Author Topic: "Boy, 6, ‘beheaded for being “wrong” Muslim’ pictured for first time"  (Read 2889 times)

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Offline John Albert

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When did I say that there was a 'problem' that lay with anyone?

You didn't say there's a problem with that. I'm saying that under certain circumstances there may be a problem.

If I express an impersonal criticism of an idea and another person feels personally attacked, that is not a transgression on my part but a misunderstanding on their part.

Like if somebody took offense at a math teacher correcting them about the value of π, their feelings of offense would be ill-founded. In that case the math teacher is not at fault for causing offense, because the teacher did not actually attack the student. It's unreasonable to claim victimhood on the basis that you're being attacked just because somebody corrects your thinking or expresses ideas that conflict with your own.


All I said was that the criticism was personal.

If you're saying that all criticisms are personal if some individual feels they're personal, that's a sweeping generalization.

Just because somebody feels personally attacked, that does not make it so. Feelings are not always consistent with objective reality.

Whether a given criticism is "personal" depends on whether the criticism is directed at somebody personally, and whether it's an "attack" would depend on whether that criticism is intended to harm or malign the target.

For example:

If I say, "Ken Ham is an unscrupulous, conniving idiot," that would be a personal attack on Ken Ham. It directly disparages his personal qualities.

If I say "Ken Ham's beliefs about biology and geoscience are inconsistent with established science," that is a fact-based criticism of Ken Ham's own personal beliefs. It is a criticism of beliefs, but it's still personal because it targets Ken Ham personally.

If I phrase it in a more disparaging way, like, "Ken Ham's beliefs about biology and geoscience are stupid," that's also a personal attack on Ken Ham.

But it I were to say, "Young Earth Creationism is contrary to all scientific evidence in the fields of biology and geoscience," that is not a personal attack on Ken Ham. That is a criticism of an established set of beliefs.

Regardless whether Ken Ham may feel a personal connection to Young Earth Creationism, that still does not mean that my criticism of the ideology of Young Earth Creationism really amounts to a personal attack on Ken Ham himself.


My statements, for what seems like the thousand-and-first time, reckon ONLY that criticisms of belief may be as personal as criticisms of other human characteristics.

That would depend on the nature of the personal characteristic being criticized, and might also depend on how the criticism is phrased. Criticisms of such fundamental characteristics as race, sex, nationality, etc., are always inherently personal. Criticisms of ideologies and cultural norms may be personal, but not necessarily.

For example:

If I say, "Caucasians are inherently racist," "Americans are belligerent," or "men use force to dominate others," those are inescapably personal criticisms. But if I say, "European Christian culture has historically dominated and oppressed other cultures through the use of violence and ideological indoctrination," that's not necessarily personal.

If I say, "Libertarians are idiots," that is undoubtedly a personal attack on people who self-identify as libertarian. But if I say, "many libertarian principles are detrimental to the establishment of a functional society," that is a criticism of an ideology, not a personal attack on any particular group or individual.


Much of a white supremacist's personal identity is tied up in the belief that he is, because of his race, superior to others. This belief may be so all-consuming that it forms the core of his sense of self, is the basis of his self-esteem, and underpins his understanding of everything he experiences. It is, to him, so foundational that any criticism of the idea--any suggestion of racial equality, etc.--causes great metal and emotional distress as well as cognitive dissonance.  He may react with anger, rage, or even violence because the ideas you expressed are not to him mere abstractions; they cut at the core of his sense of self-worth.

To be clear: his beliefs are wrong. They are harmful. They are morally bankrupt. Your criticisms are just and justified. You don't merely have a right to make them, you have a moral obligation to make them.  That should be clear.

But your criticisms are also personal. They strike at the very core of his (admittedly morally bankrupt) sense of himself. He needs to hear them, he needs to change. But in confronting him with these ideas you should not pretend that you are simply discussing abstractions with no personal implications. To do so is fundamentally to misunderstand the nature of your interaction.

If this is a situation where I'm engaged in conversation with a particular man about his personal beliefs, then yeah I agree. That is a very personal situation. Even if we're having a discussion on an Internet message board, the fact that we're engaged in discussion with one another makes it more personal than if I were just writing a piece for general publication.

If I'm writing, say, an academic paper or public blog post about the social dangers of white supremacist ideology, that's a criticism of ideas. It's not a personal attack on any particular group or individual.

 
how personal criticism is depends almost exclusively upon how that criticism is received.

I disagree there. Criticisms are interactions between individuals. As such, they involve more than just one person. So different people can have different opinions as to whether, or to what degree, a given criticism may be "personal."


I would say that the intent of the criticizer is irrelevant to the question of whether such criticism is personal.

This is incorrect. Everybody participating in the interaction, including the criticizer and any passive witnesses, are all entitled to their own opinions as to how personal a given criticism may be. I don't think it's fair or productive to default to the least charitable interpretation of a given argument.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2019, 02:34:26 PM by John Albert »

Offline John Albert

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I've been in a position when I've criticised American cultural imperialism - the fact that America floods the world with its own popular culture, exporting its content wholesale and flooding overseas markets. And Americans have taken that very personally. I say "I'm not criticising you, I'm criticising your country and your country's policy". But it doesn't help.

Same thing.

I wouldn't take that personally at all. That's a criticism of my country's culture, its industries and economic policies. It's not a personal criticism against me as some random American citizen. I would say that the people reacting that way are being quite unreasonable. 

Now if you said, "Americans are imperialists," I can see where somebody might take that as a personal insult.

The same goes with criticizing the policies of the State of Israel. Many people consider those criticisms as antisemitic, and many Jews seem to construe those criticisms as personal attacks against themselves and threats against their own personal safety. I think that's also quite unreasonable. If that were true then the politics of the State of Israel would be above criticism, lest the criticizer be unfairly smeared as an antisemite.

This difference between actual attacks and perceived attacks is a very important distinction to make, because it has very real implications for public discourse. We already have enough problems with bad ideas propagating in the Internet age. We ought to be promoting values of fair discourse and critical thinking, instead of encouraging claims to victimhood in defense of untenable ideas.
« Last Edit: March 07, 2019, 03:33:07 PM by John Albert »

Online The Latinist

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At this point, John, I think we’ve gone as far as we can. You at least seem to have stepped back from the mischaracterizations and lies of your earlier posts and are no longer arguing against points I didn’t make. There remains only a fundamental disagreement between us about what it means for an attack or criticism to be personal, a difference of opinion which, like our disagreement on the nature of subjectivity and objectivity, cannot be bridged. Indeed, I suspect that the disagreements are fundamentally connected.
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Offline John Albert

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I agree with your statement that some people might perceive criticism of their religion as a personal insult, and we must take it into consideration when deciding whether the criticism is worth the potential hurt feelings.

Where I disagree, is with your claims that all criticism of religion is a personal attack on believers, and criticizing an ideology like religion is just as personal as racism or misogyny.

Ideologies are not people. Beliefs and feelings can be untrue. Beliefs and feelings are not static; they can be changed.
 
So instead of cautioning skeptics against criticizing irrational and harmful ideologies for the sake of sparing feelings, we ought to be trying to promote critical thinking and the questioning of beliefs, so that someday everybody may learn not to take such offense at having their beliefs questioned.
« Last Edit: March 08, 2019, 02:35:35 PM by John Albert »

Online The Latinist

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And there you go again attributing things I have never said to me. You continue to argue against a bogeyman of your own invention rather the actual ideas I’ve expressed.  It’s enough to make me wonder if you’ve got a guilty conscience that raises up these specters before you; certainly it is not I who do.

To be clear, I have never made either of the following claims you attribute to me:

1. That “all criticism of religion therefore defaults to a personal attack on believers”
2. That “criticizing an ideology like religion” is any kind of “offense.”

I have also neither implied that beliefs cannot be untrue, nor that beliefs and feelings are static.

Finally, I have not “caution[ed] skeptics against criticizing irrational and harmful ideologies for the sake of sparing feelings.”

I do wish you’d stop making shit up to argue against when I’ve offered you a perfectly good real argument against which to do so.

I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Offline John Albert

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To be clear, I have never made either of the following claims you attribute to me:

1. That “all criticism of religion therefore defaults to a personal attack on believers”
2. That “criticizing an ideology like religion” is any kind of “offense.”

Gee, I wonder where I might have gotten those ideas. Maybe from the post where you said:

         
it is not reasonable to expect a religious person not to feel personally attacked when you attack something so fundamental to their sense of self as their religion. That doesn't mean that you can't discuss flaws in religion, its negative consequences, etc., but you have to accept that denouncing those ideas is denouncing those who hold those ideas

Am I wrong to construe, "denouncing those ideas is denouncing those who hold those ideas," to mean criticism of religion defaults to a personal attack on believers?

When somebody "feels personally attacked" or "denounced," isn't that synonymous with an "offense?"


I have also neither implied that beliefs cannot be untrue, nor that beliefs and feelings are static.

I didn't accuse you of implying either statement. Those sentences were offered as an explanation for my line of reasoning.


Finally, I have not “caution[ed] skeptics against criticizing irrational and harmful ideologies for the sake of sparing feelings.”

Is, "you have to accept that denouncing those ideas is denouncing those who hold those ideas," not a caution against criticizing religion for the sake of sparing feelings?


By the way:

our disagreement on the nature of subjectivity and objectivity

I don't think we're necessarily in disagreement about the nature of subjectivity or objectivity. Not to spill our previous discussion about objective morality over into this thread, but our disagreement in that discussion stemmed from your own intractibility about the idea that an "objective moral system" could possibly mean anything other than a metaphysical set of principles that all intelligent beings in the universe must acknowledge as morally right and true. My position is that an "objective moral system" could also mean something as mundane as a code of law established by some human authority, by which all subjects under its jurisdiction are legally bound whether they like it or not.
« Last Edit: March 18, 2019, 01:27:04 AM by John Albert »

Offline John Albert

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Attention mods: the discussion in this thread has sharply veered off-topic starting with Reply #35.

I'm feeling that the tangent is well worth preserving in its own thread in the Religion / Philosophy Talk subforum. Perhaps a good title for the new thread might be: "Does criticism of religion amount to a personal attack on the faithful?"

Online The Latinist

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I strongly object to this discussion being stripped of its context in that manner.  Conversations evolve, and it is not always necessary or advisable to attempt to force them into a box.
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Offline John Albert

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What context?

Offline John Albert

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So no answers, eh?

I'm convinced there is no good reason not to split this tangent off from the rest of the thread, and you're just throwing your weight around to spite me for pushing back against your idealism.

Online The Latinist

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Woah.  That’s rather out of nowhere.  I wasn’t aware that I labored under a deadline (or, for that matter, that I was under any obligation to provide you with answers at all). As for “throw[ing] [my] weight around,” I’m not sure what you’re talking about. I expressed my opinion, which I think has equal weight with yours except insofar as I might make a better argument.

And as for your question, I didn’t respond because I felt the answer was obvious: the context of the thread in which it was held and the posts that sparked the disagreement. It is my opinion that such things should be preserved if possible and that decisions to split of threads should be made only to facilitate discourse.  As both the original topic of the thread and this one that sprang from it appear to have been exhausted and we are therefore not interfering with any ongoing topical discussion, I see no reason to make such a split.

But fear not; in case anyone wishes to return and discuss this phantom beheading, I shall bow out of this discussion which seems to be verging on bickering, leaving the last word to you.
« Last Edit: March 11, 2019, 09:30:42 AM by The Latinist »
I would like to propose...that...it is undesirable to believe in a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true. — Bertrand Russell

Offline John Albert

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I wasn’t aware that I labored under a deadline (or, for that matter, that I was under any obligation to provide you with answers at all). As for “throw[ing] [my] weight around,” I’m not sure what you’re talking about.

I never said anything about any "deadline." 

You had been replying to the thread quite regularly (often within minutes) then seemed to abandon it after my last round of questions for you. Not that surprising, given that you never answer any of my questions anyway and instead opt for the uncharitable approach of disparaging me for "misrepresenting" you after the fact.

Over a day went by with no response from you, so I figured you'd abandoned the discussion. Then within a couple hours of my request to split the thread, you jumped back in just to register your "strong" objection on the basis of some specious rationale of preserving context. When I requested an explanation, you disappeared again.


I expressed my opinion, which I think has equal weight with yours except insofar as I might make a better argument.

I'm eager to see that better argument. Where have you been hiding it?


And as for your question, I didn’t respond because I felt the answer was obvious: the context of the thread in which it was held and the posts that sparked the disagreement. It is my opinion that such things should be preserved if possible and that decisions to split of threads should be made only to facilitate discourse.

OK, then why not handle it this way: split the thread off to continue the tangential discussion under a new topic, but also leave the posts intact in the original thread and make a mod note of the split?


As both the original topic of the thread and this one that sprang from it appear to have been exhausted

So you're the authority who gets to decide whether the discussion has been exhausted?


But fear not; in case anyone wishes to return and discuss this phantom beheading, I shall bow out of this discussion which seems to be verging on bickering, leaving the last word to you.

This thread has moved on from the transient subject of a fake news report, into a much more relevant meta-discussion on the distinction between criticizing ideology versus demonizing people.

That's the reason I'm requesting that it be split off: It's an important subject that deserves its own thread with an appropriate title.

You still never explained your rationale for preserving the "context," beyond saying "it is my opinion."

That kind of attitude is exactly what I meant by "throwing your weight around."
« Last Edit: March 11, 2019, 04:50:55 PM by John Albert »


Online arthwollipot

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It assumes that "religion" can exist independently from the person who holds it, which is not true. There are two major problems with this. First, people identify with their religion so strongly that an attack on their religion is perceived as an attack on their self-image. Second, it's "love the sinner, hate the sin", which is something we don't let the religious get away with.
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Offline heyalison

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Dawkins has been drumming up islamophobic anxiety for decades now, and is responsible for being a gateway to racist extremism for white men. I'd say what I think of him, but the language would probably get me a warning. Blood is on his hands. We'd all do well to stop idolizing this hateful old creep.

 

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