Congratulations, Nature Network! 50,000 Civil Comments is Really Something!!!11!1!!ELEVNTY!

Somewhere on the Nature Network, someone just fucked his 50,000th goat . Unfortunately, there are only like 10 dudes who care.  To think, it only took them three years to fuck that many goats (metaphorically, of course).

high tea.jpg

Figure 1: An artist’s representation of commenting over at the Nature Network.

Now, you might find yourself asking, “Isis, why are you so hostile toward that other blog network.”  To be honest, before last night I really wasn’t and I have no interest whatsoever in any kind of ScienceBlogs/Nature feud. In fact, there’s a blog over there that I quite enjoy.  Except of course that in this thread, rather than take the opportunity to celebrate the accomplishment of reaching 50,000 comments and engage in the type of self-referential, circle-jerk congratulatory behavior that gives us bloggy-types serious blog wood, some cockweaseldouchemonkeys used the opportunity to talk some trash and stir up some drama. The entire thread reveals blog community FAIL after FAIL.   And of course, when Mama sees something like this…


Figure 2: I’d have linked to it, but it’s really not apparent how to do that on their site. So, I took a screen shot.  You can click to embiggen it.  I’m going to leave the part about me writing in Spanish for another day, mijitos.  That really warrants its own discussion.

…followed by Henry Gee running his pie hole about what a hypocrite I am and misconstruing what I said at ScienceOnline, I can hardly resist.   Seriously, it’s like taking me into DSW and telling me not to touch anything.  So, I figure if they’re going to keep starting beef (see DrugMonkey’s for more beef), you might as well finally hear the story of the civility panel that I have avoided telling (including naming Henry Gee by name) because Henry Gee made it such a hot heap of stinky awkwardness that I thought I might do him a small kindness by not making “Henry Gee completely lost his shit” trivially Googleable.  But, here we go…

Since ScieneOnline is an “unconference”, the session was designed to be largely interactive.  Sheril Kirshenbaum, Janet Stemwedel, and I each prepared about 3 minutes of comments and then intended to allow our audience to do most of the talking.  Janet has a full set of the slides here. I want to focus specifically on what I said. 

I defined the goals for my blog – establishing a community where individuals can discuss issues related to being a woman or “other” in science.  Part of trying to achieve those goals means constantly reevaluating what you are doing and how that affects the health of the community, including maintaining a tone that your audience finds welcoming or “civil.”  I confessed that I am not sure that I always do this effectively, but that I certainly have no problem with navel-gazing or self-reflection.  I also threatened the life or anyone who tweeted that I was admitting that I am not perfect.    I gave this definition of “incivility” from the Random House Dictionary…

Slide 1.jpgSlide 1: Click for a larger image.  Photoshopping a la Isis.

If you’ve been around the blog, or read the post I wrote asking you for a definition of “civility”, then you already know that I find this definition to be insufficient en face.  In fact, I find the fact that the dictionary still links “civility” to the archaic definition important and believe that the simple call to civility is frequently used to suppress people who have a valid reason to be angry.  So, I sought an alternative and felt satisfied with this definition that I adapted from Wikipedia.

Slide 2.jpgSlide 2: More hilarious photoshoppery and defacing of muppets. As I was posting this Little Isis asked, “Mommy, what does Grover have in his hand?”

I like this definition because it requires that the behavior be aimed at disrupting the community and lead to non-productive stress and disorder.  Thus, we come back to my central thesis that you must first define the community’s goals because that will help define the behavior you’re willing to tolerate on your site.  You’ve also got to be willing to ask who your standards for civility excludes.  For example, I obviously tolerate the liberal use of foul language, providing it is not aimed at disparaging women, minorities, gays and lesbians, and the disabled (who I have admittedly not spoken much about before, but I am working on my own awareness.  See above about navel-gazing).  I’ll tolerate the use of the word “goatfucker,” but the first person who says “no homo” is off the island.  I appreciate that Sheril Kirshenbaum’s blog is read by children, and she prefers to limit foul language, so I tone it down over there in order to help her further her goals.  Before the session began, Janet and I had a series of conversations about my desire to show this video (if you’re at work, consider yourself warned), but when she expressed serious concerns that it would offend her readers, I backed down.  See?  Evaluating goals.

Then I postulated that the lack of clear tone can lead to chaos, or at least the establishment of a tone that you are not comfortable with.  In the context of our session, I offered these comments from the ScienceBlogs website to illustrate an example of what, for me, constitutes uncivil behavior.

Slides 4 and 5.jpgSlide 3: Seriously, I blew my Photoshop wad for ScienceOnline.

Quotes from the top panel are comments from my blog and the DrugMonkey blog.  In the context of the goals for my blog that I gave, I consider those comments uncivil.  But, maybe if you’re writing a blog about fellatio, you’d consider “suck a cock, Isis” to be totally within the margins of acceptable commenter behavior.  Like, it’s some sort of encouragement or something.

I don’t know.  Let’s move on.

The quote from the bottom panel is from my dear friend PhysioProf and is advice he gave his readers about co-first authorship on scientific papers.  It’s phenomenal advice, and if you’re reading the DrugMonkey blog as a scientist in an exercise in professional development, this piece of advice should be among the required reading.  Despite the use of naughty words, I’d argue that this advice probably advances the goals they have for their community.

I showed another example that is available in the complete set, but I won’t belabor the point.   We then opened it to questions. I tried to limit my involvement to calling on people, with the occasional opinion thrown in for good measure.  That’s when, as has been described previously, shit got realHere’s a description of Henry’s actions from someone else who was there (I’ve learned since beginning this post that you can link to Nature comments, but you’ve gotta go just a hair shy of also flagging it as inappropriate and most of the bloggers don’t know how to do it) in response to Henry’s comment that he doesn’t like me:

Hey Henry Gee, you know who doesn’t like you? Me.

I was sitting behind you in Dr. Isis’s session on civility at ScienceOnline, and the way you belligerently yelled at the woman sitting next to me made me sick. Furthermore, at the conclusion of the session that you single-handedly turned into an episode of Jerry Springer by exhibiting a complete lack of self-control and masculine aggression, when you stood over her (and me) and yelled insults at her again before storming off, it made me afraid for the physical safety of us both. You may as well have physically attacked her, because the outcome was the same — it created a chilling, silencing effect. Because of what you did, the brave woman sitting next to me, as well as others in the room, might be deterred from speaking out against hegemenous patriarchal constructs in the future because they’ll be afraid assholes like you will come at them with testosterone-fueled rage. What you did there was defaming to you and the institution you were there representing, and are here representing on this forum, and you deserve every bit of criticism you have coming.

If there is anyone who is casting a pall over the enterprise, Henry Gee it is you.

So, there ya go little muffins.  There’s the whole, scary, aggressive drama.  The last point I didn’t get to make in the session because of all the shit getting real is that, in order to effectively gauge if you’re achieving your goals, you have to have effective metrics.  We can talk in another post about my ideas for that.

So, my opinion of the Nature Network?    Henry Gee can suck it, but there are some talented folks over there. By their own admission, they are incredibly insular and many of them have zero concept of what it means to social network in web 2.0.  Did you know that tagging something “#natnet” (their own hastag) on Twitter is akin to talking in some type of private backchannel and that folks on the Nature Network have totes already civilly discussed women in science?  In fact, Henry remains amazed that “there are still people in the world who take this stuff seriously, 40 years after Private Eye characterized all that stuff as ‘loony feminist nonsense’.”

Loony.  Feminist.  Nonsense.

I think it is a shame that Henry remains so angry so many days after the Great Meltdown of 2010, because there could have been things to be learned here.  I think it is a shame that some of the Nature Network bloggers lost sight of what they accomplished in getting to 50,000 comments (insular as they are) in order to start a flame war that you know Mama now has to finish.  I think it’s a shame that, instead of trying to evaluate what ScienceBloggers are doing right when they solicited feedback about being insular and some ScienceBloggers offered a response (including Dave Munger, Coturnix, and DrugMonkey), they took this as an opportunity to accuse the bloggers here of being traffic whores, as though this were some great abyss of chaos.


Figure 3: The state of things at ScienceBlogs, as seen by folks at the Nature Network.

But, you fine folks keep doing what you’re doing.  And, most importantly, congratulations on this milestone and welcome to web 1.0.

65 responses to “Congratulations, Nature Network! 50,000 Civil Comments is Really Something!!!11!1!!ELEVNTY!

  1. I thought it was pretty fucking hilarious when HEE GEE referred to Arikia “and her ilk”. I don’t know why, but it always cracks me the fuck up when someone uses the word “ilk” in earnest.

  2. Do you think he wrote it with a mouth full of watercress sandwich?

  3. Gee and his ilk are always stuffing their fucking faces with that watercress sangwich shit, so yeah, he probably did.

  4. Dr. Isis: I am really not happy that, by showing that snapshot so prominently at the beginning of your post (on purpose, since you say yourself you know how to link to comments on NN now), you make it look as if I was in any way, shape or form involved in the incident at Science Online. I mentioned that almost all of us were not before. Yes, with the ‘back channels’ I did refer to twitter – since not everyone constantly looks at twitter and I felt it was a bit dishonest to seemingly not be involved in the ongoing blog discussion while making comments about it.
    I am sorry that my question about your comment in
    Spanish, which was a simple request for clarification, seems to have infuriated you to this extent. I was just confused, since I am not a native English speaker.
    Finally – this discussion is going nowhere good, have fun with it.

  5. Ilk-ing is international:
    from Doonesbury:

    Uncle Duke (leveling weapon): “Okay, Springfield, if you aren’t the heat, who are you?”
    Man in suit: “I’m from the National Rifle Association, Mr. Duke! And I was going to make you an offer…”
    Duke: “The N.R.A.? Now, wait a minute, perhaps I was being a little hasty…”
    Suit: “You…you know our work?”
    Duke: “Know it? Hell, I’ve supported it for years! These are repressive times, Mr. Springfield!”
    Suit: “And how! Even as we speak, new gun laws are being prepared by liberals and their ilk!”
    Duke: “What? Liberals? Their ilk? You’ve seen them?”
    Suit: “The erosion of freedom is not a pretty sight, Mr. Duke.”

  6. I like watercress. Just not testosterone-fueled rage watercress.

  7. Why can’t we all just be friends?
    There are some serious and interesting issues here, but we’re not going to explore them if we just hurl abuse at each other. We’re on the same side, no?

  8. Isis the Scientist

    Bob, perhaps that is a question you should ask of your colleagues at NN.

  9. Well, c’mon.. We did let Tony marry Maria, doesn’t that count as detente?

  10. I hadn’t heard of Nature Networks before, but I’ve added their RSS now. Thanks for the pointer!

  11. It seems to me that the Isis definition of civility can have two applications in this context. There’s making a welcoming blog for a specific topic and having a welcoming network that brings people into the community blogs. There have definitely been intra-scienceblogs arguments that certain bloggers here make the network less welcoming to others and there are definitely bloggers who have left the scienceblogs network for that reason.
    I’ve generally not been involved at Nature Networks because the registering an ID doesn’t interest me much, but reading that post by Henry Gee (a Nature senior editor!) and his comments regarding that event makes that Network seem like an unwelcoming place to me. His rant in the comments about how many of the people criticizing him now are anti-semetic leftists just made my jaw drop. Did those comments have any relationship to what happened there or does he just have a few screws loose?
    I’m also laughing at all the people there saying science bloggers just post to get more traffic and income. Besides the fact that many of the bloggers just give the money away, they’re posting at! Are they saying that Nature has no interest in traffic to their website!?! That Nature editors aren’t expecting the blog network to generate income?

  12. Wow, “embiggen” and “pie hole” in the same post! You’re even more cromulent than I already thought.

  13. And I thought all blogs were written to generate traffic. I feel like such a fool…

  14. bsci,
    I was practically in the crossfire during Henry’s eruption towards Zuska. At the time, it was clear to me that part of what caused him to detonate was that he perceived something she said as either being anti-Semitic or at least dismissive about anti-Semitism. His first words sounded like a pissing match over who’s more oppressed, women or Jews, but then it went way beyond that. I have asked him about this in the comment thread of another post-mortem and still don’t get it.

  15. John: Growing up Jewish in Europe (and I know, I lost 42 family members in camps) combines total paranoia with the reality of vicious anti-semitism that is live and well there. I have met many European Jews who see EVERYTHING through those glasses. Not defending Henry here, but I know the type, and the historical origins of the type.
    On the other hand, being Jewish in the States is easy in comparison – it is horrendous in Europe, but many American Jews, not to even mention American non-Jews, have no idea how bad it is there.
    Anecdote: Catharine and I went to Belgrade in 1995 and did a Sabbath ceremony on Saturday at my grandparents’ home – my granparents were shaking, looking for hidden cameras and microphones. Yes, it’s that bad. Real nasty anti-semitism is fueling real paranoia. So underhanded dismissal of anti-Semitism by Zuska was like waving a red scarf in front of a bull; it also showed her unfamiliarity with the topic, and showed insensitivity towards plights of a very marginalized group.

  16. Perhaps a bit of clarification: Henry seems to think that I was targeting him in a very personal manner with anti-semitic remarks, though he has not made clear, to my knowledge, what exactly I said that fits in that category, unless it is the mere fact of discussing one’s personal experiences with misogyny and sharing one’s personal feminist perspective that is anti-semitic, in which case, guilty as charged. As to whether it was even possible for me to, with malice aforethought, decide to direct anti-semitic remarks at Henry Gee, Jewish Person, because I knew him to be Jewish and wished to malign him on that basis – not possible. I hate to burst his ego bubble, but when he first spoke at the civility session, I not only did not know he was Jewish, I didn’t even know who he was at all.
    Which is not to say that someone cannot be anti-semitic in general, without direct a personal attack at a particular individual. If Henry – or anyone else – would be so kind as to help me understand in what manner my remarks were anti-semitic I would be grateful because I most earnestly do not wish to be so, and it was not my intent to be so. Yet I know people can give offense even when it is not their intent to do so. So I would be happy to learn what exactly I said that gave offense, and try not to do it again.
    As long as, you know, the offense is not “you damn women talking about feminism which is not important anymore and anyway there are so many more important issues to care about”. You know, “Oppression Olympics – YOU LOSE!”

  17. Let me copy what I wrote on NN (see, I also learned how to link to comments there):

    I was not in the room of this session so I cannot add to the Rashomon myself. But I got many 1-to-1 reports from people who were in the session. And my thoughts, from getting all these reports, are as follow:
    People who know Zuska well had a context for what she was saying. Knowing her bloggy opus for a while, they were able to fill in the blanks in what she was saying. They understood what she said ONLY because they are familiar with her from before. With their minds automatically correctly filling everything between the lines that she could not, lacking time to talk for many hours, say at the spot. Not knowing Henry, they did not have the context for him and were not able to fill in the blanks in his statements. Thus, subconsciously, they sided with Zuska and misunderstood Henry.
    Those in the room who know Henry very well, but not Zuska, had the opposite response. They were able to fill in the blanks in what he said because they have the context for Henry – they know him well and know where he is coming from. They could not fill in the between-the-lines context for Zuska, and thus sided with Henry in the end.
    But, there were also a couple of people in the room who know (and love) both Zuska and Henry. They had mental context for both. They could see while it was happening, not after some time of deep reflection, that the two woefully misunderstood each other, recognized their own red flags where there were really none, and responded angrily to what they wrongly perceived the other was saying. They were surprised at Zuska’s response to a perfectly reasonable and constructive thing Henry said, especially that her response was so angry. And they were unhappy that Henry then responded so strongly (but for which he later apologized, realizing himself he was wrong about the intensity of his reaction).

  18. Isis the Scientist

    Coturnix, I love you like my blogfather and I was there. Henry was aggressive. Over the top aggressive from anything Zuska said. Did he disagree with her and have something to discuss? I’d have loved to hear it. I’m intrigued by his mention of a site he ran that received a viral assault. I’d have been interesting in hearing how he dealt with it.
    However, I am not interested in accepting the full spectrum of his ire simply because I am the one who told him to sit back in his chair and stop yelling. I am also not interested in hearing him incorrectly present what I said.

  19. Bob, perhaps that is a question you should ask of your colleagues at NN.

    I have done and I am doing. But if some people on NN are behaving badly, I don’t see that it helps for you to throw petrol on the fire.
    I’ll repeat: we’re on the same side, no?

  20. Isis the Scientist

    Bob, I want to be on the same side. You’re a cool dude and you’re wedded to an awesome chick. However, silence in the face of continued misrepresentation is not always the high road.

  21. Yes, ‘Henry was aggressive. Over the top aggressive’ and he admitted that and apologized.
    Not even Henry is asking you to be “accepting the full spectrum of his ire”, whatever that means. But are you sure that your account above is factually correct? Or is it colored by your familiarity with Zuska and unfamiliarity with Henry prior to the sessions? How did your unconscious lead to your version of the Rashomon? From what I hear from several people (who I regard as trusted sources) who were in the room, it was Zuska who was the first to raise her voice and show anger, right?

  22. Isis the Scientist

    My account of what I said during the session is factually correct. It is factually correct that I was familiar with Zuska before the session, but also that I knew who Henry Gee was and what the Nature Network is. It is factual that Zuska was upset by the phrase “don’t piss on my carpet” and voiced that from her chair. It is factual that Henry got out of his chair, turned around, yelled, swore, and spittled on Zuska.
    But, none of this is being debated. What is being discussed are the subsequent remarks being made and the misrepresentation of what I said in the session.

  23. You know, I was passionate when I spoke. I felt strongly about what I was saying. I was conscious of feeling strong emotion, mixed emotions, some of which were grief and sadness, as well as anger.
    I do not, however, recall yelling, shouting other people down, cursing, and biding my time to renew my assault upon my opponent when I thought most people were gone from the room and no one would be looking at me.
    Henry’s actions made me feel like HIS opinion and MY opinion could not exist in the same universe and so mine needed to be annihilated. The person Isis quoted in her blog post is not exaggerating – I did actually fear for a few moments for my physical safety at the end, after the session, when he was looming over me and cursing and yelling right in my face. It was terrible – I was trapped,and couldn’t get away from him.
    Now, anti-semitism is a terrible terrible thing, and I don’t pretend to begin to adequately understand all the scars it leaves in a person. I try to understand it with empathy from my experiences with male violence. But I think it is worth noting that when whatever happened that touched on those scars in Henry, his response to me was to draw upon the weapon of his male privilege – to yell, curse, berate, dismiss and belittle my concerns, dominate me physically, and try to humiliate me in a public space. He has “apologized” with qualifiers, and in conjunction with insulting Isis, who was nothing but gracious and deft in handling the session and saving him from further public displays of his asshattery. Perhaps he can’t forgive her for that. Perhaps if she’d just let him rage on like a wild bull trampling over everything in sight till he’d fully vented his anger and killed whatever needed to be killed to keep from tormenting him, he’d be oh-so-pleased with how she handled things.
    Or not. Maybe then he’d just be scornful of her for losing control of her session.

  24. It is interesting that you used this language:
    “Zuska was upset”
    “Henry got out of his chair, turned around, yelled, swore, and spittled”
    Why such choices of words?
    How about:
    “Henry suggested that not moderating your comments leads to hellholes like AOL or YouTube comments”
    “Zuska got red in the face and angrily shouted at Henry”
    and then
    “Henry was taken aback by such a response and let emotions get better of him”
    Both accounts are factually correct. But both insert biases that will mislead the readers. Do you do that willfully, or is that how you really saw that?

  25. NN is one of the most clicky-ist forum/blog communities that I’ve ever come across. Dare have an opinion different to any of the regulars, and they take a leap at your throat.
    Not exactly the most welcoming or encompassing community.They fairly hypocritical.

  26. Isis the Scientist

    Because I don’t remember Zuska getting up from her chair, pointing, yelling, and swearing. Saying that “Henry let his emotions get the best of him” and “Henry got out of his chair, turned around, yelled, swore, and spittled” are both factually correct. Saying that “Zuska responded to him with emotion in her voice” is factually correct. Saying “Zuska got red in the face” is not. Saying that two of the women immediately behind Henry had a moment where they feared for their safety is factually correct.
    What is not factually correct are the things Henry has said since.

  27. Like his apology?
    Nobody said anything about “Zuska getting up from her chair, pointing, yelling, and swearing”
    I did hear one witness (but I cannot confirm – and it a woman with full academic feminist credentials, i.e., someone with same formal feminist education as her) note that Zuska got red in the face and yelled.
    Still not sure what was factually incorrect in what Henry said afterwards (except a lot Americans have no idea what political Left and Right mean in the UK context)?
    And still not sure why you chose the words that put one person in bad light and the other in good light? Was it deliberate choice of words, or do you really feel that way?

  28. Can I echo Bob’s comment (No. 6) above? I can’t comment on the Sci10 incident since I wasn’t there, but there is nothing to be gained from homogenous characterisations of SB or NN.
    I disagree profoundly with Dr X’s comment above since it is a generalisation. If there is a specific incident where he or she was treated badly on NN then please give details. That way there is something to discuss and maybe a way to reach a resolution. In my experience there have been plenty of discussions on NN where differences of opinion have been aired – sometimes usefully! I have never touched anyone’s throat – honest! ;-)
    I would certainly be disappointed if NN were to gain a reputation as a closed shop. I know there are limitations of the current blog platform (though I understand changes are in the offing). From the comments here and on DrugMonkey’s blog it’s clear that some see this as a severe problem but the discussion has made rather poor progress since it got so heated.
    Live long and prosper!

  29. Isis the Scientist

    Coturnix, I am not sure what you’re getting at here. I have presented things as I experienced them as someone who was in the room. Others have shared their experiences. I have also presented the fact that Henry has continued to comment and that I believe his additional comments to be incorrect.

  30. Just suggesting that your prior experience and knowledge of people and issues involved may have influenced the way you experienced it. Which is why it’s called a Rashomon. Everyone experienced it differently. Nobodys, including yours, version of the events can possibly be 100% pure truth. Just a reminder of that fact….
    And I agree with Bob and Stephen – attacking NN as a monolithic block is just as ridiculous as attacking Sb for all of us being PZ’s minions or whatnot. Counterproductive, stupid, and wrong.

  31. Isis the Scientist

    I experienced it as I experienced it. You may have “trusted people” who reported back to you, but I was there, helping to moderate the session. I have reported it as I saw it. What is counterproductive, stupid, and wrong is to represent me as someone who promotes incivility and swearing without for the shear joy of it all.

  32. As if it isn’t bad enough that science/Nature bloggers can get into “celebrity” style spats, then someone has to bring the Jews into it. FFS don’t talk about the war or a lot of us will just make up our own science and blog about it! And please remember that “celebrities” are mostly people who make their living from pretending to be other people. Don’t get sucked in pretending you’re advancing the common understanding of science by acting like people you aren’t! Pleeeeeeeeease!!

  33. I was there. I like both of them a lot and knew them both (a little) from last year’s conference.
    Henry started very calmly by saying that he thought it was reasonable to set a policy on your own blog since it’s your own space. He commented on how he thought Wilkens’ statement (about the rug) was a propos. I think Zuska interrupted him (he was not concise) and went on a bit of a run with a whole statement about misogyny and being a woman in science- implying, if not saying, that he wouldn’t know about that. He said – but I do know, because I’m Jewish and I’ve faced a lot of the same treatment…. then it spiraled to heated argument on both sides. They weren’t actually disagreeing, though, just completely not hearing each other.
    I think he got up a bit to be able to clearly see Zuska – not to intimidate her. I was in the room for a while at the end of the session, but I didn’t see what Arikia saw/experienced.

  34. This whole thing seems a bit nuts. As best as I can tell by reading comment sections Henry seems to equate the entire “Left” with anti-semitism. When he started hearing “leftist” ideas he assumed the person was also anti-semitic. From what I understand, the left has a much more common and accepted strain of anti-semitism in it in England, but making that broad-brush analogy in the US is utterly ridiculous.
    Note I’m saying this as a Jew who is a first generation born in the US for half my family and, like Coturnix, that half of my family lost many people in the Holocaust.
    That all said, he seemed to be reveling in his cluelessness in his comments and still doesn’t have the faintest clue why Zuska or others might have disagreed with what he was saying.
    I’m also still laughing at him writing However, does the mere fact of the monetization of ScienceBlogs motivate bloggers there to be controversial, to be gratuitously profane, to attract more page views – in other words, to go downmarket
    This is from an senior editor of Nature. If Nature gets money from it’s blogs and journals he has a job. If it doesn’t, he loses his job. That’s much greater motivation to get eyes onto Nature products than the spare change any scienceblogger gets. (I also assume once you register for comments there, you get all sorts of lovely science spam that profits Nature. Again a motive to get more commenters)

  35. If anybody’s wondering about the “monetization” of my blog, I’ve never made a dime. Whatever cash my blog’s traffic produces is turned over each month to a charity, the Mautner Project.
    I think Zuska interrupted him (he was not concise) and went on a bit of a run with a whole statement about misogyny and being a woman in science- implying, if not saying, that he wouldn’t know about that.
    This statement from Christina Pikas does disservice to the moderators. Janet Stemwedel saw that I wanted to comment when Henry was making his initial statement and signaled me to hold off. She actually replied to Henry before I did, then called on me for my comment. I am the last person to pass judgment on whether or not my remarks were exemplars of clarity and brevity – I have admitted to speaking in while in a state of strong emotion. And yet, I don’t think I yelled or cursed or spat at anyone. And I don’t think I shouted anyone down. There were other commenters in the session – not just me – who were shouted at by Henry.
    I can perfectly understand if Henry disagreed with my remarks. I will observe, however, that his manner of response was not a ringing defense of civility. And while it seems one is not welcome to piss on his carpet, he feels free to piss out his blog window in one’s general direction if it so pleases him.

  36. Isis the Scientist

    I can perfectly understand if Henry disagreed with my remarks. I will observe, however, that his manner of response was not a ringing defense of civility. And while it seems one is not welcome to piss on his carpet, he feels free to piss out his blog window in one’s general direction if it so pleases him.


  37. I see an interesting phenomenon here…
    I was witness to the events. Zuska was certainly not timid in her comments, and Henry was not, as Coturnix would have it, “taken aback”—“let his emotions get the better of him” would describe it if that phrase were to include rising, turning and hulking over someone while shouting and pointing.
    What I find interesting is the attempt to merge Zuska’s assertive statements and Henry’s rather aggressive actions (actions which make more sense given his context, but still..)

  38. you know, i’ve only been following this through SB’s front page and what not. wasn’t there. haven’t asked people who were there who i might be able to ask about it. but i wonder if it might not be worthy of an article somewhere where a journalist actually interviews all the principals and witnesses and creates a composite of what might have occurred from each person’s vantage.

  39. A comment I tried to leave yesterday hasn’t shown up yet – there were a couple of links and it must (after many hours) have been moderated away in the queue or something. Which is annoying, because I wanted to get my say at the top of the thread, since you have my name up there in the post. My comment went something like this:
    I really do not appreciate how, by showing that big screen shot of Cath’s and my commments on NN and your subsequent post – even after you now know how to link to individual comments there, so I assume this was done on purpose – you make it look as if I was in any way connected with your beef with Henry.
    I am not, I wasn’t at Science Online, and I have not been part of that discussion. And I asked Arikia, you and others in that thread on NN to stop mixing the issues up like you’re doing.
    In the spirit of maybe being less ‘insular’, I ventured over here to Sb (which I don’t usually do) to comment on DrugMonkey’s post about NN’s 50,000ths comment. I instantly got jumped at by both DrugMonkey and you. DrugMonkey was open to conversation. You left a comment in Spanish that confused me – I think you implied that NN is elitist by enforcing ‘civility’ and English as the language of science. This comment confused me, not being a native English speaker, so I asked whether it was directed at me and for clarification. Sorry that you did not have time to reply, you must have been busy with writing this post.
    Other than that: what Bob and Stephen said. This could have been a really interesting discussion on cultural differences, how to encourage more diverse participation in a conversation, etc. – but that opportunity pretty much seems blown now, since to many people seem to be unable to keep the issues straight.

  40. However, silence in the face of continued misrepresentation is not always the high road.

    Quite so, but there are right and wrong ways to go about things. This post doesn’t to help – it alienates those of us at NN without resolving what happened with Henry.
    bcsi –

    If Nature gets money from it’s blogs and journals he has a job. If it doesn’t, he loses his job.

    Well, no. We don’t get paid for blogging at NN. Henry is employed as an editor on Nature, so he might lose his job if people stop buying the journal (OMG, are we going to start an Open Access flamewar now?!!!).

    That’s much greater motivation to get eyes onto Nature products than the spare change any scienceblogger gets. (I also assume once you register for comments there, you get all sorts of lovely science spam that profits Nature.)

    I’ve never received science spam though NN. I suspect NN runs at a loss, but in reality I’ve no idea: we obviously aren’t party to financial discussions. There’s never been any pressure on us to increase traffic, or promote Nature Publishing Group’s commercial activities.

  41. Bob,
    Henry is in journalism. His entire career is based on eyes and money getting to his companies products. Perhaps NN isn’t making a profit, but I doubt it’s losing a lot of money or that Nature doesn’t have a projected date of profitability. Nature isn’t know for random acts of kindness that lose money.
    Whether or not NN is a profit center or runs at a slight loss, it seems like the height of chutzpah for an editor to cynically say other writers are getting more traffic than him because they’re greedy for a few bucks.

  42. DrugMonkey was open to conversation.
    Yes, yes I am. But I think it is safe to say in a style that is perhaps not the most comfortable one for you. You hung in there anyway, kudos to you.
    This could have been a really interesting discussion on cultural differences, how to encourage more diverse participation in a conversation, etc. – but that opportunity pretty much seems blown now
    it IS a really interesting discussion that *includes as one part* the cultural differences. Look most* of us are presumptively at least hitting room temp (in F, not C- USian bias!) on the ol’ IQ. It is not *that* difficult to parse a chaotic, uncontrolled, aieee normal conversation involving multiple participants is it? All the whining about how the conversation is getting distracted or derailed or what not is just as distracting and derailing as whatever *you* are ticked about. My suggestion is, if you want to re-center a discussion, make another comment or even a whole post getting back to what *you* want to discuss…(and give us a manual ping, eh, because *our* big tech problem here is the lack of trackback)
    *I don’t speak for Laden and other IQ experts, of course.

  43. I wasn’t there, and I’m sad to see so many people that I deeply respect all mixed up in this and on both sides of the issue. You can call it my “bias” as a feminist and as a female, but I tend to find women getting emotional (or “getting red in the face and yelling” by one report) less intimidating than when men do it. Perhaps anti-Semitism is in some ways more invisible than sexism because it is harder to immediately “other” a Jew in the same way some people may immediately dismiss a female or feminine gendered person. And that probably means we don’t talk about it, work on it, or recognize it enough. I appreciate Coturnix’s comments for exactly this reason, and as someone who does spend a fair amount of time in Europe because of my scholarship, I do agree with his points.
    Even with this context and new understanding, I can’t get behind seeing both sides as being equally at fault. Again, perhaps it is because of the invisibility or subtlety of anti-Semitism, but I know what it’s like to get yelled at by a man, especially in a public situation, and I know how humiliating and abjectly frightening the experience is. I’m glad Gee apologized and I do hope that he has realized that “letting his emotions get the best of him” had very severe, even if unintended, consequences for women in science (at least those of us who blog/ interact in the academic blogosphere).

  44. FYI, you can’t see the linked comments at NN without logging into NN.

  45. Isis the Scientist

    I really do not appreciate how, by showing that big screen shot of Cath’s and my commments on NN and your subsequent post – even after you now know how to link to individual comments there, so I assume this was done on purpose – you make it look as if I was in any way connected with your beef with Henry.

    As I explained to Cath on Twitter and at DrugMonkey’s place, I don’t conflate those comments with Henry. That was a snarky exchange in its own right, and it’s a shame that that’s the path folks took. Perhaps, as I suggested to Cath, you are all so insular that you thought I wouldn’t see it.
    However, that snarky mention of me led to Henry’s comment. None of it happened in isolation.

  46. Ffs coturnix. Were you there or not? Monkeypox has it right, Zuska tells the truth, Arikia related what happened. Gee’s subsequent enraged asshattery in post-event comments (save the insincere and clearly merely strategic mea culpa nonapologies) further support their account. Dude lost it, was unable to remain within the bounds of reasonable, nevermind civil, discourse.
    You have multiple, detailed confirmations of this bit of truth. Anyone trying to equate Zuska’s tone with Gee’s blustering ranting? Sorry, not buying different viewpoint- take a look at underlying and pre-existing animosities or some shit because the Gee defenders are totally high.

  47. Just repeating my version of the Roshomon.
    I was sitting one chair over from Henry and, therefore, one row ahead of Zuska. I was in a good position to view the physical interaction. On the other hand, I was having a bad medication reaction and watched the whole thing through tunnel vision, which added a certain surreal aspect to my experience.
    My memeory is this: several people spoke after the phrase “pissing on my carpet” had come up and before Zuska spoke. Zuska argued for having the loosest possible rules of civility (violence and outright abuse being the line) because of the historical use of “civility” to cut off protest by dienfracised groups. She specifically mentioned her own experience as a woman in scientific academia and the American civil rights battles. Early on, Henry turned in his chair and said very passionately something along the lines of “I disagree! I completely disagree!” Zuska finished her point and then Henry stood and repeated that protest followed by something about knowing discrimination by being a politically conservative Jew in English public life. At the time, I thought his point was a mere pissing match about who was the more oppressed: women or Jews.
    I’ll let others reconstruct what, exactly, was said after that. But in the general shapes this is what I heard. Henry’s main line of argument was that rules of civility are necessary for the survival of civilization (as far as I can remember, no one pointed out the semantic circularity of that argument, at the time). Zuska repeated her point that the rules of civility are made by those in power and that they protect that power. Several other speakers tried to make peace by saying it would be nice if we were all nice. As Christina pointed out, I didn’t have the sense that they were arguing with each other so much as arguing past each other.
    The points I want to make are these:
    As to foul language, no one even came close to Isis. No one. Her presentation was a masterpiece of pointed, yet perfectly relevant, pottymouthery.
    Zuska did not mention anything about Jews. Nothing Anti-Semitic and nothing dismissive of the Jewish experience of discrimination. As far as I can tell, the only way Jews or Anti-Semitism entered the conversation was in that Zuska failed to mention them. It appeared to me that that is what bothered Henry. Again, Henry, Zuska, or anyone else can jump in here and correct me.
    In Henry’s defense, he was a large man in a small chair and he had to rise somewhat to be able to talk to someone behind him. Given the general architecture of Henry and the seating arrangements, there is no way that this could not have been percieved as looming over Zuska, because he was, in fact, looming over Zuska. After the first exchange, he could, of course, have sat down and turned his chair. He did not and that exacerbated the sense that he was physically threatening Zuska. Henry’s defenders will view this as clearing Henry of any malfeasance. His more polemnical defenders might even latch on to this as a point of departure to assault feminism as seeking to attach hostile intent to innocent events. Compulsive centrists could take my description to mean Henry’s posture was an accident of the accomodations and that his looming was a misunderstood movement that was innocent malice. An academic feminist interpretation might be that Henry’s original gesture was an unfortunate accident, but that his continuing use of his physical advantage was, at the very least, an exploitation of that advantage to banish an opponent, specifically a female opponent who had challenged the position of privilege that white, educated males, such as Henry (and me, for that matter) hold in Euro-American society. A more extreme view would be that Henry was a jerk who was consciously and intentionally trying to cow Zuska. Pick your own interpretation.
    At no point during the session did Zuska rise out of her chair or raise her voice any more than was necessary to be heard. She made no overt physical gestures that I can recall. In fact, if I was called on to describe her physical posture, I would say that she was quite physically holding her ground, maybe even holding on to her chair, though that might be a flourish of memory. Up until she spoke, the conversation was fairly orderly with no one agressively interrupting any other speaker.
    Let me repeat: I did not hear anyone mention Jews or Anti-Semitism before Henry did. I’m part of the group that did not know Henry was a Jew before that moment. If you had put Zuska and Henry in a line-up and told me to find the Jew, I would have seen this: two dark haired and potentially swarthy people (you science people really need to get more sun), one name Henry Gee and one named Suzanne Franks. It would have been clear that Zuska was the Jew and Henry the gentile.
    I’ve commented here and there, but I haven’t yet written a post on my own blog. I thought about trying to be the one who creates a composite and might still attempt it if anyone thinks there is value in that. I’m a trained historian, so that is sort of what I do. I’m not connected to SciBlogs or to NN. I also have a painfully undertrafficed blog, so I wouldn’t mind doing so as a completely transparent ploy to co-opt the controversy for my own egotistical reasons. I could do that, but it would be wrong. (/Watergate reference)

  48. John McKay,
    Your comment on figuring out “who’s the Jew” crosses a line. If you wanted to just focus on their names, that’s ok, but Jews have pretty much any skin color, hair color, etc in groups around the world going back centuries. Perhaps there was a Jewish appearance in a small European town a century ago, but that’s no longer the case. Even among Ashkenazim there’s a good bit of variation. Someone looking around and trying to pick out Jews based on skin and hair color gives me all sorts of bad associations.
    As for the bigger post, perhaps I missed something in this broader conversation, but where exactly was Henry’s apology? Was the “3 languages” post where he started insulting everyone in the comments thread the apology?

  49. bsci- I thought that that was part of the point here. That Henry Gee seemed to assume everyone had already seen him and thought “Yes, Jew” when clearly there was nothing that would clue anyone in. I think we all agree the whole “physical characteristics” thing is a bunch of BS made up by anti-semitists. Hence why it’s so surprising maybe that Henry expected us all to know that he was Jewish? I don’t read his blog, but unless he talks about it a lot there, seems a lot of conceit involved. Anyways didn’t seem like John McKay was trying to assert otherwise, more trying to point out that while any laymen could see Isis or Zuska and immediately think “yes, woman” and attach all their stereotypes to that quick glance, Henry (and maybe this is a States only thing) would never be thought of us Jewish to a stranger unless he told them verbally or by some other means of identification. *goes back to lurking and hides*

  50. Isis the Scientist

    Thanks for your perspective, John. It’s an interesting interpretation of what happened and I am going to give it some thought. However, I too thought my use of dirty words was artful.
    As for the disussion of “he doesn’t look…” I’m going to refrain for comment for now because that’s a touchy phrase for me. I will simply say that, going in to the discussion, I did not know Henry is Jewish. That does not mean that he hasn’t had experiences that are very real. It means I did not know going in to the session that this was the case.

  51. FrauTech,
    Henry actually makes fairly clear that he didn’t think anyone knew he was a Jew from name and appearance.
    See the comment on 1/21 at 15:52 UTC

  52. Your comment on figuring out “who’s the Jew” crosses a line.
    No, it doesn’t. It raises the issue of ‘passing’ and what this means in terms of privilege. This is a very important issue when we are talking about diversity in academia, how to accomplish our diversity goals and how to solve the unending problem of being more “welcoming” to those who are not comfortable in the more socio-political aspects of the Ivory Tower.
    ‘Passing’ is a double edged sword of privilege. For those that can, at some level, fail to trigger the otherness-detectors in the inside club, they are privileged because they can choose to ignore anti-group annoyances and slurs. OTOH, they do this at some potential psychic cost. People who can by no means pass are privileged in another way because this choice never comes up. With very little doubt, the details of how/when one individual can pass or not are complex.
    Chris Matthews’ comment about forgetting President Obama is black is entirely relevant to this issue.

  53. Frau Tech,
    Thank you for the defense.
    Looking back, I agree with you that I tried to make my point using images that do cross the line for anyone who doesn’t know me. I should have thought before posting. I think my point is valid, but I apologize for making it in such an inflammatory way.
    My point was exactly FTs. I didn’t mean to imply that there really is a Jewish look, just that there Henry didn’t meet the vulgar physical stereotype anymore than Zuska and that, going by name, most people would think Zuska was Jewish before they would Henry. I only found out Henry’s religion from his outburst and I still don’t know (or care about) Zuska’s religious background.
    In answer to your question about Henry’s apology, he makes one here:

    Zuska, I apologise that I responded uncivilly, which I accept. I shouldn’t have been so aggressive.

    If you haven’t read it yet, the conversation at Primate Diaries is an enlightening part of the controversy.

  54. Perhaps a bit of clarification: Henry seems to think that I was targeting him in a very personal manner with anti-semitic remarks
    actually, Henry has a LONG history of abusing anti-semitism when people disagree with him on just about anything.
    I can provide proof of this, if asked. There was a thread on Pharyngula a couple years back where he imploded in quite similar fashion.
    That man has, as we say, “issues”.

  55. In answer to your question about Henry’s apology, he makes one here:
    is that anything like what he says HERE:

    Saturday, 30 Jan uary 2010 – 05:47 UTC
    Henry Gee said:
    Oh, hegemenous constructs to you, too. Sure, I should have kept shtum, and I regret not having done so. But since that whole episode I have discovered how suckered I’d been. There I was, thinking that I was going to attend an interesting session. But then I woke up to find I’d entered a nest inhabited by some very strange people, who on the one hand say, very high-mindedly, that ‘rules’ are discriminatory – and on the other use rules in an ad hoc manner simply to silence the people who disagree with them. Honestly, I had absolutely no idea, before that session, that people exist who think like this. More fool me.

    ’cause that’s a serious NOT-POLOGY in my book.

  56. John,
    Thanks for the link to Primate Diaries. Then again, maybe no thanks. For someone who hasn’t never many any of the main players in this event, I’m spending way to much time reading about it! Still, noting the rants dated after the apology, like the one Ichthyic posted, make me have no interest in getting to know Henry better. He does seem like a piece of work.
    Also, just to be clear, I flagged your comment about looks because I think it’s a classic example of saying something with unintended really bad meanings to others. I assumed it was unintentional. I didn’t make the parallel, but bikemonkey’s mention of the Chris Matthews Obama line has similarities in that looking at people and trying to put them in boxes based in appearances can be extraordinarily offensive, particularly if those boxes have historically been used in negative ways.
    bikemonkey, I agree with you that there is an issue regarding being able to pass or not. What makes John’s comment to me so negative is the idea of insiders going around trying to weed out the people who might be passing. I’ll grant this is a bit of a projection and I don’t put that motive on John, but it’s what I view in that type of statement.

  57. Gosh, is this how professional, adult scientists behave toward one another? It’s far more dramatic, silly, and mean-spirited than anything I’ve seen in high school.

  58. *ahem*
    ^^Concern troll is concerned!!^^

  59. bsci, I see what you mean but I have to admit I interpreted John’s comment as being a little less about intentional rooting out of passing outgroup members. I saw it more along the lines of the overwhelming threshold of cues. More like an automatic processing thing.

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  65. Horace Boothroyd III

    Just so you know, there are people who think you are quite obnoxious and that it’s only fitting to see you smacked by the victim of your jibes.

    Bullies always howl that there is no bully here, but that’s true only in the sense that prisons are full of innocent people.

    So delete this comment as you will, but do yourself a favor and learn from it.

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