virus: me, myself, and I (whether that is a real contruct or not)

Kirt A. Dankmyer -- aka Loki (
Tue, 20 May 1997 15:33:05 -0400

> Since the list has been so quiet the last few days, I'd like to invite all
> the lurkers (new and old) to "come out of the closet". Introduce yourselves
> tell us how you found this little corner of virtuality. Have you learned
> anything interesting and/or useful since arriving? Who do you agree with
> and who do you not? What interests you?

Hey, all. People call me all sorts of things, but I prefer to be called
Loki. (It's a long story.)

I discovered the list when Eva forwarded me a message from it -- one of
Richard's memetic digests, if I recall correctly. I posted a little at
first (if anyone remembers), but then work caught up with me, and I only
recently had time to catch up.

There's another reason I stopped posting which I'm a little loath to
mention, but I'm going to forge ahead anyway. While I have found many of
the discussions on this list interesting and stimulating (which is why I
subscribed), I must admit I've been disturbed at the signal/noise ratio and
what seems to be its cause. When I caught up revently, I noticed that I was
deleting 80% of the messages -- and that wasn't just because I was pressed
for time.

Why was I deleting those messages? Well, flame wars, to be honest. With
some very notable exceptions, there seems to be a strong element of
intellectual arrogance and childish one-upsmanship on this list. I've never
seen people with such a strong desire to "outsmart" each other to such an
extent that rhetorical dirty tricks, deliberate misrepresentation, and
personality politics seems more important than actually learning or
understanding something. I've never been on a ruder mailing list, and I'm
not talking about the idiots who think this is a list about wirting viruses
or people who were subscribed by someone else. I feel like I'm in grade
school again, watching people push each other around -- only this time it's
with intellectual, rather than physical, muscles. And we seem to have an
unusual number of bullies.

The attitude and disrespect for those who choose to disagree with one's
point of view reminds me, not flatteringly, of my days in high-school
cross-ex debate. Sure, we have a group of interesting, intelligent people
here -- if we can get around the egos. The idea here seems to be if you're
not "intelligent" enough to dodge all of the cheap tricks being used during
these arguments, one doesn't have anything to contribute. I used to be
pretty good in the whole cheap-tricks department, until I got fed up with
it. Since it seems that one needs a collection of cheap tricks to keep up
with some of the current arguments, I decided not to contribute.

I was under the (obviously idealistic) impression that when discussing an
emerging science like memetics, that bouncing ideas back and forth was more
important than "winning". Diversity of the memesphere, I guess.

This problem was accentuated by the fact that none of the mailing lists I'm
on besides this one seem to have quite this problem. Now, admittedly, most
of those are gaming lists, but it's an interesting contrast. For example,
one would expect that the _In Nomine_ list, being as it is about a game
that discusses religious issues, would be rife with flame wars -- but it is
not. This is despite the fact that the people on there have a wider
ideological and sociological background than what seems to be on this list.
The fact that it's "just a game" defuses any potential problems.

I guess part of what seems to me to be lacking on this list is intellectual
playfulness. I see it in some of the "fluff" threads (the mystical
attraction of the City That Must Not Be Named, etc.), but I'd like to see
it a little more in the "serious" threads as well. Even if you don't buy a
premise, why not take it and run with it, and see where it leads you? I
don't believe in the Objectivist moral system, but when spending time with
some of my Objectivist friends, I would entertain their world-view long
enough to participate in some of their thought experiments. (Of couse,
sometimes I just argued with them.) On a mailing list like this, we can
multi-thread -- argue against the "ridiculous" premise _and_ roll with it,
seeing where it leads.
Show how someone isn't being precise enough in their phrasing _and_ work
with what they're obviously getting at. People espouse being open-minded,
but I don't even see open-mindedness of a very trivial sort (that required
to be reasonably polite) -- instead, I'm reminded of a gentleman I once had
a strong argument with because it was his firm belief that an argument is
interesting only if somebody becomes angry (and, in my opinion, irrational).

Now, this doesn't apply to everyone, and I'm not pointing fingers. Draw
your own conclusions. But it seems to me that discussing an idea, coming up
with new perspectives on an idea and interesting possibilities, is more
important than proving who's "right". If I want that, I can subscribe to a
list on politics or flame alt.philosophy.objectivism or somesuch. In the
end, I think we can weigh the evidence for ourselves. I'd like to see more
(and more interesting) evidence and less rhetoric trying to influence the
weighing process. Even a crackpot might have something useful to say.

Kirt A. Dankmyer <> --- Academic Computing Specialist -- (910) 759-4202 -- PGP public key available.
For the Snark _was_ a Boojum, you see. --Lewis Carroll