anthro-l flame wars

Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Wed, 4 Jan 1995 16:31:40 +1000

It's interesting to compare this flame war with previous ones.
Regulars will remember that I started quite an extended one with a
message about having tried to read some Derrida and having decided that
I wasn't going to bother with Derrida or any work based on Derrida...

This is perhaps analagous to Ruby's decision not to read Bjorn's messages
anymore. The key seems to be a statement of the form "I'm not going
to read Y anymore", combined with an implicit universalization "and I
don't think you should, either" and worded emotionally.

Ruby Rohrlich makes the important point when she writes:
> I said I would stop reading Bjorn's postings. I did not say you should.

I'd like to add:

1) We all have to make decisions about what interests us and what we consider
worthwhile. This in itself is not closemindedness.

2) It must be permissible to tell others about these decisions, even to
attempt to induce others to make similar decisions; they are free both
to take no notice and to try to change *our* beliefs in return.

3) This works fine in a situation where none of the participants
wields power over another (like anthro-l). There are two obvious
cases where this isn't the case: teaching and appointment of people
to academic positions. In both cases I think that people always have
biases, and that it's best to be open about them rather than claiming
a false objectivity. I think teachers have to be free to teach what
they believe, whether "opinions" or not. (So I'd argue that Ruby
is wrong when she writes: "My teaching does not consist of opinions,
and I hope yours doesn't, either.")

4) So is there anything wrong with Ruby (or Micki) insisting on their
students using inclusive language? If the use of inclusive language
does matter, then this is comparable to insisting that students avoid
vague terms like "tribe" or "White". If the use of inclusive language
doesn't make any difference, then it's pretty trivial, surely -- akin
to insisting that students write in blue rather than black. (This is
not as unlikely as it seems. I know of Computer Science lecturers
who insist that their classes copy down colour diagrams *using the
right colours*.) In neither case can it be considered censorship.

Danny Yee.

(Who, as an anarcho-syndicalist, doesn't think anyone should ever have
authority over anyone else anyway.)