I can haz viktimhood?

There is a view, however minority, that Chris Mooney is a man more sinned against than sinning – that he is a victim, the object of an unfair onslaught of criticism from a bunch of internet bullies. His co-author (not very surprisingly) takes that view.

Needless to say, while I was not surprised at the response to Chris’ announcement, I am extremely dismayed. Discussion of each post is anticipated, but baseless personal attacks demonstrate the trouble with blogging…In just the past few years, we’ve watched the number of science bloggers swell, while the tone of much of the commentary changed. Most disheartening, the relationships between bloggers fractured across once cohesive networks as small friendly communities chose sides in a growing culture war.

I’ve taken a robust (to put it one way) position on this particular war, so I am subject to the usual confirmation bias, so keep that in mind, but my view is that Chris is not a victim here. Here’s why.

It is because Chris picked a fight, and he picked it not just on The Intersection but also in Unscientific America and in many mainstream media outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, the Guardian, and National Public Radio. He said some very harsh things, and some of them were incomplete or exaggerated or both. This by itself is enough to show that he is not a victim – the fact that he initiated the ‘culture war’ and the fact that he has access to major media, or at least he did for a few months after the book was released. It’s not really convincing to claim that he is a victim when he has far more access to major media than his putative victimizers do, and when he’s been using that access to say harsh and not entirely accurate things about his putative victimizers, in some cases before any of them had done any of this putative victimizing.

Now, he comes by the access honestly – he has it because he wrote a best-seller, and a good one. That’s fine. I don’t in the least begrudge him the access as such (I know, big of me); I begrudge the use he’s been making of it lately.

Sheril complains of ‘baseless personal attacks’ – but then she should address herself to Chris first of all, and indeed to herself, since she co-wrote Unscientific America. Or to put it another way, she should consider the possibility that the personal attacks are actually not baseless – that people accuse Chris of saying things that he really has been saying. She complains of a ‘culture war’ – but then she should ask herself why she and Chris elected to set one off. The ‘new’ atheists are not the Gavrilo Princip here – we didn’t shoot no Archduke.

And then, once the Archduke was shot, we’re not the ones who refused to discuss anything. We’re not the ones who kept just issuing unilateral declarations while steadily refusing to let the ambassadors come in and discuss. We’re not the ones who told some ambassadors they couldn’t even set foot across the frontier. So…all in all, I just don’t believe that Chris and Sheril are victims; I think they’re agents.

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