Random Thoughts on Community, Cacophony, and Cheers!

I refuse to be pigeonholed by people into unidimensional, inaccurate categorizations. It's why Countering has family posts, science-based posts, woo-fighting posts, garden posts, cat posts, and the occasionally lyrical post.

Seven months ago I wrote a post called Community over Cacophony. Today, over at Autism Speaks forum, I engaged, for the first time, on a thread where a select few were discussing me. Me! Ah, the fame. It goes to my head, I tell you. Warm fuzzies everywhere. What a feeling. :) I'd say we should all have that kind of experience, but perhaps not.

There are some misconceptions out there about me. No biggie. Not worth addressing in general. But then someone said something about loneliness at the "hub" in reference to me. And just like that, I knew I had to work at building community, embrace those folks who were giving me the warm fuzzies. See, I was never a part of the hub, never welcomed into that small, cloistered few, never found worthy of joining those elite few blogs. Now, that's okay, it really is; I'm friends with just about every single person who was on the hub, so it's not like we don't get along: we do, quite well. And I'm not lonely at all, not the least bit, not with over 600 bloggers on the directory to visit with.

Seven months ago when I wrote the community over cacophony post, we had around 400 blogs and now we've grown by over 200 blogs! It's hard to keep up with all these new folks, but they are some fine folks from what I can tell. It's a nice community.

But, as MinorityView pointed out, I wasn't being sympathetic to the AoAers when I wrote one of the last two Handley posts. After all, they're fellow parents, and all. In fact, Minority seems to be hung up on the whole idea that I could say that "Despicable behavior from an often vile group of people should not be surprise to anyone." I honestly have to say that I fail to see the problem with this. Perhaps that's because Minority decided she was in that often vile group? I followed that post up with a post on accountability before writing an updated post on Handley. I felt it was important to point out that Handley was really breaking the spirit of his promise by calling Offit a profiteer and accusing him of poisoning children. You know, accountability for despicable behavior.

I've detailed numerous times those instances when someone at AoA went so far over the line of decency that I think categorizing those worst offenders as an "often vile group" entirely reasonable. If you're one of those folks whose words I've demonstrated crossed a line, well, I can see where you'd be upset with that categorization. We're not going to be best buddies. I got that and trust me when I tell you I can live with that reality.

There are parents out there who believe vaccines caused their kids' autism but they don't go around claiming vaccines are a eugenics program or that Offit's poisoning their children (Handley). I have no problem with them. I don't group them with those who call for harm to Offit and others. There are people on the directory who believe vaccines are responsible for autism, people who engage in alternative medicine for their children, and I don't go to their blogs and tell them they're wrong. I'm not mean to them and I don't write about them. That would be impolite.

I'm not going to apologize for not considering the often vile group of commenters and the bloggers/editors/owners of AoA a part of that community.  I don't believe they want to be a part of a larger autism community; Handley and Stagliano demonstrate that just about every time they choose to write on AoA. I don't feel bad about deciding they aren't a part of my community. That's not hypocrisy; that's discrimination. However, if someone feels the need to say it is, go right ahead.

I have no problem with being somewhat exclusionary; there is a line beyond which we just aren't going to go at the Autism Blogs Directory. Wakefield, the Geiers, Jepson, AoA, Generation Rescue: these people and sites just aren't going to get on the directory.

We've never yet turned anyone who's asked to be on the directory down. I suspect the people we are most ideologically opposed won't ask to be on it, but if they did, we'd have to think hard about it and decide what we were comfortable with. We're actually comfortable with a lot; we've got FCers, vaccine-injury bloggers, biomed parents, and more on the directory. We don't agree with everyone, but we're happy to give them a link and a chance to be heard.  Do I hope the fervent AoAers don't ever actually ask so that I don't have to make that decision? Maybe a little. So, go ahead, if you want to see where I'll come down on this: ask Kathleen and me to be on the directory. I suspect that if we choose to reject a person's request that we'd write a post on it, link to the person, and explain nicely why we weren't adding the blog or site and then tell our readers if it were a site they were interested in, we hope they'd bookmark it or follow it on their own.

Here's my bottom line: across the board tolerance for people who threaten physical harm to others who disagree with their view of reality, who admit to wanting to bring down the vaccine program, who think these diseases need to come back, well, that would be absurd and I won't pretend a tolerance or an acceptance I don't feel and never claimed to have. And if those particular people have a problem with that and choose to communicate their dissatisfaction or dislike of me on their own sites, I really don't care. It seems fair enough to me.

As I wrote in a comment on my Minority post,

I'm usually aware that something is going on out there if the blogger is kind enough to link to my blog; I can see where readers are coming from.

However, these posts tend to be by individuals who so badly disabused me of the notion of their decency or fairness that I quit reading them once I realized that real discussion was not possible, so I do not read the originating post or any comments left there.
I think that as much as possible we should try to clearly state why we disagree and back that up with evidence. Sometimes, name-calling occurs, but I try to have offered sufficient evidence that no one will question why I've labeled someone a dumbass, for example.
Since I've never pretended perfection, I have no problem with someone saying I'm a hypocrite. We are all hypocrites, even when we do our best to be consistent with our beliefs.

It appears to be one of those inabilities for people to realize I can decide they are a dumbass and still feel compassion for them. I believe in that strongly enough that I cowrite a blog called Even Dumbasses Have Feelings, after all. And beyond that, those kinds of claims usually end up to be tu quoque fallacies on their parts.
If the strongest argument someone can make is that I am not tolerant of all because I write posts that point out despicable behavior, I admit to being less than impressed and doubly convicted that their arguments deserve none of my attention.

I stand by that comment. And to those feeling aggrieved, I have to say tough toodles and perhaps, Cheers!


Anonymous said...

I love the pussy-cats and the flowers (particularly love the last photo there of a close-up of a daisy, quite awesome). I see the flowers as metaphors for diversity and difference; that we all grow at our own rates, to become whatever it is we will turn out to be. For some of us that growth is swift and easy, for others it is hard and slow. Plus, they're pretty to look at, so yay the flowers.

I also love the Autism Blogs Directory community. It has introduced me to some very talented, informative and thought-provoking writers.

I had a lot else I wanted to say, but I think I'll leave it there. You've really said what needed to be said. I just wanted to let you know that I think you're doing a good job :)

melbo said...

And I can't add much more except that I think you do a great job and you do it well. I think this is why you have been singled out for special attention.

sharon said...

Great post. Enough said.

kathleen said...

Well said. By YOU. Which is a big difference as many of the people that decided to attack you-are going under pseudonyms with locked profiles. That says it all. It isn't what you say that's being attacked-but rather, who you are. It is personal. I agree with Melbo-"You do a great job and you do it well......" ((()))