Hammill the prodigal

Hammill, as I said in a comment earlier this morning, is Walter Smith, known as Wally, a graduate student in biology at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

He said last summer that he would never do it again. He’s been doing it again.

He’s been sowing little seeds of hostility and paranoia and mistrust. He’s been ever so gently tarnishing the reputations of gnu atheists. Again.

For instance on this post, which of course drew him like a fly to honey, because it was both scornful and inaccurate about me. His kind of thing! (I don’t know why he hates me so particularly, given that I’m hardly the only vocal atheist out there, but he does.) He saw an opening for some poison, and he was ready. He was worried about the way new atheists talk.

Just look at the words used to describe Josh here or others from several blogs over the past week: blatantly misrepresented, intellectually lazy, deceptive, dishonest, untrustworthy, deliberate distortion. They all sound like something from a political attack ad in late October, not salvos in a mutual debate or discussion. I don’t want to read too much into intentions or motives, but I don’t personally see them as an attempt to invite mutual debate. I see them as an attempt to quash dissenting opinion through character attacks without giving the heart of the debate a chance to find the table – a marginalization or distraction strategy, if you will. That’s certainly politics, although I would argue it’s far from the good kind.

And four more paragraphs of the same kind of thing – the very best most refined kind of concern trolling. Now read it again with the YNH blog firmly in mind – the lies, the accusations of lying, the obscenity, the sexism, the multiple socks all confirming the lies – that’s our refined concern troll.

Then another solemn refined comment in the same vein. Then warm agreement from one of the people he deceived. Then me asking a different anonymous commenter, TB, if it was the same TB aka Tim Broderick who called me a liar repeatedly at the Intersection. Then another concerned, conscientious, hand-wringing, highly respectable intervention by Wally the confessed serial liar.

For the sake of argument, consider for a moment that TB is who you say he is and what you say happened is an accurate representation of what did happen. Beyond the obvious ethical considerations of providing the real name of another poster who has not personally divulged their identity on a site, how is a past argument relevant to the current discussion? Shouldn’t an argument be judged on its merits and not on one’s perception of the character of the person making it? Unless there are clear logical flaws in what TB has been saying here, I fail to see how pointing out a past dispute serves anything beyond an attempt to undermine one’s character, which is the point I was making several posts above. I hesitate to use this word due to the small firestorm it’s caused in this post, but dropping a pseudonymous commenter’s real name along with what appears to be an entirely unrelated, negative character reference seems an undeniably political move. (If there is a connection between the past and present somewhere that I’m missing (and I may be) that makes all of this more relevant, feel free to correct me.)

Feast on the rich, multiple, layered ironies of that comment.

233 Responses to “Hammill the prodigal”