Thursday, 7 July 2011

In defence of the indefensible

Rebecca Watson’s The Privilege Delusion in which she describes how she had an uncomfortable encounter in a lift, has caused quite a storm with the eye centring squarely (well roundly) on an ill-judged post made by Professor Dawkins at  pharyngula.

That conversation has now been terminated with extreme prejudice at… wait for it ... 1282 posts! “This thread is closed due to excessive length and prolonged stupidity.” PZ Myers wrote. Amen

It seems that Professor Dawkins post was at least partly responsible for the inordinate length, and I have to admit that his comment did make me wince, but I think I’d defend him by saying he was being sarcastic.

Yes that's right, sarcastic: A crude rhetorical form involving exaggeration.

I doubt that he actually thinks (as has been characterised by many including Ms Watson) that western women should shut up because there are women who are worse off elsewhere, nor I'm sure does he think rape is trivial, but I imagine that he believes the situation for women in Moslem countries is far FAR, worse (and of course it is), and is frustrated by our COMPARATIVE lack of interest in that subject.

And the shitstorm that followed seems to rather bear out the notion. After all, would all that flying effluent have been generated if the article had been about say female circumcision? 1282 comments? I seriously doubt it. A couple of dozen maybe...

It’s the disproportionality I think was probably the source of Dawkin’s irritation. And why he reacted with (say it again), SARCASM.

But unfortunately he came across as patronising to those with faulty sarcasm detectors (or perhaps it’s a Brit thing that Yanks don’t get?), and he didn’t help himself with his second post “clarifying” what he meant.

I think if I had been him I’d have resisted the temptation to justify myself, or if  I couldn’t resist, then just quietly pointed out it was exaggeration for effect.

Anyway PZ has another thread for people who still wish to comment, and the count there is up to 747 already  ...