Fix the radar
So now we know all about “Tom Johnson,” except that we don’t. We also don’t have a frank account of how it all went so terribly wrong.
It was just a blog post, and I had no reason to think there was anything fishy going on. And I did note that the story was “one individual’s experience and point of view, and nothing more.”
He did though. He did have reason to think there was anything fishy going on. He had – what to call it – he had an ear. He had his skeptical faculty. He had reasonable sensible journalistic caution. He had an acquaintance with human beings and the way they talk and behave. He had any reason to think Tom Johnson’s story sounded fishy for the same reason I did: because it sounded fishy!
It did. It sounded stupid. It sounded like a childish caricature. It had that stupid, childish note of exaggeration – the bit about atheists screaming in believers’ faces for instance. Come on! Yes, Virginia, that does sound fishy.
It sounded fishy in just the way the story that William told on YNH sounded fishy; the story about being a woman and “a scientist” (that itself sounds fishy) and an atheist, who saw the error of her ways when her young son came home from school with a tale of having called a goddy schoolmate “stupid.” Our scientist atheist mother realized she had taught her son this behavior, and she was stricken with remorse.
That’s it, really – Tom Johnson’s story was a “yeah, right” story. Chris Mooney is a journalist, or at least he used to be. (He’s more of a commentator now.) Surely journalists are supposed to have some ability to spot fairly obvious implausibility of this kind? Isn’t that just part of the job?
I had no reason at the time to suspect he was beginning an increasingly elaborate career of sock puppetry.
He did though. Just as before, he did. He had the same reason – there was too much of an echo effect in the comments at The Intersection. Not just agreement, but an echo effect. I noticed it at the time – though I don’t think I thought of sock puppets, I just thought (rather disgustedly) that there were a lot of brainless sheep all going “baaaaaaaa” at the same time. But then it wasn’t my blog. If I had a lot of commenters all going “baaaaaaaaaa” I hope I would have the sense to wonder if they were sock puppets, even if they agreed with me. I do in fact have one regular longstanding commenter who does go “baaaaaaa” and I don’t like the bleating any more because it agrees with me. In fact I may like it less, because it so often sounds like a parody of me. (No it’s not you, this guy knows who he is.)
Update: Really – if I haven’t told you it’s you, it’s not you. I haven’t told you it’s you. So it’s not you!
So no, M&K aren’t quite the innocent victims Mooney wants to pretend. They have seriously bad radar. Their radar tells them to ban me, and then as the months and years roll on, to ban lots and lots of other reasonable people too, while they keep people like “bilbo” and “MiltonC” and Kwok. That is some malfunctioning radar.