
  fact, lack of proof is much to be preferred, because then they're also
  hiding it.  I work from a radically different point of view: you should
  be judged by what you can be expected to do and by what you understand.
  what you have done, must be judged according to what you understood at
  the time.  if you understand more and won't do it again, what more can
  anyone ask?  punishment at this point is counterproductive in the
  _extreme_.  only as long as people keep themselves from understanding and
  thus keep doing stupid things should they be reprimanded and punished.
  once the goal of understanding has been reached, forget the past -- the
  person in question will have enough with his own conscience and working
  on ways to fix what he inadvertently broke to need any reminders from
  vengeful morons around him.

  so all I need from people is evidence of understanding and willingness to
  exspend the necessary effort.  I fully expect people to able to deal with
  harsh criticism on this ground, too.  I think all of society would be a
  much easier place to be if people felt free to react harshly to things
  they didn't like (while prohibiting the likes of Barry Margolin and the
  Republicans who react not to what they see, but to what they assume must
  have been) -- because it would place a certain demand on people to be
  more considerate to begin with -- and if society understood that people
  can and do change, the goal would not be punishment, but improvement, and
  any significant constructive element should be encouraged while the
  destructive elements should be proven ineffective.  I know that this is
  _very_ foreign to the Christian concepts of revenge and punishment, which
  have done more to destroy civilization than anything else in our time.
  the _only_ reasonable concerns should be restitution, if applicable, and
  avoidance of recurrences on the societal side, and personal improvement
  on the personal side.  that way, you have a clear answer to "what would
  it take for you stop thining the way you do?" about those who do bad
  things -- just stop doing bad things and start doing good things.  no
  need for psychologizing crap à la Margolin that doesn't come off, no need
  for attaching stigma through baseless accusations à la Margolin that
  people of similar moral stature (or lack thereof) keep remembering even
  if they were never true, and no need for anyone to be afraid of being
  "remembered" as someone who once did something stupid.

  people are stupid (that is, do mostly stupid things) because they get
  away with it in our society.  if they can't get away with it until they
  understand what they should do, instead, they might see yet another
  reason to change their ways -- more often than not, stupid behavior is
  self-reinforcing because others _expect_ them to be stupid.  I don't.  I
  get really pissed when somebody hasn't learned anything from last time,
  because I _expect_ people to learn, and they betray their obligation to
  learn from their experiences when they don't.  I hate betrayal, too.

| *** DON'T SEND TECHNICAL QUESTIONS DIRECTLY TO ME, post them to newsgroups.
| Don't bother cc'ing followups to me.

  I do wonder how long those two lines will stay in your .signature.  I'll
  take their removal as a sign that you have understood something from this.
  (no apologies for your insane accusations necessary -- just show me you
  have understood that you hurt your own case tremendously by going into
  moral outrage.)

  thanks for listening.  this has been my way of extending good will to all
  competent men and women and anyone who wants to learn and do a good job,
  whatever and wherever it is.  I really don't care for the rest.

  Nie wieder KrF!  Nie wieder KrF!  Nie wieder KrF!  Nie wieder KrF!