To most observers, Dawkins is the textbook aggressive champion of evolutionary theory…In person, Dawkins fails to live up to the “aggressive” label…So he is genuinely puzzled by people calling him aggressive. “Well, I’m nothing like as aggressive as I’m portrayed. And I’m always being labelled ‘strident’. In the bestseller lists it always has a little one-line summary of the book, and for my new one it says ‘strident academic Richard Dawkins’. I’m forever saddled with this wretched adjective. I think I’m one of the most unstrident people in the world.”
Well don’t I know the feeling – though of course on a much smaller scale. I’m spared the thing about the bestseller list for example.
But in my tiny way, don’t I know the feeling. I’ve been called strident – I’ve even been called aggressive, though not all that often. I wouldn’t go as far as Dawkins…I wouldn’t say I think I’m one of the most unstrident people in the world, or one of the most unaggressive, either. I’m not that delusional. I am often verbally aggressive, often deliberately so. I am sometimes tooverbally aggressive – I’m apt to get irritable and impatient. (As does Dawkins – and if doesn’t know this about himself, that’s a little odd. I think his reputation for ferocity is wildly and unfairly exaggerated, for political reasons, but if he thinks he’s never waspish or hasty or sharp – he’s not thinking hard enough.)
But there is a difference (and a difference that matters – quite a lot, as a matter of fact) between being sometimes waspish or irritable or impatient or disputatious, and being aggressive or militant or mean or a bully. This has been part of the issue with Mooney and Kirshenbaum ever since last May – their willingness, not to say eagerness, to use hostile rhetoric to describe people who disagree with them. I don’t think people should do that. I think it’s unfair. I would even say it has a whiff of the bully about it.